2nd millennium BC

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Millennium: 3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC
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The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age. Its first half is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. Indo-Iranian expansion reaches the Persian plateau and Indian subcontinent, spreading the chariot. The alphabet develops. Chariot warfare and population movements lead to violent changes at the center of the millennium, and a new order emerges with Greek dominance of the Aegean and the rise of the Hittite Empire. The end of the millennium sees the transition to the Iron Age. World population begins to rise steadily, reaching some 50 million towards the 1000 BC.This era in time is also when Judaism is said to have arisen.


[edit] Overview

[edit] Middle Bronze Age

The first part of the millennium is a time a bit less colorful than others, a lull in the history of Ancient Near East, still living in the shadow of greater past times, and spending all energies in trying to recuperate from the deeply anarchic situation that was at the turn of the millennium. Even the most powerful civilizations of the time, Egypt and Mesopotamia, were having what could be called a low-profile period, aiming at modest, realistic goals. The Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and their contemporary Kings of Babylon, of Amorite origin, brought good governance without too much tyranny, favoured elegant art and architecture without overblown exaggeration, painstakingly achieved a good general balance that lasted only a short while. Farther east, the Indus Valley civilization was in a period of decline, possibly as a result of intense, ruinous flooding.

Egypt and Babylonia's military tactics were still based on foot soldiers transporting their equipment on donkeys. Combined with a weak economy and difficulty in maintaining order, this was a fragile situation that crumbled under the pressure of external forces they could not oppose.

[edit] Unrest of the 16th century

About a century before the middle of the millennium, bands of Indo-European invaders burst from their Central Asia plains and swept through the Near East like a series of electric shocks. They were riding fast two-wheeled chariots powered by horses, a system of weaponry developed earlier within the context of plains warfare. This tool of war was unknown among the classical oriental civilizations. Egypt and Babylonia's foot soldiers were simply no match for them. In 1630 BC, the Hyskos swept into the Nile Delta. In 1600 BC, the Balkans and the Aryans swept into Greece and India, and in 1595 BC, the Hittites swept into Mesopotamia.

[edit] Late Bronze Age

The peoples in place were quick to adapt to the new tactics, and a whole new international situation resulted from the change. For most of the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, the Ancient Near East became a giant chessboard where several regional powers competed endlessly for hegemony, rolling their chariots at full speed in all directions. These actually became very colorful times, with new emphasis on grandiose architecture, new clothing fashions, vivid diplomatic correspondence on clay tablets, renewed economic exchanges, and the New Kingdom of Egypt playing the role of the main superpower. Among the great states of the time, only Babylon refrained from taking part in the rolling chessgame, satisfied with its prestigious new position as the World's religious and intellectual capital.

This was the Bronze Age civilization at its final and brightest period of time, with all its characteristic social traits : low level of urbanization, small cities centered around temples or royal palaces, strict separation of classes between an illiterate mass and a powerful military elite, knowledge of writing and education reserved to a tiny minority of scribes, and grandiose aristocratic life.

Near the end of the 2nd millennium BC, new waves of barbarians, riding on horseback this time, wholly destroyed the Bronze Age world, and were to be followed by waves of social changes that marked the beginning of very different times. Also contributing to the changes were the Sea Peoples, ship-faring raiders of the Mediterranean Sea.

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13th century BC 1290s BC 1280s BC 1270s BC 1260s BC 1250s BC 1240s BC 1230s BC 1220s BC 1210s BC 1200s BC
12th century BC 1190s BC 1180s BC 1170s BC 1160s BC 1150s BC 1140s BC 1130s BC 1120s BC 1110s BC 1100s BC
11th century BC 1090s BC 1080s BC 1070s BC 1060s BC 1050s BC 1040s BC 1030s BC 1020s BC 1010s BC 1000s BC

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2nd millennium BC

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