Definition of perods adjacent to and within Medieval
I frequently toss around terms; "medieval, dark, migration, viking, etc" but often have to double check to see if the time frame really fits the weapon or style of armour I had in mind. I am sure many of us non-historians suffer from the same dilemma. As a possible aid, I made an effort to assemble a time line that shows how these terms actually fall per common historians' usage. I hope that moderators do not consider this inappropriate for posting here.

If the timeline image attaches, I will try to append a brief explanation.

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Last edited by Jared Smith on Tue 20 Jan, 2009 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
Roman Gallic Wars and Expansion
Rome greatly expanded its territories from 52 B.C. until about 181 A.D., then entered a mostly defensive mode. Former Germanic tribes settled and integrated to a degree as citizens, some fighting as allies and auxiliaries in the onslaught known as the Migration Era. Migration “barbarian tribes” and rebelling tribes repeatedly sacked Rome which is considered to have fallen as an empire by 486 A.D.

Two commonly avaiable Wikepedia map images sort of show contrasting degrees of Roman territory circa 1st century A.D., versus roughly 4 century A.D., shortly before collapse.

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Medieval era is broadly considered the fall of the Roman Empire through about 1500 A.D. The name of this era is accredited to Flavio Biondo in 1439 who considered it to be over. Most current 15th century specialists consider it to be ended near 1400 A.D. Some perspectives define the beginning of the era as growth of feudalism around 800 A.D. Subdivisions of Early, High, and Late Medieval periods emphasize growth of population and economic productivity. Steady development of sciences and arts do not necessarily match these key trends.
Dark Ages
This term is accredited to Francesco Petrarca, circa 1330’s. He primarily based it upon lack of literary creativity. Francesco felt that he was very much living in his definition of the “dark ages” despite existing in what modern historians regard as the leading core of the Renaissance. Current academic trends increasingly avoid use of “Dark Ages”. Continual discovery of new literary and artistic developments, despite adverse conditions, make it challenging to sustain a definition without a very segmented and disjointed timeline for specific regions.
Migration Era
This is self explanatory for those within this forum. It is roughly considered to begin with Germanic refugees fleeing West, without treaty agreements, into Roman Gaul from the Huns near 376 A.D. One of the last prevalent invading groups, the Visigoths, were defeated at the battle of Guadelet in 712. Identity of the invading groups did not immediately cease, but in terms of significance in surviving mention, the era is loosely considered over at about this point in time.

"High Medieval" era is my personal favorite. (Corny knight and Chivalry stuff) I will try to append a map of how Europe looked near this period.

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Last edited by Jared Smith on Tue 20 Jan, 2009 9:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
Scandinavian Viking Era
It is unclear to me exactly how an early raid in Dorset England, 787 A.D. began. But, it seems the decision to raid was made after disembarking from a ship and wandering around on foot within the town with no particular attention being paid to the Norse visitors. The real longboat raiding (land and attack immediately) phase began with a 3 boat raid on the abbey of Lindisfame at the North coast of England in 792 A.D. Serious escalation of the raids is fairly concentrated from 841 through 902 with numbers of longboats dramatically increasing towards 350 ships per raid. Raids hit Frisia and Aquitain hardest. Also, Mediterranean ports such as Nantes, Toulouse, Gijon, Lisbon, and Seville were raided. Most regard the era as ended at the battle of Standford Bridge in 1066. Continuing Westward exploration and colonization attempts deserve much more than this mention. In perhaps the last significant battle, King Haakon Haaksonsson and his forces were defeated (weather and logistical problems sounding like key factors) in 1263 Scotland at the battle of Largs.

Renaissance Era.
This is roughly 1300 A.D. to 1600 A.D. Definition of the era is tricky as it considers a broad spectrum of factors such as; social, political, philosophical, and scientific development in addition to economic growth. Hence the academic start and end varies significantly by region within this broad time span. The city of Lubeck, Italy is regarded to have begun the period near 1158 A.D. Final transformations in musical styles near 1600 in Germany, and 1627 in England may be associated with the completion of the era.

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