The ancient Near East in the 1200 to 500 BC era was characterized by the presence of several large empires as well as smaller kingdoms. Large empires such as the Neo-Assyrian Empire were known for their aggressive military tactics which allowed them to extend their territory. The Assyrians revolutionized military warfare and spent many centuries at war expanding in the area and establishing a series of provinces in the territory.
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Similar patterns could be seen from the rise of the Persian Empire that was led by Cyrus who attacked regions and neighboring states with fertile land and wealth assimilating everything into the empire. Similar to the Assyrians, Persia was divided into administrative regions which established a system of tax collection, resource allocation, and communication, offering loyalty to the king and capital of the empire (Freeman, 2014).
Meanwhile, smaller states such as Israel, Phoenicians, and early Egyptians were attempting to survive and maintain their historical lands and identities in the midst of conquering empires. Small states focused on developing their culture and economy, based on historical relationships and geographically positioned trade routes that allowed commerce to flourish. These states were also heavily religious as Israel and Phoenicians are historic tribes of the Old Testament and early Egyptians focused strongly on their deities and building of the first Pyramids (Freeman, 2014).
The large empires and small states co-existed in a fragile balance that was most often characterized by the control that large empires exerted over these states. The small states were allowed to thrive but remained under the direct provincial control of the empires. For example, Egypt was too far away from the Assyrian capital, so the empire relied on intermediaries for control. Small states had to pay tribute or provide resources to the empires, such as Phoenicians which shipped metal to Assyrians for their war efforts (Freeman, 2014).
At the same time, the large empires realized the importance of small states as an extension of their economic capabilities and trade, as Phoenicians, Israelites, and Egyptians had geographic positioning with access to the Mediterranean which opened trading routes with the Greeks and Romans.
Freeman, Charles. (2014). Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.