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Classical Greece was a period of around 200 years (5th and 4th centuries BC) in Greek culture. This Classical period saw the annexation of much of modern-day Greece by the Persian Empire and its subsequent independence. Classical Greece had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and on the foundations of western civilization. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought (architecture, sculpture), scientific thought, theatre, literature, and philosophy derives from this period of Greek history. In the context of the art, architecture, and culture of Ancient Greece, the Classical period, sometimes called the Hellenic period, corresponds to most of the 5th and 4th centuries BC (the most common dates being the fall of the last Athenian tyrant in 510 BC and the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC). The Classical period in this sense follows the Archaic period and is in turn succeeded by the Hellenistic period.
This century is essentially studied from the Athenian outlook because Athens has left us more narratives, plays, and other written works than the other ancient Greek states. From the perspective of Athenian culture in Classical Greece, the period generally referred to as the 5th century BC extends slightly into the 4th century BC. In this context, one might consider that the first significant event of this century occurs in 508 BC, with the fall of the last Athenian tyrant and Cleisthenes' reforms. However, a broader view of the whole Greek world might place its beginning at the Ionian Revolt of 500 BC, the event that provoked the Persian invasion of 492 BC. The Persians were defeated in 490 BC. A second Persian attempt, in 481-479 BC, failed as well, despite having overrun much of modern-day Greece (north of the Isthmus of Corinth) at a crucial point during the war following the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Artemisium. The Delian League then formed, under Athenian hegemony and as Athens' instrument. Athens' excesses caused several revolts among the allied cities, all of which were put down by force, but Athenian dynamism finally awoke Sparta and brought about the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC. After both forces were spent, a brief peace came about; then the war resumed to Sparta's advantage. Athens was definitively defeated in 404 BC, and internal Athenian agitations mark the end of the 5th century BC in Greece.
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