|Chapter Three: The Mediterranean and Middle East,
The Cosmopolitan Middle East, 1700–1100 b.c.e.
Guiding Question: How did a cosmopolitan civilization develop in the Middle East during the Late Bronze Age and what forms did it take?
Western Asia- Assyrians had their origins in the northern Tigris area. They were involved in tin and silver trade. Hittites had their capital in Anatolia; used horse-drawn chariots; had access to important copper, silver, and iron deposits. During second millennium b.c.e., Mesopotamian political and cultural concepts spread across much of western Asia.
New Kingdom Egypt- 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 Nubia. 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. When the Ramess seized power, they renewed the policy of conquest and expansion neglected by Akhenaten. Their greatest king, Ramesses II (r. 1290–1224 b.c.e.), ruled for 66 years.
Commerce and Communication- The Syria-Palestine area was an important crossroads for the trade in metals. The Egyptians and the Hittites fought battles and negotiated territorial agreements concerning control over Syria-Palestine. 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. New modes of transportation introduced during this period included horses, chariots, and camel.
The Aegean World, 2000–1100 b.c.e.
Guiding Question: What civilizations emerged in the Aegean world, and what relationship did they have to the older civilizations to the east?
Minoan Crete- Little is known about the Minoan civilization. Most is from legendary accounts of King Minos, the labyrinth. However, archeological evidence, like Cretan pottery and excavated palace sites, gives clues to the Minoan civilization. The evidence suggests that Minoan civilization was influenced by the civilizations of Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Minoan civilization was destroyed, maybe by Mycenaean Greeks, in 1450 b.c.e.
Mycenaean Greece- Much of what was first “known” of Mycenaean civilization came from the Iliad and The Odyssey.
People- the Mycenaean Greek people probably came from a combination of indigenous people and Indo-European invaders. Greek legends suggest that Mycenaean civilization grew as a result of Phoenician immigration or the liberation of the Greeks from Minoan tyranny.
Advanced Civilization?-Evidence shows that the Mycenaean civilization had the following characteristics: hilltop citadels, palaces, administrative buildings tombs, writing.
Economy- Evidence exists that the Mycenaeans engaged in long-distance trade. They exported wine, olive oil, weapons, crafts goods, slaves, mercenaries. They imported amber, ivory, grain, metals like gold, copper, tin. 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 Fall of Late Bronze Age Civilizations- Invaders helped bring down the Hitittes, Syrians and Egypt. The Mycenaeans also suffered from an internal decline.
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, & loss of knowledge.
The Assyrian Empire, 911–612 b.c.e.
Guiding Question: How did the Assyrian Empire rise to power and eventually dominate most of the ancient Middle East?
Geography-Northern Mesopotamia had more rain and a more temperate climate but it was more exposed to raiders. The Assyrians expanded their empire along trade routes westward to the Mediterranean north to modern-day Armenia, east to modern day Iran , and south to Babylonia.
Government- Kings were regarded as centers of the universe chosen by gods as their representatives.. Kings had secular and religious duties. Kings were celebrated in propaganda designed to produce feelings of awe and fear in the hearts of their subjects. This propaganda showed a large, fierce man.
Conquest- The Assyrian Army had half a million troops . They utilized military technologies like iron weapons, cavalry, couriers, signal fires, and spy networks. Despite extensive road building, the Assyrians found it difficult to control their large empire, especially the further away they got form the center.
Society and Culture- The Assyrian government did not distinguish between native Assyrians and immigrants. All were considered to have equal rights and responsibilities. Assyrian society had three main social distinctions: elites, skilled professionals, human beings. The economy was based on agriculture but it also included artisans and merchants.
Knowledge and Learning- Preserved knowledge from older Mesopotamian societies and made original contributions to math and science.- The Assyrian Empire maintained libraries that were attached to temples in the cities, such as the Library of Ashurbanipal in Ninevah
Israel, 2000–500 b.c.e.
Guiding Question: How did the civilization of Israel develop, following both cultural patterns typical of other societies and its own religious tradition?
Geography-Israelites were nomadic herders and caravan drivers. Their location made it a crossroads for trade even though the area has few natural resources.
Sources of Knowledge- the main source for the early history of the Israelite people is the Hebrew Bible. Biblical accounts of the origins of the Israelites include stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the story of Cain and Abel and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah reflect the tensions between the nomadic Israelites and settle agricultural people.
Biblical accounts of the Egyptian captivity corresponds to a period of large-scale construction projects and the Exodus may reflect a migration from Egypt and nomadic life in the Sinai. The religion of Yahweh with its exclusive devotion to one god developed during the period of nomadism in the Sinai.
Rise of Monarchy-After settling in Canaan, wars with Phillistines created a need for a strong central government. The monarchy reached it’s pinnacle under Solomon. He forged alliances, fostered trade, and built the first temple in Jerusalem. The temple priesthood sacrificed to Yahweh, received a portion of the agricultural tax, and became very wealthy.
Society- The wealth and prestige of the temple priesthood was indicative of the increasing gap between the rural and urban, and the wealthy and the poor in Israeli society. Israelites lived in extended families and practiced arranged marriage. Monogamy was the norm. Women enjoyed relative equality with their husbands in social life but suffered certain legal disadvantages (could not inherit property, could not initiate divorce). There are some records of women (like Deborah and “wise women” exercising political influence, but in general the status of women declined during the monarchy. With urbanization, some women began to work outside the home in a variety of occupations.
Fragmentation and Dispersal (Diaspora)-After Solomon, Israel divided into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south (capital: Jerusalem). The two kingdoms were sometimes at peace and sometimes fought. During this period the religion sharpened the concept of monotheism. These kingdoms were attacked and eventually fell to the Assyrians in the north and to Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian king in the south. Nebuchadnezzar deported a large number of Jewish elites and craftsmen to Babylon. During this diaspora, the Jewish people developed institutions to preserve Jewish religion and culture. These developments continued even after some of the Babylonian Jews were permitted to return. Developments of the Diaspora included a stronger commitment to monotheism, strict dietary rules, and veneration of the Sabbath.
Phoenicia and the Mediterranean, 1200–500 b.c.e.
Guiding Question: How did the Phoenicians use trade and commerce to gain an important place in the Mediterranean world?
Phoenicia- The Phoenicians were descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, who were pushed to a strip of land between the mountains and the sea in Lebanon. There, they established a number of small city-states that were deeply involved in commerce. The major city-states included Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre. They also invented the first alphabetical writing system
Expansion- Phoenician expansion into the Mediterranean was the work of a combination of state and private enterprise. Expansion was a response to Assyrian invasions of Syria and Palestine, shortage of agricultural land in Tyre and increased opportunities for trade. Expansion brought them into direct conflict with the Assyrians especially over lands like Sicily.
Carthage: The city of Carthage was established on a narrow promontory near modern Tunis around 814 b.c.e. Due to its location on a promontory, the navy was the most important arm of Carthiginian power. Citizens served in the army as rowers and navigators of the fast, maneuverable warships. Military power was all in the service of trade and establishing a commercial monopoly in the Mediterranean. Trade reached as far as Sub-Saharan Africa, Atlantic coast of Spain and France and Cornwall, England.
War and Religion- Phoenicians made no attempt to build a large land empire; their empire consisted of trade routes/ports. Their religion involved the worship of capricious gods that needed to be appeased by child sacrifice, including the sacrifice of Carthiginian children. The Greeks and Romans considered the Phoenicians to be a harsh, gloomy people.
Failure and Transformation, 750–550 b.c.e.
Guiding Question: How did changing political structures transform the ancient Middle East during this period?
Consequences of the Assyrian Conquest
1. The Assyrian conquest brought about the destruction of Israel, deportation of the Jewish population of Israel, and pressure on the kingdom of Judah.
2. The Assyrian conquest put pressure on the Phoenicians; Assyrian threats and Assyrian demands for tribute helped to spur the Phoenicians to establish colonies in the western Mediterranean.
3. The Assyrian conquest also resulted in the invasion and occupation of Egypt and in Assyrian control over Babylonia and western Iran.
4. As their empire grew, the resources of the Assyrians became overextended and they had difficulty ruling over a large, ethnically complex territory with subjects and neighbors who hated Assyria.
5. The major sources of resistance to the Assyrian Empire were the Neo-Babylonian dynasty of Babylon and the kingdom of the Medes in Iran. The Assyrian Empire was destroyed when the Medes captured the Assyrian homeland in northern Mesopotamia and eastern Anatolia, the Neo-Babylonians took over much of the other territory of the Assyrian Empire.
A. The Late Bronze Age in the Middle East was a “cosmopolitan” era of shared lifestyles and technologies exhibiting patterns of culture that had originated in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Similarly, the Minoans and Mycenaean Greeks borrowed heavily from the technologies and cultural practices of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
B. Around 1200 B.C.E. the societies of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean slipped into a “Dark Age” of isolation and decline. After 1000 B.C.E., a resurgence occurred, such as the Assyrian creation of an empire of unprecedented size and diversity.
C. The Israelites’ settlement in Canaan led them into conflict with the Philistines and forced them to adopt a more complex political structure.
D. After the upheavals of the Late Bronze Age, the Phoenician city-states along the coast of Lebanon flourished. Carthage became the most important city outside the Phoenician homeland, maintaining power through naval superiority.
E. The far-reaching expansion of the Assyrian Empire was the most important factor in the transformation of the ancient Middle East.