All civilizations start from a major source of influence. It has been seen in the past that a key force in the foundation of most civilizations has been religion. Religion can give unity, political and economic stability, and a cause for people to stay together. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were important in the foundation of the civilizations in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, the Arabian civilization, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East during the Judaic empire.
The Arabian empire was one of the major civilizations influenced by religious powers. The Arabian Peninsula was a very peculiar place for the origins of an empire. The place was composed of many harsh deserts forcing the people to live a nomadic lifestyle(Stearns 122). The Arabian people lived in kin-related clan groups. Clans often had interclan wars for little things such as stealing water or trespassing on a clan’s area(Stearns 123-124). This probably resulted from the lack of resources because of the horrible conditions of the Arabian peninsula. This constant fighting weakened them greatly and they were able to be easily manipulated by other kingdoms. The Arabs needed something to unite their clans and stand up to the other nations. They got this unification when the Islam religion was founded. The founder of the Islam religion is Muhammad. He was a merchant and through his travels, he experienced many religions. Most of the clans were polytheistic. He saw monotheistic beliefs such as Christianity and Judaism. Muhammad was dissatisfied with his life and spent more time on meditation. Then in 610 C.E., he received revelations from Allah(God) through the angel Gabriel(Stearns 128). He then put these teachings into a book called the Qur’an; the Islam book of faith(Stearns 128). This religion emphasized unity in its teachings. It said that there was one God, Allah and that Muhammad was his prophet(Stearns 121). This emphasis on unity brought the Arab tribes together to form an empire. This Arab empire now went to stand up to the other kingdoms that once manipulated and belittled them. Around 640 C.E., they conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire and part of the Persian empire(Carnagie ¶11). They expanded more through the additions of the Mediterranean islands and Sicily. The Islam faith was very practical for the conquered people. This is true because, “Islam had no priesthood, and membership was open to anyone who would recite the Shahada in front of witnesses”(Carnagie ¶17). The Shahada is the statement that there is one God, Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Since the conversion to the Islamic faith was very quick, it helped expand the Arabian empire. The Arabs were just a nomadic group before the Islamic faith. After it, they became a thriving civilization showing that the Islamic faith was a major influence on the Arabian civilization.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Middle Ages began and became heavily influenced by religious teachings. In the Middle Ages, there was a loss of knowledge in aspects such as reading, writing, and irrigation techniques. Western Europe fell into a very apocalyptic state and needed something to guide the people. The Catholic Church decided to step into this role and help the people of Western Europe. One way they assisted was in preserving books. The Church had monasteries that were dedicated to the copying of books which preserved information when ordinary people didn’t know how to read or write(Pendergast ¶6). This action maintained some of the knowledge from the past that would have otherwise been lost. They also helped rule kingdoms by collecting taxes(Pendergast ¶6). The Catholic Church had to deal with these economic and political problems, along with spiritual problems because rule and order broke down when the Roman Empire fell. The Church had a structure where the Pope was the head of everything, then there were bishops who controlled over regional areas, and finally, priests that controlled local areas. One of the jobs of the Pope was to defend against heresies because they threatened the religious unity of Western Europe(Stearns 223). Catholicism was the religious belief of Western Europe. Since the Catholic Church also headed political matters, any heresy could start a revolution against the Church and put Western Europe into another apocalyptic state. The Catholic Church was so influential that the pope was seen as a supreme ruler. “Gregory and several later popes made clear their beliefs that the church not only was to be free from state interference but was superior to the state in its function as a direct channel of God’s word”(Stearns 223). This says that the Church was superior to any other rulers, showing that was very influential in Western Europe life during the Middle Ages. This is another major civilization that has been under the influence of religion.
The Judaic empire in the Middle East was also influenced by a religion. Judaism is a unique religion for the reason that it is one of the first of religions to worship one God. It started when God appointed Abraham to be the founder of the Israelites(Carnagie ¶4). Abraham then had a son named Jacob. He then changed his name to Israel because God told him to change it. He finally had 12 sons and they represented the 12 tribes of Israel. This is the beginning of the Israelites and the Jewish faith. They eventually became slaves in Egypt and were under the rule of the pharaoh. God then chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan or the Promised Land. When they got to Canaan, they started their reign by dividing the land for their 12 tribes. The empire eventually got split into parts, the Southern Kingdom of Israel and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Northern Kingdom quit following the rules of the Jewish faith and were quickly conquered. They quit following the faith because the only place of worship was in the temple of Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom. The emperor thought he would lose people from his part if they had to travel all the way there. He then created false idols and intermarried with other kingdoms. This led to them getting conquered quickly. This shows how the influence of religion in the Southern Kingdom let them survive longer than the Northern Kingdom. The Southern Kingdom eventually were conquered and exiled by the Babylonians(Carnagie ¶5). The Jewish people were likely to vanish from history after their exile. The Israelites stayed together and continue to practice and teach the faith(ibid). They eventually returned to Canaan when the Persians defeated the Babylonians(ibid). This shows how the influence of religion can help a group of people, such as the Israelites, remain a part of history. This is how the Judaic religion helped an Israelite civilization continue on through hardships.
The Byzantine Empire was another major civilization that was heavily influenced by religion. This empire started when Roman Emperor Constantine built his eastern capital Constantinople. This was a center of thriving trade and commerce and soon there were eastern emperors that ruled the east part of the Roman Empire(Stearns 195). Once the Western Roman Empire fell, it was given the honor as the direct continuation of the Roman Empire. Justinian then made the official language(Sterns 195). This allowed them to read ancient texts and advance in scientific ways. Around the 600 C.E., Justinian converted the Byzantine Empire to Christianity. This proved to be a crucial gain for the Byzantine Empire. One way it helped the Byzantine Empire was that it acted as unifying force to keep the Empire united. The Church also helped relay policies that the secular part of the Empire passed to the people. The emperor was to be appointed by God. The emperor was the head of the church as well as being the head of the state. This is proof that the Church was seen as powerful, if not more powerful, than the government of the Byzantine Empire. In 1054, The Great Eastern Schism happened in the Church(Stearns 200). This happened due to the disagreeing beliefs about Christianity between Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Europe. The Byzantine Empire stopped listening to papal directives and were forming different rituals from Western Christianity. Later on, there were disputes between the Western Christians and Eastern Christians about what type of bread to use for the Last Supper during mass, and if priests were required to practice celibacy. The Western Roman pope eventually excommunicated the Eastern emperor and his followers(Sterns 200). Then, in response, the Eastern emperor and his followers excommunicated the Roman pope and its followers(Sterns 200). This resulted in the split of Christianity between the two empires, Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire. This resulted in religious tension in the Byzantine Empire. Almost immediately after these religious tensions, the Byzantine Empire was under attack from Turkish invaders(Sterns 201). These invasions resulted in the Byzantine Empire losing significant power. Even though the empire survived for many years, it was never restored to its former glory(Sterns 201). This loss of power happened when religious tensions were in the midst. This proves that Christianity influenced the Byzantine Empire and kept it a stable civilization. It was the foundation of the Byzantine Empire. This shows that the religion heavily influenced the Byzantine Empire.
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were important in the foundation of the civilizations in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, the Middle East during the Islamic empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East during the Judaic empire. This is shown by the contributions each religion gives, such as providing unity. Religion is shown to be a key source of human civilization throughout history. In all major civilizations, religion has shaped their society in so many ways.