Given the classical period produced a great wealth of literature and lasting architecture, it may seem strange that there was a reversal of this at a later time. Essentially Europe is seen to have regressed culturally and economically between 500-1300 AD, but what caused this regression? There are two major causes.
Historians have pointed to feudalism as a reason for the cultural deficiency of the time. It was the political structure that the majority of the European world was based upon, a system of labour exchange for living on a lord’s lands. It was a hierarchical system that provided little opportunity for social movement. Historians argue that this stifling of personal improvement in turn restricted the growth of the arts and other cultural developments.
Religion and the Quashing of Science
Another factor was the prevalence of religion in the form of the Catholic church and the power they held over people’s lives. They often quashed scientific, cultural and political advancements that they saw as heretical. Many of these were systems previously pioneered in antiquity by the Greek and Roman cultures, but were lost during the Dark Ages; things like democracy and mathematics. The Renaissance saw the slow increase in these types of things, but the power of the church hindered advancements for a long while to follow.
Religion hindered cultural development in not only the Christian world, but in the Muslim world as well. The crusades has been noted as a massive hindrance, war at large was of course a factor, but the crusades stretched for such a long span of years, incurred the death and distraction of so many people of so many nations, both east and west, that it almost certainly had a limiting effect.