Every city in a Desolate Crescent from the Aegean to the Sinai was razed to the ground: a bloody, sudden inverse of millenia of building. People lost cities, cultures, names. Gods were forgotten. Traditions died. Empires ended: splintering first into regions, then cities, then smaller. The mightiest and best organized, like Egypt, managed to bend every nerve, staving off collapse for a generation before shattering.
Finally, there was a gap: the long total blank that frustrates the hell out of anyone trying to look back. What is known is that everything stopped, with the catastrophe's survivors left only with legends of a better time and a centuries-long struggle for bare subsistence.
This was the Bronze Age Collapse, the first Dark Age in recorded history, and the one everyone forgets about (when you think of Dark Age, do Egyptians battling the Sea Peoples come to mind? No, it's togas, Goths and vomitoriums) despite the fact that it was arguably more devastating than the end of the Roman Empire.
To imagine the scale, picture this: almost every city in Western Europe and North America destroyed. Not reduced, not scaled down. People-don't-live-here-anymore-just-ruins destroyed. Everywhere else is in turmoil. Armed bands, growing larger with every subsequent disaster, keep spreading out in search of new loot. Some particularly rich pocket of civilization (East or West Coast U.S., France, Japan, Australia, take your pick) strains every nerve to deal with the threat, drafting all able-bodied adults to arms. The immediate physical danger is stopped (say by air power and machine guns), but the process so uproots the civilization that it too collapses in a generation.
It was that nasty. It was an apocalypse. That's why there's a hell of a lot to be learned from the first time the lights went out. --
Egyptian soldier fighting a warrior of the "Sea People."
My thanks to Wretched Dog for forwarding this link and this link to:
“The Catastrophe” - What the End of Bronze-Age Civilization Means for Modern Times by Thomas F. Bertonneau at
“If the affluent society should begin to federate members of the external proletariat for unskilled labor or military service, as the Bronze Age kingdoms seem to have done with the Shardana and the Shekelesh and as the Roman Empire did with the Gothic barbarians, then the internal and external proletariats can arrive at a sense of a common grudge and, however dimly perceived, of a common cause. The avarice of the proletariat can grow stronger than the commitment of the civic classes to their own preservation.”
“Archeologists, historians, and classicists call it “the Catastrophe.” It happened more than three thousand years ago in the lands surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean. Neither geological nor climatological but rather sociological in character, this chaotic enormity erased civilization in a wide swath of geography stretching from the western portions of Greece east to the inner fastnesses of Anatolia, and all the way to Mesopotamia; it turned south as well, overrunning many islands, finally swamping the borders of Egypt. It left cities in smoking ruin, their wealth plundered; it plunged the affected regions into a Dark Age, bereft of literacy, during which populations drastically shrank while the level of material culture reverted to that of a Stone Age village. “
“Envy or resentment, disregard for law and civilized achievement, and a strong proclivity to violent expropriation of other men’s chattels constitute the chief traits of the Hesiodic 'Iron Age.'”
“The fate of Troy at the hands of the Achaean expedition foretells the fate of many a heroic kingdom on its monarch’s return. Homer thus grasps acutely that he lives in a time of providential revival. Homer knows that between his own brightening day and the last sunlit era stretches a prolonged twilight commencing with abrupt destruction and consisting in fallow centuries.”
“The architects of the Cypriote cities built according to a sophisticated aesthetic, influenced by the old Cretan civilization. These exquisite towns met their death at just about the same time as the Anatolian cities met theirs. At one Cypriote site, the fleeing citizens hid their valuables in cubbyholes, imagining that they might soon return. Cyprus, like Attica, evidences a modicum of cultural continuity in the aftermath of the Catastrophe. The new style compares with the old, however, in an impoverished way. The people resettle not so much in the old places as in difficult-to-reach mountain fastnesses. The new architecture is – defensive.”
“Widespread drought leading to famine and disease, which the records of Hatti attest, might well have created a social crisis, with a cascading effect, with which administrative inflexibility could not cope. Yet as Drews emphasizes, despite their cumbersomeness, the Bronze Age kingdoms apparently functioned as usual right up to the hour of their sudden demise.”
“…contempt sprung from envy: the envy of the savage who sees across the borders into the ease and luxury of a more highly developed way of life and schemes how he might profit by the labor of others.”
“The cities are vulnerable; a mass of skirmishers can defeat the chariot brigades. The victorious horde can take what it wants from the defenseless settlement – food, wine, plate, and women. Rumors of the Dorian success might well have emboldened the Gasga to descend on Hattusas. Soon, all sorts of marginal people would have reached the decision to strike now and take their chances. No one had a plan. The motive everywhere was invidious, concupiscent, and bestially myopic. It stemmed from long-festering differences and capacities.”
Go to the links and read the whole thing. Then start looking for defensible ground.