Friday, March 06, 2015

1177 B.C.

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) by Eric H Cline advances the thesis that the roughly simultaneous collapse of the Assyrian, Hittite, Mycenaean, Minoan, and even the Egyptian empires wasn’t due to invasions by the Sea Peoples after all, but to systemic failure of their complex trade networks.

Good points: I learned a lot about what people have learned about these groups; my knowledge of the era was over 50 years out of date. I had no idea so many letters had been found, or how far afield various goods were traded. I had no notion that everything went to pot within less than a few decades. It does sound like the Sea Peoples can’t be blamed for the whole mess.

Bad points: He doesn’t actually demonstrate his thesis. In fact, he admits there’s some evidence against it: evidence of active interaction all the way up to the end in some places. (One letter wrote for help against invaders approaching the harbor but was never sent because the city was sacked and burnt first.)

Within a few decades civil war, Sea Peoples, massive earthquakes and a major drought hit the region. Empires can survive any one of these, but the whole lot? Cline admits that it could be cumulative damage that did everybody in.

The problem is that very little is known in sufficient detail to be certain of what happened where.

The book is advertised as having relevance to our interconnected world today and what might happen to it. That our current system is rather brittle I take to be fairly obvious. One can guess that the ancient systems were too.

I found it interesting, though I didn’t find the style quite as “gripping” as the Amazon review says, and “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.” overstates the drama quite a bit. Worth reading, though.

I'll look about for other books in the series.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

This one has been sitting on my wish list for a few months, so I am gratified to learn more about it.

Texan99 said...

You're reading all the same stuff I am lately! But I'm getting bogged down in all of them halfway through.