The Bronze Age
The Bronze Age
The Bronze Age began in the Near and Middle East, around 3300 BCE... and although the discovery of the bronze-making process was an important step in human evolution, there were certain other events that also occurred around that time, which were of even greater significance.
For example, another great milestone in the evolution of western civilization was the invention of systems of writing, around 3000 BCE. The earliest of these were Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. This marks the beginning of recorded history, which offers us many valuable insights into those distant times.
Yet without doubt, the event which had the most profound impact on the course of western civilization was the Kurgan invasion, which brought radical changes to every aspect of life in the indigenous cultures. These included the establishment of violent barbaric kingdoms, whose prosperity was based upon the enslavement of innocent people, large-scale organized warfare, and the reduction in the status of women to mere property... supported by a religious belief-system in which violent male war-gods encouraged and sanctioned such behavior.
The term "Bronze Age" came into use long before the facts about the Kurgan invasion were known. It was a convenient way to classify various archeological sites... but in light of our present awareness of events, perhaps terms like "pre-Kurgan" and "post-Kurgan" would be more appropriate, as we attempt to understand our history.
In this chapter, we will focus on events in the Bronze Age Near East (modern-day Turkey), since that is where the earliest evidence of Goddess religion has so far been found. In later chapters, we will also discuss the history of Goddess religion in some other important Bronze Age civilizations, including the Sumerians of southern Iraq, the Egyptians , the Minoans on the island of Crete, and the Indus Valley Civilization of Pakistan and northwestern India.
When the Kurgan invasion began around 4000 BCE, the earliest waves must have passed through the Near East, but because the population there was widely dispersed and relatively poor, the Kurgans appear to have ignored them, and continued onwards towards the large wealthy (Sumerian) cities to the south.
Following the conquest of each particular area, life for the indigenous people was dramatically altered, as their long-established Goddess culture was forced to accept the new Kurgan war-god. This created great confusion, and eventually resulted in various forms of polytheism.
Once the concept of multiple deities became accepted, more and more of them were created, to serve whatever purposes the political leaders of the time might require. The Goddess was reduced to a mere secondary role, often as the "subservient spouse" of the war-god. However, no matter how the pantheon might be expanded, the male war-god invariably remained the leader.
In the Near East, records dating to about 2400 BCE tell us that the central and southern parts of Turkey were occupied by an artistic and peaceful group of people known as the Hattians. They were in fact the indigenous people... descendants of the Neolithic culture that had built such magnificent cities as Catal Hoyuk.
Around 2100 BCE, a tribe of Kurgans known as the Hittites entered Turkey from the general area of the Ukraine. Perhaps they knew that the cities furthur to the south were already heavily militarized and fortified... which meant that Turkey, although clearly not as wealthy, would be much easier to conquer. In any case, the Hittites decided to establish their kingdom in Turkey.
The Hattians recognized the military superiority of the Hittites, and wisely chose to yield control to them, without resistance. As difficult as this may have been, it spared them from great loss of life... and in addition, it enabled them to better preserve their form of Goddess religion, and pass it on to future generations.
The name of the original Hittite war-god is not known... in accounts that date to a later period he is called Tarhunt, however that actually is the Hittite translation of Teshub , the older war-god of their neighbors and allies, the Hurrians.
The Hurrians were yet another Kurgan tribe, who had invaded the Near East several centuries before the Hittites. They controlled the area immediately to the southeast of the Hittite kingdom, in what today would be northern Iraq. Apparently their war-god, and that of the Hittites, were regarded as being more or less the same deity.
Tarhunt was frequently depicted riding in a chariot, carrying a mace or battle-ax... just as did the Hurrians and the Hittites themselves.
Over time, the Hittites absorbed and adopted some of the cultural and religious practices of the indigenous peoples, including belief in the Mother Goddess of the Hattians. The original name of the Goddess is unknown, however she seems to have evolved into Arinniti... the spouse of Tarhunt.
On the western coast of Turkey things were significantly different, as the indigenous people in that area had managed to remain relatively independent. They possesed considerable wealth, obtained through sea trade, and this enabled them to hire mercenaries and quickly mobilize large armies for self-defense when necessary. Therefore, Goddess religion retained more of it's original character in the western states, and their societies were typically far more peaceful and prosperous.
As the second millennium unfolded, the major nations in the region grew more powerful and bitter rivalries developed. The Greeks competed with the western states of Turkey for dominance in maritime trade. The Hittites fought the Egyptians for control of Canaan , while Babylon struggled to combat the growing power of Persia to the east. Although no one at the time realized it, the stage was set for a massive regional conflict that would bring down the great civilizations of the Bronze Age, destroy hundreds of cities and towns, and leave hundreds of thousands of people dead. It would be called the Trojan War.
The war takes its name from the fact that Troy was the capitol of the most powerful of the western Turkish states, known as Troad. The conflict began around 1250 BCE, when the Hittites seized the island of Cyprus for it's rich copper mines. Cyprus, however, was allied with the western states of Turkey, who depended on it for their own supply of copper... and so, they reacted by using their great wealth to hire mercenaries, and launched a massive attack on the Hittites which completely destroyed their empire and left all of Turkey in Trojan hands.
Unfortunately, the end of the Hittite empire destabilized the entire region, and resulted in a series of battles between the Trojans and the kingdoms of Canaan and Egypt. Furthurmore, when the Greeks learned about these battles, they decided to take advantage of the fact that the western states of Turkey had been left relatively undefended, and to strike a blow at their maritime rivals. They therefore launched a suprise attack against the Trojan homeland.
The Trojans were caught off-guard, but using their formidable sea-power, they retaliated by attacking and destroying nearly every coastal city in Greece. Eventually however, they became engaged on too many fronts, found themselves and their allies outnumbered, and were defeated.
In the end, the entire region was devastated. Both the Hittite and Trojan empires had been literally wiped off the face of the Earth. Canaan was reduced to a complete ruin. Egypt had been forever crippled as a world power... while Greece, although it had suffered severe damage, eventually managed to recover.
The Trojan War marks the end of the Bronze Age. Most of the great metalsmiths were dead, their foundries destroyed, and their secrets lost. The so-called Iron Age would now begin, with this crude ugly metal taking the place of bronze. In addition, most of the literate people... the scribes, scholars, and teachers... had been killed. That is why so few records from this time can be found. Even Greece entered into a period of complete illiteracy, known as the Greek Dark Ages , which lasted for nearly 400 years... indeed, they would have to adopt an entirely new alphabet, to enable their writing capability to begin again.
This tragic outcome was not merely the result of competition over scarce resources, or "too many people in too small a space"... for the people of the Goddess cultures often had a high population density, but they were able to live together quite peacefully. Clearly, this self-destructive behavior was the consequence of a profoundly flawed philosophy.
Initially, attacking defenseless people in order to rob and enslave them was relatively easy to do... however, once the region had become heavily militarized, furthur attempts to use violence to subjugate others only resulted in a series of pointless and costly wars. Apparently those in command failed to grasp the implications of this pattern. Therefore, as the various nations in the region became more powerful, and their armies grew in size, it was inevitable that a disastrous conflict would occur.
The philosophy of violent conquest and domination, firmly rooted in the worship of tyranical and vicious war-gods, had brought about an all too predictable tragedy. One can only wonder how much better off our world might now be, if such a vast amount of blood and treasure had not been wasted on such a foolish and destructive war.
As we look back on these events of 3300 years ago, we may note with sadness that mankind has repeated the same terrible mistakes many more times since then... and indeed, the very same philosophy which lead to them in the past... and the very same sort of war-god religions that sanction it... still continues to afflict our world today.