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aachenFlogging the Middle Ages

Chesterton pointed out that every stick is good enough to beat the Catholic Church with. The same could be said about the Middle Ages (for related reasons, btw): every stick is good enough to beat it with.

I have a business acquaintance who repeatedly harumps “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin!” not realizing that issue was never debated in the Middle Ages. Everyone still thinks medievalists thought the world was flat, which is a complete lie. When people hear “witch hunts,” they think “Middle Ages,” not realizing the hunts didn’t start in earnest until the seventeenth century. If you read the history of philosophy, you’ll skip from Augustine to Francis Bacon, as though the intervening 1100 years didn’t exist. When you read about the fall of the Roman Empire, you’ll learn it fell in 476, ushering in the Dark Ages, not realizing the Dark Ages never really existed and things didn’t get really bad in Europe until the ninth century . . . and started to improve by the dawn of the eleventh.

And now we know that every pervert’s favorite anti-Middle Ages joke, the chastity belt, is also a myth. From “Everything You’ve Heard About the Chastity Belt is a Lie“:

When one considers the evidence for medieval chastity belts, as Classen did in his book The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-making Process, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that there’s not much of it. First of all, there aren’t actually all that many pictures of or accounts of using chastity belts, and even fewer physical specimens. And the few book-length works on the topic rely heavily on each other and all cite the same few examples.

“You have a bunch of literary representation, but very few historical references to a man trying to put a chastity belt on his wife,” says Classen. And, any literary reference to a chastity belt is likely either allegorical or satirical.

If you want a better perspective on historical truth, adopt this rule of thumb: If you hear something negative about the Middle Ages from anyone besides a medieval scholar or someone who really knows something about it, simply discard it as myth. You’ll be correct far (far) more often that you’re wrong.