Research topic: Classical antiquity

Classical antiquity refers to the Mediterranean region and surrounding areas in the period from approximately 800 BC to approximately 500 AD and is usually divided into Greek and Roman antiquity. Our knowledge of the period is based on a rich variety of archaeological and written sources.

Society in classical antiquity originated in the 8th century BC in what we today know as Greece and the surrounding areas, and was characterised by the growth of the city-state, or polis. Ancient Greek society consisted of city-states, of which Athens and Sparta were the most influential. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Greek elites established Hellenistic kingdoms in the Eastern Mediterranean. These kingdoms survived until the Roman conquests that began in the 2nd century BC.

Rome was established as a polis-type state in Central Italy in the 8th century BC, but it was only from the 3rd century BC that the Roman Republic began its territorial expansion. During the 3rd century BC, the Romans established control over large parts of the Western Mediterranean. They then conquered Greece and parts of Asia Minor in the following century. This explosive expansion caused major internal conflicts and led to Augustus' founding of the Roman Empire, which ushered in a period of internal stability. At its peak, the Roman Empire extended from Iraq in the East to England in the West.

From the end of the 2nd century AD, the Empire experienced increased pressure along its borders, particularly from Germanic tribes along the Danube/Rhine and in the East from the Sasanians along the Euphrates/Tigris. Meanwhile Christianity was becoming increasingly influential, becoming the religion favoured by emperors from the conversion of Constantine the Great in 312 AC. The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, although the Eastern Roman Empire, centred in Constantinople, survived and is often called the Byzantine Empire following comprehensive reforms during the wars against the Arabs in the 7th century AD.

Classical antiquity has had enormous influence on Western thinking, organisation, art and architecture.

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Published Feb. 5, 2013 11:28 AM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2013 9:50 AM