Europe

February 14, 2008 – 11:33 pm

The Origin Of Europe
Europe is the second smallest continent in the world, and yet the seat of all western civilization. Western government, philosophy, religion and lifestyle all come from some part of the history of Europe. Its countries are as diverse as the landscape itself from the freezing cold Russian exterior to sunny Mediterranean Italy. Because western culture traces so much of its roots to Europe, it also traces the history of Homo Sapiens through Europe also.
Neanderthals and Homo Erectus tribes are traced back to European soil approximately 2 million years ago with the emergence of modern humans, Homo Sapiens, present about 35,000 years BCE.  This period is known as the Paleolithic period and is followed by the Neolithic period across Southern Europe.  Both periods are a time dedicated solely to the evolution and survival of Homo Sapiens to be the predominant species.  The Bronze Age is where we get our first glimpse of the cultural and tribal lines forming across the European landscape.  The first society with developed language skills in Europe is the Minoans of Crete which anthropologists date approximately 2,000 BCE.  It is the Iron Age which brings along the first large scale inhabitation of Europe by tribe and territory. Among the earliest tribes were the Celts, a war-like nomadic people documented from Roman historical records.  The Celts lived in the Iberian Peninsula and conquered and inhabited much of Southern Europe. The tribes of Germania resided in the north and east of Europe with the Gaels inhabiting central Europe. The final culture tribe occurred in Italy and would eventually be known as Romans. That tribe’s warring culture and military dominance would change the landscape and practices of Europe forever from the Iron Age forward.
The tribes of Greece were the first to develop a system of boundaries, governments and philosophies. Their system of thinking and religion, known as the Hellenistic culture, soon spread around Europe as an organized way to create working communities. The Hellenists recognized a language was both recordable and translatable was required to make a community follow a system and pattern of being. Their great achievement in developing and popularizing written language as well as learning the languages of other tribes helped spread the concept of tribal identity and solidarity. The arts were also formed and cultivated in Hellenistic Greece including philosophy, sports, literature and music.  Alexander the Great, the last leader of import among the Hellenists spread the thoughts and practices of Greece to nearby Rome as well as Persia and India during his conquests, resulting in a Grecian influence across the whole world.  However, it was the inheritor of those achievements who would bring organization and uniformity to the whole of Europe. That inheritor was the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire was firmly established by 100 BCE after military conquests by Cesar Augustus. Spreading their conquests throughout Europe, Rome took over Germania, Britain, Gaullist territory and the Celts. The Celts put up the biggest struggle against the Roman Empire and their culture was never truly extinguished but scattered throughout Europe.  With the Pax Romana (the “peace of Rome”) government, water supply, registration and boundaries soon made life organized and peaceful for the citizens underneath the Roman Empire. However, Rome’s inability to find good, consistent leadership and maintain a central government over such a large area soon led to many small wars as parts of Europe tried to free itself from Roman Rule.  The Emperor Constantine left an indelible mark on Rome in 380 CE when he declared the whole Roman Empire should be Christian (reversing an earlier persecution of the new religion). Even as countries split off they kept their Christianity as part of their heritage and the power of the Roman Church became an important political and cultural influence throughout Europe.
The Roman Empire eventually split in 2 halves during its downfall, the East and the West. The East began with the Byzantine Empire which held Greek speaking lands and adopted an Eastern Orthodox view of Christianity. Throughout the middle ages the Byzantine Empire fought in many religious crusades and pursued an age-old battle against Muslims in the Middle East.  The Western Roman Empire stayed within the Roman Catholic boundaries and struggled merely to hold what was left of the empire together. Western states of Britain and Germania also eventually joined the crusades in the Holy Land, convinced that forcing a conversion to Christianity could re-unite the Empire.
The Middle Ages was a time of great change where each city-state began to create its own nation and land. Hungary and the Slavic states separated from the Eastern Roman Empire as did Germania from the Western Empire.  Eventually the only thing tying any of the states together was the Roman church with brought about the Holy Roman Empire where the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, was the leading figure in the Christian world. Muslim and other cultures continued to fight and resist the Crusaders and eventually toward the end of the Middle Ages the allegiance to the church was a tie, but each country began establish its own sovereignty apart from one another.  Land wars and religious disputes continued from one country to another, particularly England and France, however most of the boundaries of Europe were settled by the late Middle Ages.
The Renaissance came to Europe through Italy and spread to the neighboring countries quickly. It was a time for science and new thinking. Modern inventions and ways of living as well as international trade flourished in the new and open society.  The Eastern countries such as Hungary, Russia and other orthodox lands pulled away during the Renaissance and did not follow the cultural progress but the rest of Europe was swept up in a tide of renewal and reform.  In 1517 as part of this new revolution, a religious reformation took place spurred by Martin Luther and picked up by other theologians. Like the Eastern Orthodox before them, Luther’s followers did not believe in the power of the Pope or theocracy and brought about the Protestant Reformation, creating another side to the Christian faith.
The next period saw global expansion as the countries of Europe took to the sea and established themselves in the Americas, only to lose that land and establishment in the Revolutionary War.  Britain become a dominant power despite the loss of America and retained political governance of Canada, Ireland and Scotland, India and Africa for at time.  Wars with France consumed armies on resources on both sides.  Germany tried twice in the modern era to become a dominant superpower and both times lost in a World War.  The Eastern Block which had pulled away from the Roman Empire first remained solid block unto itself and defeated the German and other attempts to take its land or sovereignty.
Europe remains today as it was when it began, a group of cultures with different languages and ideas working and warring side by side to determine sovereignty and global equity.

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  1. One Response to “Europe”

  2. Would be awesome if you had the origins of each country. Also how can a continent have an origin, a clear beginning? When did Europe start being Europe in the same way that the United Kingdom, or any other state, started existing?

    By aalex on May 17, 2008

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