THE SUNSET AND SUNRISE OF CIVILISATIONS
Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance, there is an indistinct period which is clouded by mystery. It is known as the Dark Ages. As one of the most horrific periods in the history of Europe, it was besieged by famine, disease, endemic warfare and a total collapse of political systems across the continent. Amid the rubble of chaos, however, there were people determined to propel Europe into a new dawn of enlightenment. What triggered the fall of Rome was decades of rule by inept Roman emperors, whose obsession with self-gain hastened its demise. And while the city crumpled from within, brutal civil wars and natural disasters aided its total collapse. In a way, Rome paid a heavy price for its own success. Together with the vast wealth it imported from the regions it conquered, it also imported new types of diseases that were slowly claiming the lives of countless thousands. This led to a shortage in border guards, which forced Roman officials to recruit foreign mercenaries to guard the territories. But the incompetence with which the officials handled these new recruits, fuelled disgruntle and rebellion against the dwindling superpower. Soon after, barbarian invaders such as the Huns, Goths, Vandals, Franks and the Saxons flooded into Rome to try and clutch what is left of the once indestructible empire. In the next seven centuries, the dark cloud which loomed over the continent became a time known as the Dark Ages. As a direct consequence, even engineering miracles that defined the previous ages of development and innovation such as aqueducts, stopped working altogether. Suddenly, Europe was in a state of disintegration.
Over time, the Colosseum which was once a showcase of Rome's supremacy bowed down in pain, during these troubled times. The façade of the decaying monument became an emblem for the downward spiral of one of history's greatest civilisations. Strikingly, in just a century, the law and order which governed the people of the continent disintegrated into upheaval and disorder. It was also a period when people grew deeply paranoid and superstitious. Evidently, it took Rome another three centuries with the crowning of Charlemagne or Charles the Great as emperor, before the Roman Empire would hope to rekindle its past glory - politically and economically. And Charlemagne would go down in history as one of the most brutal figures in the Dark Ages. He was a man of steel will and intelligence. To restore order in his vast dominion he pursued a zero-tolerance policy. Consequently, under his command his empire expanded to include modern day Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland and Poland. Like Alexander the Great before him, he established a sophisticated system of governance by dividing the kingdom into small counties. Charlemagne then embraced a circle of influential scholars advanced in the fields of literature, philosophy and science with the aim of spreading a culture of creativity. Throughout his kingdom he built schools and provided poor children with free education. Charlemagne was also one of the first European kings to make a consorted effort to learn to read and write. And although the economic depression in Europe lasted 600 years, the continent made a cultural rebound with the aid of one of the most valuable intellectual resources. It was simply education.