What are the biggest mysteries of the Dark Ages?

One of the problems with this, of course - is that most the learned peoples would have continued to write to Classical Latin during this time and so records (unless they're commenting on the vernacular speech of people) aren't a good determiner of whether people were still speaking 'Latin' in Southern Gaul or anywhere else. For instance, the Treaty of Verdun is considered to be some of the first evidence we have of Old French. It was written in 843, yet no one really suspects that the people of Northern France were speaking Classical Latin before this date, and that Old French just spontaneously developed that year.

The fact of the matter is, there was likely numerous varieties of Latin dialects being spoken throughout the Western Empire for centuries - with varying levels of mutual comprehension, and these continued to diverge more radically once central political authority disintegrated. Although education and the Church would have maintained Classic Latin as the Lingua Franca of the educated classes, this doesn't mean that this was the form of Latin spoken by the common people of, say, Picardie, Aquitaine and Verona. But, that doesn't mean that the people of these regions wouldn't have self-identified their language as Latin.
Gotcha. And I wasn’t saying that because records were written in classic Latin that certain places still spoke. This question came to mind when I remembered someone saying a part of southern Gaul still spoke Latin into the 700s but couldn’t where it was said, hence why I asked the question.
 
Also the true fates of the Easter islanders
I actually know this one.

There are still indigenous Rapa Nui today but their population cratered, like so many other indigenous people, after contact with Europeans during the Age of Discovery, the Dutch (IIRC) even then, their society still persisted in some form until Chilean slave raiders pushed them over the edge in the 1800's, after which the Rapa Nui number below 200 people. They have since rebounded.

Not really a mystery, just not well known and covered by disinformation. (Looking at you, History Channel!)
 
I actually know this one.

There are still indigenous Rapa Nui today but their population cratered, like so many other indigenous people, after contact with Europeans during the Age of Discovery, the Dutch (IIRC) even then, their society still persisted in some form until Chilean slave raiders pushed them over the edge in the 1800's, after which the Rapa Nui number below 200 people. They have since rebounded.

Not really a mystery, just not well known and covered by disinformation. (Looking at you, History Channel!)
Thank you for this.
 
I actually know this one.

There are still indigenous Rapa Nui today but their population cratered, like so many other indigenous people, after contact with Europeans during the Age of Discovery, the Dutch (IIRC) even then, their society still persisted in some form until Chilean slave raiders pushed them over the edge in the 1800's, after which the Rapa Nui number below 200 people. They have since rebounded.

Not really a mystery, just not well known and covered by disinformation. (Looking at you, History Channel!)
The real mystery of Rapa Nui is whether Rongorongo was a true written language or not.
 
There's also the Basilicata, so called because it was the last part to be ruled by the Emperor (Basileus) of Constantinople.

(This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was interesting.)
Actualy, that is a mystery because Puglia and Calabria were longer ruled by the Byzantines. Basilicata was conquered by the Lombards.
 
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This question maybe frivolous and was around Late Antiquity but here I go. . .

Why in the hell was there no documentation of Roman Britain after Western Roman Emperor Honorius abandoned the province in 410 AD?
Well it's clear from Vindolanda that people carried on writing for local administration, but what is missing is anyone writing a chronology/annales, or at least anything that survived
 
If I recall 'italy' is based off Greek names for the area that are way older then the Romans.
Sort of. Italia was originally the name for the just the southernmost regions of what we now think of as Italy. Other regions had other names. But over time the name grew to be synonymous with more and more regions, first in the south and then gradually the entire peninsula. It wasn’t until Augustus that “Italia” came to mean all of what we would think of as Italy up to the Alps.
 
Sort of. Italia was originally the name for the just the southernmost regions of what we now think of as Italy. Other regions had other names. But over time the name grew to be synonymous with more and more regions, first in the south and then gradually the entire peninsula. It wasn’t until Augustus that “Italia” came to mean all of what we would think of as Italy up to the Alps.
Italy comes from Vitelus or Something like that Oscan meaning something like Calf .
 
Gotcha. And I wasn’t saying that because records were written in classic Latin that certain places still spoke. This question came to mind when I remembered someone saying a part of southern Gaul still spoke Latin into the 700s but couldn’t where it was said, hence why I asked the question.
But it's also important to note that people's grammar changes as the formality of the situation changes, without it being what you could call a different language.

Modern aave speakers often would use considerably different grammar at home and with friends compared to when giving academic talks, but everyone agrees that they're still speaking English. No one would say that it's just that they self identify aave as English.

In the same way these proto Romance speakers likely code switched so that the type of language they used at home would have shown more features of romance languages, but the type of language they used in public addresses would have stayed a lot closer to classical norms for a lot longer- and both of those versions should be considered (for this point in time at least) to be different ways of speaking in the same language.


Also for everyone looking for post Roman identity questions, if you've got the time I Highly recommend

"Transformations in Romanness" by W Pohl, which you can get as a free pdf if you Google it- it's a deep dive on individual regions and how regional identities formed in different areas- Britain, Gaul, Iberia. I found South Italy to be really interesting because in the 9th century, it was sandwiched between the HRE and the Byzantines- both "Rome". So how did they conceive their Romanitas (I won't spoil it for you but iirc, largely it was attached to following the Roman bishop rather than anything political)
 
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But it's also important to note that people's grammar changes as the formality of the situation changes, without it being what you could call a different language.

Modern aave speakers often would use considerably different grammar at home and with friends compared to when giving academic talks, but everyone agrees that they're still speaking English. No one would say that it's just that they self identify aave as English.

In the same way these proto Romance speakers likely code switched so that the type of language they used at home would have shown more features of romance languages, but the type of language they used in public addresses would have stayed a lot closer to classical norms for a lot longer- and both of those versions should be considered (for this point in time at least) to be different ways of speaking in the same language.
I seriously doubt the vast majority of illiterate rural peasants actually knew Classical Latin.
 
I seriously doubt the vast majority of illiterate rural peasants actually knew Classical Latin.

I'm not so sure of that - at least depending on the timeframe. Remember, that most of those illiterate peasants would have been hearing Classicalish Latin being spoken at least once a week in Mass and a rough understanding of it would have been fundamental to knowing what was going on. (And I say -ish because Church Latin was pronounced differently than traditional Classical Latin, but its grammar and structure was very close). The reason that Latin remained the language of the liturgy during this era was because it was the language of learning, yes, but also because it would have been understood by the majority of the people in attendance. I'm not sure exactly when the vernacular diverged significantly enough from Classical Latin that the liturgy was not longer understandable to the majority of the congregation, but it wouldn't have been for a few centuries. Most likely the situation would have been akin to a modern English speaker listening to a production of Shakespeare: yeah, it's archaic, and there are parts that are difficult to make out, but its still comprehendable.
 
I seriously doubt the vast majority of illiterate rural peasants actually knew Classical Latin.
But imagine an aave speaker who's never had any schooling and so finds it difficult to use grammar that's not part of aave- would you say he can't speak English?

And the way his grammar would change if he then got an education wouldn't be learning a new language, it would just be a more educated register of speech in the language he already speaks. In the same way, classical Latin was just a more educated register of regular speech for proto romance communities.
 
I'm not so sure of that - at least depending on the timeframe. Remember, that most of those illiterate peasants would have been hearing Classicalish Latin being spoken at least once a week in Mass and a rough understanding of it would have been fundamental to knowing what was going on. (And I say -ish because Church Latin was pronounced differently than traditional Classical Latin, but its grammar and structure was very close). The reason that Latin remained the language of the liturgy during this era was because it was the language of learning, yes, but also because it would have been understood by the majority of the people in attendance.
Many if not most people during early Christianity(first 1-3 centuries depending on the location) didn't not really have churches near them.
but also because it would have been understood by the majority of the people in attendance.
Maybe in the early centuries but even for Vulgar Latin we have tons of evidence of hidden semantic shifts and sound changes that are common to most Romance languages that we can reasonably date to before the fall of Rome, so I'd argue that this duo-register makes more sense for the early and late imperial period rather than the post Roman period.
I'm not sure exactly when the vernacular diverged significantly enough from Classical Latin that the liturgy was not longer understandable to the majority of the congregation, but it wouldn't have been for a few centuries. Most likely the situation would have been akin to a modern English speaker listening to a production of Shakespeare: yeah, it's archaic, and there are parts that are difficult to make out, but its still comprehendable.
It clearly was by the early 9th century given the Council of Tours, grammar-wise by that point I believe most non-Balkan Romance languages(weighting for the number of speakers) lost all cases(outside Old French that kept 2)
 
I just learned that the exact circumstances of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania are rather... hazy:

Precisely what happened in Iberia in the early 8th century is uncertain. There is one contemporary Christian source, the Chronicle of 754 (which ends on that date), regarded as reliable but often vague.[6] There are no contemporary Muslim accounts, and later Muslim compilations, such as that of Al-Maqqari from the 17th century, reflect later ideological influence.[7] This paucity of early sources means that detailed specific claims need to be regarded with caution.[8]

Speaking of Hispania, apparently the exact frontiers of the earlier Byzantine territory on the peninsula are a subject of some contention:

There are few cities which can be confidently considered to have been under Byzantine government in the period. The city of Medina Sidonia (Asidona) was held until 572, when it was reconquered by Leovigild. Gisgonza (also Gigonza, ancient Sagontia)[10] was also held until the reign of Witteric (603–610) and it indicates that the south of the province of Baetica was completely Byzantine from Málaga to the mouth of the Guadalete. In the province of Carthaginiensis, wherein lay Cartagena and of which it was capital, the city of Baza was also Byzantine and it probably resisted the inroads of Leovigild into that territory in 570, though it was Visigothic by 589.

Among the cities which have been disputed as being Byzantine, Córdoba is the greatest. Some historians have suspected it of being the first capital of the province of Spania and ascribed the cities of Ecija (Astigi), Cabra(Egabra), Guadix (Acci), and Granada (Illiberris) to the Byzantines on this basis, but there is no positive evidence in the sources of Roman rule in any of these cities. Córdoba was in a state of rebellion, briefly joined by Seville from 566 to 567, until Leovigild put it down in 572. It may have had a local government during this period, or may have recognised Byzantine suzerainty.[11]
 
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