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By Carol Lansing, Edward D. English

ISBN-10: 140510922X

ISBN-13: 9781405109222

Drawing at the services of 26 unique students, this crucial quantity covers the main concerns within the research of medieval Europe, highlighting the numerous impression the period of time had on cultural types and associations vital to eu identification

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Sample text

Movable wealth – chests of treasure and status-affirming heirlooms, garments and wall-hangings, tableware, and high-status feast food – rather than physical structures were the crucial status-markers. By the seventh and eighth centuries, however, particularly in the Frankish heartlands, major landowning families might also found “family monasteries” on their rural estates. These institutions, which commemorated ancestors and often housed and were run by matrons and daughters, doubled as “family trusts” holding landed resources, and as impressive residences.

There were economic limits to this elasticity of identity: the claims of Gregory’s Andarchius, for example, were ultimately exposed as empty. The thickening-out of the documentary record from the eighth and ninth centuries – itself a product of aristocratic endowment of monastic foundations as a means of stabilizing their position – has allowed historians to understand the patterns and practices of aristocratic landholding. In general, landholdings were small and scattered: agglomerations of land parcels, some a few fields, some a whole farm, very occasionally a whole village, over a 20–50 kilometer radius, although the very highest echelons of the ‘imperial aristocracy’ might own several such regional clusters.

The chronologies and patterns of villa abandonment inevitably differ from region to region: in some frontier areas, villa life showed its first signs of frailty in the empire’s third-century “crisis” and never really recovered, whilst in the core provinces around the shores of the western Mediterranean villa maintenance and construction continue through the fourth and fifth centuries in spite of political change. In some regions, again notably those provinces closer to Roman frontiers in northern Gaul and Britain, the archaeological record seems to indicate a fairly dramatic process of abandonment, with new types of settlement emerging in the fourth and fifth centuries with little apparent relationship to their predecessors.

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