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While the struggle between Boniface VIII and Philip IV of France may have marked the decline of papal temporal power, it did not end the efforts of the popes to restore themselves to their former position in European politics. Despite the fact that such a restoration became increasingly unlikely during the fourteenth century, these efforts were vigorously pursued by the Avignon papacy. At times they were merged with the execution of the historic papal policy of discouraging the creation of any strong power in Italy which might threaten the security of the Papal States. On one of these occasions the papacy again became involved in a long dispute with the Holy Roman Empire. The conflict between Pope John XXII (1316-1334) and Emperor Louis IV (1314-1347) is important if only because of the unusually large body of political literature which it encouraged the champions of both sides to write. The papalists were able to do little more than restate the principles enunciated in Unam sanctam. Their opponents, however, scrapped the theory of the two swords entirely and advocated a relationship between church and stat:e which was based on a different set of fundamental principles. That one of the anti-papal treatises which appeared during this controversy, the Defensor pacis of Marsiglia of Padua (c. 1275- c. 1343), can be regarded as one of the first modern works on political thought is a sign of the ferment of the fourteenth century. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

Some material in the original text is restricted by copyright. Here are links to earlier editions or translations of the same material:

Marsilius of Padua. Defensor pacis. trans. Alan Gewirth (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956) ch 1-3.


This is a part of Section IV: The Medieval Ferment. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections ofIdeas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.