The Dark Ages

  • The Invasion of Italy by the Ostrogoths, 490 Map
  • Before the Reconquest by Justinian, 530 Map
  • The Reconquest by Belisarius and Justinian, 565 Map
  • The Invasion of Italy by the Lombards and the rise of the Avars, 600 Map
  • The defeat of the Arabs at Poitiers by the Franks, 732 Map
  • The Frankish Empire at the Death of Pepin III, 768 Map
  • The Height of the Frankish Empire under Charlemagne, 800 Map
  • The Frankish Empire at the Death of Chalemagne, 814 Map
  • The Final Breakup of the Frankish Empire, 880 Map
  • The Viking Invasions, 910 Map
    The term 'dark age' is not unique to Europe between the fall of the Western Empire and the start of the Middle Ages. 'Dark age' refers to a decline in literacy stemming from political chaos and social disorder. History is a difficult business without contemporary written records. The term 'pre-history' refers to a time without writing, not a time before history. A dark age is a partial reversion to pre-history, and the time after the fall of the Western Empire was such a dark age. The literate Romans were followed by illiterate barbarians. The Church (at this time still fighting heretical sects and pagans for the soul of Europe) still had many literate clerics, but nonetheless there are only fuzzy records from this period. Europe was torn apart into warring barbarian kingdoms, which had no more complex political organization than family and clan. The peasants, once protected by the legions of Rome, were now powerless in the face of the barbarians. However, many of the barbarian rulers admired the glory that was Rome and the church that was its last remnant. Many Roman institutions and social patterns survived during the dark ages, and gradually the political order of Rome returned, in a fashion, uder the Franks. The Franks were among the least powerful of the Germanic tribes that invaded Rome, but by the 600s they came to dominate much of Europe. They reached their height under Charlemagne (or 'Charles the Great') in the early 800s. The Frankish Empire did not last long, however. Several groups of barbarians, principally the Vikings, staged massive raids that weakened the Empire. The centralized Empire was unable to defend against these raids, and in respone the peasants began to give land and power to a new class of professional warriors. These men would eventually become the knights and feudal lords who would dominate European life for the next millenium. Deciding when the Dark Ages become the Middle Ages is difficult, as the institutions that define the Middle Ages developped gradually throughout the Dark Ages. I have chosen 1000 A.D. because... Its a nice round number. With three whole zeros.
    Questions, comments, and corrections are welcome! Direct comments and such toTony Belmonte This page was created and is maintained by Ali Rezaian.