History: "Dark Ages" is a bad term to label the era of 476-1000AD.

Forums - General Discussion - History: "Dark Ages" is a bad term to label the era of 476-1000AD.

This is a term I hear thrown around a lot. People seem to associate it with 476 until the end of the Viking Age over 500 years later, and sometimes extending the age until the 1200's. 

My problems lie mostly with the early phase of it. For example, if 476 is the beginning of it? Why? The answer you'll get is that Romulus Augustulus was deposed - but this is fairly silly: Romulus Augustulus, and the Western imperial throne for the last 80 years was a joke of a leadership, in fact, by 476, the worst days for Rome were behind it (Alaric's invasion, and Geiseric's invasions were fairly bad), and the period of 476 until about 541 was actually a period of growth in Rome, Germanic leaders like Theodoric actually rebuilt vast numbers of things, including aqueducts and other public works that had been left in ruin from earlier times (during the reign of the Western Roman Emperors). If I were to give a period of the Dark Ages in Italy, I would begin them in 541 when Justinian invaded and damaged the economic output so much, that it would take over 500 years to recover.

Yet, Spain and much of France in 541 had been experiencing nearly 150 years of growth, under the Visigothic Kingdom, Roman culture had been recovering from the time of the Vandal invasion in 406 AD (again, before the date of 476). In fact, during this period, the Visigoths not only aided in the recovery of the Western provinces of the Empire, but they also built new cities; not even the Eastern Romans were doing this during these years. It wasn't really until the wars between the Islamics and Christians beginning in the 8th century that the Dark Ages could really have been said to have started in Spain - and this is roughly the time where the Dark Ages also began in the Eastern Roman Empire - and where the transition from Eastern Roman to Byzantine culture occurred. 

England is a different story, clearly the Dark Ages were earliest here, with Saxons invading well before the 476 date. Yet, those same Saxons built quite an interesting society.

OK, so we have this period now from the mid 7th century to the year 1000. Yet, after 800, Byzantine culture rose up, and this could hardly be called a Dark Age period. The Islamic Caliphates were also seeing a golden age of reason and enlightenment. Even in the west, before the Vikings, the Frankish Empire had obtained enough power to sever political ties to Constantinople, and began rebuilding schools and other public works (particularly under Charlemagne). Is this really a dark age? Sure, in some parts of Europe there was Darkness, but the point I am trying to make is that this was NOT a period of total darkness like in the Greek Dark Ages after the fall of Mycenae and Knossos.  Rather, I think if anything, Late Antiquity can be said to be the era from the rise of Diocletian in 284AD (The Roman Empire in the 4th century was actually more powerful and effective than it was in the 3rd century) until the Battle of Guadalete in 711 AD, when the Visigothic Kingdom fell. Since this era is so close to the Battle of Tours in 732 where the Franks repulsed the invasion of France, and the Franks themselves had already been rebuilding and ressurecting Europe, I wouldn't want to call 711 the beginning of the Dark Ages.

More like the Early Middle Ages, because it was during this period of Islamic and North Germanic (Viking) invasions that Eruope really became militarized and very much a warrior society (Knights and all); but this is the Middle Ages; and it was a general period of economic recovery from the Viking invasions onward until an explosion began in Florence, which we can call the Modern era.

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I just don't think the term "dark ages" is good for this time period at all. We really should come up with something better! The period between ~500 to ~1500 certainly wasn't dark!

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I thought the term Dark Ages was because we don't have much info about what happened between those dates? (therefore we're in the dark).

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Troll_Whisperer said:
I thought the term Dark Ages was because we don't have much info about what happened between those dates? (therefore we're in the dark).

These Dark Ages were originally labeled such, because they were viewed as a period of cultural and economic deterioration; and you are right about one thing, this is likely because the early modern historians were fairly ignorant about this period due to poor research (and it is a period that is often misrepresented even today). Although since the 19th century, I don't really think historians have that excuse any more - I think it is labeled "Dark Ages" more out of convention now; but it is a bad label due to its innacuracy. I don't think it should be used.

The Greek Dark Ages (fall of Mycenae and Troy until the first Olympics in Greece) are called that because there was no literacy, and this resulted in us knowing almost nothing aside the legends. Historians today reinforce this term's usage by saying the time period was a period of deterioration. 

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Its called the dark ages not because they are a dark time however i would argue that the era around 900-1000 AD in Europe was quite bleak, its that we have no to little information especially on cultures that existed in Eastern Europe and such.

Also I think that powerful empires grew in Europe, but none of them matched the old Roman Empire in terms of power and size. The only time the European powers reached such heights is when they started colonizing the world.

Its widely considered that the era around 900-1000 BC is called a bleak time.

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I love reading historical threads by Jumpin !!

Keep em coming !

I always thought dark ages referred to the time period since fall of united rome till the renaissance

The Dark ages is certainly a wrong term. The period after the fall of the Roman empire was a time of reorganization of the economic and political fabric of europe at first and of the Middle East latter(Islam). But as a whole, the society evolved and sustained a growth in all areas until the Black Plague in 1340s. The populational and economical levels of that late medieval times would only be achieved again centuries later. So, in order to achieve such a level in 1300 century, Europe should be growing for a long time.
And indeed, there aren't big catastrophes and killings registered on this period. And when I say that I mean quick and heavy destruction. The cruzades happened in a timeframe of 200 years. The Vikings invasion lasted almost a hundred and it's scale is much smaller than we usually think. A battle were a thousand people were killed was usually a great battle and the mainheim we would get used to link to war was known only in asia. In Europe we only see such things during the thirty years war in 1600s.
So, depending were you are coming from, this era was an era of growth and progress, after the fall of one of the most influential empires in history and all the confusion and caos it brougth.





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Well the invasions of the Huns and Genghis Khan were quite devastating.

Genghis Khan murdered and raped current Day Iran and Iraq.

I always thought the Dark Ages referred to the way that the people had no knowledge of science and the Church had complete control over the lives of the people

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