The Dark Ages is a period of time that coincides with part of the Middle Ages (the 5th to 15th centuries) in which there was found a downturn in the economic and cultural fortunes in Europe. The beginning of the era is usually placed from the fall of the Roman Empire until the beginning of the Renaissance period, though the Dark Ages are often associated only with the Early Middle Ages (approximately from the 5th to 9th centuries). The term, first coined in 1602, is based on dark vs. light--the differences of the
"... intellectual darkness between the extinguishing of the light of Rome and the Renaissance or rebirth from the 14th century onwards."
Characteristics of the Dark Ages include the decline of written history, literature, architecture, art, and cultural accomplishments, and marked by a general "backwardness" and decay. It was viewed by later historians as an "age of faith" as opposed to the Renaissance's age of reason and enlightenment.