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The Sea Peoples

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

A group of people created during this time that we should note before moving on, were the Sea Peoples. This confederacy of naval raiders harassed the coastal towns and cities of the Mediterranean region between 1276-1178 B.C., concentrating their efforts especially on Egypt. The nationality of the Sea Peoples remains a mystery as the existing records of their activities are mainly Egyptian sources who describe them in terms of battle, such as the record from the stele at Tanis which reads, in part,

“They came from the Sea in their warships and none could stand against them.”

This description is typical of Egyptian references to these mysterious invaders.

Outside Egypt, they also assaulted the regions of the Hittie Empire, the Levant, and other areas around the Mediterranean coast. Their origin and identity has been suggested (and debated) to be Trojan, Philistine, Mycenaean, and Minoan. But no accounts discovered thus far shed any more light on the question than what is presently known; any such claims must remain mere conjecture.

No ancient inscription names the coalition as “Sea Peoples”. This is a modern-day designation first coined by the French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero in 1881. Maspero came up with the term because the ancient reports claim that these tribes came “from the sea” or from “the islands”, but they never say which sea or which islands and so the 'Sea Peoples' origin remains unknown.

The three great pharaohs who record their conflicts and victories over the Sea Peoples are Ramesses II, his son and successor Merneptah, and Ramesses III. After their defeat by Ramesses III, the Sea Peoples vanish from history. The survivors of the battle were perhaps assimilated into Egyptian culture. For almost 100 years, they were the most feared sea raiders in the Mediterranean region and a constant challenge to the might and prosperity of Egypt.


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