The Dark Ages (The History Channel)

The Dark Ages (The History Channel)

Product Description

At its height in the second century A.D., the Roman Empire was the beacon of learning, trade, power and prosperity in the western world. But the once-powerful Rome--rotten to the core by the fifth century--lay open to barbarian warriors who came in wave after wave of invasion, slaughtering, stealing, and ultimately, settling. As chaos replaced culture, Europe was beset by famine, plague, persecutions, and a state of war that was so persistent it was only rarely interrupted by peace. THE DARK AGES profiles those who battled to shape the future, from the warlords whose armies threatened to case the demise of European society, like Alaric, Charles the Hammer, and Clovis; to the men and women who valiantly tended the flames of justice, knowledge, and innovation including Charlemagne, St. Benedict, Empress Theodora, and other brave souls who fought for peace and enlightenment. It was in the shadows of this turbulent millennium that the seeds of modern civilization were sown.

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A Fantastic Introduction to the Dark Ages!, July 12, 2007
The History Channel really delivers in this awesome documentary on the history of The Dark Ages, the period between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Middle Ages. It is generally remembered as a bleak period when civilization in the West teetered on the verge of total collapse and barbarian warlords fought with each other when they weren't busy fighting Viking hordes, Muslim invaders, or Byzantine armies.

The Dark Ages uses recent scholarship and high production values to recreate the period just after the fall of Rome in the late 5th century A.D. The Roman Empire in the West had collapsed and a ragtag band of barbarians made up of Goths, Vandals, Franks, and Lombards wage bloody warfare against each other to divide up the pieces of the once-great Empire. In the East, the remnants of the Empire live on under the Emperor Justinian who becomes obsessed with recapturing Rome and reconquering the West. Meanwhile, the Franks, easily the most powerful of the post-Roman tribes, have begun to establish a great kingdom under the Merovingian dynasty, led by King Clovis, whose conversion to Christianity helps secure its place in the history of Europe. The documentary then touches on the Viking raids along the English and Irish coasts, the desperate struggle to crush the invading Muslim armies that threaten to capture all of Spain and France, and ultimately, the consolidation of Western Europe as part of the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne.

This is probably one of the best History Channel DVDs out there and shows that a good amount of time and effort went into create this production. While of course it cannot tell every detail of the nearly 500 year period of the Dark Ages, it does a good job of providing an excellent introduction to the subject. It is one which recommends itself to anyone who claims to be a student of history.

History of Dark Ages; Early Christian -vs- pagan in europe, September 29, 2007
If have an avid curiosity about history, this is for you! Especially if you are interested in the history of Europe during the dark ages. While it is very informative, it is spoken in a language that retains your interest. In other words, it is not dry and boring, BUT like a walk through a period of time you have never seen. The challenge in Europe of the plague, pagan -vs- Christianity, ending at the reign of Charlemage. I loved it!

Not so dark ages, September 7, 2007
A fascinating and entertaining account of the not-so-dark ages. Solid scholarship wrapped in colorful graphics and reenactments. Very well done. The only criticism might be that it is far too short and leaves one wanting more details.

Doomed from the beginning, June 5, 2011
Trying to pack 1000 years of history into a one hour program is setting oneself up for failure from the start.

In this production, we learn little about social or political organizations and absolutely nothing about the daily lives of people, the technologies available to them and how those developed and improved over the years. We don't get as much as a hint at which crops they grew, how they grew them, how they stored and prepared food, built their homes and other structures, made clothing, treated injuries and illnesses, or defended themselves against wild animals.

Instead, we are treated to the usual "the Dark Ages were filthy and violent" fair, complete with detailed descriptions of torture. We witness the same mutilations and executions time after time, hear the same screams over and over, and see the same battle scene reenactments again and again (complete, as another reviewer pointed out, with cavalry using historically inaccurate gear, such as saddles, horseshoes and stirrups). Unfortunately, we don't get much information about why these people fought, and this leads me right back to the start of this review: It is impossible to give more than the most superficial overview of 1000 years of history in one hour.

This low-budget program does not educate viewers. All it does is depict popular prejudices against the Middle Ages.

If you want an educated introduction into this fascinating time period, including its innovations and progress, you will have to pick up a book. My personal favorite is Morris Bishop's "The Middle Ages".

An illuminating look at the Dark Ages, December 16, 2007
An excellent program on the Dark Ages, beginning with the old Roman Empire and its collapse and ending with the Crusades and the Renaissance. The rise of the barbarian kingdoms (which would later become nation-states), Byzantine intrigue, the Plague, the role of the Church, the expansion of Islam and the Viking raids are all presented to the viewer. The use of some computer graphics and actor portrayals makes the subject come alive. Of course, this can hardly be considered an in-depth look but as an introduction or just a dalliance into a field you have no intention of becoming an expert in it serves well. The seperate program on The Plague is also quite interesting and well done.

Good for some students, May 14, 2010
Mixed bag, but when the chapters are good, they're really good. The most lacking chapter is the one on Alaric where they've glossed over his background (why the Visigoths wanted to take over Rome in the first place) and rush through the sacking of Rome in just under 8 minutes. Other chapters are AMAZING: Rise of Christianity (Clovis) and the Fravks v. Moors in Ch8 especially . Here's a full lineup if it helps anyone:
-Introduction (1:08)
-The Sacking of Rome (7:22)
-The Waning Empire (4:58)
-Common Thread of Christianity (10:12)
-An Empire Strikes Back (8:33)
-The Plague (9:06)
-Men of Cloth, Men of Letters (10:40)
-A Holy War (7:59)
-The Greatest King (9:37)
-The Vikings (10:04)
-The Crusades (10:01)

A little disappointed..., May 26, 2008
As I stated in the title, after watching this documentary I stayed little disappointed. Only good thing about it, that this is only available documentary about early middle ages that exist in English. If not, it would receive two. Anyway the beginning was promising, the first problems began with Justinian and cheap acting. After that things went worse with portrayal of Charlemagne, it was more said about his love affairs than his campaigns and renovation of Europe. Then I left stunned - there wasn't any mention about HRE, but instead some story about one viking warlord, totally uncomparable with other rulers in DA! After all there wasn't any mention about Basil II, one of greatest persons on the end of early medieval time, there were some sad explanations about beginning of crusades, but more child stories then real history. Sad. It started very promising, but last 30 minutes was BIG waste of time.
Three stars.

high school teacher, April 9, 2008
I used this for my world history class at the high school level and I found it very useful and interesting to the students. The re-enactments were great especially concerning Charlemagne.

A Decent overview, May 11, 2011
This film was a decent overview of the "Dark Ages". It centers around a few key characters and events from this period such as Charlemagne, Emperor Constantine, The Black Plague, The Viking Invasions, Alfred The Great, etc. The presentation, acting, and effects were good.

I did have one criticism. This film follows closely the traditional view of the "Dark Ages" as overflowing with bloodshed, disease, isolation, illiteracy, and death of anything culturally "advanced". This was true to some extent but from the reading I've done it seems that this is not at all the consensus view among historians anymore. I would have liked this film a little better if they had shown other view points on the period as well, this would give a more balanced understanding. Overall Still a great buy. I do recommend this film, just be aware that this is not the end-all-be-all of understanding the "Dark Ages". Do your own research. Use resources like this to supplement your library, not to be the sole basis of your views on a period. Keep in mind that there are many sides to any story.

Informative and Dynamic Enough to Maintain Interest, December 27, 2008
This production is a thumbnail sketch (1.5 hours) of the Dark Ages, from the fall of Rome to about 1,000 AD. Overall, I enjoyed it and found it informative. This DVD follows a typical History Channel pattern of breaking up history into meaningful segments and illustrating broad social changes by focusing on specific events and individuals for illustration.

I have one minor production complaint: Artistically, I thought that most of the re-enactments and computer-generated animations were fair. Scenes featuring groups of people (notably armies) often seemed to be filmed from angles which would hide the fact that a small number of actors were involved. Sadly for documentary producers, Hollywood has recently raised the bar on this sort of thing with big-budget productions like "Gladiator". Transition graphics and narration are dramatic and slick, though I wish the maps were more precise and less artistic.