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Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea,comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which both Greek and Roman societies flourished and wielded huge influence throughout much of Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia.
Conventionally, it is taken to begin with the earliest-recorded Epic Greek poetry of Homer (8th–7th-century BC), and continues through the emergence of Christianity (1st-century AD) and the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th-century AD). It ends with the decline of classical culture during Late antiquity (250–750), a period overlapping with the Early Middle Ages (600–1000). Such a wide span of history and territory covers many disparate cultures and periods. Classical antiquity may also refer to an idealized vision among later people of what was, in Edgar Allan Poe's words, "the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome".
The culture of the ancient Greeks, together with some influences from the ancient Near East, was the basis of European art,philosophy, society, and education, until the Roman imperial period. The Romans preserved, imitated, and spread this culture over Europe, until they themselves were able to compete with it, and the classical world began to speak Latin as well as Greek. This Greco-Roman cultural foundation has been immensely influential on the language, politics, law, educational systems, philosophy, science, warfare, poetry, historiography, ethics, rhetoric, art and architecture of the modern world. Surviving fragments of classical culture led to a revival beginning in the 14th century which later came to be known as the Renaissance, and various neo-classical revivals occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The earliest period of classical antiquity takes place against the background of gradual re-appearance of historical sources following the Bronze Age collapse. The 8th and 7th centuries BC are still largely proto-historical, with the earliest Greek alphabetic inscriptions appearing in the first half of the 8th century. Homer is usually assumed to have lived in the 8th or 7th century BC, and his lifetime is often taken as marking the beginning of classical antiquity. In the same period falls the traditional date for the establishment of the Ancient Olympic Games, in 776 BC.
The Phoenicians originally expanded from Canaan ports, by the 8th century dominating trade in the Mediterranean. Carthage was founded in 814 BC, and the Carthaginians by 700 BC had firmly established strongholds in Sicily, Italy and Sardinia, which created conflicts of interest with Etruria. A stela found in Kition, Cyprus commemorates the victory of King Sargon II in 709 BC over the seven kings of the island, marking an important step in the transfer of Cyprus from Tyrian rule to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
The Archaic period followed the Greek Dark Ages, and saw significant advancements in political theory, and the rise of democracy, philosophy, theatre, poetry, as well as the revitalization of the written language (which had been lost during the Dark Ages).
In pottery, the Archaic period sees the development of the Orientalizing style, which signals a shift from the Geometric style of the later Dark Ages and the accumulation of influences derived from Egypt, Phoenicia and Syria.
Pottery styles associated with the later part of the Archaic age are the black-figure pottery, which originated in Corinth during the 7th-century BC and its successor, the red-figure style, developed by the Andokides Painter in about 530 BC.
The Etruscans had established political control in the region by the late 7th-century BC, forming the aristocratic and monarchial elite. The Etruscans apparently lost power in the area by the late 6th-century BC, and at this point, the Italic tribes reinvented their government by creating a republic, with much greater restraints on the ability of rulers to exercise power.
According to legend, Rome was founded on 21 April 753 BC by twin descendants of the Trojan prince Aeneas, Romulus and Remus.As the city was bereft of women, legend says that the Latins invited the Sabines to a festival and stole their unmarried maidens, leading to the integration of the Latins and the Sabines.
Archaeological evidence indeed shows first traces of settlement at the Roman Forum in the mid-8th BC, though settlements on the Palatine Hill may date back to the 10th century BC.
The seventh and final king of Rome was Tarquinius Superbus. As the son of Tarquinius Priscus and the son-in-law of Servius Tullius, Superbus was of Etruscan birth. It was during his reign that the Etruscans reached their apex of power. Superbus removed and destroyed all the Sabine shrines and altars from the Tarpeian Rock, enraging the people of Rome. The people came to object to his rule when he failed to recognize the rape of Lucretia, a patrician Roman, at the hands of his own son. Lucretia's kinsman, Lucius Junius Brutus (ancestor to Marcus Brutus), summoned the Senate and had Superbus and the monarchy expelled from Rome in 510 BC. After Superbus' expulsion, the Senate in 509 BC voted to never again allow the rule of a king and reformed Rome into a republican government.
The classical period of Ancient Greece corresponds to most of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, in particular, from the fall of the Athenian tyranny in 510 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. In 510, Spartan troops helped the Athenians overthrow the tyrant Hippias, son of Peisistratos. Cleomenes I, king of Sparta, put in place a pro-Spartan oligarchy conducted by Isagoras.
The Greco-Persian Wars (499–449 BC), concluded by the Peace of Callias gave way not only to the liberation of Greece, Macedon, Thrace, and Ionia from Persian rule, but also resulted in giving the dominant position of Athens in the Delian League, which led to conflict with Sparta and the Peloponnesian League, resulting in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), ending in a Spartan victory.
Greece entered the 4th century under Spartan hegemony, but by 395 BC the Spartan rulers removed Lysander from office, and Sparta lost her naval supremacy. Athens, Argos, Thebes and Corinth, the latter two of which were formerly Spartan allies, challenged Spartan dominance in the Corinthian War, which ended inconclusively in 387 BC. Later, in 371 BC, the Theban generals Epaminondas and Pelopidas won a victory at the Battle of Leuctra. The result of this battle was the end of Spartan supremacy and the establishment of Theban hegemony. Thebes sought to maintain its position until it was finally eclipsed by the rising power of Macedon in 346 BC.
Under Philip II, (359–336 BC), Macedon expanded into the territory of the Paeonians, the Thracians and the Illyrians. Philip's son, Alexander the Great, (356–323 BC) managed to briefly extend Macedonian power not only over the central Greek city-states but also to the Persian Empire, including Egypt and lands as far east as the fringes of India. The classical period conventionally ends at the death of Alexander in 323 BC and the fragmentation of his empire, which was at this time divided among the Diadochi.
Classical Greece entered the Hellenistic period with the rise of Macedon and the conquests of Alexander the Great. Greek became the lingua franca far beyond Greece itself, and Hellenistic culture interacted with the cultures of Persia, Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judah, Central Asia and Egypt. Significant advances were made in the sciences (geography, astronomy, mathematics, etc.), notably with the followers of Aristotle (Aristotelianism).
The Hellenistic period ended with the rise of the Roman Republic to a super-regional power in the 2nd century BC and the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC.
The Republican period of Ancient Rome began with the overthrow of the Monarchy c. 509 BC and lasted over 450 years until its subversion through a series of civil wars, into the Principate form of government and the Imperial period. During the half millennium of the Republic, Rome rose from a regional power of the Latium to the dominant force in Italy and beyond. The unification of Italy under Roman hegemony was a gradual process, brought about in a series of conflicts of the 4th and 3rd centuries, the Samnite Wars, Latin War, and Pyrrhic War. Roman victory in the Punic Wars and Macedonian Wars established Rome as a super-regional power by the 2nd century BC, followed up by the acquisition of Greece and Asia Minor. This tremendous increase of power was accompanied by economic instability and social unrest, leading to the Catiline conspiracy, the Social War and the First Triumvirate, and finally the transformation to the Roman Empire in the latter half of the 1st century BC.
The precise end of the Republic is disputed by modern historians;Roman citizens of the time did not recognize that the Republic had ceased to exist. The early Julio-Claudian Emperors maintained that the res publica still existed, albeit under the protection of their extraordinary powers, and would eventually return to its full Republican form. The Roman state continued to call itself a res publica as long as it continued to use Latin as its official language.
Rome acquired imperial character de facto from the 130s BC with the acquisition of Cisalpine Gaul, Illyria, Greece and Hispania, and definitely with the addition of Iudaea, Asia Minor and Gaul in the 1st century BC. At the time of the empire's maximal extension under Trajan (AD 117), Rome controlled the entire Mediterranean as well as Gaul, parts of Germania and Britannia, the Balkans, Dacia, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and Mesopotamia.
Culturally, the Roman Empire was significantly Hellenized, but also saw the rise of syncretic "eastern" traditions, such as Mithraism, Gnosticism, and most notably Christianity. The empire began to decline in the crisis of the third century.
While sometimes compared with classical Greece,[ by whom? ] classical Rome had vast differences within their family life. Fathers had great power over their children, and husbands over their wives. In fact, the word family, familia in Latin, actually referred to those who were under the authority of a male head of household. This included non-related members such as slaves and servants. In marriage, both men and women were loyal to one another and shared property. Divorce was first allowed starting in the first century BC and could be done by either man or woman.
Late antiquity saw the rise of Christianity under Constantine I, finally ousting the Roman imperial cult with the Theodosian decrees of 393. Successive invasions of Germanic tribes finalized the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, while the Eastern Roman Empire persisted throughout the Middle Ages, in a state called the Roman Empire by its citizens, and labeled the Byzantine Empire by later historians. Hellenistic philosophy was succeeded by continued developments in Platonism and Epicureanism, with Neoplatonism in due course influencing the theology of the Church Fathers.
Many writers have attempted to put a specific date on the symbolic "end" of antiquity with the most prominent dates being the deposing of the last Western Roman Emperor in 476, 529, and the conquest of much of the Mediterranean by the new Muslim faith from 634 to 718. These Muslim conquests, of Syria (637), Egypt (639), Cyprus (654), North Africa (665), Hispania (718), Southern Gaul (720), Crete (820), and Sicily (827), Malta (870) (and the sieges of the Eastern Roman capital, First Arab Siege of Constantinople (674–78) and Second Arab Siege of Constantinople (717–18)) severed the economic, cultural, and political links that had traditionally united the classical cultures around the Mediterranean, ending antiquity (see Pirenne Thesis).the closing of the last Platonic Academy in Athens by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I in
The original Roman Senate continued to express decrees into the late 6th century, and the last Eastern Roman emperor to use Latin as the language of his court in Constantinople was emperor Maurice, who reigned until 602. The overthrow of Maurice by his mutinying Danube army under Phocas resulted in the Slavic invasion of the Balkans and the decline of Balkan and Greek urban culture (leading to the flight of Balkan Latin speakers to the mountains, see Origin of the Romanians), and also provoked the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 in which all the great eastern cities except Constantinople were lost. The resulting turmoil did not end until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century finalized the irreversible loss of all the largest Eastern Roman imperial cities besides the capital itself. The emperor Heraclius in Constantinople, who emerged during this period, conducted his court in Greek, not Latin, though Greek had always been an administrative language of the eastern Roman regions. Eastern-Western links weakened with the ending of the Byzantine Papacy.
The Eastern Roman empire's capital city of Constantinople was left as the only unconquered large urban center of the original Roman empire, as well as being the largest city in Europe. Over the next millennium the Roman culture of that city would slowly change, leading modern historians to refer to it by a new name, Byzantine, though many classical books, sculptures, and technologies survived there along with classical Roman cuisine and scholarly traditions, well into the Middle Ages, when much of it was "rediscovered" by visiting Western crusaders. Indeed, the inhabitants of Constantinople continued to refer to themselves as Romans, as did their eventual conquerors in 1453, the Ottomans. (see Rûm and Romaioi.) The classical scholarship and culture that was still preserved in Constantinople were brought by refugees fleeing its conquest in 1453 and helped to spark the Renaissance (see Greek scholars in the Renaissance).
Ultimately, it was a slow, complex, and graduated change in the socio-economic structure in European history that led to the changeover between Classical antiquity and Medieval society and no specific date can truly exemplify that.
In politics, the late Roman conception of the Empire as a universal state, headed by one supreme divinely-appointed ruler, united with Christianity as a universal religion likewise headed by a supreme patriarch, proved very influential, even after the disappearance of imperial authority in the west. This tendency reached its peak when Charlemagne was crowned "Roman Emperor" in the year 800, an act which led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. The notion that an emperor is a monarch who outranks a mere king dates from this period. In this political ideal, there would always be a Roman Empire, a state whose jurisdiction extended through the entire civilized western world.
That model continued to exist in Constantinople for the entirety of the Middle Ages; the Byzantine Emperor was considered the sovereign of the entire Christian world. The Patriarch of Constantinople was the Empire's highest-ranked cleric, but even he was subordinate to the Emperor, who was "God's Vicegerent on Earth". The Greek-speaking Byzantines and their descendants continued to call themselves "Romans" until the creation of a new Greek state in 1832.
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Russian Czars (a title derived from Caesar) claimed the Byzantine mantle as the champion of Orthodoxy; Moscow was described as the "Third Rome" and the Czars ruled as divinely-appointed Emperors into the 20th century.
Despite the fact that the Western Roman secular authority disappeared entirely in Europe, it still left traces. The Papacy and the Catholic Church in particular maintained Latin language, culture, and literacy for centuries; to this day the popes are called Pontifex Maximus which in the classical period was a title belonging to the Emperor, and the ideal of Christendom carried on the legacy of a united European civilization even after its political unity had disappeared.
The political idea of an Emperor in the West to match the Emperor in the East continued after the Western Roman Empire's collapse; it was revived by the coronation of Charlemagne in 800; the self-described Holy Roman Empire ruled over central Europe until 1806.
The Renaissance idea that the classical Roman virtues had been lost under medievalism was especially powerful in European politics of the 18th and 19th centuries. Reverence for Roman republicanism was strong among the Founding Fathers of the United States and the Latin American revolutionaries; the Americans described their new government as a republic (from res publica ) and gave it a Senate and a President (another Latin term), rather than make use of available English terms like commonwealth or parliament.
Similarly in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, republicanism and Roman martial virtues were upheld by the state, as can be seen in the architecture of the Panthéon, the Arc de Triomphe, and the paintings of Jacques-Louis David. During the revolution, France itself followed the transition from kingdom to republic to dictatorship to Empire (complete with Imperial Eagles) that Rome had undergone centuries earlier.
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history. Such a wide sampling of history and territory covers many rather disparate cultures and periods. "Classical antiquity" often refers to an idealized vision of later people, of what was, in Edgar Allan Poe's words,
the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome!
In the 18th and 19th centuries AD, reverence for classical antiquity was much greater in Europe and the United States than it is today. Respect for the ancient people of Greece and Rome affected politics, philosophy, sculpture, literature, theatre, education, architecture, and sexuality.
Epic poetry in Latin continued to be written and circulated well into the 19th century. John Milton and even Arthur Rimbaud received their first poetic educations in Latin. Genres like epic poetry, pastoral verse, and the endless use of characters and themes from Greek mythology left a deep mark on Western literature. In architecture, there have been several Greek Revivals, which seem more inspired in retrospect by Roman architecture than Greek. Washington, DC is filled with large marble buildings with facades made out to look like Greek temples, with columns constructed in the classical orders of architecture.
In philosophy, the efforts of St Thomas Aquinas were derived largely from the thought of Aristotle, despite the intervening change in religion from Hellenic Polytheism to Christianity.[ citation needed ] Greek and Roman authorities such as Hippocrates and Galen formed the foundation of the practice of medicine even longer than Greek thought prevailed in philosophy. In the French theater, tragedians such as Molière and Racine wrote plays on mythological or classical historical subjects and subjected them to the strict rules of the classical unities derived from Aristotle's Poetics . The desire to dance like a latter-day vision of how the ancient Greeks did it moved Isadora Duncan to create her brand of ballet.
Abydos was an ancient city and bishopric in Mysia. It was located at the Nara Burnu promontory on the Asian coast of the Hellespont, opposite the ancient city of Sestos, and near the city of Çanakkale in Turkey. Abydos was founded in c. 670 BC at the most narrow point in the straits, and thus was one of the main crossing points between Europe and Asia, until its replacement by the crossing between Lampsacus and Kallipolis in the 13th century, and the abandonment of Abydos in the early 14th century.
Byzantium or Byzantion was an ancient Greek city in classical antiquity that became known as Constantinople in late antiquity and Istanbul today. The Greek name Byzantion and its Latinization Byzantium continued to be used as a name of Constantinople sporadically and to varying degrees during the thousand year existence of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantium was colonized by the Greeks from Megara in 657 BC, and remained primarily Greek-speaking until its conquest by the Ottoman Empire in AD 1453.
Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity, and in the Western world traditionally refers to the study of Classical Greek and Roman literature in their original languages of Ancient Greek and Latin, respectively. It may also include Greco-Roman philosophy, history, and archaeology as secondary subjects.
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the 3rd century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and the city of Rome as sole capital. After the military crisis, the empire was ruled by multiple emperors who shared rule over the Western Roman Empire and over the Eastern Roman Empire. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until AD 476, when the imperial insignia were sent to Constantinople, following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustulus. The adoption of Christianity as the state church of the Roman Empire in AD 380 and the fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings conventionally marks the end of Classical antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages. Those events, along with the gradual hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire is why historians distinguish the medieval Roman Empire that remained in the Eastern provinces as the Byzantine Empire.
Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. This era was immediately followed by the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine period. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the age of Classical Greece, from the Greco-Persian Wars to the 5th to 4th centuries BC. The conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon spread Hellenistic civilization from the western Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Hellenistic period ended with the conquest of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, and the annexation of the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.
The culture of ancient Rome existed throughout the almost 1200-year history of the civilization of Ancient Rome. The term refers to the culture of the Roman Republic, later the Roman Empire, which at its peak covered an area from present-day Lowland Scotland and Morocco to the Euphrates.
Sestos was an ancient city in Thrace. It was located at the Thracian Chersonese peninsula on the European coast of the Hellespont, opposite the ancient city of Abydos, and near the town of Eceabat in Turkey.
The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt the following year. The period of Greece prior to the Hellenistic era is known as Classical Greece, while the period afterwards is known as Roman Greece. The Ancient Greek word Hellas was originally the widely recognized name of Greece, from which the word Hellenistic was derived. "Hellenistic" is distinguished from "Hellenic" in that the first encompasses all territories under direct ancient Greek influence, while the latter refers to Greece itself. Instead, the term "Hellenistic" refers to that which is influenced by Greek culture, in this case, the East after the conquests of Alexander the Great.
Colonies in antiquity were post-Iron Age city-states founded from a mother-city, not from a territory-at-large. Bonds between a colony and its metropolis remained often close, and took specific forms during the period of classical antiquity. Generally, colonies founded by the ancient Phoenicians, Carthage, Rome, Alexander the Great and his successors remained tied to their metropolis, but Greek colonies of the Archaic and Classical eras were sovereign and self-governing from their inception. While Greek colonies were often founded to solve social unrest in the mother-city, by expelling a part of the population, Hellenistic, Roman, Carthaginian, and Han Chinese colonies were used for expansion and empire-building.
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern nation-state of Greece as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they inhabited and ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied throughout the ages and as a result, the history of Greece is similarly elastic in what it includes. Generally, the history of Greece is divided into the following periods:
Hellenistic Greece is the historical period of the country following Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the annexation of the classical Greek Achaean League heartlands by the Roman Republic. This culminated at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC, a crushing Roman victory in the Peloponnese that led to the destruction of Corinth and ushered in the period of Roman Greece. Hellenistic Greece's definitive end was with the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, when the future emperor Augustus defeated Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony, the next year taking over Alexandria, the last great center of Hellenistic Greece.
Hellenization or Hellenism is the historical spread of ancient Greek culture, religion, and, to a lesser extent, language over foreign peoples conquered by Greeks or brought into their sphere of influence, particularly during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. The result of Hellenization was that elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements, and these Greek influences spread from the Mediterranean basin as far east as modern-day Pakistan. In modern times, Hellenization has been associated with the adoption of modern Greek culture and the ethnic and cultural homogenization of Greece.
Late antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages in Europe and adjacent areas bordering the Mediterranean Basin. The popularization of this periodization in English has generally been credited to historian Peter Brown, after the publication of his seminal work The World of Late Antiquity (1971). Precise boundaries for the period are a continuing matter of debate, but Brown proposes a period between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Generally, it can be thought of as from the end of the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century (235–284) to the early Muslim conquests (622–750), or as roughly contemporary with the Sasanian Empire (224–651). In the West its end was earlier, with the start of the Early Middle Ages typically placed in the 6th century, or earlier on the edges of the Western Roman Empire.
The Roman era of Greek history began with the Corinthian defeat in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC. However, before the Achaean War, the Roman Republic had been steadily gaining control of mainland Greece by defeating the Kingdom of Macedon in a series of conflicts known as the Macedonian Wars. The Fourth Macedonian War ended at the Battle of Pydna in 148 BC and defeat of the Macedonian royal pretender Andriscus.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical studies:
The legacy of the Roman Empire has been varied and significant, comparable to that of other hegemonic polities of world history.
Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. One of a wide variety of genres of Roman folklore, Roman mythology may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period. Roman mythology draws from the mythology of the Italic peoples and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European mythology.
Western civilization describes the development of human civilization beginning in Ancient Greece, and generally spreading westwards. However, Western civilization in its more strictly defined sphere traces its roots back to Rome and the Western Mediterranean. It can be strongly associated with nations linked to the former Western Roman Empire and with Medieval Western Christendom.
Latin and Greek were the official languages of the Roman Empire, but other languages were important regionally. Latin was the original language of the Romans and remained the language of imperial administration, legislation, and the military throughout the classical period. In the West, it became the lingua franca and came to be used for even local administration of the cities including the law courts. After all freeborn inhabitants of the Empire were universally enfranchised in 212 AD, a great number of Roman citizens would have lacked Latin, though they were expected to acquire at least a token knowledge, and Latin remained a marker of "Romanness".
Hellenization in the Byzantine Empire describes the spread and intensification of ancient Greek culture, religion and language in the Byzantine Empire. The theory of Hellenization generally applies to the influence of foreign cultures subject to Greek influence or occupation, which includes the ethnic and cultural homogenisation which took place throughout the life of the Byzantine Empire (330-1453).
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