European Cultures (800 CE Supplement)

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The following is a simplified overview of some cultures of 800 CE.

Each of these regions is complex. Each can easily fill an entire sourcebook. In the future, we hope that we can host a fuller description of each culture.


An Arab (Arabic: عربي, arabi) is a member of an ethnic group which identifies as such on the basis of either genealogical or linguistic grounds, sometimes including Arabized populations.

Though the Arabic language pre-dates the Common Era, Arabic culture began to spread in the Middle East from the 2nd century as genealogically Arab Christians such as the Ghassanids, Lakhmids and Banu Judham began migrating south into Northern Arabian desert and the Levant. The Arabic language rose to prominence with the rise of Islam in the 7th century AD as the language of the Qur'an, and the Arabic language and culture became more widespread with the early Islamic expansion.

"Arab" is defined independently of religious identity, and pre-dates the rise of Islam, with historically attested Arab Christian kingdoms and Arab Jews. The earliest documented use of the word "Arab" as defining a group of people dates from the 9th century BC. [1] Islamized but non-Arabized peoples and therefore the majority of the world's Muslims, do not form part of the Arab World, but comprise what is the geographically larger and diverse Muslim World.

Greeks and Romans referred to all the nomadic population of the desert in the Near East as Arabi. The Greeks called Yemen "Arabia Felix". The Romans called the vassal nomadic states within the Roman Empire "Arabia Petraea" after the city of Petra, and called unconquered deserts bordering the empire to the south and east Arabia Magna.

The arrival of Islam united the Arab tribes, who flooded into the strongly Semitic Greater Syria and Iraq. Within years, the major garrison towns developed into the major cities of Syria and Iraq. The local population, which shared a close linguistic and genetic ancestry with Qahtani and Adnani Muslims were quickly Arabized.

The Phoenicians and later the Carthaginians dominated North African and Iberian shores for more than 8 centuries until they were suppressed by the Romans and the later Vandal invasion. Inland, the nomadic Berbers allied with Arab Muslims in invading Spain. The Arab tribes mainly settled the old Phoenician and Carthagenian towns, while the Berbers remained dominant inland. The Iberian Peninsula, particularly its southern part, is heavily Arabized.

Arab Muslims are Sunni, Shia or Ibadhite. The Druze faith is sometimes considered separate. The self-identified Arab Christians generally follow Eastern Churches such as the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches and the Maronite church. Coptic Christians, though Arabic speaking, do generally not identify as ethnic Arabs.


  • Language: Arabic
  • Alphabet: Arabic Alphabet
  • Literacy: Widespread
  • Economy: Complex
  • Technology: Most Advanced
  • Dominant Religion: Islam


Islam is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion originating with the teachings of Muhammad, a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The word Islam means "submission", or the total surrender of oneself to God (Arabic: الله, Allāh). An adherent of Islam is known as a Muslim, meaning "one who submits (to God)". There are approximately 1.61 billion Muslims, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.

Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad, God's final prophet, and regard the Qur'an and the Sunnah (words and deeds of Muhammad) as the fundamental sources of Islam. They do not regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but as the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Islamic tradition holds that Jews and Christians distorted the texts God gave to these prophets by either altering the text, using a false interpretation, or both.

Islam includes many religious practices. Adherents are generally required to observe the Five Pillars of Islam, which are five duties that unite Muslims into a community. In addition to the Five Pillars, Islamic law (sharia) has developed a tradition of rulings that touch on virtually all aspects of life and society. This tradition encompasses everything from practical matters like dietary laws and banking to warfare.

Almost all Muslims belong to one of two major denominations, the Sunni and Shi'a. The schism developed in the late 7th century following disagreements over the religious and political leadership of the Muslim community. Roughly 85 percent of Muslims are Sunni and 15 percent are Shi'a. Islam is the predominant religion throughout the Middle East, as well as in parts of Africa and Asia. Large communities are also found in China, the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe and Russia. There are also large Muslim immigrant communities in wealthier and more developed parts of the world such as Western Europe. About 20 percent of Muslims live in Arab countries.

According to the Qur'an all Muslims have to believe in God, his revelations, his angels, his messengers, and in the "Day of Judgment". Also, there are other beliefs that differ between particular sects. The Sunni concept of predestination is called divine decree, while the Shi'a version is called divine justice. Unique to the Shi'a is the doctrine of Imamah, or the political and spiritual leadership of the Imams.


The Avars are a highly organized and powerful Turkic tribal confederation governed by a central ruler (khagan). They were a nomadic people of Eurasia, who appeared in Central and Eastern Europe in the 6th century.

The Avars were driven westward when the Sassanid Persians – allied with the Göktürks – defeated the Hephthalites in the 550s and the 560s. They entered Europe in the 6th century A.D., subjugating peoples such as the Kutrigur Huns as they went. Their first recorded official contact with the Roman world was in the winter of 558/59, when their embassy arrived in Constantinople and negotiated a treaty by which they were to subdue unruly gentes on behalf of the Empire, and receive payments and rights in return.[8] Having been bought off by the Eastern Emperor Justinian I, they pushed north into Germany (as Attila the Hun had done a century before), eventually reaching as far north as the Baltic.

Finding the country unsuited to their nomadic lifestyle (and the Franks stern opponents), they turned their attention to the Pannonian plain, which was then being contested by two Germanic tribes, the Lombards and the Gepids. Siding with the Lombards, they destroyed the Gepids in 567 and established a state in the Danube River area. Their harassment soon (ca. 568) forced the Lombards to try their luck in northern Italy, an invasion that marked the last Germanic mass movement in the Migrations Period.

Internal discord and external pressure have started to undermine the Avar state.


  • Language: Turkik
  • Alphabet: Old Georgian
  • Literacy: Rare
  • Economy: stupid
  • Technology: Late Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Eastern Christianity


Byzantines ruled a multi-ethnic empire where the Hellenic element was predominant, especially in the later period.[5] Like many other Imperial rulers of the time, Byzantines claimed the continuation of the mighty Roman Empire and indirectly laid claim to all Christian lands.

The Byzantines retained a large amount of ancient art and learning. Their craftsmen knew the secrets of many lucrative trades.


  • Language: Greek
  • Alphabet: Greek
  • Literacy: Common
  • Economy: Complex
  • Technology: Late Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Christianity


Celts are a diverse group of independent, indigenous tribal societies. While similarities in language, artifacts, religion and social structures are known, each culture had its own language and traditions.

Celtic languages were once predominant over much of Europe, with territory largely ceded to expanding Germanic tribes and the invading Roman Empire.

At the dawn of history in Europe, the Celts then living in what is now France were known as Gauls to the Romans. The territory of these peoples probably included the low countries, the Alps and what is now northern Italy. Their descendants were described by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. Eastern Gaul was the centre of the western La Tene culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organisation was similar to that of the Romans, with large towns. From the third century, BC the Gauls adopted coinage, and texts with Greek characters are known in southern Gaul from the second century.

Under Caesar the Romans conquered Celtic Gaul, and from Claudius onward the Roman empire absorbed parts of Britain. Roman local government of these regions closely mirrored pre-Roman 'tribal' boundaries, and archaeological finds suggest native involvement in local government. Latin was the official language of these regions after the conquests.

The native peoples under Roman rule became Romanized and keen to adopt Roman ways. Celtic art had already incorporated classical influences, and surviving Gallo-Roman pieces interpret classical subjects or keep faith with old traditions despite a Roman overlay.

The Roman occupation of Gaul, and to a lesser extent of Britain, led to Roman-Celtic syncretism (see Roman Gaul, Roman Britain). In the case of Gaul, this eventually resulted in a language shift from Gaulish to Vulgar Latin (see also Gallo-Roman culture). However, the Celts were master horsemen,[citation needed] which so impressed the Romans[citation needed] that they adopted Epona, the Celtic horse goddess, into their pantheon. During and after the fall of the Roman Empire many parts of France threw out their Roman administrators.

Tribal warfare is a regular feature of Celtic societies. Tribes use warfare to exert political control and harass rivals, for economic advantage, and in some instances to conquer territory.


  • Language:
  • Alphabet:
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  • Dominant Religion:

Celtic Christianity[edit]

While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland moved from Celtic polytheism to Celtic Christianity in the fifth century AD. Ireland was converted under missionaries from Britain such as Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Saxon parts of Britain and central Europe. This brought the early medieval renaissance of Celtic art between 390 and now, developing many of the styles now thought of as typically Celtic, and found through much of Ireland and Britain, including the north-east and far north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland.

Celtic Polytheism[edit]

Few Celts follow the old ways, although they can still be found.

Celtic polytheism refers to the religious beliefs and practices of ancient Celts until the Christianization of Celtic-speaking lands. At various times those lands included Gaul, Ireland, Celtiberia, Britain, certain territories on the Danube, and Galatia in Asia Minor. Other terms, such as Druidism or Celtic paganism, are also sometimes used with a similar meaning.

Celtic religious practices bear the marks of Romanization in the wake of the Roman conquest of Gaul and Roman Britain.

The Irish believed in an Otherworld, which they described sometimes as underground, such as in the Sídhe mounds, and sometimes located on islands in the Western Sea. The Otherworld was variously called Tír na mBeo ('the Land of the Living'), Mag Mell ('Delightful Plain'), and Tír na nÓg ('Land of the Young'), among other names. It was believed to be a country where there was no sickness, old age, or death, where happiness lasted forever, and a hundred years was as one day. It was probably similar to the Elysium of the Greek mythology and both may have a shared origin in ancient Proto-Indo-European religion. In Irish Immrama ('voyage') tales, a beautiful young woman often approaches the hero and sings to him of this happy land. Sometimes she offers him an apple, or the promise of her love in exchange for his assistance in battle. He follows her, and they journey over the sea together and are seen no more. Their journey may take place in a boat of glass, in a chariot or on horseback (usually upon a white horse, as in the case of the goddess Niamh of the Golden Hair). Sometimes the hero returns after what he believes is a short time, only to find that all his companions are dead and he has actually been away for hundreds of years. Sometimes the hero sets out on a quest, and a magic mist descends upon him. He may find himself before an unusual palace and enter to find a warrior or a beautiful woman who makes him welcome. The woman may be the goddess Fand, the warrior may be Manannán mac Lir or Lugh, and after strange adventures the hero may return successfully. However, even in cases where the mortal manages to return to his own time and place, he is forever changed by his contact with the Otherworld.

Insular Celts swore their oaths by their personal or tribal gods, and the land, sea and sky; as in, 'I swear by the gods by whom my people swear' and 'If I break my oath, may the land open to swallow me, the sea rise to drown me, and the sky fall upon me.'

The Celts had temples.

The early Celts considered some trees to be sacred.

A Druid was a member of the learned class among the ancient Celts. They acted as priests, teachers, and judges. The earliest known records of the Druids come from the 3rd century BCE. Some scholars have suggested that the Druids were the Celtic counterparts of the Brahmans of India.

n Ireland the filid were visionary poets, associated with lorekeeping, versecraft, and the memorization of vast numbers of poems. They were also magicians, as Irish magic is intrinsically connected to poetry, and the satire of a gifted poet was a serious curse upon the one being satirized. To run afoul of a poet was a dangerous thing indeed to a people who valued reputation and honor more than life itself.

In Ireland a "bard" was considered a lesser grade of poet than a fili - more of a minstrel and rote reciter than an inspired artist with magical powers. However in Wales bardd was the word for their visionary poets, and used in the same manner fili was in Ireland and Scotland.

Insular sources provide important information about Celtic religious festivals. In Ireland the year was divided into two periods of six months by the feasts of Beltane (May 1) and Samhain (Samain; November 1), and each of these periods was equally divided by the feasts of Imbolc (February 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1). Samhain seems originally to have meant "summer," but by the early Irish period it had come to mark summer's end. Beltine is also called Cetsamain ("First Samhain"). Imbolc has been compared by the French scholar Joseph Vendryes to the Roman lustrations and apparently was a feast of purification for the farmers. Beltane ("Bright Fire") was the festival of the beginning of summer, and there is a tradition that on that day the people drove their cattle between two fires as a protection against disease. Lughnasadh was the feast of the god Lugh and a celebration of the first fruits or early harvest.

The Coligny calendar has sometimes been looked to for information regarding the Gaulish year including holy days.

This table shows some of the Celtic and Romano-Celtic gods and goddesses mentioned above, in Romanized form as well as ancient Gaulish or British names as well as those of the Tuatha Dé Danann and characters from the Mabinogion. They are arranged so as to suggest some linguistic or functional associations among the ancient gods and literary figures; needless to say, all such associations are subject to continual scholarly revision and disagreement. In particular, it has been noted by scholars such as Sjoestedt that it is inappropriate to try to fit Insular Celtic deities into a Roman format as such attempts seriously distort the Insular deities.

Gaulish/British Irish Welsh
Apollo Belenus
Victoria Bodua    
    Bran Brân
  Epona Macha Rhiannon
Vulcan Gobannos Goibniu Gofannon
Mercury Uiducus     Gwydion
Mercury Lugus Lug Lleu
    Manannán Manawydan
Apollo Maponos Maccan Mabon
  Matronae   Modron
Lamiae   The Morrígan  
Mars Nodens Nuadu Lludd/Nudd
Hercules Ogmios Ogma  
Maia Rosmerta    
Hygieia Sirona    
Silvanus Sucellus the Dagda  
Minerva Sulis
Junones Suleviae    
Jupiter Taranis Turenn Taran
Mars Toutatis    


Migrating Germanic peoples spread throughout Europe in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Germanic languages became dominant along the Roman borders (Austria, Germany, Netherlands, and England), but in the rest of the (western) Roman provinces, the Germanic immigrants adopted Latin (Romance) dialects. Furthermore, all Germanic peoples eventually converted to Christianity. The Germanic people played an important role in transforming the Roman empire into Medieval Europe, and they contributed in developing a common identity, history, and culture which transcended linguistic borders.


  • Language: German or Latin
  • Alphabet: Latin
  • Literacy: Sparse
  • Economy: Agricultural
  • Technology: Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Christianity

The Germanic tribes were each politically independent, under a hereditary king. The kings appear to have claimed descent from mythical founders of the tribes.

As the Western Roman Empire collapse, and needing defense, the Empire recruited entire tribal groups under their native leaders as officers. Assisting with defense eventually shifted into administration and then outright rule, as Roman government passed into the hands of Germanic leaders.

Germanic peoples were often quick to assimilate (although the term absorption could also accurately be used to describe several of the following historical situations) into foreign cultures. Established examples include the Gallo-Roman Norsemen in Normandy. England is similarly considered an example of assimilation, where elements of the culture of the migrating Angles, Saxons and Jutes merged with that of the indigenous Celtic speaking Britons, resulting in an English identity for the inhabitants of that land.

France saw a great deal of Germanic settlement. Its namesake, the Franks, were a fusion of several Germanic tribes whose homelands lay along the Roman Rhine frontier, and who had been strongly influenced by Roman culture. Entire regions of France (such as Alsace, Burgundy and Normandy) were settled heavily by Franks, contributing to their unique regional cultures and dialects, and Frankish kings ruled the country from the 6th century to the 10th century.

  1. Wikipedia: Teutonic Peoples
  2. Wikipedia: List of Germanic Peoples
  3. Norse Clans

German Christianity[edit]

The Germanic peoples underwent gradual Christianization in the course of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. By the 8th century, most of England and the Frankish Empire was Christian

Unlike the history of Christianity in the Roman Empire, conversion of the Germanic tribes in general took place "top to bottom", in the sense that missionaries aimed at converting Germanic nobility first, which would then impose their new faith on the general population: This is connected with the sacral position of the king in Germanic paganism: the king is charged with interacting with the divine on behalf of his people, so that the general population saw nothing wrong with their kings choosing their preferred mode of worship.

While the Germanic peoples were slowly converted to Christianity by varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions. Most recently, the Franks forced conversion on their Saxon neighbors. Forced conversion is a relatively new phenomena.

  1. Wikipedia: Germanic Christianity

Germanic Paganism[edit]

Most Germanic tribes are now Christianized, though one can still find those who honor the old beliefs. The Norseman still follow their pagan traditions.

"lord of poetic/mantic inspiration", "Germanic Mercury", Norse Óðinn, Saxon Woden, Old High German Wuotan.
"thunder", Norse Þórr, West Germanic Donar, Saxon Thunor, Germanic Hercules or Jupiter".
god of war, "Germanic Mars", Norse Tyr, West Germanic Tiw, continues Indo-European Dyeus.
described by Tacitus as Mother Earth.
wife of Wodanaz, Norse Frigg. "wife", c.f. Sanskrit priyā "mistress, wife"
Fullō goddess
or *Fullaz, god of riches, plenty. Corresponds to Norse Fulla.
Saxon god (speculative, based on Nennius' Armenon)
"glorious one", possibly originally an epitheton, mentioned on the Thorsberg chape, continued in Norse Ullr
the Sun
  1. Wikipedia: Germanic Paganism
  2. Wikipedia: Common Germanic Deities
  3. Wikipedia: Norse Mythology
  4. Wikipedia: Continental German Mythology
  5. Wikipedia: Anglo-Saxon Polytheism
  6. Wikipedia: Mythology of the Low Countries
  7. Wikipedia: Pre-Christian Alpine Traditions


At this period, the Byzantine Greeks dominated the easts Mediterranean.

Many Greeks still live in Greece itself.



  • Language: Greek
  • Alphabet: Greek
  • Literacy: Uncommon
  • Economy: Complex
  • Technology: Late Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Christianity



Pagan Greece[edit]



A Jew is a member of the Jewish people, an ethnic group originating in the Israelites or "Hebrews" of the ancient Middle East. The ethnicity and the religion of Judaism, the traditional faith of the Jewish nation, are strongly interrelated, and converts to Judaism are both included and have been absorbed within the Jewish people throughout the millennia.


  • Language: Hebrew/Aramaic/Varies
  • Alphabet: Aramaic/Aramaic/Varies
  • Literacy: Widespread
  • Economy: Varies
  • Technology: Late Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Judaism

The origin of the Jews is traditionally dated to around 1800 BCE [citation needed] with the biblical account of the birth of Judaism.

A rebellion of the Jews during the Roman Empire lead to their expulsion from their homeland and their diaspora into Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. During the first few hundred years of the Diaspora, the most important Jewish communities were in Babylonia, where the Babylonian Talmud was written. The destruction of Judea exerted a decisive influence upon the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world, as the center of worship shifted from the Temple to Rabbinic authority. During the Middle Ages, Jews in Islamic lands generally had more rights than under Christian rule.

The most commonly used terms to describe ethnic divisions among Jews currently are: Ashkenazi (meaning "German" in Hebrew, denoting their Central European base); and Sephardi (meaning "Spanish" or "Iberian" in Hebrew, denoting their Spanish and Portuguese base). They refer to both religious and ethnic divisions.

Other Jewish ethnic groups include Mizrahi Jews (a term referring to a heterogeneous collection of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities), which are often in modern usage termed Sephardi due to similar styles of liturgy despite independant evolutions from Sephardim proper; Teimani Jews from the Yemen and Oman; and such smaller groups as the Gruzim and Juhurim from the Caucasus; Indian Jews including the Bene Israel, Bnei Menashe, Cochin Jews and Telugu Jews; the Romaniotes of Greece; the Italkim or Bené Roma of Italy; various African Jews, including most numerously the Beta Israel of Ethiopia; the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia; and Chinese Jews, most notably the Kaifeng Jews, as well as various other distinct communities.

Since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, a proportion of Jews have assimilated into the wider non-Jewish society around them, by either choice or force, ceasing to practice Judaism and losing their Jewish identity.

The Turkish rulers of the Khazars converted to Judaism, forming the Khazar Empire.

The "Constitution for the Jews" was more or less the official position of the papacy regarding the Jews throughout the Middle Ages and later. Pope Alexander III is the author of the oldest existing version of the bull. The bull was reaffirmed by many popes, even hundreds of years after Alexander III. Excerpts from the translation of the bull follows:

"[The Jews] ought to suffer no prejudice. We, out of the meekness of Christian piety, and in keeping in the footprints or Our predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, admit their petition, and We grant them the buckler of Our protection. For We make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But, if any one of them should spontaneously, and for the sake of the faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of Christianity who is not recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not spontaneously, but unwillingly. Too, no Christian ought to injure their persons, or with violence to take their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit. Besides, in the celebration of their own festivities, no one ought disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform. ...We decree... that no one ought to dare mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried. If anyone, however, shall attempt, the tenor of this degree once known, to go against it...let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his presumption by making equivalent satisfaction." (from: Synan, Edward. The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages. 231-232.)

These bulls were issued as Christians did not honors the Papacy's position.

  1. Jew
  2. Jewish History
  3. Jews in the Middle Ages
  4. Golden Age of Jewish Culture in the Iberian Peninsula
  5. Jewish Diaspora
  6. Jewish Languages
  7. Aramaic
  8. Hebrew
  9. Timeline of Jewish History
  10. Schisms among the Jews
  11. Ashkenazi Jews
  12. Sephardi Jews
  13. Khazars


Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, based on principles and ethics embodied in the Bible (Tanakh) and the Talmud. According to Jewish tradition, the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham (ca. 2000 BCE), the patriarch and progenitor of the Jewish people.

Throughout the ages, Judaism has clung to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, transcendent God, who created the universe and continues to govern it. According to traditional Jewish belief, the God who created the world established a covenant with the Israelites, and revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of the Torah, and the Jewish people are the descendants of the Israelites. The traditional practice of Judaism revolves around study and the observance of God's laws and commandments as written in the Torah and expounded in the Talmud.

Traditionally, Jews recite prayers three times daily, with a fourth prayer added on Shabbat and holidays. Synagogues are Jewish houses of prayer and study, they usually contain separate rooms for prayer (the main sanctuary), smaller rooms for study, and often an area for community or educational use. There is no set blueprint for synagogues and the architectural shapes and interior designs of synagogues vary greatly.

The laws of kashrut ("keeping kosher") are the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif

Some Jews of the 8th and 9th centuries reject the authority and divine inspiration of the Oral Law as recorded in the Mishnah, relying instead only upon the Tanakh. These included the Isunians, the Yudganites, the Malikites, and others. They soon developed oral traditions of their own, which differed from the rabbinic traditions, and eventually formed the Karaite sect..

  1. Judaism
  2. Judaism and Islam
  3. Judaism and Christianity
  4. Synagogue
  5. Karaism
  6. Karaite Judaism


Latins represent the various people who once made up the Western Roman Empire.

At this time, the regional dialects of Latin have grown very strong, and many Latin speakers have trouble communicating with each other. Latin is already splitting into the distinct languages of Italian, Romanian, French, and Spanish.

The Church uses Latin for its liturgical works. The government uses Latin for its administration. Academics use Latin to correspond.

As the Western Roman Empire crumbled, the new Germanic rulers who conquered the provinces nonetheless upheld many Roman laws and traditions. Many of the invading Germanic tribes were already Christianised, though most were followers of Arianism. They quickly converted to Catholicism, gaining more loyalty from local Romanized populations, as well as the recognition and support of the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Although they initially continued to recognise indigenous tribal laws, they were more influenced by Roman Law and gradually incorporated it as well.

Roman Law, particularly the Corpus Juris Civilis collected by order of Justinian I, is the ancient basis on which the modern Civil law stands. In contrast, Common law is based on the Germanic Anglo-Saxon law.


  • Language: Latin
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  1. Latin Language
  2. Latin People
  3. Western Roman Empire

Catholic Church[edit]

Roman Paganism[edit]

Roman paganism is essentially dead in the 9th century. Although the religion is gone, many stories of that religion remain. These stories are still told and have an active hold upon the imagination.

Religion in ancient Rome combined several different cult practices and embraced more than a single set of beliefs. The Romans originally followed a rural animistic tradition, in which many spirits were each responsible for specific, limited aspects of the cosmos and human activities, such as ploughing.

The early Romans referred to these as numina. Another aspect of this animistic belief was ancestor, or genius, worship, with each family honoring their own dead by their own rites. Rome had a strong belief in gods. When they took over Greece, they inherited the Greek gods but fused them with their Roman counterparts.

Based heavily in Greek and Etruscan mythology, Roman religion came to encompass and absorb hundreds of other religions, developing a rich and complex mythology. In addition, an Imperial cult supplemented the pantheon with Julius Caesar and some of the emperors.

Eventually, Christianity came to replace the older pantheon as the state religion of Rome, and the original Roman religion faded, though many aspects of its hierarchy remain ingrained in Christian ritual and in Western traditions.

Major Roman Gods
  • Bacchus
  • Ceres
  • Cupid
  • Diana
  • Fortuna
  • Janus
  • Juno
  • Jupiter
  • Maia
  • Mars
  • Mercury
  • Minerva
  • Neptune
  • Pluto
  • Proserpina
  • Uranus
  • Venus
  • Saturn
  • Vesta
  • Vulcan
Foreign Gods
  • Mithras
  • Isis
  • Cybele
  • Pan
  1. Religion in Ancient Rome
  2. Roman Mythology


The Magyars are a migrating people. They have just settled the land of Levedia, north of the Black Sea. They lie near the Khazar Khanginate.


  • Language: Finnic
  • Alphabet: No
  • Literacy: No
  • Economy: Farming and Hunting
  • Technology: Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion:
  1. Hungarians
  2. Hungarian Language


The Moors are the Muslim North African and Berber inhabitants of the western Mediterranean and western Sahara, including the Maghreb; al-Andalus; lands of the Sahara western to central; and, the strait cities of Gibraltar, and Ceuta and Melilla.

The word Moor can be used to refer to a African Muslim from these areas, as well as generally to an Arab, or Berber (original inhabitants of Northern Africa).

In 711 AD, the Islamic Moors conquered Visigothics, mainly Christian Hispania. Under their leader, an African Berber general named Tariq ibn-Ziyad, they brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. They moved northeast across the Pyrenees Mountains but were defeated by the Frank, Charles Martel, at the Battle of Poitier in 732 AD. The Moorish state fell into civil conflict in the 750s. The Moors rule in the Iberian peninsula, except for areas in the northwest (Asturias) and the largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. The number of "Moors" compared to the number of natives.

For many centuries the Berbers inhabited the coast of North Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. Over time, the coastal regions of North Africa saw a long parade of invaders, settlers, and colonists including Phoenicians (who founded Carthage), Greeks (mainly in Cyrene, Libya), Romans, Vandals and Alans, Byzantines, and Arabs. Most if not all of these invaders have left some imprint upon the modern Berbers as have slaves brought from Southern Europe. Interactions with neighboring Sudanic empires, sub-Saharan Africans, and nomads from East Africa also left vast impressions upon the Berber peoples.

The Muslims who entered Iberia in 711 were mainly Imazighen (Berbers), and were led by an Amazigh, Tariq ibn Ziyad, though under the suzerainty of the Arab Caliph of Damascus Abd al-Malik and his North African Viceroy, Musa ibn Nusayr. A second mixed army of Arabs and Imazighen came in 712 under Ibn Nusayr himself. It is claimed they formed approximately 66% of the Islamic population in Iberia; supposedly they helped the Umayyad caliph Abd ar-Rahman I in Al-Andalus, because his mother was a Berber.


  • Language: Arabic
  • Alphabet: Kufic
  • Literacy: Widespread
  • Economy: Farming, Trading
  • Technology: Advanced Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Islam
  1. Moors
  2. Kufic Script
  3. Berber
  4. Al-Andalus

Moorish Religion[edit]

For religion, see Berber.


Also called Vikings, Norsemen are German speakers from Scandanavia. They are frequently referred to as "vikings". Viking society is based on agriculture and trade with other peoples and placed great emphasis on the concept of honour both in combat (for example, it is unfair and wrong to attack an enemy already in a fight with another) and in the criminal justice system.

Denmark was largely settled by Germanic people from present-day Sweden in the fifth and sixth centuries. A strong central authority was established in Jutland. With a growing population, Danes are beginning to look beyond their own territory for land, trade and plunder.

The sea is the easiest way of communication between the Norwegian kingdoms and the outside world. Recently, they began building ships of war to send on raiding expedition. This opens now, the Viking Age. They are not only raiders. They are traders, colonizer, and explorers as well. Recent warming has allowed them greater range in their ships. Vikings trade with the Muslim world, and have brought back Arab gold.

With the means of travel (longships and open water), their desire for goods led Scandinavian traders to explore and develop extensive trading partnerships in the territories they explored. Meanwhile, Christian traders increasingly would not trade with "heathens", which offended the Norsemen. Their honor impunged, they fell to raiding Christian lands and targeting Christian monasteries.

In 794, according to the Annals of Ulster, there was a serious attack on Lindisfarne's mother-house of Iona which was followed in 795 by raids upon the northern coast of Ireland. From bases there, they were recently able to attack Iona again, cause great slaughter amongst the Céli Dé Brethren, and burn the Abbey to the ground. Attacks there have continued.

The Kingdom of the Franks under Emperor Karol the Great was particularly hard-hit by these raiders, who could sail down the Seine River with near impunity.

  • Recover the relics of St. Cuthbert


  • Language: German
  • Alphabet: Runic
  • Literacy: Rare
  • Economy: Farming and Raiding
  • Technology: Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Nordic Paganism
  1. Norsemen
  2. Norse Art
  3. Viking
  4. Viking Age
  5. Longship
  6. Knarr
  7. Runic Alphabet
  8. Leidang
  9. Viking Ring Fortress
  10. [

Nordic Paganism[edit]

Norse mythology is a collection of beliefs and stories shared by Northern Germanic tribes. It had no one set of doctrinal beliefs. The mythology is orally transmitted in the form of poetry.

The Vikings adhered to the Norse religion and system of beliefs. They believed in a pantheon of gods and goddesses, as well as Valhalla, a heaven for warriors. If you were in the lower-class of society you went to a place called "hel", where it was a bit like life on earth. According to Viking beliefs, Viking chieftains would please their war-gods by their bravery, and would become "worth-ship;" that is, the chieftain would earn a "burial at sea." They also performed land burials which often still included a ship, treasure, weapons, tools, clothing and even live slaves and women buried alive with the dead chieftain, for his "journey to Valhalla, and adventure and pleasure in the after-life." Then, sages would compose sagas about the exploits of these chieftains, keeping their memories alive. Freyr and his sister Freyia were fertility gods. They were responsible for ensuring that people had many children and that the land produced plentiful crops. Some farmers even called their fields after Freyr, in the hope that this would ensure a good harvest.

  1. Wikipedia: Nordic Mythology
  2. Norse Paganism
  3. Norse Gods

Northern Tribes[edit]

The northern tribes are still mostly hunters and gatherers. They practice forms of shamanism. They live in the far north, even further than the Vikings.


  • Language: Finnic
  • Alphabet: None
  • Literacy: None
  • Economy: Hunting/Gathering
  • Technology: Primitive Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Hunter/Gatherer Paganism
  1. Finnish Paganism
  2. Sami Religion


A caliphate is the Islamic form of government representing the political unity and leadership of the Muslim world. The head of state (Caliph) has a position based on the notion of a successor to Muhammad's political authority. The Abbassids hold the Caliphate under Harun al-Rashid. His reign has been very good for science and learning.

The Abbasids had depended heavily on the support of Persians in their overthrow of the Umayyads. Abu al-'Abbas' successor, al-Mansur, moved their capital from Damascus to the new city of Baghdad and welcomed non-Arab Muslims to their court. While this helped integrate Arab and Persian cultures, it alienated many of their Arab supporters, particularly the Khorasanian Arabs who had supported them in their battles against the Umayyads.

Due to the size of their empire, the Caliphate has begun to fracture. Local rulers are gaining power. The Umayyads, out of power, have secured control of Spain. Idrisids in the Maghreb and Aghlabids of Ifriqiya and a little later the Tulunids and Ikshidids of Misr are effectively independent in Africa. Former supporters of the Abbasids broke away to create a separate kingdom around Khorosan in northern Persia.


  • Language: Farsi, Arabic
  • Alphabet: Avestan
  • Literacy: Common
  • Economy: Agriculure
  • Technology: Advanced Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Sunni Islam
  1. Culture of Iran
  2. Farsi
  3. Literature
  4. Iranian Art
  5. The Book of One Thousand and One Nights
  6. Umayyad
  7. Abbasid
  8. Avestan Alphabet
  9. Persian Empire
  10. Caliphate
  11. Science in Iran

Islam in Persian Culture[edit]

The dominant religion is Sunni Islam.

Before the conquest by Islam, the Persians had been mainly Zoroastrian, however, there were also large and thriving Christian and Jewish communities. However, there was a slow but steady movement of the population toward Islam. The nobility and city-dwellers were the first to convert, most likely to preserve the economic and social status and advantages; Islam spread more slowly among the peasantry and the dihqans, or landed gentry.

See Arabic for more on Islam.

  1. Islam
  2. Islam in Iran


Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra, Zartosht). Mazdaism is the religion that acknowledges the divine authority of Ahura Mazda, proclaimed by Zoroaster to be the one uncreated Creator of all (God). While Zoroastrianism was once the dominant religion of much of Greater Iran, the number of adherents has dwindled.

Zoroastrians believe that the world is a combination both good and evil. Creation cannot exist without the presence of both. In the beginning of creation, Ahura Mazda, the Supreme God, created two Mainyus or twin spirits called Spenta Mainyu, the good spirit and Angra Mainyu (Ahirman), the evil spirit. Creation is possible only when they both come together.

Spenta Mainyu is responsible for all the good works in the creation of God. He exists in all of us and helps us see the light within ourselves. Ahirman is an illusion. He exists in order to make us understand what true existence means. By opposing good, he makes us realize the importance and necessity of good in our lives.

In this eternal conflict, Ahirman ultimately loses out to Spenta Mainyu. It is to be noted that neither Ahirman nor Spenta Mainyu are absolute powers. They are the creation of God and work according to His Divine Plan, or Asha.

The energy of the creator is represented in Zoroastrianism by fire and the sun which are both enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining. Zoroastrians usually pray in front of some form of fire (or any source of light). (It is important to note that fire is not worshipped by Zoroastrians, but is used simply as symbol and a point of focus, much like the crucifix in Christianity.) Fire, together with clean water, is an agent of ritual purity.

Zoroastrianism has spread to northern China via the Silk Road and gained official recognition in a number of Chinese states. Temples exist in Kaifeng and Zhenjiang.

Zoroastianism coexisted with Islam. Although some of the later rulers had Zoroastrian shrines destroyed, generally Zoroastrians were included as People of the Book and allowed to practice their religion. Mass conversions to Islam were not imposed, in accordance with Islamic law. However, there was a slow but steady social pressure to convert. The nobility and city-dwellers were the first to convert, with Islam more slowly being accepted among the peasantry and landed gentry.

When the Sassanid dynasty fell, many Zoroastrians fled west into India.

The primary god of the Zoroastrians is Ahura Mazda.

Many follow the Zurvanist doctrine. This doctrine has become less favored in recent years. It has lost many adherents. The ascendancy of a monotheistic Islam has caused a return to orthodoxy.

The end time figure prominently in Zoroastrian religion. At the end of the Battle between the righteous and wicked, a Final Judgement of all souls will commence. Sinners will be punished 3 days, but are then forgiven. The world will reach perfection as poverty, old age, disease, thirst, hunger and death are halted. The punishment on sinners will be more similar to the Catholic doctrine of purgatory than the Protestant doctrine of hell.

The book of the Zoroastrians is called the Avesta.

  1. Zoroastrian
  2. Zurvanism
  3. Ahura Mazda
  4. Zoroastrian Eschatology
  5. Agra Mainyu
  6. Amesha Spenta
  7. Ahuna Vairya
  8. Avesta


In the early centuries of the Roman Empire, the Saracens were a nomadic Arab tribe from the Sinai Peninsula, but later the Greek-speaking subjects of the Empire applied it to all Arabs.

See: Arabic or Moors


The Slavic peoples are a branch of Indo-European peoples, living mainly in Europe. Slavic settlers mixed with existing local populations and later invaders. Slavs speak Slavic.


  • Language: Slavic
  • Alphabet: Cyrillic
  • Literacy: Sparse
  • Economy: Agricultural
  • Technology: Iron Age
  • Dominant Religion: Paganism

Slavs emerged from obscurity when the westward movement of Germans and Celts in the 5th and 6th centuries AD (necessitated by the onslaught of people from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, Avars, Bulgars and Magyars) started the great migration of the Slavs, who settled the lands abandoned by Germanic tribes fleeing the Huns and their allies: westward into the country between the Oder and the Elbe-Saale line; southward into Bohemia, Moravia, the Pannonian plain and the Balkans; and northward along the upper Dnieper river.

When their migratory movements ended, there appeared among the Slavs the first rudiments of state organizations, each headed by a prince with a treasury and a defense force. Moreover, it was the beginnings of class differentiation, with nobles who pledged allegiance to the Frankish and Holy Roman Emperors.

Some Slavs have gradually adopted Christianity, and consequently the old Slavic religion is suppressed. Writing was introduced with Christianity.

  1. Map: Slavic Peoples, 8th-9th Century
  2. Wikipedia:Slavic Culture
  3. Slavic People

Slavic Paganism[edit]

The world itself is a great oak which contains the three levels of the universe. The branches are the sky, the roots are the underworld, and people live on the trunk. The underworld is call Virey. It is a wet, green place of grassy plains and eternal spring. This land may be reached by crossing the great waters.

Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga is the wild old woman; the witch; and mistress of magic. She is also seen as a forest spirit, leading hosts of spirits.[1]
Son of Svarog. Fire in the Sky. Svarog forged the sun and gave it to Dazhbog to carry.[2]
Dzydzilelya is the Goddess of love and marriage and of sexuality and fertility.[3]
Fertility and vegitation. Son of Perun, but stolen away and raised by Veles. Brother/Husband of Morana. Moon god.[4]
Marzyana is the Polish Goddess of the Grain, presiding over harvest and can be comparable to Demeter.[5]
Matka Gabia
Matka Gabia is the Polish goddess of home, hearth, and patron of their care.[6]
Feminine goddess of nature, winter, and death. Daughter of Perun. Sister/Wife of Jarilo.[7]
Mokoš is a Slavic goddess attested in the Primary Chronicle, connected with female activities auch as shearing, spinning and weaving.[8]
Perun is a heavenly god of thunder and lightning, fiery and dry, who rules the living world from his citadel high above, located on the top of the highest branch of the World Tree. Perun is a giver of rain for farmers, god of war and weapons, invoked by fighters.[9]
In Polish mythology, Porvata is the god of the woods; he has no idol or image; and is manifest throughout the primeval forest. His sacred day is Tuesday and is connected with midsummer. He is thought to be one of the four seasonal aspects of Swaitowid facing south and ruling over summer.[10]
Rod is the first god—progenitor of deities, creator of the Universe and its manager. He is the supreme universal principle, which established the divine law Pravda (Prav). He is a protector of blood-ties and clan relations, a patron of kinship and clan unions.[11]
Sudz is a Polish god of destiny and glory. Those born at the time when he strews gold in his palace are destined to be wealthy. When he scatters earthen clods, those born are destined for poverty.[12]
Associated with War and Divination. A four-headed god with two heads looking front and two back. Associated with a white horse. He always carries his sword (sometimes bow) in one hand, and in the other a drinking horn. Svetovid had a white horse which was kept in his temple and taken care of by priests. It was believed Svantevit rode this horse in battle. The horse was used for divination. Victory in battle, merchant travels and a successful harvest all depended on Svantevit.Indeterminate.[13]
In Slavic mythology, Svarog is the Slavic Sun God and spirit of fire; his name means bright and clear. He is also god of smithing. So sacred was the fire that it was forbidden to shout or swear at it while it was being lit. He is portrayed as a fire serpent, a winged dragon that breathes fire.[14]
Son of Svarog. Fire in the Earth. Victory in war, harvest, conquest.[15]
Sudz is a Polish god of destiny and glory. Those born at the time when he strews gold in his palace are destined to be wealthy. When he scatters earthen clods, those born are destined for poverty.[16]
Triglav is a unity of three godsSvarog, Perun, and Dajbog. Rarely seen.[17]
Veles is a chthonic god associated with waters, earthly and wet, lord of underworld, who rules the realm of dead from down in the roots of the World Tree. Veles is a god of cattle, protector of shepherds, associated with magic and commerce.[18]
Three guardian godesses. Sometimes called the Auroras. They guard and watch over the doomsday hound that threatens to eat the constellation Ursa Minor, the 'little bear.' If the chain breaks loose and the constellation is devoured, the universe is said to end. The Auroras represent the Morning Star, Evening Star, and Midnight Star, respectively, although the Midnight Star is sometimes omitted.[19]
Żywie inn Western Slavic mythology, was the goddess of health and healing. She is associated as the spirit of the dead worshipped by the Lusatians, and is also the goddess of regeneration and rebirth.[20]

"-bog" means "god".

  1. Polish Mythology
  2. Slavic Mythology
  3. Wendish Mythology
  4. Latvian Mythology
  5. Lithuanian Mythology


  • Latin
  • Cyrillic
  • Arabic
  • Chinese

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