Eshmunazar II


Eshmunazar II
Image of a dark stone Egyptian sarcophagus. The image shows the face of the sarcophagus in a relaxed position looking to the horizon. The sarcophagus shows left-to-right inscriptions in Phoenician on its lid.
Phoenician-inscribed sarchophagus of king Eshmunazar II from the Sidon royal necropolis, the Louvre
Reignc. 539 BC – c. 525 BC
PredecessorTabnit I
SuccessorBodashtart (his cousin)
Sidon royal necropolis
SpouseAmoashtart (his sister)
Phoenician language𐤀𐤔𐤌𐤍𐤏𐤆𐤓
DynastyEshmunazar I dynasty
ReligionCanaanite polytheism

Eshmunazar II (Phoenician: 𐤀𐤔𐤌𐤍𐤏𐤆𐤓 ʾšmnʿzr, a theophoric name meaning 'Eshmun helps') was the Phoenician King of Sidon (r. c. 539 – c. 525 BC). He was the grandson of king Eshmunazar I, and a vassal king of the Achaemenid Empire. He reigned after his father Tabnit I on the throne of Sidon, he died at the premature age of 14, and was succeeded by his cousin Bodashtart. The king is known from his sarcophagus, decorated with two inscriptions in the Phoenician script. It is housed in the Louvre Museum.


Eshmunazar is the Latinized form of the Phoenician theophoric name 𐤀𐤔𐤌𐤍𐤏𐤆𐤓‎, meaning "Eshmun helps".[1][2]

Variable spellings include: ʾEšmunʿazor,[3] ʾšmnʿzr,[4] Achmounazar,[5] Ashmounazar,[6] Ashmunazar,[7] Ashmunezer,[8] Echmounazar,[9] Echmounazor,[10] Eschmoun-ʿEzer,[11] Eschmunazar,[12] Eshmnʿzr,[2] Eshmunazor,[13] Esmounazar,[14] Esmunasar,[15] Esmunazar,[16] Ešmunʿazor,[17] Ešmunazar,[18] Ešmunazor.[19]


The absolute chronology of the Kings of Sidon from the dynasty of Eshmunazar I has been much discussed in the literature; traditionally placed in the course of the fifth century, inscriptions of this dynasty have been dated back to an earlier period on the basis of numismatic, historical and archaeological evidence. The most complete work addressing the dates of the reigns of these Sidonian kings is by the French historian Josette Elayi who shifted away from the use of biblical chronology. Elayi used all the available documentation of the time and included inscribed Tyrian seals and stamps excavated by the Lebanese archaeologist Maurice Chehab in 1972 from Jal el-Bahr, a neighborhood in the north of Tyre,[20][21][22][23][24] Phoenician inscriptions discovered by the French archaeologist Maurice Dunand in Sidon in 1965,[25] and the systematic study of Sidonian coins which were the first coins to bear minting dates in antiquity based on the years of reign of the Sidonian kings.[26][27] Elayi placed the reigns of the descendants of Eshmunazar I between the middle and the end of the sixth century; according to her work Eshmunazar II reigned from c.539 BC until his premature death c.525 BC.[28][29]

Historical context

Two images representing architectural elements, the top image shows a column capital with bull protomes jutting out from its two sides. The bottom image shows torus shaped column elements laying in a green field.
Achaemenid-inspired bull protome column capital from the Temple of Eshmun, Lebanon.
Torus-like column elements in situ at the Temple of Eshmun archaeological site.

Sidon, which was a flourishing and independent Phoenician city-state, came under Mesopotamian occupation in the ninth century BC. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC) conquered the Lebanon mountain range and its coastal cities including Sidon.[30]

In 705, the Sidonian king Luli joined forces with the Egyptians and Judah in an unsuccessful rebellion against Assyrian rule,[31][32] but was forced to flee to Kition with the arrival of the Assyrian army headed by Sennacherib. Sennacherib instated Ittobaal on the throne of Sidon and reimposed the annual tribute.[33] When Abdi-Milkutti ascended to Sidon's throne in 680 BC, he also rebelled against the Assyrians. In response, the Assyrian king Esarhaddon captured and beheaded Abdi-Milkutti in 677 BC after a three-year siege; Sidon was stripped of its territory, which was awarded to Baal I, the king of rival Tyre and loyal vassal to Esarhaddon.[34]

Sidon returned to its former prosperity while Tyre was besieged for 13 years (586–573 BC) by the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar II.[35] After the Achaemenid conquest in 529 BC Phoenicia was divided into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Byblos and Arwad.[36] Eshmunazar I, a priest of Astarte and the founder of his namesake dynasty became king around the time of the Achaemenid conquest of the Levant.[37] During the first phase of Achaemenid rule Sidon flourished and reclaimed its former standing as Phoenicia's chief city, and the Sidonian kings began an extensive program of mass-scale construction projects attested in the Eshmunazar II sarcophagus and Bodashtart inscriptions.[37][38][39]


To date, all that we know of the king's reign has been learned from his funerary inscriptions.


clock In progress

Religiosity and temple building

A moss covered stone throne with sphinxes and cloven feet. Behind the throne are moss-covered bare ashlar walls.
Throne of Astarte at the Temple of Eshmun in Bustan-el-Sheikh in the vicinity of Sidon, Lebanon. The temple by the Ydll source is mentioned in line 17 of the inscription of the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II.

The kings of Sidon held priestly in addition to military, judiciary and diplomacy responsibilities. Among the Sidonian kings' various duties, priestly functions were given more importance as is highlighted by the place of the priestly title which preceded the royal title, and the patronym in the royal inscriptions of Eshmunazar I and Tabnit. The reverse of some of the locally minted coins show that the Sidonian kings were personally engaged in religious ceremonies.[40][41]

Eshmunazar II descends from a line of priests; his father Tabnit and his grandfather Eshmunazar I were priests of Astarte, in addition to being Kings of Sidon, as recorded on Tabnit's sarcophagus inscriptions (known as KAI 13).[note 1][42] Eshmunazar II's mother was also a priestess of Astarte as illustrated on line 14 of her son's sarcophagus inscriptions.[43] Temple building and renovation and the performance of priestly duties were promotional tools used to bolster the Sidonian monarchs' political power and magnificence by depicting them as pious, and the recipients of divine favor and protection;[41] this royal function was materialized by Eshmunazar II and his mother Queen Amoashtart through the construction of new temples and religious buildings for the Phoenician gods Baal, Astarte, and Eshmun in a number of Sidon's neighborhoods and adjoining territory (see lines 15–18 of Eshmunazar II's sarcophagus inscriptions).[41][44] Additionally, Eshmunazar II's sarcophagus inscription calls upon the gods to severely punish anyone who disturbs the deceased king's resting place.[45]

Territorial expansion

The Phoenician cities of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean consisted of an urban area, an agricultural territory in the perimeter of the urban center, and mountainous hinterlands.[46] The agricultural territory of the Phoenician cities was intended originally to support the needs citizens; in the Neo-Assyrian era, an inscription from King Esarhaddon describing the city of Sidon listed the various localities, pastures, and irrigated land of the city's agricultural territory. The resources of this territory were no longer sufficient during the Persian domination to meet the needs of Sidon who sought territorial expansion.[47] In recognition to Sidon's naval warfare contributions, the "Lord of Kings" awarded Eshmunazar II the territories of Dor, Joppa and the lands of Dagon which are in the plain of Sharon (lines 18–20 of the Eshmunazar II sarchophagus inscriptions).[48]

The territories of the Phoenician cities could be discontinuous: thus, the lands and the cities of Dor and Joppa belonging to the Sidonians were separated from Sidon by the city of Tyre.[47]

Succession and death

Semitic royal titles of Phoenician regents reveal that Phoenician royalty was hereditary and that monarchs reigned for life. The responsibilities and power of the position were passed down to the regent's child or another member of their family when they die. The royal ancestry and lineage of Sidonian kings was documented up to the second or third-degree ancestor (see line 13 and 14 of Eshmunazar II's sarcophagus inscription); it was not necessarily done by order of primogeniture as is the case of Eshmunazar II's cousin and successor Bodashtart.[49] Queen mothers held political power and exercised in the form of association with political acts and co-regency.[50]

Eshmunazar II's father King Tabnit I ruled for a short time and died before the birth of his son, he was succeeded by his sister-wife Amoashtart who assumed the role of interregnum regent and ruled alone until Eshmunazar II's birth, and then acted as his regent until the time he would have reached majority. Eshmunazar II died aged 14 during the reign of his overlord the King of Kings Cambyses II of Achaemenid Persia.[51][52] After his premature death Eshmunazar II was succeeded by his cousin Bodashtart.[53]


Eshmunazar II was a descendant of Eshmunazar I's dynasty. Eshmunazar's heir was his son Tabnit, who fathered Eshmunazar II from his sister Amoashtart. Tabnit died before the birth of Eshmunazar II, and Amoashtart ruled in the interlude until the birth of her son, then was co-regent until he reached adulthood.[53]

Eshmunazar I dynasty
Eshmunazar I
Tabnit IAmoashtart?
Eshmunazar IIBodashtart

Eshmunazar II's sarcophagus

Announcement of the discovery in The Journal of Commerce

The sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II was discovered on 19 January 1855 when treasure-hunters were digging in the grounds of an ancient cemetery in the plains south of the city of Sidon. It was found just outside of a hollowed-out rocky mound that's locally known as Magharet Abloun [The Cavern of Apollo], a part of a large complex of Achaemenid era necropoli.[54][55][56][57][58] The discovery is attributed to Alphonse Durighello, an agent of the French consulate in Sidon, who informed and sold the sarcophagus to the chancellor of the French consulate in Beirut and amateur archaeologist Antoine-Aimé Peretié.[59][60] The Egyptian-style black amphibolite anthropoid sarcophagus was first described, and the acquired by Honoré Théodoric d'Albert de Luynes, a French aristocrat and holder of an immense fortune; de Luynes who donated it to the French state.[55][56][60][61] The sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II dates back to the 26th dynasty of Egypt (664–525 B.C.); it was originally made for the burial an unidentified Egyptian notable. Elayi posits that the sarcophagi were brought to Sidon before 525 BC and that they were seized by the Sidonians during their participation in Cambyses II's conquest of Egypt in 525 B.C.[62][63][64] The sarcophagus of King Eshmunazar II is housed in the Louvre's Near Eastern antiquities section in room 311 of the Sully wing. It was given the museum identification number of AO 4806.[57]


Black and white image of a dark stone coffin with a human face, the coffin stands upright facing the viewer.
1892 picture of the sarcophagus lid.
Black and white image of a dark stone coffin viewed laterally, the coffin lies on the ground, the trough and lid are separated with wedges.
1892 picture of the sarcophagus with the trough inscription visible under the lid.

A long inscription of twenty two lines is carved on the surface of the sarcophagus lid.[65][61][55][8] A second inscription was found on the trough of the sarcophagus.[65][66][67] Additionally, the external surface of the trough bears an isolated group of two Phoenician characters. De Luynes believes that they to have been trial carving marks of the engraver of the inscription.[68]

The inscriptions of the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar are known to scholars as KAI 14; they are written in the Phoenician Canaanite language, in the Phoenician alphabet. They identify the king buried inside, tell of his lineage and temple construction feats and warns against disturbing him in his repose.[39]

The inscriptions also state that the "Lord of Kings" (the Achaemenid King of Kings, probably Cambyses II)[69] granted the Sidonian king "Dor and Joppa, the mighty lands of Dagon, which are in the plain of Sharon" in recognition of his deeds.[39] The deeds in question probably relate to the contribution of Eshmanazar to the Egyptian campaign of Cambyses II.[69]

Copies of the inscriptions were sent to scholars across the world and translations were published by well-known scholars of the time[70][71][72]

English translation

In the month of Bul, in the fourteenth year of the reign of king Eshmunazar, king of the Sidonians, son of king Tabnit, king of the Sidonians, king Eshmunazar, king of the Sidonians, said as follows: I was carried away before my time, son of a limited number of short days (or: son of a limited number of days I was cut off), an orphan, the son of a widow, and I am lying in this coffin and in this tomb, in a place which I have built. Whoever you are, king or (ordinary) man, may he (sic!) not open this resting-place and may he not search in it after anything because nothing whatsoever has been placed into it. And may he not move the coffin of my resting-place, nor carry me away from this resting-place to another resting-place. Also if men talk to you do not listen to their chatter. For every king and every (ordinary) man, who will open what is above this resting-place, or will lift up the coffin of my resting-place, or will carry me away from this resting-place, may they not have a resting-place with the Rephaïm, may they not be buried in a tomb, and may they not have a son or offspring after them. And may the sacred gods deliver them to a mighty king who will rule them in order to exterminate them, the king or this (ordinary) man who will open what is over this resting-place or will lift up this coffin, and (also) the offspring of this king or of those (ordinary) men. They shall not have root below or fruit above or appearance in the life under the sun. For I who deserve mercy, I was carried away before my time, son of a limited number of short days (or: son of a limited number of days I was cut off), I an orphan, the son of a widow. For I, Eshmunazar, king of the Sidonians, son of king Tabnit, king of the Sidonians, grandson of king Eshmunazar, king of the Sidonians, and my mother Amo[t]astart, priestess of Ashtart, our lady, the queen, daughter of king Eshmunazar, king of the Sidonians, (it is we) who have built the temples of the gods, [the temple of Ashtar]t in Sidon, the land of the sea. And we have placed Ashtart (in) the mighty heavens (or: in Shamem-Addirim?). And it is we who have built a temple for Eshmun, the prince of the sanctuary of the source of Ydll in the mountains, and we have placed him (in) the mighty heavens (or: in Shamem-Addirim?). And it is we who have built temples for the gods of the Sidonians in Sidon, the land of the sea, a temple for Baal of Sidon, and a temple for Ashtart, the Name of Baal. Moreover, the lord of kings gave us Dor and Joppa, the mighty lands of Dagon, which are in the Plain of Sharon, as a reward for the brilliant action I did. And we have annexed them to the boundary of the land, so that they would belong to the Sidonians for ever. Whoever you are, king or (ordinary) man, do not open what is above me and do not uncover what is above me and do not carry me away from this resting-place and do not lift up the coffin of my resting-place. Otherwise, the sacred gods will deliver them and cut off this king and those (ordinary) men and their offspring for ever.[73]

See also


  1. ^ I, Tabnit, priest of Astarte, king of Sidon, the son of Eshmunazar, priest of Astarte, king of Sidon, am lying in this sarcophagus. Whoever you are, any man that might find this sarcophagus, don't, don't open it and don't disturb me, for no silver is gathered with me, no gold is gathered with me, nor anything of value whatsoever, only I am lying in this sarcophagus. Don't, don't open it and don't disturb me, for this thing is an abomination to Astarte. And if you do indeed open it and do indeed disturb me, may you not have any seed among the living under the sun, nor a resting-place with the Rephaites.[42]


  1. ^ Hitti 1967, p. 135.
  2. ^ a b Jean 1947, p. 267.
  3. ^ Burlingame 2018.
  4. ^ Briquel Chatonnet, Daccache & Hawley 2015, p. 237.
  5. ^ Delattre 1890, p. 17.
  6. ^ Mariette 1856, p. 9.
  7. ^ Wilson 1982, p. 46.
  8. ^ a b Turner 1860, p. 48.
  9. ^ Clermont-Ganneau 1880, p. 93.
  10. ^ Bordreuil 2002.
  11. ^ Munk 1856.
  12. ^ Hitzig 1855.
  13. ^ Elayi 1997, p. 68.
  14. ^ Perrot 1885, p. 168.
  15. ^ Levy 1864, p. 227.
  16. ^ Luynes 1856, p. 55.
  17. ^ Nunn 2004.
  18. ^ Eiselen 1907, p. 73.
  19. ^ King 1997, p. 189.
  20. ^ Kaoukabani 2005, p. 4.
  21. ^ Elayi 2006, p. 2.
  22. ^ Chéhab 1983, p. 171.
  23. ^ Xella & López 2005b.
  24. ^ Greenfield 1985, pp. 129–134.
  25. ^ Dunand 1965, pp. 105–109.
  26. ^ Elayi 2006.
  27. ^ Elayi & Elayi 2004.
  28. ^ Elayi 2006, p. 22.
  29. ^ Amadasi Guzzo 2012, p. 6.
  30. ^ Bryce 2009, p. 651.
  31. ^ Netanyahu 1964, pp. 243–244.
  32. ^ Yates 1942, p. 109.
  33. ^ Elayi 2018b, p. 58.
  34. ^ Bromiley 1979, pp. 501, 933–934.
  35. ^ Aubet 2001, pp. 58–60.
  36. ^ Boardman et al. 2000, p. 156.
  37. ^ a b Zamora 2016, p. 253.
  38. ^ Elayi 2006, p. 7.
  39. ^ a b c Pritchard & Fleming 2011, pp. 311–312.
  40. ^ Elayi 1997, p. 69.
  41. ^ a b c Elayi & Sapin 1998, p. 153.
  42. ^ a b Jidejian 2006, p. 25.
  43. ^ Haelewyck 2012, pp. 80–81.
  44. ^ Amadasi Guzzo 2012.
  45. ^ Crawford 1992, pp. 180–181.
  46. ^ Elayi 1997, p. 65.
  47. ^ a b Elayi 1997, p. 66.
  48. ^ Briant 2002, p. 490.
  49. ^ Elayi 1997, p. 68–69.
  50. ^ Elayi 1997, p. 70.
  51. ^ Kessler 2020.
  52. ^ Kelly 1987, p. 268.
  53. ^ a b Elayi 2006, p. 5.
  54. ^ Journal of Commerce staff 1856, pp. 379–380.
  55. ^ a b c Luynes 1856, p. 1.
  56. ^ a b Jidéjian 2000, pp. 17–18.
  57. ^ a b Caubet & Prévotat 2013.
  58. ^ Klat 2002, p. 101.
  59. ^ Klat 2002, p. 102.
  60. ^ a b Tahan 2017, pp. 29–30.
  61. ^ a b King 1887, p. 135.
  62. ^ Elayi 2006, p. 6.
  63. ^ Versluys 2010, p. 7–14.
  64. ^ Buhl 1983, p. 201.
  65. ^ a b Luynes 1856, p. 2.
  66. ^ Gibson 1982, p. 105.
  67. ^ Turner 1860, pp. 51–52.
  68. ^ Luynes 1856, p. 5.
  69. ^ a b Kelly 1987, pp. 46–47.
  70. ^ Turner 1860, pp. 48–50.
  71. ^ Turner 1860, p. 49.
  72. ^ Haelewyck 2012, p. 82.
  73. ^ Haelewyck 2012.


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Preceded by King of Sidon
c. 539–525 BC
Succeeded by