Scramblin' thru... the Middle Ages
Real life Dungeons & Dragons...
While historians love to disagree, many classify the time in world history from 350 AD to 1450 AD as the "Middle Ages".
No single event ended the Ancient world and began the Middle Ages. In fact, no one who lived in what is now called the Middle Ages ever thought of themselves as living in it. People thought they were living in "modern times", just as people do today.
The term "Middle Ages" was invented during the Renaissance, a period of cultural and literary change that came after the Middle Ages. The term was not meant as a compliment. During the Renaissance, people thought that their own time and that of Ancient Greece and Rome were more advanced and civilized. Thus, they called the period between the Ancient world and themselves "the Middle Ages". The adjective medieval is from the Latin words for this term, medium (middle) and aevum (age).
Since the Middle Ages covers such a large span of time, it is often divided into three parts:
(1) Early Middle Ages (350-1050 AD)
(2) Central Middle Ages (1050-1300 AD)
(3) Late Middle Ages (1300-1450 AD)
Historians once thought the Middle Ages began with the fall of the Roman Empire, but there was no decisive moment when the Empire fell and the Middle Ages started. The first few centuries of the Middle Ages are often called the "Dark Ages" because it was believed civilization had collapsed after the fall of Rome, and Europe was devastated by widespread fighting and disease.
Remind me... what happened to Rome?
The collapse of the Western Roman Empire gave way to three heirs: the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic World, and the West (Europe). The people in all three areas believed in one God, farming was the most important occupation, and they cared more about local leaders than about their rulers. The Islamic World was the most prosperous, with thriving trade and strong centralized rulers called Caliphs. With Rome gone, Muslims quickly gained control of the Middle East, Egypt, and North Africa. The Eastern Roman Empire survived for another 1,000 years as the Byzantine Empire. The size of the empire fluctuated, but it included Greece and Asia Minor (today's Turkey). The West was the poorest and the most fragmented.
Most of today's countries were divided into small kingdoms whose rulers and families warred with each other over land and crowns. The fighting between the families of the Merovingians [pronounced: Mare-oh-vin-gee-ins] and Carolingians [pronounced: Care-oh-lynn-gee-ins] became Europe's very own Hatfields and McCoys. This fighting lead to the development of feudalism. In the end, a "rebirth" of Ancient Greek and Roman ideas transitioned Europe from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance (1300-1600).
While often portrayed negatively, the Middle Ages were a time when the
precursors to many important modern institutions were created. They were far from being barbaric, ignorant, and backward. In fact, Medieval universities are the direct ancestors of modern ones. The liberal arts of the Middle Ages remain the core of the arts and sciences programs of today's colleges.
Civilization returned to Europe with the reign of Charlemagne (or Charles the Great), the Christian king of a Germanic people called the Franks. (The Franks gave France its name.) Charlemagne established a large empire in Europe (Carolingian Dynasty). After his armies defended the Pope, he was crowned the new Roman Emperor in 800 AD. This attempt to revive the Western Roman Empire
didn’t last. When he died, his empire was divided among his sons. Two of these kingdoms formed the outlines of today's Germany and France.
Criminals met their fate in the gladiator ring. But, after Rome fell, this responsibility was dumped on local leaders. The result: thousands of horrific punishments for crimes and sins. This led to the term "Dark Ages".
Over 75% of females were married before the age of 19... and most often at age
12 to males 13-25 (this way they'd die around the same time). In fact, during the Middle Ages, over 50% of Europe's population was under 20!