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 civilizations dominated Classical antiquity, starting with the reappearance of writing in Ancient Greece at around 700 BC, generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western civilization and immensely influential on language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science and the arts. Those values were inherited by the Roman Republic established in 509 BC, having expanded from Italy, centered 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 legalized 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 sixth century.
As Constantinople faltered, Germanic peoples established kingdoms in western territories. The new states shared Latin written language, lingering Roman customs 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-tenth century the threat had diminished, although Vikings remained threatening the British Isles.
In 1054 AD a schism divided Christian Church into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but from 1095 a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns were 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.
Beginning roughly in the 14th century in Florence, and later spreading through Europe with the development of printing press, a Renaissance of knowledge challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology, with the rediscovery of classical Greek and Roman knowledge. Simultaneously Protestant Reformation under German Martin Luther questioned Papal authority. Henry VIII sundered the English Church, allying in ensuing religious wars between German and Spanish rulers. The Reconquista of Portugal and Spain led to a series of oceanic explorations resulting in the age of discovery that established direct links with Africa, the Americas and Asia, while religious wars continued to be fought in Europe, which ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia.