The "Dark Ages" is a historical periodization traditionally referring to the Middle Ages, that asserts that a demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration occurred in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire.
The term employs traditional light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the era's "darkness" (lack of records) with earlier and later periods of "light" (abundance of records). The concept of a "Dark Age" originated in the 1330s with the Italian scholar Petrarch, who regarded the post-Roman centuries as "dark" compared to the light of classical antiquity. The phrase "Dark Age" itself derives from the Latin saeculum obscurum, originally applied by Caesar Baronius in 1602 to a tumultuous period in the 10th and 11th centuries. The concept thus came to characterize the entire Middle Ages as a time of intellectual darkness between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance; this became especially popular during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.
As the accomplishments of the era came to be better understood in the 18th and 20th centuries, scholars began restricting the "Dark Ages" appellation to the Early Middle Ages (c. 5th–10th century). The majority of modern scholars avoid the term altogether due to its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate. The original definition remains in popular use, and popular culture often employs it as a vehicle to depict the Middle Ages as a time of backwardness, extending its pejorative use and expanding its scope.
The idea of a Dark Age originated with the Tuscan scholar Petrarch in the 1330s. Writing of the past, he said: "Amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom". Christian writers, including Petrarch himself, had long used traditional metaphors of 'light versus darkness' to describe 'good versus evil'. Petrarch was the first to give the metaphor secular meaning by reversing its application. He now saw Classical Antiquity, so long considered a 'dark' age for its lack of Christianity, in the 'light' of its cultural achievements, while Petrarch's own time, allegedly lacking such cultural achievements, was seen as the age of darkness.
From his perspective on the Italian peninsula, Petrarch saw the Roman and classical period as an expression of greatness. He spent much of his time travelling through Europe, rediscovering and republishing classic Latin and Greek texts. He wanted to restore the Latin language to its former purity. Renaissance humanists saw the preceding 900 years as a time of stagnation, with history unfolding not along the religious outline of Saint Augustine's Six Ages of the World, but in cultural (or secular) terms through progressive development of classical ideals, literature, and art.
Petrarch wrote that history had two periods: the classic period of Greeks and Romans, followed by a time of darkness in which he saw himself living. In around 1343, in the conclusion of his epic Africa, he wrote: "My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms. But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. This sleep of forgetfulness will not last forever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance." In the 15th century, historians Leonardo Bruni and Flavio Biondo developed a three-tier outline of history. They used Petrarch's two ages, plus a modern, 'better age', which they believed the world had entered. Later the term 'Middle Ages' - Latin media tempestas (1469) or medium aevum (1604) - was used to describe the period of supposed decline.
During the Reformations of the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants generally had a similar view to Renaissance Humanists such as Petrarch, but also added an Anti-Catholic perspective. They saw classical antiquity as a golden time, not only because of its Latin literature, but also because it witnessed the beginnings of Christianity. They promoted the idea that the 'Middle Age' was a time of darkness also because of corruption within the Roman Catholic Church, such as: Popes ruling as kings, veneration of saints' relics, a licentious priesthood, and institutionalized moral hypocrisy.
In response to the Protestants, Catholics developed a counter-image to depict the High Middle Ages in particular as a period of social and religious harmony, and not 'dark' at all. The most important Catholic reply to the Magdeburg Centuries was the Annales Ecclesiastici by Cardinal Caesar Baronius. Baronius was a trained historian who produced a work that the Encyclopædia Britannica in 1911 described as "far surpassing anything before" and that Acton regarded as "the greatest history of the Church ever written". The Annales covered the first twelve centuries of Christianity to 1198, and was published in twelve volumes between 1588 and 1607. It was in Volume X that Baronius coined the term "dark age" for the period between the end of the Carolingian Empire in 888 and the first stirrings of Gregorian Reform under Pope Clement II in 1046:
|Century||Migne Volume Nos||Volumes|
"The new age (saeculum) which was beginning, for its harshness and barrenness of good could well be called iron, for its baseness and abounding evil leaden, and moreover for its lack of writers (inopia scriptorum) dark (obscurum)".
Significantly, Baronius termed the age 'dark' because of the paucity of written records. The "lack of writers" he referred to may be illustrated by comparing the number of volumes in Migne's Patrologia Latina containing the work of Latin writers from the 10th century (the heart of the age he called 'dark') with the number containing the work of writers from the preceding and succeeding centuries. A minority of these writers were historians.
There is a sharp drop from 34 volumes in the 9th century to just 8 in the 10th. The 11th century, with 13, evidences a certain recovery, and the 12th century, with 40, surpasses the 9th, something the 13th, with just 26, fails to do. There was indeed a 'dark age', in Baronius's sense of a "lack of writers", between the Carolingian Renaissance in the 9th century and the beginnings, some time in the 11th, of what has been called the Renaissance of the 12th century. Furthermore, there was an earlier period of "lack of writers" during the 7th and 8th centuries. So, in Western Europe, two 'dark ages' can be identified, separated by the brilliant but brief Carolingian Renaissance.
Baronius's 'dark age' seems to have struck historians, for it was in the 17th century that the term started to proliferate in various European languages, with his original Latin term saeculum obscurum being reserved for the period he had applied it to. But while some, following Baronius, used 'dark age' neutrally to refer to a dearth of written records, others used it pejoratively, lapsing into that lack of objectivity that has discredited the term for many modern historians.
The first British historian to use the term was most likely Gilbert Burnet, in the form 'darker ages' which appears several times in his work during the later 17th century. The earliest reference seems to be in the "Epistle Dedicatory" to Volume I of The History of the Reformation of the Church of England of 1679, where he writes: "The design of the reformation was to restore Christianity to what it was at first, and to purge it of those corruptions, with which it was overrun in the later and darker ages." He uses it again in the 1682 Volume II, where he dismisses the story of "St George's fighting with the dragon" as "a legend formed in the darker ages to support the humour of chivalry". Burnet was a bishop chronicling how England became Protestant, and his use of the term is invariably pejorative.
During the Age of Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, many critical thinkers saw religion as antithetical to reason. For them the Middle Ages, or "Age of Faith", was therefore the opposite of the Age of Reason. Kant and Voltaire were vocal in attacking the Middle Ages as a period of social regress dominated by religion, while Gibbon in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire expressed contempt for the "rubbish of the Dark Ages". Yet just as Petrarch, seeing himself at the cusp of a "new age", was criticising the centuries before his own time, so too were Enlightenment writers.
Consequently, an evolution had occurred in at least three ways. Petrarch's original metaphor of light versus dark has expanded over time, implicitly at least. Even if later humanists no longer saw themselves living in a dark age, their times were still not light enough for 18th-century writers who saw themselves as living in the real Age of Enlightenment, while the period to be condemned stretched to include what we now call Early Modern times. Additionally, Petrarch's metaphor of darkness, which he used mainly to deplore what he saw as a lack of secular achievement, was sharpened to take on a more explicitly anti-religious and anti-clerical meaning.
Nevertheless, the term 'Middle Ages', used by Biondo and other early humanists after Petrarch, was in general use before the 18th century to denote the period before the Renaissance. The earliest recorded use of the English word "medieval" was in 1827. The concept of the Dark Ages was also in use, but by the 18th century it tended to be confined to the earlier part of this period. The earliest entry for a capitalized "Dark Ages" in the Oxford English Dictionary is a reference in Henry Thomas Buckle's History of Civilization in England in 1857. Starting and ending dates varied: the Dark Ages were considered by some to start in 410, by others in 476 when there was no longer an emperor in Rome, and to end about 800, at the time of the Carolingian Renaissance under Charlemagne, or alternatively to extend through to the end of the 1st millennium.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Romantics reversed the negative assessment of Enlightenment critics with a vogue for medievalism. The word "Gothic" had been a term of opprobrium akin to "Vandal" until a few self-confident mid-18th-century English "Goths" like Horace Walpole initiated the Gothic Revival in the arts. This stimulated interest in the Middle Ages, which for the following generation began to take on the idyllic image of an "Age of Faith". This, reacting to a world dominated by Enlightenment rationalism, expressed a romantic view of a Golden Age of chivalry. The Middle Ages were seen with nostalgia as a period of social and environmental harmony and spiritual inspiration, in contrast to the excesses of the French Revolution and, most of all, to the environmental and social upheavals and utilitarianism of the developing Industrial Revolution. The Romantics' view is still represented in modern-day fairs and festivals celebrating the period with 'merrie' costumes and events.
Just as Petrarch had twisted the meaning of light versus darkness, so the Romantics had twisted the judgment of the Enlightenment. However, the period they idealized was largely the High Middle Ages, extending into Early Modern times. In one respect, this negated the religious aspect of Petrarch's judgment, since these later centuries were those when the power and prestige of the Church were at their height. To many, the scope of the Dark Ages was becoming divorced from this period, denoting mainly the centuries immediately following the fall of Rome.
The term was widely used by 19th-century historians. In 1860, in The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Jacob Burckhardt delineated the contrast between the medieval 'dark ages' and the more enlightened Renaissance, which had revived the cultural and intellectual achievements of antiquity. However, the early 20th century saw a radical re-evaluation of the Middle Ages, which called into question the terminology of darkness, or at least its more pejorative use. The historian Denys Hay spoke ironically of "the lively centuries which we call dark". More forcefully, a book about the history of German literature published in 2007 describes "the dark ages" as "a popular if ignorant manner of speaking".
Most modern historians do not use the term "dark ages", preferring terms such as Early Middle Ages. But when used by some historians today, the term "Dark Ages" is meant to describe the economic, political, and cultural problems of the era. For others, the term Dark Ages is intended to be neutral, expressing the idea that the events of the period seem 'dark' to us because of the paucity of the historical record. The term is used in this sense (often in the singular) to reference the Bronze Age collapse and the subsequent Greek Dark Ages, the dark ages of Cambodia (c. 1450-1863), and also a hypothetical Digital Dark Age which would ensue if the electronic documents produced in the current period were to become unreadable at some point in the future. Some Byzantinists have used the term "Byzantine Dark Ages" to refer to the period from the earliest Muslim conquests to about 800, because there are no extant historical texts in Greek from this period, and thus the history of the Byzantine Empire and its territories that were conquered by the Muslims is poorly understood and must be reconstructed from other contemporaneous sources, such as religious texts. The term "dark age" is not restricted to the discipline of history. Since the archaeological evidence for some periods is abundant and for others scanty, there are also archaeological dark ages.
Since the Late Middle Ages significantly overlap with the Renaissance, the term 'Dark Ages' has become restricted to distinct times and places in medieval Europe. Thus the 5th and 6th centuries in Britain, at the height of the Saxon invasions, have been called "the darkest of the Dark Ages", in view of the societal collapse of the period and the consequent lack of historical records. Further south and east, the same was true in the formerly Roman province of Dacia, where history after the Roman withdrawal went unrecorded for centuries as Slavs, Avars, Bulgars, and others struggled for supremacy in the Danube basin, and events there are still disputed. However, at this time the Arab Empire is often considered to have experienced its Golden Age rather than Dark Age; consequently, usage of the term must also specify a geography. While Petrarch's concept of a Dark Age corresponded to a mostly Christian period following pre-Christian Rome, today the term mainly applies to the cultures and periods in Europe that were least Christianized, and thus most sparsely covered by chronicles and other contemporary sources, at the time mostly written by Catholic clergy.
However, from the later 20th century onwards, other historians became critical even of this nonjudgmental use of the term, for two main reasons. Firstly, it is questionable whether it is ever possible to use the term in a neutral way: scholars may intend this, but ordinary readers may not understand it so. Secondly, 20th-century scholarship had increased understanding of the history and culture of the period, to such an extent that it is no longer really 'dark' to us. To avoid the value judgment implied by the expression, many historians now avoid it altogether.
Science historian David C. Lindberg criticised the public use of 'dark ages' to describe the entire Middle Ages as "a time of ignorance, barbarism and superstition" for which "blame is most often laid at the feet of the Christian church, which is alleged to have placed religious authority over personal experience and rational activity". Historian of science Edward Grant writes that "If revolutionary rational thoughts were expressed in the Age of Reason, they were made possible because of the long medieval tradition that established the use of reason as one of the most important of human activities". Furthermore, Lindberg says that, contrary to common belief, "the late medieval scholar rarely experienced the coercive power of the church and would have regarded himself as free (particularly in the natural sciences) to follow reason and observation wherever they led". Because of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire due to the Migration Period a lot of classical Greek texts were lost there, but part of these texts survived and they were studied widely in the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate. Around the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the High Middle Ages stronger monarchies emerged; borders were restored after the invasions of Vikings and Magyars; technological developments and agricultural innovations were made which increased the food supply and population. And the rejuvenation of science and scholarship in the West was due in large part to the new availability of Latin translations of Aristotle.
Another view of the period is reflected by more specific notions such as the 19th-century claim that everyone in the Middle Ages thought the world was flat. In fact, lecturers in medieval universities commonly advanced the idea that the Earth was a sphere. Lindberg and Ronald Numbers write: "There was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth's] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference". Other misconceptions such as: "the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages", "the rise of Christianity killed off ancient science", and "the medieval Christian church suppressed the growth of natural philosophy", are cited by Numbers as examples of myths that still pass as historical truth, although unsupported by current research.
a term sometimes applied to the period of the Middle Ages to mark the intellectual darkness characteristic of the time; often restricted to the early period of the Middle Ages, between the time of the fall of Rome and the appearance of vernacular written documents.
Petrarch was the very first to speak of the Middle Ages as a 'dark age', one that separated him from the riches and pleasures of classical antiquity and that broke the connection between his own age and the civilization of the Greeks and the Romans.
These used to be called the Dark Ages. That label is best set aside. It is hopelessly redolent of Renaissance and Enlightenment prejudices. It altogether underestimates the impressive cultural vitality and enduring spiritual legacy of the entire period that has come to be known as "late antiquity". At the same time we do not have to euphemize the realities of imperial disintegration, economic collapse and societal disintegration.
The barbarian kingdoms were Germanic, Hunnic and other kingdoms established all over Europe and North Africa during Late Antiquity, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The term "barbarian" has been commonly used by historians even though the term was not used by the peoples in question and carries considerable value judgement. Other terms used include "Germanic kingdoms", "Romano-Germanic kingdoms", and "post-Roman kingdoms".Dumnonii
The Dumnonii or Dumnones were a British tribe who inhabited Dumnonia, the area now known as Devon and Cornwall (and some areas of present-day Dorset and Somerset) in the further parts of the South West peninsula of Britain, from at least the Iron Age up to the early Saxon period. They were bordered to the east by the Durotriges tribe.Historiography
Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic – such as the "historiography of the United Kingdom", the "historiography of Canada", "historiography of the British Empire", the "historiography of early Islam", the "historiography of China" – and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the ascent of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties – such as to their nation state – is a debated question.The research interests of historians change over time, and there has been a shift away from traditional diplomatic, economic, and political history toward newer approaches, especially social and cultural studies. From 1975 to 1995, the proportion of professors of history in American universities identifying with social history increased from 31 to 41 percent, while the proportion of political historians decreased from 40 to 30 percent. In 2007, of 5,723 faculty in the departments of history at British universities, 1,644 (29%) identified themselves with social history and 1,425 (25%) identified themselves with political history.History
History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.
History can also refer to the academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyse a sequence of past events, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. Historians sometimes debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing "perspective" on the problems of the present.Stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources (such as the tales surrounding King Arthur), are usually classified as cultural heritage or legends, because they do not show the "disinterested investigation" required of the discipline of history. Herodotus, a 5th-century BC Greek historian is considered within the Western tradition to be the "father of history", and, along with his contemporary Thucydides, helped form the foundations for the modern study of human history. Their works continue to be read today, and the gap between the culture-focused Herodotus and the military-focused Thucydides remains a point of contention or approach in modern historical writing. In East Asia, a state chronicle, the Spring and Autumn Annals was known to be compiled from as early as 722 BC although only 2nd-century BC texts have survived.
Ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging, and includes the study of specific regions and the study of certain topical or thematical elements of historical investigation. Often history is taught as part of primary and secondary education, and the academic study of history is a major discipline in university studies.Index of Byzantine Empire-related articles
This is a list of people, places, things, and concepts related to or originating from the Byzantine Empire (AD 330–1453). Feel free to add more, and create missing pages. You can track changes to the articles included in this list from here.
Note: People are listed by first name. Events, monuments and institutions like "Battle/Siege/Council/Church/Duchy/etc. of NNN" are listed by the location/name.Medieval demography
Medieval demography is the study of human demography in Europe and the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. It estimates and seeks to explain the number of people who were alive during the Medieval period, population trends, life expectancy, family structure, and related issues. Demography is considered a crucial element of historical change throughout the Middle Ages.
The population of Europe remained at a low level in the Early Middle Ages, boomed during the High Middle Ages and reached a peak around 1300, then a number of calamities caused a steep decline, the nature of which historians have debated. Population levels began to recover around the late 15th century, gaining momentum in the early 16th century.
The science of medieval demography relies on various lines of evidence, such as administrative records, wills and other types of records, archaeological field data, economic data, and written histories. Because the data are often incomplete and/or ambiguous, there can be significant disagreement among medieval demographers.Migration Period
The Migration Period was a period that began as early as 300 AD in which there were widespread migrations of peoples within or into Europe during and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire, mostly into Roman territory, notably the Germanic tribes and the Huns. It has also been termed in English by the German loanword Völkerwanderung and—from the Mediterranean perspective—the Barbarian Invasions. Many of the migrations were movements of Germanic, Hunnic, Slavic and other peoples into the territory of the then declining Roman Empire, with or without accompanying invasions or war.
Historians give differing dates, but the Migration Period is typically regarded as beginning with the invasion of Europe by the Huns from Asia in 375 and ending either with the conquest of Italy by the Lombards in 568, or at some point between 700 and 800. Various factors contributed to this phenomenon, and the role and significance of each one is still very much discussed among experts on the subject. Starting in 382, the Roman Empire and individual tribes made treaties regarding their settlement in its territory. The Franks, a Germanic tribe that would later found Francia—a predecessor of modern France and Germany—settled in the Roman Empire and were given a task of securing the northeastern Gaul border. Western Roman rule was first violated with the Crossing of the Rhine and the following invasions of the Vandals and Suebi. With wars ensuing between various tribes, as well as local populations in the Western Roman Empire, more and more power was transferred to Germanic and Roman militaries.
There are contradicting opinions whether the fall of the Western Roman Empire was a result or cause of these migrations, or both. The Eastern Roman Empire was less affected by migrations and survived until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. In the modern period, the Migration Period was increasingly described with a rather negative connotation, and seen as contributing to the fall of the empire. In place of the fallen Western Rome, Barbarian kingdoms arose in the 5th and 6th centuries and decisively shaped the European Early Middle Ages.
The migrants comprised war bands or tribes of 10,000 to 20,000 people, but in the course of 100 years they numbered not more than 750,000 in total, compared to an average 39.9 million population of the Roman Empire at that time. Although immigration was common throughout the time of the Roman Empire, the period in question was, in the 19th century, often defined as running from about the 5th to 8th centuries AD. The first migrations of peoples were made by Germanic tribes such as the Goths (including the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths), the Vandals, the Anglo-Saxons, the Lombards, the Suebi, the Frisii, the Jutes, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, the Scirii and the Franks; they were later pushed westward by the Huns, the Avars, the Slavs and the Bulgars.Later invasions—such as the Viking, the Norman, the Varangian, the Hungarian, the Moorish, the Turkic and the Mongol—also had significant effects (especially in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Anatolia and Central and Eastern Europe); however, they are usually considered outside the scope of the Migration Period.Missing years
Missing years may refer to:
Missing years (Jewish calendar), a chronological discrepancy between Rabbinic chronologists for the destruction of the First Temple in 423 BCE (3338 AM) or 403 BCE (3358 AM) and the modern secular dating for it in 587 BCE.
Unknown years of Jesus, also known as the missing years, an 18-year period of his life that is not documented in the Bible
Intertestamental period, the period between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible
Missing Years(album), a 2007 album by Little Texas or its title track
The Missing Years (album), a 1991 album by John Prine
The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years, a 1996 miniseries
I Know My First Name Is Steven (The Missing Years), a 1989 miniseries about Steven StaynerTatberht
Tatberht was an eighth century Anglo Saxon Saint, Abbot and contemporary of the venerable Bede.