Difficult Life in the Middle Ages (“The Dark Ages”)

Life during the middle ages was not how someone would picture it. It was a little more of a routine than anything else. How Hollywood portrays it is the exciting parts, but the real life of the regular commoner consisted of labor and growing of food in order to survive the following year. The whole idea of war being a part of their everyday life was just an exaggeration. The church had a major role in how people lived their lives when considering that “… Market hours were strictly determined by when the church bell rings.

” (sites.stanford.edu) The lives could easily revolve around how the church made decisions and what decisions were made.

The Vikings invasions had impacted how cities developed during the early Middle Ages. It was said that the Vikings were known to plunder more than they could carry, sold surplus goods to surrounding villages and created base camps to be used for trading. To this day, you can still see signs in modern Europe.

“Daily life in the Middle ages was dictated by wealth, power, and status and the feudal system. The Feudal system was sustained by the rights and privileges give to the Upper classes and in most cases enacted by laws” (thefinertimes.com) This ultimately meant that if you were not born into the middle class or better, you were more than likely going to die in the same social class. The different social classes varied from peasants who were the lowest of the low all the way to King and Queen of a certain area.

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The rankings went from peasants to knights to nobles to kings. The peasants, as well as farmers were the ones who typically were living by barely making ends meet but making sure that they had enough to live. “The knights lives centered around the castles or manors or fighting for his lord and the kind during the times of war. Much of his time was spent honing his weapon skills and keeping his levels of fitness high.” Much of what happens for a knight is that he incorporates prayer into his daily life. Prayers help keep him humble but keeps him sane as well. The kings were the ones who able to live lavishly but also instruct their men to go to war in order to gain more land and increase their influence throughout the land.

The Feudal system was a simple yet effective system where all land was owned by the King, but a quarter was kept by the king as his personal property while some was given to the church and the rest was leased out under strict control. Everything fell under the kings rule and final decision.

“Knights were given land by a Baron in return for military service when demanded by the King. They also had to protect the Baron and his family, as well as the Manor from attack. Although not as rich as Barons, Knights were quite wealthy.” (Medievallife.net) This meant that they were able to live life without too much worry about money compared to serfs or peasants. The job of having to look over the wealthy and more powerful people was part of the job which enabled the knight to be able to get more land. It was not a part of the cycle to jump from class to class, meaning that if they were born into a family of peasants, you would not see them typically turn into a family of King. However, you could see a family of the King turn into peasants if things do not turn out the way that they had hoped for.

The Middle Ages have been nicknamed “The Dark Ages”. The reason being that there was a lack of cultural and literary output during this time period. The comparison being that during this time, it was the time after the fall of the Byzantine Empire.

“During the time period of 400 AD and 700 AD, there were numerous invasions throughout Western Europe which made it very difficult to travel. The trade and exported goods during this time declined because of the mere fact that traveling even a short distance during this time meant that you would be putting your life at great risk. This affected the industries that depended on trade to survive, such as pottery manufacturing, disappeared completely in some areas. Educational and military structure also broke down, causing illiteracy to skyrocket.” (thefinertimes.com) The illiteracy skyrocketing during this time supported the idea that these times were truly the “Dark Ages”. With it being considered the Dark Ages, information regarding the past was not fully explained in further detail.

“Christianity spread throughout much of Europe, and the Papacy evolved into a powerful political entity.” (medievallife.net) This leads back to religion and the church being a major role in life during this time.

In Conclusion, Life during the early Middle Ages was a time of drastic change and life altering situations. Times were difficult, and decisions had to be made in order to live and ensure the future of the families. With the social life being in the balance, the politics during this time was a whole different story.


Politically, the Early Middle ages were very sporadic. In 476 CE The Roman Empire fell after being defeated by the Germanic leader Odoacer. After the fall of Rome most of Europe was now up for grabs. In modern-day France you had the Franks, in Germany you had clusters of Germanic tribes, in the east you had the Byzantine Empire and the Second Persian Empire. In the middle east, the Umayyad Islamic caliphate was starting to take hold. The Germanics were mainly split into three kingdoms Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Lombards. The Ostrogoths first appear in history living in the area around the Black Sea. They made constant incursions against the provinces of Rome and proved a resilient and perpetual nuisance to the Empire until the invasion of the Huns in 375 CE. After conquering much of Italy, their king, Theodoric, died in 526. This caused a struggle for power in the Ostrogothic kingdom which weakened their kingdom. As Charles Oman explains in his book The Dark Ages “Byzantine emperor Justinian I had always strived to restore as much of the Western Roman Empire as he could and certainly would not pass up the opportunity.

In 535, he commissioned Belisarius to attack the Ostrogoths. Belisarius quickly captured Sicily and then crossed into Italy, where he captured Naples and Rome in 536 and then marched north, taking Mediolanum (Milan) and the Ostrogoth capital of Ravenna in 540.” (Oman 27) A sect of the Goths, the Visigoths were also pursued and attacked by the Huns in 376 and became a somewhat of a nomadic tribe, moving from place to place. In October 382, the Visigoths, lead Theodosius I, settled them in Moesia (in the Balkans). “It was apparently during this period that the Visigoths were converted to Arian Christianity. They remained in Moesia until 395, when, under the leadership of Alaric, they left Moesia and moved first southward into Greece and then to Italy, which they invaded repeatedly from 401 onward.”(Oman 46) They participated in the sack of Rome in 410. In the same year Alaric died and was succeeded by Ataulphus, who led the Visigoths to settle first in southern Gaul, then in Spain. The Visigoths eventually fell in 507 after the battle of Vouille which was fought against the Slavs and the Franks.

Of all of these kingdoms the most successful and powerful (until the Byzantine empire) was the Franks. “Clovis I left four sons… Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert, and Chlothar…the four men divided among themselves, their father’s newly-won realms,through the division threatened to wreck the Frankish power in its earliest youth. Theuderic, the eldest son, took the most compact and most Teutonic of the parts of Clovis I’s realm… Chlothar obtained the other old Frankish realm, the ancient territory of the Salian Franks… from his father’s first conquests… Chlodomer and childbirth, reigned respectively at Orleans and Paris, and ruled the lands on the Seine, Loire, and Garonne.” (Oman 83) We see this happen a lot within these kingdoms. Power is passed down and distributed to worthy heirs. Unlike some other civilization such as Egypt, Europe in the middle ages was very much a patriarchy and power was only passed down to sons. If a king bore a daughter the power would then go to her husband or son.

Probably the most famous or well known king was Charlemagne who “was responsible for uniting most of Europe under his rule by power of the sword, for helping to restore the Western Roman Empire and becoming its first emperor, and for facilitating a cultural and intellectual renaissance, the ramifications of which were felt in Europe for centuries afterward.”(www.EssentialHumanities.net) For his short 14 years of his reign Charlemagne accomplished many feats he “was crowned “emperor of the Romans” by Pope Leo III in 800 CE, thus restoring the Roman Empire in the West for the first time since its dissolution in the 5th century.”(www.Britannica.com) The most powerful and important civilization of them all was the Byzantine empire. The Byzantine Empire was formed out of the fall of Western Rome while the eastern half survived as a unified state; became known as the Byzantine Empire.

The Byzantine Empire had a difficult history, distinguished primarily by long periods of conflict (both external and civil) and decline. In addition to Slavic and Steppe tribe incursions, the Byzantines struggled with the mighty civilizations of Southwest Asia, such as the Persians and the rising swell of Islam from the Umayyad Caliphate. The Umayyads were the first Muslim dynasty — that is, they were the first rulers of the Islamic Empire to pass down power within their family. The Umayyad dynasty centralized authority within the Islamic civilization, perhaps most notably with its fifth ruler abed al-Malik. “Abed al-Malik implemented a broad program of Arabization, making Arabic the official language of administration, creating an Arabized class of administrators, and creating Arabic coinage for the empire.” (Oman 133) The Umayyads also oversaw a rapid expansion of territory, extending as far west as Spain and as far east as India, allowing both Islam and the Arabic language to spread over a vast area.

In brief terms, kings who were successful in this period had either not surrendered excessive powers to nobles–as in England–or knew how to accommodate local feudal powers while building up their own base. France shows another pattern, whereby counts secured the election of a king no more powerful than they.


In the early middle ages economy was balanced with a currency coin, agriculture, trade, and the manorial system. Also based on social class which all started to be known in this time period. Landlords had used the manorial system because it was easier to control their peasants and citizens from their empires. Most citizens were peasants, they either born in that low class or they were sold to landlords. Agriculture was produced and managed by peasants and the lower class, and trade was very important back then for the early middle ages. Trade was key because that is how citizens, mostly got goods and foods. It was important for the lords have a system where they could easily control their people because thanks to that they had an easier way to manage their empire with no chaotic situations. In my essay I will first explain what the monorail system is and how it worked out during the middle ages, next about middle ages economy/currency, lastly how most of the early middle ages economy was balanced agriculture.

Manorial system was how the lords controlled their peasants and the empire’s citizens. Feudalism is also similar to the Manorial System, but getting back to the topic I chose, the economy was based on agriculture and trade. Trade was key back then because that is what society they depended on the most because it was a big thing for them.(The Finer Times) Land meant you were rich and part of the high class. The trade made it possible for goods come through in and out of the empires, making it easier for the economy to fluctuate with a flow. The economy was not good as we know, that is why the Manorial system was created so lords could balance themselves with goods and lands.Agriculture was all managed by landlords’ peasants. Therefor, the system i’ve been talking about was created to control society and economy easier. They tried to find an easy way to be able to control citizens and the economy so this was the perfect way to fix it.

How do you picture the early middle ages currency? Before I did my research to see and to inform myself about how their money looked and how much each valued I believed they only had metal coins, but they had more than metal. During the middle ages they had silver, gold, and copper for their currency. Their main wealth, though apart from coins and agriculture was land. Many barbarians were to steal land. The land was also a big part of the economy back then. Not many owned much of it, but the ones that did had a great advantage of the peasants. We can say that peasants were also part of the economy because they were sold like if they were part of the market. Back to currency, citizens of the early middle ages used to call their money “denarius”. Which meant “Roman silver coin worth ten asses”. They also had a metal coin named “pfennig”, and the value of the metal coin was 20 schillings. There was nothing else but coins. The ones that didn’t have coins most of their life time were peasants, the ones that did were the lords and traders. Traders had the privilege because obviously they had to bring goods from other places for the people.

Lastly, agriculture was a big part of the early middle ages economy. Land and agriculture were what everyone mostly depended on. If they weren’t to have it, they wouldn’t of been able to trade anything with other parts of the country. (Farming in The Middle Ages) The most “common trade was wheat, beans, barley, peas and oats.” (The Finer Times) Grains, foods, and materials were part of the economy because they made it possible for the people from the early middle ages to get at least some money for it. The economy back then was with currency in hand, but as I said and as I can support my statement with “The Finer Times” article, land / agriculture / trade was number one for it. When Charlemagne was in charge, he made sure there was a good epic system that could handle so much with just one way of controlling, so therefore there was not much chaos going on. I mean all they needed to look for was agriculture and trade with other parts of the country. Another governor that made sure that trade was well taken care of being Clovis I. Clovis I made sure to have a good relationship with the ones around.

In conclusion, the economy was, as I said before based and balanced on land, agriculture, coins, and monitored by the Manorial System. Lords handled the economy neutrally with easy trade and agriculture, which easily brought money to the empire.(Quatr.us Article) Wheats, grains, material was being brought to the cities to create a better economy. For it to have more commerce and not have a hectic situation. Peasants made the economy rise, stay balanced because they were the ones who made trade and money go in and out with no problem. The ones that had the most made it possible to have rich items. The one that made coins be part of currency since day one was Charlemagne. He was the one who decided to have an actual coin made out of different metals with different metals. Another situation that emerged during the early middle ages economy situation was “social class”, this is where it all started. Social class was a big role in the economy, according to the route.

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Difficult Life in the Middle Ages (“The Dark Ages”). (2022, Apr 25). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/difficult-life-in-the-middle-ages-the-dark-ages/

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