The Sea Peoples is the name given by modern scholarship to a group of allies who caused havoc among the nations of the Eastern Mediterranean including Egypt, which they invaded at least twice, in the 2nd millennium BC. The phrase ‘Sea Peoples’ was never used in ancient records, in fact, the coining of the term in 1855 is now generally attributed to French Egyptologist, Emmanuel de Rougé who used the term ‘peuples de la mer’ (literally “peoples of the sea”) in a description of reliefs at Medinet Habu. The phrase was later popularized by another French Egyptologist, Gaston Maspero (1846-1916). Eckart Kahlhofer has recently suggested that even earlier, J. F. Champollion (1790–1832) employed an equivalent term ‘gens navales’ to describe the occupants of the invading swan-necked boats.
Also related to the carvings at Medinet Habu is an interesting study of the Sea Peoples’ ships depicted there, by the nautical archaeologist Professor Andrea Salimbetti’s website has a lengthy paper on Aegean Bronze Age ships(al) as well as the Sea Peoples(am).
Cyprian Broodbank in The Making of the Middle Sea  argues that the Sea People “never actually existed as a single people. Instead, small roving bands were a symptom of the collapse, not the cause, and they were blown out of proportion by Egyptian propagandists working for Ramasses III.” (ai)
Broodbank is a co-author with Giulio Lucarini of a paper(av) about Mediterranean Africa that “draws on a new surge in data to present the first up-to-date interpretative synthesis of this region’s archaeology from the start of the Holocene until the threshold of the Iron Age (9600–1000 bc).”
Andrew Mark Henry offers a video in which he highlights the multiple mysteries surrounding the Sea Peoples primarily due to a lack of original documentation(bf).
One website(h) describes the Sea People as groups of dispossessed raiders driven by hunger following crop failures resulting from climate change. The same idea is expanded on by Lu Paradise in an extensive article(v).
A different view was expressed by the Egyptologist Robert Anderson who commented “It would seem that, rather than bands of plunderers, the Sea People were probably part of a great migration of displaced people. The migration was most likely the result of widespread crop failures and famine.”(d)
Evidence is mounting that climate change played a significant part in the Late Bronze Age collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean region. There is a school of thought that believes that the widespread societal disintegration was more the result of environmental factors rather than the depredations of the Sea Peoples(ag).
The Sea Peoples’ exact origin continues to be a matter of intense speculation(ad). The debate regarding their true identity has been ongoing for a long time and will probably continue as long as the chronologies of the Middle East are not fully harmonized to the satisfaction of most. One site offers 10 of the most popular identification theories(bh).
There is, however, some agreement that the Sea Peoples mounted two separate invasion attempts on Egypt around 1208 & 1176 BC (Facchetti & Negri).
Sea Peoples from the Adriatic
“While most of the Sea Peoples came from either the Aegean or the wider Mediterranean, many historians argue that groups from the Adriatic Sea also joined the migration. Specifically, Austrian historian Fritz Schachermeyr asserted in 1982 that the Sherden and Shekelesh were originally from the Adriatic and had connections to the ancient Illyrians.
Although Schachermeyr’s theory is not commonly held among students of the Sea Peoples, there are those who continue to believe that a famine in the Balkans drove several tribes, including the Illyrians, to migrate over land and over water(ba).”
Mycenaean Sea Peoples
The Oxford Companion to the Bible  is certain that the Sea Peoples were originally Mycenaean, who moved south, following the collapse of their civilisation at the end of the Late Bronze Age. They were repelled by the Egyptians and then moved on to the Levant where they later became known as the Philistines. A paper(ab) that also links the Philistines with the Sea Peoples from a biblical perspective is available.
Shelley Wachsmann(aj), also offers evidence that at least some Mycenaeans were involved with the Sea Peoples(ak).
There is a claim that the Sea Peoples also attacked Mycenaean Greece on two occasions and that Athens survived both(ae). Contrast that with the contention that there was a Mycenaean group within the Sea Peoples. The confusion surrounding the Sea Peoples is exemplified by the response to a question on the quora.com website(af).
Sea Peoples from Anatolia (Northern Levant)
Erick Wright, formerly a regular contributor to the now-defunct Atlantis Rising forums(b) had initially thought that Atlantis had been situated in Morocco but further research led him to conclude that Atlantis was located in what today is Southern Turkey and that Atlanteans were among the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt in 1200 BC. Another Atlantis Rising forum(e) on the subject is also worth a look as is another illustrated site(f) which includes a map of the homelands of the Sea Peoples.
The historian, Sanford Hoist, published a paper in which he argued(j) for an Anatolian origin for the Sea Peoples together with other groups such as the Phoenicians.
The most recent addition to our knowledge of the Sea Peoples appears to be imminent with the publication of a paper in the December 2017 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society. Written by Frederik Woudhuizen and Eberhard Zangger, the authors offer a translation of a 3200-year-old inscription That may refer to the Sea Peoples and link them with western Turkey. You can read more, now, on the Livescience website(z). In a 2006 paper(ac), The Ethnicity of the Sea Peoples, Woudhuizen included some groups from the Central Mediterranean as part of the Sea Peoples.
Erich Fred Legner offers an extensive paper(au) on the diversity of the Sea Peoples. Brian Janeway explored the idea that the Sea Peoples originated in the Northern Levant(aw).
Sea Peoples from Southern Levant (Modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel & Palestine)
Joseph Morris in his thesis(m) presented to the Classics Department of Florida State University in 2006 defined the Sea Peoples as “a coalition consisting of the indigenous populations of Syria-Palestine led by the neo-Hittite states.”
Eric Cline noted in 1117 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed  that the only member of the Sea Peoples alliance whose identity has been ‘firmly established’ is that of the Peleset who are accepted as Philistines. He also comments that identifying the Shekelesh with Sicily and the Shardana with Sardinia is based in part on the ‘consonantal similarities’ [p.4]. In a 2016 article, Cline wrote, “As for what role the Sea Peoples actually played in the destruction of civilizations around 1200 BCE and shortly thereafter, I personally think that they have been set up as a scapegoat, because of the Egyptian inscriptions, and that they were as much victims as oppressors. I doubt that they were responsible for all of the destructions that we blame on them and I think that they are only one of the many factors that together contributed to a “perfect storm” that ended the Bronze Age. These stressors, as they are sometimes called, probably also included drought, famine, earthquakes, and possible internal rebellions in addition to external invaders, all of which combined to cause a system to collapse.” (az)
In another paper(bi), Cline concluded as follows; “Let us simply restate the obvious, but frequently overlooked, observation that the earliest records attesting to the existence of Israel and the first indications of the phenomenon known as the Sea Peoples occurred simultaneously, in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign. It is possible that these are not independent events, although they are usually treated as such in published studies of ancient Israel, and instead were related processes.
To the legendary figures of Moses and Joshua associated with the biblical stories of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan, we might want to now add the far less legendary but still anonymous and mysterious warriors within the Sea Peoples – the Eqwesh, Teresh, Lukka, Shardana, and Shekelesh coming across the sea from Greece, Turkey, Sicily, and Sardinia – or without the chaos and destructions that they wrought in the land of Canaan, and the power vacuum that they created in the area, the Israelites might never have taken over the region and the history of Western Civilization might have taken a radically different course.”
Sea Peoples or North Sea Peoples?
Until the middle of the 20th century, there was a consensus that the Sea Peoples originated in the Mediterranean region. That is until Jürgen Spanuth published his claim that Atlantis had been located in the North Sea and equated the Atlanteans with the Sea Peoples. This radical idea, with some variations, was adopted by several commentators and unsurprisingly, many were from Northern Europe. Spanuth referred to them as the North Sea Peoples  and offered a range of evidence from the Egyptian inscriptions at Medinet Habu to support this idea. This evidence includes a variety of features that Egyptians used to portray the Sea Peoples such as types of swords, the shape of ships, shields and helmets as well as hair, clothing and shaving fashions. He then identified these Scandinavians as Atlanteans who later attacked Egypt. His opinion in this regard was strongly supported by Felix R. Paturi [1339.218]. More recently, Spanuth’s ideas have also been echoed by Walter Baucum in his Bronze Age Atlantis .
In the 2007 DVD, Atlantis: Secret Star-Mappers of a Lost World, Childress identifies the Baltic as the original home of the Sea Peoples, reminiscent of the theories of Jürgen Spanuth, half a century earlier.
Similarly, Ellis Peterson endorses Spanuth’s Scandinavian location for Atlantis(ax).
Eckart Kahlhofer has now (2022) been investigating the idea of ‘North Sea Peoples’ for thirty years and supports the concept in his free ebook. He claims that in the twelfth century BC, the Egyptians referred to the Sea Peoples as the Nine Bows people, which is a geographical term.
Before the emergence of these Bronze Age seafarers, there was a history of Northern Boat-Peoples who gradually expanded globally after the last Ice Age. A paper by Andres Pääbo charts their story(k). Zach Zorich is a freelance journalist and contributing editor at Archaeology magazine. In January 2016 he wrote an article(r) that would seem to contradict the idea of Northern European ‘Sea People’ invading Egypt, for the simple reason that sailing boats were not developed in Scandinavia until around the time of the Vikings! – “The plank boats and log boats being built in northern Europe were not the most advanced watercraft of their time. The Greeks, Egyptians, and other cultures around the Mediterranean Sea used sailing ships to conduct trade, and sails wouldn’t be used in Northern Europe until the Iron Age, during the seventh or eighth century CE.”
Another site(an) also describes the various ships of the period used by the Egyptians, Greeks and the Sea Peoples. One unusual suggestion on the same site is that some of the Sea Peoples, although allied with groups from across the Mediterranean, came from Britain and Northern Europe(ao)!
The Sea Peoples’ Alliances
I have used the plural because the evidence suggests that over the extended period of the Sea Peoples activities, the alliances did experience some change in members.
Federico Bardanzellu offers several papers on his Museo dei Dolmen website(n) in which he suggests specific homelands for many of the members of the alliance(o).
Bob Idjennaden along with co-author, Mebarek S. Taklit, have produced The Mysterious Sea Peoples attack Egypt , which provides an overview of the various incursions against Egypt during the 2nd millennium BC. The prominent part played by the Berbers or their ancestors in varying alliances that constituted the Sea Peoples is highlighted.
According to Raffaele D’Amato & Andrea Salimbeti [1152.20]+, the Denyen was one of the major groups of the Sea Peoples and have been known in ancient sources by different names; Danai, Danaoi, Danaus, Danaids, Dene, Danaids, Danuna. Others have linked them with the Danaan of Irish mythology. The Tuatha de Danaan invaded Ireland in prehistoric times. Having noted that Dan/Don/Danu were ancient words for water, it is not such a wild supposition that the Tuatha de Danaan were at least a constituent part of the Sea Peoples, an idea promoted by Leonardo Melis. A short review of D’Amato’s and Salimbeti’s book is available(bb).
On the other hand, Egerton Sykes thought that the Tuatha de Danaan were refugees from Atlantis, an idea he expressed in his 1949 edition of Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis. A paper offering a sober Irish (not an oxymoron) view of the Tuatha de Danaan should also be read(bc).
Sykes was convinced that Murias one of the four legendary cities of the de Danann had been located in Bimini. This highly speculative idea failed to bear fruit as have all efforts to identify the location of the other three cities, Falias, Finias and Gorias.
Speculation regarding the identity of individual tribes in the federation can be found on various websites(i)(f). One of the most comprehensive is provided by two Italian military historians, D’Amato & Salimbeti in their 2015 booklet + and on the internet(l) and both are to be highly recommended. They highlight the complexities involved in definitively identifying the members of the varying alliances that were loosely described as the ‘Sea Peoples’ over a three-hundred-year period.
Atlantis and the Sea Peoples
The German classical scholar, Wilhelm Christ, was probably the first to identify the invading Sea Peoples with the Atlanteans(p), predating Jürgen Spanuth’s theory by the better part of a century. Christ’s idea was also supported to varying degrees by Theodor Gomperz, Spyridon Marinatos, John V. Luce, and Herwig Görgemanns. A translation of the relevant text of Christ’s 1886 paper was recently published by Jason Colavito(bd).
Quite a number of other writers have identified the Atlanteans as the Sea Peoples whose invasion of the Eastern Mediterranean has been recorded in some detail by the Egyptians. One such high-profile identification in the 20th century was by Spyridon Marinatos. One of the latest to join this school is Dr Rainer W. Kühne who not only makes the same identification but, using satellite images, believes that he has pinpointed the capital of Atlantis in Southern Spain. His website has a list of comparisons of Atlanteans to the Sea Peoples(a), which is worth consideration.
‘Rider’, the anonymous author of an article(ae) concerning ‘the campaigns of the Sea Peoples’ on the allempires.com website also suggests that Plato’s Atlanteans can be identified with the Sea Peoples.
Frank Joseph contends that conflict between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples was part of the Trojan War [0108.11] and has identified the Meshwesh, one of the Sea Peoples, as Atlantean . His speculation extended to describing ‘the Atlantean Sea Peoples’ as culture bearers who were responsible for, among other matters, the famous Serpent Mound of Ohio(ay).
Eberhard Zangger argues that the Sea Peoples were survivors of the Trojan War that fled to various parts of both the central and eastern Mediterranean(g). He has written further on this identification and more on the Luwian Studies website(s). Zangger claims that the Sea Peoples were an alliance of Libyans and Western Anatolian (Luwian) states(w)(y), which seems odd since Plato describes the Atlanteans as mightier than Libya and Asia combined. If Zangger is correct in identifying Troy as Atlantis , he is also implying that according to Plato, a part (Troy) is greater than the whole (Libya and Asia combined), Troy being part of Asia! Something is wrong with his theory.
In a 2022 article in Popular Archaeology (Oct.15 2022)(bg) Zangger returns to the identification of Luwians as part of the Sea Peoples.
In 2020, Sean Welsh maintained that survivors of the eruption of Thera, which held the capital of Atlantis ‘morphed’ into the Sea Peoples .
A more recent (2017) paper(aa) on a conservative website suggests that the Sea Peoples were ‘early Western Europeans’.
W.S. Baird has also offered a western Mediterranean identification for the Sea Peoples, whom he considers to have originally been colonists from the Aegean who settled in the southeast of Spain and are known as the El Argar culture! Their society suffered some form of collapse around 1350 BC and according to Baird is in some way connected with the emergence of the Sea Peoples!(ap)
The most radical suggestion regarding the Sea Peoples has come from Jim Allen, who promotes a South American location for Atlantis. He also seemingly equates at least some of the Sea Peoples with his South American Atlanteans [077.123], and has drawn attention to the similarity of some of the Sea Peoples’ headgear with that of Amazonian ‘Indians’(c)!
The Malagabay website published a lengthy article(t) in July 2016, offering evidence along with some conjecture, supporting the equally extreme idea that the Sea Peoples had originated in India and having migrated westward, some of them reached the Aegean and became known as Dorians! The author of the article appears to have followed the ideas of Edward Pococke (1604-1691) published in his India in Greece .
Another unexpected twist is the claim by the discoverer of the Phaistos Disk, Luigi Pernier, that the characters used on the Disk are similar to the representations of the Sea Peoples at Medinet Habu.
Peter Adamis, an Australian ex-military serviceman has devoted a section of his website to the question of the Sea Peoples’ identity. It offers a large number of related videos and papers(be).
Two contributors to the Sea Peoples debate in the 1970s were Alessandra Nibbi (1923-2007)  and Nancy K. Sandars (1914-2015)  who, although they had their differences, appear to have agreed on: “(a) the ‘Sea Peoples’ were not one particular people, (b) their label as being ‘of the sea’ is misleading, and (c) earlier attempts to blame the cataclysmic collapse throughout the East Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age on the Sea Peoples is untenable.”
The earliest book devoted entirely to the Sea Peoples, which I am aware of, was Immanuel Velikovsky’s Peoples of the Sea. However, Velikovsky was more concerned with revising the chronologies of the Middle East and so focused on dating the invasion of the Sea Peoples rather than identifying their origins. Velikovsky has an interesting footnote in his Peoples of the Sea [758.4], which reads; “When Ramses III speaks of ‘Peoples of the Sea’ he specifies the Tkeker, the Shekelesh, the Teresh, the Weshesh and the Sherden (or Sardan); he specifies the Denyen as ‘Peoples of the Isles.'” It would be interesting to know the reason for the distinction.
Trude & Moshe Dothan have added another valuable book to the Sea Peoples’ literature with their People of the Sea which has the interesting sub-title of The Search for the Philistines . Related to their work, is the result of recent excavations at Ashkelon, an important Philistine city, which suggests that the city had received migrants from southern Europe during the Bronze Age, who may have constituted a component of the Sea Peoples(ah). Clearly, further investigation will be required to confirm these indications.
An extensive review of all the available material relating to the Sea Peoples was also published online in October 2015(q). The MalagaBay website (now closed) had also a wide-ranging illustrated article(u) about the Sea Peoples, although without reaching any firm conclusions.
(c) http://www.atlantisbolivia.org/headgear.htm (link broken) see part atlantis bolivia part 4 conclusion, mummies,uente magna and links
(k) Archive 2337 (all three parts)
(p) Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vol.. XVII, 2nd part, Munich 1886, pp. 451-512. (German)
(aa) Archive 3429
(ai) https://www.reddit.com/r/history/comments/c3fm5j/who_were_the_mysterious_sea_people_during_the/ (halfway down page)
(as) Cambridge Ancient History Ist edition, Vol.II, p.8
(ay) Atlantis Rising magazine #36 http://pdfarchive.info/index.php?pages/At
(az) ANE TODAY – 201609 – Ask a Near Eastern Professional: Who are the Sea Peoples and what role did they play in the devastation of civilizations that occurred shortly after 1200 BCE? – American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR) (archive.org)
Invasion today, as in the past, is usually the consequence of a shortage of resources (food, metals, oil, water), climate change (affecting food supply), overpopulation (also affecting food supply) or political upheaval. Although I do not speak as a military strategist, it would seem obvious that if for any of these reasons, a state is forced into expansionism, it will first look at its nearest neighbours and assess the chances of military success. It is obvious that before the introduction of airborne attacks, propinquity in the form of contiguous territory or short sea journeys has always been critical for a successful invasion(a) and the continued control of occupied territories. This is borne out by the simple historical fact that all the earliest empires, which were located in what we now call the Middle East, expanded through the invasion of its neighbours.
>Even today (27.02.22) Vladimir Putin has expanded his empire into more of the contiguous state of Ukraine, having already annexed Crimea. Some military imperatives never change.<
However, over-expansion can be costly and potentially dangerous. With particular reference to the fall of the Roman Empire, Rachel Nuwer noted in a recent BBC article(c) that. “By the end of the 100 BC, the Romans had spread across the Mediterranean, to the places most easily accessed by sea. They should have stopped there, but things were going well and they felt empowered to expand to new frontiers by land. While transportation by sea was economical, however, transportation across the land was slow and expensive. All the while, they were overextending themselves and running up costs.”
Many people think that military intelligence gathering is a relatively modern development. However, ancient documents, including the Bible, have accounts of spying thousands of years ago. Mary Rose Sheldon has produced an invaluable sourcebook on the subject, as well as a volume on Spies in the Bible, while Peter Dubovsky, in his Hezekiah and the Assyrian Spies, focuses on espionage described in 2 Kgs 18-19. It is reasonable therefore to assume that Atlantis also exercised due diligence and endeavoured to assess their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses before invading.
Boris Rankov has noted(b) in The Encyclopedia of Ancient History that military intelligence in ancient times had its value limited by the “slowness of communications, which meant that it was often out of date before any response could be brought to bear.” This, of course, ties in with the then established practice of invading those within your immediate proximity; supply lines are shorter and information more up-to-date. In turn, it implies that Atlantis was within relatively easy striking distance of Athens!
Even in modern times, the same constraints determined the actions of invaders. Hitler could not have invaded Russia without first controlling Poland and Romania. Even expansionist Japan, although an island nation, expanded into Korea and Manchuria (China) and following the attack on Pearl Harbour spread even further within the same region.
The ancient land-based empires were dependent on military might, whereas others, such as the Phoenicians, expanded their influence through trade, supported by extensive merchant fleets. However, over time, Phoenician or more correctly Carthaginian rivalry with Rome led to disastrous wars.
One of the primary military concerns today, as in ancient times, will be to ensure that its men are fed and watered and consequently there will be a need to keep its supply lines as short as possible.
The nearest possible belligerent to the west of Athens was across the Adriatic in Italy. I argue elsewhere that according to Plato, southern Italy constituted part of the Atlantean domain (see Etruscans). I suggest that the Atlantean invasion of Greece was probably launched from there. The motivation is unclear, but we can speculate that success in Greece would have been followed by the control of the entire Aegean, including Crete, offering a huge expansion in trade.
The alternative is that the nearest part of Atlantis was elsewhere, necessitating the bypassing of other territories on the way and stretching supply and communication lines more than desirable. Italy looks the best bet, with forces added from the Atlantean HQ in Sicily or Sardinia, possibly travelling through the Strait of Messina, sometimes identified as the location of the Pillars of Heracles.
In the south, the Atlantean forces in North Africa (Ancient Libya), if not augmenting the attack on Greece, were probably planning their invasion of Egypt (Timaeus 25b & Critias 114c). Success there would have been followed by a two-pronged attack by both northern and southern Atlantean forces on the eastern Mediterranean coast, later known as the Levant, giving them total control of the eastern Mediterranean Basin.
Invasion requirements are the strongest argument against any of the fanciful Atlantis theories that place Plato’s Atlantis in Antarctica, the Andes, or North America. It is ludicrous to claim that any invasion force came across the Atlantic to attack Greeks and Egyptians. That there were remarkable early cultures in both North and South America is absolutely undeniable, however, it is foolishness to claim that they had any connection with Plato’s story.