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The "system" refers to a period in which the major powers of the Mediterranean and Near East engaged in international diplomacy in order to foster trade rather than wars. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites, Babylonians, Minoans and others engaged in widespread international commerce, well attested by archaeological evidence (and literary evidence especially in the case of Egypt and Mesopotamia.) Even smaller cultures, such as those of Ugarit and Troy focused primarily on trade. This period of relative peace and international exchange of goods and ideas resulted in economic and artistic development across the entire region.
The period ended in the 12th century from a variety of causes. The Iliad may represent a resumption of hostilities among the Mediterranean powers over trading rights, and mentions of a mysterious group of "sea peoples" in Egyptian documents suggests the possibility of contributory patterns of migration and invasion, but the evidence lacks detail.
The principal features of this international system were a number of "superpowers" whose relations originally were hostile but which came to be more peaceful as the period went on. This created a relatively stable period in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
During this time, the major superpowers of the "world" were Egypt, the Hittites, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. Between them, these powers controlled what we now call the Mediterranean and the Middle East. These powers first tended to fight one another for dominance. After a time, however, they came to realize that a relatively peaceful coexistence, with a great deal of international trade, would be better for all concerned. This led to an international system in which there was land and sea trade between the superpowers and relatively little in the way of war.
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