Description: Lest Darkness Fall is similar to Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. American archaeologist Martin Padway is visiting the Pantheon in Rome in 1938. A thunderstorm arrives, lightning cracks, and he finds himself transported to 6th century Rome (535). When Padway arrives, Italy is ruled by the Ostrogoths, a tribe which had recently overthrown the Western Roman Empire, but which (in de Camp's opinion, anyway) rules with benevolence, allowing freedom of religion and maintaining the urban Roman society they had conquered. In the real timeline the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire temporarily expanded westwards, embarking on what came to be known as the Gothic War (535_554). They overthrew the Ostrogoths and the Vandals in north Africa, but they never consolidated their rule over Italy, and it collapsed into smaller states with further invasions by the Lombards. The war devastated the Italian urbanized society that was supported by a settled hinterland, and by the end of the conflict Italy was considerably depopulated: its population is estimated to have decreased from 7 million to 2.5 million people. The great cities of Rome were abandoned as Italy fell into a long period of decline. Some historians consider this the true beginning of the Dark Ages.