Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, the break with classical antiquity was not complete.The still-sizeable Byzantine Empire, Rome's direct continuation, survived in the Eastern Mediterranean and remained a major power.
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For much of the 4th century, Roman society stabilised in a new form that differed from the earlier classical period, with a widening gulf between the rich and poor, and a decline in the vitality of the smaller towns.
The Franks, Alemanni, and the Burgundians all ended up in northern Gaul while the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes settled in Britain, The Eastern Roman Empire, often referred to as the Byzantine Empire after the fall of its western counterpart, had little ability to assert control over the lost western territories.
The Byzantine emperors maintained a claim over the territory, but while none of the new kings in the west dared to elevate himself to the position of emperor of the west, Byzantine control of most of the Western Empire could not be sustained; the reconquest of the Mediterranean periphery and the Italian Peninsula (Gothic War) in the reign of Justinian (r. The political structure of Western Europe changed with the end of the united Roman Empire. 516), who were partly or fully of non-Roman background.
The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
Population decline, counterurbanisation, collapse of centralized authority, invasions, and mass migrations of tribes, which had begun in Late Antiquity, continued in the Early Middle Ages.