Nobody knows when eras or ages change while they are happening. The clarity of historical perspective gives us the knowledge to name the ages. Time moves along the status quo until an event of series of events drastically change the world. The changes are not entirely without dispute. There is no consensus because history is not facts. It is just an individual’s interpretation of events (his story).
Classical Age or Antiquity
In 776 B.C. the Greeks developed a written language and the concept of philosophy was introduced. Education and free thought allowed societies to flourish through shared knowledge. The Fall of Rome when the last Emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed in 476 is widely attributed to the end of the Classic age and the entrance into the dark ages. The Visigoth sack of Rome in 410 is also considered by some the beginning of the dark ages.
The collapse of systems following the fall of Rome was too much to overcome. The monetary system deteriorated and people fell back into barter. The roads, aqueducts, etc. were not maintained. Architects, engineers, doctors, etc. stopped practicing their trade, and within a few generations, it was all forgotten. Common trade allowed society to flourish, but when the systems that allowed the trade went away, so did the trade. The period is called “dark” because of the lack of contemporary written history, general demographic decline, limited building activity and no significant cultural achievements.
Charlemagne united Europe into the Holy Roman Empire to end the Dark ages in 800 and move into the Medieval Period or the Middle Ages. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the Middle Ages. Today he is not only regarded as the founding father of both French and German monarchies, but as the father of Europe: his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans. The Muslim advance through Spain was stopped and by 803, the Franks captured Barcelona. With the Muslim-advance stopped in the west, a Crusade to retake the holy land was called for by Pope Urban II in 1095. 200 years and nine crusades later, the Muslims still controlled the holy land, and the rift between Christians and Muslims is still felt today.
There are several major world events that occurred in the 15th century that drastically changed the world.
The renaissance was a rebirth of culture that began in Italy in the 14th century. Christians conquered of the Muslim city of Cordoba, which contained a library with 400,000 books. Science and philosophy were studied for the first time in 1000 years.
The Black Death hit Italy particularly hard. Modern medical study was done for the first time and the study of the natural world in Italy increased during the plague. The plague was not passed off as an act of God. People wanted to know what caused the Plague. Also, religious artwork was commissioned during this period. Three of the greatest artists in world history; Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo were all born in Florence around the same time period.
1440: Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Mass production of written documents allowed shared knowledge to usher in the scientific revolution. Chemistry, physics, astronomy, and biology were all developed because of the printing press. Da Vinci, Copernicus, Galileo, Keppler, Newton, and many other great minds all came of age during this time period.
1453: In the 2nd Battle at Castillon: France beat England, ending the hundred year war.
1453: Ottoman Turks captured the Roman city of Constantinople ending the last remnants of the Roman Empire, and the last Christian hold on the East. Europe did not control trade routs to the Far East and inflation went out of control for tea, spices, etc. Greek scholars fled to Italy and brought with them the text of classic Greeks that had been lost for centuries in the west.
1492: Europeans were looking for a western passage to the rich trading of the orient due to the Muslim control of land and sea passages to the east. Christopher Columbus sailed across the Pacific Ocean and found the new world. This began the colonization of the Americas and a new economic vitalization for Western Europe.
1492: Christian re-conquest of Spain, which advanced southward, concluding with the fall of the Moorish province of Granada, the last Muslim occupation of Europe.
1517 Martin Luther published the 95 Theses, challenging papal authority and criticizing its perceived corruption, particularly with regard to its sale of indulgences. The 95 Theses led to the Reformation, a break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Are we still in the age of enlightenment, or have we moved to a new age? History will be able to see the changes that we can not. I believe that the modern age began in 1897 with the discovery of electrons. How has electronics changed the world in just over 100 years? Think about it.
Other key events around this time were: Einstein’s theory of relativity (1905), Wireless telegraph (1895), Automobile invention (1889), assembly line (1901), Airplane, Wright Brothers (1903), Bayer Aspirin (1900). Also, in 1898 The United States became an imperial power with victory in the Spanish-American War. In 1899 the industrial revolution progressed in America with the formation of Carnegie Steel.
The current time period does not have a name. We can not give it a name because we do not have any idea on the direction the advancements will lead us. The next age change may be far off, but, will it be another enlightenment of another dark age? History only knows.