The Trojan War of roughly 1200 BCE and the destruction of the city of Troy, about which Homer wrote the epic Iliad, was monumental enough in itself, but that period also marked the end of the Mycenaean Greek civilization. The Linear B writing system of the time was abandoned, never to be revived, and most of Greek cities of the time were destroyed or abandoned. Only after centuries of relative barbarism did the Greek city-states of Sparta, Corinth, Athens, and so on appear.
The Hittite empire in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) also collapsed at the same time. So did the New Kingdom in Egypt.
Experts speculate on many possible causes of this Bronze Age Collapse—a meteor, drought, the eruption of an Icelandic volcano that caused climate change, the spread of iron weapons, and other causes. Certainly invasion was a factor, but does this explain everything or were these just opportunistic invasions after the existing empires were weakened? The cause(s) are still disputed and none explains all the facts.
Like a global extinction event that opens up niches for new species to invade, this collapse allowed new civilizations, technologies, and writing systems to emerge.
What happened to Israel, in the middle of these collapsing empires? The historical record is unclear—the traditional date for the Israelite conquest of Canaan had been about 1400 BCE, but the modern consensus is 1250. Perhaps the Bronze Age Collapse was a factor in jump-starting Jewish civilization. If nothing else, this setback for the nearby empires must’ve provided some breathing room for the people in the Levant.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
- See all the definitions in the Galileo Unchained Glossary.