Terry E
The Sea Peoples: Teresh
Sat Aug 2, 2008 13:18 (XFF:

Dear All,

This post concludes the series on the opponents of Merenptah, i.e. the list of 'Sea Peoples' listed as his enemies. The final name is variously written as Teresh or Tursha in modern histories.

A popular suggestion in the literature is to link the Teresh/Tursha to the Tyrrhenians i.e. the Etruscans. However there are a number of problems with such an identification:

1. Once again it is an identification which seems to be based on nothing more than a general name similarity, and similarity with a name that is not known from other sources until several centuries later.
2. It would not have been possible to base an attack on Egypt from N.W. Anatolia. Somewhere closer to Egypt must have been the base of operations.
3. Ramesses III captured a Teresh chief whilst campaigning in Syria/Palestine. See further below on this. Ramesses III never went anywhere near N.W. Anatolia.
4. Our only evidence for the origin of the Tyrrhenian name is in Herodotus. He reports that it was a name adopted by a part of the Lydian people when they migrated to the west and it was only at that time that they built ships. An attack on Egypt all the way from Etruria is even less likely than one from N.W. Anatolia.
5. Roman writers who mention the Etruscans do not provide any evidence of an ancient Etruscan/Tyrrhenian attack on Egypt.
6. There is no literary, archaeological or other evidence of Tyrrhenians in Italy, Anatolia or anywhere else at the time of Merenptah and Ramesses III and for centuries afterwards.
7. There is no mention in the Iliad or Odyssey of a people by the name of Tyrrhenians, nor in any Hittite records of Anatolian peoples. This fits with Herodotus whose explanation of the name seems to refer to a much later period.

An alternative suggestion is a link with Teucer, a Greek hero at the siege of Troy and his followers the Teucrians. Teucrians is also a name sometimes given to the Trojans. However this is once again simply an approximate name similarity, or more basically a name beginning with T. Since as far as I can see nothing is known about Teucer and his 'Teucrians' outside of Greek Myth this does not get us very far.

So who were the Teresh really? What does the evidence actually say?

Firstly I need to correct something I said earlier. The Teresh are in fact another people who are mentioned by both Merenptah and Ramesses III. Like the Sherden the Teresh don't get mentioned as part of the grand alliance of northerners against Ramesses III but a Teresh chief is included as one of seven captives in the Medinet Habu illustrations relating to the Syrian war of Ramesses III. After his defeat of the alliance against him it seems that Ramesses III campaigned into Syria and there, included in the list of his enemies, are the Sherden and the Teresh.

The full list of chiefs captured by Ramesses III in Syria/Palestine is:


There is no doubt as to the location of the Hittites, who by this time were spread from Central Anatolia into parts of Syria. Many of the inhabitants of Syria were called Hittites in later Assyrian records. Similarly the Amorites were also found in Syria.

The name Shashu seem to have referred to nomadic Semitic peoples found in the Syria-Palestine area. The Thekel were found in the Palestinian city of Dor at the time of Wenamun and the Peleset, if indeed they were the Philistines, were in due course in Philistia.

We have already located the Sherden in the general area of Phoenicia so they fit in perfectly well with the other peoples of the region of Syria/Palestine. The Levantine location of Sherden, Thekel and Peleset is confirmed by the Onomasticon of Amenope.

Logically therefore we must expect to find the homeland of the Teresh in the general area of Syria/Palestine the same as all of the other peoples listed above. It makes no sense to place them anywhere else since we have no other contemporary evidence as to their location.

So where exactly in Syria/Palestine? Well as maritime allies of the Libyans we once again must look for them along part of the Levantine coast. One possibility is surely the city of Tyre? If Tyrrhenian is thought possible for Teresh/Tursha how much more likely is Tyre?

Geographically it is a perfect fit. It was a port city, long with a reputation for having a formidable fleet, and right in the middle of Syria/Palestine. Anybody putting together a maritime alliance to attack ancient Egypt would certainly have had Tyre on his wish list.

Tyre also fits comfortably into an alliance of Libyans, Sherden (Sidonians, or at least from Phoenicia), Ashkelon, Akko and Arqa that rebelled against Merenptah. Tyre was part of the empire of Ramesses II and Seti I. We know from the Israel stela that Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Yenoam, Israel and Kharu were in rebellion as well as the Sherden and Libyans. Would or could Tyre have remained aloof?

But once again things are not straightforward on the language front. The transcription of Teresh (per Breasted) is variously:

Tw -rw sh'
Tw ry sh'
Ty -w -r' sh'

But Tyre is written D' rw. For the Sherden - Sidon suggestion we have the problem that we have S/Sh on the one hand and something like Ts/Z on the other. So for the Teresh - Tyre suggestion we have a conflict between T on the one hand and Ts/Z on the other. In both cases we have different opening consonants.

It may be that the names Sherden and Sidon have only a superficial and accidental resemblance and that the Sherden were not exactly the same as the Sidonians. Personally I doubt it because there are several lines of evidence which place the Sherden and the Sidonians in the same area of maritime Phoenicia at this time (please see earlier posts).

It also may be that we don't have a linguistic equivalence between Tyre/Tyrians and Teresh/Tursha. But there is another name that we should include in this discussion: Tarshish. In a late source Isaiah 23 says:

"The oracle concerning Tyre.

Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your fortress is destroyed...From that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years..."

Tyre as the fortress of Tarshish or the Tarshish? Here and elsewhere in the Bible there seems to be a clear association between Tyre and Tarshish. Perhaps the Tarshish were the original inhabitants of Tyre before it was conquered by the Sidonians. Perhaps it was originally a name for the people and the general area which used Tyre as an emporium. The links between Tyre and Tarshish have been noted by others. From:


"Renouf's opinion is that "Tarshish" means a coast, and, as the word occurs frequently in connection with Tyre, the Phenician coast is to be understood."

Quite naturally this would be the general area from where the maritime 'Teresh' sailed against Merenptah, perhaps from Tyre, as part of the rebel alliance after the death of Ramesses II. This would be the area attacked by Ramesses III from where he captured the 'Teresh' chieftain illustrated at Medinet Habu.

Indeed given that Ramesses III attacked the Teresh as part of his Syria/Palestine campaign it is hard to see where else along the Levantine coast to locate such a maritime people given the known locations of other peoples.

Now this does not in itself exclude the Teresh being a people who migrated into and settled in the area of Phoenicia at the time of the wars of Merenptah and who were still there in the time of Ramesses III. However all indications are that the enemies of Merenptah were an alliance of peoples who rebelled against Egypt on the death of Ramesses II.

It is therefore a much better fit to place the Teresh as one of the Levantine peoples from within the boundary of the empire of Ramesses II. For reasons already discussed at length these peoples do not fit as a pan-Mediterranean alliance of peoples from far, far away.

We are familiar with the Biblical story of the land of Israel being divided up amongst a number of tribal territories. After the Judges era it seems that the individual tribes eventually stopped being the basis of Israelite society and were replaced by territorial kingdoms. A similar process may have happened in the area of Phoenicia.

If the names did not simply indicate the Sidonians and the Tyrians it might be that the Sherden and Teresh were in origin tribal names in that general area which eventually fell into disuse. Despite the language difficulties there is still the geographical evidence as to the general location of both peoples.

Although it seems most if not all of the Levant rebelled after the death of Ramesses II not all of these peoples were coastal peoples with the means to send ships to help the Libyans in their war against Merenptah. But those with the means to do so would certainly have had the motive. A combined fleet from five of the major Levantine coastal cities would have provided a considerable force to supplement the Libyan army:


These were the peoples listed by Merenptah as Shekelesh, Akkowesh, Teresh, Sherden and Arka (not Lukka). These places and other non-maritime rebel cities and peoples were those with whom the victorious Merenptah sought a reckoning in the years following his defeat of the allied army. Since the Levantine rebellion would have cut off Egypt from a major source of revenue pretty well overnight Merenptah most likely saw his campaign into Syria/Palestine to suppress the rebellion as an urgent necessity.


    • The Sea PeoplesJoe Baker, Sun Aug 3 06:36
      Hi Tery Well so far you have tried to identify various "Sea People" as people from the southern Levantine coast, i.e. Ashkelon (Shekelesh), Acco (Ekwesh), Tyre (Teresh), Sidon (Sherdan) and Irqata... more
      • Re: The Sea PeoplesTerry E, Mon Aug 4 12:22
        Dear Joe, As a further follow up on your criticism of the linguistic connections that I have suggested I refer back to your post number 8286 on the Shekelesh thread where you asked: "But where do the ... more
      • Re: The Sea PeoplesTerry E, Mon Aug 4 04:42
        Dear Joe, Many thanks for your comments. You say: "Well so far you have tried to identify various "Sea People" as people from the southern Levantine coast, i.e. Ashkelon (Shekelesh), Acco (Ekwesh),... more
    • TyreDavid Rice, Sun Aug 3 00:21
      Hello, Terry -- Thank you for your series on the "Sea People" name identifications. I find it all very reasonable. I have in the past been impressed with Jon Smyth's points that the usual concept of... more
      • Re: TyreTerry E, Mon Aug 4 04:28
        Dear David, Thank you for your kind words. You say: "I have heard for years from a personal and thoughtful friend that Tyre was the derivation for the expression Tyrrhenian Sea, or Sea of Tyre,... more
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