Empire Upsweeps:

Semiperipheral Development in

the Mediterranean World



Christopher Chase-Dunn, Alexis Alvarez, Hiroko Inoue Anthony Roberts, E.N. Anderson, Jesse Drucker,

Paul Peterson and Kirk Lawrence

Institute for Research on World-Systems


University of California-Riverside

Paper to be presented at the workshop sponsored by the UC Multicampus Research Project in Mediterranean Studies  at the University of California-Los Angeles, Saturday 29 October 2011  Conference Theme: "Envisioning Empire in the Old World,"  This paper is available as IROWS Working Paper #59 at https://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows59/irows59.htm

*This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant #:  NSF-HSD SES-0527720. Thanks to Sharon Kinoshita, Tom Hall, James Love and Fiona Rose-Greenland for comments and suggestions. v. 10/31/11, 12369 words. Being prepared for submission to the Journal of World History


Abstract: This paper presents an overview of human sociocultural evolution in the Mediterranean world and the results of a study of settlement and empire upsweeps in the Mediterranean since the Bronze Age. Temperate climate, useful geography and zoological capital facilitated the early emergence of human sociocultural complexity in the Eastern Mediterranean/Western Asian region beginning with the emergence of village life based on diversified foraging in the Mesolithic.

The Meditterranean was originally composed of many small-scale interaction networks in which small bands were interacting with their neighbors, but there was little long-distance interaction.  Eventually two regional world-systems of interacting states emerged in Mesopotamia and in Egypt and the scale of population density, polity size, hierarchy and a complex division of labor expanded and moved both east and west in spurts. 

Originally the Egyptian and Mesopotamian state systems were little connected, but they became linked through long-distance trade in about 3000 BCE and they became linked by direct political/military interaction circa 1500 BCE. That system, which we call the Central Political/Military Network (PMN)[1] eventually expanded and engulfed the other core regions in South Asia, the Americas and East Asia to become the single global interpolity system in which we now live. The rise of larger and more complex empires and cities in the Mediterranean region in interaction with other world regions has played a vital role in human sociocultural evolution.

Our project studies upward sweeps in which polities and settlements increased in size to a scale that is at least one third larger than the largest earlier settlements and polities in the same region. We review some of the world-systems literature on the Mediterranean and present the conclusions of our effort to test the hypothesis that polity upsweeps in the greater Mediterranean world region were mainly instances of semiperipheral marcher state conquest.

The Conceptual Framework

The comparative world-systems perspective uses world-systems, defined as important and consequential human interaction networks, to describe and explain sociocultural evolution.[2] It compares earlier and smaller regional world-systems with later and larger continental and global world-systems in order to see the patterns of structural change. Explaining social change requires the study of interacting sets of polities rather than single polities because institutional development is importantly caused by the ways in which polities compete and cooperate with one another. And, at least since the emergence of chiefdoms, semiperipheral polities have been an important source of innovation and transformation (Chase-Dunn & Hall 1997: Ch. 5).

            The idea of “semiperipheral development” means that semiperipheral polities are unusually prolific innovators and implementers of productive and organizational techniques that both facilitate success in interpolity competition and may also transform the basic logic of social reproduction. This is not to say that all semiperipheral polities produce such transformational actions, but rather that the semiperipheral location is more fertile ground for the production of innovations and (more important) novel implementations than is either the core or the periphery. This is because semiperipheral polities have access to both core and peripheral ideas and influences, and they have invested less in existing organizational forms and technologies than core polities have, so they are freer to make radical changes. They often recombine organizational elements into new configurations and seriously invest in new technologies. They usually have greater incentives to take risks than older core societies because they are in relatively marginal locations out on the edge of a region of core polities. Innovations may occur within older core polities but they are less likely to be implemented. Semiperipheral polities are more likely to put their resources behind radically new concepts. Peripheral polities have motive, but do not often have opportunity. Semiperipheral development has also been called “the advantages of backwardness” (Gershenkron 1962) and “uneven and combined development (Trotsky 1932).” Ibn Khaldun saw the phenomenon of marcher states in terms of the great ability of non-core peoples to muster social solidarity (asabiyah) between leaders and those who followed them. His explanation for semiperipheral development has been adopted and modified by Peter Turchin (2003,

            This paper on the Mediterranean is a part of a larger project that is studying the growth/decline phases and upward sweeps of settlement and polity sizes in order to test explanations of long-term patterns of human sociocultural evolution. We study how evolution occurred in systems of interacting polities. [3]  The Mediterranean world is of great interest because it was here that several new features of human society emerged for the first time: sedentism, horticulture, the first cities and states, writing, the potter’s wheel, the tributary modes of accumulation, early capitalist city-states and the emergent predominance of capitalism as a systemic logic of social reproduction. Many similar transformational changes occurred independently elsewhere, illustrating the idea of parallel evolution. But it was near the Mediterranean Sea that all these changes occurred for the first time in human prehistory and history. This paper examines the role of semiperipheral development in these transformations.


Indicators of Semiperipherality

           In order to do this we need to specify what we mean by semiperipherality. This is not a simple task because the core/periphery distinction is a relational concept. In other words, what semiperipherality is depends on the larger context in which it occurs – the nature of the polities that are interacting with one another and the nature of their interactions. The most general definition of the semiperiphery is: an intermediate location in an interpolity core/periphery structure. The minimal definition of core/periphery relations is that polities with different degrees of population density and internal hierarchy and complexity are interacting with one another. This is what Chase-Dunn and Hall (1997) have called “core/periphery differentiation.” The idea of “core/periphery hierarchy” is more stringent. It requires interpolity domination and exploitation. This is important for semiperipheral development because it increases the selection pressures that operate within a set of competing polities.  In order to be successful semiperipheral polities must be able to withstand the efforts of core polities to exploit them.

There are four possible kinds of semiperipheries:

·        regions that mix core and peripheral forms of organization;

·        regions spatially located between core and peripheral regions;

·        regions located between two or more competing core regions (called “contested peripheries” by Allen 1997, 2005);

·        regions in which mediating activities linking core and peripheral areas take place.

 In this study we will be looking for evidence that a polity that conquered other polities and was responsible for an upward sweep was semiperipheral relative to the other societies it was interacting with before it started on the road to conquest. There are many other instances of semiperipheral development in the Mediterranean region that are of interest (e.g. Allen 1997; Kardulias 1999b, 2001; Parkinson and Galaty 2007), but these will not be the main focus of this paper. We will use four main empirical indicators to determine the semiperipherality of polities that undertake empire upsweeps:

      ·       the geographical location of the society relative to other societies that have greater or lesser amounts of population density. Is it out on the edge of a region of core polities?, and

      ·       the relative level of development: population density, which is usually indicated by the sizes of settlements, the relative degree of complexity and hierarchy, the mode of production: e.g foraging, pastoralism, nomadism vs. sedentism, horticulture vs. agriculture, the size of irrigation systems, etc. Hunter-gatherers or pastoralists are usually peripheral to more sedentary agriculturalists; and

      ·       the recency of the adoption of sedentism, agriculture, class formation and state formation, and

      ·       relative ecological marginality.

The Aztecs are perhaps a proto-typical example of a semiperipheral marcher state. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who migrated into the Valley of Mexico and settled on an uninhabited island in a lake. There had already been large states and empires in the Valley of Mexico for centuries. The Aztecs hired themselves out as mercenary soldiers, developed a class distinction between nobles and commoners and claimed to have been descended from the Toltecs, an earlier empire. Then they began conquering the older core states of the valley of Mexico, strategically picking first on weak and unpopular ones until they had gathered enough resources to “roll up the system.” The Aztec story has some of the elements that we will use in examining the Mediterranean upsweep cases:  recency of sedentism, class formation and state formation. We will also use geographical location. Randall Collins (1999) has contended that the marcher advantage is the main explanation for the marcher-state phenomenon. The marcher advantage is a geopolitical advantage that derives from location on the edge of a system of core states. Such a location means that there are no serious challengers on one front and so a state in this kind of location can afford to concentrate all its resources toward potential victims in the center. 

            Another indicator of semiperipheral location is relative environmental desirability. Core societies usually hold the best locations in terms of soil and water. The semiperipheral marcher chiefdoms of the Pacific Islands were typically from the dry side of the island where land was steeper and soil was thinner. Of course, which land is better depends on the kind of resources that are being used and the technologies available for appropriating resources. But ecological marginality is an indicator of semiperipherality.

            Another issue is “semiperipheral to what?” A polity may have different relationships with other polities in the same interpolity network. For example, Macedonia had one kind relationship with the other Greek states, and a different kind of relationship with the Persian Empire. Semiperipherality is relative to the system as a whole, but may also be affected by important differences between other states in a system and by the existence of different kinds of relations with those other states.

            The alternatives to semiperipherality are coreness and peripheralness. Core states are older, more stratified, have bigger settlements, and they have had the accoutrements of civilization, such as writing, longer. Peripheral societies are nomadic hunter-gatherers or pastoralists, hill people, or desert people. If they are sedentary, their villages are small relative to the settlements of those with which they are interacting.  We should anticipate that some conquest empires were formed by peripheral marcher states or by old core states that made a comeback. David Wilkinson’s (1991) survey of the core, peripheral and semiperipheral zones of thirteen interpolity systems, is helpful in suggesting criteria for designating these zones, but Wilkinson did not address the question we are asking here: were the polities that produced empire upward sweeps semiperipheral before they did this?

            We should also note that some large empires have been formed by internal revolt in which a subordinate ethnic group or caste revolted and took power in an existing state and then carried out an expansion by conquest. The slave-soldiers of the Mamluk Sultanate are an obvious example, and Norman Yoffee (1991) has contended that the Akkadian empire was the result of a ethnic revolt. The point here is that this is a possible alternative to the semiperipheral marcher state route to empire upsweep.

So we anticipate that we may find four types of upsweeps:

      ·        internal revolt, and

      ·        core state restoration, (e.g. the Third Dynasty of Ur, a Sumerian restoration in Mesopotamia or the Ming Dynasty in China in which the Han Chinese threw out the Mongol Yuan rulers, and

      ·        peripheral marcher states, in which a polity composed of peripheral peoples conquers the core, (e.g. the Mongol Empire) and

      ·        semiperipheral marcher states.


Regions, Political-Military Networks and Upward Sweeps

          There have been millennial trends in which polities have grown in population and territorial size and the total number of human polities has decreased as typical polities got larger. These long-term trends were due primarily to events that we call upward sweeps. All hierarchical world-systems have experienced a cycle of centralization and decentralization in which a large polity in an interpolity system emerged and then declined.[4] This sequence of rise and fall is seen in interpolity systems composed of chiefdoms (D.G. Anderson 1994), states, empires and modern hegemons. The upward phase of such a cycle usually resulted in a polity that was nearly the same size as the one that existed at the previous peak. This we call a “normal rise.” As we have said above, an “upward sweep” (or upsweep) is an increase in the size of the largest polity in a system that is one third larger than the average of the previous three peaks. These are much less frequent (Inoue et al 2011). The idea of upsweeps can also be applied to unusually great increases in the size of the largest settlement in a region.

             Our project[5] has quantitatively identified four upsweeps in the Egyptian PMN (see Figure 4) and seven upsweeps (Figure 5) from 1500 BCE to 1990 CE that occurred in the Central PMN  (Inoue et al 2011). These are the events that account for the long-term trend in which polities have become larger and more powerful.  All of these were cases in which a state formed a larger empire by conquest. In order to identify the empire upsweeps we have mainly used Rein Taagepera’s (1978a,1978b,1979, 1997) estimates of the territorial sizes of the largest states and empires in five world regional PMNs[6] and in the interpolity system that David Wilkinson (1987) has called “Central Civilization.”[7] We also examine the upsweeps of city sizes using estimates from Tertius Chandler (1987) and George Modelski (2003).

The Mediterranean World Region

            The islands of the Mediterranean Sea, its littoral and adjacent inland regions have been an important locus of human sociocultural evolution since hominids migrated out of Africa.[8] Temperate climate and seasonal rainfall have provided a situation in which botanical and zoological diversity could flourish. Useful lithic and metallic resources were available on the islands and adjacent mountains of the region. It was a good place for human populations to grow and provided natural resources that could be appropriated for the provisioning of increasing population densities.  Successive ice ages, plate migrations and volcanic activity altered the landscape, eventually producing a series of low-salinity inland seas – the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Caspian – that provided opportunities and incentives for humans to invent large-scale water transportation and navigation techniques that would work when land was out of sight. Certain plants and animals that were present in Western Asia and the Mediterranean region proved to be especially capable of domestication, leading to a co-evolutionary mutualism between these species and the bipedal humans who began the process of cultural selection (Flannery 1969).

            Bead-making homo sapiens hunter-gatherers migrated out of Africa into West Asia and Europe, interbreeding with and displacing larger-brained Neanderthals (Klein and Edgar 2002 ). More useful lithic tool-kits were developed and modern humans diversified their subsistence strategies to include the hunting of smaller animals, aquatic resources, and more reliance on naturally occurring vegetable foods.  Around ten thousand years ago the Mesolithic Natufian culture of the Levant may have been the first people to reside in villages for most of the year, rather than moving from camp to camp. The Natufians were diversified hunter-gatherers who came to rely on natural stands of rain-watered grain.  Thus was village living born one or two millennia before the advent of horticulture (Henry 1985; see also Mithen et al 2011).  These first sedentary hunter-gatherers continued to compete and cooperate with still-nomadic neighboring foragers, forming an early version of the sedentary-nomadic relationship. Co-evolution of sedentary and nomadic peoples would continue to have huge consequences for the development of human societies until the sedentists finally got the upper hand only a few centuries ago (McNeill 1964).

            About eight thousand years ago in this same West Asian/Eastern Mediterranean context some neighbors of the Natufian villagers living in the smaller valleys of adjacent foothills near smaller natural stands of grain, became willing to invest their labor time in planting, watering and weeding small fields of grain in order to augment nature’s production scheme. This activity, horticulture, raised the productivity of the land and enabled these former nomads to emulate the village life of their Natufian neighbors. Thus did the “neolithic revolution” occur for the first time on Earth. Planting and village life spread west to the valley of the Nile and east and north to Capadoccia, the Euxine Lake and the Susiana Plain of Iran.[9]

            As small-scale irrigation was invented, larger settlements became possible and social organization became more hierarchical in order to coordinate a more complex division of labor, to regulate access to land and other resources, and to coordinate interpolity trade and warfare activities. The use of copper to make sledge hammers seems to have occurred first in the Balkans (Chernykh 1992). A two-tiered settlement system (larger towns surrounded by smaller villages) emerged on the Susiana Plain, and in succeeding centuries the first city-states emerged in the adjacent great flood-plain of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers based on larger-scale irrigation of incredibly fertile and deep soil. A similar, and also somewhat different, transition from diversified foraging to village life and horticulture eventually led to state-formation and monumental cities on the Nile (Alvarez and Roberts 2010).  By around 3000 BCE the Mesopotamian and Egyptian urbanized regions were linked by long-distance prestige goods trade, and Ebla had emerged in the region between them. Figure 1 shows the eight largest cities on Earth in 2250 BCE.[10]

            Assur, the capital of the Old Assyrian City-State, was pursuing a trading strategy on the upper Tigris. Old Assyrian merchants used donkey caravans to move tin, copper and other valuable trade goods long distances. They established colonial enclaves in the towns of Asia Minor and beyond, trading on their own account (Larsen 1976). Assur was an early example of the phenomenon of a semiperipheral capitalist city-state. It was merchant capitalism because the elites were specializing in long distance arbitrage (buying cheap and selling dear) and transporting commodities long distances to sell them and make profits.  What makes it unusual is its reliance on land transportation. Most of the other semiperipheral capitalist city-states were maritime operations that used water transportation protected by naval power, e.g. Bronze Age Dilmun in the Persian Gulf and the later Phoenician city-states of the Eastern Mediterranean (Byblos, Sidon, Tyre).

Assur was semiperipheral because it was located far up the Tigris on the outer edge of the Mesopotamian heartland of cities and states.



                Figure 1: Seven Cities with population size greater than 30,000 in 2250 BCE. Source: Wilkinson (1992)[11]

Figure 2 (below) shows the size of the largest cities in the early Central System from 1500 BCE to 300 CE, [12] illustrating what we mean by cycles and upward sweeps of city sizes. The Central System is a network of states that ally and fight with one another. It was formed when the formerly separate Egyptian and Mesopotamian interstate systems began to directly engage one another around 1500 CE. In Egypt Thebes declined and then Memphis grew to be about the same size. But then Babylon increased its size to become more than twice as large as Memphis and Thebes had been. This was an urban upsweep. This was then followed by Babylon’s decline and then another dramatic upsweep with the building of Alexandria, and then the rise of Rome to a size significantly greater than Alexandria’s population peak.


Figure 2:  Early Central System Largest Cities, 1500 BCE- 300 CE (ovals show upsweeps)


                Figure 3: Nine Cities larger than 25,000 in population near the Mediterranean cities in 1000 BCE,

Source: Wilkinson (1992)

            In the Bronze and Iron Ages the Western Asia/Eastern Mediterranean region was the core, while Western Europe was a peripheral region in which small scale societies were evolving because of migrations and the diffusion of cultural and technological inventions from the “Near Eastern” core (Sherratt 1993).[13]  In 1000 BCE Memphis was the largest city in the Iron Age heartland of cities (see Figure 3 above). Nineveh, the imperial capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, emerged in Northern Mesopotamia. Jerusalem grew in the region in between the old Mesopotamian heartland and Egypt, and a new large city, Saba, appeared in the southern Arabian Peninsula.

                        Now we present the results of our examination of the territorial sizes of the largest polities in Egypt and the early Central System (shown in Figures 4 and 5). This is an importantly different indicator of the scale of social organization. Polities increase their territorial size when they conquer other polities. There were four polity upsweeps in Egypt before the Egyptian PMN became linked with the Mesopotamian PMN (Figure 4)

Figure.4. Largest states and empires in Egypt, 3200 BCE-1400 BCE (Inoue et al 2011)


A unified Egypt emerged in 2900 BCE with the 1st Dynasty upsweep.  The subsequent upsweeps were primarily caused by the further consolidation of the Egyptian territory. This initial expansion of the Egyptian polity began with the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt in which the south conquered the north, but the exact force behind the unification is a disputed issue (Trigger et al 1983).[14]

The founder of the 5th Dynasty—Userkaf—is a rather obscure figure in the region’s legend-infused history, and thus, we avoid speculating on the origins of this ruler’s administrative power. The advent of the 5th dynasty was accompanied by expanding exploration in the Aegean (Shaw 2000). Given the limited evidence on the origin of 5th Dynasty and their increasing interaction with the regional system, it’s difficult to conclude whether the 5th Dynasty was a semiperipheral state or a succession in a core polity.   Either way, Figure 4 shows a clear scalar change in the territorial size of the Egyptian polity during the rise of the 5th dynasty.

The consolidation campaign led by Amenemhet I initiated the 12th Dynasty upsweep.  The purpose of the campaign was to establish a stronger administrative control over the totality of Egypt (Shaw 2000).  The 12th Dynasty—according to Manetho—emerged not from a nomadic group or as a semiperipheral rise within the region, but from an internal succession of viziers over established pharaohs.  Since the 12th Dynasty was an shift in the internal power structure of Egypt, its difficult to conclude whether this represents a semiperipherial rise in the Egyptian system. The scope of their power eventually came to encompass semiperipheral peoples along the Upper Nile (Ibid).

The origin of the Hyksos has been a disputed issue. Historians have long followed Egyptian tradition in portraying them as barbarian warriors with chariots who invaded and conquered Egypt. But a new perspective identifies the Hyksos as a diasporic population from the Levant region (Bietak 1991; Ben-Tor 2009). These recently reconstructed histories, relying on archaeology rather than on the allegations of ancient historians, paint a very different picture of the Hyksos takeover.  The Hyksos are characterized as having a prior history of nomadic modes of subsistence and kin-based allegiances devoid of any bureaucratic structure (Morkot 2003).[15]  But the nature of their coming to power is closer to that of an ethnic revolt than a semiperipheral marcher state.  They were originally peripheral or semiperipheral people but they did not come to power by establishing a new state near the core and then conquering the old core state.  Rather they were immigrants who staged a coup.  Despite the ambiguous origins of the Hyksos, their rule is agreed by scholars to have ended during the mid-1500s BCE, when Ahmose expelled these Semitic peoples. Again, similar to the previous scalar changes, the territorial expansion of the Egyptian polity under Hyksos rules, is primarily caused by internal dynamics rather than an ascension of a semiperipheral state.

            The 18th dynasty upsweep was brought about when Akhenaten—the “Sun God”—solidified the Egyptian notion of monotheism as a vehicle for central authority vested in a god-king who held measures of civic power previously shared with the clergy.  Though the traditional authority vested in god-kings was nothing new to Egypt, the 18th Dynasty’s approach to pharaoh-worship is unprecedentedly monotheistic.  And while there was an unprecedented upsweep in the territorial domain consolidated under this dynasty, this period was one of economic decay.  Whether out of civic laxity, environmental degradation, or unsound business practices, secular power in the years preceding Akhenaten’s tenure on the throne had gradually weakened, putting the Pharaoh in a precarious position that was vulnerable to political collapse.  This economic climate created selection pressures for innovation.  Consequently, when the economic institutions began to falter, the people’s faith in the stability of all other institutions (civic, religious, kinship, etc.) disintegrated soon after, fostering the revolutionary conditions that spurred the socio-political-religious transformation of Egypt under Akhenaten and Nefertiti. In sum, the 18th Dynasty upsweep was not carried out by a semiperipheral marcher state, but by a religious revival.



Figure. 5.  Largest Empires in the Central System, 1500 BCE- 1990 CE (Inoue et al 2011)

            Figure 5 shows that 18th Dynasty of Egypt expanded in the period following 1500 BCE, and then there was a trough in which the largest polity in the Central System declined and remained small for centuries. This was eventually followed in the seventh century BCE by the upward sweep carried out by the Neo-Assyrians, and then by the gigantic conquests of the Achaemenid Persians, who created an empire that was larger than that produced by the immediately following conquests of Alexander of Macedonia and that was also larger than the Roman Empire. Despite the immense territorial size of the Persian Empire, its capital city Persepolis was never very large in population size. It was a monumental seasonal residence for the Great King. And the other cities of Achaemenid Persia were not among the largest cities in the West Asian region at the time of the Persian Empire.  Some empire upsweeps produce urban upsweeps when the conquerors use the resources that they are able to draw from the newly conquered realms to construct a large new capital city or to rebuild and expand an older city. But other empire upsweeps do not do this. The attitudes of conquering elites toward urbanity and their comfort level with city living and urban governance is an important determinant of whether or not an empire upsweep results in an urban upsweep. Conquerors that have longer experience as an urban ruling class are more likely to expend resources on city-building, whereas those that have only recently been nomadic pastoralists are less likely to love cities, and to build them.

            The semiperipheral development hypothesis suggests that these empire upsweeps would often have been the work of semiperipheral marcher states. In order to evaluate this hypothesis we need to determine the world-system position of these conquering states before they undertook their successful ventures. 




Polity name



18th Dynasty






Achaemenid Persia



















 Table 1: Polity upsweeps in the Central PMN, 1500 BCE- 1991CE

            Table 1 shows the polities that count as upsweeps in the Central PMN based on the criterion of at least one third larger than the average of the three previous peaks.  The Macdonian Empire does not meet that criterion, but we discuss it below because its center was in a region that had not previously seen large polities and it is an interesting example of a semiperipheral marcher state.

          The Neo-Assyrian Upsweep and the Origins of the Assyrians

       Neo-Assyrian[16] is the name given to a polity located on the upper portion of the Tigris River.  At its most powerful, during the seventh century BC, it gathered tribute from territory from the Zagros mountains in the east to the Levant (Syria-Palestine) and much of Egypt in the west; from the Persian Gulf in the south to the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates in south-eastern Anatolia in the north (see Figure 6).  The great Bronze Age Mesopotamian polity size upsweep that formed the Akkadian Empire in the late third millennium BCE (6.5 square megameters) was not equaled again until 800 BCE by the Neo-Assyrians, who then went on to create an empire that ruled 14 square megametres by 650 BCE. This was a new upward sweep of political integration of territory more than twice the size that the Akkadian Empire had been.

       There were no major powers contesting control of northern Mesopotamia at the time of the Neo-Assyrian upsweep. [17]Assyria had a military advantage over the smaller polities in northern Mesopotamia and was able to gain more resources to overpower smaller states if they were not immediately intimidated. At first Assyrian expansion stayed within the limits of the area controlled in the Middle Assyrian period. But then the conquests resumed and the Neo-Assyrian Empire expanded into Egypt, uniting part of the valley of the Nile with the old Mesopotamian heartland of cities and states under a single authority for the first time.

            We have already mentioned above that the Old Assyrian City-State of Assur and its colonies had been an important early example of a semiperipheral capitalist city-state in the early second millennium BCE.  Long before the Neo-Assyrian expansion the merchants of Assur spread out across the West Asian core and into the far distant peripheries, establishing residential quarters in the cities of other polities and engaging in a profitable carrying-trade using donkey caravans. They specialized in tin and copper, the raw materials from which bronze was made.  Assur was semiperipheral because it was way upriver from the Mesopotamian heartland of cities and states.

The capitalist city-state phenomenon is clearly a different kind of semiperipheral development from that of the semiperipheral marcher state.  These states pursued a policy of profit making rather than the acquisition of territory and the use of state power to tax and extract tribute.  They emerged in the “interstices,” the spaces between the territorial states in world-economies in which wealth could be had by “buying cheap and selling dear” (merchant capitalism). One of their consequences was the expansion of trade networks because their commercial activities provided incentives for farmers and craftsmen to produce a surplus for trade with distant areas. Thus the capitalist city-states were promoters of commodification and inter-regional economic integration.

The Assyrians and the city of Assur were conquered by Hammurabi, the Amorite king of Babylon in 1756 BCE. The Amorites were originally Semitic-speaking nomadic people from the mountains of Syria. But they conquered states in Mesopotamia and established kingdoms in the late Bronze Age. Thus the status of the claim that the Neo-Assyrians were a semiperipheral marcher state is based on the originally semiperipheral location of the capital far up the Tigris, and on the conquest of the capital by formerly peripheral Amorites.  But the notion that the Neo-Assyrian upsweep was that of a semiperipheral marcher state badly violates the recency criterion. It was over 1000 years between the Amorite conquest and the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  A millennium of urban governance is likely to have erased those cultural and organizational features that should be understood to have constituted semiperiperality.


                  Figure 6: The Neo-Assyrian Empire at its largest in 650 BCE Source: ?

         The Persian Upsweep

Around the 8th century BC, a group of mounted and armed pastoral nomads whom later became known as the Persians, migrated to the Iranian plateau from somewhere in Central Asia (Garthwaite 2005: 16; Brosius 2006:3).  Their migration route was undoubtedly influenced by the already settled powers west of the plateau, especially the Neo-Assyrian Empire that controlled much of Western Iran.  In order to avoid conflict the Persians moved south between the Zagros Mountains and the desert until they reached the plains of Fars. Further southwest were the Elamites and the Medes , with whom the Persians interacted and from whom they borrowed technologies and customs (Irving, 1979: 4).

The old Persian city of Anshan gave tribute to the Akkadian Empire centered in Mesopotamia (Cambridge History of Iran, 1985: 22).  Cyrus I, the grandfather of Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II), is credited with the formation of the Persian Empire. By the first millennium BC Anshan had become the homeland of the Persian Achaemenid Dynasty.  However, there is strong evidence that Anshan had also been a political center of the Elamites (Gershevitch 1985: 27).  Neo-Assyrian texts record the land of Parsua first in the 9th century BC when tne Neo-Assyrians invaded the land several times.  Inscription’s of Sargon II (721-705 BC) indicated that the same area had been invaded previously, known as Parsuash, and show it as a province of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. 

The Neo-Assyrian records indicate that the Achaemenids were immigrants that did not settle into the region until Cyrus I consolidated several different tribes. The Persians are said to have been pastoral nomadic immigrants to Iran from Central Asia. The language used by the Persian emperors was Avestan, a language that the Persians shared with the Scythian nomads (Anthony 2007: 51). This supports the idea that the Persians were originally peripheral people. Their adoption of sedentism and long residence in Iran before the rise of their empire indicates the development of semiperipherality.  They adopted cultural elements from other formerly nomadic groups such as the Medes, and also from older core cultures such as the Elamites.  The Persians fit the pattern of semiperipherality outlined above because they were former pastoralists who had recently adopted sedentism, class formation and state formation. And the location their center was on the edge of the old Mesopotamian core region.

            The immediate cause of the rise of the Persian Empire was an internal revolt led by Cyrus II, against his Median overlords (Briant, 2002).  Cyrus II first united all the Persians who were vassals of the Medes and he sought an ally against the Medians -- Babylon.  Eventually the Babylonians joined the Persians to challenge Median rule.  With the conquest of the Median Empire, Cyrus II gained the large territories that the Medes had taken from Assyria.  These large gains were soon seen as a challenge to Babylon. The conquest of the Medes upset a balance of power that had existed in the region and the Persians and the Babylonians soon came into direct conflict (Briant, 2002; Chadwick, 2005).

Now in competition with Babylon, the Persians began conquering other powers in the region, beginning with the Lydians (Briant, 2002).  They soon subjugated some of the Greeks while also conquering much of the region to the east of the empire.  Finally, by 539 BC the Persians had conquered Babylon, their most powerful rival. The Persian Empire became the 800 pound gorilla of the old West Asian/ Eastern Mediterranean core, transforming the system of competing great powers into a unicentric power distribution with only minor challengers on the edges of the empire. Of course some of these minor challengers were still capable of stopping the advances of the armies of the Great King, as we know from the movies.

The Axial Age produced world religions and differentiated institutions in the three core regions of Afroeurasia – the Eastern Mediterranean/Western Asia, South Asia and East Asia (Sanderson 2010;). These core regions with large cities and states, though they were distant from one another were generally not linked by direct political/military interaction.[18] But the three core regions were increasingly connected by long-distance trade. Eastern and Western cycles of the rise and fall of empires came into a rough synchrony that was probably caused by the trade linkages and the connections with the cyclical eruptions of nomadic pastoralist confederations coming out of Central Asia. The South Asian core region seems to have been marching to a different drummer (Chase-Dunn, Manning and Hall 2000). Ideas, trade items and inventions were flowing along the Silk Roads and the maritime routes (Bentley 1995).  Philosophies and religious ideas, especially Buddhism, came out of India and had influences on old and new religions at both ends of Asia.

The Alexandrian Empire         

The Macedonian expansion did not produce an empire that was larger than the immediately preceding Persian Empire (see Figure 5 above), so we do not count the Alexandrian conquests as an upsweep. It was, however another semiperipheral marcher state conquest that produced a very large empire. The Greek city-states were semiperipheral vis a vis the large empires in the old West Asian core. The Greek cities and polities were smaller and less powerful. And Macedonia was originally peripheral even within the system of Greek city-states.  Macedonia was considered to be an archaic backwater by the classical Greek states to the south. But Philip II, Alexander’s father, began the marcher state expansion that was carried to the world by his son. Figure 6 shows Macedonian expansion before the accession of Alexander.




                Figure 7: The rise of Macedonia under Philip II from 359 to the accession of Alexander in 333 BCE, Source:?

The Roman Upsweep

            Looking back at Figure 5 above we see that after the Alexandrian conquests disintegrated into smaller, but still sizeable states, a new power, the Romans, rose up on the Italian peninsula to eventually produce an empire that was not larger than earlier ones had been, but was centered in a new region where empires had not previously been centered.  Thus we consider the rise of the Roman Empire to have constituted a polity upsweep.  But was Rome a semiperipheral marcher state?  What was the world-system position of the Romans before they began their ascent? The Romans were Latin farmers who lived in villages near Etruscan cities. Greek colonial cities had been built in the southern Italian peninsula and the Carthaginian capitalist city-state had established colonies in Sicily. The Etruscans had a distinct form of writing and may have been relatively recent migrants from the old West Asian/Eastern Mediterranean core region of the Central System. The Latins sought to emulate their city-dwelling Eruscan and Greek neighbors, and the Romans succeeded in mobilizing a citizen army of farmers that was successful in conquering neighboring city-states (Cornell 1995). The Roman rise was slow and bumpy (Barbieri 2010). The war with Hannibal was long and involved a number of Roman defeats.

            Our conclusion is that the Romans were semiperipheral vis a vis the neighboring Etruscans, Greeks and Carthaginians. They lived in smaller settlements and they had less internal hierarchy.  But the Roman case is interesting, because in the more usual pattern of a semiperipheral marcher states it is the eventual conquerors who are the recent arrivals to an older core region. In the Roman case, the Latins were probably on the Italian peninsula before the Etruscans, Greeks and Carthaginians appeared upon the seen. So the Romans were peripheralized by the arrival of more “civilized” immigrants from the old Eastern Mediterranean core region.

            By 100 BCE the Mediterranean was becoming a region of large cities (See Figure 6). Rome was itself a powerful agent of urbanization, establishing new cities where only villages had previously been. Roman London appears on Wilkinson’s map of largest cities in 100 BCE. The city system that had begun in West Asia and Egypt had spread to Europe and large cities were also appearing in Central Asia (Merv and Balkh). Of course by this time South Asia and East Asia were also developing settlement systems containing large imperial cities with which the Mediterranean cities were linked by long distance down-the-line trade of prestige goods. 



                Figure 8: Cities 30,000 or larger in the Mediterranean region in 100 BCE, Source: Wilkinson (1992)

                        Figure 5 above shows the trajectory of the largest empires in the Central System over the    last 2000 years. Some of the empires in Figure 5 did not have their centers in the Mediterranean         region (the GokTurks and the Mongols), but the Mongols extended their power to the edges of the       Mediterranean region and so we will discuss them.

            The Islamic Upsweep

The Arabian Peninsula is mainly a large desert but humans have occupied the shorelines since the Paleolithic.  With the domestication of the camel pastoralists also occupied the inland regions, although sparsely. As Bronze Age states and empires in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Iran developed trade relationships trading ports emerged. We have already mentioned Dilmun, a city state that was probably on the island in the Arabian/Persian Gulf that is now Bahrein.  Dilmun engaged in the carrying trade between the Bronze Age civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Indus River Valley (in what is now Pakistan). It may have been the first semiperipheral capitalist city-state. 

            Overland trade routes eventually emerged across the Arabian Peninsula based on camel transportation and these produced small cities at the nodes linking the trade routes. Mecca and Medina were cities of Arabian traders, also the homes of trading peoples from throughout the old core region. World religions had emerged in the region of large empires, arguably because empires were more easily governed when conquered people could be integrated into a larger moral order (Harris 1977).  The Bedouin nomadic inland tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were primarily pastoralists, raising sheep, horses and camels, but they also extracted wealth by raiding the camel caravans and by hiring out as mercenaries to adjacent states and empires.  The raiding was disruptive to trade and there were pressures for the emergence of political organization that could regulate this form of appropriation coming from the merchants living in the trading cities.  Competing tribes had been convinced to bring their totems to a central shrine in Mecca and a moratorium on raiding had been declared for certain “sacred truce” months of the year (Hodgson 1974). It was in the context of incipient state-formation that Muhammad, a successful and respected merchant of Mecca, began meditating in a cave about how to live a serious life in truth and purity.  Muhammad heard a voice and saw a vision, and he became a prophet to his people, telling the words that were written into the scrolls that became the Koran. The world religion that Muhammad invented was a mixture of the other confessional world religions with elements from Arabian tribal culture, as well as innovations that differentiated it from Christianity and Judaism. Muhammad’s new religion was enthusiastically embraced by some, but was violently opposed by others, and so he had to leave Mecca and move to Medina, where his movement grew. Ironically the early community was forced by circumstances to break the “sacred truce” and to raid caravans during the proscribed months. The combination of the roles of prophet and military leader went against the long trend toward differentiation of these roles in the other world religions, but this also made Islam into a powerful force for imperial expansion.

The peripherality of the Saudi Arabian Peninsula within the old West Asian/Eastern Mediterranean core is not in doubt. The process of the growth of trade routes and cities, and the emergence of an Arabian merchant class and the incipient processes of state formation just prior to the eruption of the new world religion support the notion that this polity upsweep was indeed the outcome of the semiperipheral marcher state.


            The Mongol Upsweep    

            The Mongol Empire was a huge upsweep that produced the largest single polity on Earth in terms of land area before the advent of the British Empire.  The Mongols were Central Asian steppe pastoralist nomads who put together a large tribal confederacy that could assemble huge calvary forces. The riders accurately shot quivers full of arrows from very powerful bows while riding at a gallop.[19]

Several indicators point to the peripheral status of the Mongolian confederation prior to the formation of the Mongolian Empire.  After the death of Yesguei in 1171, the Mongol tribal confederation disintegrated and was reduced to a fractured set of different nomadic Mongol groups.   The unification of these tribal groups came with their consolidation under Temujin. [20] Prior to the political unification, the status of the Mongol people, relative to other Central Asian societies, was primarily subordinate. The pastoral nomads of the Central Asian steppes were dependent on the bulk and prestige goods of the Chinese sedentary farming societies of Northern China for grain and cloth (Di Cosmo 1994).  Even though the various nomadic groups practiced limited forms of agricultural production (Di Cosmo 1994), the inability to generate large surpluses limited class formation and produced recurrent economic crises in Mongolian society (Di Cosmo 1999).  These intermittent shortages of food promoted the formation of effective military organization, which became a central and recurrent mechanism for maintaining major flows of goods from the Chinese core (Hall 2005).  The disintegration of the Mongolian confederation had reduced the capacity for the Mongolian tribes to extract surplus through raiding.  During the early years of Temujin’s life most of the tribes had focused primarily on subsistence through pastoralism and occasional small-scale planting (Barfield 1989:189).  

The ascension of Temujin to the status of Mongolian khan (Chinggis), and the reorganization of the Mongolian confederation in the direction of state-formation signified an important change in the supratribal polity system in the Central Asian steppes. According to Kradin (2007), however, based on the Secret History of the Mongols, and the analysis of Claeseen (1978 :119), the early Mongolian confederation during the reign of Chinggis Khan exhibited only some of the requisites of state formation. A class distinction between commoners and elites had not emerged  (Claeseen 1978: 121).  One primary indicator of semiperipherality is the recent emergence of class and state institutional forms (see Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997, Ch. 5).   During the rule of Chinggis Khan’s son, Ugeidi, state development accelerated with the formation of more permanent elites (Kradin 2007).  

The complete unification of the Mongolian tribes under the leadership of Chinggis Khan in 1206, represented the early moments of semiperipherality through the consolidation of the Inner Steppes region.  This peripheral marcher polity employed the ‘outer frontier strategy’ (see: Chase-Dunn et al 2006 and Barfield 1989), in an effort to extract surplus from the Jurchin dynasty.  Frustrated by the small returns to the efforts to extract surplus, the Mongol confederation expanded into Northern China by conquering the Jurchin dynasty.  

            The Mongol upsweep also had a huge impact on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean region and on Europe. The Great Black Plague that swept across Eurasia in the fourteenth century, killing off a large proportion of the populations, may have been transported by fleas on horses and camels plying the Central Asian Silk Road routes (Abu-Lughod 1989:172-173). The Mongol Empire provided protection for trading caravans, and so the Eurasian trade had  expanded.

Cities in the Late Central System

            Figure 9 shows the largest cities in the Late Central System.  To the left of the vertical line are cities that were already shown in Figure 2 above, in the Early Central System. They are included in Figure 9 in order to see the decline of Rome and to compare Rome with Baghdad, the next big city to emerge in the Mediterranean region. The huge city that Baghdad became was the creation of Islam, but the Moslems took a long time to become comfortable with governing an empire from the center of a large city (Hodgson 1974).  At first the Bedouin conquerors lived in camps outside the city with their horses. The Ottoman Empire’s capital, Constantinople, was large, but did not constitute an urban upsweep. That had to wait for London, the first urban upsweep created by a capitalist nation-state, the capital of a modern colonial empire. The later Islamic caliphates (Almohad, Almoravid) that came from Morocco to conquer Andalusia in Spain, had organizational roots in West Africa as well as religious inspiration from the Arabian Peninsula (Kea 2004).  These were obviously semiperipheral marcher states. ScreenHunter_

Figure 9:  Largest Cities in the Late Central PMN




Figure 10: Mediterranean Cities Larger than 60,000 in 1500 CE, Source: Wilkinson (1992)

                By 1500 CE the large cities of the Mediterranean region were once again reflecting the resurgence of the West (see Figure 10). The fall of Rome and the cutting off of Europe’s trade with Asia by the Islamic caliphates had caused the shrinkage of cities in the West. Pigs grazed in the Roman coliseum and the cities of Europe became walled castles while the countryside became a mosaic of self-subsistent manors, each a statelet with an armed lord in charge. During this period Christendom continued to spread north. The Viking age was another eruption of semiperipheral peoples from the North (Forte, Oram and Pederson 2005). Venice grew as a classical semiperipheral capitalist city-state on the Adriatic, and competing capitalist city-states also emerged in Italy and in the Low Countries north of the Alpine passes (Lane 1973; Braudel 1972; Spufford 2003).  These capitalist city-states were not very different from those that had emerged in the Bronze and Iron ages, except that they were closely packed in a region in which there were no longer any large and powerful tributary empires. 

The fall of the Western Roman Empire and the political involution that was European feudalism produced a region in which autonomous capitalist city-states could flourish once the long-distance trade with Asia opened up once again. The crusades were an expression of civilizational core formation in Europe around the ideas of Christendom, but they also got muscle from the Normans and financial support from Venice. Indeed one of the first targets was Christian Constantinople, long a competitor of the Venetians for the eastern trade.  If Rome was the first rise of Western Europe, this was the second rise.  The crusades were an experiment in colonialism. The sugar plantation complex began on the islands of Mediterranean before it expanded to the Atlantic and then to the Americas (Curtin 1990).  An alliance between Genoese finance capital and the Portuguese state led the third expansion of Europe beginning in 1415, when the Portuguese took Ceuta, across the strait of Gibraltar, the first of their colonies that would surround Africa and lead to the East Indies (Arrighi 1994). The Dutch revolution brought capitalism to control a nation-state in a core region, and its operations linked the economies of the Baltic with the Mediterranean.[21]

The Mediterranean world region has played an important role in the British upsweep because it was an important stage upon which the French and the British fought out their struggle for hegemony.  Gibraltar enabled the British navy to keep a close eye on traffic between the Med and the Atlantic. And the other British naval ports on the Balearic Islands were key players in the struggle for the Mediterranean with France. Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt, his “conversion” to Islam,  the early  alliances between Morocco and the fledgling United States, the “shores of Tripoli” mentioned in the U.S. Marine Corps hymn, are all historical remnants that show the continuing importance of the Mediterranean world  in the world historical evolution of the 19th            Century. 

The stories of how both the Dutch Republic and England were semiperipheral marcher nation-states are too long, and not much connected to the Mediterranean, though these latter day semiperipheral hegemonies both had large impacts on the Med. The connection with the British hegemony is in Britain’s contentious relationship with Spain, Portugal and France.  Immanuel Wallerstein’s seminal 1974 piece, “Three paths to national development in 16th century Europe” is a structural road map to his longer work on the emergence of the modern world-system (Wallerstein [1974]).  It is in this piece that Wallerstein first applies the idea of core and periphery to the relationship between Northwestern Europe and Eastern Europe, and he discusses the French Mediterranean as having a semiperipheral position in the emerging hierarchical division of labor that comes to constitute the modern world-system. One reason why France lost the long struggle for hegemony with Britain is that it was too large, and contained regions with radically different economic interests that required most of the energies of the Ile de France to hold together, while England could more easily bring its contending regions together around the policies of a developmental state and an upsweeping empire.


                Figure 10:  Mediterranean Cities Larger than 350,000 in 1900 CE, Source: Wilkinson (1992)

            By 1900 the Western Mediterranean region and Europe had become a dense mass of large cities. Indeed the weight of world urbanization had moved West. Industrial capitalism and industrial agriculture were resulting in the rapid urbanization of modern national societies, and these changes came first in Europe and then spread to North America and Japan.  Europe was on the way to becoming a city region, but by 1900 the second largest city in the world was New York, and the fifth largest was Chicago. The march of the leading edge of the world’s largest cities had gone from Mesopotamia and Egypt to East Asia, back to Western Europe and then to the American extension of the European core region.


          The Mediterranean world region was the birth place of many of the most important institutional structures that have become taken-for-granted in the globalized world of today. But the centers of power have moved from the Mediterranean, leaving it as a subsystem in which outside powers carry out competition with one another and strive to corner its resources, especially oil. (Arrighi 1985). The notion of semiperipheral development receives strong support from our examination of the Mediterranean World. 

Ironically, much the Mediterranean region has become part of a global semiperiphery. But will it once again be a source of innovations and leading edge implementations? The movements of the Arab Spring adapted Facebook for the purposes of popular revolt, which has now spread back to the core and to the rest of the world. This is a recent instance of innovative implementation from the semiperipheral Mediterranean. Can movements and regimes in the Mediterranean ally with other global movements and progressive semiperipheral regimes in the Americas and Afroeurasia to challenge the institutions of the contemporary global system and to once again transform the world? As Chou Enlai purportedly said, when asked about the consequences of the French Revolution, it is too soon to tell.



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[1]  A PMN is a set of polities (states) that are allying and making war with one another. We sometimes refer to the Central PMN as the “Central System.”

[2] We use the term evolution despite its tawdry history as a justification of imperialism, racism and gender hierarchy. We are talking about socio-cultural evolution, not biological evolution and we are well aware that teleology and progress need to be washed out of the concept of evolution before it can be scientifically useful (Sanderson 1990).


[3] We use the term “polity” to generally denote a spatially-bounded realm of sovereign authority such as a band, tribe, chiefdom, state or empire. The term “settlement” includes camps, hamlets, villages, towns and cities. Settlements are spatially bounded for comparative purposes as the contiguous built-up area.



                [4] These rise and fall cycles in interpolity systems are obviously related to the demographically driven dynastic cycles that          occur within polities (Turchin and Nefadov 2009).

[5] The project is the Polities and Settlements Research Working Group at the Institute for Research on World-Systems at the University of California-Riverside. The project web site is at https://irows.ucr.edu/research/citemp/citemp.html

[6] The five world regional PMNs we have studied are Mesopotamia, Egypt, South Asia, East Asia and the Central PMN. This paper only considers Egypt and the Central PMN because these are in the Mediterranean world.

[7] An interpolity system is a set of interacting polities that make alliances and war with one another.  In other contexts we have called this a “political-military network” to distinguish it from other interactions that typically  have smaller or

larger spatial scales – bulk goods networks and prestige goods networks (Chase-Dunn and Jorgenson 2003).

[8] We include Mesopotamia in our spatial definition of the Mediterranean world region because of the important role that Mesopotamian sociocultural evolution plays in the development of human societies that are closer to the shores of the Mediterranean.

[9] Around 5600 BCE an earthen berm between the rising Mediterranean Sea and the freshwater Euxine Lake to the east, now 150 meters below the level of the Mediterranean, broke, rapidly flooding the large basin that would become the Black Sea, and displacing  farmers who had occupied the shores and river valleys near the Euxine Lake (Fagan 2004:111-113).

[10] Agade, the capital of the Akkadian Empire, is not shown because its location is not known and we have no estimate of its population size.

[11]  A complete set of David Wilkinson’s maps of the world’s largest cities is at


[12] The idea of the Central System is derived from David Wilkinson’s (1987) definition of “Central Civilization.” It spatially bounds a system in terms of a set of allying and fighting polities. The Central System (or Political-Military Network) is the interpolity system that was created when the Mesopotamian and Egyptian PMNs became directly connected with one another in about 1500 BCE (see Note 13). The Central PMN expanded in waves until it came to encompass the whole Earth in the 19th century CE. It expanded from the Eastern Mediterranean to eventually encompass the whole Mediterranean world region. Because it was an expanding system its spatial boundaries changed over time. Four of our “cases” are spatially and temporally constant regional PMNs, and one, the Central System, is an expanding network of interacting polities. We follow Wilkinson’s decisions about when and where the Central System expanded, and the temporal bounding of the regions we are studying also follows Wilkinson’s dating of when the regions became incorporated into the expanding Central System.  The contemporary global PMN is the international system of states.


[13] Europe later became semiperipheral, developed its own core region with the rise of Rome, descended back to the semiperiphery with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and then rose again through the formation a new core region around a network of capitalist city-states, and then capitalist nation-states. In a sense Europe was a semiperipheral marcher world region (Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997: Chapter 9; Morris 2010).

[14] The events that led to the rise of the 1st Dynasty occurred in prehistory at the dawn of writing in the Nile region.  Consequently, both archaeologists and historians remark upon the ambiguity of the evidence, including the Narmer Palate, most of which points to the existence of at least two separate rulers that have been amalgamated into the legendary proto-pharaoh known as Narmer or the Scorpion King (Álvarez and Roberts, 2010). The central process behind the 1st Dynasty upsweep was the unification of nascent political and economic institutions of the Lower and Upper Egyptian kingdoms.

[15] For example, Booth (2005) argues that the Hyksos did not enter Egypt primarily by military means, but as merchants and immigrant laborers.  Due to internal logistical problems—brought on by famine and plague—the 13th Dynasty was powerless to stop, or effectively regulate, the influx of these Semitic-speaking immigrants.  She suspects that the extensive mining and architectural aspirations of Amanemhat III may have encouraged the influx of these laborers.

Bourriau’s (1997) account of the transition to Hyksos rule is similar to Booth’s.  Her excavation of Memphis does not point to a military campaign or a forced entry into Egypt by the Hyksos, but rather debunks Manetho’s depictions of the Hyksos as roving bands of marauders as nationalistically motivated, a tradition that has been carried on until recent times.  For Bourriau, there is no evidence that points to the sacking of Memphis or any other major urban center at the hands of the Hyksos.

[16] Neo-Assyrian is a linguistic designation, denoting the third and last period of the Assyrian dialect of Akkadian.

[17] The Neo-Assyrian expansion to the west, north, and east from the Assyrian heartland was based on a desire to reclaim territories that had been won in the Middle Assyrian period after the demise of the Hurrian state of Mitanni/Hanigalbat in the mid-14th century.  Assyria had lost control of these lands in the mid-11th century after the death of Tiglath-pileser I. 


[18] The exception was Alexander’s conquests in South Asia. But after the fall of the Greek states in South Asia there was little direct political/military interaction between the two regional PMNs until Mahmud of Ghazni conquered parts of South Asia in the early 11th century CE.  So the two PMNs came together temporarily with the Macedonian eruption, and then separated again for 13 centuries.

[19] The co-evolution between steppe and sown polities was first analyzed by Owen Lattimore (1945) in his Inner Asian Frontier of China, still a powerful and useful analysis of the way in which the dynastic cycle of China was tied to the relationship with what we would call peripheral marcher states. More recently Thomas Barfield (1989) has added greatly to this topic and Christopher Beckwith (2009) has deepened our understanding of Central Asian culture.

[20] Upon being elected khan of the Mongols, Temujin only had a fraction of the tribes unified (Barfield 1989,:190).   By 1204, with the defeat of Kereyid confederation, full unification was complete.  Around 1206, Temujin earned the title Chinggis Khan (Barfield 1989,: 191). 

                [21] The Netherlands, Britain and the United States are all cases of formerly semiperipheral polities that rose to core status and hegemony in the larger system.