Great Powers of the Bronze Age
The Great Powers of the Bronze Age or refered to by historians as the Great Powers' Club or the Club of Great Powers was a collection of empires in the ancient Near East and Egypt between 1500-1100 BC, or the Late Bronze Age. These powers were Assyria, Babylon, Egyptian Empire, Hittite Empire, and Mitanni, viz. the major powers in Mesopotamia, the Levant and Anatolia.
This period saw a systematic rise and fall of civilizations. Many civilizations went through the same cycle of creation, fluorescence, and fall of centralized states which include: the middle Elamite kingdom in western Iran, Kassite Babylonia in southern Mesopotamia, the Hittite new kingdom in Anatolia, and the new kingdom Egypt. While they did not all rise to the equal amount of power and influence at the same time, they did organize and participate in an international system of diplomacy, trade, and culture.
As states went through cycles of growth and expansion, usually one or two states were more powerful than the rest, and a political hierarchy was naturally formed, with each state knowing their respective place. As leaders rose to power in respective states throughout the regions and although they wanted to expand their empire and grow their power, they realized the immense benefits of diplomacy. A system of trade, not of the state’s resources, but of the properties of the kings, was initiated.
Trade between the Great Powers
The states interacted through letters, written in Akkadian, the international language of diplomacy, and through oral messages. Marriages were a sure way to strengthen diplomatic ties and peace. One exception to this system was Egypt, which never gave royal women, but happily accepted the royal women of other states. Another commonly traded item was gifts. Each state had a specialty in what they could produce in their region. Egypt mined gold, Lebanon logged cedars, murex shells valued for their dye came from Northern Africa, Canaan specialized in jewelry, and Cyprus had its glass, beads of gold, faience, and agate.
Members of the Great Powers Club
- Kingdom of Assyria later known as the Assyrian Empire
- Kingdom of Babylon
- Egyptian Empire
- Hittite Empire
- Mitanni Kingdom later known as the Hurrian Empire
One of the main primary sources we have of this Club of Great Powers comes from the Amarna letters in Egypt. King Akhenaten moved the capital of Egypt to Amarna and there kept the correspondence of him and his father with the rest of the members of the Club of Great Powers. A collection of 350 clay tablets was found there. The vast majority of the letters were written to Egypt’s vassals in the Syria-Palestine region, and a minority are written to kings whom the Egyptians kings considered equal. They were the kings of Babylonia, Assyria, Mittani, Hatti, Alashiya (on Cyprus), and Arzawa (in south-west Anatolia). Collections of letters on clay tablets are also found throughout the Near East.
- Grainger, John D. (2016). Great Power Diplomacy in the Hellenistic World. London, England: Taylor & Francis. p. 6. ISBN 9781317124870.
- Mieroop, Marc Van De (3 August 2015). A history of the ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC (Thirdition ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey, United States: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 20–21. ISBN 9781118718162.
- Grainger, John D. (2016). Great Power Diplomacy in the Hellenistic World. London, England: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781317124870.
- Mieroop, Marc Van De (3 August 2015). A history of the ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC (Thirdition ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey, United States: John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 9781118718162.