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Who Were the Sea Peoples and Why is it Important to Know?

Sea people-like images

The Sea Peoples are one of the most mysterious groups in ancient history.

We know so little about them that even their identity is debatable.

What we do know, however, is that they left a significant mark on the civilizations they came into contact with.

Their influence can be seen in almost every major sea-faring civilization from the Mediterranean to India and beyond.

And yet, after their brief burst of activity, we hear little from them again.

Who were these mysterious people?

And why is it important to know about them?

In this article, we’ll explore

  • Who the Sea Peoples were?
  • Why it’s important to understand their role in history?

Why are the Sea Peoples important?

While the origins and details of the Sea Peoples remain a mystery, their impact on history is significant.

Some of the civilizations affected by the Sea Peoples’ activity include the

  • Egyptians
  • Hittites
  • Mycenaeans
  • Canaanites

The latter two civilizations are well-known from the Bible.

The sudden appearance of the Sea Peoples, followed by their equally sudden disappearance, has given rise to many theories about their origins and intentions.

Their activities have allowed historians to fill in some of the blanks about that time period.

If we were to ignore the existence of the Sea Peoples, we would fail to understand the nuances of that period.

We would also miss the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and apply them to the future.

Origins of the Sea Peoples

The origins of the Sea Peoples remain a mystery.

There are theories, of course, but there is little concrete information available.

Most historians agree that 

Scholarly image

They came from the Mediterranean region and its islands.

In fact, the Sea Peoples are believed to have caused the Great Migration, in which the Mycenaean people left Greece and settled in Asia Minor.

From there, they went on to found the Hittite civilization.

Other Sea People groups settled in other parts of the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans.

Who were the Sea Peoples?

As we mentioned above, the Sea Peoples’ identity is debatable.

There are many theories about the people behind the Sea Peoples’ movement, but few of them have been confirmed.

There are theories that the following people were Sea Peoples.

  • The Philistines, a group of people mentioned in the Old Testament
  • Minoans of Crete, who may have been forced to abandon their homes due to a volcanic eruption
  • Etruscans, Libyans, or even Indo-Europeans

While we can’t be sure who the Sea Peoples were, the theories still provide insights into the groups behind the Sea Peoples’ movement.

Activities of the Sea Peoples

The Sea Peoples’ activities in the Mediterranean and its islands were significant.

They are believed to have been behind the collapse of the Hittite civilization, as well as the end of Mycenaean civilization.

They also caused the Egyptians to lose control of Canaan.

What’s more, the Sea Peoples’ activities affected other civilizations.

They caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization and the end of the Amorites.

Historians believe that

Scholarly image

The Sea Peoples were behind the collapse of the Assyrian civilization.

And that the Cypriots and Persians were also affected by their movement.

Cultural Impact of the Sea Peoples

The cultural impact of the Sea Peoples’ movement has left a significant mark on the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans.

  • The collapse of the Hittite civilization → Assyrians to gain control of the region → Use as a base to conquer the world
  • The end of Mycenaean civilization → The rise of the Athenian civilization → One of the most important civilizations in ancient history
  • The collapse of the Minoan civilization → The rise of the Cypriot civilization → Found the city-state of Salamis
  • The end of the Amorites → The rise of the Babylonian and Persian civilizations

The movement of the Sea Peoples created a power vacuum in the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans, which other groups would later fill.