Dark centuries

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As dark ages or dark age (Engl. Dark Ages ) are referred to periods in which the story is little or not explored a particular region for lack of written sources or archaeological finds up. Often these “dark centuries” are preceded by periods of time that are better known. The use of the term is sometimes problematic and can have a derogatory character.

Concept and problem

In a figurative sense, times when the level of civilization (e.g. due to wars, persecutions, epidemics) is assessed as being relatively low are sometimes referred to as dark or dark centuries. During these times, there can also be a decline in cultural activity and thus also in font production, which reduces the likelihood that informative written sources have been passed on. A decline in human population density caused by epidemics or wars also reduces the possibility of archaeological finds.

However, the term “dark age” is problematic in itself. In the Renaissance , humanists coined the topos of the “dark” or “dark Middle Ages ”, which preceded their own, now “enlightened time” and darkened the spirit in the religiously based dogmatism. In modern research, however, judgments are much more differentiated.

In the English-speaking world, the term Dark Ages was sometimes applied negatively to the entire Middle Ages. Aaron J. Gurjewitsch writes:

The "Middle Ages" are almost synonymous with everything dark and reactionary. Its early period is known as the "dark centuries". The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language even extends the term Dark Ages to the entire Middle Ages. Such a relationship to the Middle Ages, which can be explained to a certain extent in the 17th and 18th centuries, [...] has long since lost all legitimacy.

In antiquity, the term is mainly used for the Anatolian, Greek and British "dark centuries". Landsberger postulated a Babylonian or Assyrian dark age between Samsu-ditana and Gandaš or Adasi , which he attributed to major migrations in Babylonia and Assyria .


Old Egypt

The Egyptian Chronology deals with the chronological classification of historical dates, events and developments of the material culture of ancient Egypt. The chronology differs clearly from the cultural history, which directs a certain, cultural-historical perspective on the objects.


Dark centuries refers to a period between the 12th and 8th centuries BC in ancient Greece and Anatolia. It is in them that the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age takes place.

European Middle Ages

Dark centuries or dark ages are periods of time for which only a few sources are available. The lack of written reports, numismatic and partly also archaeological finds makes historical research and evaluation of these times difficult.

Saeculum obscurum

Saeculum obscurum (dark century) is the period from 882 to 1046 in papal history, in which the papacy went through a deep crisis.


  • Orsolya Heinrich-Tamaska, Niklot Krohn, Sebastian Ristow (eds.): Dark centuries in Central Europe? Conference contributions of the Working Group on Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages 1. Rituals and Fashions (Xanten, June 8, 2006) 2. Possibilities and problems of archaeological-scientific cooperation (Schleswig, October 9-10, 2007) . Kovac, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8300-4175-7 , ( Studies on Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages 1, ISSN  1867-5425 ).
  • Chris Wickham : The Inheritance of Rome . Allen Lane, London 2009, ISBN 978-0-7139-9429-2 , ( The Penguin history of Europe 2).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ See Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome
  2. Aaron J. Gurjewitsch: The world view of medieval people , translated by Gabriele Loßack, VEB Verlag der Kunst Dresden, 1978, p. 6 and 7.
  3. Benno Landsberger, Assyrian King List and "Dark Age" (Continued). In: Journal of Cuneiform Studies 8/2, 1954, 47–73.