One of the great lies forwarded by really smart people and Muslims, is that Europe was mired in a 'Dark Age' when the moon cult of Mecca was in a 'Golden Age' during the 8th to 10th centuries. What nonsense. The reverse is of course true. We know this from the obvious fact that by the 10th century Europe was far ahead of the 'Saracens' in everything from science, to agriculture, to military technology, to trade and town building. The Muslim Golden Age is a gigantic lie. So too is the 'Dark Ages' of Europe.
Rome never fell, it just declined – and for good reason. The Roman empire after about 180 AD became a high-taxed, ossified, Orientalist empire, prone to civil war, corruption and inured to change and dynamism. When it was finally and officially taken over and replaced by Germanic tribes in league with Constantinople during the 5th century, life and society improved. We know this from the archaeological records and excavations, writings, and from the Arab conquests of the Levant, North Africa, Spain and southern Italy, in which the Muslims wrote about their astonishment at the riches and grandeur of Christendom, Jewish towns, and Greek states. Europe was never a backwater.
Henri Pirenne has proved that the Dark Ages did not follow the collapse of Rome – a blessing for the population of the Mediterranean which saw the old Western empire coalesce into 3 Germanic kingdoms centred in Spain, Italy and Gaul. Taxes were lowered, trade increased, roads were repaired, cities expanded, and the Roman infrastructure of water, sewage and public baths maintained and even in some locations, improved. Libraries full of the corpus of Western legal, philosophical, medicinal, agricultural, and military documents abounded. By 800 AD even a provincial hinterland city like York could produce the famous Alcuin – the greatest mind in Europe elected as the court scribe and teacher for Charlemagne. Between 500 AD and 800 AD the list of innovations, technologies and improvements in all matters of life are vast. There never was a Dark Age. Only an age of transition.
Pirenne's thesis is that the Arab invasions from the 7th to 9th centuries decimated the Mediterranean world and destroyed trade links between Europe and the Far East. Paper, spices, silk, clothing and other valuables were thus denied Europe. This engendered a 'Dark Age' in which parts of European society regressed, cities emptied, and ports laid empty. Pirenne amassed a lot of detail to support his view and he was right – at least in part. But he never fully supported the idea of a 'Dark Age' as we are told to imagine it – no civilization, robbers and brigands galore, toothless peasants eating grass, no bathing, no garments, half naked pre-neolithic savages screaming Christian superstition. What Pirenne said was correct that there was a contraction in the European political-economy during these 3 centuries, but certainly not an age of bleak darkness. Trade was reduced for a while. Ports did suffer. But by the 8th century the European navies were again clearing the Mediterranean seas of Muslim pirates and trade was starting to recover – albeit rather slowly.
The deep Dark Ages given to the West in the writings of Voltaire, Rousseau, Gibbon and others is a myth. How do we know this? Two facts would make it clear that a Dark Age never existed:
1. By 730 Europeans had began the long process of expelling the Vikings in the north; the Avars and Central Asian tribes to the East and the Muslims to the south. A weak, dark, backwards, poor, illiterate society would never be able to fight a 3-front war – and win on all fronts albeit from differing tactics and strategies on each front.
2. By 800 it was clear that Europe was far in advance of Muslim states. By 1096 or the First Crusades the Europeans had a clear and incontrovertible advantage in: military technology, diet, agricultural diversity and production, productivity including the use of horses and draft animals, harnesses, stirrups, the water wheel, health and life-spans, the size of the average man, trade, ship building, the use of ship technology, science, inquiry, writing, and literacy.
There is no possibility that if the Dark Ages had existed that the Europeans would have been able to launch 7 crusades to counterattack the Muslims in the heart of Islam, 2500 miles from the centre of Europe from 1096 to 1290. The logistics in money, men, food supply, shipping, and organization would have been baffling – even for a modern society in today's world. The Crusaders were heavily armed, well-drilled, and largely from the upper classes. It was a huge expense for the individual and the state to engage in the Reconquista of the Holy Land and to reclaim Christian land from the heathen Muslim. Advances in financial engineering, loans and mortgages dominate the fund-raising of the Dukes, Barons and nobles who led the crusades. European society long before 1100 had become a complex array of socio-economic and political innovation far surpassing anything which existed in the world, including in China. From 500 to 1000 AD Europe was alight with not only wars, and external attacks, but a real and vibrant social and economic revolution.
Islam by contrast produced little. It squatted on the rich lands and treasures of conquered Christian, Jewish and Greek territory. No innovations are apparent. The so-called Arab inventions were those made by non-Arabs including Persians, Nestorians, Greeks, Jews and pagans all of whom were given Arab names. These dhimmi or conquered peoples were already engaged in creating new methods, ideas and technologies in medicine, math [from the Hindus and Persians], science, astronomy, finance, and war. Giving the Arabs credit for this, would be the same as giving the Russians credit for the great advancements by America over 150 years, if they had won the Cold War, and renamed Americans with Russian names.
We know that during the Crusades the Turks and Arabs, were no match for the smaller Christian forces in open battle. The Muslims were lightly armed, smaller men, seated on smaller horses, with no armour, and with a very primitive system of supply usually consisting of foraging. They relied on trickery, flank attacks, and numbers. Man for man, technology for technology, and system for system, the Arabs and Turks were never a match for the Crusaders. Muslim writing confirms this. The reasons why the Christians could not keep Israel is that European society lost interest in a very long and extremely costly enterprise, and that there never were enough Crusaders to keep out a unified Muslim enemy [at times fewer than a few thousand Christian troops were in the Holy Land].
Military technology always says a lot about the general nature of the system in which the technology is created. In 732 AD lightly armed Muslim horsemen were eradicated by the heavy infantry and heavy armour of Charles Martel's Frankish troops 120 miles south of Paris. Martel was outnumbered but lost comparatively few men. The Arabs were slaughtered as they would be 5 years later in a repeat invasion. A primitive, 'dark age' society does not produce the technology of heavy plates, body armour, intricately designed swords, and lances; and the larger horses not to mention bigger men who rode them. A primitive society does produce what the Arabs used – smaller men, on smaller horses with inferior equipment.
We know that the Dark Ages are a rather vicious lie since by 1200 it was clear that Europe was going on to world mastery. This would be impossible if there were 3 lost centuries. Pirenne is right in part in that there was a contraction in trade, and most dangerously a stoppage of the key paper-papyrus from Egypt. This must have had a deleterious and 'dark' impact on Europe. But the vibrancy of European society based on Christian ideals, individualism, and a dynamic optimism overcame this difficulty. Almost impossibly these pre-modern Europeans beat off three viciously anti-humanist invasions by the Vikings, Muslims and Avars; and then embarked on the amazing odyssey of the Crusades. No 'Dark Age' society could have done this.
No serious study of the period between 500 AD and 1000 AD confirms a 'Dark Age' in Europe. The Muslim invasion of the Christian world did create an era of bleakness, distortion, death and trade reduction. That is to be expected. Islam brings little but devastation. That is why saying Europe was 'dark' and Islam 'enlightened' is about as smart as saying that Russian Communism created the modern world, and the American-inspired Western world invented nothing.
The Medieval ’Dark Ages’? Compared to the modern age? Pure nonsense all of it.