Turning Points in Ancient History, Princeton Press
Shortly after 1200 B.C., most of the ancient empires in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East collapsed at virtually the same moment. The sole survivor, Egypt, itself retrenched and no longer was able to hold onto land in Asia. The Hittites, the Mycenaeans, the Minoans in Crete all were no more, and many of their cities were burned down and never built again. What happened?
This book is a short introduction to the late Bronze Age civilizations of the area and their surprisingly rich networks of communication and trade by land and sea. We have found and translated many letters between the rulers of these empires as they played politics, traded and sometimes fought. Recent evidence shows that the states were more interconnected culturally and economically than previously thought.
The book then looks at the causes of the disasters but doesn’t come to a firm conclusion about what happened. It does debunk the theory that the “Sea Peoples” – several roaming nations that settled in the area later – were the main factor. There are signs of major earthquakes, and of severe droughts. And there are also signs of war as well.
The final best guess is a synthesis – that the interdependencies were so strong that the disruptions shook all the other states severely, making them susceptible to their own disruptions. And once broken, the status quo could never be recovered and a new set of nations had to grow from the ashes – Greece, Israel, Persia, and Rome.
It is a short but good summary of current information about this time in history, with some interesting bits of palace backstabbings and dirty politics thrown in for spice. I’ll be interested in the other books in the series.