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.
I greatly enjoyed going through it and listening to Andy Caploe’s excellent narration of this fascinating book.
Eric Cline does an excellent job providing his readers with a background to the geopolitical situation of the late Bronze Age Mediterranean world. At the end of the book, he does a good job summarizing all of the various views that are out there, although he doesn’t put forward any radical new ideas of his own. Instead, he gives a good breakdown of the pros and cons of each theory, gradually moving towards the view that makes the most sense to him.
My only problem with this line of thinking is that many of the recent theories out there almost completely throw out the Ancient World’s own explanations of what happened. Yes, the stories that got passed down through the dark ages and were later written down are folk legends, and we need to use them with caution. However, it would be reckless for us to simply throw them out entirely. If we’ve learned anything from Heinrich Schliemann, we should know one thing by now: Anyone who uses folk legend as a completely accurate account of what happened is wrong, but anyone who completely rejects legend as simply being an invention is no less wrong. It seems to me that if there is any doubt at all, the author is quick to throw out folk legend entirely and not consider it at all.
Didn’t love it.
The author makes a dramatic point in the title. Then, in the book, he spends a lot of time reviewing history and telling factual stories. The stories are good, but the relevance to the dramatic title is nebulous. By the time we get to the point of the collapse, he makes a case that isn’t great. I’ve heard the case for bronze age collapse made much better in books on economics. So, it’s a dramatic promise, lot’s of history, and a pay off that isn’t that dramatic or valid, based on what I’ve read elsewhere. Still this is history you won’t get anywhere else and is valuable. Ignore the title and the promise it makes and you’ll be much more enthralled with the book.