- "He made safe his castle that was upon a high hill, and he gathered in his flocks."
- — Ferdowsi, medieval Persian poet, Shahnameh
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As the late Roman empire foundered, monetary debasement and political chaos slowly caused the Roman economy to move from financial commerce to agrarian self-sufficiency. To survive the onslaught, civilians would pledge themselves (and their unborn descendants) to till the land for local strongmen who in turn promised to grant protection. By the 9th century CE, this system of mutual interdependence melded itself with similar practices amongst Germanic tribes and evolved into the feudal system. Only in the more remote (such as Scandinavia) or more prosperous areas of Europe (such as northern Italy or medieval Hungary) was feudalism mostly unknown.
Although this would seem to be a recipe for peace and stability with the peasants and the feudal nobility engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship (a serf's main obligation was to supply his lord with food in fall), in reality the feudal system was prone to abuse. The feudal system would not survive the first few years of the Early Modern Era, yet would still leave a mark that would result in social problems in Europe, such as social exploitation, political disunity and ultimately further instability and violence at the close of the Middle Ages.
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