The Middle Ages were given their name in retrospect during the Renaissance in the 14th century. The Renaissance was a time of great cultural change and many looked to ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. The Middle Ages, or Medieval Ages, refers to the period between the fall of Rome in 476 C.E. and the beginning of the Renaissance.
The argument for naming this period the Middle, or Dark, Ages was that during this time no scientific discoveries were made and no great leaders were born, according to History.com.
The Middle Ages were marked by two significant developments that would come to a head before the end of the age. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church became the most powerful institution in Europe. Kings and queens were given power by the Church and by the later part of the period, the Pope was the most powerful man and the Church held vast tracks of property.
The second development was the advent of Islam. Muslim armies conquered much of the Middle East and a surge of literature, inventions and intellectual culture spread throughout the lands that they occupied.
The clash between the two prominent religions came in the form of the Crusades, a Holy war started in order to expel Islam from the Holy Lands that lasted from 1095 until 1291. Absolution from sin and eternal glory were promised to the crusaders who marched on the Mediterranean after they conquered Jerusalem in 1099.