Test Your Knowledge of the Dark Ages


By: Elizabeth Lavis

6 Min Quiz

Image: DianaHirsch/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The Dark Ages are known as one of the most difficult times in history — a time rife with famine, disease and political uncertainty. It is an understatement to say that life was cheap during the Dark Ages.

Most people lived as peasants and were pawns in the battle between the upper classes. Superstition reigned supreme, and the lower classes were in danger of contracting diseases. The most famous of these was the Black Plague, a terrible event that wiped out an estimated fifty million people. Prevalent diseases were not just limited to the Black Plague, though. Typhoid, cholera, and measles wiped out huge segments of the population.

The lower classes lived on eggs, beans, oats and cabbage. They drank ale as it was safer than water. Life in the Dark Ages was generally much more difficult than life today, with many people surviving in miserable conditions and generational poverty.

The good news is that at the end of the Dark Ages came the Renaissance, a period of prolonged enlightenment that lifted many of the people out of the darkness that had come to compose their lives. Still, the Dark Ages is one of the most important periods in history.

King Arthur's knights were legendary. What were they collectively called?

King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table were the most famous in the world. They lived with him in Camelot, his castle. The way that these knights were seated was designed to give them all an equal place at the table.


The Black Plague was one of the worst epidemics of the Dark Ages. What animal was largely responsible for spreading it?

Rats have often been thought of as being dirty animals, and unfortunately, their reputation might be deserved! They were responsible for spreading the Black Plague in Europe and Asia during the Dark Ages.


What was the name of the societal construct that people lived under during the Dark Ages?

The Feudal System was a way of life in the Dark Ages where the lord of a certain area protected the peasants. In return, they pledged loyalty to him.


Peasant farmers made up a huge part of the population during this time. What were they called?

Serfs were peasants who lived under the protection of local lords in exchange for taxes and crops through much of the Dark Ages. They existed in what was known as the Feudal System.


The Dark Ages began when which empire fell?

The Roman Empire fell in 476 A.D., ushering in the era of the Dark Ages which lasted for approximately 1,000 years. The Roman Empire is still known as one of the most powerful that ever existed in the world.


What was the Black Plague also known as?

The Black Plague was also known as the Bubonic Plague, named after the swollen areas of the lymph nodes, called buboes. Death was slow and painful. It was one of the worst epidemics during the Dark Ages.


Some of the best inventions happened during the Dark Ages. Which European is famous for having invented the printing press?

The printing press existed before Johannes Gutenberg, but he improved the typesetting and printing processes, revolutionizing the way that information, specifically the printed word, was distributed. If you love reading books, you can thank Johann Gutenberg.


The Dark Ages were a time of tremendous conflict, including which epic wars?

The Crusades were a series of eight wars that were the result of clashes between Muslims and Christians. The Knights Templar (popularized in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") were a huge part of the Crusades.


What famous poet authored "The Divine Comedy" during the Dark Ages?

Dante Alighieri was one of the important poets of the late Middle Ages. His masterpiece, "The Divine Comedy," explored religion and culture in the Dark Ages. It's still considered to be one of the best books ever written.


Widespread hunger was rampant during the Dark Ages. What was it called?

Famine is the correct word for an epidemic of widespread hunger. Although there are still famines in the world today, this particular problem was very widespread during the Dark Ages.


Power was unevenly distributed during the Dark Ages, with much of it concentrated with which institution?

This Catholic Church was one of the dominant institutions during the Dark Ages. It was considered to be as powerful as the state, and often the two were inseparable and ruled together.


Vlad Dracula definitely earned his macabre nickname. What was it?

Vlad Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, was a Romanian prince who was famous for skewering his enemies on large sticks. He was the inspiration for Dracula stories and lore.


What famous saint was burned at the stake after fighting for French independence?

Joan of Arc famously heard voices that led her to lead the French army to victory. This famous female helped the French dominate over the British in the Battle of Orleans. She was burned at the stake at the tender age of 19.


A new religion spread to China during the Dark Ages and is still one of the most popular eastern religions today. What was it?

Buddhism spread to China about two thousand years ago, but around the year 500 A.D., the Bodhidharma came to China and founded the Ch'am school of Buddhism, which today is better known by its Japanese name, Zen.


Despite common misconceptions, innovation thrived during the Dark Ages. What modern weapon was first used during this time period?

Gunpowder was first used in 919 at the epic battle of Langshan Jiang. It was a total game-changer and has shaped the trajectory of modern warfare.


He was the infamous Mongol whose empire spread across much of the known world. Who was he?

The notorious Genghis Khan was not only a notable emperor who conquered half the world, many people today are related to him! He was one of the most pivotal figures of the Dark Ages.


France and England spent a large chunk of the Dark Ages feuding. What was the name of their long war?

The Hundred Years War was an epic conflict between France and England. Joan of Arc, one of the most popular and famous figures of the Dark Ages, fought for France in this war.


Who sailed to the "New World" at the end of the Dark Ages?

Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean to try to find a new route to India. He stumbled upon what we now know as North America and remains an important but controversial figure to this day.


Lauded in modern movies, what was the name of the legendary Dark Ages figure who stole from the rich and gave to the poor?

The legendary Robin Hood famously stole from the rich and gave to the poor and is loosely based on Hereward the Wake, an Anglo-Saxon nobleman who lived in eleventh-century England.


Which famous prophet of Islam was born during the Dark Ages?

Muhammad was born in 570 and is considered to be the most important prophet in Islam. Today, Islam is one of the dominant religions in the world and practiced in many different countries all over the globe.


Popularized by Mel Gibson, William Wallace was also known by which nickname?

William Wallace, or Braveheart, was a Scottish leader who rose up against the British and fought for Scottish Independence. His nickname was a testament to his ability to fight against the British. He was popularized in the Mel Gibson film "Braveheart".


During the Dark Ages, the danger often came from across the water. What seafaring people terrorized Europe during this time period?

Staring in 835, the Vikings wreaked havoc on Europe. Their domination lasted almost 200 years and they were famously brutal. Contrary to Hollywood portrayals, these seafaring folk did not actually wear horns on their helmets.


There was some spectacular architecture during the Dark Ages, including the construction of these massive churches. What were they called?

Cathedrals were celebrations of Gothic architecture and symbols of the power of the Catholic Church during the Dark Ages. Many famous large churches were constructed during this time period and many still stand today.


There was no shortage of warriors in the Dark Ages. What was the name of their most elite soldiers?

Knights were the elite of the elite. The first knights fought for King Charlemagne and they were prevalent all throughout the rest of the Dark Ages. They have been popularized in pop culture, fairy tales and movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Monks were prevalent during the Dark Ages. Where did they call home?

Monasteries provided a safe haven for monks who wanted to devote their lives to God. They were generally well educated and helped the local community. Some monks still live in these dwellings today.


Castles in the Dark Ages were heavily fortified against enemies. What was the deep body of water that surrounded them called?

Moats were a simple and effective way to protect the castle from foes. They were deep trenches full of water located right outside the castle walls and to cross this body of water you needed to use a drawbridge.


What was the name of the great wizard from King Arthur's legends?

Merlin was the mythical wizard who aided King Arthur and his magnificent Knights of the Round Table during the Dark Ages. He is popularized in film, television and many different fairy tales.


May Day was an important holiday in the Dark Ages. What did it signify?

May Day celebrations were an important way to signify the ushering in of the summer months. Since winters were often more difficult during the Dark Ages, the beginning of summer was very important.


What sport required an arrow, bow, and good aim?

Archery is still practiced today and requires a steady hand, good eye coordination, and the ability to guess where the arrow will land. The best practitioners of this sport were often made to sit on castle walls and shoot down at their enemies.


Knights in the Dark Ages never knew when they could find themselves in a duel. What protected their chests?

Breastplates were used by knights to protect their chests from attacks by their enemies.


What were contests between two friendly knights called (usually performed for prize money)?

Jousts were fun parts of tournaments where knights would try to knock each other off horses for prize money. Nobody was trying to seriously hurt anyone else. You can still see them today at Renaissance Fairs.


The "Cup of Christ," or the cup that Jesus drank out of, was one of the most prized artifacts during the Dark Ages. What was another name for it?

The Holy Grail, or the cup of Christ, is one of the most important religious relics in Christianity. It's possible that many of the Crusades were fought to obtain this cup. This holy relic was sought after by the knights of Camelot.


The Dark Ages wasn't exactly known for its culinary delights. What food would you NOT find on the table during this time period?

Cake was not a staple during the Dark Ages, at least for the lower classes. The upper classes sometimes had it, but the cakes of those times were likely a combination of sweet and savory.


What identifying feature, also known as a "crest," told you where individual knights came from?

A Coat of Arms was one of the distinguishing features that told other knights who each knight was fighting for. It was proudly displayed on the knight's armor, and many families still have them today.


You might remember him from the musical "Pippin." Who was the King of the Franks and the most famous ruler of the Dark Ages?

Also known as Charles I, Charlemagne is the most famous ruler of the Dark Ages and is known for founding the German and French monarchies. He is arguably one of the most important historical figures of all time.


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