The Dark Ages in European History

Introduction

During the reign of the Roman Empire, Europe had advanced in terms of technology and literal work as well as education. During this time, civilization had boomed with many cities being built that facilitated structured formal civilization. During this time agriculture, economy and trade had boomed. It is also a time when literal work was at its peak during those ages. However, towards the fifth century, the roman army was loosing grip of the empire due to economic, political, social and military hardships.

The army was becoming increasingly unable to defend the territory during the barbarian invasions and lost. Upon loosing, what was left of the Roman Empire was destruction and stagnation in economy as well as hardship since the civilization had been lost. After the fall, many regions of the territory including Europe were left in social, economic and literal crisis. Several centuries after the fall of the empire literal work was limited and development went down. This has come to be known as the Dark Ages of Europe where there is little known to historians about what was happening at the time.

It took a few centuries and great efforts from different parts of Europe including Irish people in coming out of the dark ages through their efforts in preserving of the literal work done before the fall of the Roman Empire.

Meaning of Dark Ages

The Dark Age represents the first centuries after the fall of Roman Empire and before the middle ages that left Europe quite susceptible to violent warlords, natural calamities such as famine, disease and economic downturn.

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The term was used as a metaphor to show the contrast between the prior ages and after the dark ages when there was development in both economics and literal work that resulted from education at the time (Mommsen, 1942). The dark ages denotes a time when literal work was limited and hardly any literal production was realized at the time. It characterizes a period during which historical records and other written materials were scarce. Further, it was a period when very few people knew how to write and read. The darkness described was an intellectual one where very little intellectual work took place compared to the period before and after (Mommsen, 1942).

Why the Dark Ages were Dark

What made the dark ages dark was the effect of lack of intellectual capacity and the waves of war and invasions that followed as well as the theological teachings that advocated that only what was in the bible was true. During the Roman Empire, much of the territories within Europe were unified and well protected by the roman army. This had contributed to an economic, political as well as social development across the whole of Europe. After the fall, maintaining the unification was hard without the protection of the Roman Empire leaving the territories open for grabbing by the warlords that were seeking power. Waves of war accompanied by cultural, economic, political and literal work declined almost to a standstill (Snodgrass, 2000).

During the invasions, the barbarians left nothing standing including buildings, arts and even schools. Thus, knowledge was only left to a few people within the monasteries. Without knowledge and literal work for reference, Europe was left in a mess where productivity in all aspects went down. The main reason it was named Dark Age was lack of learning and production of arts or literal work. People were in no position to learn and produce such works due to the hard times of the Dark Age especially warfare from the warlords that roamed through out Europe. This lasted for several centuries before the middle ages when the Europeans started the work of thinking and advancing again. However, this was influenced by the eastern territories that had not been conquered by the barbarians such as China and India where great civilizations thrived during the 1000s.During the invasions by warlords, food would be stolen, people killed, and cities destroyed. This would live the people homeless and without food.

What made it quite dark was the lack of intellectual material and lack of scholars to advance the available knowledge. Lack of knowledge made it impossible to advance economically and the people within this age lived a devastating life. It is a time when a third of Europe’s population was lost to plagues that ravaged the territory. At this time, the only formal education was found in church, which acted as the unifying power. The Christian teachings taught that whatever was not in the bible was not true and people should not have to do what is outside of the biblical teachings. Thus, if biblical teachings did not support scientific discoveries, people were not supposed to study science. Thus, the people living in this age only clung to the hope that a better life awaits them in heaven. The hardships during this time made the dark ages dark.

Coming out of the Dark Ages

The dark ages had left Europe in crisis and people had lost al hope. Although civilization had stopped in Europe, other territories continued with scientific discoveries. Some of the territories that continued with civilization were Israel, India, China and other territories in the east. During the Dark Age when the Catholic Church was considered the ruler of Europe, the pope ordered crusades. The crusades were religious wars that aimed at restoring access of Christians to Jerusalem. During the Dark Age after some of the invasions, Christians were stopped from accessing Jerusalem. This did not go down well with the Catholic Church tat considered Jerusalem a sacred city that represented the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islamic. Thus, the crusades were started in an effort to regain access (Snodgrass, 2000).

During the crusades, the warriors who went there interacted with the people they met in the eastern territories and realized there was better civilization than back at Europe. Soon, the crusaders would return home with new technology and skills. As the crusades went on, more was realized and the Europeans interacted with newer architecture, arts and other literal works. It is here that Europe prepared inadvertently to come out of the Dark Age by interacting with other civilizations in the east such as Israel (Snodgrass, 2000).

Impact of Ireland in Emerging From Dark Ages

During the dark ages, the literal work was lost to many parts of Europe. However, there was a time when efforts to revive the literature was done in the Carolingian period. The Carolingian period represents the period in which efforts were made to revive intellectual and cultural literature and classical texts (Herren, 1981). The Irish during this period had developed a taste for the Latin classical work. There was classical Latin learning in Ireland during the dark ages in the seventh and eighth centuries. The Irish served to protect most of the classical literature through incorporating the principles and ideas in the publications between the ninth and subsequent centuries.

During this time, some English scholars went to study in Ireland. “What, pray, I beseech you eagerly, is the benefit to the sanctity of the orthodox faith to expend energy by reading and studying the foul pollution of base Proserpina, which I shrink from mentioning in plain speech …” (Herren, 1981). Further continuation implies that Aldhelm’s disciple went to Ireland to study since he was preparing to go to Ireland. In coming out of the dark ages, Ireland had a significant impact through preserving of the classical literature.

The Chivalric Code

During the dark ages, many warriors emerged paying loyalty to a leader who would be from their tribe. Their quest was adventure and conquering. Many of the warlords sought their services in the invasions. They were highly trained with their training going for many years. Working for the small warlords the knights were brutal and went around taking anything they want when the Dark Age progressed (Moelker and Kummel 2007). However, powerful people began to reunite the European knights, where a code of conduct was set out to prevent them from engaging in brutal activity.

The code set out came to be known as the chivalric code describing how a knight was supposed to treat others within the society especially the weak such as women. It required knights to be gentle and courteous towards women and during their conquest. In modern times, this can be considered a code of ethics that seeks to regulate how the powerful within the society should treat the weak (Moelker and Kummel 2007). However, in military field it would mean stopping women from becoming soldiers since it considers women as weak.

Conclusion

Warfare and invasions by warlords in Europe was heightened after the roman empire fell. The Roman Empire had established formal structures and governments, laws and formal education that played a crucial role in the economic and social development. When it fell, all this was lost including the literature at the time. The great civilizations were lost in the destruction by ranging wars. It took an effort of several territories and the church as well to get Europe out of the Dark Age.

Annotations

Herren M. (1981). Classical and Secular Learning among the Irish before the Carolingian Renaissance. Florilegium, 3: 118-157.

The article seeks to present evidence about learning in Ireland during the dark ages that many scholars have not accounted for. The Carolingian period represents the period in which efforts were made to revive intellectual and cultural literature and classical texts. The Irish during this period had developed a taste for the Latin classical work. There was classical Latin learning in Ireland during the dark ages in the seventh and eighth centuries. The Irish served to protect most of the classical literature through incorporating the principles and ideas in the publications between the ninth and subsequent centuries. The article further cites that some Englishmen studied at the generosity of the Irish in their land at their expense as well. Thus, Ireland played a crucial role in coming out of the Dark Age through studying and reserving the classical literature.

The article illustrated proof that the Irish people exploited the opportunity to study Latin classical literature during the Dark Ages. It portrayed the role that Irish played in coming out of the Dark Ages as that of academic scholars interested in continuing to study classical literature, preserving it and educating the English students simultaneously. Herren discussed various instances of individual accounts of people during the Dark Ages such as Aldhelm. “What, pray, I beseech you eagerly, is the benefit to the sanctity of the orthodox faith to expend energy by reading and studying the foul pollution of base Proserpina, which I shrink from mentioning in plain speech …” (Herren, 1981). Further continuation implies that Aldhelm’s disciple went to Ireland to study since he was preparing to go to Ireland. The article provides a good account of the impact Ireland had on the world in emerging from the Dark Age.

Moelker, R. & Kummel, G. (2007). Chivalry and Codes of Conduct: Can the Virtue of Chivalry Epitomize Guidelines for Interpersonal Conduct? Journal of Military Ethics, 6 (4): 292-302.

This article was published in the journal of military ethics asking a question about the relation or relevance of chivalry codes of conduct and their relation to interpersonal conduct. The article cites that there exists doubt about chivalry being a virtue or just a code of conduct for the military, considering it is not a theological or cardinal virtue. However, some philosophy, tradition and history have been found to regard chivalry as a virtue, describing the agreed conduct of a knight in the middle ages. It contains codes of courteous behaviors that are formal or informal, making interpersonal behavior civilized. It seeks to regulate the behavior between the two genders within the social interaction. The article seeks to find out whether the chivalric code of conduct provides a guideline for leading a virtuous life. the chivalric code represented the expected behavior or conduct of a knight in his quest for adventure, conquering, serving in the army and relating to others within the society such as women with care and love.

The article refers back to the historical contexts meaning of chivalry, which meant a definition between roles of men to women. “Despite this, archaic, symbolic, or anachronistic forms of chivalry may have survived, in which the male was perceived as strong, and protector while the female was perceived as weak, passive, in need of protection, and courteously treated” (Moelker and Kummel 2007). As the chivalric code described how the knights should treat women or those, considered weak in the society, so does the modern world need to treat others with courtesy. The contemporary world should be able to adopt some of the features of the chivalric code that prescribed how men should treat women and weaker people in the society. The article implied that considering chivalric behavior as a virtue would exclude women from serving in the military, as they were considered weak and in need of protection. I agree with the authors that chivalry is a benevolent sexism that excludes women. However, it applies in other contexts within the modern society such as protecting the weaker people including women from violence. This article is quite useful in defining the chivalric code and answering the question of its relevance to modern ethics.

Mommsen T.E. (1942). Petrarch’s Conception of the ‘Dark Ages. Speculum, 17 (2): 226 – 242.

The article presents a conception of the Dark Ages as portrayed by Petrarch, an Italian poet and scholar, as well as one of the earliest humanists in the 14th century. The article cites that the Dark Ages, in its most popular meaning, is used to denote the period in which there was an intellectual depression in the European history that corresponds with the Middle Ages. The Dark Ages and Middle ages have been used to describe the same period but from different perspectives. However, the two names have come to be distinguished as representing two different ages. “But they have come to be distinguished, and the dark ages are now no more than the first part of the middle age while the mediaeval is often restricted to the later centuries, about 1100 to 1500,” (Mommsen, 1942). The Dark Age now represents the age between the fall of the Roman Empire and revival of the literature.

The article clarifies the meaning of the dark ages in details, stating what period can be considered as the Dark Age since it is supposed to represent an era when intellectual work or literature was limited. It clears the controversy contained in considering the Dark Age as the same period as the Middle Ages. Its credibility is entailed in the use of Petrarch’s conception of the Dark Age, and middle age considering he wrote during the middle ages. The fact that the article borrows from Petrarch’s idea who wrote during the middle ages implies that the Dark Age, which represents an age of intellectual depression, could not be the same as the Middle ages since he produced literal work. This makes the definition of the Dark Ages as being an era of intellectual depression agreeable.

Snodgrass, A.M. (2000). The Dark Age of Greece: An Archaeological Survey of the Eleventh to the Eighth Centuries BC. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press,

The book is written after new archeological evidence has been found supporting the idea of a dark age. Snodgrass presents the evidence that provides an insight into what the Dark Age represented by showing some of the reasons it was considered so. He starts by defining the Dark Age in the first chapter, The Concept of a Dark Age. “There if a far-off island of knowledge, or perhaps knowledge; then darkness; then the beginning of continuous history,” (Snodgrass, 2000). By this, he defines the meaning of Dark Age, which is a period in which history was not well recorded due to lack of literal materials. It is between two eras, the first one being an age where information or knowledge is available to an age when information is not available followed by a continuous history well recorded. He further provides evidence of why it was considered dark. At the time, there was scholarly scarcity, and people who lived in this age were poor, isolated and aware of the lost skills. The book shows a period of discontinuity in development, intellectual knowledge and other issues present before and after the Dark Age. Information regarding this age was scarce, consequently limiting our knowledge about it. This is what qualifies it as a dark age.

Through providing strong evidence of the dark age in terms of scholarly and life during this period, the author manages to provide a detailed lens through which to look at Europe’s experience during this age by focusing on Greece. It depicts the experiences of the Dark Age to the people who lived in it, thus providing a good account of the Dark Age. Considering the author makes use of evidence from archeological data collected recently, it provides students with a source of information about how the Dark Age might have affected those who lived in it and reasons it is considered dark. It helps in answering the question on what made the Dark Age dark.

References

Herren M. (1981). Classical and Secular Learning among the Irish before the Carolingian Renaissance. Florilegium, 3: 118-157.

Moelker, R. & Kummel, G. (2007). Chivalry and Codes of Conduct: Can the Virtue of Chivalry Epitomize Guidelines for Interpersonal Conduct? Journal of Military Ethics, 6 (4): 292-302.

Mommsen T.E. (1942). Petrarch’s Conception of the ‘Dark Ages. Speculum, 17 (2): 226 – 242.

Snodgrass, A.M. (2000). The Dark Age of Greece: An Archaeological Survey of the Eleventh to the Eighth Centuries BC. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press,

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The Dark Ages in European History. (2018, Jun 29). Retrieved from http://paperap.com/the-dark-ages-in-european-history/

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