Medieval Times & Castles -
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  Life in the Middle Ages
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Medieval Life (Life)

Life during the Middle Ages was not good: Women were treated miserably, plagues (such as the Black Death) were feared and common, there were innumerable enemies to any given castle or town and the little knowledge about medicine and science that survived from Greece, Rome or Egypt was badly translated.

That's without counting the actual problems that could arise from living in society. It was common to decapitate a thief over some bread or to drown a woman accused of witchery. The way criminals were punished during the Middle Ages varied from town to town, but it was mostly reserved to heavy Torture, decapitation, or imprisonment in either the tallest tower (which was fairly common) or in a heavily-guarded dungeon.

Before Castles
Before castles widely towered throughout Europe, it was fairly easy and common for an enemy to pillage a town overnight. Such raids were mostly reserved for smaller towns where there was no noticeable opposing force. The Vikings were very notorious for doing this during the well-known Viking Era which lasted from 793 to 1066 AD. As it is imaginable, it was terrible to be constantly subject to immense raids. However, it wasn't until the year 1066 when real castles began to appear.

Life Inside a Castle

Considering the protection that a castle offered to its inhabitants, it's no wonder that thousand were built. Though their construction took many years, they considerably improved the overall life quality of peasants who were otherwise terrified of yet another invasion.

However, by living in a tightly-secured castle, other problems arose. Most of the time, farmers lived outside while nobles lived inside a castle. The problem with this was hygiene, for farmers had to constantly enter and leave the castle spreading diseases and germs. Nobles rarely took a bath. For example, it is said that King Louis XIV of France only bathed three times during his lifetime!

If it was hard living outside, it was even harder living inside a castle. Though castles offered great protection, they were cold and undesirable. If someone was sick, it was common for him or her to be considered "touched by the Devil" and thus condemned to leave the castle. Additionally, castles relied on exterior farming. Opposed to former villages which under an extreme situation of famine or shortage of water could abandon the place altogether, this wasn't the case for castle inhabitants who usually remained inside until the end.

During times of war when an enemy besieged a castle, life was much harder for those living inside. Enemies usually cut off any water supplies, threw all types of projectiles at the defenders (including rotting bodies to spread diseases) and would not let any food to come in, nor sick people to go out. This is described by many medieval historians as a "nightmare". If the defenders were determined to resist until the end (which was frequently the end) they would kill their horses to drink their blood, kill women and commit many other atrocities just for the sake of survival and resisting a few weeks longer. In less severe cases, when no relief arrived, the defenders usually surrendered and the besiegers would let them walk freely to a neighbor town or castle.

Medieval Health

As mentioned in the introduction, medieval health was terrible. If living inside a castle, it was even worse. Early doctors were not really doctors but priests, for they would "heal" the sick with prayer which obviously condemned them even further. In the Late Middle Ages, Health improved notoriously with the creation of the first universities where students could actually learn previous knowledge. Read more about Medieval Health.


During the Middle Ages only the rich could afford to be educated. While some peasants studied, they were very rare. Women were ignored education-wise and they were forced to do as their husband wished.
Read more about Education.

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