The Renaissance is defined as an intellectual movement that originated in Italy during the end of the Middle Ages, explains "Mediæval and Modern History." It served as a rebirth of enthusiasm in art, literature and learning in general. This enthusiasm sparked a cultural revolution which spread throughout Europe.
Prior to the Renaissance, Europe was cloaked in the thoughtlessness of the Dark Ages. As Europeans attempted to cope with the economic depression of the time period, there was little concern for intellectual material. When survival became easier, however, the focus of society began to shift. Renaissance leaders, such as Dante and Petrarch, spearheaded this new, intellectual movement.
Italy is widely considered the center of the Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance went through two distinct phases. The first phase was a revival of Graeco-Roman culture. Arts and literature from this period were studied extensively by the Italians. They took pride in identifying with their newfound heritage, and appropriated many Graeco-Roman beliefs. The second phase of the Italian Renaissance consisted of the rise of Humanism as a philosophical movement. Humanist ideology centered mainly on classical literature, art and philosophy.
When the Roman Empire fell, it created a rift in European unity. The Renaissance helped overcome this rift and bring together the continent in an intellectual movement which defined the Era.