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The Teresh of The Sea Peoples

Identifying the Teresh of The Sea Peoples

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It has long been suggested that the Teresh, an ethnic group listed among the Sea Peoples in Egyptian sources, were one and the same as the Tyrrhenians (also referred to as Tyrsenians in other Greek sources). According to the Greek geographer, Strabo (ca. 64 BCE–24 CE), the label, Tyrrhenian, referred to the Etruscans, for whom the Tyrrhenian Sea is named. It has also been suggested that these Teresh were Trojan refugees, escaping the destruction that befell their homeland, at the hands of the Mycenaean Greeks, and eventually settling in the regions of what is now Tuscany, in Italy; lending credence to the migrations of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid. However, in my latest research, at least one of these claims is challenged.

The Teresh are documented as being part of a larger coalition of migrants threatening Egyptian shores during the reigns of Pharaohs Merneptah (reigned ca. 1213–1203 BCE) and Ramesses (reigned ca. 1186–1155 BCE). We do not know much about them, only that they were the Teresh of the Sea; which meant that they came from an island and not Anatolia, dismissing the Trojan hypothesis. Oddly enough, we may come to a proper identification when analyzing non-Egyptian sources.

Relief showing Egyptian navy fighting the Sea Peoples

A large relief shows the Egyptian navy fighting the Sea Peoples during the reign of Ramesses II. Image source.

Prior to the disappearance of the Mycenaean Greeks in the Late Bronze Age ca. 1200 BCE, writing was utilized in all of the Aegean to record inventories and transactions. The Mycenaean script is referred to as Linear B; an adaptation of the earlier Minoan Linear A. Linear A and B comprise hundreds of signs that represent syllabic, ideographic, and semantic values. To date, Linear B has been the only deciphered script (translated by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick between 1951–1953), providing insight into the more archaic form of Greek spoken by the Mycenaeans.

A sample of Linear B script

A sample of Linear B script (1450 BC). Image source: Wikipedia

I suggest that the Teresh were from the Aegean; more specifically, native Cretans from a province referred to in the Classical period (and later) as Tylissos. Among the scattered Linear B inscriptions, there are multiple references to the toponym, tu-ri-so. This was the ancient name of the same location. Its inhabitants were referred to as tu-ri-si-ja and tu-ri-si-jo. Tylissos is located on the northern shores of central Crete.

While this seems to be yet another piece to this puzzle, we cannot say without reasonable doubt that the Teresh are one and the same with the tu-ri-si-ja. Aside from similarities to the name of the location and its peoples, the only other clue is that they came from the sea; that is an island in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea.

This does bring to mind the Homeric epic, the Odyssey and an episode commonly referred to as the Cretan Lie. When in the court of Alcinous in the land of the Phaeacians, Odysseus deceives his hosts by stating that he was a Cretan serving under the command of Idomeneus. After the Trojan War, and desiring new adventures, he led a group of men on a raid into Egypt. They would raid the delta but upon reaching the Egyptian capital were immediately defeated. Odysseus begged the Egyptian king for mercy and remained on Egyptian soil for seven years. Is there some historical truth to this lie? Does it preserve a historical event, possibly in relation to the Teresh? Also, what happened to these migrants after the Egyptians drove them off of their land? Did they go on to find Etruria? Possibly. Although, the archaeological record has yet to make these connections.

Featured image: The Sea Peoples. Image source.

By Petros Koutoupis


Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B. New York: Cambridge UP, 1958. [Print]

Homer. The Odyssey, XIV, 199–359.

Ventris, Michael and John Chadwick. Documents in Mycenaean Greek. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge UP, 1973. [Print]



Please tell how Calypso become a king of Egypt, it will be interesting. Thank you!

Bruce Nowakowski's picture

I have thought for some time the Sea Peoples may have referred to the Greeks themselves during the Trojan War, many of whom lived on the various islands.  Remember they funded their war by raiding various non-aligned islands and coastal cities.  Logically speaking they would have started closest to Troy and worked their way down which is more or less the same as the sea peoples raiding pattern from why I have read/heard. 

pkoutoupis's picture



Thank you for the encouraging words. One of th biggest obstacles to a proper identification of such peoples is the lack of archaeological evidence. You can only get so far with literary sources.


Petros Koutoupis

Tsurugi's picture

I agree with Malisa, this was very interesting. I knew absolutely nothing about this before reading, so it was all very informative.

It made me wonder though.....are there many cases like this, where there are trusted historical references to the existence of a people, but it isn't clear really who they were or where they came from?

pkoutoupis's picture



You are very welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it as I also enjoyed researching/writing it.




Petros Koutoupis



pkoutoupis's picture

Petros Koutoupis

Petros Koutoupis is an author and an independent historical researcher, focusing predominantly on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age periods of the Eastern Mediterranean and general Near East. Fluent in modern Greek, Petros has additional knowledge in languages that... Read More

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