"DARK AGES" THAT WERE EPOCHS OF ACHIEVEMENT

No period of becoming, of terrific creative effort at survival, can fairly be called " the Dark Ages." The phrase is only a vivid expression of the feeling of later students who saw in these centuries a period of confused transition, of a hopeless mix-up of ideals, of what was often apparently purposeless struggle. They are dark ages only by comparison ; they were, in fact, ages of great achievement and supreme importance in the spadework of establishing a new civilisation. The last four centuries of the first Christian millenium are centuries of active movement and change, of which many of the details are now lost to us. When they begin the European nations do not exist; when they end, despite all subsequent changes of frontiers and movement of populations, all the transformations produced by war and politics, the nations are recognisable as the European nations of to-day. Let us study briefly that development from west to east. In Britain, Roman power to protect the native Romanised Celts had disappeared long before the traditional date of the German conquest (449). Wave after wave of invaders from overseas slowly but surely spread over the island, exterminating, absorbing or pushing before them the native population until only the highlands of Scotland and Wales remained unconquered. Kent, the first of the German kingdoms, was founded traditionally about 450, and in rapid succession were founded the other six that formed the Saxon heptarchy. Christianity, still maintaining a precarious existence in Scotland and Ireland, came afresh from Rome with Augustine in 597, and within two centuries England was a Christian country, a devoted daughter ot the Church. Christianity meant unity and, although old tribal rivalries died hard, and ambitious chiefs clung to their kingly state, by the ninth century there was one state, a Saxon Christian state, and one king, a Christian monarch, in England, although the organisation of the one was imperfect, and the power of the other sadly limited. In France the Prankish invaders encountered a stronger political and cultural resistance. They came into an organised and civilised, though greatly weakened land, and they submitted to the influence of the past to an extent that the invaders of Britain escaped or deliberately avoided. Side by side with the last armies of Rome, they fought and beat the Huns; and the kingdom of the Clevises and the Chilperics, with all its Germanic legal and religious traditions, ended by basing itself on the Gallo-Roman culture and on Christianity. In Spain the Visigoths erected a powerful monarchy, but the Vandals lost Africa, and the Goths Italy, to the vigorous reaction against barbarism of the Eastern Empire. The generals of the great Byzantine Emperor, Justinian (527-546), the codifier of the laws of Rome, reconquered Carthage and Italy and part of Spain, and restored, in part at least, Rome's Mediterranean empire, a feat possible only because the Imperial fleet had command of the seas.