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.
Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780691140896
Characteristics: xx, 237 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm


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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.

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.

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.

Apr 22, 2015

On the dry, scholarly side but very interesting reading.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jul 15, 2014

excellent information

Lomond Apr 04, 2014

It looks like the events of this documentary mark the beginning of the end for African people.


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Jul 15, 2014

History of the mediterranean in the bronze age


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