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The End of the Bronze Age

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691025919
ISBN-10: 0691025916
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Editorial Reviews


"[The End of the Bronze Age] provides a concise overview of the problem and the present state of our knowledge.... Drews has produced a thought-provoking work with an intriguing thesis, informative and thorough in its scholarship, sound and imaginative in its arguments."--J. P. Karras, The Journal of Military History

"[Drews] has differentiated between evidence and speculation so that those who will continue to debate the Catastrophe can use the book effectively. What is more important is that he has laid to rest some archaeological factoids which in their turn were based on no more than guesswork."--David W. J. Gill, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Unusually sophisticated.... Well argued and learned."--A. M. Snodgrass, The Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 22, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691025916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691025919
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 113 people found the following review helpful By on October 9, 1998
Drews, Robert. The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catostrophe ca. 1200 B.C. Princeton University Press, 1993. 12+252 pp. Ill., maps
Between approximately 1200 and 1150 B.C. a great disaster befell the civilized world of the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean. The cites and fortified places of Crete, Myceneae, Anatolia and upper Mesopotamia were suddenly overrun and burned by a people who left few traces beyond widespread destruction. Lower Mespoamia and Egypt were threatened but escaped devastation Robert Drews, a Professor of Classics at Vanderbilt University, attempts to explain who did this and how.
His balanced book first considers the Bronze Age in general and then systematically surveys the destruction of the various locales during what he terms "The Catastrophe," (the first half of the 12th c. B.C.) He devotes several chapters to surveying the causes of the event that has been proposed in traditional scholarship-earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, systems collapses, mass migrations and the appearance of iron weapons in the early Iron Age. His own explanation is a combination of several of these, plus what might be called innovations in military organization and weaponry.
During much of the Bronze Age, great powers like Egypt and the Hittites relied primarily on the use of chariots on the battlefield, from which charioteers shot arrows at the enemy and broke up mass formations of ground troops. Beyond the movement of "runners" between the chariot lines, there was no real use of infantry as a tactical arm. In fact, the infantry was usually regarded as defensive element.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Warren J. Dew on July 15, 2004
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Towards the end of the bronze age in the eastern mediterranean, around 1200 BC, most of the great cities of the region were destroyed. In this excellent book, Robert Drews summarizes the facts of and existing theories for this catastrophe, and proposes a new theory of his own: that new weapons and accompanying military doctrine resulted in the defeat of the agricultural city states and empires of the time. Only when they reached Egypt were the aggressive "sea peoples" finally defeated.
The book opens with a description of the catastrophe at the end of the bronze age, listing 44 cities throughout Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and the Levant that were destroyed - including some very well known ones like Troy and Mycenae - and describing the general pattern of destruction. Drews then continues by summarizing the existing theories for this catastrophe - earthquakes, migrations, ironworking, drought, systems collapse, and raiders - and convincingly demonstrates why none of these explanations is sufficient to explain the scope and details of the catastrophe.
Drews then sets the stage for his own military explanation of the catastrophe by describing both bronze age warfare dominated by elite chariot troops with spear armed infantry in a defensive supporting role, and the later iron age warfare dominated by infantry with mounted cavalry in support. He then presents his own theory: that use of infantry in a more active role, with javelins and heavier slashing swords, enabled "barbarians" to defeat the chariot armies of the great agricultural civilizations in the area and sack their cities.
Drews presents a lot of good evidence and cogent argument in support of his theories.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 21, 2002
This is an excellent book on an important and transitional period of history that saw the beginning of a new "dark age" after about 1200 BC. This was a critical period in the history of the ancient world, a time that saw the end of the great, elite city and state civilizations of Greece, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Minoan Crete, and even to some extent of upper Egypt.

During this time the Mycenaean civilization was attacked from the north by an unknown race, and The Sea Peoples attacked and defeated Crete, Minos, the cities of the coastal Levant, the Hittites, and as I mentioned, even upper Egypt and Mesopotamia suffered somewhat, although the Sea Peoples eventually were stopped and defeated by Egypt. They might even have been responsible for the fall of Mycenaean Greece. They were originally thought to have come from further north in Europe, but it seems more likely now that they were from the area around the Black Sea.

Drew's theory is that the Sea Peoples use of better equipped infantry with more modern iron weapons, including better swords but also better armor shields and helmets for defense, instead of Bronze Age metal weapons and battle chariots, allowed them to defeat their seemingly stronger and more powerful opponents.

Another important facet of the book is the author discusses the important technological innovations of the period and how that affected military tactics, strategy, and technology, such as the widespread use of the battle chariot, and how that ultimately may have contributed to the fall of the region's great civilizations at the hands of the Sea Peoples. The author also does an excellent job of discussing the other competing theories of the fall. Overall, this is a well-researched and well-written account of this important period in ancient history.
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