Who were the Sea Peoples?

Oct 2014
9
Oman (middle east)
I've always been interested in the Sea Peoples, but I don't know much about them. I remember reading somewhere that they launched a wave of attacks on the civilizations of the Mediterranean coast or something. Anyone know who they were? Where they came from? Anything about them?
 
Jan 2014
1,905
Florida
That is exactly the problem. Almost nothing is known of the Sea Peoples. That they wreaked havoc upon the Mediterranean Coast and were the immediate cause of the Bronze Age Collapse is really all that is known about them. I could be wrong, but I believe that modern scholars generally believe them to have been multi-ethnic and have largely come from the Balkan/Black Sea region.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,768
Australia
We don't know whether they were responsible for the collapse either. At best they were coastal raiders. It is unlikely that they did enough damage to bring down a civilization.
 
Apr 2013
138
N/A
We don't know whether they were responsible for the collapse either. At best they were coastal raiders. It is unlikely that they did enough damage to bring down a civilization.
Invasions were not merely military operations, but involved the movements of large populations, by land and sea, seeking new lands to settle.
 
May 2014
696
Budapest
About their makeup: they are said to be not one naton, but rather an alliance of raiders. IIRC there were greeks, tyrrhenians (proto-etruscans)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrrhenians, sardinians and sicilians (siculi).

It is strange that they didn't attack Phoenicians (and spared only them). Some speculate that they were either allies, or phoenicians bribed them into attacking their enemies.

At least this is what I read, but I remember that there are multiple hypothesises of them. (10 or so)
 
Sep 2013
624
Ontario, Canada
The Sea Peoples were some kind of mass migration at the end of the Bronze Age perhaps somewhat similiar to the movements of people which dismembered the Western Roman Empire.

Egypt managed to stop the main fleet at the Battle of the Delta in 1175 BCE but the damage had been done by that point, the vital trade network destroyed along with all the cities that supported it. After his victory Ramses III names his enemies in various records of the time, calling them Denen, Thekel, Peleset, Sherden, Weshesh.

Probably not their actual tribal names, but clearly it was a multinational grouping of many different cultures from the Mediterranean area, perhaps forced together on the move by lack of means to sustain their peoples.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,768
Australia
They never invaded anywhere and there is no evidence of a mass migration. The cultures that existed in their respective regions before the collapse were exactly the same as the cultures in those regions afterwards. Nobody has a clue who they were or where they came from but the Sea Peoples were raiders, not invaders.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,054
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The main trouble is that we know the "Sea Peoples" as category, from Egyptian sources, and Egyptians were not great in writing accurate chronicles.

For historical accuracy, the definition "Sea Peoples" is reductive if we consider the "original" Egyptian definition. Under Merenptah, at Karnak, scribes engraved the term "Stranger Sea Peoples", but that "Peoples", considering the Egyptian context, could be translated also as "Nations". So it could be "Stranger Sea Nations" as well.

Focusing our attention on Merenptah, he faced a curious confederation [the Nine Bows Confederation] leaded by Libyans, but with the participation of some Sea Peoples. There is the mention of Ekwesh, Lukka, Shardana ... [may be from modern Sardinia, this intriguing hypothesis is not so impossible]. Their behavior was similar to the one of the later Vikings or pirates: they plundered the coastal regions where they arrived.

There is an other main source for the Sea Peoples: the archives at Ugarit [so it's not Egyptian]. During the Kingdom of Hammurabi there are letters reporting troubles with a people "who lived on the boats", the Shikala [Shekelesh?]. See RS 34.129.

In good substance:

leaving any hypothesis a apart, we only know that the Sea Peoples were a kind of nomad sea group of tribes [less or more cohesive, also this is in the field of hypothesis] coming from the sea, sure from North [the other side of the Mediterranean], but we cannot say a lot more.

Temporal reference
: the first real early mention of Lukka is on an obelisk at Biblos dated round 2,000 - 1,700 BCE, but it's a mere reference to a family clan more than to a nomad people, anyway ...

proper references to the Sea Peoples are from XIV century [in Amarna letters they mention Shardana, may be mercenaries, and the Lukka] to XII century BCE.
 
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May 2014
696
Budapest
leaving any hypothesis a apart, we only know that the Sea Peoples were a kind of nomad sea group of tribes [less or more cohesive, also this is in the field of hypothesis] coming from the sea, sure from North [the other side of the Mediterranean], but we cannot say a lot more.
They might have been mercenaries who were transported by their employer.
Or captured a fleet in port.
Or enlisted conquered folks, who at a point contained knowledge of shipbuilding and sailor experience...


About mass migration: if I remember correctly they didn't settle, just razed coastal cities. I think that rules out migrations in general.