11 Timeline Facts About The Middle Ages That Prove Western Europe Wasn't The Center Of The Universe

Over 500 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 11 Timeline Facts About The Middle Ages That Prove Western Europe Wasn't The Center Of The Universe
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Vote up the medieval happenings that took place outside Western Europe that deserve more attention.

The world is a big place, and the scope of history is even bigger. It's pretty difficult to know every single event in history, but it's also possible to lose sight of how historical happenings from around the globe line up with one another. Looking at a timeline can be pretty mind-blowing when you realize Uranus was discovered before Antarctica and the Founding Fathers of the United States never knew about dinosaurs

Even when you condense time into a period like the Middle Ages, it isn't always intuitive to match up something that happened in Western Europe with an event or person in Africa, Asia, or the Americas. We got to thinking about what was happening outside of Western Europe during the medieval period and found some fascinating historical comparisons

While it helped us put time and history into perspective, it also made us realize there's a whole lot about the past that deserves more attention. Take a look and let us know which events you agree have been unfairly overlooked. 


  • 1
    357 VOTES

    The Vikings Were Settled In North America Before The Christian Church Split

    Scandinavian explorers established at least one colony on the island of Newfoundland around the year 1020 CECalled L'Anse aux Meadows, the Viking settlement is considered the oldest European settlement in North America. Norse exploration went through the Mediterranean, into the Holy Land, and through parts of modern Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Scandinavians not only made their way into Western Europe, but also managed to hit most of the outskirts, too. 

    While Norsemen were exploring, the Christian Church was in crisis. Theological disputes, differences in liturgical practices, and issues of jurisdiction had long been an issue between the pope in Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople. By 1054 CE, efforts by Pope Leo IX and the Roman Church to force Greek Christians to follow Latin practices were met with resistance by Michael Cerularius, the patriarch of Constantinople. When the pope excommunicated Cerularius in July, it essentially broke Christianity into two distinct factions. In the West, Roman Catholicism remained dominant while Greek Orthodox Christianity developed in the East.

    357 votes
  • Gunpowder Was Used For Warfare In China As The Holy Roman Empire Was Consolidating
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    300 VOTES

    Gunpowder Was Used For Warfare In China As The Holy Roman Empire Was Consolidating

    Frankish king Charlemagne is often called the "first" Holy Roman Emperor. While Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III on December 25, 800 CE, it wasn't until 962 CE that the Holy Roman Empire was officially established (although that term wasn't used until the 12th century).

    The relationship between the papacy and the temporal rulers in Europe continued through the ninth and 10th centuries but shifted east after the demise of the Carolingian Empire. The emergence of the Ottonians in what is now Germany saw the rise of Otto I, also known as Otto the Great. In 936 CE, Otto was crowned the Emperor of the Romans by Pope John XII, in a ceremony that actually took place at Charlemagne's former capital, Aachen.

    As the Holy Roman Empire came to be, gunpowder technology was developing in China. It's difficult to say exactly when gunpowder was "invented," but evidence indicates mixtures of saltpeter, sulfur, and carbon were in use during the early ninth century in China.

     In 904 CE, the Song military reportedly used fire arrows, believed to have been created using early versions of gunpowder. The first gunpowder formula dates to 1044 CE and, in 1076 CE, the Chinese banned selling saltpeter to foreigners for fear of its usefulness spreading to other countries.

    300 votes
  • 3
    299 VOTES

    The Aztecs Founded Tenochtitlan As The First War Of Scottish Independence Came To An End

    The official start of the First War of Scottish Independence is 1296 CE, and the struggle continued until the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton was reached in 1328 CE. Between 1296 and 1328 CE, the Scots and the English faced off at the battles of Stirling Bridge (1297), Falkirk (1298), and Bannockburn (1314). Alongside numerous victories by the Scots, the demise of King Edward I in 1307 and the deposition of King Edward II in 1327 set the scene for peace between the two kingdoms in 1328 CE. 

    When Scotland and England signed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton on March 17, 1328 CE, the former was officially recognized as independent. The newly acknowledged Scottish king, Robert I, agreed that Scotland would pay England £100,000 in silver and that his son would enter into a diplomatic marriage with Edward II's sister, Joan. But the First War of Scottish Independence nominally indicates a subsequent war would take place and, in 1332 CE, the Second War of Scottish Independence began. It lasted until 1357 CE with the Treaty of Berwick.

    While the English and Scottish battled, the Aztec civilization was coming into its own. The origins of the Aztecs are unclear, but by the early 14th century, the group had made its way into modern-day Mexico. The term "Aztec"  actually refers to a broad swath of people living in Central Mexico; the people who would go on to establish the city of Tenochtitlan are better identified as Mexica

    The settlement that grew into the bustling city of Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325 CE in the swampy marshes of Lake Texcoco. According to legend, the Mexica were instructed by the god of war, sun, and human sacrifice, Huitzilopochtli, to build a temple in his honor at the site of a "prickly pear cactus." The Mexica found said cactus on the island in the middle of the lake and started building. 

    Tenochtitlan grew for the next two centuries, developed an intricate trade system and economy, and was home to "two-stepped pyramids rising side by side on a huge platform." At its height, the population was nearly 150,000 people; however, with the influx of Spanish conquerors, the civilization was decimated by smallpox and military forces alike in 1521 CE. 

    299 votes
  • 4
    378 VOTES

    The Cahokia Mounds Rose During The Norman Conquest Of England

    The events of 1066 CE and the Norman Conquest meant the end of Anglo-Saxon kingship and altered social and political structures in England. For the remaining decades of the 11th century, William the Conqueror consolidated his authority as language, economy, and even diet changed.

    As England was undergoing this transition, massive mounds were being shaped by settlers along the Mississippi River. Between 120 and 200 mounds were built between 800 CE and 1400 CE at what is believed to have been the largest city north of Mexico - Cahokia. Cahokia once covered as many as 4,000 acres and was home to a population between 10,000 and 20,000 at its peak.

    There remains a fair amount of mystery about exactly what life was like at Cahokia. According to Tim Pauketat, an anthropologist from the University of Illinois, Cahokia's grid-like layout is oriented to the sun and the moon alike. There's evidence the people living at Cahokia were from various parts of the Mississippi Valley, and excavations in 1966 revealed a large stockade encircling the central part of Cahokia that was built around 1100 CE

    378 votes
  • Angkor Wat Was Built At The Height Of The Crusading Movement
    Photo: Kheng Vungvuthy / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Angkor Wat in Cambodia was built by King Suryavarman II during the 12th century. As a Khmer ruler, Suryavarman II conquered neighboring territories in modern-day Vietnam, opened diplomatic relations with China, and patronized art and architecture alike. 

    Angkor Wat reflected Suryavarman II's Hindu beliefs, but the structure was later transitioned into a Buddhist temple. Designed as a Hindu temple, it initially supplemented the existing structure at Angkor. With time, the structure bore artwork and architectural aspects that reflected both Hindu and Buddhist deities and figures. Its sandstone walls contain bas-relief carvings, while towers, galleries, and passageways span more than 200 acres. 

    About the time Suryavarman II started building Angkor Wat, crusaders from throughout Europe were likely reveling in the successful First Crusade. In 1099 CE, Christians took possession of Jersusalem, and Crusader States were established at the Holy City, Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli. In 1144 CE, however, Edessa was conquered by Muslim forces, prompting the Second Crusade in 1147 CE.

    230 votes
  • 6
    253 VOTES

    Mansa Musa Upended The Egyptian Economy While Italian City-States Fought Over A Bucket

    Mansa Musa ruled the Mali Empire from 1312 to 1337 CE, dying just as the first phase of fighting during Hundred Years' War began. When he came to power, Mansa Musa benefited from Mali's salt and gold resources as well as from the ability to expand across western Africa. 

    Heralded as one of the "richest guys anyone has ever seen" in human history, Mansa Musa put his wealth on display when he made a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca in 1324. The devout Muslim traveled overland - some 6,000 miles - with a massive caravan that included thousands of people dressed in finery and 80 camels carrying gold dust alone. 

    When they arrived in Cairo, Mansa Musa and his group reportedly gave away thousands of pieces of gold, bought items of all kinds, and introduced so much gold into the economy that it took years for the economy to recover because it depreciated the value of gold. 

    While Mansa Musa was traversing across North Africa and throwing around gold, two Italian city-states were fighting what's been called the Battle of the Wooden Bucket. In 1325 CE, Bologna and Modena came to blows over what had been a long-standing contest between papal and imperial factions in the Italian peninsula. 

    As the story goes, when individuals from Modena stole the bucket the Bolognese used to retrieve water from the municipal well, Bologna demanded it back. Modena refused and a 12- year war broke out.

    253 votes