The Sea Peoples terrorized Egypt and the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, but their identity and origins remain mysterious to this day.
More than 2,000 years before the Vikings first set sail from modern-day Scandinavia to plague the people of Europe, the great empires of the ancient world faced a terrifying seafaring enemy of their own — one that remains almost a complete mystery to this day.
“They came from the sea in their warships and none could stand against them,” ominously proclaimed one inscription written in the 13th century B.C. and later found at the Egyptian city of Tanis.
They were the Sea Peoples, the modern name given to the naval warriors who reportedly wreaked havoc upon the Mediterranean time again between the approximate years of 1400 B.C. and 1000 B.C. but whose identity and origins are largely shrouded in mystery
Who Were The Sea Peoples?
The Sea Peoples left no monuments or written records of their own; everything historians know about them comes from apocalyptic inscriptions created by the empires that did battle with them, especially the Ancient Egyptians.
Some modern historians theorize that the Egyptians knew the origins of the Sea Peoples based on the way they wrote about them. In fact, it’s precisely that these inscriptions don’t mention the group’s origins at all that lead some to believe that this information was common knowledge to the point that it wouldn’t need to be stated.
Whether that theory is correct or not, the fact is that the origins of the Sea Peoples are not mentioned anywhere in Egyptian records (or other civilization’s records) and that information has thus been lost to history.
The Egyptians do, however, describe the Sea Peoples as “Northerners,” which has led some scholars to theorize that they actually came from Europe, perhaps modern Sicily or Turkey. Some even speculate, with little evidence to go on, that the Sea Peoples were actually the “Philistines” of Biblical fame who supposedly did battle with the ancient Israelites but whose identity remains mysterious.
Either way, as is the case with the Vikings, it is not known what first drove the Sea Peoples to leave their homelands, wherever they were, and begin raiding other (richer) lands. However, some historians suggest that either famine or natural disaster was the reason that they first sailed to other lands.
Another theory speculated that a more human disaster was behind the migration: war. This theory posits that the Sea Peoples were the Trojans who had been displaced after their kingdom fell to the Greeks during the Trojan War. Of course, whether such a war actually happened (likely in the 12th century B.C.) and wasn’t just a story from mythology remains unclear.
Devastating The Ancient World
Listen to this post