1177 BC: THE YEAR CIVILISATION COLLAPSED

Classics for All Reviews

by Eric H. Cline

Princeton (2014) h/b 237pp £19.95 (ISBN 9780691140986)

In 1177 BC, according to Egyptian records on the walls of the mortuary temple of Ramses III near the Valley of the Kings, a collective that we (not Egyptians) call ‘Sea peoples’ moved down from Syria to attack the Nile Delta, and were duly thrashed. It is this date that C., a distinguished American archaeologist, has chosen to stand for a whole period, around 1200 BC, when the Late Bronze Age world collapsed—a world that from c. 1500 BC had linked Minoans, Mycenaeans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Mitannians (northern Mesopotamia and Syria), Canaanites, Cypriots and Egyptians in what C. calls a ‘globalized, international, vibrant, intersocietal network’.

That surely requires some explanation of what one means by a ‘society’. Even for the palace world of those states, with their extensive diplomatic reach and demand for luxury goods, that seems slightly over-cooked…

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