By Peter Heather
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Western world went through a turbulent and dramatic period during which a succession of kingdoms rose, grew, and crumbled in spans of only a few generations. The wars and personalities of the dark ages are the stuff of legend, and all led toward the eventual reunification of Europe under a different kind of Roman rule — this time, that of the Church. Below, historian Peter Heather selects ten moments from the period upon which the fate of Europe hinged.
Peter Heather is Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London. He is the bestselling author of The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe, and numerous other works on late antiquity and the early Middle Ages.
Image credits: 1. Coin with profile of Odoacer. Permission via Creative Commons by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. Via Wikimedia Commons. 2. 16th century statue of Theoderic. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 3. The Hippodrome of Constantinople today. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 4. Mosaic depicting Justinian. Permission via GNU license. Via Wikimedia Commons. 5. 18th century Turkish depiction of Muhammad ascending to Heaven. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 6. “Coronation of Charlemagne” by Jean Fouquet, c. 1460. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 7. “Battle of Fontenoy” by Pierre Lenfant, c. 1747. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 8. Statue of Pope Leo IX in Altorf, France. Permission via GNU license. Via Wikimedia Commons. 9. Pope Innocent III, whose decretals comprised the Compilatio Tertia, depicted in a fresco c. 1219. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. 10. “Lateran Palace” by Giuseppe Vasi, c. 1752. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.