Sunday, May 16, 2010


When a person first thinks about the Dark Ages they think of Barbarians who were probably not the sharpest tool in the tool shed and were complete savages in every aspect of life, but in reality the Dark Ages were something entirely different. The dictionary defines dark ages as times of decline in a civilization, but is a civilization really in dark times if it is just coasting but not declining? The Visigoths, a Germanic tribe, controlled most of the Iberian Peninsula for about three hundred some years and had several accomplishments so can they really be considered dark? There were definitely aspects of their civilization that were dark and some that were not; population, warfare, government, and their impact on later societies all our examples of how the Visigoths lived in the supposed Dark Ages.
The tribe known as the Visigoths had a population less than one hundred thousand people by the time they had migrated to the Iberian Peninsula which seems small compared to the population of thirty-six million that lived in Europe in 200 C.E, but the Visigoths ruled over most of the population on the Iberian Peninsula during its control. The population had declined approximately ten million during the Dark Ages in Europe which affected every community. Also, most of Europe was at war during the Dark Ages to an extreme far worse than during the rule of the Romans which the Visigoths did participate in by fighting with neighboring tribes for land and power. Fighting is the main cause for the population drop in Europe and was another unfortunate aspect of the Dark Ages for the Visigoths.
Visigoths were governed by a monarchy where kings were elected but many came from the same line of small families which makes parts of the Visigoth period a dynasty. Law in the period of the Visigoths was definitely advanced by the Visigothic Code of Law which went into detail about how both civilians and slaves could live and their rights. The Visigothic Code of Law was written in the Gothic Alphabet which is the contradictory characteristic of the Dark Ages, lack of documentation. Visigoths left a major impact on later societies with their code of law but also their culture and arts. Visigothic architecture was an influence to other societies who used their concepts even in today’s architecture and is known as Gothic architecture while Visigoths created many artifacts, mainly beautiful works of jewelry, considered art. The code of law and architecture and art helped to advance the Visigoths and impacted other societies which are not a normal aspect of the Dark Ages.
So the ultimate question; were the Visigoths really what people think of when they think of the Dark Ages? In my opinion, no but the Visigoths definitely had decline from the Roman Empire, but they also improved themselves and left a respectable impact on societies that followed which are never thoughts that a person comes across when they are thinking of the Dark Ages. The Visigoths are not the average Dark Age tribe; they lived complex lives that had both good and bad, they went through a minor decline, and were neither dark nor light but more of a happy medium.

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