The 5 Ages of History (and their characteristics)
Human beings have been leaving their mark on the world for millions of years. Over the years we have learned a great deal: among many other things, we have developed agriculture and animal husbandry, art and technology, faith, philosophy and science, civilization and culture. Countless peoples, civilizations, empires and systems have been born and disappeared, while many others have evolved into what they are today. The whole set of events that have occurred over time and that we are aware of is what we consider to be history.
But history is not entirely uniform: we can distinguish specific periods of time within it when different developments or major changes have taken place. These are the different ages of history .
The ages of history
We consider history to be the set of events and occurrences that humanity in general has lived through over time that it has been carrying out on Earth, since writing was invented as a method of symbolic recording that allows us to analyse and know what happened in the past. Although technically before that time human beings had already suffered great tribulations and had developed multiple skills, knowledge and techniques, the fact that they were unable to know the specific events they lived through makes it possible to consider the period before writing as being outside of history.
Since the invention of writing , countless facts and events have marked the course of history and changed our world to a great extent. History is broad, and historians have divided it into several ages to facilitate its understanding by identifying great moments of change.
There are four great ages in which historians (since Christopher Cellarius introduced them) usually divide history, although within them some subdivisions can be found. When valuing the development of the human being, however, it is also usual to add the previous period to what we know as history: prehistory. It must be taken into account, however, that these historical stages are separated from each other mainly on the basis of the events that occurred in Europe . Having clarified this, it should be mentioned that the main ages of history are the following.
As we have said, this stage would not really be part of history since it gathers together all the events that took place before the invention of writing. But it is a period of great advances, being in fact the longest stage that humanity has lived through . The appearance of Homo sapiens , the emergence of the oral language, the discovery of fire, the creation of the first tools and the first fixed villages or the passage from hunter-gatherers to farmers/ranchers took place during this period.
This stage is subdivided into the Stone Age (which in turn is divided into Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic) and the Metal Age (divided into Copper, Bronze and Iron, although many of the events of this last period already belong to history).
2. Ancient Age
The first of the ages in history, the Ancient Age begins with the invention of writing (which is considered to have emerged between approximately 3500 and 3000 BC). The Ancient Age would then begin at a time between the aforementioned Bronze and Iron Ages. It was completed in approximately 476 AD, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
This stage is characterized by the fact that it is the longest in history, and part of the events that occurred there have been lost. It was in the Ancient Age when the majority of human beings abandoned nomadism and became sedentary , and this was the time when great civilisations such as the Greeks, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Persians and Romans emerged. This stage is also famous for the high prevalence of battles and wars, slavery and the emergence of various political systems and concepts such as democracy or dictatorship.
On a European level, the presence of a large number of peoples and traditions stands out, which were gradually invaded and lost as they were brought together by the Roman Empire, which expanded throughout Europe and part of Asia and Africa.
On the other hand, this stage of history is the one in which great advances were produced in the knowledge of the human being , being the period in which the classical stage of philosophy appears (from which all sciences will start later). Different systems of beliefs and values were generated. At the level of religion, the different cultures maintained generally polytheistic beliefs. Some of today’s main religious beliefs also emerged there, both polytheistic (such as Hinduism) and monotheistic (Judaism and Christianity).
Within the Ancient Age two stages can be distinguished: classical antiquity and late antiquity.
Classical antiquity is the period characterized by the expansion of the Greek and Roman civilizations , technically from the fifth to the second century before Christ. In this stage we observe the rise of both civilizations, the Empire of Alexander the Great, the medical wars, the emergence of democracy, the Roman Republic and its expansion through Italy, the creation and expansion of the Roman Empire and the beginning of its decline.
Late antiquity would go from the second century B.C. to 476 A.D., corresponding to the stage of decline of the Roman Empire and the transition from slavery to feudalism . At this stage, Rome and its empire began to suffer increasingly frequent uprisings (the one led by Spartacus stands out) and was invaded by the Germanic peoples (as happened in the Iberian Peninsula).
One of the best known invasions was that of Attila the Hun . Also relevant is the emergence and expansion of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, which would later become the dominant religion in European territory. Late Antiquity would technically end in 476 AD with the fall of the Roman Empire.
3. Middle Ages
This age is curiously linked to the fate of the Roman Empire, since it begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire (in 476 AD) and ends with the fall to the Ottomans of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) in 1453. However, other historians consider its ending to correspond more to the arrival of Columbus in America in 1492.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, which centralized power, different kingdoms and civilizations emerged, establishing different peoples and nations. Feudalism appeared as a political system, in which the lords ruled their lands at the same time as they obeyed the figure of the king . During this stage, the expansion and dominance of Christianity as the predominant religion in Europe was observed, and Islam as a religion was also born in Arabia.
It is also during this period that the bourgeoisie appears as a social class. Warlike conflicts framed or justified by religious differences are frequent, being the time of the Crusades and of different religious persecutions . Different groups and sects appear, many of which are considered heresies and eliminated. There also appears the figure of the Inquisition, the acts of faith and the burning of witches.
This historical period can be divided into two stages: High Middle Ages and Low Middle Ages. Although sometimes an intermediate stage is added, the Feudal Age.
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages are considered to be the period of time between the 5th and 10th centuries. It is a period of time in which different empires and civilizations fought each other, once the Roman Empire had fallen. Vikings, Hungarians, Muslims, Byzantines and the Carolingian Empire were some of the most relevant at a European level.
The population lived mostly in the countryside, and was divided into nobles and commoners. The class differences are very noticeable, with the nobility having all rights and the plebeians having practically none. Feudalism arose and constant warlike conflicts arose from the control of lands and estates. The culture is very much mediated by the Church and the Inquisition arises.
Lower Middle Ages
The final stage of the Middle Ages, the Late Middle Ages corresponds to the period of time between the 11th century and the fall of Constantinople into Turkish hands in 1453 (or the discovery of America in 1492, depending on where the boundary is placed).
This stage entails a general economic resurgence, with the bourgeoisie appearing and the population beginning to focus on the cities. The number of warlike conflicts decreases and the population begins to increase. The mill is invented and the first rights for peasants and bourgeoisie begin to appear , the latter working in exchange for remuneration and not for servitude. During the 14th century, feudalism went into decline and dissolved. The power of the Church also diminished, although it still had great influence.
Another major event of great importance is the emergence of the Black Death epidemic, the largest epidemic on record, which killed between a third and half of the population at the time.
4. Modern Age
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 or the arrival of Columbus in America in 1492 are the two main starting points of the so-called Modern Age. The end of this age is situated in 1789, specifically the day of the capture of Bastille that starts the French Revolution.
During this stage absolutism appears, in which the kings concentrated political power . The end of this form of government would also lead to the end of the Modern Age, with the French Revolution. Other events of great significance were the aforementioned discovery of America (and its subsequent invasion) and its colonisation by various countries. Expansionism abounds, in a stage marked by the colonization of what are considered new territories. However, with the passing of the centuries, uprisings end up taking place that culminate in the American Revolution and the War of Independence of the United States and multiple colonies. Slavery is abolished.
Culturally, highlights the emergence of the Enlightenment , a cultural movement that transformed the intellectual life of the time: God left the nucleus of intellectual interest to focus on the figure of the human being. It was a time when great scientific and social advances were made, including the appearance of the steam engine and the first vaccines. There were also political and religious changes, as well as great conflicts linked to these changes, such as those produced by the Lutheran reform and the counter-reform. It was also during this period that the Spanish Golden Age took place, with the Spanish Empire being one of the most powerful at the time.
The end of this stage comes with the French Revolution , a very important historical milestone in which absolutism was abolished. This stage and its end are characterized by the emergence and subsequent persistence of the values of Western society.
5. Contemporary Age
The last of the ages to be contemplated in history, it includes all the events that have taken place since the French Revolution to the present day. There are many known milestones from this period. The French Revolution itself, the advancement of technology to the so-called Industrial Revolution, the First World War, the emergence of fascism and the Second World War are some of the best known events.
In addition, we can observe the evolution of the rights, duties and freedoms of citizens and of the different social groups. The struggle for the eradication of social classes, for the rights and equality of women, of the different races and sexual orientations are other milestones that have been achieved or are in the process of being achieved during this stage.
A great social inequality still exists, although the traditional social classes lose part of their validity: power is beginning to be shared between aristocracy and bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is established as the predominant class and the middle class appears. However, there still exists (even today) social classism, although this time it is more linked to economic capacity and not to the social stratum of birth.
The great economic systems still in force, capitalism and communism, which came to confront each other at numerous historical moments, such as during the Cold War, appeared.
Science has also evolved to a great extent , improving the living conditions of most of the western population. Medicine advances to the point that previously deadly diseases can be controlled and even eradicated, although new diseases (such as AIDS) are discovered or reconceptualized. Man is engaged in the exploration of space, reaching the moon and seeking to go beyond it. Recently computer science has appeared, and with time the Internet (some authors believe that this milestone could be considered a change towards another new age).