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Fashion

With the emergence of Christian influences during the Medieval era, clothing styles tended to be more modest than the preceding Roman era. Sleeves and hems fell in length. Clothing tended to be heavier also, which suggested a climate change across the European continent. However, while clothing generally covered more of the body than in previous eras, fabrics became more decorative. Embroidery and beading began to appear on previously unadorned, plain fabric, especially in court and liturgical clothing. Technically, the Medieval era can be divided into the Dark Ages (400-1000 A.D.), the Early Gothic period (1000-1200 A.D.) and the Late Medieval period (1200-1400 A.D.). The style of dress during the Dark Ages was often militaristic for men. They wore tunics, capes and trousers. Shoes were generally worn instead of sandals. Women's clothing was also based upon the general design of the tunic. A loose tunic was worn over a sleeved, fitted tunic. While clothing during this first period tended to be more plain, Celtic style jewelry pieces were being developed simultaneously becoming popular.

The Early Gothic period saw a widening of sleeves and hems, often flared and using far more fabric than before. By this time, Europe had learned from Eastern cultures how to make velvet, and Western clothing became more lavish. Several factors contributed to this trend towards extravagant and highly decorated clothing. Increased trade from the East brought fine fabrics, as well as new ideas for decoration, while Western countries improved their own textile-making techniques at home. The upper, noble classes also grew during this era, as personal wealth was gained by survivors of the Black Plague. The fashionable, wealthy classes experimented with often extreme styles, from hooked shoes called "poulaines" to cone-shaped hats with long veils.


Food and Cooking

While some have assumed that medieval food was strange and unappetizing, medieval cooks used many of the same type of foodstuffs that are in use today, in addition to forms of food preparation familiar to any of us. The dishes and recipes they prepared were neither inedible nor dangerous, but delicious and nourishing products that employed the finest meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables medieval society was capable of developing. Especially during the later part of the Medieval era, people appreciated what tasted good and the sauces, stews, pies, roasts, and soups that satisfied the 14th century family are just as wholesome and enjoyable today. For example, makerouns, a predecessor to macaroni and cheese, was a favorite dish of the times. People in the Medieval era believed that cheese aided in digestion, so it was often served before and during their meals. Medieval families also enjoyed meat pies filled with pork, beef, raisins and dates, topped with whole chicken pieces; soups flavored with wine and thickened with almonds; vegetables and fruit marinated in wine, honey, and herbs; venison pies; rabbit in gravy; beef roasts; stuffed goose; fish marinated in ale; sweet pastries fried in oil; fruit confections; and sculptures made of sugar.

During the Medieval era, dinners were served in courses. Usually, the first course included soups, fruits and vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage. Herbs and spices were used in the first course, as they were believed to be good for digestion. Following this first course came meat dishes of beef, pork, fish and nuts. Finally, desserts of fruits, cakes and sweet liquors were served. Wine and cheese were always served during the entire meal. Feasts or large dinners usually included more courses and varied foods. Royal Medieval feasts also included lavish "solteties," which were fanciful representations of saints, heroes and warriors, made from sugar and presented in a dramatic display.

Pasta, the Italian word for "dough," was introduced to Italy by Germanic tribes, who invaded throughout the 5th century. Our word for "noodle" is derived from the German word for pasta, "nudel." Venetian traveler Marco Polo was believed to have brought pasta, as we know it, back from China in 1295. However, macaroni is mentioned in writings from as early as 1200, so it is probable that pasta in fact dates back earlier than the thirteenth century.


Sports, Games and Leisure

The games of medieval Europe were mainly the same as those of Egypt, Greece, and Rome: dice, knucklebones, marbles, and checkers. Chess, invented in the Islamic Empire, began to be played in Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, and after paper reached Europe from China, playing cards also began to appear in the later Middle Ages. The period also saw a greater variety of children's toys, such as whistles and little dishes and dolls.

As for spectator sports, the gladiatorial games of the Roman Empire ended with the fall of Rome. During the Christian age, men no longer fought men to the death in the arenas. However, many similar entertainments survived and flourished. In the old amphitheaters, many of which still continued to be used, men continued to fight animals: bears and bulls were the most popular of these, because they were the most dangerous. Additionally, people who had been convicted of crimes continued to be executed as entertainment. Instead of the old gladiatorial combats, the medieval world also introduced the tournament, in which armed and armored knights fought each other for prizes, and for the entertainment of the king and queen and the public. Tournaments were different from the old gladiatorial games in two ways: First, they were not intended to end in death, although contestants did suffer fatal injuries; Second, they were fought by aristocrats, not by slaves and poor men. Still, they presented men fighting each other for entertainment, just as the older gladiatorial games had. These tournaments were also a lot like the popular Islamic sport of polo, which was invented in Uzbekistan around the time of the Parthians, became common in West Asia around 800 B.C., in the time of the Abbasid Empire. The popularity of polo may have encouraged the people who organized tournaments to emphasize fighting on horseback, rather than on foot as the gladiators did.

In the old circuses, also, horse-racing and chariot-racing continued to be popular for a long time. This was especially true in Constantinople, where the charioteers (the drivers) were divided into teams, and the color of the team one cheered for became tied to one's politics and religion. The chariot games often led to violent riots and murders in the circus and in the streets. On a smaller scale, however, horse-racing continued in Spain and Italy also, throughout the Early Medieval period.