The Renaissance began when Italian scholars, scientists and artists created a cultural movement based on a return to classical sources for learning. While it is difficult to pin down a date or place where it began, most scholars place its origin in Florence in the early 14th century.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe entered a period in which scientific and scholarly advancement slowed greatly. One of the major sources of learning during this period was the Muslim world, where colleges maintained libraries of Classical Greek and Roman works, preserving the knowledge therein. During the Muslim conquest of Spain in the eighth century, these ideas were exported back to Europe, and scholars began to study the classics once more. Before the Renaissance, however, most scholarship was focused on mathematics and science.
Around the beginning of the 14th century, Italian scholars began to rediscover the humanities, works of literature and art from antiquity. Coupled with a surge of wealth due to Italy's trade network, this created an atmosphere where the greatest minds of Europe could easily find the resources they needed to further their learning and expand their skills. This led to centuries of amazing artwork, literature and scholarship.