Sunday, January 12, 2014

The End of the Bronze Age, by Robert Drews

Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe ca. 1200 B.C. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. 252 pages. ISBN 0691048118.

Sometime around 1200 B.C., many of the major cities in Greece, Anatolia, the Levant, and Eastern Mediterranean islands such as Crete and Cyprus, were sacked and burned, and subsequently abandoned. Theories abound as to what happened and why, including earthquakes, migrations, the development of iron technology, drought, systems collapse, and raiders. Author Drews postulates that most of these theories don't provide a satisfactory explanation for such a major and widespread upheaval. The closest one is the suggestion that raiders caused all of the destruction towards the end of the Bronze Age.

Drews proposes that the cities and kingdoms that thrived in the Bronze Age relied heavily on chariot warfare. Chariots were used primarily as moving platforms for archers; the chariot forces were supported by infantry. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, the development of longer swords swept through the Eastern Mediterranean, providing infantry forces with weapons that allowed them to prevail over chariot forces. It appears that they sacked and burned the cities, and probably took all the loot they could carry, along with the populations of the cities that hadn't managed to escape to the hills.

Drews discusses each of the earlier hypotheses in detail, demonstrating why each of them falls short in providing credible evidence. He follows that with chapters addressing chariot warfare, the use of foot soldiers in warfare, and changes in armor and other weaponry. His arguments are very convincing and he writes in an engaging style. One caveat: Drews includes quotations in French, German, Latin, and Italian without translations throughout the book. Classicists won’t have any trouble with this, but it might be challenging for the lay reader. I recommend this book to anyone interested in ancient history.


No comments:

Post a Comment