In fact, you probably could have taken a similar picture at the time, with an east/west instead of north/south axis.From The Muslims of Andalusia: I get that this is just a pun I’m taking too seriously.
He now saw Classical Antiquity, so long considered a ‘dark’ age for its lack of Christianity, in the ‘light’ of its cultural achievements, while Petrarch’s own time, allegedly lacking such cultural achievements, was seen as the age of darkness. I agree there’s some level on which all of these are a sort of boundary-crossing in the ethics of historiography. In this case you’re not responsibly abdicating historical judgment.
[…] Petrarch wrote that history had two periods: the classic period of Greeks and Romans, followed by a time of darkness in which he saw himself living. And I agree that maybe very responsible historians want to avoid this and come up with more neutral names for very official work – I’ve seen some people talk about “Alexander III of Macedon”. You’re making a historical judgment, and getting it wrong. The Dark Ages were only “dark” if you like big centralized states with powerful economies. For example, ancient Rome had slavery, and most Dark Age societies didn’t. And Alexander the Great was only “great” if you like killing a lot of people and conquering their lands.
People are now talking about how you’re a gullible rube if you still believe in a so-called “Dark Age”, and how all the real intellectuals know that this was a time of flourishing civilization every bit as good as the Romans or the Renaissance. The period from about 500 to about 1000 in Christian Western Europe was marked by profound economic and intellectual decline and stagnation relative to the periods that came before and after it. And not even all of Europe – not in the Eastern Roman Empire, not in al-Andalus… Have you debunked the so-called Great Plains narrative and proven that its believers are credulous morons?
This is incompatible with the “no such thing as the Dark Ages” claim except by a bunch of tortured logic, isolated demands for rigor, and historical ignorance. I wonder if these people interrupt anyone who talks about the Warring States period with “actually, there were only warring states in China. Or have you just missed that there’s a natural and well-delineated area suitable to be called “Great Plains” that doesn’t include your supposed counterexamples?
[Warning: non-historian arguing about history, which is always dangerous and sometimes awful.
I will say in my defense that I’m drawing off the work of plenty of good historians like Bryan Ward-Perkins and Angus Maddison whom I interpret as agreeing with me.This sleep of forgetfulness will not last for ever. Maybe the real Golden Age of Athens was in 40,000 BC, when Neanderthals on the rocky plain that would one day become Athens hunted mammoths in carefree abandon, loving life and being at one with nature and the changing seasons.When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance.” Petrarch can’t just be referring to an absence of good historical sources – he’s talking about his own era! Maybe the title “Alexander the Great” should really go to Alexander IV of Macedon, who was killed at age 14 and so never conquered, murdered, or oppressed anyone – truly an outstanding achievement matched by approximately zero other kings of the era.And compared to the periods before or after, Dark Ages Europe was unimpressive.I’m probably an overly literal person, but whenever I think about dark ages, I think of the modern (and anachronistic for the period in question) association between light, population density, and economic activity: The Dark Ages in Europe were a time when things would have been more towards the North Korean end of that picture.Christian writers, including Petrarch himself, had long used traditional metaphors of ‘light versus darkness’ to describe ‘good versus evil’.