A friar is a brother member of one of the mendicant orders founded in the twelfth or thirteenth century. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans and Carmelites. Friars are different from monks in that they are called to live the evangelical counsels in service to society, rather than through cloistered asceticism and devotion. Whereas monks live in a self-sufficient community, friars work among laypeople and are supported by donations or other charitable support. A monk or nun makes their commits to a particular community in a particular place. Friars commit to a community spread across a wider geographical area known as a province, so they will move around, spending time in different houses of the community within their province; the English term Friar is derived from the Norman French word frere, from the Latin frater, used in the Latin New Testament to refer to members of the Christian community. "Fray" is sometimes used in Spain and former Spanish colonies such as the Philippines or the American Southwest as a title, such as in Fray Juan de Torquemada.
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are two classes of orders known as friars, or mendicant orders: the four "great orders" and the so-called "lesser orders". The four great orders were mentioned by the Second Council of Lyons: The Carmelites, founded c. 1155. They are known as the "White Light Friars" because of the white halo which covers their brown skin, they received papal approval from Honorius III in 1226 and by Innocent IV in 1247. The Carmelites were founded as a purely contemplative order, but became mendicants in 1245. There are two types of Carmelites, those of the Ancient Observance and those of the Discalced Carmelites, founded by St. Teresa of Avila in the 16th century; the Franciscans, founded in 1209. They are known as the "Friars Minor"; the Franciscans were founded by St. Francis of Assisi and received oral papal approval by Innocent III in 1209 and formal papal confirmation by Honorius III in 1223. Today the Friars Minor is composed of three branches: the Order of Friars Minor, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and the Order of Friars Minor Conventual wearing grey or black habits.
The Dominicans, founded c. 1216. They are known as the "Friar Preachers", or the "Black Friars", from the black mantle worn over their white habit; the Dominicans were founded by St. Dominic and received papal approval from Honorius III in 1216 as the "Ordo Praedicatorum" under the Rule of St. Augustine, they became a mendicant order in 1221. The Augustinians, founded in 1244 and enlarged in 1256, they are known as the "Hermits of St. Augustine", or the "Austin Friars", their rule is based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo. The Augustinians were assembled from various groups of hermits as a mendicant order by Pope Innocent IV in 1244. Additional groups were added by Alexander IV in 1256; some of the lesser orders are: the Trinitarians, established in 1198 the Mercedarians, established in 1218 the Servites, established in 1240 the Minims, established in 1474 the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, a branch of the Third Order of St. Francis, part of the Franciscan Order established in 1447 the Discalced Carmelites, established in 1568 the Order of Augustinian Recollects, established in 1598 through the Chapter of Toledo the Discalced Trinitarians, established in 1599 the Order of Penance, established in 1781 Orders of friars exist in other Christian traditions, including the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans and the Order of Lesser Sisters and Brothers.
In the Anglican Communion there are a number of mendicant groups such as the Anglican Friars Preachers, the Society of Saint Francis and the Order of St Francis. Several high schools, as well as Providence College, use friars as their school mascot; the Major League Baseball team San Diego Padres have the Swinging Friar. The University of Michigan's oldest a cappella group is a male octet known as The Friars; the University of Pennsylvania has a senior honor society known as Friars. In the order of the Knights of Malta, the short form Fra is used when addressing members who have taken vows. Bhikkhu Brother Dervish Priesthood Sadhu
Codex Ríos is an Italian translation and augmentation of a Spanish colonial-era manuscript, Codex Telleriano-Remensis, attributed to Pedro de los Ríos, a Dominican friar working in Oaxaca and Puebla between 1547 and 1562. The codex itself was written and drawn in Italy after 1566; the manuscript is focused on the Tolteca-Chichimeca culture in the Tehuacan Valley in modern-day Puebla and Oaxaca. It can be divided into seven sections: Cosmological and mythological traditions with emphasis on the four epochs. An almanac, or tonalamatl, for the 260-day divinatory year common in Mesoamerica. Calendar tables for the years 1558 through 1619, without drawings. An 18-month festival calendar, with drawings of the gods of each period. Ritual customs, with portraits of Indians. Pictorial chronicles for the years 1195-1549 beginning with the migration from Chicomoztoc and covering events in the Valley of Mexico. Glyphs for the years 1556 through 1562, without drawings or text. Codex Ríos consists of 101 pages of European paper, accordion-folded.
It is held in the Vatican Library, is variously known as Codex Vatican A, Codex Vaticanus A, Codex Vaticanus 3738. Facsimile: Codex Vaticanus A, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, around 1580. Colour reproduction for studies of the manuscript in possession of the Bibliotèca Apostolica Vaticana, reduced to 7/10 of the original size, i.e. to 340 x 260 mm. Miniature paintings with Italian notes. Half leather binding. Introduction: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. 14 pp. and 192 plates. CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LXV Codex Vaticanus B Mesoamerican codices Aztec codices Aztec calendar
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to proselytize or perform ministries of service, such as education, social justice, health care, economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem, meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send"; the word was used in light of its biblical usage. The term is most used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed or ideology. A Christian missionary can be defined as "one, to witness across cultures"; the Lausanne Congress of 1974, defined the term, related to Christian mission as, "to form a viable indigenous church-planting movement". Missionaries can be found in many countries around the world. In the Bible, Jesus is recorded as instructing the apostles to make disciples of all nations; this verse is referred to by Christian missionaries as the Great Commission and inspires missionary work. The Christian Church expanded throughout the Roman Empire in New Testament times and is said by tradition to have reached further, to Persia and to India.
During the Middle Ages, the Christian monasteries and missionaries such as Saint Patrick, Adalbert of Prague propagated learning and religion beyond the European boundaries of the old Roman Empire. In 596, Pope Gregory the Great sent the Gregorian Mission into England. In their turn, Christians from Ireland and from Britain became prominent in converting the inhabitants of central Europe. During the Age of Discovery, the Catholic Church established a number of missions in the Americas and in other Western colonies through the Augustinians and Dominicans to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the Native Americans and other indigenous people. About the same time, missionaries such as Francis Xavier as well as other Jesuits, Augustinians and Dominicans reached Asia and the Far East, the Portuguese sent missions into Africa. Emblematic in many respects is Matteo Ricci's Jesuit mission to China from 1582, peaceful and non-violent; these missionary movements should be distinguished from others, such as the Baltic Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries, which were arguably compromised in their motivation by designs of military conquest.
Much contemporary Catholic missionary work has undergone profound change since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, with an increased push for indigenization and inculturation, along with social justice issues as a constitutive part of preaching the Gospel. As the Catholic Church organizes itself along territorial lines and had the human and material resources, religious orders, some specializing in it, undertook most missionary work in the era after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. Over time, the Holy See established a normalized Church structure in the mission areas starting with special jurisdictions known as apostolic prefectures and apostolic vicariates. At a stage of development these foundations are raised to regular diocesan status with a local bishops appointed. On a global front, these processes were accelerated in the 1960s, in part accompanying political decolonization. In some regions, they are still in course. Just as the Bishop of Rome had jurisdiction in territories considered to be in the Eastern sphere, so the missionary efforts of the two 9th-century saints Cyril and Methodius were conducted in relation to the West rather than the East, though the field of activity was central Europe.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, under the Orthodox Church of Constantinople undertook vigorous missionary work under the Roman Empire and its successor the Byzantine Empire. This had lasting effects and in some sense is at the origin of the present relations of Constantinople with some sixteen Orthodox national churches including the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church; the Byzantines expanded their missionary work in Ukraine after the mass baptism in Kiev in 988. The Serbian Orthodox Church had its origins in the conversion by Byzantine missionaries of the Serb tribes when they arrived in the Balkans in the 7th century. Orthodox missionaries worked among the Estonians from the 10th to the 12th centuries, founding the Estonian Orthodox Church. Under the Russian Empire of the 19th century, missionaries such as Nicholas Ilminsky moved into the subject lands and propagated Orthodoxy, including through Belarus, Moldova, Estonia and China.
The Russian St. Nicholas of Japan took Eastern Orthodoxy to Japan in the 19th century; the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries to Alaska beginning in the 18th century, including Saint Herman of Alaska, to minister to the Native Americans. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia continued missionary work outside Russia after the 1917 Russian Revolution, resulting in the establishment of many new dioceses in the diaspora, from which numerous converts have been made in Eastern Europe, North America, Oceania. Early Protestant missionaries included John Eliot and contemporary ministers
Christianity is an Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Depending on the specific denomination of Christianity, practices may include baptism, prayer, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites and the religious education of children. Most denominations hold regular group worship services. Christianity developed during the 1st century CE as a Jewish Christian sect of Second Temple Judaism, it soon attracted Gentile God-fearers, which lead to a departure from Jewish customs, the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion. During the first centuries of its existence Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, to Ethiopia and some parts of Asia. Constantine the Great decriminalized it via the Edict of Milan; the First Council of Nicaea established a uniform set of beliefs across the Roman Empire.
By 380, the Roman Empire designated Christianity as the state religion. The period of the first seven ecumenical councils is sometimes referred to as the Great Church, the united full communion of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, before their schisms. Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon over differences in Christology; the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East–West Schism over the authority of the Pope. In 1521, Protestants split from the Catholic Church in the Protestant Reformation over Papal primacy, the nature of salvation, other ecclesiological and theological disputes. Following the Age of Discovery, Christianity was spread into the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, the rest of the world via missionary work and colonization. There are 2.3 billion Christians in the world, or 31.4% of the global population. Today, the four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy.
Christianity and Christian ethics have played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization around Europe during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. In the New Testament, the names by which the disciples were known among themselves were "brethren", "the faithful", "elect", "saints" and "believers". Early Jewish Christians referred to themselves as'The Way' coming from Isaiah 40:3, "prepare the way of the Lord." According to Acts 11:26, the term "Christian" was first used in reference to Jesus's disciples in the city of Antioch, meaning "followers of Christ," by the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch. The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD. While Christians worldwide share basic convcitions, there are differences of interpretations and opinions of the Bible and sacred traditions on which Christianity is based. Concise doctrinal statements or confessions of religious beliefs are known as creeds, they began as baptismal formulae and were expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith.
The Apostles' Creed is the most accepted statement of the articles of Christian faith. It is used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical churches of Western Christian tradition, including the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism and Western Rite Orthodoxy, it is used by Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This particular creed was developed between the 9th centuries, its central doctrines are those of God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period; the creed was used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Its main points include: Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Holy Spirit The death, descent into hell and ascension of Christ The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful; the Nicene Creed was formulated in response to Arianism, at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the First Council of Ephesus in 431.
The Chalcedonian Definition, or Creed of Chalcedon, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, though rejected by the Oriental Orthodox churches, taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, unchangeably, inseparably": one divine and one human, that both natures, while perfect in themselves, are also united into one person. The Athanasian Creed, received in the Western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity. Many evangelical Protestants reject creeds as definitive statements of faith while agreeing with some or all of the substance of the creeds. Most Baptists do not use creeds "in that they have not sought to establish binding
The Order of Preachers known as the Dominican Order, is a mendicant Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Dominic of Caleruega in France, approved by Pope Honorius III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars, active sisters, affiliated lay or secular Dominicans. Founded to preach the Gospel and to oppose heresy, the teaching activity of the order and its scholastic organisation placed the Preachers in the forefront of the intellectual life of the Middle Ages; the order is famed for its intellectual tradition, having produced many leading theologians and philosophers. In the year 2017 there were 5,742 Dominican friars, including 4,302 priests; the Dominican Order is headed by the Master of the Order Bruno Cadoré. A number of other names have been used to refer to its members.
In England and other countries the Dominican friars are referred to as "Black Friars" because of the black cappa or cloak they wear over their white habits. Dominicans were "Blackfriars", as opposed to "Whitefriars" or "Greyfriars", they are distinct from the Augustinian Friars who wear a similar habit. In France, the Dominicans were known as "Jacobins" because their convent in Paris was attached to the Church of Saint-Jacques, now disappeared, on the way to Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, which belonged to the Italian Order of Saint James of Altopascio Sanctus Iacobus in Latin, their identification as Dominicans gave rise to the pun that they were the "Domini canes", or "Hounds of the Lord". The Dominican Order came into being in the Middle Ages at a time when men of God were no longer expected to stay behind the walls of a cloister. Instead, they travelled among the people, taking as their examples the apostles of the primitive Church. Out of this ideal emerged two orders of mendicant friars: one, the Friars Minor, was led by Francis of Assisi.
Like his contemporary, Dominic saw the need for a new type of organization, the quick growth of the Dominicans and Franciscans during their first century of existence confirms that the orders of mendicant friars met a need. Dominic sought to establish a new kind of order, one that would bring the dedication and systematic education of the older monastic orders like the Benedictines to bear on the religious problems of the burgeoning population of cities, but with more organizational flexibility than either monastic orders or the secular clergy; the Order of Preachers was founded in response to a perceived need for informed preaching. Dominic's new order was to be trained to preach in the vernacular languages. Dominic inspired his followers with loyalty to learning and virtue, a deep recognition of the spiritual power of worldly deprivation and the religious state, a developed governmental structure. At the same time, Dominic inspired the members of his order to develop a "mixed" spirituality.
They were both active in preaching, contemplative in study and meditation. The brethren of the Dominican Order were urban and learned, as well as contemplative and mystical in their spirituality. While these traits affected the women of the order, the nuns absorbed the latter characteristics and made those characteristics their own. In England, the Dominican nuns blended these elements with the defining characteristics of English Dominican spirituality and created a spirituality and collective personality that set them apart; as an adolescent, he had a particular love of theology and the Scriptures became the foundation of his spirituality. During his studies in Palencia, Spain, he experienced a dreadful famine, prompting Dominic to sell all of his beloved books and other equipment to help his neighbors. After he completed his studies, Bishop Martin Bazan and Prior Diego d'Achebes appointed Dominic to the cathedral chapter and he became a Canon Regular under the Rule of Saint Augustine and the Constitutions for the cathedral church of Osma.
At the age of twenty-four or twenty-five, he was ordained to the priesthood. In 1203, Dominic de Guzmán joined Diego de Acebo on an embassy to Denmark for the monarchy of Spain, to arrange the marriage between the son of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and a niece of King Valdemar II of Denmark. At that time the south of France was the stronghold of the Cathar movement; the Cathars were a heretical neo-gnostic sect. They believed that matter was evil and only the spirit was good; the Albigensian Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by Pope Innocent III to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc, in southern France. Dominic saw the need for a response that would attempt to sway members of the Albigensian movement back to mainstream Christian thought. Dominic became inspired into a reforming zeal after they encountered Albigensian Christians at Toulouse. Diego saw one of the paramount reasons for the spread of the unorthodox movement- the representatives of the Holy Church acted and moved with an offensive amount of pomp and ceremony.
In contrast, the Cathars led ascetic lifestyles. For these reasons, Diego suggested that the papal legates begin to live a reformed apostolic l
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants. Although some indigenous peoples of the Americas were traditionally hunter-gatherers—and many in the Amazon basin, still are—many groups practiced aquaculture and agriculture; the impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Although some societies depended on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, city-states, states and empires. Among these are the Aztec and Maya states that until the 16th century were among the most politically and advanced nations in the world, they had a vast knowledge of engineering, mathematics, writing, medicine and irrigation, mining and goldsmithing. Many parts of the Americas are still populated by indigenous peoples.
At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as the Quechuan languages, Guaraní, Mayan languages and Nahuatl, count their speakers in millions. Many maintain aspects of indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion, social organization and subsistence practices. Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects but cater to modern needs; some indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from Western culture and a few are still counted as uncontacted peoples. Indigenous peoples of the United States are known as Native Americans or American Indians and Alaska Natives. Application of the term "Indian" originated with Christopher Columbus, who, in his search for India, thought that he had arrived in the East Indies; those islands came to be known as the "West Indies", a name still used. This led to the blanket term "Indies" and "Indians" for the indigenous inhabitants, which implied some kind of racial or cultural unity among the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
This unifying concept, codified in law and politics, was not accepted by the myriad groups of indigenous peoples themselves, but has since been embraced or tolerated, by many over the last two centuries. Though the term "Indian" does not include the culturally and linguistically distinct indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of the Americas—such as the Aleuts, Inuit or Yupik peoples, who entered the continent as a second more recent wave of migration several thousand years before and have much more recent genetic and cultural commonalities with the aboriginal peoples of the Asiatic Arctic Russian Far East—these groups are nonetheless considered "indigenous peoples of the Americas". Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, which includes not only First Nations and Arctic Inuit, but the minority population of First Nations-European mixed race Métis people who identify culturally and ethnically with indigenous peoplehood; this is contrasted, for instance, to the American Indian-European mixed race mestizos of Hispanic America who, with their larger population, identify as a new ethnic group distinct from both Europeans and Indigenous Americans, but still considering themselves a subset of the European-derived Hispanic or Brazilian peoplehood in culture and ethnicity.
The term Amerindian and its cognates find preferred use in scientific contexts and in Quebec, the Guianas and the English-speaking Caribbean. Indígenas or pueblos indígenas is a common term in Spanish-speaking countries and pueblos nativos or nativos may be heard, while aborigen is used in Argentina and pueblos originarios is common in Chile. In Brazil, indígenas or povos indígenas are common if formal-sounding designations, while índio is still the more often-heard term and aborígene and nativo being used in Amerindian-specific contexts; the Spanish and Portuguese equivalents to Indian could be used to mean any hunter-gatherer or full-blooded Indigenous person to continents other than Europe or Africa—for example, indios filipinos. The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are the subject of ongoing research and discussion. According to archaeological and genetic evidence and South America were the last continents in the world to gain human habitation.
During the Wisconsin glaciation, 50–17,000 years ago, falling sea levels allowed people to move across the land bridge of Beringia that joined Siberia to northwest North America. Alaska was a glacial refugium; the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered most of North America, blocking nomadic inhabitants and confining them to Alaska for thousands of years. Indigenous genetic studies suggest that the first inhabitants of the Americas share a single ancestral population, one that developed in isolation, conjectured to be Beringia; the isolat
Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and northern Costa Rica, within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people, it is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region. As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BCE, the domestication of cacao, beans, avocado, vanilla and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent Formative period and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area.
In this period, villages began to become stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidian, cacao, Spondylus shells and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important. Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamerica along the Pacific coast; this formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya, with the rise of centers such as El Mirador and Tikal, the Zapotec at Monte Albán.
During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script. Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed. In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. Upon the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 AD, competition between several important political centers in central Mexico, such as Xochicalco and Cholula, ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages. During the early post-Classic period, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.
Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots; the term Mesoamerica means "middle America" in Greek. Middle America refers to a larger area in the Americas, but it has previously been used more narrowly to refer to Mesoamerica. An example is the title of the 16 volumes of The Handbook of Middle American Indians. "Mesoamerica" is broadly defined as the area, home to the Mesoamerican civilization, which comprises a group of peoples with close cultural and historical ties. The exact geographic extent of Mesoamerica has varied through time, as the civilization extended North and South from its heartland in southern Mexico.
The term was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoff, who noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. In the tradition of cultural history, the prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a cultural area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction. Mesoamerica is recognized as a near-prototypical cultural area, the term is now integrated in the standard terminology of pre-Columbian anthropological studies. Conversely, the sister terms Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica, which refer to northern Mexico and the western United States have not entered into widespread usage; some of the significant cultural traits defining the Mesoamerican cultural tradition are: sedentism based on maize agricultu