Classicism, by the standards of many critics, is not necessarily defined by the boundaries of time; however, there are several major periods with which Classicism is generally associated, including the Golden Age of Greece, the age of Cicero and Augustus in Rome, and the Enlightenment periods of France, England, and Germany. Classicism also encompasses all of what is considered Neoclassicism, though it should be noted that the inverse is not considered true.
Both ancient Greek and ancient Roman cultures had definite ideas and attitudes about literature. The qualities they valued in literary works included a sense of restraint and of restricted scope, a dominance of reason, a sense of form, and a unity of purpose and design, to name a few. Clarity was especially important to the Greeks, emphasizing that communication was an act of informational transmission between multiple individuals rather than the end result of self-expression by a single individual. They also valued objectivity over passion.
Each classical revival emulated these characteristics differently. The French classicists stressed reason and intellect, while the English took great interest in form. The Germans wanted not only to imitate but to surpass the grandeur of the original classics. Some modern-day literary works also manifest various aspects of the classical traditions, as seen in the works of T. S. Eliot, though there is less agreement about whether they can truly be described as works of classicism.