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In the passage of history, there have always been great transitions marking epochs of civilizations that have changed the structure and course of world history fundamentally, such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the Industrial Revolution. However, before these epoch-making events, before the birth of city states, such as Thebes, Athens, or Sparta, and even before the time of Alexander the Great, there was a collapse of a great ancient civilization during the late 13th and early 12th centuries of the Bronze Age that shook down the diplomatic and political systems of kingdoms of the Aegean, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Near East regions, dawning the age of the Iron Age. At the center of this momentous drama of human civilization, there were mysterious Sea Peoples. The Sea Peoples: The Mysterious Nomads Who Ushered in the Iron Age by Charles River Editors describes unsolved mystery of these invaders who wreaked havoc across the Near East during the late Bronze Period.
In 1200 BC, before the arrival of the Sea Peoples, a political and social stability was existent between the major powers of the region, which were Egypt, Hatti, the Aegean, and the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms under the modus operandi carefully crafted through a combination of diplomacy and military conquest. During this period, Egyptians, Hittites, Mesopotamians, Semites, and Mycenaeans on the Greek Mainland formed a kind of multiple interconnected societies and maintained an international hierarchy by means of trading goods and exchanging cultural artifacts. However, all of sudden, the Sea Peoples from the Mediterranean and the Near East raided the region at the end of this period by dismantling the stability of the region, as the catalyst for the collapse of the Bronze Age and thus changed the face of the ancient world forever. Then who are these Sea Peoples? What prompted them to raid the region?
It’s the Egyptian hieroglyphic texts (writing with pictures) that first and foremost depicted these mysterious people because the Egyptians fought them off three times successfully; however, it was Pyrrhic Victory eventually bringing out a butterfly effect to the region by greatly affecting the international trades one by one among the interconnected states. According to the Egyptian historiography – also known as “The Papyrus Harris” – of the nine Sea Peoples, the following are the most known of all:
• The Lydian: a tribe from a modern day Libya
• The Sherden/Shardana: a tribe from today’s Sardinia
• The Peleset: a major participant of the raid , believed to be originated from today’s Palestine
• The Tjeker: a tribe that claimed to be descendants of Troy from Sicily
• The Teresh: a tribe originated in Asia Minor then moved to Italy to become the Etruscan
• The Ekwesh: Achaean/Mycenaean Greeks
Between 1200 and 1050 BC, these Sea People with new innovative military tactics of mercenary services and weapons, such as swords, shields, and helmets made out of metals from the Balkan, began to move into the inland of the Near East with the influx of peoples from Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the Greek Mainland possibly due to catastrophic drought and other environmental factors, including disastrous earthquakes on the Greek Mainland as recorded by Herodotus’s writing a thousand years later. Also, there was a precipitous increase in the population of southeastern Europe, which might have propelled the invasion of the Sea Peoples. In fact, it is known that some invasions of Sea Peoples accompanied civilians and even cattle, which betokened a possible migration intention following from such events. Besides, this was also the period when the epic city of Troy was besieged and finally destroyed by the Achaean/Mycenaean/Ekwesh raiders as recorded by Homer.
Subsequently, the repeated raids of the Sea Peoples in the course of time resulted in a dispersion of the new cultural, political, and social customs throughout the Ancient Near East, weakening the stable system of a coalition of states that was mostly provided by Hittites and Egyptians who relied on extremely archaic political and military system, such as relying on chariots at warfare, and a feudal system. Moreover, a succession of ineffective rulers, declining trading volumes, and crop failure in the regions might have contributed to the demise of the Bronze Age, which was only precipitated by the pesky invasions of the Sea Peoples.
There are many other theories of how exactly the Bronze Age came to an end as to the relation of these mysterious Sea Peoples and their impacts on the collapse of the great ancient civilization. Nonetheless, what is viewed herein is considered as a widely accepted theory of the end of the Bronze Age as comprehensively chronicled in The Sea Peoples: The Mysterious Nomads Who Ushered in the Iron Age. By understanding the cause and the result of this unknown, mysterious epoch, we can also relate it to the diplomatic and political situations of our time that do not seem remotely distant but disarmingly similar and thus learn something about human nature that does not seem to be changed after all these years.