Around 1200 BCE, almost every civilisation in the Eastern Mediterranean collapsed, or just barely survived. One possible culprit were invaders from across the sea: the Sea Peoples. No-one knows precisely who they were.
The roster of cities and countries that fell between 1200 and 1150 BCE is long. It includes Mycenaean Greece, Troy (well, one of them), the Kassite Kingdom in Babylonia, the Hittite Empire, and Ugarit. The Assyrian Empire and Egypt barely survived, and the whole region was plunged into chaos that pretty much marked the end of the Bronze Age in Europe.
It’s difficult to know anything for sure about this period of history, and historians have a lot of theories about what caused this wave of collapses: drought, volcanoes, and iron. But one of the candidates is the rise of a military coalition invading from the sea.
We know about them mainly from Egyptian accounts. For example, the Battle of the Delta from Ramesses III describes an invasion force coming up the Nile Delta in 1175 BCE. It had already devastated the Hittite Empire, Cyprus, and other places. The force was repulsed by the pharaoh’s army only by clever placement of archers on the shore and an Egyptian fleet waiting in ambush.
But who were they? The candidates include Canaanites, Philistines, Greeks, and Trojans – or perhaps several peoples. Or perhaps no-one; the whole idea of the Sea People may be 19th century historians’ attempt to group together disparate and unrelated invasions.
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