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date: 18 January 2019

late antiquity

The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature
M. C. HowatsonM. C. Howatson

late antiquity 

A term which came into use in the late twentieth century meaning the period from roughly the mid-third century to the end of the eighth century ad, concluded by the coronation of the Frankish king Charlemagne as Christian emperor of the West in 800. The term is perhaps preferable to ‘early Middle Ages’ and is useful to describe the thought-world of that period, which saw the revival and the end of Platonic philosophy in the form of Neoplatonism, and the rise and ultimate triumph of Christianity and Islam, with consequent changes of attitude to fundamental aspects of human life. However, this characterization is in some opposition to the more traditional view of the later Roman empire in the West as one of violent invasion and disintegration in the fifth century leading to the collapse of civilization in Europe and a Dark age (the eastern empire flourished for another century, some parts even later; see Justinian). Perhaps both views of the period need to be kept in mind. See also Principate.