As the Egyptians lost military power after the 18th dynasty, they were expelled from most of their Asiatic possessions by the Hittites, a people of eastern Asia Minor. They were the first to use iron, obtaining it from the country afterward known as Pontus. In the 13th century we find them supplying Egypt with that metal. Soon afterward their power de clined, as they were assailed on the East by the Assynans, and on the opposite border by many roving tribes from western Asia Minor, from the "Egean Islands, and probably from Europe. One of these peoples from the Minoan area settled on the Mediterranean Coast south of and are known as the Philistines; others raided the Egyptian Delta (12th century a.c.). Before this date the interior of Syria had come to be occupied by new Semitic tribes from the desert, the Hebrews in the South and the Arammans about Damascus in the North. Meanwhile there flourished in the .1Egean region the Middle Minoan civilization, centering in Cnossus and Phiestus, Crete, and manifesting itself in great palaces, sumptuous dwellings of nobles, a high development of arts, industries and commerce, polychrome pottery of great va riety and brilliancy, a linear script as yet uncle ciphered, and a bureaucratic administration similar to that of Egypt. In most respects this civilization far outshone the Oriental. The Late Minoan period (1600-1200 ac.) is one of stagnation and decline, in which the centre of political power shifted from Crete to Tiryns and Mycenae on the Greek Peninsula.
Prom about 2000 B.c. Indo-European tribes were entering various parts of the civilized world, including Iran and India in Asia and Greece and Italy in Europe. Everywhere they blended with the natives, and usually gave their language to the people resulting from the amalgamation. In the Greek Peninsula the Hellenic or Greek race was thus formed. From the mainland it gradually colonized the islands and the eastern coasts of the 1Egean Sea. About 1400 the cities of Crete were devastated, probably by Hellenic and other raiders. After ward these sites were occupied by far poorer and less civilized villages. The decline of the Minoans through internal decay and barbarian immigrations brought their period to a close about 1200 B.C. In Italy there prevailed the bronze civilization, including the peculiar Terre mare settlements in the Po Valley. Sicily and southern Italy were in communication with the lEgean area, whence they received various cul tural elements, and probably colonies.
IV. The Growth and Decline of the Sy rian Kingdoms; Rise of the Assyrian Em pire; the Greek Middle Age; the Early Iron Age and the Coming of the Etruscans in Italy, 1200-700 B.c.—As the Minoans declined, the Phoenicians succeeded for a time to their commercial position in the Mediterranean. From what has been said it is clear that they were by no means the earliest mariners. At first Sidon was their leading city, but after a time its place was taken by Tyre. The Phoenic ians explored the coasts as far as the Pillars of Hercules (Strait of Gibraltar) and even the adjoining Atlantic seaboard, planting along the way trading stations, some of which like Carth age (founded about 800 a.c.) became flourish
ing cities. Their civilization, with that of all Syria, was fundamentally Babylonian, affected to some extent by Egyptian commerce and con quest. Their alphabet seems to have been de rived by a process of selection from the Minoan script, and was the first purely phonetic system. The Greeks adopted it with modifications, probably about 900 B.C.
The Hebrews under their most famous kings, David (about 1000 a.c.) and Solomon, developed a great political power; but after the death of Solomon they split into two king doms, Judah and Israel. Damascus, which David had acquired, again became the capital of an independent Aramaean kingdom. Near the end of the period, however, all Syria excepting Tyre fell under the Assyrian yoke. The people of Damascus (about 730 a.c.) and Israel (722 a.c.) were carried into captivity, and Judah be came tributary. Babylon, too, was definitely conquered (728 Lc.). Egypt, again declining, divided into many small principalities, while Ethiopia rose to a power of the first importance. Her king conquered the Nile Valley to its mouth in 728 a.c. But the greatest political event of the period was the rise of the Assyrian Empire. Through persistent warfare carried on by a line of able kings for crushing frequent rebellion as well as for new conquests, the empire reached the height of glory, though not yet its widest extent, under Sargon a.c.).
Babylonia was crippled for centuries by the invasion of barbarous Chaldeans, who were Semites from Arabia; and it was not till the following period that the reinvigoration, caused by these virile people, prepared the lower Euphrates Valley for a new imperial career.
Meantimegreat progress was made in civili zation. The Hebrews, afflicted by Assyria, were purging themselves of polytheism, and under the lead of inspired prophets were learning to look upon Jehovah as the only God, almighty, pure and jealous, who demanded of his worshippers not only ceremonial exactness but clean hearts and spiritual devotion. With the Assyrians, notwithstanding their strong religious nature, political motives were dominant. For strength ening their empire they adopted the plan (1) of recruiting their partly from conquered peoples, (2) of transplanting populations from one part of the empire to another, to break up local attachments and weaken the power of resistance, (3) of organizing some of the con quered countries into provinces ruled by Assyr ian officials, though many were still left under their native rulers. In government and admin istration, accordingly, Assyria was at this time the most progressive of Oriental nations. Effi ciency, however, was offset by harshness. The transplanting of populations is always attended by extreme suffering, to which the Assyrians lent a deaf ear. They mercilessly exacted trib ute; and suppressed rebellions with horrible cruelty. The records teem with royal boastings of tortures inflicted upon conquered enemies.