Christians’ Caliphate !?
Hildebrand of Sovana aka Pope Gregory VII
King James Bible Online: Matthew Chapter 4:1-11
- Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
- And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
- And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
- But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
- Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
- And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
- Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
- Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
- And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
- Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
- Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
The Failed Empire
The Medieval Origin of the European Disunion
Laurent Guyénot • The Unz Review • February 23, 2023 • 12,100 Words • Has Comments
The Failed Empire
Europe was a civilization. From Charlemagne until, say, the 16th century, European civilization was “Christendom.” “The Faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith,” in Hillaire Belloc’s words. Western Christianity had Rome as its capital, and Latin as its language. But this unity was, in theory, just spiritual. Rome was the seat of the papacy, and Latin the language of the Church, known only to a tiny minority. Europe therefore had a religious unity, but it had no political unity. Unlike every other civilization, Europe never matured into a unified political body. In other words, Europe has never been an empire in any form. After the failure of the Carolingian Empire, too brief and too obscure for us to distinguish its reality from its legend, Europe progressively crystallized into a mosaic of independent nation-states.
Nation-states were actually a European invention, their first embryos taking shape in the 13th century. Before the Middle Ages, there were only two kinds of states: city-states and empires; “Either the city-state became the nucleus of an empire (as Rome did) … or it remained small, militarily weak, and sooner or later the victim of conquest.”
In addition to Christianity, the principalities of Europe were united, throughout the Middle Ages, by their sovereigns’ kinship, resulting from a diplomacy based on matrimonial alliances. But this community of blood and faith did not prevent states from being separate political entities, jealous of their sovereignty and always eager to extend their borders.
In the absence of an overarching imperial authority, this rivalry engendered an almost permanent state of war. Europe is an ever-smoldering battlefield. If you think of Europe as a civilization, then you have to think of its wars as civil wars. This is how the German historian Ernst Nolte did analyze the two European conflicts of the twentieth century. Neither common religion nor family ties prevented European civilization from tearing itself apart with unprecedented hatred and violence. Remember that on the eve of the First World War, King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicolas II were first cousins and all defenders of the Christian faith.
The stated aim of the “European construction” from the 1950s onwards was to make these European wars impossible or at least improbable. But this project was an anachronism, because it started at a time when European civilization was already dead, with no vital energy left to resist being colonized by the new empire on the block.
The European Union is not supported by any “civilization consciousness”—in the sense that one speaks of a “class consciousness”. Many people feel attached to their nation, and can say, as Ernest Renan did, “a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle.” But no one perceives Europe as a spiritual being, endowed with “individuality” and a destiny of its own.
There has never been a great European narrative to unite with a common pride all these peoples crammed in the European peninsula. Each country has its little roman national, ignored or contradicted by the schoolbook narratives of its neighbors. There are certainly some shared myths. Charlemagne for example. But the endless quarrel about him precisely illustrates the point; as if Charlemagne has to be either French or German. The other European myth is that of the Crusades. But the Crusades illustrate just as precisely the inability of Europeans to unite on a project for Europe. By the Crusades, the popes told Europeans that the cradle of their civilization was a city at the other end of the world, disputed by two other civilizations (Byzantine and Islamic), and asked them to fight for it as if their own civilization depended on it. There cannot be a more anti-European project. The Crusades, in fact, only exported national rivalries into the Middle East. Sure, they make a good story, but it is mostly a great lie, since its only lasting result was the destruction of Eastern Christianity and the reunification of the Muslim world, soon organized into a new Ottoman Empire which would chip away parts of Europe.
The Middle Ages, anyway, are the beginning and the end of the European grand narrative. The notion of a “European civilization” calls to mind the Middle Ages and nothing else. And quite logically. Europe was a brilliant civilization during the classical Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries). But because this medieval civilization failed to form an integrated body, it fragmented into several micro-civilizations, each of them playing its own imperial game against the others. We therefore had, in the 19th century, a French empire, then a British empire and a German empire, all trying to destroy each other. They were colonial empires: having failed to create an empire at home, Europeans exported their rivalries in predatory conquests. Ultimately, they gave birth to the American empire, born in genocide and slavery, and destined to bring the woke plague on its genitors.
Hence the hypothesis put forth by the historian Caspar Hirschi, that European history is characterized by a rivalry between centers of power fighting for imperial supremacy without ever being able to achieve it:
an imperialist political culture, dictated by the ideal of a single universal power inherited from Roman Antiquity, coexisted within a fragmented territorial structure, where each of the major powers was of similar strength (Empire, Papacy, France, England and later Aragon). In the realm of Roman Christianity, this led to an intense and endless competition for supremacy; all major kingdoms aimed for universal dominion, yet prevented each other from achieving it.
So nations are, according to Hirschi, “the product of an enduring and forceful anachronism.” And nationalism is nothing but “a political discourse constructed by chronically failing would-be-empires stuck in a battle to keep each other at bay.”
Hirschi does not identify the mechanism that prevented one power or another from winning this competition. So let’s ask: What happened? Or rather, what didn’t happen? Everywhere else, civilizations tend to unify into some form of political unity, around one dominant city or ethnos. Only in Western Christendom do we have a civilization without a State, that is, a body without a head.
Why is Europe not an Empire? It’s not for lack of will—Hirschi is right on this point: Europe longed to be an Empire, willed it intensely, but failed. The peoples themselves aspired to this ideal, synonymous with unity, peace and prosperity. Empire should not be taken here it its modern sense. As Ernst Kantorowicz explains in his biography of Frederick II Hohenstaufen:
The ideal World-Empire of the Middle Ages did not involve the subjection of all peoples under the dominion of one. It stood for the community of all kings and princes, of all the lands and peoples of Christendom, under one Roman Emperor, who should belong to no nation, and who, standing outside all nations, should rule all from his throne in the one Eternal City.
Even after the fall of the Hohenstaufens, who came close to achieve this ideal (more below), the dream lived on. The Empire was a metaphysical being, the very image of God, as Dante Alighieri argued in De Monarchia (c. 1310):
the human race is most like unto God when it is most one, for the principle of unity dwells in Him alone. … But the human race is most one when all are united together, a state which is manifestly impossible unless humanity as a whole becomes subject to one Prince, and consequently comes most into accordance with that divine intention which we showed at the beginning of this chapter is the good, nay, is the best disposition of mankind.
Caspar Hirschi’s theory therefore lacks a clue of the inhibiting factor that prevented the unification of Europe, despite the collective—one could almost say organic—thrust. But Hirschi is also mistaken in his description of the European dynamic. The competition for Empire was not, as he writes, between “the [German] Empire, the Papacy, France, England, and later Aragon.” Until the middle of the 11th century, only the former, officially known as Romanum imperium, claimed imperial sovereignty. Then one other power emerged to challenge its claim: the papacy. For three centuries, the competition between the emperor and the pope dominated European politics. From intellectual debates down to the battlefields, Europe was entirely drawn into that struggle. No other factor is comparable in intensity and influence in the classical Middle Ages.
To read all see, below, the Table of Contents.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Failed Empire
- The Birth of Europe
- The Ottonian Dynasty and the Promising Start of the Empire
- The Salian Dynasty and the Investiture Controversy
- The Papal Monarchy
- The Hohenstaufens