When we think of ruins from our modern perspective, we often think of the relics of the medieval world. Decaying castles, ruined monasteries, and the remnants of city walls feature prominently in our pantheon of ruins, and it’s no wonder: Those images are aesthetically pleasing and evocative. Ironically, though we often associate the medieval world with ruins, the landscape of much of the western medieval world was itself liberally sprinkled with ruins of even more ancient ages that were equally evocative to the medieval mind.
To be sure, plenty of castles had been destroyed by siege. Villages or even towns often were left fallow after plagues. However, much of what the medieval traveler would have identified as ruins would have come from even more ancient sources and could have had a very different set of connotations.