"The densest of the medieval centuries - the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D 400 and A.D. 1000 - are still widely known as the Dark Ages. Modern historians have abandoned that phrase, one of them writes, "because of the unacceptable value judgment it implies." Yet there are no survivors to be offended. Nor is the term necessarily pejorative. Very little is clear about that dim era. Intellectual life had vanished from Europe. Even Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman emperor and the greatest of all medieval rulers, was illiterate. Indeed, throughout the Middle Ages, which lasted some seven centuries after Charlemagne, literacy was scorned; when a cardinal corrected the Latin of the emperor Sigismund, Charlemagne's forty-seventh successor, Sigismund rudely replies, "Ego sum rex Romanus et super grammatica" - as "king of Rome" he was "above grammar." Nevertheless, if value judgments are made, it is undeniable that most of what is know about the period is unlovely. After the extant fragments have been fitted together, the portrait which emerges is a melange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness."
-William Manchester, A World Lit Only by Fire