There is a reason the Middle Ages were referred to as the “Dark Ages.” They were not literally dark, but metaphorically dark. It was a period in time when the average commoner knew almost nothing about academia, and when lords and kings ruled over serfs and villagers with iron fists. It was a time of knights, castles, and battles; of sieges, burning, and razing.
However, there was a ray of light emanating from the East. The Arabs, in their Golden Age, during their trading with the Romans and Greeks, had kept the classics and continued studying academics. They had reproduced the writings and works of Aristotle, Plutarch, Plato, Virgil, and other notables. The Arabs formulated algebra and explored science and geometry. They also incorporated elements of Greek and Roman architecture. They were also amazingly liberal in their attitudes toward life.
The Crusades were then launched in the name of reclaiming the Holy Land, and although the Crusades primarily involved fighting, an exchange of ideas occurred. The Crusades brought these ideas home, and they planted the seeds for a revitalization of scholarly thinking and learning – the Renaissance.
In essence, the Renaissance was actually a return to the past and to lost ideas from the past. It is true, then, that he who knows his past knows his future. The Renaissance paved the way by allowing city-states and thinking to flourish, allowing for new innovations and inventions that are the foundations for today’s arts, sciences, architecture, and technology.