Late Antiquity Characteristics History and events

Late Antiquity

Late Antiquity is the period of transition between the Ancient Age and the Middle Ages ; the first two divisions of the traditional periodization of historical time that are usually applied to the History of Western civilization. Chronologically, it would cover the period from the crisis of the 3rd century , which marks the beginning of the decomposition of classical Antiquity, to the Muslim expansion and the constitution of the Carolingian Empire (late 8th century), processes that represented the definitive settlement of the world. medieval.

More about Late Antiquity

Late Antiquity is more accepted as the period that begins with the decline of the Western Roman Empire, from the 3rd century onwards, and extends to the Islamic conquest and the action of the Byzantine Empire in the re foundation of Eastern Europe.

The debate about the existence and location in Late Antiquity is very present in world historiography. As mentioned, the initial arguments in defense of such a period emerged among German historians in the early twentieth century. Soon afterwards, the debate also reached England, which offered a reinterpretation of the concept of Late Antiquity, reassessing its characteristics.

Some researchers argue that the roots of medieval culture were already present in the development of Christianity. In this way, some believe that there are strong traces of continuity between Imperial Rome and the High Middle Ages . Likewise, these cultural features were also present in the Byzantine Empire .

Another line of researchers defends the importance of the Germanic peoples, represented especially by the Ostrogoths and Visigoths , as responsible for maintaining the Roman tradition. Thus, taking into account that the Germans occupied the territories formerly occupied by the Romans, the emphasis is placed on a continuation from the political point of view, but also culturally and institutionally, of what was called classical civilization.

The use of the term Late Antiquity suggests, then, that there is a continuity of social and cultural characteristics from Classical Antiquity that remain present until the Middle Ages. What is verified is the absence of clear ruptures.


Henri Pirenne ( Mohammed and Charlemagne ) can be considered the creator of the concept, by revealing the essentials that two great events meant for the definitive characterization of the medieval: the Empire of Charlemagne and the arrival of Islam in Europe ; and the processes that brought about: the breakdown of the unity of the Mediterranean basin (economically and ideologically, a true border of civilizations) and the closure in itself of Western Europe or Latin Christianity (previously separated from Eastern Christianity of the Byzantine Empire), where the economic, social, political and ideological forms of what has come to be called feudalism and which had been developing since the beginning of this period, five hundred years earlier, will be brought to their culmination.


From a historical point of view it is necessary to order time chronologically. In this sense, the order that is handled in the scientific community is the following: Prehistory , Ancient Age , Middle Age , Modern Age and Contemporary Age . Prehistory is the most extensive stage of humanity, since its duration covers two million years (from the origin of the first humans to the appearance of writing).

The name Late Antiquity serves historians to divide time into two major stages: classical and late antiquity. The latter includes the period from the 3rd to the 8th century . In other words, from the decline of the Roman civilization to the expansion of the Arabs in Europe and North Africa or until the beginnings of the Empire of Charlemagne.

On the other hand, this chronological reference is opposed to the traditional vision according to which the Middle Ages began after the Fall of the Roman Empire in the year 476.

By dividing Antiquity into two large stages, the subsequent emergence of the Middle Ages can be better explained. Thus, the jump between Antiquity and the Middle Ages acquires more meaning if the events that mark Late Antiquity are contemplated.


  1. The classical order promoted by the Greeks and Romans was gradually weakening.
  2. Christianity is consolidated in Europe as a hegemonic religion that little by little is replacing polytheism and paganism .
  3. From the 6th century Islam began to develop as a new monotheistic religion.

These three great axes determined new ideas that affected the whole of society.

The division into stages is a way of ordering and understanding the changes in universal history. This order is established based on a general criterion: one stage ends and another begins when a historical episode is so important that it implies a new paradigm for all humanity.

The appearance of writing marked the beginning of the Ancient Age, the Discovery of America represented the beginning of the Modern Age and the Contemporary Age began in 1789 , the year in which the French Revolution took place .

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