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Sargon and the Sea Peoples

General Ideas

For hundreds of years, stories of marauding Sea Peoples were told to frightened children.

  Back in 4300 BCE, Sargon of Akkad found the grain farming good in the broad, flat alluvial valley between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Being an accomplished bully and not fond of toiling in the heat of the sun himself, he assembled a gang of thugs and enslaved weaker people to work for him. They built vast irrigation systems, knocked down forests and opened up much of the fertile Mesopotamian Plain to oxen and wooden plows. With good soil, good seed and adequate rain, his tribe prospered and applied their surplus to erect a number of market cities that were considered quite grand for the period.
You can’t just knock down forests and dig long irrigation ditches and expect Nature to let you off scott-free, however. The plowing opened the soil to the sun and killed the rich microbial life built by those erstwhile forests. Irrigation made the fields salted and addicted. Major lakes silted. Without the trees and their fungal network, the weather changed. It stopped raining.
After a mere 130 years of prosperity, the Akkadian empire collapsed abruptly in 4170 BCE. There was general abandonment of agriculture, dramatic influxes of refugees, and widespread famine. The same calamity befell much of the rest of the region. Poorer tribes flocked to wealthy Akkad seeking help.
Faced with the rising tide of hungry people, Sargon’s successor thought a good solution would be a 112-mile-long wall, roughly the distance by patrol car between Brownsville TX and Rio Grande City, which Akkadians dubbed the “Repeller of the Amorites.” They may even have claimed they were going to get the Amorites to build it, but those clay tablets haven’t been located yet.
Fast forward a few decades and we find Akkadian cities in ruins, the plains desertifying, and smaller sedentary populations farther north around the shores of Lake Van trying to eke out a frugal living eating grasshoppers and frogs. It was a rough come-down from former glory.
Of course, the Akkadians were not entirely to blame. Their changing climate was also influenced by 1 to 2 degree cooler sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic that changed rainfall in the higher elevations. In their haste to develop, they had not left themselves any safety margin.
A few thousand years later another serious drought struck that part of the world — much of it within what is now Syria and Palestine — and by this time the population was much larger than back in Sargon’s day. The first wave of these “Sea Peoples” washed over Egypt in the second year of Ramesses II, 1276 BCE, but rather than build tent cities to house them, the Pharaoh simply trapped and slaughtered some 6000 people arriving in boats with all their goods, and then sent his chariots to drive stragglers back into the sea. A bit of a blowhard, Ramesses claimed a great victory and had the story inscribed in stone and read on ceremonial days.
Ramesses II

The Syrian drought continued, however, and Ramesses son, Merenptah, writes how, in the fifth year of his reign (1209 BCE), Libyans allied with the Sea Peoples to invade Egypt and were repulsed with 6000 casualties. Six thousand seems to be a popular number when you are killing Sea Peoples.

Then Merenptah’s son, Ramesses III, in c. 1200 BCE was informed they were coming again. The populations fleeing drought-stricken Syria had already destroyed the Hittite state and Ramesses III wrote, “they were coming forward toward Egypt.” Ramesses also makes the first recorded mention of the Israelites as one of those groups trying to illegally migrate into Egypt.
“If they would just report to processing centers they could apply for asylum,” Ramesses III might have said. But secretly he set ambushes all along the border and made especially effective use of his archers, positioning them along the shoreline to rain down arrows on approaching ships. Once the ships’ passengers were dead or drowning the vessels were set on fire with flaming arrows so that not even children could escape. Then Ramesses III turned his archers toward any survivors who made it to land. Egyptian records again detail a glorious victory in which many of the Sea Peoples were slain and others taken captive or pressed into the Egyptian army and navy or sold as slaves. For hundreds of years, stories of marauding Sea Peoples were told to frightened children.
Ramesses’s border defenses were so expensive they drained the Royal Treasury. This led to the first labor strike in recorded history.
Century-long droughts can be found at many points in the historic record. California experienced a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 CE and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years. Mexico experienced an abrupt climate shift between 800 to 1000 CE that brought dry conditions to the central Yucatan for 200 years, curtailing the era of monumental Mayan architecture. Lowland population densities plunged from 200 persons/km2 at the peak of the Late Classic period to less than half that by 900 CE. City complexes of more than 50,000 people, like Tikal, were abandoned to the rats and weeds.
Houston and Miami take heed.
Challenged by unprecedented environmental stresses, cultures can shift to lower subsistence levels by reducing social complexity, abandoning urban centers, and reorganizing systems of supply and production, as the Maya, Akkadians, Romans, Tiwanaku, Mochica, Athenians and many others have done, but more often — and even in those cases — they failed to recognize what was happening until it was too late to escape unscathed. They waved their arms, followed militant leaders, found convenient scapegoats, increased debt, took to the streets in protest, overtaxed their most vital resources, and kept trying to grow their way out as if growth was the only solution they could imagine.
It never works. Sometimes civilizations go the way of the Easter Islanders. Other times they are conquered and destroyed by an even more desperate and militant neighbor they foolishly made into an enemy.
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but he was peddling his Harvard theory of cyclic history and really could have done a better job of thinking that through. His actual theory was that both those who do not learn history and those who do learn history are doomed to repeat it.
Samuel Clemens added greater depth to Santayana’s theory, fifty years earlier, when he said “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
Last week, speaking at Wells College, I concluded by saying, “As a global culture, we can create social norms that would permit us to sustain healthy economies and ecologies into the turbulent climate future we cannot now avoid. There are neither technological nor resource barriers to prevent that outcome.” There are, however, biological limits, including the psychology of sunk investments.
Sad to say, even if the 45th President of the United States had not cheated and bullied his way through his education and actually studied history, it would not have made any difference. We are just in that part of the cycle now where stupidity trumps the obvious. The queues of refugees may not be quite the same as the Sea Peoples, but they rhyme.

24 Comments on "Sargon and the Sea Peoples"

  1. Jef on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 9:29 am 

    Well written however the differences this time around are far more interesting and relevant than the similarities.

    Its time to stop saying that “it just has to be this way because thats just how it is”, and start saying B#!! $hit….We’re not going to stand for it.

  2. dionisio on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 9:53 am 

    The date is wrong. 4300BCE is pre-history. Should be more like 2300BCE.

  3. JuanP on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 9:56 am 

    “We are just in that part of the cycle now where stupidity trumps the obvious.”
    Yes, we are. Since we are not preparing properly for what’s coming globally or as nations, we have to do it as individuals and local communities. Some places, like Miami as the article correctly points out, are hopeless, and the only logical end strategy is leaving them. For most people, it will get harder and harder to relocate as the economy continues getting unhinged and inequalities increase.

  4. trump u up the pussy on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 3:09 pm 

    For thousands of years fags like the author have been destroying the planet and civilization.
    Trump is a liberal fag also. He should have destroyed mexico long time ago and set up a puppet government.
    Hopefully the next collapse will be the last one. Rest in pieces fags.

  5. Anonymous on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 6:39 pm 

    2300 BC, not 4300.

  6. tahoe1780 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 7:07 pm 

    Miami – The solution is a new mall. At least there will be submarines.

    “The cost would include 2,000 hotel rooms, indoor ski slope, ice-climbing wall and waterpark with a “submarine lake,” where guests could enter a plexiglass submarine and descend underwater.”

  7. Makati1 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 7:27 pm 

    Interesting! But in other news…

    “The recent UN report on American poverty goes much further, indicting the political system as well, citing hidden efforts that have allowed dictatorial control of elections and “rule by the rich.”

    “There is covert disenfranchisement, which includes the dramatic gerrymandering of electoral districts to privilege particular groups of voters, the imposition of artificial and unnecessary voter identification requirements, the blatant manipulation of polling station locations, the relocation of Departments of Motor Vehicles offices to make it more difficult for certain groups to obtain identification, and the general ramping up of obstacles to voting, especially for those without resources. The net result is that people living in poverty, minorities and other disfavoured groups are being systematically deprived of their right to vote. It is thus unsurprising that the United States has one of the lowest turnout rates in elections among developed countries, with only 55.7 per cent of the voting-age population casting ballots in the 2016 presidential election.”

    This is how we begin, the real backdrop as to why America is now cited as a cesspool of poverty and why the Trump administration has been singled out as a “worst case” of all nations in the developing world, for abuse of its poor.

    “When speaking of global implications of America’s situation as given by the UN report, political disenfranchisement, rule by the rich, a government dedicated to corruption, ignorance and abuse of human rights, it isn’t hard to understand why America is now warring on the rest of the world.”

    Slip slidin’….

  8. Davy on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 7:32 pm 

    What is the title 3rd world?

  9. Makati1 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 7:36 pm 

    Followup: “U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation”

    “June 22 (UPI) — A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty — and more than half of those live in “extreme” or “absolute” poverty…

    “The United States has the highest income inequality in the Western world,…

    “The tax reform will worsen this situation and ensure that the United States remains the most unequal society in the developed world.”

    Slip slidin’…

  10. Makati1 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 7:52 pm – ‘The Dollar Dilemma: Where to From Here? 06/22/2018 – Ron Paul

    A long read but worth it, if you are an American and/or use US dollars.

    “It’s a fallacy to believe the US has a free market economy. The economy is run by a conglomerate of individuals and special interests, in and out of government, including the Deep State, which controls central economic planning.”

    “The Consumer Price Index is the statistic manipulated to try to prove this point just as they use misleading GDP numbers to do the same. Many people now recognizing these reports are nothing more than propaganda…

    Corruption in government is epidemic. Few people believe the lies our officials tell us and most Americans know that the truth-tellers, i.e. the whistle-blowers, are punished, while the criminals in government are rewarded….

    For some, expatriation may be an option….”

    Slip slidin’…

  11. Makati1 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 8:04 pm 

    Andagain: “Report: Rural Poverty In America Is ‘An Emergency'”

    “The United States does not stack up favorably when compared to other nations with advanced economies when it comes to childhood poverty worldwide,…

    Out of 175 nations, the U.S. ranks 36th…

    “We are just above Russia, Kuwait and Bosnia,”…

    Slip slidin’…

  12. MASTERMIND on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 8:07 pm 


    Oh well, about rural poverty..Deporting an immigrant will make them feel better..

  13. tahoe1780 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 8:27 pm

  14. tahoe1780 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 8:33 pm 

    Ike was right!
    JUNE 18, 2018BILL BONNER

    Eisenhower Farewell Address (Best Quality) – ‘
    Our working hypothesis is that General Eisenhower was right. There were two big temptations to the American Republic of the 1950s; subsequent generations gave in to both of them.

    They spent their children’s and grandchildren’s money. Now, the country has a government debt of $21 trillion. That’s up from $288 billion when Ike left the White House.

    And they allowed the “unwarranted influence” of the “military/industrial complex” to grow into a monster. No president, no matter how good his intentions, can stop it.

  15. Boat on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 9:15 pm 


    These poor can’t work or don’t work. A Mexican laborer can make $100 per day with lunch and a ride both ways. In Mexico it’s $14 for the entire day. This is the magnet for illegal immigration. This is real life in Houston.

  16. Makati1 on Sun, 24th Jun 2018 10:02 pm 

    Boat, I doubt that you know what “real life
    ” is like, but you are soon going to learn and experience it. You are trying to persuade me that 40 million Americans don’t want to work and would rather starve? Bullshit! Typical brainwashed propaganda. Houston is not as you believe it to be, Boat. Go out on the streets and experience it in real life. Visit the less affluent sections.

    “Poverty on the rise in Houston suburbs – Houston Chronicle”
    “Houston struggles with poverty, uninsured despite economic …”
    “Children living in poverty in Houston-area school districts”

    The articles may be 3-4 years old, but the numbers have been fudged so it is not as obvious today.

  17. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 1:54 am 


    that could be a damned good name, for
    a new brand of gas station.

    “I gotta pull on into Sargon, and
    fill ‘er up with some high-octane 92”.

    We can kick off the IPO, just on the name.
    Figure out the details later.

  18. Makati1 on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 3:36 am 

    America, the “Shoot em’ up people”.

    “At the end of 2017, there were approximately 1 billion firearms in over 230 countries around the globe, 84.6 percent of which were held by civilians, 13.1 percent by state militaries, and 2.2 percent by law enforcement agencies – with Americans the dominant owners, according to a study released Monday.”

    “Americans Now Own 40% Of The World’s One Billion Guns”

    And the Opioid epidemic is just getting started there, not to mention school shootings and other terrorist activities.

    Notice on the chart that the Ps has ~33% of the Us population and less than 1% of its guns. Most of those are in the military or security sectors, not civilians. Who is safer? LMAO

  19. Simon on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 4:36 am 

    Doesn’t this article suggest that we ought to slaughter the migrants and set their ships on fire, thus preserving our empire.
    I don’t condone, just find it odd that this seems to be suggested here

  20. Davy on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 4:57 am 

    “Notice on the chart that the Ps has ~33% of the Us population and less than 1% of its guns. Most of those are in the military or security sectors, not civilians. Who is safer? LMAO”

    Notice the US has 33 times the space of the P’s Who is safer?

  21. Makati1 on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 5:34 am 

    Space has no relationship to firearms Davy. Zero. Nada. None. The Us is the ONLY country in the world where school kids are killed regularly. Were it is not safe to go to a concert or be in a crowd. Where opioids are becoming the drug of choice. And on and on.

    The us is slip slidin’…

  22. Davy on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 6:13 am 

    3rd world, sure it does when the food and the inputs that support Philippine agriculture stop. You will then be eating each other.

  23. MASTERMIND on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 7:04 am 


    Shh…Davy don’t like that..


  24. Dredd on Mon, 25th Jun 2018 2:42 pm 

    The Phoenicians were an early version of today’s civilization:

    The Phoenicians were a great maritime people, known for their mighty ships … The island city of Tyre and the city of Sidon were the most powerful states in Phoenicia … Phoenicia thrived as a maritime trader and manufacturing center from c.1500-332 BCE and was highly regarded for their skill in ship-building, glass-making, the production of dyes, and an impressive level of skill in the manufacture of luxury and common goods.

    (The Extinction of Robust Sea Ports – 3).

    A world of sea trade they were and we are:

    Liner shipping could lay claim to being the [modern] world’s first truly global industry. Likewise it could claim to be the industry which, more than any other makes it possible for a truly global economy to work. It connects countries, markets, businesses and people, allowing them to buy and sell goods on a scale not previously possible.


    They split into Carthage and Phoenicia because of an internal power struggle. Our civilization now faces the wrath of what it depends on (Why Sea Level Rise May Be The Greatest Threat To Civilization – 6).

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