The so-called “Classical Greece” is possibly the most influential period of Greek culture. It lasted from the fifth to the fourth century BC, in a time that spanned approximately 200 years. Most of what we know nowadays as Western culture, such as scientific thought, literature, theater, philosophy, and politics, originated in this time, since it also became a heavy influence on the Roman empire and as such, formed the foundation of Western civilization.
In general, it is understood that this time period began with the Persian invasion in 492 BC and their ultimate defeat in 490 BC. A few notable battles from the time period are the Battle of Thermopilae and the Battle of Artemisium, as well as the following Spartan and Athenian clashes, generally referred to as the Peloponnesian War.
With the rise and eventual fall of the Spartan empire, the clashes with Thebes and the rise of Athens, as well as Macedon, ancient Greece experienced a continued development and growth with political and philosophical aspects. Leaders and rulers came and went, leadership styles changed, religions and philosophies intertwined, and languages evolved.
For example, most philosophers that we know and remember nowadays lived within this time period, such as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. Particularly this time became a center and birthplace for politics and philosophies, particularly democracy, which we still enjoy and follow today.
Besides these philosophers, another very influential figure in human history was born and lived in this time period: Alexander the Great. Instructed by Aristotle and born as the son of Philip II of Macedonia, he soon united Greece in a globe-conquering march that spread the Hellenistic language and philosophies throughout the ancient world.
It was his death that spelled the end of the Classical Greek period. After the Greek empire split apart again under Alexander’s generals, Greece lost a lot of its importance on the world’s stage, but a lot of what Classical Greece had stood for, especially in terms of politics and philosophy, was passed on.
Particularly Rome adopted much of Greece’s culture, political views, philosophies and especially religions. The legacy of classical Greece reverberated throughout human history well into the post-Renaissance European elite. This in turn influenced much of Western civilization, and no other period in history has had such a profound impact on modern civilization as Classical Greece.