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Quotes / Medieval Stasis

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In one of her Dreams, Mat sat on a night-shrouded hilltop, watching a grand Illuminator's display of fireworks, and suddenly his hand shot up, seized one of those bursting lights in the sky. Arrows of fire flashed from his clenched fist, and a sense of dread filled her. Men would die because of this. The world would change forever.
The Wheel of Time, Egwene fortelles the first military progress in 3000 years.

Our literature is nearing exhaustion, our arts are falling asleep; Pancrates is not Homer, nor is Arrian a Xenophon; when I have tried to immortalize Antinous in stone no Praxiteles has come to hand. Our sciences have been at a standstill from the times of Aristotle and Archimedes; our technical development is inadequate to the strain of a long war; even our pleasure-lovers grow weary of delight. More civilized ways of living and more liberal thinking in the course of the last century are the work of a very small minority of good minds; the masses remain wholly ignorant, fierce and cruel when they can be so, and in any case limited and selfish; it is safe to wager that they will never change. Our effort has been compromised in advance by too many greedy procurators and publicans, too many suspicious senators, too many brutal centurions. Nor is time granted oftener to empires than to men to learn from past errors. Although a weaver would wish to mend his web or a clever calculator would correct his mistakes, and the artist would try to retouch his masterpiece if still imperfect or slightly damaged, Nature prefers to start again from the very clay, from chaos itself, and this horrible waste is what we term natural order.
Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian (translated by Grace Frick)

The Middle Ages designates the time span roughly from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance and Reformation. The adjective "medieval," coined from Latin medium (middle) and aevum (age), refers to whatever was made, written, or thought during the Middle Ages. The Renaissance was so named by nineteenth-century historians and critics because they associated it with an outburst of creativity attributed to a "rebirth" or revival of Latin and, especially, of Greek learning and literature. The word "Reformation" designates the powerful religious movement that began in the early sixteenth century and repudiated the supreme authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The Renaissance was seen as spreading from Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to the rest of Europe, whereas the Reformation began in Germany and quickly affected all of Europe to a greater or lesser degree. The very idea of a Renaisance or rebirth, however, implies something dormant or lacking in the preceding era. More recently, there have been two non-exclusive tendencies in our understanding of the medieval period and what follows. Some scholars emphasize the continuities between the Middle Ages and the later time now often called the Early Modern Period. Others emphasize the ways in which sixteenth- century writers in some sense "created" the Middle Ages, in order to highlight what they saw as the brilliance of their own time. Medieval authors, of course , did not think of themselves as living in the "middle"; they sometimes expressed the idea that the world was growing old and that theirs was a declining age, close to the end of time. Yet art, literature, and science flourished during the Middle Ages, rooted in the Christian culture that preserved, transmitted, and transformed classical tradition.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1, "Introduction: The Middle Ages"

The Chain, as a whole, is supposed to signify the Realm: one cannot have only lords or only knights, one needs farmers, smiths, merchants, shepherds, and the like. Like a chain of many different metals — an obvious and trivial point, disguised with pomposity... much like the maesters themselves! They study without learning and proudly pass down the same knowledge that was passed down to them, with no addition. Perhaps such is to be expected, when one considers the kinds of men who become maesters: the youngest sons of noble families, dutiful and timid, raised in the shadow of their older brothers; or bastards and peasant boys whose minds are easily satisfied by the knowledge of their next meal. Because bold men will not be chained. They dare to ask questions the maesters fear to answer: they will look at a living man, and ask "How?" And they will look at the dead, and ask "What if...?"

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