Impact of Renaissance on Man’s View of Man: Essay on Humanism
Did the Renaissance change man’s view of man? This question is debatable. There are so many points to prove the differences and similarities in theories like astronomy to medicine and humanism. The Renaissance, French for “rebirth,” was a period that started near 1350 A.D. after the Middle Ages when people started having more looks that focused on the man itself and not only God or listening to everything the Bible said. This led to people finding that certain subjects thought of as wrong by the church were proven to be correct. Before the Middle Ages was Ancient Greek’s time. If we take history into consideration, we see that the Middle Ages, unlike the Renaissance and Ancient Greece, did not have a humanistic look but a look that solely relied on the Bible. What went wrong during this time? This all leads back to the big question: Did the Renaissance change man’s view of man? In this essay, we will be looking at medicine, astronomy, and humanism in the three time periods, and what provoked the change during the Middle Ages. To prove these points, I will have one piece of evidence from all three of the times to prove the continuity between the Renaissance and the Ancient Greek times. So, what did really happen during the Middle Ages, and is there really continuity between the three times?
Medicine has been studied by many people all around the globe and throughout history. But how did medicine play out during the Ancient Greek times, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance? Hippocrates is a well-known physician that practiced medical tasks in Ancient Greece. Hippocrates, or father of medicine, is a very good example of medicine and human anatomy studies in Ancient Greece. He learned a lot about the human body’s muscles and made humourism into a medical theory. Humourism is a medical theory that showed that the body had four basic substances, also known as humor. If there was unbalance in these humor, or one of them is corrupted, you would be sick[footnoteRef:4]. This was how physicians in Ancient Greece explained sickness and disease. The physicians in this time didn’t have any explanation for humor and humour were explained superstitiously. Although humor were somewhat unlogical and superstitious, some Ancient Greek practices made sense and many logical practices were made by physicians of this time, including surgery and steps of diagnostics. During the Middle Ages, humor was also adapted into the system and were used just like they were used in Ancient Greek times. During the Medieval times, other superstitious practices were adapted including bloodletting and astrology. These were ineffective and completely superstitious methods of curing someone of sickness or disease. During the Renaissance, many different kinds of medicinal practices were invented and adopted. Many superstitious practices were kept including bloodletting. But many logical practices were used and kept like an autopsy, C-section, and trepanation. This could show us that with more advancements in science and human anatomy, more logical practices were able to be put in place. During these three times, we could see that all three time periods used superstitious methods. Some more than others. The Renaissance used the most amounts of logical practices and the Middle Ages used the least amount of logical practices. In these three times, we could see the least amount of difference in continuity. If we were to put this onto a graph of achievements this would be up (Greek), down (Middle Ages), up (Renaissance). The ups and the downs for Greece and the Middle Ages would not be drastic compared to the up of the Renaissance.
Astronomy has kept mankind confused for thousands of years while trying to figure it out. Every civilization has had its own beliefs on astronomy for certain reasons. Some reasons were more valid than others. For example, the Ancient Greeks had many beliefs of how our universe and the solar system was laid out. Many drawings from earlier in the Ancient Greek times showed the belief of a geocentric model. The main enthusiast, of this model, was Aristotle. Aristotle is well known for his philosophy but was also known for maths, physics, and biology. With Aristotle leading the movement. Much of the Greek population followed him. Then came Aristarchus. His many drawings of explanation show Earth rotating around the Sun, and the Moon rotating around Earth. He was the first of the Ancient Greek times to realize that the sun was the in the middle of our solar system[footnoteRef:8]. Many people did not agree with this, but it slowly progressed into a valid theory and was considered correct over the geocentric model in Ancient Greece. The Middle Ages had a different view than the heliocentric model. The Middle Ages thought of the geocentric model as the correct one. This is because the Bible stated that the Earth was the center of the universe. The Middle Ages was influenced by Christianity massively and all knowledge was based on the Bible or Christianity itself. We can see many paintings of the geocentric model from the Middle Ages proving that this was the correct theory during this time period. During the Renaissance, many things changed. People started trying to find out the truth on certain subjects and many discoveries were made. One certain person had a massive influence on this change. This was Galileo Galilei along with his many drawings and explanations of the heliocentric model. A bit after the Renaissance started, the church still had power over people. So, when Galileo Galilei had proof for the heliocentric model, which was that he had spotted Jupiter’s moons revolving around Jupiter. Therefore, showing that not everything revolves around the Earth and that Aristarchus’ heliocentric model was correct. He was put into jail by the church and was never a free man again[footnoteRef:9]. Slowly, people started listening to this theory and accepting it. Eventually, even the church listened to the heliocentric theory and it was accepted. The Greeks started with the geocentric model but eventually gave in to the heliocentric model, the Medieval Times had the geocentric model as their belief, and finally, the Renaissance supported the heliocentric model. This can show the continuity of the Greeks, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. The Greeks did not have the correct theory at first, but then they changed. The Middle Ages never had the correct theory, and the Renaissance did have the correct theory. This process can show a line progressing upward, then falling down for quite some time, and rising up drastically because of the Renaissance. This type of graph can explain to us the continuity between the three times.
What is humanism? Humanism is an outlook of thoughts where prime importance is connected to humans instead of supernatural matters. How exactly was humanism linked to Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance? Well, humanism in Ancient Greece was very significant. For example, in the literature and arts of the Greek times, the Greeks put humans in the center and focused mostly on them. The Greeks did paint or write about the gods. This can be shown by many Greek sculptures. One is the Artemision Bronze, this painting shows either Zeus or Poseidon; which might not be humanist, but if you look at the sculpture, it shows Zeus/Poseidon in human form. Hence, showing humanism, and the beauty of the human. The Greeks did not let the gods determine their knowledge on things such as astronomy, and medicine. This showed that they were very humanists and did not praise or let supernatural matters determine their thoughts and beliefs too much. During the Middle Ages, things were different. Styles of art changed and became focused on god. This can be shown by many paintings like Maestà di Santa Trinita by Giovanni Cimabue, where the background is simple, the painting is focused on religion, and the baby is not drawn to scale. This happened to the rest of the arts including literature and even affected the knowledge at the time (medicine and astronomy). Art, literature, and knowledge were all formed into ways to show god and praise the church. During the Renaissance, things changed back, slowly but surely. Humanism became a movement because of the influence of knowledge and the Bible being proven wrong. More people stopped worrying about life after death but about the current life. The church’s decline in power led to humanism, literature, and arts focusing on the human species instead of god and Christianity. We can see this through many primary sources from the renaissance. One is Petrarch, the father of humanism. Petrarch wrote many poems talking about love and humans, this shows that he did not care much about the life after but the life before. Petrarch also reconciled Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome with Christianity. This brought new thoughts and theories to the table. So how does the influence of humanism compare during these three times? Well, we see that the Greeks were very humanist and showed this through their art. The Middle Ages were not very humanist. This was portrayed in their art as these were all made to show the power and influence of god over mankind. The Renaissance had a lot in common with the Greeks, the arts started moving into praising humanity. They stopped focusing on the church and God and started praising themselves. In terms of continuity, the Greeks would be in line with the Renaissance while the Middle Ages would lower than both.
So, what exactly changed during the Middle Ages? What happened for this time to go downhill in terms of knowledge and humanism? Well, the Middle Ages happened in the west of the Roman Empire. So, when Constantinople changed the empire’s official religion to Christianity, this was a huge factor in the Middle Ages. This is because when the Roman Empire finally split into a giant amount of small communities. The factor that re-joined these communities together was the church. The church linked all of these small communities together and created a sort of society. At the beginning, the church was for everyone. Meaning that everyone could join and that it was not corrupt. With the church in power, this led to the development of humanism plummeting, and the arts and beliefs being focused on god. How did the church stay in power for so long? After the switch of the official religion of the Roman Empire, the church had a lot of power, so when the Roman Empire fell, the church did not lose the power it had as the people that lived in the Roman Empire still followed Christianity. With the church in power, it would not be gone for a while. The church soon became corrupt because of all the power it had, enforcing policies like paying the church to get into heaven. How exactly did the Middle Ages end? The Renaissance started by the massive influence of developing knowledge and humanism. One factor of the Renaissance was trade arising from the Middle East, which led to people being connected to other traditions and religions. This also was a big factor because the Middle East also had started developing more and with trade came developing ideas and thoughts from the Middle East. This influenced people in Europe massively and is one of the main reasons of the Middle Ages ended. The Middle Ages started and ended for a reason. The church and the fall Roman Empire was the reason why the Middle Ages started and shows us why the decline in knowledge and humanism in this time was present.
This all comes back to the big question, did the Renaissance change man’s view of man? Well, looking at the overall continuity of medicine, astronomy, humanism, and the causes and changes of the Middle Ages. In this essay, we see that the civilization that is Ancient Greece had similar thoughts as the Renaissance and it was the Middle Ages that stood out from the pack. This means that the Renaissance was not especially “revolutionary” compared to other civilizations and the similarities between them and the Renaissance. The Middle Ages could just be considered as a phase, that mankind had to go through. It was almost the only one of its kind, unlike the Renaissance and the many developments that came with it. So, looking at the Renaissance and Ancient Greece we can see that the thoughts were very similar and the only reason that the Renaissance could have changed man’s view of man was that the Middle Ages was right before it.
Aristarchus’ model, shows the Earth orbiting the sun and the moon orbiting Earth.
The geocentric model was drawn in the Middle Ages.
The Copernican system. Drawn by Copernicus, and later proved by Galileo.
Maestà di Santa Trinita by Giovanni Cimabue.
A poem by Petrarch talks about him falling in love with a lady. Instead of religion or the Bible. This gives signs of humanism.
It was on that day when the sun’s ray was darkened in pity for its Maker, that I was captured, and did not defend myself, because your lovely eyes had bound me, Lady.
It did not seem to me to be a time to guard myself against Love’s blows: so I went on confident, unsuspecting; from that, my troubles started, amongst the public sorrows.
Love discovered me all weaponless, and opened the way to the heart through the eyes, which are made the passageways and doors of tears: so that it seems to me it does him little honor to wound me with his arrow, in that state, he not showing his bow at all to you who are armed.
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