As Europe took shape in the early medieval period, the vernacular languages found their voices in popular epics and ballads. This was not an accident; access to Latin and its literature required literacy, and this was something not easy to come by at that time. But the lay audiences of Europe began to develop their own voices, and these soon coalesced by degrees into coherent form. The tradition was mostly oral at first, until these songs and ballads began to be written down. In every new civilization it seems that the epic ballad occupies the first stage of literary expression; perhaps this is because a people must first master their environments before they can have the leisure to philosophize. And mastery of the environment means capability in war.