According to modern historians, Dark Ages was a term erroneously used for several centuries to describe the Middle Ages. Although the exact dates of the Middle Ages cannot be determined with certainty, most scholars believe the era began with the fall of the Roman Empire around 410 and continued until around 1350, or after the European Renaissance (1300–1500; a revitalization of ancient Greek and Roman cultural traditions). In the 1600s historians coined the term "Dark Ages" to describe what they considered to be a social and cultural decline during the period that is now known as the Middle Ages. However, modern historians have reevaluated this view and have concluded that the term Dark Ages pertains only to the Early Middle Ages (c. 450–750). Although many problems occurred in the Middle Ages—warfare, economic and political disorder, and disasters such as the bubonic plague—significant cultural advances took place during that time. For example, in 1158 the first university was founded in Bologna, Italy. Other achievements included the Gothic architecture of French cathedrals, the work of Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), the Scholasticism (a philosophical movement) of Italian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), the Gregorian chant of Roman Catholic Church liturgy (worship services), and the music of French composer Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300–1377).
Further Information: Corrick, James A. The Late Middle Ages. San Diego: Lucent, 1995; Corzine, Phyllis. The Black Death. San Diego: Lucent, 1996; Gregory, Tony. The Dark Ages. New York: Facts On File, 1993; Halsall, Paul, ed. Internet History Sourcebook. [Online] Available http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html, October 20, 2000; Hanawalt, Barbara A. The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.