Detailed Timeline of
Early Dark Ages I (490 – 600)
Fragmentation and Reshuffling of
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Frankish Kingdom Conversion to
Christianity (493): Frankish King
Clovis converts to Christianity, boosting Frankish dominance through
increased influence with the Romanized Celts, the largest constituent
group in this former province of Gaul. The Frankish Kingdom also gained
the support of the Catholic Church. France would maintain close ties
with Catholic Church throughout the remainder of history. Franks get the
early jump on other non-Romans/Greeks on Christianization, which proves
to be a powerful advantage. They gain support of the Church, a
compelling force in unifying them & those under their rule. This early
advantage launches them toward becoming the dominant force throughout
much of Western and Central Europe in the centuries to follow.
(Timeline Continued Below)
A group of breaks off from the main group in modern Sweden, settling on
the Jutland peninsula (modern Denmark). They intermix with the existing
Germanic peoples from ancient Germanic migrations to form the basis of
modern Danish people. The Jutland peninsula & surrounding isles serve as
natural boundaries, where they develop into their own, distinct
Scotti (predecessors to Scots) from Northern Ireland settle western
Scotland. They become the dominant tribe, absorbing Picts and other
tribes/kingdoms in the area.
Franks Defeat of Visigoths
(507): Franks defeat Visigoths in SW
Gaul, to gain control over most of Gaul. The Franks also begin expanding
east of the Rhine as well, at the expense of other Germanic tribes.
North Africa Conquered by Byzantine
(534): Destroys the Vandals in a brief
war which returns North Africa & the western Mediterranean islands to
Roman rule, and restoring Roman naval dominance. Vandals are sold
into slavery or absorbed into the populace of the new Eastern Roman
settlers. Byzantine now controls the Mediterranean Sea & appears to be
on its way to restoring the glory of Rome. However, they will be set
back by the high cost in regaining parts of Italy & a bubonic plague
outbreak at home.
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Goth Wars Between Byzantine and
German Ostrogoths (535 – 553): Goth War
between Ostrogoths (Germanic rulers of Italy) & Byzantine. Byzantine
prevails by 553, but the war was terribly devastating to both sides.
Byzantine was only able to maintain control over the city of Rome &
Ravenna (& surrounding areas), along with the southern extremities of
Italy. Italy falls into complete shambles as people move out of big
cities into the countryside, sending Italy deep into the dark ages.
Remaining Ostrogoths migrated back north, assimilating into the Germanic
tribes in modern Austria. Others simply assimilated into the Italian
populace. The Ostrogothic nation evaporated, and the name disappeared.
For Byzantine, the high cost of victory & the bubonic plague back home
ended hopes of recapturing the height of the Roman Empire, triggering a
decline that would threaten its dominance.
Bubonic Plague of Justinian in
Byzantine Empire (541): Affects much of
Europe, but Byzantine in particular. May have killed up to about half of
the European population, further propelling Europe toward the Dark Ages.
Byzantine, with its legendary emperor Justinian, was well on its way to
restoring the glory of the Roman Empire, but the plague diminished its
troop strength, while forcing many soldiers to be recalled back to
Constantinople. As a result, Byzantine lost its grip on much of Italy
and other regions around the Mediterranean. This would allow barbarians
to conquer most of Italy (i.e. Germanic Lombard tribes), and would cause
the Byzantine Empire to go into a decline. The plague also weakened
Byzantine to the east, where it would also soon lose its Asian and
African territories to Arab Muslim Caliphates (empires), beginning in
the 7th century. Therefore, the Bubonic Plague of Justinian contributed
to the rise of Islamic expansion.
Southern Iberia Conquered by
Byzantine (554): In further attempts to
restore the fullness of the Roman Empire, Byzantine conquers southern
Beginning of “Turkic” Avar Kingdom
in SE Europe (558): Avars, a Central
Asian Turkic people, are driven west into Europe by Persians & other,
more powerful Turkic empires. They are paid off by the Byzantines to
settle the area north of the Danube River, where they succeeded in
driving Germanics out of the area. They also displaced large groups of
Slavs who were also settled north of the Danube. The Avar raids force
them into the Balkans, where they settled lands abandoned by Germanic
peoples. This group of Slavs were forced to pay tribute to the Avars.
Beginning of Lombard Rule in Italy
(568): Lombards, a Germanic tribe,
migrate from the east, through the Alps and into Northern Italy, where
Byzantine rule (after a costly victory in the Goth War) was weak or
non-existent. They were driven away from their lands around modern
Croatia & Bosnia by the Avars (Central Asian/Turkic invaders). Lombards
would gain control over large parts of northern & central Italy, but
their rule would be weak & highly decentralized.
Visigothic Kingdom in Iberian
Peninsula (585): Visigoths conquer
Suevi Kingdom (another Germanic people who migrated to NW Hispania).
They now rule virtually all of the Iberian peninsula except the
Byzantine areas in the south, & Basque areas in the north. Predecessor
to future nations of Spain & Portugal.
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Visigoth Kingdom – Predecessor
to Spain & Portugal
Visigoths consolidate rule in Iberia, resulting in a largely
homogenized people on the peninsula, which began with original
inhabitants (Iberians), who intermixed with migrating Celts
before the Roman period (Celt-Iberians). They considered
themselves “Hispani” (Roman inhabitants of Hispania –
Roman/Latin name of Iberian peninsula) during the Roman period,
taking upon themselves Rome’s Latin language. With the mass
migration & conquests of Germanic peoples upon the collapse of
the Roman Empire, the Germanic invaders would become the ruling
class, but would completely blend with the existing inhabitants,
while also taking upon themselves the Latin language (which
would evolve into its own sub-branch, which would be the
predecessor to the modern Spanish & Portuguese languages). Under
the Visigoth reign, Roman culture would erode & rule would be
highly decentralized, typifying the Dark Ages. As a result, the
new “Hispani” (Romanized Celt-Iberians + Germanics) would split
into multiple petty kingdoms, while being separated & protected
by the expanding Franks by Pyrenees Mountains, a natural barrier
that still serves as the boundary between modern Spain & France.
The Christian kingdoms of Iberia would not unify until the 15th
century, when they would evict the last of the Muslims, forming
the Kingdom of Spain.
Visigothic Conversion to
Christianity in Hispania (589):
Visigoths in Iberia convert to Christianity, consolidating their power
base by gaining support of the church, and support of the existing
populace that still held on tightly to the Roman ways.
Lombard (Italy) Conversion to
Christianity (589): Lombards in Italy
convert to Christianity, consolidating their power base by gaining
support of the church, & the support of the populace in Italy, which
largely belongs to the Catholic Church.
Viking Raids in Northern Europe
Begin (~ 600): Vikings from Scandinavia
begin raiding the unprotected coastal lands of Britain & the northern
mainland. Monasteries were a common target, since they were typically
undefended, & contained valuables. Slaves were also captured.
Note: Enabling Factors of Viking
Raids. A warm weather trend began around this time, making it easier to
travel longer distances by sea. The Scandinavians were not
inhibited by a culture or religion that discouraged pillaging.
Scandinavia also became overpopulated, & farming did not support
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Note: Precursor to “German” Nation.
Germanic Tribes migrate westward, out of Eastern Europe due to invasions
from the east by Huns, Avars, Magyars and other nomadic peoples from
Asia. These loosely affiliated Germanic tribes east of the Frankish
Kingdom (Francia) & north of the Lombard Kingdom (Italy) become the
basis for the modern nation of Germans (“Germany”).
Note: Brittany (NW France). Britons
from modern Wales in the British Isles settle the NW peninsula of modern
France, forming a semi-independent kingdom.
Note: Basque peoples continue to
fiercely resist foreign invaders (i.e. Franks & Visigoths, maintaining
their distinct identity & sovereignty. They had resisted assimilation
into foreign peoples since before 5000 BC, & continue to do so to this
Note: Bulgars joined the Huns in
Central Asia, as subjects/clients. They accompanied the Huns on raids,
gaining a portion of the spoils, advancing as far west as Gaul (modern
France). When the Hunnic Empire came to an end, the Bulgars withdrew SE
into the Balkan peninsula, settling in modern Bulgaria. They became the
ruling class, but genetically became assimilated into the
numerically-superior Slavs who had recently migrated into the area.
Hence, they became known as Bulgarians, despite the dominance of the
Slav bloodlines in this new nation of people. The Slav language
prevailed among this new nation, with some Bulgar/Turk influence,
forming the basis for the modern Bulgarian language.
Note: Slavic Predecessors to Future Czech
and Slovak Nations. Slavs are pushed west by Hunnic & Avar (Turkic
peoples) expansions into Eastern Europe. As Germanic people migrate
westward, Slavs move into their evacuated lands to fill the void. The
Slavic “Czechs” intermix with Germanic peoples to form the basis of the
modern Czech people. The Slavic “Slovak” tribes formed into separate
nation after the portion that became Czechs splintered off to the west.
Note: South Slavs Separated from Slav
Relatives to North. Those Slavs that are pushed SW into the Balkan
peninsula become separated from the rest of the Slavic people, as Turkic
& Magyar peoples settle to the north of them. South Slav people become
the ancestors (principal or partial) to modern Slovenes, Croats, Serbs,
Bosnians, Albanians, Montenegrans, Macedonians, Bulgarians & Romanians.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Note: Albanians. The Illyrians had
survived as a distinct people through the centuries of Roman rule. In
the 500s and 600s, they were driven into the remote mountains in modern
Albania when Slavs migrated en masse to the Balkan peninsula, as they
were pushed south by migrating Turkish people from Asia. The mixture
between the Illyrians & migrating Slavs served as the ancestors to
modern Albanians. This group retained the Illyrian language, the
predecessor to the modern Albanian language.
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Political Power of the Church
The Christian Churches (Roman Catholic in the West & Eastern
Orthodox in Byzantine) become the new “information highway”,
controlling information, beliefs & attitudes. As Europe becomes
far more fragmented, with less interaction among cultures, &
ruled largely by uneducated tribal peoples (such as Germanics),
knowledge of the world is monopolized by the clergy. However,
the clergy primarily focuses on their own religious doctrine,
ignoring and even suppressing worldly knowledge, science,
literature & art outside of this scope. This contributes to the
deepening of the Dark Ages, which grips West & Central Europe
more than Byzantine in the east. In which case, the Church
becomes the most influential force in Medieval Europe. Kings
that align with the Church gain a political advantage, allowing
the Church to strongly influence geo-political events. For
example, the Franks, Visigoths & Lombards were able to
consolidate their power (in Francia, Hispania & Italy
respectively) when converting to Roman Catholicism. In return,
the Church would receive lands, wealth & influence in the
kingdom. In Christianity, there is an absolute authority, &
kings were able to further enforce their rule by appearing to be
endorsed by this authority (through the Pope). This concept of
submitting to absolute authority also made it more natural for
people to accept absolute authority from their “divinely”
Next: Early Dark Ages II (600 – 755)
Decline of Rome (235 – 490)
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