What are the Middle Ages?
What period of history do they cover?
The origin of the term
The Middle Ages
formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European
history into three "ages": the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle
Ages and Modern Times. In several countries, among them Spain, another period:
Contemporary Times come after Modern Times.
Between Ancient and
In AD 476,
warriors attacked the city of Rome and ended more than 800 years of glory for
the “eternal city.” Historians mark the fall of Rome as the end of ancient
history. The next one thousand years were called the Middle Ages. The Latin
term for Middle Ages is "medieval."
The beginning of the
Middle Ages in Europe is often called the "Dark
Ages" because the great civilizations of Greece and Rome had fallen. Life
in Europe during the Middle Ages was very hard. Very few people could read or
write and nobody expected conditions to improve. The only hope for most people
during the Middle Ages was their strong belief in Christianity, and the hope
that life in heaven would be better than life on earth.
The Dark Ages were
anything but dark in other parts of the world. The Muslims in the Middle
East and North Africa studied and improved on the works of the ancient Greeks
while civilization flourished in sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, and the
Europe began to experience great change by about 1450. Within one
hundred years, Columbus had sailed to America in 1492, literacy spread,
scientists made great discoveries, and artists created work that still
inspires us today. Historians call the next period of European history the
"Renaissance," or the "rebirth." The Renaissance is the beginning of modern
Dowling, Mike, "Mr. Dowling's
Feudalism page," available from http://www.mrdowling.com/604-feudalism.html;
Internet; Saturday, June 17, 2006 . © 2007, Mike Dowling. All rights
the Byzantine Empire originate?
where did it expand?
The fail of the
Western Roman Empire in 476 left Byzantium as the heir to the
ancient Roman Empire for almost one thousand years. The Byzantine Empire,
heir of the Eastern Roman Empire,
withstood the Germanic invasions and developed a brilliant civilization.
The Eastern Roman Empire
finally disappeared in 1453, when the capital, Constantinople (the name
of ancient Byzantium), was seized by the Turks.
The splendour of the reign of Justinian
The most important Byzantine emperor was Justinian
who governed with his wife Theodora from 527 to 565. His reign was a
time of splendour.
The Byzantine Empire achieved its greatest extension
with the conquests of Italy, northern Africa and the southeast of Visigothic
Byzantium dominated trade in the Mediterranean Sea
and golden coins were minted to facilitate exchanges.
The Justinian Code included an updated version of
The best symbol of
this prosperity was the embellishment of Constantinople and the construction
of the majestic church, of Santa Sophia.
Map of Byzantine Empire around 550
The religious disputes
In 380, the Emperor Theodosius declared
Christianity the official religion in the Roman Empire. However,
the Byzantine Church started to separate from the Roman Church.
increased after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century,
and finally led to the schism
of 1054. The Eastern Church did not accept the
authority of the pope and developed its own Church, the Orthodox Church,
headed by the patriarch of Constantinople.
The fall of Constantinople
Throughout the l4th and l5th centuries, the Turks occupied
Asia Minor and part of the Balkans. As a consequence, Constantinople was
The Byzantines were not helped by the Catholic Church in
the west, as they did not comply with the pope’s request: to accept papal
authority. Eventually the Turks took Constantinople in 1453, in spite
of the opposition of its inhabitants.