Essay on The Nature and Role of the Ocean in the Medieval Imagination

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The ocean in medieval times was a thing of great mystery to the ordinary medieval peasant. However to the explorers, the church and the educated the sea was a dangerous place. The ocean began to fascinate people in the time of the early Greeks. The Titans ruled the earth in the beginning, and Oceanus, son of Uranus and Gaea was one of them. "In him [Oceanus] Homer salutes the essence of all things, even the Gods, and regards him as a divinity whose power was inferior to none but Zeus'" He was the father of all the rivers and lakes of the world. But then the Olympians rebelled against the Titans, Zeus drove Cronus into the western ocean. When Zeus had taken his place as head of the gods, not even the oceans tides could defy him.…show more content…
In the North there were no deserts, so the monks had to go for the only other thing that would give them the isolation they desired. The Sea. "Adamnán refers to a certain Báitán who asked for St. Columba's blessing before setting out in search of a desert place in the sea (in mari herimum) ... It is clear from Adamnán that eremitical sea-voyages such as these were a familiar enough feature of the religious environment of the C7th" The Monks formed monasteries on remote islands off the Irish coast, for example Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry and Inishmurray, Co. Sligo. They viewed themselves as white martyrs, leaving their families and friends to do good work for God and the church. Living in discomfort in little beehive huts sleeping on stone beds on windswept rocky crags in the ocean, they scraped together a living selling their crafts through an independent agent. The idea of penance and exile is closely tied up to the idea of white martyrdom, often there were civilians on the monastery and they were there to repent for their sins. They spent a certain length of time there, sharing the harsh living conditions of the monks. The monks wanted to test the strength of their penance. This was a voluntary form of exile and a documented source records another: "And three Irishmen came to king Alfred in a boat without any oars from Ireland which they had left secretly because they wished for love of god to be in exile,

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