THE IRON AGE, AND THE ARCHAIC
AND CLASSICAL PERIODS
The empires of the Late Bronze Age suffered decline, or even total destruction, during the late thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. Attacking “sea peoples” are mentioned in Egyptian sources; the Hittite empire was annihilated by foreign aggressors c. 1190; and the Mycenaean palaces on the Greek mainland were subjected to destruction. Whatever the causes of these disturbances, the decline of the old empires divided the area among a large number of petty states and involved tendencies towards cultural isolation.
With the disintegration of the Hittite empire, Asia Minor disappears from the history of water technology for several centuries. Egypt survived as a state, but was divided into two parts in c. 1070 B.C. and then suffered political, cultural and economic decline. Assyria not only survived, but experienced a new bloom under Tiglath-pileser I (1114–1076 B.C.), whose laws show continued consideration for wells, dykes and irrigation networks (Bruun pp. 545–6). Tiglath-pileser also speaks proudly about his botanical gardens,1 an interest shared by many of his Neo-Assyrian successors, which also made new demands on garden irrigation.
Even if northern Mesopotamia was less dependent on artificial irrigation than was Sumer in the South, irrigation techniques were far from unimportant, and written documents mention canalisation projects even in the historically obscure tenth century.2 When Assyria regained international power from c. 900 B.C. onwards and the Assyrian capitals increased in population and importance, the kings
1 See, particularly, Grayson 1991, 55 no A.0.87.10, lines 71–75: “Beside this ter-
race I planted a garden for my lordly leisure. I excavated a [canal] from the river
Chusir (and) [directed it] into this garden. I brought up the remainder of that water
to the city plain for irrigation. Within this garden I built a palace….”.
2 Grayson 1991, 127 no. A.0.96.2001, lines 7–15, describes the restoration of
abandoned canals around the river Chabur (c. 970 B.C.).