Ancient Greece played a significant role in shaping the development of European civilization. Its history covers roughly the period from 1600 BC to 27 BC, when the integration of Greece into the Roman Empire took place. Culturally, ancient Greek history continued into late antiquity.

The Mycenaean culture (until about 1050 BC) was the first advanced civilization of mainland Europe. Its end was followed by the so-called "dark centuries" (broadly defined from c. 1200 to c. 750 B.C.; today usually more narrowly defined from c. 1050 to c. 800 B.C.), before the Archaic period began (c. 800-500 B.C., in terms of art history (see Archaic (art) from 700 B.C. - in modern periodizations, it makes less sense to draw a sharp boundary than a more or less broad transitional period)). In the Archaic period, the polis established itself as a form of state, and many Greek colonies were founded in the Mediterranean and on the Black Sea.

The following classical period (ca. 500-336 BC) was a time of great cultural development that laid a foundation for the Occident. During this period, central political concepts were also coined, for example in connection with the development of Attic democracy. Among the achievements of ancient Greek culture are, to name just a few examples:

  • architectural monuments, such as on the Athenian Acropolis,
  • important sculptures,
  • central works of poetry (such as the Iliad and the Odyssey),
  • the philosophy of antiquity and important prose historical works (beginning with Herodotus and Thucydides, who influenced later historians even in Byzantium),
  • authoritative findings in the field of mathematics and physics
  • first forms of peaceful athletic competition such as the Olympic Games.

With Alexander the Great began the last epoch of independent Greek history, Hellenism (ca. 336-27 BC). This period was characterized by the founding of numerous new poleis and the spread of Greek language and culture as far as the Near East, by the interpenetration of Eastern and Western civilization and religion, and by the establishment of great empires ruled by Macedonian kings, until the Eastern Mediterranean region gradually came under Roman rule in a process lasting a good 150 years from 200 BC onward and finally became part of the Imperium Romanum.