The period of Dark Ages refer to the history of Europe, specifically Western Europe, between 5th and 10th centuries. This period was marked by colossal changes in the region and began with the collapse of the Roman Empire. The power vacuum in the wake of this huge event led many Germanic tribes to settle into different regions of Western Europe and establish their own spheres of influence.
The period saw the emergence of Byzantine Empire as the defining political entity in the Eastern Europe, the Germanic tribes as the decisive power brokers in Western Europe and the rise of the Arabs under the banner of Islam who came to threaten Europe through their conquests in southern Iberian region.
Fall of Rome – 372 to 410
Although the Roman Empire had been undergoing decline for a long time, the decline entered its final stage at the end of the 4th century. The first of the decisive defeats of the Empire in the West came at the 378 Battle of Adrianople where the Goths routed a sizable Roman army which had come from the Eastern half of the Empire.
This was followed by the influx of Vandals, Alans, Huns, Burgundians and other tribes into the Empire’s frontiers. The culmination came in 410 when the Goths reached Rome and sacked and burned the city.
Anglo Saxons in Europe – 410 onwards
The Anglo Saxons arrived from northern Europe to Western Europe in 410. They settled in regions of northern continental Europe and also migrated to British Isles. In time, the Anglo-Saxons established their control over all of Britain, overtaking the former Gallic residents, and established Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Rise of Byzantine Empire – 527 to 564
The Byzantine Empire, formerly the Eastern Roman Empire survived the collapse of its Western counterpart. The Empire was initially weak but managed to buy off the tribes attacking its frontiers by paying tribute. This changed when Justinian I ascended the Byzantine throne.
As Emperor, he firmly established the position of Orthodox Christianity in Byzantine Empire, managed to retake most of the territories of the former Western Roman Empire and led the Byzantine Empire through a period of cultural and intellectual activity.
Lombard Kingdom in Italy – 568
Justinian I took Italy as part of the Byzantine Empire but soon lost it. The Lombards soon entered Italy and formed a kingdom of their own in the region. The Lombard kingdom would continue until 774.
Arab Siege of Constantinople – 674 to 678
During the 7th century, Arabs under the banner of Islam were able to wrest the provinces of Syria, Levant and Egypt from the Byzantine Empire and conquer the Persian Empire. Their victories were halted when they laid siege to Constantinople in 674 but failed to capture the city.
Age of Charlemagne – 768 to 814
Franks had ascended to power in the region of Francia during the 8th century. Their high noon came in 768 when Charlemagne ascended the Frankish throne. He conquered Italy from the Lombards, subdued the Saxons in Saxonia, invaded Bavaria, stretched the kingdom as far as the Iberian regions and greatly enhanced the prestige of Christianity in Europe.
By his death in 814, he had erected the veritable Carolingian Empire and had laid the basis for the subsequent kingdoms of Germany and France.