Early Middle Ages: Wikis


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Justinian's wife Theodora and her retinue, in a 6th century mosaic from the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
Incipit of the Gelasian Sacramentary in an 8th century manuscript (Vatican Library, Reg. Lat. 316. foll. 131v/132r)

The Early Middle Ages is a term denoting the period of European history between approximately the 5th and 10th centuries.[1] The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages. The period saw a continuation of trends set in Late Antiquity, including a decline in the European population, especially in urban centres, a deterioration of trade, and increasing barbarian migration. In Western Europe the period has been labeled the "Dark Ages", a characterization highlighting the paucity of literary and cultural output from this time. However the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) continued to flourish, and the rise of Islam and the establishment of the caliphates saw the rise of a powerful new civilization.

Many of these trends were reversed later in the period. In 800 the title of Roman Emperor was revived by Charlemagne, whose Carolingian Empire greatly affected later European social structure and history. Europe experienced a return to systematic agriculture in the form of the feudal system, which included such innovations as three-field planting and the heavy plow. Barbarian migration stabilized in much of Europe, though the north was greatly affected by the Viking expansion.


Collapse of Rome (372-410)

Die Hunnen im Kampf mit den Alanen, (The Huns in battle with the Alans), Johann Nepomuk Geiger, 1873. The Alans, an Iranian people who lived north and east of the Black Sea, were Europe's first line of defense against the Asiatic Huns. They were dislocated and settled throughout the Roman Empire.

Starting in the second century, various indicators of Roman civilization began to decline, including urbanization, seaborne commerce, and population. Only 40 percent as many Mediterranean shipwrecks have been found for the third century as for the first.[2] During the period from 150 to 400 the population of the Roman Empire is estimated to have fallen from 65 million to 50 million, a substantial decline of more than 20 percent. Some have connected this to the Migration Period Pessimum (300-700), where there was an increase in global temperatures which impaired agricultural yields.[3]

Early in the third century the Germanic peoples migrated south from Scandinavia and reached the Black Sea, creating formidable confederations which opposed the local Sarmatians. In Romania and the steppes north of the Black Sea, the Goths, a Germanic people, created at least two kingdoms: Therving; and Greuthung.[4]

The arrival of the Huns in 372-375 ended the history of these kingdoms. The Huns were a confederation of central Asian tribes who founded an empire with a Turkic-speaking aristocracy. They had mastered the difficult art of shooting composite recurve bows from horseback. The Goths sought refuge in Roman territory (376) agreeing to enter the Empire as unarmed settlers, however many bribed the Danube border guards into allowing them to bring their weapons.

The discipline and organization of a Roman legion made it a superb fighting entity. Strategically the Romans preferred infantry to cavalry because infantry would retain their formation in combat, whilst cavalry tended to scatter during the heat of battle. Unlike a barbarian army, the financial overheads of the Roman legions were a substantial drain on the empire's coffers, where soldiers required constant training, equipment, food and salaries. And so the financial burdens of running an empire, coupled with a decline in agricultural and economic activity, reducing the empire's taxable income, saw the empire increasingly struggle under the economic and political strain.

The Germanic migrations of the fifth century were triggered by the destruction of the Gothic kingdoms by the Huns in 372-375. The city of Rome was captured and looted by the Visigoths in 410 followed by the Vandals in 455

. In the Gothic War (376-382), the Goths revolted and confronted the main Roman army in the Battle of Adrianople (378). Not wanting to share the glory, Eastern Emperor Valens ordered an attack on the Therving infantry under Fritigern without waiting for Western Emperor Gratian, who was on the way with reinforcements. While the Romans were fully engaged, the Greuthung cavalry arrived. Only one-third of the Roman army managed to escape. It was the most shattering defeat that the Romans had suffered since Cannae, according to the Roman military writer Ammianus Marcellinus. The core army of the eastern empire was destroyed, Valens was killed, and the Goths were freed to lay waste the Balkans, including the armories along the Danube. As Edward Gibbon comments, "The Romans, who so coolly and so concisely mention the acts of justice which were exercised by the legions, reserve their compassion and their eloquence for their own sufferings, when the provinces were invaded and desolated by the arms of the successful Barbarians."[5]

The empire lacked the resources, and perhaps the will, to reconstruct the professional mobile army that had been destroyed at Adrianople, so it was forced to rely on barbarian armies to fight for it. The Eastern Roman Empire was able to buy off the Goths with tribute. The Western Roman Empire was less fortunate. Stilicho, the western empire's half-Vandal military commander, stripped the Rhine frontier of troops to fend off invasions of Italy by the Visigoths in 402-03 and by other Goths in 406-07.

Fleeing before the advance of the Huns, the Vandals, Suebi, and Alans launched an attack across the frozen Rhine near Mainz; on 31 December, 406, the frontier gave way and these tribes surged into Gaul. They were soon followed by the Burgundians and by bands of the Alamanni. In the fit of anti-barbarian hysteria which followed, Emperor Honorius had Stilicho summarily beheaded (408). Stilicho submitted his neck, "with a firmness not unworthy of the last of the Roman generals," wrote Gibbon. Honorius was left with only worthless courtiers to advise him. In 410, the Visigoths led by Alaric I captured the city of Rome and for three days there were fire and slaughter as bodies filled the streets, palaces were stripped of their valuables, and those thought to have hidden wealth were interrogated and tortured. As newly converted Christians, the Goths respected church property. But those who found sanctuary in the Vatican and in other churches were the fortunate few.

Migration Period (400-700)

The Mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna is the only extant example of Ostrogothic architecture.

The Goths and Vandals were only the first of many waves of invaders that flooded Western Europe. Some lived only for war and pillage and disdained Roman ways. Others admired Rome and wished to become its heirs. "A poor Roman plays the Goth, a rich Goth the Roman" said King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths.[6]

The subjects of the Roman empire were Catholics, the disciplined subjects of a long-established bureaucratic empire. The Germanic peoples knew little of cities, money, or writing. They were recent converts to Arian Christianity and were thus heretics to the churchmen of the empire.

The aera of the migrations or Völkerwanderung (wandering of the peoples). The earlier settled population was left intact or only partially displaced. Whereas the peoples of France, Italy, and Spain continued to speak the dialects of Latin that today constitute the Romance languages, the language of the smaller Roman-era population of what is now England disappeared with barely a trace in the territories conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, although the Brittanic kingdoms of the west remained Brythonic speakers. The new peoples greatly altered established society, including law, culture, religion, and patterns of property ownership.

Around 500, the Visigoths ruled large parts of what is now France, Spain and Portugal.

The pax Romana had provided safe conditions for trade and manufacture, and a unified cultural and educational milieu of far-ranging connections. As this was lost, it was replaced by the rule of local potentates, sometimes members of the established Romanized ruling elite, sometimes new lords of alien culture. In Aquitania, Gallia Narbonensis, southern Italy and Sicily, Baetica or southern Spain, and the Iberian Mediterranean coast, Roman culture lasted until the sixth or seventh centuries.

Everywhere, the gradual break-down of economic and social linkages and infrastructure resulted in increasingly localized outlooks. This breakdown was often fast and dramatic as it became unsafe to travel or carry goods over any distance; there was a consequent collapse in trade and manufacture for export. Major industries that depended on trade, such as large-scale pottery manufacture, vanished almost overnight in places like Britain. Tintagel in Cornwall, as well as several other centres, managed to obtain supplies of Mediterranean luxury goods well into the sixth century, but then lost their trading links. Administrative, educational and military infrastructure quickly vanished, and the loss of the established cursus honorum led to the collapse of the schools and to a rise of illiteracy even among the leadership. The careers of Cassiodorus (died c. 585) at the beginning of this period and of Alcuin of York (died 804) at its close were founded alike on their valued literacy.

For the formerly Roman area, there was another 20 percent decline in population between 400 and 600, or a one-third decline for 150-600.[7] In the eighth century, the volume of trade reached its lowest level since the Bronze Age. The very small number of shipwrecks found that dated from the 8th century supports this (which represents less than 2 percent of the number of shipwrecks dated from the first century). There were also reforestation and a retreat of agriculture that centred around 500. This phenomenon coincided with a period of rapid cooling, according to tree ring data.[8] The Romans had practised two-field agriculture, with a crop grown in one field and the other left fallow and ploughed under to eliminate weeds. With the gradual breakup of the institutions of the empire, owners were unable to stop their slaves from running away and the plantation system broke down. Systematic agriculture largely disappeared and yields declined to subsistence level.

For almost a thousand years, Rome was the most politically important, richest and largest city in the world.[9] Around AD 100, it had a population of about 450,000.[10] Its population declined to a mere 20,000 during the Early Middle Ages, reducing the sprawling city to groups of inhabited buildings interspersed among large areas of ruins and vegetation.

Smallpox did not definitively enter Western Europe until about 581 when Bishop Gregory of Tours provided an eyewitness account that describes the characteristic findings of smallpox.[11] Waves of epidemics wiped out large rural populations.[12] Most of the details about the epidemics are lost, probably due to the scarcity of surviving written records.

It is estimated that the Plague of Justinian killed as many as 100 million people across the world.[13] Some historians such as Josiah C. Russell (1958) have suggested a total European population loss of 50 to 60 percent between 541 and 700.[14] After 750, major epidemic diseases did not appear again in Europe until the Black Death of the 14th century.

Byzantine Empire

The death of Theodosius I in 395 was followed by the division of the empire between his two sons. The Western Roman Empire disintegrated into a mosaic of warring Germanic kingdoms in the fifth century, making the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople the legal successor to the classical Roman Empire. After Greek replaced Latin as the official language of the Empire, historians refer to the empire as "Byzantine." Westerners would gradually begin to refer to it as "Greek" rather than "Roman." The inhabitants, however, always called themselves Romaioi, or Romans.

Under Emperor Justinian (r. 527-65), the Byzantines were able to reestablish Roman rule in Italy and North Africa

The Eastern Roman Empire aimed at retaining control of the trade routes between Europe and the Orient, which made the Empire the richest polity in Europe. Making use of their sophisticated warfare and superior diplomacy, the Byzantines managed to fend off assaults by the migrating barbarians. Their dreams of subduing the Western potentates briefly materialized during the reign of Justinian I in 527-565. Not only did Justinian restore some western territories to the Roman Empire, but he also codified Roman law (with his codification remaining in force in many areas of Europe until the 19th century) and built the largest and the most technically advanced edifice of the Early Middle Ages, the Hagia Sophia. A pandemic, the Plague of Justinian, however, marred Justinian's reign, infecting the Emperor, killing perhaps 40% of the people in Constantinople, and contributing to Europe's early medieval population decline.

Justinian's successors Maurice and Heraclius had to confront invasions of the Avar and Slavic tribes. After the devastations by the Slavs and the Avars, large areas of the Balkans became depopulated. In 626 Constantinople, by far the largest city of early medieval Europe, withstood a combined siege by Avars and Persians. Within several decades, Heraclius completed a holy war against the Persians by taking their capital and having a Sassanid monarch assassinated. Yet Heraclius lived to see his spectacular success undone by the Arab conquest of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa which was considerably facilitated by religious disunity and the proliferation of heretical movements (notably Monophysitism and Nestorianism) in the areas converted to Islam.

Although Heraclius's successors managed to salvage Constantinople from two Arab sieges (in 674-77 and 717), the empire of the 8th and early 9th century was rocked by the great Iconoclastic Controversy, punctuated by dynastic struggles between various factions at court. The Bulgar and Slavic tribes profited from these disorders and invaded Illyria, Thrace and even Greece (which they called Morea). After the decisive victory at Ongala in 680 the armies of the Bulgars and Slavs advanced to the south of the Balkan mountains, defeating again the Byzantines who were then forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty which acknowledged the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire on the borders of the Empire.

To counter these threats, a new system of administration was introduced. The regional civil and military administration were combined in the hands of a general, or strategos. A theme, which formerly denoted a subdivision of the Byzantine army, came to refer to a region governed by a strategos. The reform led to the emergence of great landed families which controlled the regional military and often pressed their claims to the throne (see Bardas Phocas and Bardas Sklerus for characteristic examples).

By the early eighth century, notwithstanding the shrinking territory of the empire, Constantinople remained the largest and the wealthiest city of the entire world, comparable only to Sassanid Ctesiphon, and later Abassid Baghdad. The population of the imperial capital fluctuated between 300,000 and 400,000 as the emperors undertook measures to restrain its growth. The only other large Christian cities were Rome (50,000) and Salonika (30,000).[15] Even before the eighth century was out, the Farmer's Law signalled the resurrection of agricultural technologies in the Greek Empire. As the 2006 Encyclopædia Britannica noted, "the technological base of Byzantine society was more advanced than that of contemporary western Europe: iron tools could be found in the villages; water mills dotted the landscape; and field-sown beans provided a diet rich in protein".[1]

An ivory plaque representing Christ crowning Constantine VII (ca. 945).

The ascension of the Macedonian dynasty in 867 marked the end of the period of political and religious turmoil and introduced a new golden age of the empire. While the talented generals such as Nicephorus Phocas expanded the frontiers, the Macedonian emperors (such as Leo the Wise and Constantine VII) presided over the cultural flowering in Constantinople, known as the Macedonian Renaissance. The enlightened Macedonian rulers scorned the rulers of Western Europe as illiterate barbarians and maintained a nominal claim to rule over the West. Although this fiction had been exploded with the coronation of Charlemagne in Rome (800), the Byzantine rulers did not treat their Western counterparts as equals. Generally, they had little interest in the political and economical developments in the barbarian (from their point of view) West.

Against this economic background, the culture and the imperial traditions of the Eastern Roman Empire attracted its northern neighbours — Slavs, Bulgars, and Khazars — to Constantinople, in search of either pillage or enlightenment. The movement of the Germanic tribes to the south triggered the great migration of the Slavs, who occupied the vacated territories. In the seventh century, they moved westward to the Elbe, southward to the Danube and eastward to the Dnieper. By the 9th century, the Slavs had expanded into sparsely inhabited territories to the south and east from these natural frontiers, peacefully assimilating the indigenous Illyrian and Finno-Ugric populations.

Rise of Islam (632-750)

The Arab Empire expanded explosively between 632 and 750.      Expansion under the Prophet Mohammad, 622-632      Expansion during the Patriarchal Caliphate, 632-661      Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750

Following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Abū Bakr (r. 632-34) became the first khalīfah or caliph of a newly unified polity under the Islamic faith in the Arabian peninsula. The early Rashidun caliphs were both head of state and supreme religious authority while the later caliphs came to be seen as the political leader of Muslims. The early caliphs were chosen by a shūrā, or council, in the same way that the head of an Arabian tribe or clan would be chosen. Abū Bakr launched a campaign in the ridda wars which brought central Arabia under Muslim control. (633)

'Umar I (r.634-44), the second caliph, proclaimed himself "commander of the faithful" (amīr al-mu 'minīn). In the 630s, he brought Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq under Muslim control. Egypt was taken from the Byzantines in 645 by 'Uthmān, the third caliph. Abū Bakr, 'Umar I, 'Uthmān, and his successor Alī are remembered as the "rightly guided caliphs" who presided over a golden age of pure Islam.

Alī's caliphate started amid political controversy over the murder of Uthman and sparked a power struggle and the First Islamic civil war led by Mu'āwiyah, governor of Syria. When Alī, son-in-law of Muhammad, was killed while praying in Kufah, Iraq, Mu'āwiyah established the Ummayyad dynasty of caliphs (661–750) with Damascus as its capital. Those who supported 'Alī, his son Husayn(who led a revolt against the Ummayyads), and their descendants would eventually became the Shī'ite sect. Under 'Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705), the Ummayyads reached their peak, conquering Central Asia, coastal North Africa, and Spain. Al-Malik also Arabized the state with Arabs replacing the Greek and Persian civil servants.

The 10th-century Grand Mosque of Cordoba.

The conquest of Iberia began when the Moors (mostly Berbers with some Arabs) invaded the Christian Visigothic Iberia in the year 711, under their Berber leader Tariq ibn Ziyad. They landed at Gibraltar on 30 April and worked their way northward. Tariq's forces were joined the next year by those of his superior, Musa ibn Nusair. During the eight-year campaign most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Muslim rule — save for small areas in the northwest (Asturias) and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. This territory, under the Arab name Al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire.

The unsuccessful second siege of Constantinople (717) weakened the Umayyads and reduced their prestige. After their success in overrunning Iberia, the conquerors moved northeast across the Pyrenees, but were defeated by the Frankish leader Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. The Umayyads were overthrown in 750 by the 'Abbāsids and most of the Umayyad clan massacred.

A surviving Umayyad prince, Abd-ar-rahman I, escaped to Spain and founded a new Umayyad dynasty in the Emirate of Cordoba, (756). Charles Martel's son, Pippin the Short retook Narbonne, and his grandson Charlemagne established the Marca Hispanica across the Pyrenees in part of what today is Catalonia, reconquering Girona in 785 and Barcelona in 801.

The unified Muslim caliphate disintegrated over the course of the ninth century as the Idrisids and Aghlabids of North Africa and the Samanids of Persia gained independence. Eventually, the Shiite Fatimids set up a rival caliphate in Tunisia (920). The Umayyids in Spain soon proclaimed themselves caliphs as well (929). The Buwayhids (Persian Shiites) gained control of Baghdad in 934. In 972, the Fatimids conquered Egypt.

Resurgence of the Latin West (700-850)

Until his death in 814, Charlemagne ruled an empire which included modern Catalonia, France, western Germany, the Low Countries, and northern Italy.

Conditions in Western Europe began to improve after 700 as Europe experienced an agricultural boom that would continue until at least 1100.[16] A study of limestone deposited in the Mediterranean seabed concludes that there was a substantial increase in solar radiation received between 600 and 900.[17] The first signs of Europe's recovery on the battlefield were the defense of Constantinople in 717 and the victory of the Franks over the Arabs at the Battle of Poitiers in 732.

Between the fifth and eighth centuries a political and social infrastructure developed across the lands of the former empire, based upon powerful regional noble families, and the newly established kingdoms of the Ostrogoths in Italy, Visigoths in Spain and Portugal, Franks and Burgundians in Gaul and western Germany. These lands remained Christian, and their Arian conquerors were converted (Visigoths and Lombards) or conquered (Ostrogoths and Vandals). The Franks converted directly from paganism to Catholic Christianity under Clovis I.

The interaction between the culture of the newcomers, their warband loyalties, the remnants of classical culture, and Christian influences, produced a new model for society, based in part on feudal obligations. The centralized administrative systems of the Romans did not withstand the changes, and the institutional support for chattel slavery largely disappeared. The Anglo-Saxons in England also started to convert from heathenism with the arrival of Christian missionaries around the year 600. Unlike that of the France, two major forms of Christianity existed in England, Roman Catholicism in the south and Celtic Christianity in the north. This came to a head at the Synod of Whitby in 664 after which Roman practices proved to be dominant.


The Lombards, who first entered Italy in 568 under Alboin, carved out a state in the north, with its capital at Pavia. At first, they were unable to conquer the Exarchate of Ravenna, the Ducatus Romanus, and Calabria and Apulia. The next two hundred years were occupied in trying to conquer these territories from the Byzantine Empire.

The Lombard state was truly barbarian in custom compared with the earlier Germanic states of Western Europe. It was highly decentralized at first, with the territorial dukes having practical sovereignty in their duchies, especially in the southern duchies of Spoleto and Benevento. For a decade following the death of Cleph in 575, the Lombards did not even elect a king; this period is called the Rule of the Dukes. The first written legal code was composed in poor Latin in 643: the Edictum Rothari. It was primarily the codification of the oral legal tradition of the people.

The Lombard state was well-organized and stabilized by the end of the long reign of Liutprand (717–744), but its collapse was sudden. Unsupported by the dukes, King Desiderius was defeated and forced to surrender his kingdom to Charlemagne in 774. The Lombard kingdom ended and a period of Frankish rule was initiated. The Frankish king Pepin the Short had, by the Donation of Pepin, given the pope the "Papal States" and the territory north of that swath of papally-governed land was ruled primarily by Lombard and Frankish vassals of the Holy Roman Emperor until the rise of the city-states in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

In the south, a period of anarchy began. The duchy of Benevento maintained its sovereignty in the face of the pretensions of both the Western and Eastern Empires. In the ninth century, the Muslims conquered Sicily and began settling in the peninsula. The coastal cities on the Tyrrhenian Sea departed from Byzantine allegiance. Various states owing various nominal allegiances fought constantly over territory until events came to a head in the early eleventh century with the coming of the Normans, who conquered the whole of the south by the end of the century.


An Anglo-Saxon parade helmet from Sutton Hoo (7th century AD).

In the mid-5th century several tribes from modern Germany, Holland, and Denmark began sporadic and marginally successful invasions of Britain, at that point a neglected Roman province. Traditionally, two Jutish chieftains named Hengest and Horsa were promised land by the powerful British king Vortigern in exchange for routing the warlike Pict tribe. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, after they defeated the Picts, "They sent to Angeln and called on them to send more forces, and to tell people about the worthlessness of the Britons and the merits of their land." This marked the beginning of decades of invasion and conquest of southern and central Britain, by such Germanic peoples as the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons. At least 50 percent of England's original Celtic inhabitants were killed off in the process.[18]

The Anglo-Saxons eventually established several kingdoms of differing longevity and significance. King Alfred the Great (871-899) of Wessex led Anglo-Saxon resistance to the invading Danish forces. The unification of England was completed in 926 when Northumbria was annexed by King Athelstan, a grandson of Alfred.

Frankish Empire

Charlemagne crowned in Rome.

The Merovingians established themselves in the power vacuum of the former Roman provinces in Gaul, and Chlodwig I following his victory over the Alemanni at the Battle of Tolbiac (496) converted to Christianity, laying the foundation of the Frankish Empire, the dominant state of medieval Western Christendom.

Starting with the Frankish realms at the beginning of the ninth century, Charlemagne united much of modern day France, western Germany and northern Italy into the Carolingian Empire. Scholarship and Classical learning flourished under Charlemagne leading to what twentieth-century historians called the "Carolingian Renaissance".

The 840s saw renewed disorder, with the breakup of the Frankish Empire and the beginning of a new cycle of barbarian raids, at first by the Vikings and later by the Magyars.[19]


Around 800, there was a return to systematic agriculture in the form of the open field, or strip, system. A manor would have several fields, each subdivided into one-acre strips of land. This was considered to be the amount of land an ox could plough before taking a rest, according to one theory. Another possibility is that the holdings were originally rectangular and were split into strips because of the way land was inherited[citation needed]. In the idealized form of the system, each family got thirty such strips of land. The three-field system of crop rotation was first developed in the ninth century: wheat or rye was planted in one field, the second field had a nitrogen-fixing crop (barley, oats, peas, or beans), and third was fallow.[20]

Compared to the earlier two-field system, a three-field system allows for significantly more land to be put under cultivation. Even more important, the system allows for two harvests a year, reducing the risk that a single crop failure will lead to famine. Three-field agriculture creates a surplus of oats that can be used to feed horses.[21] Because the system required a major rearrangement of real estate and the social order, it took until the 11th century before it came into general use. The heavy wheeled plough was introduced in the late 10th century. It required greater animal power and promoted the use of teams of oxen. Illuminated manuscripts depict two-wheeled ploughs with both a mouldboard, or curved metal ploughshare, and a coulter, a vertical blade in front of the ploughshare. The Romans had used light, wheelless ploughs with flat iron shares that often proved unequal to the heavy soils of northern Europe.

The return to systemic agriculture coincided with the introduction of a new social system called feudalism. This system featured a hierarchy of reciprocal obligations. Each man was bound to serve his superior in return for the latter's protection. This made for confusion of territorial sovereignty since allegiances were subject to change over time, and were sometimes mutually contradictory. Feudalism allowed the state to provide a degree of public safety despite the continued absence of bureaucracy and written records. Even land ownership disputes were decided based solely on oral testimony. Territoriality was reduced to a network of personal allegiances.

Viking Age (793-1066)

Map showing area of Scandinavian settlement in the 8th (dark red), 9th (red), 10th (orange) and 11th (yellow) centuries. Green denotes areas subjected to frequent Viking raids.

The Viking Age spans the period between AD 793 and 1066 in Scandinavia and Britain, following the Germanic Iron Age (and the Vendel Age in Sweden). During this period, the Vikings, Scandinavian warriors and traders, raided and explored most parts of Europe, south-western Asia, northern Africa and north-eastern North America. Apart from exploring Europe by way of its oceans and rivers with the aid of their advanced navigational skills and extending their trading routes across vast parts of the continent, they also engaged in warfare and looted and enslaved numerous Christian communities of Medieval Europe for centuries, contributing to the development of feudal systems in Europe.

Eastern Europe 600-1000

Kievan Rus'

Before the rise of the Kievan Rus, the eastern frontier of Europe had been dominated by the Khazars, a Turkic people who had gained independence from the Turkic Khaganate by the seventh century. Khazaria was a multiethnic commercial state which derived its well-being from control of river trade between Europe and the Orient. The Khazars also exacted tribute from the Alani, Magyars, various Slavic tribes, the Goths and Greeks of Crimea. Through a network of Jewish itinerant merchants, or Radhanites, they were in contact with the trade emporiums of India and Spain.

Magyar campaigns in the 10th century. Most European nations were praying for mercy: "Sagittis hungarorum libera nos Domine" - "Lord save us from the arrows of Hungarians"

Once they found themselves confronted by Arab expansionism, the Khazars pragmatically allied themselves with Constantinople and clashed with the Caliphate. Despite initial setbacks, they managed to recover Derbent and eventually penetrated as far south as Caucasian Iberia, Caucasian Albania and Armenia. In doing so, they effectively blocked the northward expansion of Islam into Eastern Europe several decades before Charles Martel achieved the same in Western Europe.[22]

In the 7th century, the northern littoral of the Black Sea was hit with a fresh wave of nomadic attacks, led by the Bulgars, who established a powerful khanate of Great Bulgaria under the leadership of Kubrat. The Khazars managed to oust the Bulgars from Southern Ukraine into the middle reaches of the Volga (Volga Bulgaria) and into the lower reaches of the Danube (Danube Bulgaria, or the First Bulgarian Empire). The Danube Bulgars were quickly Slavicized and, despite constant campaigning against Constantinople, accepted the Greek form of Christianity. Through the efforts of two local missionaries, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, the first Slavic alphabet came into being and a vernacular dialect, now known as Old Church Slavonic, was established as a language of books and liturgy.

Pursuit of Svyatoslav I's warriors by the Byzantine army, a miniature from John Skylitzes.

To the north from the Byzantine periphery, the first attested Slavic polity was Great Moravia, which emerged under the aegis of the Frankish Empire in the early 9th century. Moravia was a stage for confrontation between the Christian missionaries from Constantinople and from Rome. Although the West Slavs eventually acknowledged the Roman ecclesiastical authority, the clergy of Constantinople succeeded in converting into the Greek faith the largest state of contemporary Europe, Kievan Rus, towards 990. Led by a Varangian dynasty, the Kievan Rus controlled the routes connecting Northern Europe to Byzantium and the Orient. Great Moravia was ultimately overrun by the Magyars, who invaded the Pannonian Basin around 896.

Both before and after the Christianization, the Rus staged predatory raids against Constantinople, some of which resulted in the trade treaties which benefitted both sides. The importance of Russo-Byzantine relations is highlighted by the fact that Vladimir I of Kiev was the only foreigner who married a Byzantine princess of the Macedonian dynasty, a singular honour which many rulers of Western Europe sought in vain. The military campaigns of Vladimir's father, Svyatoslav I, had crushed the statehood of two strongest powers of Eastern Europe, namely the Bulgars and the Khazars.

Bulgarian Empire

Ceramic icon of St Theodore from around 900, found in Preslav

In 681 the Bulgars founded a powerful state which played a major role in Europe and specifically in South Eastern Europe until its fall under Turkish rule in 1396. In 718 the Bulgars decisively defeated the Arabs near Constantinople, and their ruler Khan Tervel became known as "The Saviour of Europe"[23][24][25][26] . Bulgaria effectively stopped the barbarian tribes (Pechenegs, Khazars) from migrating further to the west and in 806 destroyed the Avar Khanate. Under Simeon I (893-927), the state was the largest in Europe, threatening the existence of Byzantium.

After the adoption of Christianity in 864, Bulgaria became the cultural and spiritual centre of the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world. The Cyrillic alphabet was invented by the Bulgarian scholar Clement of Ohrid in 885. Literature, art and architecture were thriving with the establishment of the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools, and the Preslav Ceramics School. In 927 the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was the first European national Church to gain independence with its own Patriarch.

Transmission of learning

With the end of the Western Roman Empire and urban centres in decline, literacy and learning decreased in the West. Education became the preserve of monasteries and cathedrals. A "Renaissance" of classical education would appear in Carolingian Empire in the 8th century. In the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), learning (in the sense of formal education involving literature) was maintained at a higher level than in the West. Further to the east, Islam conquered many of the Eastern Patriarchates, and it outstripped Christian lands in science, philosophy, and other intellectual endeavors in a "golden age" of learning.

Classical education

The classical education system, which would persist for hundreds of years, emphasized grammar, Latin, Greek, and rhetoric. Pupils read and reread classic works and wrote essays imitating their style. By the fourth century, this education system was Christianized. In De Doctrina Christiana (started 396, completed 426), Augustine explained how classical education fits into the Christian worldview. Christianity was a religion of the book, so Christians must be literate. Tertullian was more sceptical of the value of classical learning, asking "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" But even he did not object to Christian enrollment in classical schools. Plato's Academy and other remaining classical schools were closed by the emperor Justinian in AD 529 and non-Christian philosophy was banned. Charles Freeman argues that "The conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity in 312AD.. ..turned Rome from the relatively open, tolerant and pluralistic civilisation of the Hellenistic world, towards a culture that was based on the rule of fixed authority".[27] From that date education was required to conform with Imperially-sanctioned church doctrine.

Decline in the West

In the Early Middle Ages, cultural life was concentrated at monasteries.

De-urbanization reduced the scope of education and by the sixth century teaching and learning moved to monastic and cathedral schools, with the centre of education being the study of the Bible.[28] Education of the laity survived modestly in Italy, Spain, and the southern part of Gaul, where Roman influences were most long-lasting. However, in the seventh century, learning began to emerge in Ireland and the Celtic lands, where Latin was a foreign language and Latin texts were eagerly studied and taught.[29]


In the ancient world, Greek was the primary language of science. Advanced scientific research and teaching was mainly carried on in the Hellenistic side of the Roman empire, in Greek. Late Roman attempts to translate Greek writings into Latin had limited success.[30] As the knowledge of Greek declined, the Latin West found itself cut off from its Greek philosophical and scientific roots. For a time, Latin-speakers who wanted to learn about science had access to only a couple of books by Boethius (c. 470-524) that summarized Greek handbooks by Nicomachus of Gerasa. Saint Isidore of Seville produced a Latin encyclopedia in 630.

The leading scholars of the early centuries were clergymen for whom the study of nature was but a small part of their interest. The study of nature was pursued more for practical reasons than as an abstract inquiry: the need to care for the sick led to the study of medicine and of ancient texts on drugs,[31] the need for monks to determine the proper time to pray led them to study the motion of the stars,[32] the need to compute the date of Easter led them to study and teach rudimentary mathematics and the motions of the Sun and Moon.[33] Modern readers may find it disconcerting that sometimes the same works discuss both the technical details of natural phenomena and their symbolic significance.[34]

Carolingian Renaissance

Around 800, there was renewed interest in Classical Antiquity as part of the Carolingian Renaissance. Charles the Great carried out a reform in education. The English monk Alcuin of York elaborated a project of scholarly development aimed at resuscitating classical knowledge by establishing programmes of study based upon the seven liberal arts: the trivium, or literary education (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic) and the quadrivium, or scientific education (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music). From the year 787 on, decrees began to circulate recommending, in the whole empire, the restoration of old schools and the founding of new ones.

Institutionally, these new schools were either under the responsibility of a monastery, a cathedral or a noble court. The real significance of these measures would only be felt centuries later. The teaching of dialectic (a discipline that corresponds to today's logic) was responsible for the rebirth of the interest in speculative inquiry; from this interest would follow the rise of the Scholastic tradition of Christian philosophy. In the 12th and 13th century, many of those schools founded under the auspices of Charles the Great, especially cathedral schools, would become universities.

Byzantium and its golden age

Miniature from the Paris Psalter, a striking testimony to the tenth-century Byzantine cultural revival.

Byzantium's great intellectual achievement was the Corpus Juris Civilis ("Body of Civil Law"), a massive compilation of Roman law made under Justinian (r. 528-65). The work includes a section called the Digesta which abstracts the principles of Roman law in such a way that they can be applied to any situation. The level of literacy was considerably higher in the Byzantine Empire than in the Latin West. Elementary education was much more widely available, sometimes even in the countryside. Secondary schools still taught the Iliad and other classics.

As for higher education, the Neoplatonic Academy in Athens was closed in 526 due to its paganism. There was also a school in Alexandria which remained open until the Arab conquest (640). The University of Constantinople, originally founded by Emperor Theodosius II (425), may have dissolved around this time. It was refounded by Emperor Michael III in 849. Higher education in this period focused on rhetoric, although Aristotle's logic was covered in simple outline. Under the Macedonian dynasty (867–1025), Byzantium enjoyed a golden age and a revival of classical learning. There was little original research, but many lexicons, anthologies, encyclopaedias, and commentaries.

Christianity West and East

From the early Christians, early medieval Christians inherited a church united by major creeds, a stable Biblical canon, and a well-developed philosophical tradition.

During the early Middle Ages, the divide between Eastern and Western Christianity widened, paving the way for the East-West Schism in the 11th century. In the West, the power of the Bishop of Rome expanded. In 607, Boniface III became the first Bishop of Rome to use the title Pope. Pope Gregory the Great used his office as a temporal power, expanded Rome's missionary efforts to the British Isles, and laid the foundations for the expansion of monastic orders.

In the East, the conquests of Islam reduced the power of the Greek-speaking patriarchates.

Celtic Christianity comprised a separate Christian tradition in the British Isles.

Christianization of the West

Book of Kells, c. 800

The Roman Catholic Church, the only centralized institution to survive the fall of the Western Roman Empire intact, was the sole unifying cultural influence in the West, selectively preserving some Latin learning, maintaining the art of writing, and preserving a centralized administration through its network of bishops ordained in succession. The Early Middle Ages are characterized by the urban control of bishops and the territorial control exercised by dukes and counts. The rise of urban communes marked the beginning of the High Middle Ages.

The Christianization of Germanic tribes began in the fourth century with the Goths, and continued throughout the Early Middle Ages, in the sixth to seventh centuries led by the Hiberno-Scottish mission, replaced in the eighth to ninth centuries by the Anglo-Saxon mission, with Anglo-Saxons like Alcuin playing an important role in the Carolingian renaissance. By AD 1000, even Iceland became Christian, leaving only more remote parts of Europe (Scandinavia, the Baltic and Finno-Ugric lands) to be Christianized during the High Middle Ages.


See also: Historical urban community sizes.

Urban planner Tertius Chandler has made a survey of city sizes through history.[35] For the period considered here, the largest cities in the world were: Constantinople (340-570), Ctesiphon of the Sassanids (570-637), Changan in China (637-775), Baghdad (775-935), and Cordoba (935-1013).[2]

These are Chandler's estimates for the largest cities in the Europe and Middle East (in units of one thousand inhabitants):

  • AD 361 Constantinople (300), Ctesiphon (250), Rome (150), Antioch (150), Alexandria (125).
  • AD 500 Constantinople (400), Ctesiphon (400), Antioch (150), Carthage (100), Rome (100).
  • AD 622 Ctesiphon (500), Constantinople (350), Alexandria (94), Aleppo (72), Rayy (68).
  • AD 800 Baghdad (700), Constantinople (250), Cordoba (160), Basra (100), Fostat (100) — cf. Rome (50), Paris (25).
  • AD 900 Baghdad (900), Constantinople (300), Cordoba (200), Alexandria (175), Fostat (150) — cf. Rome (40).
  • AD 1000 Cordoba (450), Constantinople (300), Cairo (135), Baghdad (125), Nishapur (125) — cf. Rome (35), Paris (20).

Chandler’s default assumption is 10,000 inhabitants/km². Muslim cities are thought to have had higher population densities. A city is defined as a continuously inhabited area.

Foundation of the Holy Roman Empire (10th century)

Under Otto I, the Holy Roman Empire included Germany, northern Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands

Listless and often ill, Carolingian Emperor Charles the Fat provoked an uprising led by his nephew Arnulf of Carinthia which resulted in the division of the empire into the kingdoms of France, Germany, and (northern) Italy (887). Taking advantage of the weakness of the German government, the Magyars had established themselves in the Alföld, or Hungarian grasslands, and began raiding across Germany, Italy, and even France. The German nobles elected Henry the Fowler, duke of Saxony, their king at a Reichstag, or national assembly, in Fritzlar in 919. Henry's power was only marginally greater than that of the other leaders of the stem duchies, which were the feudal expression of the former German tribes.

Henry's son King Otto I (r. 936-973) was able to defeat a revolt of the dukes supported by French King Louis IV (939). In 951, Otto marched into Italy and married the widowed Queen Adelaide, named himself king of the Lombards, and received homage from Berengar of Ivrea, king of Italy (r. 950-52). Otto named his relatives the new leaders of the stem duchies, but this approach didn't completely solve the problem of disloyalty. His son Liudolf, duke of Swabia, revolted and welcomed the Magyars into Germany (953). At Lechfeld, near Augsburg in Bavaria, Otto caught up the Magyars while they were enjoying a razzia and achieved a signal victory (955). After this, the Magyars ceased to be a nation that lived on plunder and their leaders created a Christian kingdom called Hungary (1000). Otto, his prestige greatly enhanced, marched into Italy again and was crowned emperor (imperator augustus) by Pope John XII in Rome (962).

Historians count this event as the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, although the term was not used until much later. The Ottonian state is also considered the first Reich, or German Empire. Otto used the imperial title without attaching it to any territory. He and later emperors thought of themselves as part of a continuous line of emperors that begins with Charlemagne. (Several of these "emperors" were simply local Italian magnates who bullied the pope into crowning them.) Otto deposed John XII for conspiring with Berengar against him and named Pope Leo VIII to replace him (963). Berengar was captured and taken to Germany. John was able to reverse the deposition after Otto left, but died in the arms of his mistress soon afterwards.

Besides founding the German Empire, Otto's achievements include the creation of the "Ottonian church system," in which the clergy (the only literate section of the population) assumed the duties of an imperial civil service. He raised the papacy out of the muck of Rome's local gangster politics, assured that the position was competently filled, and gave it a dignity that allowed it to assume leadership of an international church.

Europe in AD 1000

A 9th-century Viking longship excavated in 1882.

Speculation that the world would end in the year 1000 was confined to a few uneasy French monks.[36] Ordinary clerks used regnal years, i.e. the 4th year of the reign of Robert II (the Pious) of France. The use of the modern "anno domini" system of dating was confined to the Venerable Bede and other chroniclers of universal history.

With nearly the entire nation freshly ravaged by the Vikings, England was in a desperate state. The long-suffering English later responded with a massacre of Danish settlers in 1002, leading to a round of reprisals and finally to Danish rule (1013). But Christianization made rapid progress and proved itself the long-term solution to the problem of barbarian raiding. Scandinavia had been recently Christianized and the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark established. Kievan Rus, recently converted to Orthodox Christianity, flourished as the largest state in Europe. Iceland and Hungary were both declared Christian about AD 1000.

In Europe, a more formalised institution of marriage was established among the nobility.[37][citation needed] North of Italy, where masonry construction was never extinguished, stone construction was replacing timber in important structures. Deforestation of the densely wooded continent was under way. The tenth century marked a return of urban life, with the Italian cities doubling in population. London, abandoned for many centuries, was again England's main economic centre by 1000. By 1000, Bruges and Ghent held regular trade fairs behind castle walls, a tentative return of economic life to western Europe.

This time also marks the disintegration of the Muslim Caliphate, an imposing and united rival only a century before. Muslim unity was hobbled by the divisions between Shiite and Sunni conflicts as well as Arab Persian ones. At this time, there were three caliphs, an Umayyid caliph in Spain, an Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, and a Shiite (Fatimid) caliph in Egypt. The population of Baghdad, the Abbasid capital, had shrunk to 125,000 (compared to 900,000 in AD 900).[38] The Umayyids were still strong and assertive in 1000, but declined rapidly after 1002 and disappeared entirely by 1031.

In the culture of Europe, several features surfaced soon after 1000 that mark the end of the Early Middle Ages: the rise of the medieval communes, the reawakening of city life, and the appearance of the burgher class, the founding of the first universities, the rediscovery of Roman law, and the beginnings of vernacular literature.

In 1000, the papacy was firmly under the control of German Emperor Otto III, or "emperor of the world" as he styled himself. But later church reforms enhanced its independence and prestige: the Cluniac movement, the building of the first great Transalpine stone cathedrals and the collation of the mass of accumulated decretals into a formulated canon law.


See also



  1. ^ Events used to mark the period's beginning include the sack of Rome by the Goths (410) and the deposition of the last western Roman Emperor (476). Particular events taken to mark its end include the founding of the Holy Roman Empire by Otto I the Great (962), the Great Schism (1054) and the Norman conquest of England (1066).
  2. ^ Hopkins, Keith Taxes and Trade in the Roman Empire (200 B.C.-A.D. 400)
  3. ^ Berglund, B. E. (2003). "Human impact and climate changes—synchronous events and a causal link?" (PDF). Quaternary International 105: 7–12. doi:10.1016/S1040-6182(02)00144-1. http://www.geol.lu.se/personal/bnb/pdf-papers/human_impact.pdf. 
  4. ^ Heather, Peter, 1998, The Goths, pp. 51-93
  5. ^ Gibbon, Edward, A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776.
  6. ^ Excerpta Valesiana
  7. ^ McEvedy 1992, op. cit.
  8. ^ Berglund, ibid.
  9. ^ Roman Empire Population
  10. ^ Storey, Glenn R., "The population of ancient Rome", Antiquity, December 1, 1997.
  11. ^ Hopkins DR (2002). The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in history. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-35168-8.  Originally published as Princes and Peasants: Smallpox in History (1983), ISBN 0-226-35177-7
  12. ^ How Smallpox Changed the World, By Heather Whipps, LiveScience, June 23, 2008
  13. ^ "Scientists Identify Genes Critical to Transmission of Bubonic Plague", News Release, National Institues of Health, July 18, 1996.
    The History of the Bubonic Plague.
  14. ^ An Empire's Epidemic.
  15. ^ City populations from Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census (1987, Edwin Mellon Press) by Tertius Chandler
  16. ^ Berglund, ibid.
  17. ^ Cini Castagnoli, G.C., Bonino, G., Taricco, C. and Bernasconi, S.M. 2002. "Solar radiation variability in the last 1400 years recorded in the carbon isotope ratio of a Mediterranean sea core", Advances in Space Research 29: 1989-1994.
  18. ^ "English and Welsh are races apart", BBC.
  19. ^ The Maygars of Hungary
  20. ^ "No. 1318: Three-Field Rotation"
  21. ^ This surplus would allow the replacement of the ox by the horse after the introduction of the padded horse collar in the 12th century.
  22. ^ Islam eventually penetrated into Eastern Europe in the 920s when Volga Bulgaria exploited the decline of Khazar power in the region to adopt Islam from the Baghdad missionaries. The state religion of Khazaria, Judaism, disappeared as a political force with the fall of Khazaria, while Islam of Volga Bulgaria has survived in the region up to the present.
  23. ^ Exposition, Dedicated to Khan Tervel
  24. ^ НИМ представя изложбата "Кан Тервел - спасителят на Европа"
  25. ^ Bulgaria at Sleedh Look encyclopedia
  26. ^ Кан Тервел - спасителят на Византия и ЕВРОПА
  27. ^ Charles Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, (London:William Heinemann., 2002), back cover.
  28. ^ Pierre Riché, Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth through the Eighth Century, (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Pr., 1976), pp. 100-129).
  29. ^ Pierre Riché, Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth through the Eighth Century, (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Pr., 1976), pp. 307-323).
  30. ^ William Stahl, Roman Science, (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Pr.) 1962, see esp. pp. 120-133.
  31. ^ Linda E. Voigts, "Anglo-Saxon Plant Remedies and the Anglo-Saxons," Isis, 70(1979):250-268; reprinted in M. H. Shank, ed., The Scientific Enterprise in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000).
  32. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, "Gregory of Tours, Monastic Timekeeping, and Early Christian Attitudes to Astronomy," Isis, 81(1990):9-22; reprinted in M. H. Shank, ed., The Scientific Enterprise in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000).
  33. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1998), pp. 149-57.
  34. ^ Faith Wallis, "'Number Mystique' in Early Medieval Computus Texts," pp. 179-99 in T. Koetsier and L. Bergmans, eds. Mathematics and the Divine: A Historical Study, (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005).
  35. ^ Chandler, Tertius, Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census (1987, Edwin Mellon Press)
  36. ^ Cantor, 1993 Europe in 1050 p 235.
  37. ^ The proscribed degree was the seventh degree of consanguinity, which made virtually all marriages annullable by application to the Pope.
  38. ^ Chandler, Tertius, ibid.

Further reading

  • Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. I 1966. Michael M. Postan, et al., editors.
  • Norman F. Cantor, The Medieval World 300 to 1300
  • Georges Duby, 1974. The Early Growth of the European Economy: Warriors and Peasants from the Seventh to the Twelfth Centuries (New York: Cornell University Press) Howard B. Clark, translator.
  • Georges Duby, editor, 1988. A History of Private Life II: Revelations of the Medieval World (Harvard University Press)
  • Heinrich Fichtenau, (1957) 1978. The Carolingian Empire (University of Toronto) Peter Munz, translator.
  • Charles Freeman, 2002. The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason (London: William Heinemann)
  • Richard Hodges, 1982. Dark Age Economics: The Origins of Towns and Trade AD 600-1000 (New York: St Martin's Press)
  • David Knowles, (1962) 1988. The Evolution of Medieval Thought
  • Richard Krautheimer, 1980. Rome: Profile of a City 312-1308 (Princeton University Press)
  • Robin Lane Fox, 1986. Pagans and Christians (New York: Knopf)
  • John Marenbon (1983) 1988.Early Medieval Philosophy (480-1150): An Introduction ((London: Routledge)
  • Rosamond McKittrick, 1983 The Frankish Church Under the Carolingians (London: Longmans, Green)
  • Karl Frederick Morrison, 1969. Tradition and Authority in the Western Church, 300-1140 (Princeton University Press)
  • Pierre Riché, (1978) 1988. Daily Life in the Age of Charlemagne
  • Richard Southern, 1953. The Making of the Middle Ages (Yale University Press)
  • Early Medieval History page, Clio History Journal, Dickson College, Australian Capital Territory.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

The Roman Empire ruled much of Europe in ancient history. It became weaker and finally collapsed in 476. When it collapsed, its army stopped working and its communication systems (ways of people in different places talking to each other) also stopped working. This made the people in Europe unable to talk to each other and share news and facts. Because the Roman army had kept peace between different parts of Europe and defended it from other people, and the Roman army had now collapsed, there was much fighting. This time was known as the Dark Ages. A famous person in the Dark Ages was King Arthur of England. We do not know if he was real or just a myth. There is a legend that he stopped the fighting in England and made peace.

After the Dark Ages, there was the Middle Ages. It is called the middle ages because it was between ancient history and modern history. It can also be called medieval times. It was a time when Europe was Christian, and the Catholic Church was very powerful. The Middle Ages ended when the Renaissance started. During the Renaissance people began going to school and university more and learning more things. There was less fighting. The printing press was also made. This was a machine that made books easily and quickly. It made it easier for people to read and learn things.

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