The period in Europe between 500 and 1500 A.D. is called the Middle Ages because it lies between the Classical and Renaissance periods. The Classical period ended with the fall of Rome, and the Renaissance began about 1500 A.D.
The Middle Ages was a term used by Italian humanists of the early Renaissance period to emphasize how they were resurrecting the classical ideals of ancient Greece and Rome after a long period of ignorant dormancy. During the Middle Ages, a decisive break from the cosmopolitan ideal of ancient Rome occurred, and the Renaissance was based in large part on a rediscovery of the art and philosophy of the ancient era. Many historians today use the more neutral term medieval to refer to the Middle Ages because it more accurately denotes a particular historical period, not merely an unimportant pause between two other periods.