Eshmunazar II sarcophagus

The sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II (Phoenician: ʾšmnʿzr), a Phoenician king of Sidon and the son of King Tabnit (possibly the Greek Tenes), was created in the early 5th century BCE. It was unearthed in 1855 at a site near Sidon and is now in the Louvre. The sarcophagus was likely created in Egypt, being carved from amphibolite from Wadi Hammamat.

Eshmunazar II sarcophagus
Eshmunazar II sarcophagus.jpg
The sarcophagus in its current location.
Size2.56 x 1.25 m
WritingPhoenician language
Createdc.500 BCE
Present locationLouvre
IdentificationAO 4806

The inscription states that the "Lord of Kings" granted the Sidonian kings territory in Palestine: Dor, Jaffa, the Plain of Sharon.[1]

The inscription is the first discovered in the Phoenician language from the area known as Phoenicia.[2]


The sarcophagus was discovered in the Necropolis of Magharat Abloun ("Cavern of Apollo") on 20 February 1855 by Aimé Péretié, chancellor of the French consulate of Beirut. It was purchased in the same year by Honoré Théodoric d'Albert de Luynes, who donated it to the Louvre.[3]


Copy of the inscription at the Jaffa museum

The sarcophagus bears a 22 line inscription, known as KAI-14,[4] written in the Phoenician Canaanite language, in the Phoenician alphabet. The inscription identifies the king inside and warns people not to disturb his repose.[5]

The language used in the inscription is a Canaanite dialect mutually intelligible with Biblical Hebrew.

As in other Phoenician inscriptions, the text seems to use no, or hardly any, matres lectionis. As in Aramaic, the preposition אית (ʾyt) is used as an accusative marker, while את (ʾt) is used for "with".[4]


The translation below is based on that by Julius Oppert,[3] amended with the help of a more recent translation in Prichard & Fleming.[6]

  1. In the month of Bul,[nb 1] in the fourteenth year of the royalty of King Eshmunazar,[nb 2] King of the two Sidons,
  2. son of King Tabnit, King of the two Sidons, King Eshmunazar, King of the two Sidons, said as follows: I am carried away,
  3. before my time, the son of (few) days, an orphan, the son of a widow. And I am lying in this coffin, and in this tomb,
  4. in the place which I have built. Whoever you are, of royal race or an ordinary man, may he not open this resting-place, and
  5. may he not search after anything, for nothing whatsoever has been placed into it. May he not move the coffin in which I am resting, nor carry
  6. me away from this resting-place to another resting-place. Whatever a man may tell thee, do not listen to him: For every royal race and
  7. every ordinary man, who will open this resting-place or who will carry away the coffin where I repose, or who will carry me
  8. away from this resting-place: may they not have any funeral couch with the embalmers (the Ropheïm), may they not be buried in a grave, and may there not be a son or offspring
  9. to succeed to them, and may the sacred gods abandon them to a mighty ruler who (might) rule them, in order
  10. to exterminate that royal race or man who will open this resting-place or who will take away
  11. this coffin, and also the offspring of this royal race, or of that ordinary man. There shall be to them no root below, nor
  12. fruit above, nor living form under the sun. For I am carried away, before my time, the son of
  13. (few) days, an orphan, the son of a widow. For I, Eshmunazar, King of the two Sidons, son of
  14. King Tabnit, King of the two Sidons, the grandson of King Eshmunazar, King of the two Sidons, And my mother Amoashtart,
  15. the Priestess of Astarte, our mistress, the Queen, the daughter of King Eshmunazar, King of the two Sidons: It is we who have built the temple of
  16. the gods, and the temple of Astaroth, on the seaside Sidon,[nb 3] and have placed there (the image of) Astaroth in Shamem-Addirim. And it is we
  17. who have built a temple for Eshmun, the holy prince, at the purpleshells River on the mountain, and have established him in Shamem-Addirim. And it is we who have built the temples
  18. for the gods of the two Sidons, in the seaside Sidon, tile temple of Baal-Sidon and the temple of Ashtart-Shem-Baal. Moreover, the Lord of Kings[nb 4] gave us
  19. Dor and Joppa, the mighty lands of Dagon, which are in tile plain of Saron, in accordance with the important deeds which I did. And we annexed them
  20. to the boundary of the land, that they would belong to the two Sidons for ever. Whoever you are, of royal race or ordinary man, may he not open it
  21. and may he not uncover me and may he not carry me away from this resting-place. Otherwise,
  22. the sacred gods shall abandon them and exterminate this royal race and this ordinary man and their offspring for ever.


  1. ^ Louvre website: "The favor of the Persian king had increased the territory of Sidon by granting it part of Palestine: "The Lord of Kings gave us Dor and Yapho, the rich wheat-lands that are in the Plain of Sharon, in recognition of the great deeds that I accomplished and we have added to the lands that are forever those of the Sidonians.""
  2. ^ Lehmann, Reinhard G. (2013). "Wilhelm Gesenius and the Rise of Phoenician Philology" (PDF). Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. Berlin / Boston: De Gruyter. 427: 209–266. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-04-08. Quote: "Alas, all these were either late or Punic, and came from Cyprus, from the ruins of Kition, from Malta, Sardinia, Athens, and Carthage, but not yet from the Phoenician homeland. The first Phoenician text as such was found as late as 1855, the Eshmunazor sarcophagus inscription from Sidon."
  3. ^ a b Samuel Birch, Records of the past: Being English Translations of the Ancient Monuments of Egypt and Western Asia, vol. 9, 1877, p. 111.
  4. ^ a b "Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften", Herbert Donner, Wolfgang Röllig , ISBN 3-447-04587-6.
  5. ^ Cline, Austin. "Sidon Sarcophagus: Illustration of the Sarcophagus of Eshmunazar II Found Near Sidon, Lebanon". Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  6. ^ James B. Prichard and Daniel E. Fleming, The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 2011, p. 311.
  7. ^ pages 42 "Ifil" and 107 "wyšbn", see Glossary of Phoenician, by Harris, Zellig S.,: A Grammar of the Phoenician Language, New Haven, 1936


  1. ^ The eighth month of the Phoenician year which was identical with the Judaic.
  2. ^ King Eshmunazar lived in the fourth century B.C., this is generally admitted on account of the form of the sarcophagus, which was certainly Egyptian; there are even in the middle of it traces of hieroglyphs which have been erased. The King Tabnit may be the Tennes of Greek authors.
  3. ^ The seaside Sidon' Sidon eres yam, seems to be one of the two Sidons, the other may have been the Sidon of the mountain. Sennacherib speaks also of the two Sidons, the great and the little one
  4. ^ The "Lords of the Kings" seem not to be the Kings of Persia, but an epithet applicable to a divine king.

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