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Published on Feb 22, 2007
At its height in the second century A.D., the Roman Empire was the beacon of learning, trade, power and prosperity in the western world. But success eventually spoils. That Empire--rotten to the core by the fifth century--lay open to barbarian warriors who came in wave after wave of invasion--slaughtering, stealing, and ultimately, settling. As chaos replaced culture, Europe was beset by famine, plague, persecutions, and a state of war that was so persistent it was only rarely interrupted by peace.
War would become so routine that it had a season. Every summer, warlords with names like Alaric, Clovis, and Charles the Hammer would ride out with the full force of their armies to slaughter their rivals and plunder their territories. For centuries, the entire continent was consumed in a chaotic free-for-all, as ambitious and bloodthirsty barbarians sought to build their own empires over the ashes of Rome's. These centuries, dominated as they were by both natural and manmade forces of evil, are remembered today as the Dark Ages.
But beneath this cloak of darkness were scattered rays of light--men and women who valiantly tended the flames of justice, knowledge, and innovation amidst a perfect storm of disarray. It was these brave souls--people like Charlemagne, St. Benedict and the Empress Theodora--who bridged the gap of civilization between Rome and the Renaissance. It was in the shadows of that turbulent millennium in between that the seeds of modern civilization were sown.
Ultimately, these points of light would illuminate the darkness, and Western Europe would rise from the Dark Ages to a level of cultural and political power unseen for a thousand years.
A production of KPI for The History Channel. Premieres March 4, 2007 at 9pm.