Between historians used to call the centuries from 500 to 1000 by the name still generally used for the centuries between 1100 and 800 B.C.: the Dark Ages. This suggests a gloomy barbarian interruption between a bright classical flowering and a later bright recovery or rebirth (Renaissance). But today historians prefer the more neutral term early Middle Ages, for they have come to believe that “dark” is a misleading exaggeration.
Middle Ages accurately enough suggests a time lying between the ancient and the modern world, and the adjective medieval—meaning of the middle age—is in general use. Obviously, these terms—medieval, modern—are words we use about ourselves; that is, we naturally perceive historical chronology in relation to our own times. Thus there is much debate over when medieval history ends and modern history begins.