The Iron Age - World History

The Iron Age - World History
Posted on 28-12-2022

The Iron Age ( 1300 ) Heyday of Mycenaean Greece. The Israelites invade Canaan

At the beginning of the 13th-century men learned to smelt iron and combine it with coal to produce steel. Mineral iron is soft and useless, but steel is a hard metal that made it possible to make weapons much more powerful than bronze, so it had incalculable strategic value. The discovery took place in the southern Caucasus, in an area controlled at the time by the powerful Hittite kingdom. Casting techniques for iron were much more complicated than those for bronze, requiring much higher temperatures. In addition, not many deposits were known. The Hittites kept the new technique secret, waiting to be able to use it on a large scale. Thus, for some time the civilized regions were unaware of its existence. However, for the nomadic Indo-European tribes, a few iron weapons could be decisive in small fights with neighboring tribes, so the new techniques spread northward among the Indo-European peoples. Thus began the Iron Age.

Iron reached Greece. There is evidence that the Aeolian tribes inhabiting inland Greece, less civilized than the Ionian tribes of Mycenaean Greece, imported cast iron from the north in small quantities, although they did not manufacture it. Greek historians refer to these tribes as the Achaeans.There is not much information about who the Achaeans were. Perhaps they were simply the Aeolian Greeks, or perhaps they absorbed, peacefully or otherwise, new northern tribes who brought them knowledge of iron along with new cultural traits. For example, a differentiated custom of the Achaeans that allows us to follow the trail compared to the Mycenaeans is that instead of burying their dead they cremated them. Incineration seems to have arisen with the new smelting techniques required for iron. The Achaeans must have been a tougher people than the Mycenaeans, but they must have seen in them a suitable reinforcement for their military campaigns.

Combining archeology with later Greek tradition, Mycenaean Greece offers this picture: there was a ruling oligarchy (probably Indo-European, versus a people of Pelasgic origin). The nobles are carnivorous and prefer piglets, while the common people are vegetarians and feed mainly on toasted wheat and fish. The nobles drink wine and use honey as a sweetener, while the people drink water. Land ownership is linked to the family, within which a kind of communist regime rules. There is no division of labor into trades, rather each family manufactures what it needs. Even the king mows, sews and tacks. They did not work metals, but imported bronze from the north and, in small quantities, iron. They used mule-drawn carts, though they were expensive and few could afford them. There were slaves, but few in number and generally well treated. They were mainly women who took care of domestic chores. They used gold as money (by weight, without minting coins), but only for important transactions, the usual thing was to pay with chickens, measures of wheat, pigs, etc. The wealth of a family was not measured by its money but by its possessions. They attached great importance to elegance and physical beauty. Their clothes were made of linen, like a sack with a hole for the head, although they tried to embellish them with embroidery and other details. A good dress was considered something very valuable. The houses of the poor were made of adobe and straw, those of the rich of stone and brick. They consisted of a single room with a hole in the ceiling as a chimney. They did not have temples, but the statues of the gods were left in the open air.

Around this time the city of Troy must have begun to gain importance . It was located on the Anatolian coast, in a strategic place to control the passage through the Hellespont, a strait that connects the Mediterranean with a small sea, the Propontis, which through the Bosphorus Straitcommunicates in turn with the Black Sea. The Black Sea offered great possibilities for trade, far from the disputed Mediterranean and with an extensive coast full of not very civilized peoples who could be offered luxury items in exchange for minerals and other raw materials. Some merchants even reached China this way, from where they imported exotic items, such as Jade. Thus, Troy was in a position to profit directly and indirectly from this trade, simply by demanding a tribute from anyone who wanted to cross the Hellespont.

It is not known for sure who the Trojans were. The city had been inhabited for a long time, but now it had fallen under the control of a Greek-speaking nobility. Perhaps they were Mycenaean Greeks who had occupied it as a colony, but it is more plausible that the "new" Trojans were a group of Cretans who, faced with the decline of their nation, decided to move to a more favorable place to "start over". ". Their good knowledge of the Mediterranean would have led them to Troy, where they would have subdued the Asian population and become an annoying rival to the Mycenaean Greeks.

Meanwhile, the great powers changed kings. By 1300 King Ashur-Uballit had already died, but his son continued to reinforce Assyria and came to plunder the dying kingdom of Mitanni. In 1295 King Mursil II died and was succeeded by Muwatalli, under whose rule the Hittite kingdom continued to be the dominant power in Syria and, therefore, the greatest concern for Egypt. In 1290 Pharaoh Seti I died, and was replaced by his young son Ramses II from him,who reigned for sixty-seven years, a mark surpassed only in the history of Egypt by the ancient king Pepi II. Ramses II turned out to be the most powerful egomaniac in the world. He covered Egypt with monuments in his honor, with inscriptions boastfully recounting his victories and his greatness. He even put his name on older monuments to take credit for others. He enlarged the already enormous temple at Thebes so that it became the largest and most lavish temple ever built in history. The largest room in the temple, the hypostyle room, measured about 5,000 square meters and its roof was supported by 134 21-meter-high columns.

In 1286 he faced the Hittite king Muwatalli near the city of Kadesh. The only information we have about her is the official version of the pharaoh, according to which the Egyptian army was caught by surprise and had to retreat hastily, but Ramses decided to win or die, he launched himself against the entire enemy army and held it. at bay until his men reorganized and received reinforcements. Finally the Hittites were resoundingly annihilated. There is no reason to believe any of this. Whatever happened in the battle, the reality is that Hittite power did not diminish in the least, but the war continued for three years, until both kings signed a compromise peace in 1283.

Then began the period of greatest splendor of the Hittite culture. In the archives of Hattusa, its capital, thousands of tablets have been found written in Hittite and some in Akkadian with annals, treaties, laws, acts of land distribution and religious texts, some in dead languages ​​(at the time). Egypt, despite the peace agreement, began a series of intrigues, encouraging Assyria against the Hurrian kingdom. King Adad-Ninari I occupied the kingdom of Mitanni, a vassal of the Hittites, after which he granted himself the title of Great King, and sent a letter to King Muwatali trying to reduce the tension caused by the invasion. In it he treated Muwatalli as a brother,something frequent at the time among the kings of powers of the same rank, but Muwatalli's response was quite abrupt: Are we children of the same father or the same mother? Despite everything, war did not break out between the two kingdoms, since Muwatalli was more concerned about Egypt than Assyria. Adad-Ninari I died in 1275, and was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser I. Then Muwatalli died, in 1272, and was succeeded by his son Mursil III.

In 1270 Salmanesar I definitively snatched from the Hittites what had been the kingdom of Mitanni, the date on which we can consider that it definitively disappeared from history, becoming part of what is known as the First Assyrian Empire.Assyria recaptured all the territory it had held in the time of Shamshi-Adad I, the founder of the dynasty that had ruled Assur uninterrupted in both good times and bad. Shalmaneser used the wealth and slaves obtained from his conquests to beautify Assur, the capital, and Nineveh, the kingdom's second most emblematic city. However, he considered that his new empire required a new capital, and so he founded the city of Calach halfway between the two .

Mursil III died in 1265, and was succeeded by his uncle Hattusil III.

Around 1250 Canaan began to receive the onslaught of new nomadic tribes related to the Hebrews who had occupied eastern Canaan a hundred years earlier. However, this relationship did not influence the Hebrews, who rejected the newcomers. The first to make their appearance must have been the tribes of Reuben, Issachar and Zebulun, they formed the coalition of Leah (the name of a goddess of the Canaanite shepherds, linked to the Moon), to which Gad and Gad later joined as tributaries. To be.The first of these two tribes derives its name from a god of good fortune, whose cult stretched from Phoenicia to Arabia. Asher comes from Ashir, who was a Canaanite goddess also of widespread worship. The city of Heshbon, situated on the northern limit of Moab, took advantage of the fact that the Moabite army was concentrated to the east against the newcomers and successfully revolted, ridding itself of the few Moabite troops in the area. The tribes of Leah reacted quickly and took advantage of the chaos created by Heshbon. They attacked the city and overwhelmed it, forcing their way to the Jordan. They occupied a territory between Ammon and Moab that would later remain exclusively for the tribe of Reuben.

In 1245 Shalmaneser I died, and was succeeded by his son Tukulti-Ninurta I, under whom the Assyrian empire reached its maximum extent. He led campaigns to the Zagros Mountains and reached the Caucasus, where a group of Hurrians had just settled, forming the kingdom of Urartu. He then defeated the Cassites in the south and subjected them to tribute, and later occupied Elam. In this way, Assyria now dominated all of Mesopotamia. In addition, Assyria was thus introduced to the new Hittite techniques for treating iron, although it was not yet available in the quantities necessary for it to be relevant. In 1237 the Hittite king Hattusil III was succeeded by his son Tudhaliyas IV.During his reign, the Hittite culture received many Hurrian and Mesopotamian influences (the Hittite kingdom probably received many refugees from what had been Mitanni and from other Assyrian-occupied regions). The new king knew how to put down the revolts that periodically took place in different parts of the Hittite domains, and even extended his borders to the west, reaching the Aegean.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Empire enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. The court was ostentatious and magnificent as it had never been, Ramses II had many wives who gave him a multitude of children, but as he grew older he neglected government affairs, and as a consequence the nobility gained power. . The improvement in the standard of living made it difficult to find men with a military vocation, so the army was fed more and more by foreign mercenaries, from whom the courage of soldiers moved by patriotic fervor could not be expected, and could even become Dangerous in difficult times. Thus, although apparently everything was in order, the truth is that the bases of Egyptian power were being undermined little by little.

During the last years of the reign of Ramesses II the pressure on the Hebrew kingdoms of Edom, Ammon and Moab continued to increase. A new tribe led by a powerful leader arrived: Joshua. This tribe must have been especially warlike and seemed to have a very clear goal of crossing the Jordan and invading Canaan. Perhaps for this reason, she gladly welcomed into her bosom the fiercest men she found in the area: on the one hand, a tribe of ambidextrous slingers with great marksmanship, and on the other, a herdsmen native to northern Palestine called Benejamina, whose leader had the title of Dawidum, (possible origin of the name David). These formed the tribe ofBenjamin, and formed a coalition with Joshua's men identified by the name of Raquel, a goddess with characteristics similar to those of Leah (perhaps the Leah/Raquel differences in worship were used as distinctive signs of the two great tribal groups that lurked Canaan). Rachel's coalition soon swelled with the tribes of Dan and Naphtali.

Joshua must have entered into an alliance with the tribes of Leah to facilitate his invasion plan. The confederation was called Israel, which means something like "God fights with us." About 1226 Joshua crossed the Jordan with his men and occupied a rich strip of land they called Ephraim (fertile country), while Benjamin occupied the area immediately further south. Joshua's original tribe was probably made up of two powerful clans, one of which occupied Ephraim and the other spread northward to its own territory, which it gave the name Manasseh. Thus, Rachel's tribes became three: Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. From the original Rachel federation also arose a tiny tribe: the tribe of Levi, which was really a priestly class occupying no more than a few scattered cities. Later the tribe of Levi was considered a Leah tribe, rather than a Rachel tribe.

In 1223 Ramesses II died and was succeeded by Meneptah, his thirteenth son, who was then sixty years old. Meneptah led the Egyptian army into Canaan to repel the invading Israelites. As a testimony of the campaign he left an inscription according to which "Israel is devastated and has no seeds".Obviously this was an exaggeration typical of the "official reports", since the Israelites were still there. Undoubtedly, Pharaoh could not finish off the Israelites because he was forced to return to Egypt by forced marches, since his kingdom encountered a danger from an unsuspected place: the sea. Until then, maritime transit through the Mediterranean had been essentially commercial in nature. It is true that Crete had developed a navy with which it had imposed its hegemony in the Aegean, but it must have met with minimal resistance. The same Egyptians used ships to transport their troops to Canaan, but always along the coast. No one before had sent troops on ships to fight a major battle far from their shores. The idea of ​​taking troops across the sea must have been considered crazy by the Egyptians.

However, the Mycenaean Greeks began to venture into the sea for military purposes. Undoubtedly, exotic goods from faraway lands reached them via the Black Sea, but this trade route was entirely under Trojan control. The East must have acquired a reputation for being a rich and paradisiacal land. Indeed, the Greeks had a legend about it, according to which long ago a group of fifty mythological heroes led by Jason undertook a risky adventure to the east in search of the golden fleece, the skin of a divine ram whose wool was golden. , symbol of the prosperity of distant lands. They boarded the ship Argos, for which they were known as the Argonauts, among whom was Theseus himself, the one who defeated the Minotaur and freed Athens from Cretan rule, and with him Hercules, and his father Peleas, and Orpheus, and many others. As for Troy, it turned out to be a small obstacle in the way, because, when he tried to prevent the passage of the expedition, Hercules landed, sacked the city and killed King Laomedon along with all his sons except Priam,who was the king at the time. None of this has any ring of reality. Rather, we must assume that these stories were invented by the Mycenaean Greeks to encourage the people, or perhaps the Achaeans, a people as uninterested in the sea as Egypt, to attack Troy and end its hegemony. The Greek legends about it speak of a coalition of Argives and Achaeans in an expedition against Troy. Initially "Argive" refers to the city of Argos, which was one of the most important Mycenaean cities, but it is likely that the term was used to refer interchangeably to all Mycenaean Greeks. Naturally, the casus belliaccording to the Greeks it was not as prosaic as wiping out a troublesome city. According to tradition, the war was due to the fact that Paris, the son of Priam, took (it is not very clear if by force or by mutual agreement) Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, who requested the help of his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to recover it. In turn, they claimed the help of other kings, such as Ulysses of Ithaca or the Achaean Achilles.Apart from the poetic details, the Greek traditions seem to describe two factions on an equal footing: the Argives, led by Agamemnon, and the Achaeans, led by Achilles. The city of Troy was destroyed and the Greeks turned the event into one of their most memorable feats.

The Greek legends go on to explain that, upon returning to their homeland, the heroes found themselves in a turbulent situation. The fables lean towards more romantic events involving adultery, poisoning and power struggles, but the underlying historical reality was of a different nature. The Indo-European peoples had been spreading throughout Eastern Europe, they were warlike and at this time they must have gone through a period of scarcity or overpopulation, so they were expanding in all directions and displacing other peoples. Mycenaean Greece began to suffer harassment from another Indo-European people, related to the Greeks but much less civilized: the Dorians. The Dorians had iron weapons, which gave them a superiority against which the Mycenaean Greeks had nothing to do. As a result of these convulsions, the Mediterranean was filled with hordes of pirates who survived by attacking and looting the coastal cities. They were made up of heterogeneous mixtures of Dorians, Mycenaean Greeks and inhabitants of various populations who found no better way out than to throw themselves into the sea. A large group of these pirates landed on the Libyan shores and joined the natives in an attack on Egypt.

The surprised Egyptians, who had never been attacked by sea, called the invaders the "People of the Sea" , and as they are known in history. Meneptah barely managed to drive them out, but Egyptian power was seriously damaged. From Egypt, the sea peoples passed to Cyprus, from where they threatened the coasts of Canaan and Anatolia.

In 1211 a new pharaoh, Seti II, seized the throne of Egypt, dethroning Meneptah for it and marrying his widow. Thus begins a rapid succession of weak pharaohs who reign for short periods of time (Seti II reigned five years).

In 1209 the Hittite king Tudhaliyas IV died, who was succeeded by his son Arnuanda III. The pressure of the peoples of the sea became more and more unbearable for all the peoples of the Mediterranean, while the Indo-European peoples put pressure on the already disjointed Mycenaean Greece on the one hand and the Hittites and other peoples of Eastern Europe on the other. Mesopotamia was still under the Assyrian Empire, but after the death of Tukulti-Ninurta in 1208 it also plunged into the crisis affecting its neighbors. Meanwhile, Canaan suffered the onslaught of the Israelites. In 1207 Arnuanda III died and was replaced by what was to be the last Hittite king:Shubbilulium II.

Thank You