chapter  2
Pages 33

Childe’s economic model at least has some explanatory power, in which respect it is preferable to older diffusionist accounts. According to these, the ‘idea’ of the city was invented in the Near East; it diffused to the east, to the Indus Valley and south-east Asia, and to the west, to Crete, Greece and Rome, and thence to Europe as a whole (Carter, 1983, p. 10). Such accounts suggest that villagers were persuaded of the advantages of building a city, in much the same way that traders might have demonstrated to them the superiority of copper tools over stone. The developmental process through which a society comes to channel substantial resources into building cities is surely more complex than this. Archaeologists now find even Childe’s version of diffusionism an over-simplification, and insist that the causes of urbanization in the Aegean cannot be reduced to ‘the irradiation of European barbarism by Oriental civilization’, as Childe put it (quoted in Renfrew, 1972, p.xxv); the emergence of cities was also the result of interacting, indigenous developments in technology, culture and social organization. This modern interpretation complements one of the main aims of this chapter, which is to show that the early history of cities in the Mediterranean basin reinforces conclusions already drawn in Chapter 1, from a comparison between Mesopotamia and Egypt: that urbanization is no simple, unilinear process, and that the technological activity of city-building is embedded in social, political, religious and environmental contexts peculiar to the region.