The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

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The fall of the Western Roman Empire in the late fifth century plunged Europe into a long period of darkness and barbarism. This era until the dawn of the ‘age of discovery’ in the sixteenth century was later termed to be the ‘Middle Ages’. While this epoch of European history is labeled as ‘middle’ or even ‘dark’, it was during this time that many social, political and cultural developments took place. The obliteration of the great Roman Empire left Europe prey for disunity and continuous foreign invasion and migration. From Scotland to the alps of Sicily a prayer emerged in the ninth century, “Save us, O God, from the violence of the Northmen”. Now known as Vikings, these northmen were pagan Germanic people from Norway, Sweden and Denmark that often went on raids and harassed isolated monasteries and villages throughout the continent. Similarly peoples known as Magyars from central Europe looted settlements took captives and forced leaders to pay tribute to prevent further attacks. Muslims from North Africa already ruled most of Spain and continued northward towards central Italy and southern France. The expansion of Islam continued on into the tenth and eleven centuries during the times of the Fatimid Caliphate and the Seljuk Turks. The centuries before the first crusade were one of terror and chaos from a European or Christian perspective. People were frightened that their world was slowly coming to an end, overrun by pagans and Muslims. This fear combined with

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