Bronze Age Syria and the Levant (Part One, 2400 - 1800 BCE).

In 2017, we released a charity series to raise money for victims of the Syrian crisis. Now, I release those episodes to you, so that the ongoing conflict will not be forgotten. This is Part One, exploring the history and archaeology of Ebla, a major city-state in central Syria.


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00:00:13Syrian Tales episode 1 roots
00:00:18I often think about the boundaries which separates humans from one another borders I'm not geographical they have mental does social philosophical and sometimes even emotional we all have borders and I'll minds and our hearts they are formed by our experience by what we see with our own eyes and what is reported to us in speech or video from those things we have emotional responses and those responses to other people to situations the concept I won't give us the borders we take for granted in ancient Syria borders wear loose Beyond cities physical walls the borders of a territory when more about who was willing to obey you then by what lands you could call mine the result of this is that we pick out enemies and all friends depending on the situations in which we find ourselves the ones we trade with communicate with and talk to
00:01:18we might consider them friends but when situations change when circumstances are upheaved or Outsiders interfere in the situation those friends might very quickly become how enemies the Syrian tiles that I am giving you in the series my attempt to explore that Concept in the ancient world it is my hope that through these stories we will gain some great insight into some of the complexities of human societies and behavior which ultimately underlie the conflicts between episodes are dedicated to
00:01:57A Story begins in the best of times a time when people of the Syrian City that I'm going to focus on what living a Charmed Life they were prosperous they was settled and they were comfortable but as with all things the great pleasures of their life and never totally had to come to an end from Great Heights these people also had to experience great Lowe's the thing is this story is not unique to the time in which they lived this story could easily be transplanted to the modern-day and play out with very similar situations so this is a title of ancient Syria and of modern Syria
00:02:40I'll Story begins long long ago around 2400 BC 8 we are in Central Syria about 40 miles Southwest of modern Aleppo to the West the Mediterranean Sea to the east the Euphrates River here in the center it is a land of deserts Oasis sporadic grasslands and a few towns it is a land ruled by the city called nebulae are the best that I had to offer and eventually the worst was one of the first great cities of central Syria it was about halfway between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates and it grew up in a strategic location right on the central trade routes that pass through this part of the world because of this the city grew rich and very quickly became the equivalent of them
00:03:40some estimates put the population of emblems Kingdom which includes the city The Villages the farming communities etcetera 250,000 people for the area and for the time that is absolutely massive essentially was one of the first great Kingdoms in the near East its people and its rulers with living a very Charmed Life on top of a Rocky Hill Top Which Way call at tell the houses temples workshops and cemeteries requested around the still rising up the slopes at the top it was the central governing organization the Royal Palace
00:04:28Palace of ebla was a huge complex dominating the hilltop of the city its walls what plastic white and it was a very compact area store rooms clustered around throwing Apartments filled out extra buildings and narrow Alleyways and stairways round their way between the different sections looking at modern reconstructions I am strongly reminded of the Palaces at kinosis or the small towns in the Greek Islands today certainly it was a cramped but lively place to live and work from the flat roofs of the palace one could look out on the table and on the surrounding landscape seeing for miles in every direction the palace was a commanding place from these Heights the whole world I have seen the subject to the whims of Evelyn's ruling class with a very best of times that being said how did the ancient have lights live what was life
00:05:28like for this fabulously wealthy little community
00:05:32is the height of a blues history the government was lead and directed by one man not the king but the Vizio the Vizio or Luke Sansa head of the administration acted like the CEO of Evelyn's Royal household he directed trade projects military activities and all men of agricultural Affairs his job was complex and extensive fortunately we know a lot about it at the time I'll story takes place the Vizio of ebla is a man named Ibiza Kia Ibiza cute has wide-ranging authorities and is involved in many different aspects of Applied life but above all it was his job to organize the trade of asset and most importantly it's sustenance the lights came from ancient pastoral Roots this meant that their economy was based largely on the hoods
00:06:32sheep goats and cattle with a Mainstay of it agricultural produce is not in a particularly fertile area of this part of the world it's more grassland fan Farmland flights had to adapt and they used wondering hurts to support themselves most of the time by the time of Ibiza Kia Sephia blights had diversify. And increased various activities which they were engaged in Roots always went back to that past oral tradition this is encapsulated I think by the fact that the Royal treasury the most valuable part of the palace was named the house of will
00:07:15basically no matter how sophisticated the applied Society got they never lost that ancient connection to the land to their animals and the production which came from those things Ibiza kid manage things like the Royal treasury but the name for the Royal treasury was the house of weaving or the house of will that should give you a sense of what the Ed lights will about even at the peak of their society the parts of the government which one most concerned with management and administration they was still rooted in this mentality of raising animals caring for animals and using the products of animals to make a better lifestyle
00:07:584 people in this stage managing food was obviously the highest priority of their daily life compared to the rest of Syria the people of a black man uncommon diet in many respects that diets was almost Mediterranean Festival they hardly use grain at all compared to the river cultures instead food production was focused on the hoods livestock of all kinds but used for food and production access to water they have lights also tended to grow olives and grapes more than cereals Vine zaharia once they get going so they have lights had a diet rich in olives and olive oil and and wine I don't know about you but sign me up for that right now
00:08:46so no matter how sophisticated ebla became as an urban environment it's basic assumptions the experience has what shapes that societies mental borders what all rooted in that ancient pastoral way of life naturally they gave you to the world around them in terms of their access to food sources and the product which could be produced by things like olives shape the grapes which brings me to the question about ebla Society was postural like many communities but itself was incredibly Rich what made the headlights so rich well as with all the great cities of ancient Syria what made the people of eblis so rich with a combination of industriousness and trade
00:09:41the people of ebla practiced in early form of what we might call Trade investment trade convoys was supported by a group of wealthy individuals who provided goods for trade and funding the Convoy then headed off to its destinations where was expected to trade its goods for a profit this profit would either be in the form of specific Goods that they were wanted or in some kind of currency which usually took the form of raw metal or linen when the Convoy had sold all of its goods and gathered something in return it headed back to a blood when it got home. Goods were distributed among the investors would put up the initial outlay these investors then reinvested their profits into new convoys and the whole cycle just went on and on Ancient Proto capitalism
00:10:33almost the word capitalism has too many modern aspects to be useful in ancient history but suddenly the Ed lights were very skilled in the art of trading or obtaining what they had in to what they needed
00:10:51of all possible trade goods the abides value two things about all they valued metal and linen metals like silver or kebaba and linen called tokes credibly valued by the ancient deadlights these items were at the currency of ancient Syria because they were trouble but they could be used for a variety of different things so they will also flexible
00:11:21it looks did not have easy access to missile or two Lennon metal requires Minds which episode does not have and linen requires flax which doesn't grow in that region so the flights focused on Gathering all the metal and linen that they could that craftworkers both men and women then turned these raw materials into finished goods Goods like jewelry ornaments decorations clothing accessories and all the luxury goods of an ancient Bronze Age Society
00:11:52ultimately this kind of Savvy trading and production made the headlights incredibly Rich that use gold and precious stones like lapis lazuli from far away Afghanistan to make artworks and that people would probably dressed very well for the time one historian describes it like this quote it is not difficult to imagine the Grandeur of an ad light ruler of a Syrian Woman clothes into neck cloak and veils and wearing the most sophisticated and costly Jewels like lapis lazuli gold eleonore amethyst ebla must truly have overflowed with riches not just in the treasury storehouses the coffins and many hugs must also have been full of jewels and quotes
00:12:41historians and archaeologists really can't get enough of ebla the site is just overflowing with fascinating material the appliance were Rich they were well connected and I will prosperous life and the city was wonderful by the standards of the day so how did it all go so wrong before the modern war in Syria began in 2011 80 many of its cities boasted wonderful architecture in public spaces large open plazas we're doing with fountains with grass and with trees marketplaces call Pizzazz with filled with dozens are hundreds of shops selling different ways to terrorists and her locals mosques when marble and Polished Stone decorated in Rich patterns and colors and take houses featured on Nate facades and public Heritage sites like some of the ancient ruins was surrounded by Gardens and trees
00:13:39now these areas are Rubble Shattered by bums burned by fire and riddles buy bullets beautiful cities believe it or not the description I just gave you could be transplanted with very few tweaks to the ancient city of ebla around 2250 BC 8-4 take the archaeological remains of ancient ebla reveal a layer of total and utter destruction the old Palace on top of the hill was burned to the ground the city around it was sick and obliterated and the Living Spaces of thousands of people what turns to Ash it seems that an Invader attack tablet and in the course of a truly horrific says reduced the Central City to devastated ruins once beautiful palaces became tumbles of Ash once Lively centers of Commerce and trade became broken piles of debris
00:14:39the destruction was so thorough when people and negatively started to rebuild they had to abandon the old Palace and Ty Lee and start a brand new one we did not know how many died in this attack but we do know what caused it was obviously not as grandola Joe magnificent as some Modern cities get but for the day it was a truly Splendid area such a community could not drive so beautifully without attracting attention as well as attracted outside grade and Pacific inevitably became embroiled in Conflict some of these conflicts turned out quite well during his. Of service and embla the Vezina if he's a kid Layton Army against one of the city's major Rivals the city of Mozzy maybe is a kid and the Egg light warriors with Victorious again Smiley and he recorded it as a great victory for his people
00:15:38that's not all conflicts have a happy ending for that participants and inevitably the city of ebla soffit of Fate similar to many of the cities of Syria today
00:16:05decades before the total Destruction of the city of wars and ruin far away the first hint of this that we see in the record was a letter from the city of Mari far away on the river Euphrates at Mari a local warlord had overthrown that King and type in command of the entire region quote that says an attack on the new king of Mary to the king of ebla behold I raised piles of corpses in the mountainous country of Lebanon the cities of tea ballot until we die besieged I raise piles of corpses in the mountains of and I Behold a blue eel the king of Marie I defeat I raise piles of corpses there the king of Mary fled to naira at the end of The Fortress of how should one there I received a tribute the scepters indicate
00:17:05legitimate sovereignty of many countries I gathered up I raised piles of corpses there as well and of course now disturbances in Faraway Kingdom it's nothing new in the ancient world but the thing is Wars in particular Harold in trouble for ebla Mario on the Euphrates River was one of Apple's trade partners and occasionally it's rifle Mari was close enough to Ampla but the two could fight each other directly if they wanted to if a foreign war Lord had conquered Mary would a blood be next
00:17:41well in a word yes although not from the source that we might expect
00:17:47we don't know what happened to this foreign warlord an octagon but we do know that soon after his little Escapade the lens of Mesopotamia were overrun by a whole new threat this threat was the kingdom of akkad and it was forming one of the world's first Empires
00:18:07the acadians are well there in a standing Lee influential people in the history of Mesopotamia the acadians rank up there with Babylon and Sumeria for political and cultural influence their language Acadian was the dominant language for centuries even filtering all the way into the court of ancient Egypt the acadians rose absolutely phenomenal Heights and they changed the whole world around them
00:18:36around 2250 Bay CA a king of akkad named not seen recorded the following text quote
00:18:48at the time when the gods that gone to create a favorable Destiny for not in sin King not in sin had his statues sculpted and dedicated to the god of us speaks the mighty not even seen King of the four corners of the earth quotes that God has given me edla the god muggle opened up the past but now I'm sending a strong that he gave him the cities about a man and ebla with the weapon of Diagon who praises has Kingdom Now teams in the mighty defeated Armon and ebla and from the banks of the Euphrates he's subdued all the peoples of the God had given him they served him and quote
00:19:30not in person claims to have defeated ebla and other communities in Conquest 07 IROC was it idle boasting well as that destruction lair in Deadlight and Plies no historians now suspect that's not even seen or one of his near contemporaries was the king responsible for the Savage destruction of ebla how it happened or why things are still unknown what is clear is that a king of akkad around 2250 BCE invaded Central Syria defeated the soldiers of ebla and then captured and burned the city at the time was strong enough that it didn't have fortified walls so the collapse of the sissy was probably quite Swift a sudden Onslaught and devastation
00:20:26and so from there the city of ebla fell from the best of times to the very West the said he was put to the sword to the torch and it was never the same again the akkadian conquest was not simply an act of imperialist aggression in fact it was part of a larger process in the region that might actually have some relevance for how we understand the Syrian conflict today the fall of ebla took place within a larger crisis that Afflicted Syria and the nearest around 2300 to 2200 BC 8
00:21:12no one is exactly sure why but many cities in the area at this time found themselves suffering from economic loss Invasion and state population archaeologists are investigating some of the current theories are alarmingly relevance today in 2015 researchers from the University of california-berkeley published a study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study suggested statistics for a prolonged period of drought in the region drought killed livestock Harvest and drove up food prices
00:21:56this cause shortages among the world population that led to malnutrition in their children does encouraged one and a half million people to leave the Syrian Countryside seeking better Fortunes in the settings unfortunately this will Exodus coincided with a flood of refugees fleeing the nearby war in Iraq which was also suffering the effects of the Sprout the problem became worse and unrest grew people's needs turn to desperation desperation turn to anger and anger comes to political action according to this hypothesis these hardships and other factors may have helped spark The Descent that caused the war in Syria to begin
00:22:44well around 2300 BC the near East and Egypt so a similar shift and the regional climate rainfall diminished in this. And then that's began to expand grasslands disappeared Wells dried up and agriculture became less and less productive the result for them was equally catastrophic is today in Egypt the Royal household lost its influence leading to the first intermediate. And Syria cities like ebla suffered food shortages economic hardship and eventually the words that brought Kings like neram scene of a card to their doorstep as different kingdoms experience hardship and their own backyards they began to search Elsewhere for a solution for some of them the solution was an aggressive one and so the acadians I have suffering the same effects of the drought across the region decided that the best way to increase their Farmland pets
00:23:44was through conquest and it's not a universal explanation for what happened to Evelyn but the story of Evelyn's collapse is alarmingly relevant today as the climate crew dryer food surpluses to client this increase the pressure on local populations and before too long war was looming are we seeing similar situations today well without getting into secular logic I'll save quite possibly
00:24:22despite the brutality of the akkadian conquest the destruction of ebla was not a total catastrophe first of all people did eventually return to the site and within a few centuries and blow was thriving once again although it never regained its former wealth and Glory the city still manage to be a place of life and love for many generations to come
00:24:45secondly the destruction of a city had an unintended benefit when the says he was burned the Royal archives where they kept their clay tablets documenting receipt send accounts and then buried the burning help preserve the clay tablets by baking them as if they were in an oven so it increase the durability then when the buildings collapsed on top of them and buried them they were protected from the elements for Millennia so the akkadian destruction of ebla had the completely unintended benefit of preserving one of the world's greatest racing archives archaeologists working at a table have uncovered no fewer than 15,000 tablets and fragments of tablets at the ancient Citadel the vast majority of these rediscovered tablets comes from the palace which was destroyed in 2250 BC
00:25:45the akkadians so the fall of ebla left some positives for the greater Legacy of humanity I wish that story have ended differently but we have to work with what we have it would be nice if a thousand years from now future historians I able to look back on the current Syrian war and say the same thing but we'll never know so we have to do what we can now while we're able to do it
00:26:19is episode 2 of Syrian Tales we will visit the second golden age of ancient Syrian culture where you will encounter of weld full of fiber and trade extensive communication and all the intricacies of politics between ancient and great cities if that's not enough the next episode features The Voice talents of some truly wonderful podcasters have helped me bring the story to life this episode will fit your wonderful contributions by Drew vehrenkamp of Wonders of the World Kevin Stroud of the history of English and Robin Pearson of the history of Byzantium episode 2 and again thank you for helping the people of Syria

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