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Empire in the Ancient Near East, Archaeology of

J offe, A. T he rise of secondary states in the Iron Age Levant. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient — M allowan, M. The Nimrud ivories. London: British Museum Publications Ltd. Marcus , M. Emblems of identity and prestige: the seals and sealings from Hasanlu, Iran: commentary and catalog Hasanlu Special Studies 3.


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Philadelphia: The University Museum. M atthews , R. The archaeology of Mesopotamia: theories and approaches. London: Routledge. Oates, J. Nimrud: an Assyrian imperial city revealed. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq. P arker, B.

However, it is not possible to reconstruct Mycenaean society from later Greek usage of terms found in Linear B. The tablets simply give too little information, because they are administrative lists, and not political treatises. There is more information available for other Late Bronze Age polities. For Ugarit , Alalah and Byblos in Syria and Lebanon textual evidence give the impression of a pyramidal hierarchy with the king in his palace at the top of society. However, the villagers are organized in communities that govern themselves, and collective judiciary institutions played an important role Heltzer , 77— In the Late Bronze Age in Syria, community self rule existed alongside conceptions of power that were focused on absolute and godlike control of society on part of the king.

Certain city-state communities actually killed their king, or drove him into exile. Hanoch Reviv points out that in the city of Byblos in the Late Bronze Age the inhabitants discussed political issues in assembly meetings Reviv , Another example of a city-state with a restricted form of kingship is the city of Emar , where the king played no important role in ritual, whereas the council of elders was powerful Fleming These examples show that the corporate strategy of power could influence the society of Ancient Near Eastern city-states.

It is not possible to tell whether this held true for the Mycenaean palaces as well. However, the structural similarities between the societies of Ugarit and Mycenae or Pylos are obvious. Of course, the Aegeans did not sit on the beach and wait for sailors from Ugarit to bring them the gospel of urbanism. Yet, the participation of the Aegean palaces in a wider cultural field that included Anatolia , the Levant and Egypt is acknowledged by all scholars. Although the degree of Mycenaean direct diplomatic contacts with the Great powers of the Late Bronze Age is disputed, the connection is proven beyond doubt Jasink , 59— This could explain the similarities between Mycenaean polities and those of the Ancient Near East.

The international world of the Late Bronze Age collapsed around BCE, and although there was a continuity of life in some places, notably the Levantine city-states , the world of the Iron Age was decidedly different. It was a more regional world, more closed in on itself than in the preceding period. In the Iron Age, after the fall of the palaces, the polis developed in Greece. The palaces did not survive the collapse, but the memory of important places did. In the eighth century, sanctuaries were established at Mycenaean sites and elements of Mycenaean architecture were copied in the Archaic age.

Epic society can be interpreted as the survival of village communities in the aftermath of the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces.

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However, it also represents something new. It has many traits in common with the polis. Although it clearly was an aristocratic society, the councils surrounding leaders had much influence in politics. The people were also included in the meetings of the assembly.

In the Iliad , the inhabitants of Troy are regularly being summoned to assemblies, and communal institutions of power existed alongside kingship. The development of the polis may be interpreted as the domination of the corporate strategy for power over the elitist strategy of the kings.


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  • The polis developed into a citizen state. However, this development did not happen in a vacuum.

    In This Article

    Around , the complex societies of the Eastern Mediterranean were struck by catastrophe. Ugarit and other important cities were burnt and abandoned. In Greece , the Mycenaean palaces were destroyed and never rebuilt. All documentation stopped, and Linear B was forgotten. It was not, however, completely dark. There was a continuity of life at some sites, notably the Phoenician city-states in the Levant.

    Also, there was some exchange between Greece and the Near East, as evident from the excavations at Lefkandi on Euboea Lemos , — The Levantines are likely to have provided the first outside impulses to the development of Greek culture in the Iron Age, in the period that the polis emerged. The written sources to the Levant are few for the Early Iron Age.

    The other sources are later. The Neo-Assyrian annals are an important source to the history of the Levant, but they begin in the eighth century. Homer mentions the Phoenician cities and their inhabitants. Phoenician sources are mainly short inscriptions. Some Levantine cities were survivors of the catastrophe of BCE. Thus, information on the Levantine city-states in the Iron Age may be inferred from the Amarna letters, the correspondence of Pharaoh Amenophis IV, better known as Akhenaten , with his colleague kings and his vassals in Syria in the Late Bronze Age Moran , xxxi—xxxiii.

    Introduction

    Among the surviving Levantine cities that later became a famous Phoenician city was Byblos , whose ruler, Rib-Hadda, is well known from the Amarna letters. The inhabitants of his city, however, made political decisions on their own and were organized as a council of elders and an assembly EA — Moran The text is dated to the early eleventh century.

    The structure of power in Byblos that is met in the story of Wen-Amun or the Assyrian treaty is not much different from that of the Amarna letters. Evidently, parts of the social and political structure of the Levantine city-states survived the destruction at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Together, the texts give an impression of the political organization of the Levantine city-states that is arguably not dissimilar to the Greek polis.

    What is interesting here is that there is a survival of polities on the Levantine coast with a corporate strategy of power through the Dark Ages to the Archaic Greek period. Just like the Mycenaeans had been involved in Syria , so too were the Greeks of the Archaic period no strangers to the Levant. The Levantines or Phoenicians are frequently mentioned in the Homeric epics.

    The Phoenicians act as traffickers and travellers in the Homeric eighth century. They are encountered a couple of times by Odysseus , and have a wide-ranging sphere of action. Odysseus claims to have come to Ithaca from Crete as a passenger on board a Sidonian ship Od.