The Mediterranean and Middle East,
2000–500 B C .E.
I0. The Cosmopolitan Middle East, 1700–1100 B.CE.
A0. Western Asia
10. In the southern portion of western Asia, the Kassites ruled Babylonia during this
period. Babylonia did not pursue territorial conquest. In the north, the Assyrians
had their origins in the northern Tigris area. They were involved in trade in tin
20. The Hittites had their capital in Anatolia, used horse-drawn chariots, and had
access to important copper, silver, and iron deposits.
30. During the second millennium BC.E. Mesopotamian political and cultural
concepts spread across much of western Asia.
B0. New Kingdom Egypt
10. The New Kingdom period was preceded by the decline of the Middle Kingdom
and by the subsequent period of rule by the non-Egyptian Hyksos. A native
Egyptian dynasty overthrew the Hyksos to begin the New Kingdom period. This
period was characterized by aggressive expansion into Syria-Palestine and into
20. Innovations during the New Kingdom period include Queen Hatsheput’s attempt
to open direct trade with Punt and Akhenaten’s construction of a new capital at
Amarna. Akhenaten also made Aten the supreme deity of Egypt and carried out a
controversial reform program.
30. The general Haremhab seized power in 1323 B C.E. and established a new
dynasty, the Ramessides. The Ramessides renewed the policy of conquest and
expansion neglected by Akhenaten and their greatest king, Ramesses II (r. 1290–
1224 B.C.E.), dominated his age.
C0. Commerce and Communication
10. The Syria-Palestine area was an important crossroads for the trade in metals. For
this reason, the Egyptians and the Hittites fought battles and negotiated territorial
agreements concerning control over Syria-Palestine.
20. Access to metals was vital to all bronze-age states, but metals, including copper
and tin for bronze, often had to be obtained from faraway places. The demand
for metals spurred the development of trade in copper from Anatolia and Cyprus,
tin from Afghanistan and Cornwall, silver from Anatolia, and gold from Nubia.
30. New modes of transportation introduced during this period included horses,
chariots, and camels.
II0. The Aegean World, 2000—1100 B C.E.
A0. Minoan Crete
10. Minoan civilization is known through legendary accounts of King Minos, the
labyrinth beneath his palace, and the Minotaur. Archaeological evidence for
Minoan civilization includes excavated palace sites at Cnossus, Phaistos, and
Mallia, and widely distributed remains of Cretan pottery and other artifacts. The
evidence suggests that Minoan civilization was influenced by the civilizations of
Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia. 20. Minoan civilization was destroyed, probably by Mycenaean Greeks, about 1450
B0. Mycenaean Greece
10. The Mycenaean Greek people are thought to be descended from a combination
of an indigenous population and Indo-European invaders. The civilization
developed suddenly around 1600 B.C.E.
20. Although it was first known only through the accounts of The Iliad and The
Odyssey, the existence of Mycenaean civilization was proved by the
archeological expedition of Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 at Mycenae in southern
Greece. Schliemann and other archeologists have discovered shaft graves, gold
and silver jewelry, a palace complex, and other artifacts.
30. Later Greek legend explains the development of Mycenaean civilization as being
the result of immigration from Phoenicia or liberation of the Greeks from
Minoan tyranny. There is no archeological evidence to back up these legendary
accounts. The evidence does, however, indicate that Mycenaean civilization was
influenced by Minoan civilization and that the Mycenaeans rose to power on
profits from trade and piracy.
40. Mycenaean sites share certain common characteristics including hilltop citadels
with thick fortification walls that enclosed palaces and administrative buildings.
Also typical of Mycenaean civilization were luxury-filled tombs for departed
rulers, large houses for the aristocracy, and the use of Linear B writing. Linear B
was an early form of Greek that used symbols to represent syllables.
50. The Mycenaean state controlled the economy, organizing grain agriculture and
wool production. However, we know little about the Mycenaean political system,
religion, society, or particular historical events. The uniformity that is
characteristic of the Mycenaean territory may have been due to some sort of
political unity, or it may have been the result of extensive contact and trade.
60. Evidence for long-distance contact and trade includes wall paintings of ships in
Egypt and Thera and excavated remains of the ships themselves. Other evidence
includes the widespread dispersal of Cretan and Mycenaean pottery and other
goods around the Aegean world and in the Middle East. The evidence indicates
that Cretan traders came first, and were later joined and then replaced by
70. In this trade, Crete and Greece exported wine or olive oil, weapons, craft goods,
slaves, and mercenaries. They imported amber, ivory, grain, and metals (gold,
copper, and tin). The fine line between trade and piracy can be seen in the
strained relations between the Mycenaeans and the Hittites and in the siege of
C0. The Fall of Late Bronze Age Civilizations
10. Destruction of Old Centers of Civilization in the Middle East
20. Unknown invaders destroyed the Hittite kingdom. Syria likewise fell to
30. The Egyptians battled invasions from the sea in the north and lost control of
Nubia in the south.
40. Mycenaean civilization fell due to a combination of internal decline and external
aggression. Annihilation of the trading routes of the eastern Mediterranean
undermined the position of the Mycenaean elite and probably led to internal
unrest and collapse.
50. The collapse of Mycenaean civilization demonstrates the degree to which the
civilizations of the Late Bronze Age were interdependent; their prosperity and
their very existence relied on the trade networks that linked them and gave them access to natural resources, particularly metals. When this cosmopolitan world
collapsed, the Mediterranean and the Middle East entered a “Dark Age”—a
period of poverty, isolation, and loss of knowledge.
III0. The Assyrian Empire, 911–612 B.C.E.
A0. Background and Location
10. The Assyrian homeland was in northern Mesopotamia. It had more rain and a
more temperate climate than Sumer and Akkad, but it was also more exposed to
20. Assyrian power revived in the ninth century B.C.E. and the Assyrians built an
empire, expanding along trade routes westward toward the Mediterranean, north
to modern Armenia, east to modern Iran, and south to Babylonia.
B0. God and King
10. Assyrian kings were regarded as the center of the universe, chosen by the gods as
their surrogates in earth. Kings had secular and religious duties.
20. The secular duties of kings included receiving information, hearing and deciding
on complaints, and carrying out diplomacy and military leadership. The religious
duties of kings included supervision of the state religion, performance of public
and private rituals, and consulting and gaining the approval of the gods.
30. Assyrian kings were celebrated in propaganda that was designed to produce
feelings of awe and fear in the hearts of their subjects. Such propaganda included
the public display of royal inscriptions relating to conquests and punishments
and artistic renderings of the kings as large, muscular, and fierce men.
C0. Conquest and Control
10. At their peak, the Assyrian armies had half a million troops divided into
functionally specialized units. The Assyrian troops used a variety of military
technologies, including iron weapons, cavalry, couriers, signal fires, and spy
20. Assyrian techniques of conquest included terror tactics and mass deportation of
civilian populations. Mass deportation served a dual purpose: to destroy the
morale of the enemy and to transfer needed laborers to the core area of the
30. The Assyrians found it difficult to control their vast and diverse territory. Their
level of control varied, being more effective at the core and less effective in the
peripheral parts of the empire.
40. Within the empire, the duties of Assyrian officials were to collect tribute and
taxes, to maintain law and order, to raise and provision troops, and to construct
and maintain public works. The central government included high-ranking
officials and professionals.
50. The central government exploited the wealth and resources of the empire for the
benefit of the center, but also invested in provincial infrastructure, and so was
not entirely parasitic.
D0. Assyrian Society and Culture
10. Assyrian society had three major social strata: free, land-owning citizens;
farmers and artisans; and slaves. The Assyrian economy was based on