Recently a good friend mentioned “the Dark Ages,” and I nearly flew into a wild rage. Well, no, it was more like severe annoyance. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe it was just a mild depression.
The “Dark Ages” weren’t dark. Not only was there plenty of sunshine, but culture and civilization were merrily rowing along as well.
You want literature? You got Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Song of Roland, the Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs), The Quest of the Holy Grail, Dante and a boatload more.
Theology? You got the three As (Anselm, Aquinas and Abelard), not to mention the five Bs (Boethius, Benedict of Nursia, Bede the Venerable, Bernard of Clairvaux and Bonaventure). The rest of the alphabet is there someplace too.
And let’s give it up for the women: Just a few were Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Sienna.
Great leaders? Lots such as Charlemagne, El Cid, William Wallace (for you Braveheart fans), Alexander Nevsky and Joan of Arc.
Inventions? You got the heavy plow (fifth century); the stirrup (sixth century); horseshoes and the hourglass (ninth century); the university (eleventh century); the blast furnace (twelfth century); and eyeglasses, the mechanical clock and the longbow (thirteenth century) and many more.
So why was it called the Dark Ages? Petrarch got it in his head that after the fall of Rome the continent descended into chaos until enlightened folks like himself and the rest of the Renaissance snobs arrived on the scene. It was just a myth invented to make themselves look good.
So Middle Ages? Sure. Medieval period? Of course. Dark Ages? Never.