Blood and Iron: Political Fragmentation in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean

54 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2024

See all articles by Patrick R. Fitzsimmons

Patrick R. Fitzsimmons

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 22, 2024

Abstract

The introduction of iron metallurgy around 1200 BCE was a transformative technology shock, marking the end of the Bronze Age. Bronze required a mixture of copper and tin, with the relative scarcity of tin restricting access of the metal to elites and large imperial powers. In contrast, iron was associated with more equal access to weapons and agricultural tools. I put forward the theory that the introduction of iron reduced elite power relative to non-elites, leading to increased political fragmentation within a given area. I build on and empirically test the hypothesis that more equal access to weapons led to greater inter- and intra-polity competition, leading to higher levels of political fragmentation after 1200 BCE. I find that access to iron metallurgy is associated with a 1.5-2.5 unit increase in polity fragmentation, measured by the number of polities in a given grid-cell.

Keywords: Political fragmentation, disruptive technologies, ancient Mediterranean, violence

Suggested Citation

Fitzsimmons, Patrick, Blood and Iron: Political Fragmentation in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean (April 22, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4803578 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4803578

Patrick Fitzsimmons (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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