Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe and the Middle East.
It is conventionally taken to begin with the earliest-recorded 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 (AD 300–600), blending into the Early Middle Ages (AD 600–1000). Such a wide sampling of history and territory covers many disparate cultures and periods. "Classical antiquity" may refer also to an idealized vision among later people of what was, in Edgar Allan Poe's words, "the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome!"
The culture of the ancient Greeks, together with some influences from the ancient Orient, prevailed throughout classical antiquity as the basis of art, philosophy, society, and educational ideals. These ideals were preserved and imitated by the Romans. This Greco-Roman cultural foundation has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, 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.
Common bronze alloys have the unusual and desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling the finest details of a mold. Then, as the bronze cools, it shrinks a little, making it easier to separate from the mold. Their strength and ductility (lack of brittleness) is an advantage when figures in action are to be created, especially when compared to various ceramic or stone materials (such as marble sculpture). These qualities allow the creation of extended figures, as in Jeté, or figures that have small cross sections in their support, such as the equestrian statue of Richard the Lionheart. Modern statuary bronze is 90% copper and 10% tin; older bronze alloys varied only slightly from this composition.
But the value of the bronze for uses other than making statues is disadvantageous to the preservation of sculptures; few large ancient bronzes have survived, as many were melted down to make weapons or ammunition in times of war or to create new sculptures commemorating the victors, while far more stone and ceramic works have come through the centuries, even if only in fragments. As recently as 2007 several life sized bronze sculptures by John Waddell were stolen, likely because of the value of the metal after the work has been melted.