The etymology of the word Classics is derived from the Latin adjective classicus, meaning "belonging to the highest class of citizens".
The late 17th and 18th centuries are the period in Western European literary history which is most associated with the classical tradition, as writers consciously adapted classical models. Classical models were so highly prized that the plays of William Shakespeare were rewritten along neoclassical lines, and these "improved" versions were performed throughout the 18th century.
Though the influence of classics as the dominant mode of education in Europe and North America was in decline in the 19th century, the discipline was rapidly evolving in the same period. Classical scholarship was becoming more systematic and scientific, especially with the "new philology" created at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Its scope was also broadening: it was during the 19th century that ancient history and classical archaeology began to be seen as part of Classics, rather than separate disciplines.