Athens and Jerusalem IV: Medieval Christian Wimps by Thomas Fleming • November 17, 2009 • Printer-friendly
Like, for example, Charles Martel and his son Charlemagne, Otto the Great and Barbarossa, Henry II of England and his son Richard Coeur de Leon, or, going to the East, Belisarius and Heraclius, Leo the Great and Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, or the Christian Medieval rulers of Serbia—Stephan Dusan and Prince Lazar—and Hungary and Rumania—Janos Hunyadi and Vlad Drakul, whose enormities against the Muslims made his name a byword for vampirism.
If there were any merit in the case being made by the Anti-Christians who describe themselves as members of the so-called “Alternative-Right,” it would collapse on the historical reality of the Medieval Christian fighting men who combined the toughness of the Texas Rangers with the violence of Icelandic revengers and, in many cases, with the piety of the saints. Take the case of Fulke Nerra, the count of Anjou, whose atrocious violence in maintaining and extending his territory are matched only by a religious fervor that sent him more than once on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Medieval history is an endless catalogue of violence, in causes good and bad, which might be interpreted as a residuum of Germanic paganism. So, to test the hypothesis of Medieval Wimpery, let us look only at a few people who have been honored with the title of “saint”: Saint Henry, Saint Joan, and Saint Louis. The first is a German emperor, who enforced his claims throughout the Empire, especially in Burgundy, the second a peasant girl who led the French liberation war against the English, the third a French king who defended his crown’s authority in France and the faith on Crusade in the Middle East.
The Neopagans might make two retorts that these tough guys were only superficially Christian and that their courage is a legacy from their Germanic pagan ancestors. There are two fatal flaws in this line of “reasoning.” The first is the simple fact that it is all based on a single book, Russell’s dissertation on the Germanization of Christianity, a piece of sociological speculation they have wildly misconstrued (if, indeed, they have actually read the book). The second is the martial valor and military successes of warriors who had little, sometimes no Germanic blood.
Anyone who knows anything about early Medieval history can cite the examples of Pope Leo IV who defended Rome against the attacks of the Arabs. Some of his allies certainly had Frankish, Gothic, and Lombard blood, but the Roman Church was itself the last bastion of Romanitas in Italy. It is true that the Italian Joan of Arc, Countess Matilda, had Germanic blood, but the bulk of the Italians who made Pisa and Florence and, especially, Venice great powers were not predominantly Germanic but of Roman extraction.
And what can the Neopagans say about the undoubted glories of Byzantine soldier-emperors like the aforementioned Basil and Leo or such great heroes as Nicephoros Phokas and John Tzimisces and Alexios Komnenos. True, none of them was purely Greek or Roman: The Armenians, Isaurians, and Thracians contributed a great deal to the defense of the Eastern Empire, but whatever they were, these men were not Germans: Their identity came from their participation in the Christian Church and the Greek-speaking Empire.
I shall take up Russell’s arguments next, but at this point it is enough to say that no one who is not an historical illiterate could possibly put any stock in the Alternative/Neo-neopagan Right’s characterization of the Christian men and women of the Middle Ages.
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