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The Middle Ages (476-1453)


--begins reign of Roman emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305); beginnings of the administrative division of the Roman empire into Western and Eastern sections


--October 28, Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine defeats his rival and brother-in-law Maxentius. According to legend Constantine was promised victory in the battle by a vision in the sky of a cross and the sun representing Christ (the Chi-Rho later used in the military standard known as the labarum) and the Greek words Εν Τουτω Νικα (“IN HOC SIGNO VINCES”; “by this sign you will be victorious”) (Eusebius, Life of Constantine)


--Council of Nicaea, definition of orthodox Christian belief, enforcement of doctrinal consensus, suppression of Arianism, establishment of conventional date for celebration of Resurrection (first Sunday after first full moon after vernal equinox)


--Constantine begins construction (completed around 360) of Old Saint Peter’s Basilica (replaced by the new Saint Peter’s Basilica built 1506-1626)

--Saint Nicholas of Bari (d. 343), Christian saint and Bishop of Myra in Anatolia (Turkey), prototype of Santa Claus


--first encounters of Germanic Goths and Asian Huns north of the Black Sea


--Theodosius, Roman emperor (r. 379-395); favored Christianity and made it into the official religion of the Roman empire (391); instigated persecution of pagans throughout the empire and the destruction of the pagan temple of Serapis (the Serapeum), along with the remaining collections of the former Library of Alexandria (also encouraged by Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria)


--death of Theodosius, division of the Roman empire into Eastern and Western


--death of Ambrose (339-397), Christian theologian who believed in the subordination of secular rulers to moral ecclesiastical authority; chastised Theodosius for atrocities like the massacre of the people of Thessalonica in Macedonia (390)


--massive westward movement of Germanic populations, fleeing the Huns, into Roman territories (406)


--Visigoths, led by Alaric, sack of  Rome

--Romans abandon Britain, recall of troops to defend Rome


--death of Jerome (340-420), Christian theologian, author of the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible dominant during the Middle Ages


--death of Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Christian theologian author of the Confessions and The City of God


--Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain (449)

--Attila, “the Scourge of God,” leader of the Asiatic tribe of the Huns (r. 433-453); persuaded by Pope Leo I to spare Rome (452)


--death of Saint Patrick (d. 461 or 493), Christian missionary and patron saint of Ireland


--September 4, Fall of the Roman Empire. Emperor Romulus Augustulus deposed by Odoacer/Odovacar, leader of the Germanic Scirii and Heruli (tribes which at that time were foederati or allies of the Romans)--



--King Arthur, semi-legendary Celtic leader resisting Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain [his existence is not historically attested]

--Clovis I, king of the Franks (r. 482-511), queen Clotilda (d. 548), Merovingian dynasty; Clovis became a Christian under the influence of Clotilda (also believing that a victory against the Alemanni was brought about by his invocation of Jesus)


--Boethius (d. 524), philosopher and author of the Consolation of Philosophy, executed by Theodoric, Ostrogoth ruler of Rome (r. 493-526)


--Saint Benedict (d. 550), “father of Western monasticism” and author of the Rule of Saint Benedict

--Justinian, emperor of Byzantium (r. 527-565), empress Theodora (d. 548); compilation of the Corpus Juris Civilis, a gathering and systematization of Roman law

--St. Brendan (d. 578), Irish missionary famous for his sea voyages (perhaps going as far as Canada around 530) and encounters with sea monsters


--Pope Gregory I (r. 590-604)

--death of St. Columba (521-597), Irish missionary active among the Picts in Scotland; associated with first recorded sighting of the legendary Loch Ness monster

--arrival in England (597) of Roman missionary Augustine (d. 604), first Archbishop of Canterbury (sent by Pope Gregory I to Christianize Anglo-Saxons)


--King Aethelbert of Kent (r. 580-616) accepts Christianity, influenced by his wife Bertha (great-granddaughter of Clotilda) and by missionary Augustine (d. 604)

--Mohammed (d. 632), journey from Mecca to Medina, a migration known as the Hijra, in 622, the first year of the Muslim calendar


--Arab conquest of Iberia (Spain) (711) by Tariq (Gibraltar < Gib al-Tariq, “mount of Tariq”) and establishment of Al-Andalus


--Venerable Bede (d. 735), Benedictine monk in Northumbria and author of Ecclesiastical History of the English People

--Charles Martel (d. 741), leader of the Franks; victory over Arabs at Battle of Tours-Poitiers (732)


--Pepin the Short, king of the Franks (r. 741-768), anointed by order of Pope Zacharius I in 751 at Soissons, begins Carolingian dynasty

--Saint Boniface (d. 754). Benedictine missionary engaged in Christianization of Germanic tribes (said to have cut down Thor’s Oak, in 723, one of the sacred oak trees worshipped by the Germanic peoples)

-- Battle of Roncesvaux Pass (778), Basques defeat and kill Roland (legendary hero of the Chanson de Roland, c. 1150) at the rearguard of Charlemagne’s armies

--Viking raid against Lindisfarne in England (793)


--Harun al-Rashid, caliph of Baghdad (r. 786-809), Abbasid dynasty; composition of the One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights)

--Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor (r. 800-814), crowned by Pope Leo III

--Alcuin (d. 804), Northumbrian monk, scholar, and educator active at the court of Charlemagne

--Louis I the Pious, king of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor (r. 814-840)

--London sacked by Vikings (842)

--Treaty of Verdun (843), division of the Holy Roman empire among Lothair, Charles the Bald, and Louis the German, grandsons of Charlemagne and sons of Louis the Pious


--Alfred the Great, king of Wessex in England (r. 871-899), containment of Viking expansion in England


-- Normans (“North-men” of Scandinavian origin) settle in northern France (Normandy) in 911 under an agreement with Charles the Simple (d. 922)

--Abd al-Rahman III, caliph of Cordoba and ruler of Al-Andalus (r. 912-961)

--Otto I, Saxon king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor (r. 962-973)

--Hugh Capet becomes king of France (r. 987-996), begins Capetian dynasty


--Aethelred, the Unready, Anglo-Saxon king of England (r. 978-1016), England besieged by Vikings


--Ibn-Sina (Avicenna) (d. 1037), Arabic physician

--Danish kings of England (1016-1042), Canute, Harold Harefoot, Hardecanute


--begins reign of Edward the Confessor (next to last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, r. 1042-1066), son of Aethelred II Unraed and Emma (daughter of Richard II, duke of Normandy); lived in exile in Normandy, during Danish rule of England, until 1041; conflicts and power sharing with Godwine, earl of Wessex, and his son Harold; supposedly Edward, on his deathbed, designated Harold as his successor, reversing an earlier promise to William, duke of Normandy


--East-West Schism (1054), separation of Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church; mutual excommunication of Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius


--death of Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066), son of Aethelred the Unready and one of the last kings of the Anglo-Saxons

--Battle of Hastings (October 14, 1066); Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror; death of Harold Godwinson, last Anglo-Saxon king (r. Jan 5-Oct 14, 1066), killed at Hastings; end of the Anglo-Saxon period (449-1066)

--William I, king of England (r. 1066-1087)


--Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand) declares the supremacy of the Church, terminates the right of secular rulers to appoint ecclesiastical officials, and begins the Investiture Controversy; opposition and excommunication of Henry IV

--Henry IV begs forgiveness of Gregory VII at Canossa (1077)


--First Crusade (1095-1099) launched by Pope Urban II

--death of El Cid (Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, 1040-1099), Spanish hero of the Reconquista (military campaigns against the Arabs in Spain)


-- peak of Medieval Warm Period or Medieval Climate Optimum (800-1300 AD), favorable weather spurs food production, economic prosperity and expansionism in Europe

--Mabinogion, collection of eleven Welsh stories including Kulhwch and Olwen (c. 1100) one of the earliest literary treatments of Arthurian legends

--origins of Order of the Knights Templar (c. 1119-1120), military religious order founded for the purposes of supporting the Crusades and the presence of Europeans in the Holy Land; Templars became very wealthy and influential; eventually the Order was officially suppressed (1312) and many Templars were executed or imprisoned, their property confiscated (1307-1314)

--Omar Khayyam (d. 1123), Arabic poet author of the Rubaiyat

--William of Poitiers (d. 1126), first of the troubadours

--Concordat of Worms (1122), compromise between papacy and empire over investiture issue, end of Investiture Controversy


--Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain, 1136-1139), in Latin; covers period till 689 A.D.; source of many Arthurian legends


--El Cantar de Mio Cid (Song of El Cid), Spanish epic poem celebrating the exploits of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid (1040-1099)

--death of Peter Abelard (1079-1142), intellectual, philosopher, teacher, theologian and advocate of the use of logic and reason in the study of theology; bitterly persecuted by Bernard de Clairvaux


--Second Crusade (1147-1149), launched by Pope Eugenius III (d. 1153) and preached by St. Bernart de Clairvaux (1090-1153); led by Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany; ended in failure


--Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland), French epic poem telling of the deeds and death of the hero Roland at the Battle of Roncesvaux Pass (fictionalized as an encounter between Christians and Arabs)

--death of St. Bernard de Clairvaux (1090-1153), persecutor of heretics; enemy of reason, logic, and intellectual approaches to theology; promoter of the Second Crusade, Mariology (the cult of the Virgin Mary), and the Order of the Knights Templar; a bitter opponent of Peter Abelard (1079-1142)


--begins reign of Henry II (House of Plantagenet, Angevine Empire) (r. 1154-1189), son of Matilda and grandson of Henry I; married in 1152 to Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) (Eleanor was divorced from Louis VII of France); Eleanor and Henry were the parents of Richard the Lion-Heart and John Lackland; Eleanor was patroness of French/Provençal courtly poets/troubadours (e.g. Bernart de Ventadorn, fl. 1150-1180) and performers (jongleurs)


--Marie de France (second half of 12th c.) (perhaps a half sister of Henry II), author of the Lais, Celtic/Breton verse narratives in octosyllabic couplets in Anglo-Norman language


--Marie de Champagne (1145-1198), daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France; patroness of the arts and of authors like Chrétien de Troyes and Andreas Capellanus (The Art of Courtly Love, 1184-1186).

--Chrétien de Troyes (fl. 1165-1180), author of romances in French octosyllabic couplets, Erec et EnideCliges, Lancelot, Yvain, Perceval, major influence on subsequent Arthurian literature


--murder of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, instigated by Henry II (r. 1154-1189)

--Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1155-1190), Hohenstaufen dynasty


--Third Crusade (1189-1192), ended in failure; Frederick Barbarossa died by drowning on the way to the Holy Land (1190)

--Richard the Lion-Heart, king of England (r. 1189-1199), son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine; participated in the Third Crusade; legends of Robin Hood in the days of Richard’s reign


--Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216)

--Fourth Crusade (1202-1204), redirected against Christian Byzantine Empire; capture and sack of Constantinople (1204)

--John Lackland, king of England (r. 1199-1216); loss of Normandy in 1204; Magna Carta (1215) imposed on him by English barons

--St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) visits Pope Innocent III (1209)

--Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229), directed against Albigensian/Cathar heretics in southern France, called by Pope Innocent III in alliance with northern French; destruction of courtly southern French civilization

--Children's Crusade (1212)

--St Dominic (1170-1221), preacher and persecutor of heretics, founder of Order of Friars Preachers (1216)

--Philip II Augustus, king of France (r. 1180-1223)


--Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1220-1250), Hohenstaufen dynasty; enlightened ruler, intellectual, and patron of the arts and sciences; called “Stupor mundi” (“amazement of the world”); conflicts with Pope Gregory IX (d. 1241) who excommunicated and considered him the Antichrist

--death of Genghis Khan (d. 1227), leader of the Mongols


--the Inquisition established to continue persecution of heretics after the end of the Albigensian Crusade


--begins reign of Edward I, Longshanks, in England (r. 1272-1307), son of Henry III, conquered Wales and waged war with Scotland, father of Edward II (r. 1307-1327)


--death of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), theologian and author of the Summa Theologica


--end of the Medieval Warm Period and beginning of the Little Ice Age that lasted till around 1500

--Dante’s Divine Comedy (1302-321)

--Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294-1303); conflicts with Philip IV of France, the Fair (le Bel) (r. 1285-1314); mentioned by Dante in the Inferno as one of the simoniac popes


--begins reign of Edward III, king of England (r. 1327-1377), son of Edward II; Edward III's claim to French throne led to Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) with English victories at Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356), Agincourt (1415); role of Joan of Arc in French defense (1429); final French victory (1453), English lost all continental holdings


--Black Death, epidemic of bubonic plague in Europe (1348-1351)

--Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353)

--death of Francesco Petrarca (d. 1374), Italian poet, scholar and one of the founders of Humanism


--begins reign of Richard II  in England (r.1377-1399) (grandson of Edward III and son of Edward the Black Prince)


--Peasants' Revolt in England (Wat Tyler) suppressed by Richard II (1381)


--death of Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), author of the Canterbury Tales (1386-1400)


--invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg


--capture of Constantinople by Ottoman Turks, flight of Greek Byzantine culture into western Europe

--end of the Hundred Years’ War between France and England



--beginning of the War of the Roses in England (1455-1485); York (white rose) vs. Lancaster (red rose), Richard Duke of York vs. Henry VI


--introduction of the printing press to England by William Caxton


--death of Richard III (1483-85) (last Plantagenet king; Edward IV's brother) killed by Lancastrian Henry VII in the final battle of the War of the Roses at Bosworth Field
--begins reign of Henry VII (r. 1485-1509) marries Elizabeth of York (daughter of Edward IV), fathers Henry VIII, and begins Tudor dynasty


--coronation of Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547)


| 15 bya-3000 BC | 3000 BC-476 AD | 476 AD-1450 | 1450-1650 | 1650-1775 | 1775-1832 | 1832-1872 | 1872-1945 | 1945-present |


Last updated: 08/19/2018


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