What are the biggest mysteries of the Dark Ages?

Okay, people like to quibble with the term “Dark Ages” for this era, but it does seem to be the case that historical records for the broad period of late Antiquity through the early Middle Ages are often rather spotty, perhaps as a result of periods of instability. For that reason, there are individuals, events, and even whole peoples and nations about whom we know very little, to the point that scholars will debate exact nature of the role that they played in history, or even whether they existed at all.

In this thread, I wanted to list some of the mysteries of the Dark Ages that I have noticed in my errant browsing of Wikipedia and elsewhere, ask everyone to note other, similar gaps and controversies in the historical record that I might have overlooked, and spur discussion on all these topics.

To begin with, we have...
  • The Revisionist school of early Islamic studies: For decades now, there have been modern scholars who allege that many of the historically-accepted sources about the early history of the Islamic faith are seriously compromised in some way, and that the origin of that religion might have actually played out radically differently. While there are several competing theories on the specifics, they often revolve around the notion that the codification of Islam occurred some time after the early Arab expansion, rather than the rise of Islam triggering the conquests. A very controversial topic, surely.
  • The identity of the Huns: The Hunnic migration into Europe arguably played an outsize role in the collapse of the Roman Empire, but given their outsize role in history, we actually know surprisingly little about them. Their origin and ethnolinguistic identity remains mysterious. While physical descriptions from that era and later genetic testing of human remains might suggest that at least their leadership had a distinctly Asian appearance, that doesn’t really help narrow things down. Were they Turkic? Uralic? Yeniseian? Something else entirely? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • The identity of the Avars: Another nomadic people who raided Europe, another mystery! As with the Huns, the origins and language of the Avars remain unsettled topics, though connections with the Turks, Mongols, and the Hungarians who later settled the area have been suggested.
  • Historicity of King Arthur: This topic is arguably more settled in academic circles, but remains alive in the public consciousness. Was King Arthur based, on some level, on an actual Romano-British leader who resisted the onslaught of the invading Saxons? Or is he pure folklore?
  • Kingdom of Soissons: I cannot find it at the moment, but I remember reading on this very forum speculation that this Roman rump state, which existed in northern Gaul in the immediate aftermath of the Western Empire before falling to the Franks, might have largely been on invention, or at least did not really exist outside of the city of Soissons.
 
What did to Romulus Augustus? We don't know almost anything about fate of the last emperor of WRE. His life was spared but we don't know what he did afterwards or even when he died altough some unclear records hint that he lived to early 6th century but even that is not certain if it is same Romulus who was mentioned on some letter.
 
What did to Romulus Augustus? We don't know almost anything about fate of the last emperor of WRE. His life was spared but we don't know what he did afterwards or even when he died altough some unclear records hint that he lived to early 6th century but even that is not certain if it is same Romulus who was mentioned on some letter.
He was forcibly retired to naples, his family would have remained prominent but eventually they faded into obscurity although his family would have retained the title of the last western roman emperors
 
What did to Romulus Augustus? We don't know almost anything about fate of the last emperor of WRE. His life was spared but we don't know what he did afterwards or even when he died altough some unclear records hint that he lived to early 6th century but even that is not certain if it is same Romulus who was mentioned on some letter.
Speaking of which, the ethnic identity of Odoacer, the barbarian king who deposed him, is a subject of contention. While he probably hailed from one of the various Germanic tribes, it has also been argued that he might have had at least partial Hunnic ancestry.
 
did the Ḥanīf exist? its not outlandish there were small religions that for example over emphasized john the baptist so one for Abraham might be possible and if the Ḥanīf existed were did the religion come from? what part of Arabia was it most prominent?

2) what on earth happened to pseudo theodosus? the imposter khosrow II propped up? he just vanishes after 608

3) a lot of things related about the avar khagante that we simply have no sources for

4) why the turks did not attack the persians due to Justin II alliance
 
Historicity of King Arthur: This topic is arguably more settled in academic circles, but remains alive in the public consciousness. Was King Arthur based, on some level, on an actual Romano-British leader who resisted the onslaught of the invading Saxons? Or is he pure folklore?
Pure Folklore, seems was Wishful thinking of a British Julius or Augustus on a fashion, as Britain would have It Rough in the post roman era.

The Revisionist school of early Islamic studies: For decades now, there have been modern scholars who allege that many of the historically-accepted sources about the early history of the Islamic faith are seriously compromised in some way, and that the origin of that religion might have actually played out radically differently. While there are several competing theories on the specifics, they often revolve around the notion that the codification of Islam occurred some time after the early Arab expansion, rather than the rise of Islam triggering the conquests. A very controversial topic, surely.
There is no controversy, the Quran was compiled by Umar,(RAA) like 10 years after Muhhamad(SAWS) end of mission. The sunnas come from tradition some compile much later, mostly in the abbasasid era

For me...What were the Sabians?
 
Kingdom of Soissons: I cannot find it at the moment, but I remember reading on this very forum speculation that this Roman rump state, which existed in northern Gaul in the immediate aftermath of the Western Empire before falling to the Franks, might have largely been on invention, or at least did not really exist outside of the city of Soissons.
https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...on-of-soissons-survives.432054/#post-16165087 Related to this post, perhaps?

It would be interesting to know more as far as early medieval mysteries to know more about Ecgerht, King of Wessex - or most earlier Saxon kings, while I'm wishing. Not anywhere near as obscure as what started the King Arthur stories, but still large gaps (unless I'm wrong about this) that we don't have much documentation on.
 
A lot of early medieval Scandinavian history is not only highly uncertain, but has also been very colored by national narratives.
 
Post Roman Britain interests me. We have almost zero written sources from Constantine III's usurpation to say 800 or so. Basically Bede and Gildas's rant.

We're reasonably certain what happened but there's lots of historical estimation and theorizing to fill in the gaps.
 
What did to Romulus Augustus? We don't know almost anything about fate of the last emperor of WRE. His life was spared but we don't know what he did afterwards or even when he died altough some unclear records hint that he lived to early 6th century but even that is not certain if it is same Romulus who was mentioned on some letter.
On that note, we know little of Emperor Glycerius' fate after Nepos overthrew him aside from him being named Bishop of Salona and possibly playing a role in Nepos' assassination.
 
I mean I'd love to find out how precisely African Romance survived in the early centuries of Islam- what type of culture did they have, did they arabise first and then islamise or the other way around, to what extent did Umayyad governors engage with the Latin establishment.


Then there's also the dearth of sources for post Roman Britain as above- it would be cool to finally have evidence for whether the English lowlands were primarily Romance or Celtic before the Anglo-Saxons, and have some proper details on Anglo-Saxon mythology.
 
I mean I'd love to find out how precisely African Romance survived in the early centuries of Islam- what type of culture did they have, did they arabise first and then islamise or the other way around, to what extent did Umayyad governors engage with the Latin establishment.
The later, African romance died as both Muslim migration and local conversations were too much keep slow pocket of romance dying slowly, Banu hilal migration was the last nail in the coffin. Plus ummayds used Arab and Syriac for everything ( not need to use romance at all) and the amazigh middlemen use Arabs pinyin alongside their native language, short a full fledge latinized ummayds, romance was the slow death.
 
Pure Folklore, seems was Wishful thinking of a British Julius or Augustus on a fashion, as Britain would have It Rough in the post roman era.
We know that the Saxons suffered a major defeat, because it's mentioned by Gildas and archaeology confirms that the Saxon advance halted (and in some areas, went into reverse) in the early 6th century. Granted this doesn't prove that the British general was called Arthur, but eventually you run into a "Homer was a fictional person, the Iliad was actually written by another blind Greek poet from 8th-century Asia Minor" sort of situation: after a certain point, the similarities between the "real" and "fictional" people end up so great that it's simpler to just say that the "fictional" person was real after all.
It would be interesting to know more as far as early medieval mysteries to know more about Ecgerht, King of Wessex - or most earlier Saxon kings, while I'm wishing. Not anywhere near as obscure as what started the King Arthur stories, but still large gaps (unless I'm wrong about this) that we don't have much documentation on.
Cedric and Cynric, whom the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle names as the founders of Wessex, both have British names. It would be fascinating to know just how two Britons ended up founding a Saxon kingdom.
I mean I'd love to find out how precisely African Romance survived in the early centuries of Islam- what type of culture did they have, did they arabise first and then islamise or the other way around, to what extent did Umayyad governors engage with the Latin establishment.
Here's an interesting video on some of the features of African Romance:
Then there's also the dearth of sources for post Roman Britain as above- it would be cool to finally have evidence for whether the English lowlands were primarily Romance or Celtic before the Anglo-Saxons, and have some proper details on Anglo-Saxon mythology.
FWIW Gildas calls Latin "our language" at one point, although it's not entirely clear whether "our" is meant to refer to the Britons or the Church/clergy.
 
Granted this doesn't prove that the British general was called Arthur, but eventually you run into a "Homer was a fictional person, the Iliad was actually written by another blind Greek
We know vortiger existed and was so hated was made the villain but seems Arthur was a invention made later on
 
We know vortiger existed and was so hated was made the villain but seems Arthur was a invention made later on
We know the British won a major victory against the Saxons, some time shortly before or after AD 500, because Gildas mentions it and the archaeological evidence backs him up. The Britons must have had a leader at this battle. No surviving source gives this leader any name other than Arthur.

It's worth mentioning, too, that the early accounts of Arthur are considerably less folkloric than those of other, undoubtedly historical, characters. Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus are both mentioned by Gildas (albeit he doesn't give Vortigern's name), so we know they must have existed, but in the next narrative history of the Britons, Nennius' Historia Britonum, Ambrosius appears as a fatherless boy who uncovers two fighting dragons beneath a castle Vortigern is trying to build. Conversely, Arthur is just given a list of battles, the details of which are all perfectly plausible and un-folkloric in nature (at least if we assume, as most historians do, that the bit about him killing 960 men in a single charge is referring to his contingent rather than him personally). The fantastic/mythological elements of Arthur's story aren't attested until centuries later, and in at least one case (the poem Spoils of the Otherworld), we have an earlier version of the myth (in Nennius, as it happens) which makes no mention of Arthur, indicating that a historical British hero was grafted into a pre-existing legend, rather than vice versa.
 
Plus ummayds used Arab and Syriac for everything ( not need to use romance at all)
Not originally- there are early Umayyad coins with Latin inscriptions, and that leads me to imagine that even if later on the administration became entirely Arabic, especially while the majority of the population still spoke romance, governors and the associated food chain of patronage would still have composed poetry and works of literature in Latin, it's just that these weren't lucky enough to have survived, if they were ever even written down in the first place.
 
We know the British won a major victory against the Saxons, some time shortly before or after AD 500, because Gildas mentions it and the archaeological evidence backs him up. The Britons must have had a leader at this battle. No surviving source gives this leader any name other than Arthur.

It's worth mentioning, too, that the early accounts of Arthur are considerably less folkloric than those of other, undoubtedly historical, characters. Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus are both mentioned by Gildas (albeit he doesn't give Vortigern's name), so we know they must have existed, but in the next narrative history of the Britons, Nennius' Historia Britonum, Ambrosius appears as a fatherless boy who uncovers two fighting dragons beneath a castle Vortigern is trying to build. Conversely, Arthur is just given a list of battles, the details of which are all perfectly plausible and un-folkloric in nature (at least if we assume, as most historians do, that the bit about him killing 960 men in a single charge is referring to his contingent rather than him personally). The fantastic/mythological elements of Arthur's story aren't attested until centuries later, and in at least one case (the poem Spoils of the Otherworld), we have an earlier version of the myth (in Nennius, as it happens) which makes no mention of Arthur, indicating that a historical British hero was grafted into a pre-existing legend, rather than vice versa.
All of this make me think Arthur and co might has been mercenaries them, as choose the easy fight, or British took a random name and make them a British Hercules.

Not originally- there are early Umayyad coins with Latin inscriptions, and that leads me to imagine that even if later on the administration became entirely Arabic, especially while the majority of the population still spoke romance, governors and the associated food chain of patronage would still have composed poetry and works of literature in Latin, it's just that these weren't lucky enough to have survived, if they were ever even written down in the first place.
And there ummayds coins using Sassanid symbols, that means recycling very good coins at the time, if anything they would has been a minority as Syriac survived
 
Top