A brief history of the Fertile Crescent 3000BCE – 570BCE (6)

Posted: March 1, 2016 in Ancient Near Eastern History, History
Fertile Crescent (By 92bari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Fertile Crescent (By 92bari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Between 1206 and 1150 BC, the cultural collapse of the Mycenaean kingdoms, the Hittite Empire in Anatolia and northern Syria and the New Kingdom of Egypt in southern Syria and Canaan interrupted trade routes and severely reduced literacy. In the first phase of this period, there is evidence that many cities were violently destroyed, and often left unoccupied thereafter: examples include Hattusa, Mycenae, and Ugarit. The civilisations of the eastern fertile crescent fared only a little better. The  Assyrian Empire came under attack from the Mushki, a people who had moved into Anatolia following the collapse of the Hittite Empire. It is thought that they were probably from the area of modern-day Georgia or Armenia. However, the Assyrians were able to defeat and repel these attacks. Thus, the Assyrian Empire survived, if in a somewhat reduced state, throughout much of this period. Assyria retained a stable monarchy, the best army in the world and an efficient civil administration, thus enabling it to survive the Late Bronze Age Collapse relatively intact and this put them in the prime position to rebound from this dark age. From the late 10th Century BC onwards, it began to assert itself internationally once again.

By scan by ru:user:Кучумов Андрей [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By scan by ru:user:Кучумов Андрей [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Around the year 910, the kingdom of Ashur or Assyria once again began to expand south-east into Babylonia and West to the Mediterranean coast. This would eventually become known as the neo-Assyrian Empire. They encountered very little resistance. In Babylon,  the Kassites had been replaced by a Chaldean or Aramaean ruling class. These were people had come east out of the desert and taken control of the kingdom possibly sometime between 1100-1000 BC. Records show that there was a constant tension between the native Babylonians and their Chaldean rulers. It has been suggested that this made the ruling class inward looking, concentrating on the prevention of internal rebellion and so not reacting till it was too late to the advances of Assyria. In the lands to the West, the population now consisted of Aramean tribesman who had moved into the grasslands of Syria. There is no evidence of any pan-tribal organisation and it is probable that the Assyrian army were able to pick them off individually. In Egypt, the Libyan rulers of the 22nd to 24th dynasties had little interest in what was happening in the Levant and Mesopotamia, regarding Egypt as merely as a buffer state to their own homelands in north Africa. In addition to these political reasons, there was also one overriding practical reason, which may explain the speed at which the neo-Assyrian Empire was able to expand. Babylon, Egypt and the tribes of the Syrian grasslands all lacked access to the new wonder material of weapon making – iron. In contrast, Assyria had access to rich deposits, both in the Armenian highlands to the North and in the Zagros mountains to the East. Their relationship to these lands is unknown, but there clearly was some relationship, both in the supply of resource materials and from the fact that it is recorded that tribesman from these areas formed part of the Assyrian military force from an early stage. Relatively quickly, we also find records of Aramean forces fighting for the Assyrian Empire. This may be reminiscent of the Roman use of foreign troops or perhaps the Gurkhas in the British army. What was the advantage to these troops? – well certainly employment and the prospect of loot, but it may have gone farther than that.  It has been speculated that, unlike in other kingdoms of the fertile crescent, the definition of being Assyrian was a political designation rather than an ethnic one. Thus, if you spoke Akkadian, were loyal to the Assyrian king and fought in the army or were loyal and diligent in royal service then you were defined as an Assyrian citizen with the benefits that may have brought.

By scan by ru:user:Кучумов Андрей [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By scan by ru:user:Кучумов Андрей [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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