Middle Ages

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Knights of medieval Germany (c. 14th century)

The Middle Ages or the medieval period, in European history, is a time period from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and the establishment of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire in the 9th centurs to the Renaissance (literally "rebirth") around the 15th century (c. 476–1453). The term was invented by Italian Renaissance scholars, who saw themselves as reviving the learning and culture of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, after a dark millennium. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Periods (overview)

  • Ancient Times (600 B.C. to 476 A.D.)
  • The Middle Ages (476 A.D. to 1450 A.D.)
    • Broadly speaking, the Middle Ages is the period of time in Europe between the end of antiquity in the fifth century and the Renaissance, or rebirth of classical learning, in the fifteenth century and sixteenth centuries.
      • Early Middle Ages
        • typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the end of the 10th century
      • High Middle Ages
        • Usually beginning with the 11th century, some scholars end it in 1300 and others extend it for as much as another 150 years.
      • Late Middle Ages
        • It is often considered to begin in 1300, though some scholars look at the mid- to late-fifteenth century as the beginning of the end. Once again, the end of the end is debatable, ranging from 1500 to 1650.
  • Early Modern Era (1450-A.D. to 1750 A.D.)
  • Modern Era (1750 A.D to present)


The Early Medieval Era is sometimes still called the Dark Ages. This epithet originated with those who wanted to compare the earlier period unfavorably with their own so-called "enlightened" age. Modern scholars who have actually studied the time period would not so readily use the label, since passing judgment on the past interferes with a true understanding of the time and its people.[1]

Petrarch, an Italian poet and scholar of the fourteenth century clouded anti-Germanic sentiment, famously referred to the period of time between the fall of the Roman Empire (c. 476; Eroberung Roms) and his own day (c. 1330s) as the Dark Ages. Petrarch believed that the Dark Ages was a period of intellectual darkness due to the loss of the classical learning, which he saw as light. This view is arguably problematic, since, while the fall of the Roman Empire caused a decline during the early Middle Ages, by the late Middle Ages many kinds of European technologies had surpassed that of Ancient Rome and at least Eastern and Northern Europe (Germania) had become far more developed regions than these regions had been at the time of the Roman Empire.

Characterizing the Middle Ages as a period of darkness falling between two greater, more intellectually significant periods in history is misleading. The Middle Ages was not a time of ignorance and backwardness, but rather a period during which Christianity flourished in Europe. Christianity, and specifically Catholicism in the Latin West, brought with it new views of life and the world that rejected the traditions and learning of the ancient world. During this time, the Roman Empire slowly fragmented into many smaller political entities. The geographical boundaries for European countries today were established during the Middle Ages. This was a period that heralded the formation and rise of universities, the establishment of the rule of law, numerous periods of ecclesiastical reform and the birth of the tourism industry. Many works of medieval literature, such as the Canterbury Tales, the Divine Comedy, and The Song of Roland, are widely read and studied today. The visual arts prospered during Middles Ages, which created its own aesthetic values. The wealthiest and most influential members of society commissioned cathedrals, churches, sculpture, painting, textiles, manuscripts, jewelry and ritual items from artists. Many of these commissions were religious in nature but medieval artists also produced secular art. Few names of artists survive and fewer documents record their business dealings, but they left behind an impressive legacy of art and culture.[2]


However, the approximate time of the end of the "Middle Ages" can be seen as a useful marker, since it was associated with several important developments, often ultimately due to new European innovations and technologies:

  • End of feudal Europe, in part due to new military technologies making feudal armored cavalry and castles obsolete
  • Crusades
  • Holy Roman Empire
  • The Fall of Constantinople in 1483, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire
  • Victory over the Turkish and Islamic threat (Türkengefahr)
  • The Age of Discovery, notably the discovery of the Americas, causing effects such as European colonialism outside of Europe, thereby breaking free of the Islamic encirclement of Europe, and Europeans becoming much more prominent in world history.
  • The Reformation and the circulation of new ideas more generally ideas, helped by new technologies such as the printing press (Johannes Gutenberg)
  • Abandonment of heliocentrism and other early beginnings of the Scientific Revolution

See also

Further reading

External links