aegean art

At the end of the Bronze Age there were several booming civilizations. These civilizations were the pinnacle art, writing, architecture, and agriculture. However around 2100 BC, all of these civilizations fell. Not all at once, but within 50 years of each other. What was the cause of such a sudden collapse of these advancing civilizations?

These civilizations included:

  • Egyptians
  • Canaanites
  • Minoans
  • Mycenaeans
  • Hittites

Out of all these civilizations only the Egyptians and the Canaanites managed to survive whatever event caused all the other civilizations to fail. However, while they may have survived both civilizations were drastically changed and weakened.

But by what?

Natural Disasters

Some believe that these civilizations fell due to extreme natural disasters. Archeological evidence suggests that the Mediterranean Sea was at an all time low during the years leading up to 2100 BC. This indicated that the whole Mediterranean area was under and extreme drought.

While a drought is devastating to any civilization, it alone cannot completely unhinged several civilizations that are so advanced in agriculture.

Around the time 2000 BC, a series of earthquakes also began to ravage the area as well. Archaeologist believe that the earthquakes led up to an earthquake storm. This is where smaller earthquakes occur along the fault lines. These earthquakes only relieve some of the stress that the fault line is under and eventually, there is one massive earthquake where the rest of the stress unloads.


fault lines

The fault lines in the area match up nearly exactly with the ancient cities of Thebes, Pylos, Knossos, and Ugarit which were strongly believed to be decimated by earthquakes.

However, the thing that makes humans able to survive so well is our ability to adapt. We have seen our ability to adapt and rebuilt thousands of times throughout history. Even today cities that are leveled by natural disasters are not abandoned. Thus it is unlikely that a civilization would fall from a few devastating natural disasters.

Mysterious Sea People

While it's extremely unlikely that several thriving civilizations were brought to their knees within 50 years of each other by natural disasters, evidence suggests that an invading army brought them down.

The invading army is merely referred to as the "Sea People". Surely a massive army that was big enough to control the seas and destroy the Hittites, Minoans, Mycenaeans, and weaken the Egyptians would be well documented.

However, little exists about this mysterious army. Only the ancient Egyptians referenced them. They had carvings that listed seven different kinds of sea people that date back to the time of the Aegean apocalypse. These people are documented no where else around the world so it leaves our archeologists with only the origins of the names to go on.

Dissections of the names are not often very accurate.

Archeologists suggested that the invaders came from Sardinia or Scilly, because islands often breed good seafaring people. However, while they were called the "sea people" they were not very good warriors at sea.

sea peopleIt is believe that Ramses III put an end to these mysterious sea people by fighting them at sea. Ancient Egypt had a very well connected series of spies, especially since they were often at odds with the Hittites. So it is likely that they knew about the sea people before they reached their borders and were able to prepare.


Ramses III realized that all other civilizations were too afraid to fight them on the sea because that is where they came from, but it is on land where they truly shined.

So if they were not mighty sea people from an island, where did they come from? The most solid theory that has been formulated is that the "sea people" were of the common classes from either the Hittite nation or the Egyptian nation.

After Ramses II formed a treaty with the Hittites there was an odd era of peace in this chaotic ancient world. Warfare in the Bronze Age was highly centralized around the chariot warfare. Most combat was done at a safe distance, however; once the chariot came to a halt, there was always a force that dispatched of the heavily armored chariot crew. These were called runners, they would swarm the halted chariot crew, who was too well armored to fight or run away and kill them.

The runners were made up out of common people that did not want to be farmers or peons under the king. However, with the peace between Egypt and the Hittites this left thousands of well trained warriors jobless.

Many banded into gangs under leaders and wrecked havoc. As they raped and pillaged, the defeated people saw no other choice but to join their band or be killed. These runners used the javelin to stop the mighty chariots that tried to quell them and swarmed them, thus they could topple mighty armies.

After their defeat at the hands of Ramses III, these sea people were thought to have been pushed into the holy land of Canaan where they would become the Philistines.

After the Dark Ages

While there is no way to be sure what caused the great civilization collapse of 2100 BC, there is new evidence being discovered each day. Perhaps some civilizations were felled by extreme natural disaster. Maybe they were downed by a roaming army of pirates and out of work soldiers who needed to survive.

Maybe all these civilizations fell within the same 50 years because of some united force. Maybe they fell because of different but coincidental reasons. It's something we may never know.

However, after the collapse and when humanity rose out of the Dark Ages the remaining people gave birth to some of the most influential civilizations in the ancient world. Where the Minoans and Mycenaeans fell, the Greeks rose up and gave us the foundations of democracy and philosophy. Where the Hittites fell it gave us the mighty Byzantines. In the land of Canaan it evolved with the Israelites and spent years ravaged by biblical war and led to many advances in military strategy.

This proves that as civilizations fall, greater ones always rise from the ashes and learn from their mistakes.