The Age of Christianity: 400 - 800

This was the age when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In Europe missionaries were spreading Christianity to its outer regions like Britain. At the same time there were important technological developments in China, and of mathematics in India, and the beginnings of developments in the Islamic empire. An age of transition, part of the Dark Ages in Europe. At the end of this period in Europe a partial revival began under the rule of Charlemagne who supported learning through his techer Alcuin.

"The concept embodied in the term "Dark Ages", however, has some validity. The period from the fifth to the eighth century witnessed a marked decline in intellectual activity, and a falling off of standards in sanitation, water supply, communications and domestic comfort. The obscurity of the period is a serious drawback for historians, since the lack of written records means that for most subjects the only evidence comes from scanty archaeological findings. In the Byzantine and Iranian Empires, in this period, civilisation remained at a high level, but written evidence from these two cultures is very sparse." [Donald Hill, A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times, 1984, p.2.]

Colour coding: red = mathematics, astronomy, physics orange = materials, chemistry, geology, engineering, architecture yellow = biology, medicine, exploration, anthropology, psychology green = visual art, printing blue = literature, poetry, music mauve = history, philosophy, metaphysics, theology grey = wars, politics, events (indented)


400 China: lampblack ink invented

400: South America: Moche culture established in Peru.
Pacific: Polynesians reach Easter Island.
Europe: Rustic capitals, lettering.

400 - 600 Egypt: wood blocks used for textile printing patterns

c.406 - 453 Attila King of the Huns 434.

411 - 485 Proclus M

429 - 534: Vandals overrun the Roman empire.


c.450, (5th century) Patrick missionary of christianity to Ireland 432.

c.450 Tsu Ch'ung-Chih and Tsu K^eng-Chih compute pi to six decimal places.

476: Fall of Roman empire.

476 - 550 Aryabhata the Elder Aryabhatiya Indian mathematician and astronomer, uses Sanskrit syllabic numeration. Defined sine and cosine functions and calculated accurate tables of them. M @ W

480 - 525 Boethius Consolations of Philosophy W @ M @


500 Europe: Anglosaxon Runes.
Arctic: Inuit begin hunting whales and seals.
Africa: Bantu people reach Southern Africa.

521 - 597 Columba aka Colm, missionary of Christianity in Scotland, at Iona.

525 Dionysius Exiguus a Christian scholar who proposed a reform of the calendar, numbering years according to the age of Jesus in that year, described as Anno Domini (abbreviated AD) meaning "In The Year of Our Lord" followed by the number from 1 upwards. Preceding years were later referred to as BC (Before Christ) also numbered from 1 upwards. Thus there is no "year zero", only the time zero or datum point where 1 BC meets AD 1, and Jesus was somewhat paradoxicaly born on 25 December 1 BC. Later research however placed the birth of Jesus earlier, or questions his historical reality. W

535: Byzantine conquest of Italy and North Africa. (??)

c.540 - 604 Gregory I 'the Great', Pope 590, systematization of ritual and chants. The bulk of classical music is to sacred texts, and even atheists and agnostics have written Masses. The earliest music notation was a sort of shorthand called "Neumes", written aboove the text.

541; Plague of Justinian: bubonic plague affects Constantinople.


c.570 - c.632 Mohammed founder of religion of Islam. @

582: Sui dynasty reunites China.

594: Buddhism becomes official religion in Japan.


d.601 David aka Dewi, Welsh bishop, patron saint of Wales.

d.604 Augustine of Canterbury, missionary of Christianity in England, first archbishop of Canterbury.


600 Uncial lettering, 589-617AD China: Sui dynasty calligraphy.

c.600 - c.680 Bhaskara I member of the astronomy school founded by Aryabhata, and wrote a commentary on Aryabhata's treatise. First to use a symbol for zero in the Hindu-Arabic decimal system. Found a pproximation to sine function. See also Bhaskara II 1114.

618: Tang dynasty in China (to 907)

632: Death of Mohammed. Islamic empire begins to expand.

639: N Africa conquered by Muslims.

642: Arabs conquer Persia, overthrow Sassanians.


650: All polynesian islands now colonised except New Zealand

661 - 750: Umayyad dynasty rules Islamic empire

675/710 Aldhelm Abbot of Malmesbury 675, missionary to SW England (Devon Dorset, Sonerset, Wessex) based at Sherborne, wrote in Latin, De Laude Virginitate, d.c.710.

673 - 735 Bede known as "The Venerable" monk and historian, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation @ W F

683 - 727 Zhang Sui Chinese astronomer, said to have detected proper stellar motion (i.e. of some stars relative to other stars).


700: Anasazi people build pueblos in SW USA.
N. Africa now all part of Islamic empire.
Kingdom of Ghana expands due to trade across the Sahara.
Half uncials.

8th century (701-800) the Islamic Caliphate of Arabia (ruling from Spain to Iran) and China's Tang dynasty (ruling from Xinjiang to Dalian) fought for decades for control of Central Asia.

711: Spain invaded by Muslims from North Africa.

712 - 775 Abu Jafar al Mansur Caliph 754, founded Baghdad 764. @ W

735 - 804 Alcuin aka Ealhwine (Anglo-Saxon), Albinus (Latin), educationist, calligrapher, theologian. Studied at the episcopal school in York, becoming its head in 778. Met Charlemagne in 781 at Parma in Italy and became head of the palace school at Aachen. 790-2 Renegotiated the peace between Charlemagne and Offa. Reformed the education system in France and throughout the Holy Roman empire. Retired to be Abbot of Tours in 796. M

742 - 814 Charlemagne @ W


750 - 1250: Muslim invasions into India and collapse of Hindu kingdoms.
750 - 887: Carolingian dynasty dominates NW Europe.

c.750 Mohammad al-Fazari A Persian astronomer, and his father Ibrahim, investigated the plane astrolabe, and built an example, an astronomical instrument and analog computer that was important in locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, Planets and stars." [But see Antikythera Mechanism −125]. W

756: Islamic empire starts to break up???.
762: Foundation of Baghdad.

763 or 766? - 809 Harun al Rashid fifth Caliph. W @ @ @ @ @

c.780 - c.850 Al Khwarizmi mathematician, from whose name we derive the term "algorithm", and from the title of whose main work we derive the word "algebra". He "performed detailed calculations of the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets, and did a number of eclipse calculations. He constructed a table of the latitudes and longitudes of 2,402 cities and landmarks, forming the basis of an early world map." [Starteach] W

786 - 833 Abu Jafar al Mamun Caliph 813, established a university at which many Muslim scholars worked. W