Halvor Moorshead describes some of the major events that were occuring at the turn of the last millennium.

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, there was not widespread panic in Europe as the end of the first millennium approached. As we end the second millennium, there are a few people who are forecasting doom and a lot more just making sure that they have a few extra candles and the larder is properly stocked.

People who lived 1,000 years ago had less education and did not have access to the technology we have today but they were just as intelligent as we are. As we have seen numerous prophesies of the end of the world pass by with no calamities, so had people in the period leading up to the turn of the first millennium.

But there was more to it than that. Only a small portion of the world counted their years from the birth of Christ. The principle source for stories of panic and anticipating Armageddon is from a French monk by the name of Ralph Glaber who had a section called “On the First Millennium” in his book Miracles de Saint-Benoit. Glaber was regarded as a troublemaker during his lifetime and was expelled from several monasteries. Subsequent writers made the situation worse by exaggerating his descriptions of the times. What Glaber actual wrote can be read on the Internet at www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/glaber-1000.html.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, a record of events in England started in the late 800s and ending in 1154 has an entry for 1000ad. In Anne Savage's translation the entire entry for 1000 reads "The King went into Cumberland and ravaged very nearly all of it. His ships went out around Chester, and should have come to meet him, but they could not; then they ravaged the Isle of Man. The enemy fleet had turned that summer to Richard's kingdom in Normandy".

Not a hint of "Millennium Madness." Of the surviving documents from this period several are wills: again none of them allude to anticipated problems.

The map of Europe had undergone many changes in the years leading up to 1000. Poland had taken over Pomerania in the north giving it borders not unlike those of today. The Holy Roman Empire had incorporated the northern part of Italy in 996. Bohemia and Moravia (today the Czech Republic) united in 1000. Norway, shown here as a separate country, became part of Denmark in 1000. Most of Spain was controlled by the Caliph of Cordoba. Some boundaries were not as clearly defined as they are today — this applied especially in the northeast of Europe which was largely tribal at this time. Relationships between states were also very different. For example some areas of France, although nominally owing allegiance to the French king, operated as virtually independent kingdoms. Other countries were only nominally independent (Burgundy for example owed allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire).
The Spread of Christianity
Although most of Spain and Portugal was under Islamic control, Christianity was well established in Western Europe by the year 1000 but around this time it expanded rapidly to the north and east. Sweden's King Olof Skotkonung became a Christian in 994 and Duke Mieszko I had begun to Christianize Poland. Hungary became Christian in 1000. In Russia under the rule of Vladimir the Saint, people were rapidly converting to Byzantine Christianity (Eastern Orthodox). In the West, Iceland and recently settled Greenland also became Christian at this time.

In 996, Otto III, the 16-year-old Holy Roman Emperor, marched south from Germany following an appeal from Pope John XV for help in putting down a rebellion. Pope John died before the army reached Rome so Otto established his cousin as Pope Gregory V. He decided to attempt to re-establish the glory of the Roman Empire by reviving Roman customs and ceremonies and making Rome his capital. Pope Gregory died in 999 whereupon Otto made his former tutor Pope Sylvester II.

Europe still used Roman numerals which presented serious problems to anyone doing any form of math. In America the Mayans had discovered the importance of the concept of zero and in about 1000ad the Hindus made the same discovery independently.

In China, the proper mixture for gunpowder was finally found at this time though it was probably not used in weapons.

The Anglo-Saxon Calendar
The Anglo-Saxon Calendar was produced around 1000ad. It was originally written to record the numerous holy days that the monks were required to observe. Our interest today is that every month is illustrated with scenes from everyday life. The monk who carefully illustrated this work had little idea that he would leave us one of the very few records that have survived of the monthly tasks of 1,000 years ago. The original is in the British Library.

January was known as Wolf-monath or Aefter-Yula (after Christmas). The Anglo-Saxons were some of the first to use the wheeled plow shown here. This could turn heavy soils, which had not been previously plowable. The small oxen are probably depicted accurately: cattle were far smaller than today.
February was known as Sprout-kele from kelewur, a vegetable used for making broth. Opinions differ about the activity shown here. One suggests that vines are being pruned using serps, the broad bladed tools. Certainly the workers seem to be using care. Other historians have suggested that they are coppicing trees for firewood.
March was known as Rhede-monath to honor the goddess Rhoeda or Illyd-monath or stormy month. The workers are breaking ground, digging, hoeing and sowing for the coming season. The month was held in great reverence as it was the month in which Lent began.
April was known as Oster-monath as the wind often blew from the east at this time. The noblemen (or thegns) are probably drinking mead made from honey, but ale and wine were also popular. Chairs and sofas were unknown at this time: the thegns are seated on a bench.
May was known as Trimilki as the sheep could be milked three times a day. Sheep were important for the meat (mutton), the fleece and milk. Cows at this time were kept mainly to breed oxen: milk came mainly from sheep and goats. Wool was the major export of the English at this time, and would remain so for centuries.
June was called Weyd-monath (of uncertain origin) or Midsummer-monath. Wood was used for fuel, building and even for plates and drinking vessels. The excellent two wheeled cart shown here was developed by the Celts. The Romans called it a Carpentum leading to our modern word carpenter.
July was Hey-monath or hay month. The hay was needed to feed the animals through the winter. It used to be thought that most animals were slaughtered before the onset of winter due to the lack of feed but we now believe that only older or weaker stock would have been killed.
August was Barn-monath, meaning harvest month. The methods of harvesting the grain were to remain almost unchanged for another 800 years. Wheat, barley and oats were the main cereals and formed a major part of people’s diet all year long. Much of the barley was used to make into ale or beer.
September was called Gerst-monath or barley month. Pigs were only partially domesticated and were allowed to forage freely in the forests. Meat from the pig can be preserved (by salting and/or smoking) far more easily than that of other animals. Hunting was practiced by everyone; it was the Normans who made it into a sport and restricted it to the nobility.
October was Cold-monath or Wyn-monath (Wine). Hawking was a favorite pastime of the rich and the costumes do seem to be more elaborate than those of the men working the fields. The large bird is probably a European Crane, common at this time but hunted to extinction during the next 500 years.
November was called Wint-monath (wind month). The bare-foot fellow to the right of the fire may be an accused person about to undergo “trial by ordeal”. He was to grasp the hot iron after which his wound would be bound. If the wound had not healed after a week he would be guilty. However, trial by jury was first introduced about 1000ad so things were improving.
December was known as Heilig-monath or holy month, obviously for Christmas. The people here are threshing, winnowing and carrying away the grain for storage. This time of year had been an important one for the Anglo-Saxons before Christianity when they celebrated the feast of Thor.

See the second issue of History Magazine for the rest of this article.

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