Edge of Inspiration: Bronze Age Trade

You know I kind of dig ancient history as a setting. Nefertiti Overdrive – set in 25th Dynasty Ancient Egypt – is on its way to backers and should be in stores by November and I had previously dabbled with Immortals of Bronze. Listening to the Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt over at the Great Courses has, as usual, hit on more than one points of inspiration.

Ruins of Byblos from “gordontour” used under Creative Commons

In the last lecture I discussed for the Listen Through, Dr. Brier talked about Old Kingdom Egypt’s trade missions, and specifically to the Sinai for turquoise and Lebanon for cedar. That definitely hit the right buttons. Immortals of Bronze was all about trade missions as the connectors of cultures, and  1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed does a great job of showing how trade created the kind of intricate, interwoven networks we believe happened only with “globalization.”

To me, the city of Byblos is key. This was likely the destination of the Egyptian mission to acquire cedars, and from the very cursory research I did, it sounds like a relatively cosmopolitan place. I’m thinking the group could similarly be cosmopolitan – my first thoughts are of an Egyptian emissary and his (or, if we want to have some fun with it, her) bodyguard, a Phoenician captain (yes, the Phoenicians were an artificial division of cultures used by the Greeks, but we’re gaming, so shorthand is acceptable), maybe an astrologer (wizard?) from Mesopotamia and a barbarian or two for “fish out of water” moments (maybe one from Central Asia/Turkey and one from Sub-Saharan Africa, just to stir things up).

Yes, the trade mission would get them to Byblos, but they would be facing political negotiations as well as economic ones as the city is rife with factions. There would be favours needed to achieve for the rulers, and that could lead to unexpected discoveries, possibly of “monsters” now thought mythological. The Sneferu mission described in the lecture would have been around 2600 BCE, so before even the Mycenean civilization in Greece, but easily encompassing the height of Mesopotamia. Adventures in and around “the Great Green” could be awesome, and this is a period with little actual primary evidence, so your version of history can be just as valid as any others.

You can find Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt here.

The Listen Through for lecture two “Sneferu” is here.

A discussion of my attempt at Bronze Age gaming here.

My review of 1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed here and you can learn more about the book here.

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