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The Middle Ages, also known as the medieval period, was a period in European history which lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, beginning with the fall of the Western Roman Empire before transitioning into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery.

History

Early Middle Ages

The early period saw the large scale migration of the Germanic peoples into northern and mainland Europe, occupying territories owned by the Roman Empire and forming various new kingdoms including Francia. In Northern Europe, the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes migrated to Great Britain, forming the bulk and foundation of what eventually became the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Wales.[1] Amidst the rapid displacement of the native Romano-British population, a young man known as Arthur Pendragon emerged as the leader of the Britons after he pulled Excalibur from the stone which proved that he was the true king of England.[2] Furthermore, Arthur was a member of an Isu religious cabal known as the Order of the Ancients, who would aid him in uniting England against the invading Anglo-Saxons.[3] At one point, he had placed his sword beneath an Isu structure beneath Stonehenge with an accompanying note hoping that whoever found Excalibur, it would serve them well.[1] Sadly for Arthur, he would grow disillusioned with the Order and he was eventually betrayed by his wife, best friend and son at the Battle of Camlann.[4] Eventually, Arthur's efforts to preserve the Roman and Celtic culture of England proved all for naught as the Anglo-Saxons quickly took control and established the Heptarchy, a collection of seven kingdoms that existed throughout all of England and Wales.

The period also saw a period of cultural resurgence in the Byzantine Empire under the reign of Justinian I from the reconquest of Italy and other lands west by Belisarius to the reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia and the codification of Western law between 527 and 541 CE.[5] The Plague of Justinian killed 40% of the population and eventually put an end to Byzantine aspirations of recreating the old Roman Empire after the death of Justinian I in 565.

In Arabia, a man by the name of Muhammad created a new religion known as Islam. Soon, this new faith quickly spread across the Middle East and North Africa, even reaching as far as Spain through the rapid expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate after the death of Muhammad in 632. The Umayyads were stopped from expanding into Europe any further by Charles Martel of Francia in the Battle of Tours. Eventually, they were overthrown by the Abbasids led by Abul Abbas As-Saffah in 750, though one surviving prince Abd-ar-rahman I fled to Muslim-controlled Spain to establish the Emirate of Cordoba.

in 793, a group of Norse raiders known as the Vikings led a military expedition off the coast of northeastern England. Among the participants in this expedition was the ancestor of Juhani Otso Berg who fought and killed a Saxon warrior in combat. This became known as the Lindisfarne raid and it marked the beginning of the Viking Age as well as the subsequent expansion across most of Europe from the rivers of Russia to the shores of Ireland over the course of two centuries.[6] Some would also lend their services to the Byzantine Empire as bodyguards and these Vikings would eventually become known as the Varangians.[7]

In Western Europe, Charlemagne helped consolidate and expand the Franks to much of France, Belgium, western Germany and northern Italy. He was then crowned "Roman Emperor" by Pope Leo III on Christmas Eve in 800. Charlemagne would create the Carolingian Empire, the director precursor to the Holy Roman Empire. Unbeknownst to his subjects, Charlemagne was also a leader in the Order of the Ancients in spite of his strong Christian beliefs. In 803, an Anglo-Saxon scholar known as Alcuin had discovered that the Order had infiltrated the church, intent on corrupting its beliefs. One year after the investigation, he wrote a letter to Charlemagne urging him to steer clear from the Order, unaware that he was a member of the organization. A week later, he died under mysterious circumstances.[8]

Over fifty years after the Lindisfarne raid, the Vikings would sail down the Seine to besiege the Carolingian capital of Paris in one of their most ambitious raids yet. Ragnar Lothbrok, a young Viking leader from Sweden, led a force of 4,000 men to plunder and occupy the city before departing after Frankish king Charles the Bald paid a ransom of 7,000 livres of silver and gold. Twenty years later, Ragnar landed in Northumbria and attempted to outdo his sons by planning to conquer the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England, using only two ships. However, he was captured by ealdorman Ælla and put to death by being thrown into a pit of snakes.[9][10] The death of Ragnar Lothbrok led to his sons launching an invasion of England to avenge their late father, followed by the arrival of another contingent of Vikings led by Bersi and Guthrum in 871. Soon, they formed a grand coalition known as the Great Heathen Army, which would go on to conquer a huge swath of northern England that later became known as the Danelaw. Soon, another group of Norwegian Vikings known as the Raven Clan, who refused to swear fealty to the newly crowned king Harald Fairhair, against the wishes of their leader Styrbjorn Sigvaldisson. With the help of the Hidden Ones, the Raven Clan led by Sigurd Styrbjornsson and Eivor Varinsdottir would set their sights on colonizing England and establishing a new home that would be named Ravensthorpe.[11] The village was also part of a larger plan by Basim Ibn Ishaq and Hytham to re-establish the Hidden Ones in England, who were completely absent from the island since 430 CE.[12] The Raven Clan would be caught in an ancient conflict between the Hidden Ones and their mortal enemies, the Order of the Ancients. Eivor unwittingly allowed King Alfred the Great of Wessex to eliminate the last vestiges of the Order in England and reform it into the Knights Templar, otherwise known as the Templar Order by 878. Aside from the Lothbrok family, Guthrum and the Raven Clan, other notable participants in the Viking invasion of England included Geirmund Hel-hide, the son of Hjorr Halfsson and Ljufvina Bjarmarsdottir, and the Stensson brothers, Ulf and Björn.[13][14] Eventually the Vikings would be confined to the northernmost regions of England when Alfred would return from his exile in Athelnay after the Battle of Cippanhamm and mustered an army to defeat Guthrum in Edington. His actions laid the foundation for what eventually became the Kingdom of England, founded by his grandson Æthelstan in 927.

Aside from England, the Vikings would sack and plunder Paris once more, this time under the leadership of young Norwegian aristocrat Rollo between 885 and 886. With the aid of Eivor Varinsdottir, Rollo and his men were able to infiltrate the city and form key alliances inside. Charles the Fat eventually allowed the Norse raiders to sail further up the Seine to raid Burgundy to avoid a complete sacking of the city.[15] In 911, Rollo willingly became a vassal to West Frankish king Charles the Simple and established the Duchy of Normandy.

By 975, the Hidden Ones and the Templars were active throughout Scandinavia, long after the conquests of the Great Heathen Army and Rollo. A succession crisis arose within the House of Munsö after the Hidden Ones assassinated Swedish king Olof Björnsson after he finished a poisoned meal. The Hidden Ones would also back Olof's son Eric the Victorious, who was largely under the influence of his advisor Torgny the Lawspeaker. The Templars would help forge an alliance between the disgruntled Styrbjörn the Strong and Harald Bluetooth, the king of Denmark and Norway, as part of their efforts to claim the Swedish throne from Eric. However, Eric emerged victorious and crushed his rivals, including Styrbjörn and his sister Gyrid Olafsdottir.[16]

In 1001, the people of Rome revolted against Pope Sylvester II, a leader in the Roman Rite of the Templar Order, who was branded a heretic for his support and promotion of science.[17]

In 1054, Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael I of the Byzantine Empire excommunicated each other, because of disputes over the usage of unleavened bread in the liturgy and fasting days, papal authority over all of Christendom, the procession of the Holy Spirit and disagreements over the teachings of Jesus Christ. This split within Christianity was known as the East-West Schism and it directly led to the creation of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In 1060, Edward the Confessor died without a male heir. Soon, a power struggle for the throne of England ensued between Rollo's descendant William the Conqueror and the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Goodwinson. William eventually made an alliance with Norwegian king Harald Hadrada to invade England and overthrow Goodwinson. The invasion eventually culminated in 1066 with the decisive Battle of Hastings where William crushed Goodwinson's forces. Because Harald had died in the Battle of Stamford Bridge, William became the first Norman king of England.[18] It was also marked the end of the Early Middle Ages and the Viking Age with the rapid spread of Christianity and the gradual decline of paganism throughout much of Europe.

High Middle Ages

The Hidden Ones went public in 1090 as the Assassin Brotherhood when Hassan-i Sabbāh established a Nizari Ismaili state in Iran. The Brotherhood in the Middle East was based in the desert fortress of Alamut, which had already served as an important stronghold for the Hidden Ones.[19][1]

Appearances

References

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