Give us feedbackX

Khmer Empire and Medieval Europe: Comparative Essay

Medieval Europe and the Khmer Empire were two societies existing in the same time period, on opposite sides of the world. This era was called the middle ages, between the 8th and 15th centuries. In terms of health, medicine, and food, between the two societies, there were many similarities and differences. However, in terms of architecture, there were more differences. Both societies were considered powerful and influential.

The state of health and medicine in the Khmer Empire and Medieval Europe was quite poor. A difference between the societies’ health and medicine, was the way that they treated diseases. A diary entry from a Chinese diplomat, Zhou Dagaun, describes his time in the Khmer Empire where he writes about the fact that Khmer people, to attempt to cure diseases, would wash their heads repetitively under water. In contrast, Medieval Europe used herbs, plants, and flowers. Surgeries were performed as a last resort. A similarity, however, was the diseases that they suffered from. Dysentery was present in both societies, but they had different ways to cure it. In peasant villages of the Khmer Empire, families would share trenches as toilets. The waste from the trenches would drain from the soil and enter people’s water sources. Compared to Medieval times where the sanitation was very poor and indoor toilets were unheard of, so instead people would dispose of waste in chamber pots, which would then be discarded in public areas This caused diseases such as dysentery which were then cured by various drugs. In Medieval times Blackberry syrup was given as a treatment for dysentery. Therefore, both Medieval Europe and the Khmer Empire suffered from similar diseases but had different forms of treatment. Manual treatment and medication existed in both societies.

Read also: “Just say ‘write my paper’ and we’re on it!”

The Khmer Empire and Medieval Europe also had contrasting diets and food sources. A difference between the societies was the types of items they ate from. A small bowl made of banana leaves was used for eating in the Khmer Empire. Another diary entry by Zhou Daguan describes Khmer people ‘serving food in a small bowl made from the leaves of a tree’. In Medieval Europe, at the start of a meal you were given a thick, stale slice of bread, called a trencher. A trencher was used as a disposable plate, which would also soak up oil and fat. An image from a set of chronicles in the Medieval times, portrays people around a table, all of them with a trencher next to their cutlery. A similarity between the societies was the fact that what you ate depended on your social status. In the Khmer Empire, fish and rice were the common meal because the Tonle Sap river was the main food source. However, if you were a King, or of a higher social status, you were also able to eat tropical fruits such as bananas and melons. In Medieval Europe, bread, meat, and vegetables were the staple foods. Peasants also had access to many dairy products such as milk and cheese, because most families owned a cow. Wealthier people preferred exotic flavours with spicy, sweet, and sour sauces. Therefore, whilst what you ate out of was unique to its own society, both societies’ diets were decided by social status and food sources available to them.

In the Khmer Empire and Medieval Europe, the housing was impacted by many things such as weather, population, and materials. Houses in Khmer Empire were set deep in the jungle, compared to Medieval houses, lined on streets in a city. A difference between the houses in Medieval Europe and the Khmer Empire were the building materials used. In the Khmer Empire a peasant’s house would be built with thatched rooves, bamboo walls, and braided coconut leaves. In Medieval Europe, the houses were made from brick, wood or stone. What the houses were made of depended on the materials available in the area. A similarity of the houses was that both peasant houses had only one room. In Medieval Europe, a large family and sometimes several families would live in the same one room house. If the family owned an animal, such as a cow, it would also live in the house. An artist’s impression of a Medieval peasants’ home shows a one level simple room. During the Khmer Empire, the houses were simple and little furniture existed. The houses were on stilts, sometimes standing over a body of water, with a staircase leading up to the one room house. An image of a stilt house in Siam Reap depicts stairs and a flat, one room house. Therefore, although the houses were built from different materials, both only had a simple floorplan and one room.

The Khmer Empire and Medieval Europe were very religious. Both societies had buildings dedicated to their gods. A cathedral was the place of worship for people in Medieval Europe. In the Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat was their religious building. A similarity was that both Angkor Wat and Medieval cathedrals had distinctive design features. A defining feature of gothic architecture from Medieval Europe was their ornate designs. This included gargoyles, spires, pinnacles, colonnades, colonettes, and statues of saints and historic figures. Angkor Wat was also known for its extremely detailed designs. Series of carvings and bas-reliefs, stretch along the building’s walls, depicting historic ways of life. Lintels, pediments, and brightly coloured paints were other forms of decoration found in Angkor Wat. A difference of the societies’ religious buildings was the structural supporting methods. Flying Buttresses were a common supporting feature of Medieval cathedrals. The stone rooves of the cathedrals were heavy and need support. Flying buttresses would help support these large structures. Angkor Wat was mostly built of sandstone, but it was not strong enough to hold all of the building’s weight, so a stronger rock called laterite was used in some places instead. Although both Angkor Wat and typical medieval cathedrals had elaborate designs, both structures had different ways to help to the buildings withstand.

In conclusion, both Medieval Europe and the Khmer Empire were strong societies, leaving a legacy in many ways. From astounding architectural designs to surprisingly healthy diets, both societies were advanced for their times.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Related Blog Posts

Receive regular updates, discounts, study guides and more

By clicking “Subscribe”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related emails.