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"The Middle Ages" is a term commonly used to designate that period of European history between the fall of the Roman Empire and about the middle of the fifteenth century. The precise dates of the beginning, culmination, and end of the Middle Ages are more or less arbitrarily assumed according to the point of view adopted. The period is usually considered to open with those migrations of the German Tribes which led to the destruction of the Roman Empire in the West in 375, when the Huns fell upon the Gothic tribes north of the Black Sea and forced the Visigoths over the boundaries of the Roman Empire on the lower Danube. A later date, however, is sometimes assumed, viz., when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last of the Roman Emperors of the West, in 476. Others, again, begin the Middle Ages with the opening years of the seventh century and the death (609) of Venantius Fortunatus, the last representative of classic Latin literature. The close of the Middle Ages is also variously fixed; some make it coincide with the rise of Humanism and the Renaissance in Italy, in the fourteenth century; with the fall of Constantinople, in 1453; with the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492; or, again, with the great religious schism of the sixteenth century. Any hard and fast line drawn to designate either the beginning or close of the period in question is arbitrary. The widest limits given, viz., the irruption of the Visigoths over the boundaries of the Roman Empire, for the beginning, and the middle of the sixteenth century, for the close, may be taken as inclusively sufficient, and embrace, beyond dispute, every movement or phase of history that can be claimed as properly belonging to the Middle Ages. (look for more here soon) - (from Catholic Encyclopedia -- a great Resource!)
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