"Dark Ages" is a historical periodization emphasizing the cultural and economic deterioration that supposedly occurred in Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire. The label employstraditional light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the "darkness" of the period with earlier and later periods of "light". Originally, the term characterized the bulk of the Middle Ages (c. 5th - 15thcentury) as a period of intellectual darkness between the extinguishing of the light of Rome and the Renaissance or rebirth from the 14th century onwards. This definition is still found in popular usage,but increased recognition of the accomplishments of the Middle Ages since the 19th century has led to the label being restricted in application. Since the 20th century, it is frequently applied only tothe earlier part of the era, the Early Middle Ages (c. 5th - 10th century). However, many modern scholars who study the era tend to avoid the term altogether for its negative connotations, finding itmisleading and inaccurate for any part of the Middle Ages.
The concept of a Dark Age originated with the Italian scholar Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) in the 1330s, and was originally intended asa sweeping criticism of the character of Late Latin literature. Petrarch regarded the post-Roman centuries as "dark" compared to the light of classical antiquity. Later historians expanded the term torefer to the transitional period between Roman times and the High Middle Ages (ca. 11th - 13th C.), including not only the lack of Latin literature, but also a lack of contemporary written history,general demographic decline, limited building activity and material cultural achievements in general. The term "Dark Age" itself derives from the Latin saeculum obscurum, applied by Caesar Baronius in1602 to a tumultuous period in the 10th and 11th century. Later historians and writers picked up the concept, and popular culture has further expanded on it as a vehicle to depict the Middle Ages as...
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