99 Aztec Century - alternate worlds in general

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Alternate history books typically take a single event as pivot, and explore how history is changed. Favourites are a) the Nazis win World War II, or b) the American Civil War (and/or the American War of Independence) turns out differently. What such event would you pick and why?

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    I'd find it hard to pick an event - there are so many to choose from! But I do enjoy when authors explore these things. Another book I read recently - The Years of Rice and Salt - I thought was an excellent exploration of what the world might have become if the Bubonic Plague had been more deadly in the 13th C. That book was much more plausible, but this one had some nice elements, too.

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    I explored that in one of my game settings - If the second Crusade had happened a little differently.

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    Something that always fascinates me is whether authors think that there is a kind of historical inertia (eg Asimov The End of Eternity ) so that events tend to revert to the same thing as you go into the future from the changed event, or whether things diverge more and more (as here) so that the new history becomes increasingly strange.

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    I was thinking about this a few days ago, before I read this question. I randomly picked a time period and part of the world and came up with the time of Hammurabi. I didn’t develop any thoughts on this, though, so here goes.

    If Hammurabi never comes to power, the codification of Mesopotamian law comes later. In real life, even though his dynasty falls, codification of law strengthens the successor dynasties and makes later empires possible. Without it, the Mesopotamians aren’t able to hold together well enough to withstand the Egyptians. The Hyksos don’t emerge. The Hebrew people don’t model (some of) their law on Hammurabi. Heck, maybe the Hebrew people don’t even emerge without a strong Mesopotamia. If the Hebrew people do emerge, they don’t fall to Assyria and Babylon but continue exclusively under Egyptian sway until Alexander.

    I’m sure I’ve got some of the timeline here mixed up, as I’m riffing off the top of my head.

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    @WildCard said:

    If Hammurabi never comes to power, the codification of Mesopotamian law comes later. In real life, even though his dynasty falls, codification of law strengthens the successor dynasties and makes later empires possible. Without it, the Mesopotamians aren’t able to hold together well enough to withstand the Egyptians. The Hyksos don’t emerge. The Hebrew people don’t model (some of) their law on Hammurabi. Heck, maybe the Hebrew people don’t even emerge without a strong Mesopotamia. If the Hebrew people do emerge, they don’t fall to Assyria and Babylon but continue exclusively under Egyptian sway until Alexander.

    I think this has some mileage :) There's a crucial (to my mind) event at the Battle of Qadesh, fought between the New Kingdom Egyptian empire under Ramesses II, and the Hittite empire under Muwatallis, both essentially at the peak of their strength (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kadesh). In our world this ended as a kind of draw, with both sides claiming victory - a more sober appraisal suggests both sides lost. The Hittites never again headed south: the Egyptians never again headed north, and it wasn't all that long before both collapsed. Egyptian technological stagnation meant that by the time the Greeks and Romans came along, the match was one-sided.

    Now, I've seen what if scenarios for either side actually winning, but unless something of the wider context also changed, then it's hard to see any change of battle outcome actually making a long-term difference. But... with your suggestion that there had been a very much earlier reason why Mesopotamian cultures never attained stable dynasties able to expand aggressively, then (IMHO) the logic shifts. Egypt and Mesopotamia never encounter each other in the Levant, Egypt expands further and faster northwards, absorbing the several Phoenician cities together with Ugarit.

    The Hittites don't advance their military capability by practicing with Mesopotamian forays, and the Egyptians therefore either capture or recruit the ability to work with iron ore (they knew how to work meteoric iron, but did not have access to ore so failed to develop the necessary skills. Maybe Qadesh happens with a resounding Egyptian victory, or more likely it never happens, and Ramesses instead takes his armies further north towards Europe, and east around the Fertile Crescent. This time when the Greeks and Romans come along, they encounter not an ancient-but-decaying civilisation, but a vibrant and powerful one...

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    Hammurabi wasn’t the first to codify laws, though his stelae are more complete and well preserved than others. Furthermore he didn’t create the law - that was done long before his time. Most scholars think the ‘code’ isn’t really a list of proscribed laws, but an example to the populace of what can be expected from the legal system. So knocking Hammurabi out wouldn’t have made a lot of difference in Mesopotamia’s ability to compete internationally.

    Probably the best was to remove Mesopotamian influence in the west (including Assyrian) is to have one of the earlier invasions be more effective - either the Gutian invasion that ended the Akkadian empire, or one of the many Elamite incursions. Having the Elamites keep control of Mesopotamia and running it as a backwater province would likely mean no Mitannians, Assyrians, or Neo-Babylonians later. Maybe this means the Hittites swing east, instead of west, in their conquests, giving the Egyptians time to catch up militarily.
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    I yield to those with much more knowledge.

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