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 and the decline of the Roman Empire (5th century AD). It ends with the dissolution of classical culture at the close of Late Antiquity (300–600), blending into the Early Middle Ages (600–1000). Such a wide sampling of history and territory covers many disparate cultures and periods. Classical antiquity may refer also to an idealised 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 art, philosophy, society, and educational ideals, until the Roman imperial period. The Romans preserved, imitated and spread over Europe these ideals until they were able to competitively rival the Greek culture, as the Latin language became widespread and the classical world became bilingual, Greek and Latin. 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. From the surviving fragments of classical antiquity, a revival movement was gradually formed from the 14th century onwards which came to be known later in Europe as the Renaissance, and again resurgent during various neo-classical revivals in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The earliest period of classical antiquity takes place before 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.
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 revitalisation of the written language (which had been lost during the Dark Ages).