1177 B.C

1177 B.C

The Year Civilization Collapsed

Book - 2014
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"In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the "Sea Peoples" invaded Egypt. The pharaoh's army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?In this major new account of the causes of this "First Dark Ages," Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries. A compelling combination of narrative and the latest scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to, and ultimately destroyed, the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age--and that set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2014.
ISBN: 9780691140896
0691140898
Branch Call Number: 930.15 CLI
Characteristics: xx, 237 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
Alternative Title: Year civilization collapsed

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JohannsHenchmen
Apr 26, 2018

I found this to be a fascinating book. Author Cline, a respected archeologist, who has led digs in the Middle East, has written a detailed and well-researched mid-level technical discussion on the history of the major civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, how they all reached an intersection of trade, diplomacy and conflict in approximately 1150 - 1180 BC and then declined.

Cline spends the first half of the book explaining each culture, Egypt, Mycenae, Crete, Cyprus, Hittite, Mittani and Babylon, their political systems, trading alliances, wars and diplomacy. This first half is a bit of a slow read as you learn about each culture, the lengthy names of the rulers and where the places are located, but this is essential for the rest of the story. Cline includes a map, charts of the various names of the cultures and the rulers and photos to illustrate his central points as a help.

I was amazed to find archeologists & researchers have pieced together such a full understanding of each of these cultures from archeological digs and deciphering actual written records that have survived. And I had no idea that the wrecks of so many fully laden trading ships of this time have been found and revealed such a valuable cache of cargo and information on who the trading partners were.

The details of the diplomatic communications were also a surprise. The empires created a common language that they used to communicate between each other on diplomatic issues and personal matters. Cline discusses numerous communiqués between the various cultures that tell of tribute offerings, warnings to other rulers of troubles or raids in their lands and peace negotiations. Because each side kept a record of their messages to the other cultures in the common diplomatic language, it doubled the chance of finding evidence of an important message.

After Cline sets the scene of the eastern Mediterranean in the 1100s BC, he begins a discussion of the so-called "Sea Peoples", whose attacks some researchers have blamed for the decline of the eastern Mediterranean cultures at this time. The author catalogs who these peoples might have been, where they could have been from and what their effect was. Cline then takes each of the main cultures and looks at what evidence there is that other factors contributed to, or were the primary reason each culture declined and when. Cline concludes it is a complex story. The Sea Peoples did attack and degrade some cultures, but also seem to have arrived peacefully and integrated into others. Some cultures had internal strife or weak leadership as factors and there is evidence earthquakes and a changing climate also had an effect.

In my opinion, Eric Cline has written a deeply researched, accessible book about the state of the empires of the eastern Mediterranean in the late 1100s BC. The situation of each and the factors that led to their decline as supported by the scientific evidence. I recommend this book for any reader who is interested in a detailed account of this era with thoughtful discussion of the latest scientific research.

d
dnk
Feb 02, 2018

Spoiler alert: Cline does not give a definitive answer to what caused the decline and collapse of the Late Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. He also doesn't go into great detail about what, exactly, The Sea People did and where. If you're looking for either of those, look elsewhere.

What Cline does do is thoroughly set the stage for the late 12th century BCE by going over the relevant developments of the 15th, 14th and 13th centuries BCE in Egypt, Mycenae, Crete, Cyprus, the Hittite Empire, the Mittani Empire, the Assyrians and even a bit about Babylon (but at this point, they're not really a player). Some things are facts--by the 14th century BCE, there was a robust trade and diplomatic network in the region that included Crete and Cyprus and was beginning to include Mycenae, most countries involved traded family members as well as made deliveries of precious goods, and there were a series of earthquakes in the 12th century as well as at least one famine--but many are questions that neither historians nor archaeologists have been able to answer.

One of the primary questions is whether the cities of these states fall because they were attacked or there was a natural disaster, or whether those sites didn't fall at all but instead were abandoned. The answer seems to be a combination of all of the above, but we can't be sure. THE question, of course, is what caused the regional demise, and the answer Cline seems to settle on is the combination of everything: the earthquakes, the famines, the instability in the individual governments and (perhaps) an over-reliance on foreign materials (you couldn't put the bronze in "Bronze Age" without copper from Cyprus and tin from Afghanistan). While each factor alone wouldn't cause a civilization to collapse, all of them in concert would, especially taking into account Complexity Theory, which would tend to magnify all of the factors, especially taking into account the interconnected system of trade.

...But Cline isn't so sure that he believes this either. He calls into question whether complexity is really a harbinger of collapse given the relative complexity of Western European nations (and presumably the United States) over a number of centuries. It's puzzling that he leaves this on the table without addressing it. (An obvious answer might be that those governments are more adaptable and responsive (if not perfectly so) than those of the Bronze Age Empires.) And Cline calls into question whether we are looking at actual "decline" or simply lousy record keeping; it may well be that palace-centered trade and diplomacy was compromised by the 11th century BCE, but the activity may have moved to independent merchants who set up their own networks. We can't be sure.

That was my frustration with the book. In the end, Cline doesn't really have a theory but instead lays out the evidence as it appears. If anything, his book is a larger critique of those scholars and popular authors who frame the end of the Late Bronze Age in this region as the result of a dramatic attack by the Sea Peoples. Fair enough, but such a work doesn't require 176 pages. I'd still recommend it for those interested in this period of history, but with the warning that it may not be as illuminating as you might expect.

r
RomanSlaw
Apr 04, 2017

This is a wonderfully written book. It's sort of a survey of our knowledge about the Sea Peoples with an introduction to the world they appeared in. The author includes lots of anecdotal tidbits about the people involved, as well as plenty of fascinating information about how we have acquired our knowledge. I felt the parallels with the modern world were a bit of a stretch, but the author only touches on those very lightly.

h
Hopalong_Kid
Jun 03, 2015

Fascinating analysis of the Late Bronze Age and the complexity of the demise of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age civilizations. The book shows that instability is nothing new to the Near East. The author does a good job pointing out the many variables that caused what was essentially an apocalypse of its times, and from those times come the roots of today's major religions and cultures.

n
nerowolfgal
Apr 22, 2015

On the dry, scholarly side but very interesting reading.

j
john_doh17
Mar 24, 2015

A bit dry/academic for most of the book, but still some fascinating insights into ancient civilizations and their collapse. The advanced theory that it was a combination of events/causesnimpacting a complex collection of civilizations seems like pretty plausible.

s
stewstealth
Dec 30, 2014

Looks at the potential causes for the collapse of the Late Bronze Age. Well researched and concise without too much bias to any specific conclusion. Worth reading if you are interested.

r
ReidCooper
Dec 08, 2014

A very well written, concise summary of the state of current research. Cline explains the evolution of thinking on key issues related to the causes behind the collapse(s) of the Late Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, based on the latest findings. Despite the title, Cline specifically notes that the 'collapse' was not a single event, nor due to just one cause -- least of all the Sea Peoples commonly singled out for blame in popular texts.

g
GummiGirl
Oct 31, 2014

An excellent account of a somewhat obscure period in ancient history, with plenty of discussion of the limits of evidence. It may be too scholarly for the general reader.

m
marticia
Jul 15, 2014

excellent information

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marticia
Jul 15, 2014

History of the mediterranean in the bronze age

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