The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. 750 BC (the archaic period) to 146 BC (the Roman conquest). It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western Civilization. Greek culture had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe.
The civilization of the ancient Greeks has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and arts, giving rise to the Renaissance in Western Europe and again resurgent during various neo-Classical revivals in 18th and 19th century Europe and the Americas.
There are no fixed or universally agreed upon dates for the beginning or the end of the ancient Greek period. In common usage it refers to all Greek history before the Roman Empire, but historians use the term more precisely. Some writers include the periods of the Greek-speaking Mycenaean civilization that collapsed about 1150 BC, though most would argue that the influential Minoan was so different from later Greek cultures that it should be classed separately.
In Greek school books, "ancient times" is a period of about 900 years, from the catastrophe of Mycenae until the conquest of the country by the Romans, divided into four periods based on styles of art and culture and politics. The historical line starts with Greek Dark Ages (1100-800 BC). In this period artists use geometrical schemes such as squares, circles and lines to decorate amphoras and other pottery.
The archaic period (800-480 BC) represents those years when the artists made larger free-standing sculptures in stiff, hieratic poses with the dreamlike "archaic smile". In the classical period (490-323 BC) artists perfected the style that since has been taken as exemplary: "classical", such as the Parthenon. The years following the conquests of Alexander are referred to as the Hellenistic, (323-146 BC), or Alexandrian period; aspects of Hellenic civilization expanded to Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia and beyond.
Traditionally, the ancient Greek period was taken to begin with the date of the first recorded Olympic Games in 776 BC, but many historians now extend the term back to about 1000 BC. The traditional date for the end of the ancient Greek period is the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. The following period until the integration of Greece into the Roman Republic in 146 BC is classed Hellenistic. These dates are historians' conventions and some writers treat the ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the 3rd century.
Any history of ancient Greece requires a cautionary note on sources. Those Greek historians and political writers whose works have survived, notably Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Demosthenes, Plato and Aristotle, were mostly either Athenian or pro-Athenian. That is why we know far more about the history and politics of Athens than of any other city, and why we know almost nothing about some cities' histories. These writers, furthermore, concentrate almost wholly on political, military and diplomatic history, and ignore economic and social history. All histories of ancient Greece have to contend with these limits in their sources.
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