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Re-thinking the “Dark” Ages from 476 – c 1400 . . .


Food for sobering thought, on the myth of progress:

It looks like we have some serious re-thinking to do. END

The period after the Fall or Rome saw large migrations from groups/tribes outside of the Eastern Roman Empire to within the boundaries of the Eastern Roman Empire. These were various types of Goths, Germans, Angles and Saxons. Then later on there were Vikings/Norsemen. Few were literate and they built little new, especially things that lasted. Literature was scarce but there was some. This compared to the Romans/Greeks who were prolific builders and has fairly large numbers of writings. This started to change as the Vikings settled down and Charlemagne made numerous copies of books and instituted education reforms. Whatever happened only affected the small percentage that made up the elite, nobles, churchmen and some merchants. Till the 1700’s in England and its colonies when this small privileged set started to expand. jerry
Folks, Let's clip -- and highlight, so we can understand what is being addressed:
The term ‘The Dark Ages’ refers to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance: the 5th – 14th centuries. It has been suggested that this period saw little scientific and cultural advancement. However, the term doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny – and many medieval historians have dismissed it. The coining of ‘the Dark Ages’ The first person to coin the term ‘Dark Ages’ was believed to be Francesco Petrarca (known as Petrarch), an Italian scholar of the 14th century. He bestowed this label upon the period in which he lived as he was dismayed at the lack of good literature at that time. [--> this underplays his attitude, there is a lurking issue of inverting Christianity's darkness/light imagery to exalt the prior pagan ages] The classical era was rich with apparent cultural advancement. Both Roman and Greek civilisations had provided the world with contributions to art, science, philosophy, architecture and political systems. Granted, there were aspects of Roman and Greek society and culture that were very unsavoury (Gladiatorial combat and slavery to name a few), but after Rome’s fall and subsequent withdrawal from power, European history is portrayed as taking a ‘wrong turn’. After Petrarch’s disparagement of the ‘dark age’ of literature, other thinkers of the time expanded this term to encompass this perceived dearth of culture in general across Europe between 500 to 1400. These dates are under constant scrutiny by historians as there is a degree of overlap in dates, cultural and regional variations and many other factors. The time is often referred to with terms like the Middle-Ages or Feudal Period (another term that is now contentious amongst medievalists). Later on, as more evidence came to light after the 18th century, scholars started to restrict the term ‘Dark Ages’ to the period between the 5th and 10th centuries. This period came to be referred to as the Early Middle Ages. Busting the ‘Dark Ages’ myth Labelling this large period of history as a time of little cultural advancement and its peoples as unsophisticated is, however, a sweeping generalisation and regularly considered to be incorrect. Indeed, many argue that ‘the Dark Ages’ never truly happened.
In short, there is a popular level broad sense and there is a scholarly debate. The video in the OP addresses the broad sense. kairosfocus
Properly called the Middle Ages they were only named the "Dark Ages" by Enlightenment figures who wanted to inflate their own importance. Recent research has shown that the Middle Ages were a period of enormous advances in science, technology and culture. The compass, paper, printing, stirrups and gunpowder all appeared in Western Europe between AD 500 and AD 1500. Several universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Paris , and Bologna were founded during this period. aarceng
BobRyan - that's not the way it's framed in the UK. The end of the Dark Ages was (roughly) when the Normans invaded. The Christian side of the Arthurian tales, for example, are not emphasised: he's a British (well, English) king, not as Christian king. The Christian tales about Arthur and his knights come across to me as pious writings about Christianity and morality, rather than political statements. Bob O'H
Much of what was written during that time was lost to time with occasional fragments showing up. Catholic Rome wanted to be seen as the saviors, which is why much of what was written following the dark ages is of Rome saving Europe, including Britain. The battles that were believed to have been fought, particularly in Britain, never happened. Below are two of many archaeological discoveries that disprove myth in Britain. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/tintagel-arthur-knights-england-castle-medieval-royalty-merlin-archaeology https://archaeology.co.uk/articles/features/rewriting-the-age-of-arthur.htm BobRyan
I read somewhere that the word "Dark" refers to the fact that we have very little information about that era rather than how "backwards" it might have been. People were too busy taking care of business to write much about what was happening. It's an interesting thought. ronvanwegen
This has inspired me to watch again Kenneth Clark’s series, Civilisation. After the fall of Rome, there was little built in the next two hundred years. It was two Charles’s who saved Europe, Charles Martell and Charlemagne. But it took another hundred + years to finally assimilate the Vikings who settled into various parts of Europe. jerry
BO'H: Dark Ages is often used for the full 1,000 year epoch. If you want to parse down to limited parts, say on relatively poor documentation, it becomes narrower and narrower temporally and geographically. The reality is, the decay and collapse of the W Roman state and associated invasions, plagues, dislocation hit hard. It took 100's of years to recover but by 800 things were looking up, but then we saw further blows, including the Vikings etc. The reality is, breakdown of civilisation has consequences and we often severely underestimate the achievements in the 1,000 years gap to the point where fall of the remnant Roman empire and the discovery of the Americas opened up a transformation. Similarly, there is a tendency to dismiss positive aspects of the Christian heritage and particularly the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic church. The above is an invitation to rethink that popular impression. KF kairosfocus
Yes, the So called Dark Ages were before 1000 AD. But only in a small area. What we call Europe now. Most of the world was/had been in darkness since organized life began so what is called the Dark Ages was only relative to a certain area and only because what preceded it. This was not true universally as the Roman Empire moved East to Constantinople. While there wasn’t an especially enlightened world in the East, it certainly wasn’t the Dark Ages there. But in most of the world there were always Dark Ages and that didn’t change till the last couple centuries as what was discovered/produced in Europe, United States and a few other areas flowed around the globe. Rome and Greece has instituted an era of progress not found in the rest of the world. It was temporarily halted where it began. But parts of it survived elsewhere. What’s amazing is that the seeds of the modern world were born in the place the so called Dark ages took place As far as progress is concerned, it always flowed to a small percentage of the population. That only changed starting in England in the mid 1600’s. Eventually this rapid changed seen first in England and it’s colonies flowed elsewhere as everyone wanted the higher standards of living seen there. But for some places it took up to 300 years and still is absent in many places. The most important part of the video is at the end where he talks about the differences in attitude now. jerry
Weird, almost all of his examples are post-Dark Ages, which ends some time in the 10th Century (in the UK it's taken parochially to be roughly from the fall of Rome to 1066). The implication is that Europe fell into darkness after Rome fell, and only slowly pulled itself out of it once the barbarians had been defeated - the Vikings being the last of these. This is, of course, simplistic. Bob O'H
Re-thinking the “Dark” Ages from 476 – c 1400 kairosfocus

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