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The Barberini ivory, a late Leonid/Justinian Byzantine ivory leaf from an imperial diptych, from an imperial workshop in Constantinople in the first half of the sixth century (Louvre Museum)

Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but historian Peter Brown proposed a period between the 2nd and 8th centuries CE. Generally, it can be thought of as from the end of the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century (c. 235 – 284) to, in the East, the re-organization of the Eastern Roman Empire under Heraclius and the Muslim conquests in the mid-7th century, or an earlier point. In the West the end was earlier, with the start of the Early Medieval period typically placed in the 6th century, or earlier on the Western edges of the empire.

The Roman Empire underwent considerable social, cultural and organizational changes starting with the reign of Diocletian, who began the custom of splitting the Empire into Eastern and Western halves ruled by multiple emperors. Beginning with Constantine the Great the Empire was Christianized, and a new capital founded at Constantinople. Migrations of Germanic tribes disrupted Roman rule from the late 4th century onwards, culminating in the eventual collapse of the Empire in the West in 476, replaced by the so-called barbarian kingdoms. The resultant cultural fusion of Greco-Roman, Germanic and Christian traditions formed the foundations of the subsequent culture of Europe.

The general decline of population, technological knowledge and standards of living in Europe during this period became the archetypal example of societal collapse for writers from the Renaissance until recent times. As a result of this decline, and the relative paucity of historical records from Europe in particular, the period between the fall of the Empire and the Middle Ages became known as the Dark Ages, a term displaced in most current periodisations by the introduction of "Late Antiquity".


Late Antiquity sections
Intro  Terminology   Religion   Political transformations  Cities  Sculpture and art  Literature  See also  Notes  References  External links  

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