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A time of anarchy and chaos (roughly 400-600 AD) when most people were disease-ridden and covered with filth, unless they happened to be kings. The cleanest and most well-known king of this time was King Arthur, the King(-ish) of the Britons who had a round table around which sat his band of noble and chivalrous knights guys with weapons (many of whom proved to be not so noble and chivalrous when left to their own devices). Since most popular culture portrayals of him were written centuries after he lived (featuring fashion and architecture from those eras), many Hollywood Historians choose to lump him in with The High Middle Ages (but hey, when have they ever been sticklers for accuracy?).

This period heralded the fall and splitting of Rome, and the rise of Monasticism in Europe. Most Hollywood monks are pious men clad in long brown robes, with rosaries and tonsure haircuts. They frequently spend all their day dipping feathered pens into inkwells and scribbling strange script into large books by candlelight. (This, when they're not out chasing lusty, busty tavern wenches. Hollywood Monks don't tend to take that whole "celibacy" thing all that seriously, though historically celibacy was not a standard part of the clerical life until later in the Middle Ages. Some clerics even considered prostitution to be a necessary evil. It was, however, mandated in nearly every set of monastic rules, including those of Benedict.)

But it is also a time of interesting contrasts, during this period Christian and Pagan beliefs and their traditions were syncretized, which gave origin to some of the most famous mythologies and legends of the middle ages, like Beowulf, Siegfried and the aforementioned King Arthur among many others.

The term "Dark Ages" only really makes sense if you know the technical definition of the word "history", which is, "The study of the things people wrote about themselves back in the day." As such, the Dark Ages are dark not because it was Darker and Edgier and there was very little lighting but because very little was written at the time, leaving History in the dark (ha-ha) about what things were like. The other reason historians view the time as 'dark' is that of those writings that were produced, few survive to the modern day. We cannot tell you definitively that The Dark Ages were more dark and edgy than the eras that came before and after; in fact, depending on your perspective, in some places the lack of Roman overlords breathing down your neck could be seen as an improvement. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to suppose the Early Medieval era was vastly superior to antiquity in terms of quality-of-life.


Popular tropes for works set in this time period are:

Public Domain Characters & Public Domain Artifacts of this era:

Related Useful Notes pages:


Works set in this time period are:

Film

Literature

Live-Action TV

Newspaper Comics

Western Animation

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