1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed




The end of the Bronze Age in four acts.


In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?
In this major new account of the causes of this “First Dark Ages”, Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.
A compelling combination of narrative and the latest scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to, and ultimately destroyed, the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age – and that set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece.
©2014 Eric H. Cline. Published by Princeton University Press. (P)2014 Audible, Inc.


‘1177 B.C.’ deals with the end of the Bronze Age. It does so in four acts that read a lot like a play. The first three acts talk about the build up to 1177 B.C., with the final act dealing with how it all came crashing down.
Cline touches on some key figures and events known to most, such as King Tut, the Trojan war, the story of the biblical exodus from Egypt, and even our old friend Hatshepsut makes an appearance. The author uses historical documents and archaeological evidence to paint a picture of the world leading up to 1177 B.C.
The world leading up to 1177 B.C. was quite interdependent in nature. There were alliances between nations that were fostered by things such as royal marriages and active trading of goods. Cline gives profiles of major players, both individuals and nations, that brought the world to that point.
Then comes the fall. So what really happened around 1177 to bring civilization to its knees? Cline argues that it would be a mistake to point to one single thing in one single place as the catalyst, and that it was instead a series of things, from invasions to natural disasters such as earthquakes and droughts that brought an interconnected world to ruin. Yet, it would actually be incorrect to say that the world was brought to ruin, because the end of the Bronze Age brought the beginning of the Iron Age and the rise of city state empires such as those found in ancient Greece. Indeed, civilization has its own circle of life, from birth to evolution to collapse to renewal. And with each cycle brings greater progress and advancement.
Cline is a man after my own heart. He documents thoroughly the archaeological evidence for all of his claims, including background on major discoveries and how they were made. He explains what we know, what we don’t know, what is speculation, and how that speculation may have changed over time. When you read ‘1177 B.C.’ and compare it to things happening in our modern world, you will come to realize that it is not just those who are ignorant of history that are destined to repeat it.


Eric H. Cline is a professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at George Washington University. This is not Cline’s first book, nor is it his first to make it to audio. ‘1177 B.C.’ is meant to be the first in a series of books on turning points in ancient history. If subsequent volumes are anything like the first, this will be quite the enjoyable series.
I was a big fan of the way that Cline structured the book, calling it a play in four acts. Dr. Cline, like any good historian, knows that history is all about context. Indeed, most of the book concentrates on building up to 1177 B.C. because you can’t talk about the fall without dealing with the rise. You can’t spell history without story, and it does no good to only tell how the story ends.


Narration does basically one of three things. If it is good, it can enhance a book tremendously, even to the point that it can make a bad book tolerable. It can also drag down a good story if it is bland and disengaging. There is also the middle ground where it neither adds to nor takes away from the quality of the book.
Andy Caploe’s narration easily fits into that first category. Caploe does a wonderful job with this book. It is really the minor things he does with emphasis and enunciation that make his performance so nice. Because this is a book about history and is more interested in facts than emotion, a lot of narrators would give a monotone performance. Thankfully, Caploe doesn’t go for that, and it made all the difference.


The track sounds excellent. There is no music or other sound effects, which is good because they would feel wildly out of place here. The narration sounds clean throughout, and there are no major glitches to be detected. Basically it’s everything you would hope a track recorded in 2014 would sound like.


‘1177 B.C.’ is an interesting account of the end of the Bronze Age and the empires that dominated it. The book should be of interest to anyone interested in ancient history, as well as anyone who has a general interest in the rise and fall of empires. Indeed, as Cline points out, empires are born, then grow and dominate and eventually fall. The fall of empires leads to renewal and the cycle begins anew. The truth is that our global network today is just as big a house of cards as the empires of the Bronze Age. Take away something here, suffer a big disaster there, and today’s world system is just as capable of falling as any other in history. But as Cline points out, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing because of the process of renewal that would follow.
The book is both thought provoking and relevant. When it comes to the audio, Andy Caploe deserves a lot of credit for really adding something to already interesting text with his vocal performance.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed Eric H. Cline Andy Caploe Audible Studios History 04/01/2014 8 hours, 3 minutes 9/10


A copy of ‘1177 B.C.: THE YEAR CIVILIZATION COLLAPSED’ was purchased from Audible for review.