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Dark Age Europe
aka: The Dark Ages
A time of anarchy and chaos (roughly 500 - 900 CE), when people were disease-ridden and covered with filth, unless one happened to be king... at least, if you believe what Hollywood says about them — according to real modern historians this is a load of cobblers based purely on the fact that we don't have many documents from that time.

In Hollywood Land, however, this was a time of muck and more muck. The cleanest—and most well-known—figure of this period generally ends up being Arthur, King(…ish) of the Britons, who had a round table, around which sat his band of noble and chivalrous knights blokes with big swords (many of whom proved not so noble and chivalrous once left to their own devices). Since most accounts of Arthur were written centuries after he supposedly lived, and featured fashion and architecture from the time they were written, many Hollywood 'historians' lump him in with The High Middle Ages (but hey, since when have they been sticklers for accuracy?).

This period heralded the fall and division of the Western Roman Empire (the Eastern half was able to survive), and the rise of monasticism in Europe. Hollywood monks are pious men, clad in long brown robes, with rosaries and tonsure haircuts. They spend their days dipping feathered quills into inkwells and scribbling strange script into large books by candlelight. That is, when they're not out chasing lusty, busty tavern wenches. Hollywood monks don't take that whole “celibacy” thing all that seriously. Neither, in fact, did the regular clergy; celibacy did not become a requirement of the priesthood until very late in the Middle Ages. It was, however, mandated in nearly every set of monastic rules, including those of Benedict. It was also a time of interesting contrasts: during this period, Christian and Pagan folklore and traditions were syncretized in the minds of the public, which gave rise to some of the most famous mythologies and legends of the Middle Ages, such as Beowulf, Siegfried, and the aforementioned King Arthur.

The term “Dark Ages” only makes sense if you understand the technical definition of the word “history”, which is: “The study of stuff people wrote about themselves back in the day.” The Dark Ages were dark not because they were Darker and Edgier, or because there was a shortage of candles, but because very few of their writings have survived to the present day, leaving History in the dark about what things were like. We cannot tell for certain whether the Dark Ages were darker and edgier than the eras that came before and after. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence at all that there was any kind of 'technological Dark Age' at all, rather the evidence favours continued gradual development. According to several historians the reason we have writings from Pliny and other earlier writers at all is because they were dutifully copied by monks. The reason we tend to look down on this period is because in the Renaissance there was a massive upsurge in interest in ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian culture and a great deal of belittlement and scorn for the previous millennium. The fact that we have so few historical documents from the 'Dark Ages' could well be explained by the distaste for this time and the outright systematic destruction of many great Gothic buildings from the Middle Ages (aside from ones that were still under construction, like the Cologne Cathedral). From a historical view point it would be more accurate to pinpoint this age from 661 (when the Europeans lost contact with Syria and Egypt due to Muslim invasions) to about 1100 (when the Crusades recovered lost information from the Classical Era). We know what happened during those times though and it is for whatever reason a rather touchy subject so fiction writers do not touch it.

Popular tropes for works set in this time period are:

Public Domain Characters & Public Domain Artifacts of this era:

Related pages:

Works set in this time period are:

  • All movie and literary versions of King Arthur.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Pythons admit that Anachronism Stew is at work: It is said to be set in Dark Ages Britain – the early 9th century – but the costumes are based on fashions from the 1300s. Yet it is still one of the most accurate depictions of the era ever put on film, due largely to the influence of Terry Jones (himself something of a medieval scholar).
  • The 13th Warrior
  • Beowulf and Grendel (2005)
  • Beowulf (2007)
  • Outlander (2008), i.e., Beowulf, the Sci-Fi Remix.


Live-Action TV

Newspaper Comics

Western Animation
Courtly LoveEurope IndexDroit du Seigneur
The Low Middle AgesHollywood HistoryAnglo-Saxons

alternative title(s): The Dark Ages
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