Monday, 2 June 2014

Are Early Medieval Times Called the Dark Ages Because People Were Ignorant?

Let's first look at when the Dark Ages began.

In 476AD the last emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustulus, was removed from the throne. This is taken by most historians as the date of the fall of Rome, although it was in decline long before that. Whatever the drawbacks, the Roman Empire established peace and the rule of law across an enormous area. Art and culture flourished. The fall of Rome left a huge vacuum.

There was no government or organisation, and war broke out as each area sought to establish itself again. People moved out of the towns and back to farming, more concerned about where the next meal was coming from than worrying about writing things down. In the 18th century the period from the fall of Rome to about 1000AD was labelled the Dark Ages because little was known about it. What was known was mostly barbarism.

But archaeology has since shown us a rich and cultural society, and the period also saw the rise of monasticism, where learning was preserved and encouraged. The monasteries were responsible for saving the treasures of classical literature - along with the Holy Scriptures - and preserving them for the future.

The other change to the Dark Ages in more recent times is the date they ended. The general opinion for the end of the whole Middle Ages was the Renaissance, roughly 1500AD. Historians are making cases for earlier and earlier Renaissances. There is the 'Renaissance of the Twelfth Century,' the 'Ottonian Renaissance' of the Holy Roman Empire in the 900s, and even looking further back to the 'Carolingian Renaissance' under the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, in the late eighth and early ninth centuries.

So to answer the original question, not only were the Dark Ages not really dark, but with all these new Renaissances being discovered, it seems they weren't really there!

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