History of Europe

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History of Europe describes the history of humans inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first human settlement between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.

Greco-Roman civilisations dominated Classical antiquity starting in Ancient Greece, generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western civilisation and influential on language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science and the arts, with the writing of the epic Iliad at around 700 BC. Those values were acquired by the Roman Republic established in 509 BC, having expanded from Italy, centred in the Mediterranean Sea, until the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent around the year 150.

After a period of civil wars, emperor Constantine I shifted the capital from Rome to the Greek town Byzantium in 313, then renamed Constantinople (modern Istanbul), having legalised Christianity. In 395 the empire was permanently split in two, with the Western Roman Empire repeatedly attacked during the migration period. Rome was sacked in 410 by the Visigoths, the first of the Germanic peoples migrating into Roman territories. With the last West Roman emperor removed in 476, Southeastern Europe and some parts of the Mediterranean remained under the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) up to the later 6th century.

As Constantinople faltered, Germanic peoples established kingdoms in western territories. The new states shared Latin written language, lingering Roman culture and Christian religion. Much territory was brought under the rule of the Franks by Charlemagne, whom the pope crowned western Emperor in 800, but soon divided while Europe came under attack from Vikings, Muslims from North Africa, and Magyars from Hungary. By the mid-10th century the threat had decreased, although Vikings remained threatening Britain and Ireland.

After the establishment of Constantinople and the creation of a church there, which replaced the pre-existing bishopric of Heracleia nearby, tensions between the new and rapidly growing church and the church of Rome gradually increased, with doctrinal disputes masking the struggle for primacy. One well known instance of such tension (although it did not lead to a formal schism) occurred when in 1054 AD a legate of the pope, Cardinal Humbert, formally excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople, an excommunication which was repeated against him the following day. However, from 1095 a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns began to be waged by coalitions of Latin Christian Europeans, in response to a call from the Byzantine Empire, for help against the Muslim expansion. Spain, southern France, Lithuania and pagan regions were consolidated during this time, with the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages fought in 1396. Complex feudal loyalties developed and the aristocracy of new nations become very closely related by intermarriage. The feudal society began to break as Mongol invaded frontier areas and the Black Death pandemic killed from 30% to 60% of Europe's population.[1]

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