Pygmalion of Tyre

Pygmalion (also known as Pumayyaton, Phoenician: 𐤐𐤌𐤉𐤉𐤕𐤍 Pūmayyātān, "Pummay has given") was king of Tyre[1] from 831 to 785 BC and a son of King Mattan I (840-832 BC).

King of Tyre
Piedra de nora224
Reign831 BC – 785 BC
PredecessorMattan I 840 – 832 BC
Born841 or 843 BC
Tyre, presumed
Died785 BC
DynastyHouse of Ithobalus (Ithobaal I)
FatherMattan I

During Pygmalion's reign, Tyre seems to have shifted the heart of its trading empire from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, as can be judged from the building of new colonies including Kition on Cyprus, Sardinia (see Nora Stone discussion below), and, according to tradition, Carthage. For the story surrounding the founding of Carthage, see Dido.


The English "Pygmalion" comes from the Ancient Greek "Πυγμαλίων" Pugmalíōn. The Greek lemma in turn mostly likely comes from the Phoenician "𐤐𐤏𐤌𐤉𐤕𐤍", transliterated as pmytn. Ancient Semitic languages contained a distinct voiced velar fricative (/ɣ/ sound) which was denoted by a letter called Ayin. However, Ayin more commonly denoted another phoneme, the voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/), and over time, the latter pronunciation gradually absorbed /ɣ/ until it was no longer preserved. The only contemporaneous language in which the phoneme survives is Arabic, as the letter Ghayn. The Ancient Greek lemma was coined before the absorption was finalised and so the original pronunciation of Puġ‘mayyaton was preserved as Pugmalíōn. Pygmalion's name was also sometimes written without the Ayin at all, resulting in "𐤐𐤌𐤉𐤉𐤕𐤍" or Pumayyaton.

Inscriptional evidence for PygmalionEdit

The Nora StoneEdit

A possible reference to Pygmalion is an interpretation of the Nora Stone, found on Sardinia in 1773 and, though its precise finding place has been forgotten, dated by paleographic methods to the 9th century BC.[2] Frank Moore Cross has interpreted the Phoenician inscription on this stone as follows:[3]

[a. He fought (?)]
[b. with the Sardinians (?)]
1. at Tarshish
2. and he drove them out.
3. Among the Sardinians
4. he is [now] at peace,
5. (and) his army is at peace:
6. Milkaton son of
7. Shubna (Shebna), general
8. of (king) Pummay.

In this rendering, Cross has restored the missing top of the tablet (estimated at two lines) based on the content of the rest of the inscription, as referring to a battle that has been fought and won[4] by general Milkaton, son of Shubna, against the Sardinians at the site of TRSS, surely Tarshish; Cross conjectures that Tarshish here "is most easily understood as the name of a refinery town in Sardinia, presumably Nora or an ancient site nearby."[3] He presents evidence that the name PMY ("Pummay") in the last line is a shortened form (hypocoristicon) of the name of Shubna's king, containing only the divine name, a method of shortening “not rare in Phoenician and related Canaanite dialects.”.[5] Since there was only one king of Tyre with this hypocoristicon in the 9th century BC, Cross restores the name to pmy(y)tn or p‘mytn, which is rendered in the Greek tradition as Pygmalion. This interpretation of the Nora Stone provides additional evidence that in the late 9th century BC, Tyre was involved in colonizing the western Mediterranean, lending credence to the establishment of a colony in Carthage in that time frame.

Tribute of Balazeros (Baalimanzer) to Shalmaneser IIIEdit

In 1951, Fuad Safar published a record of tribute from Baa‘li-maanzer, king of Tyre, to Shalmaneser III of Assyria in 841 BC.[6] There followed several studies that attempted to relate this Baa‘li-maanzer to the list of kings given in Menander/Josephus. It was argued, based on philological considerations, that the name as given in the Assyrian text could be matched to a Phoenician Ba‘al-‘azor and the Greek Baal-Eser/Balazeros, a name corresponding to two kings in Menander’s list.[7][8][9][10] The first Balazeros was a son of Hiram I, contemporary of David and Solomon, so this was too early, but the second name referred to the grandfather of Pygmalion and was therefore in the right date range.

Dating of PygmalionEdit

Pygmalion’s dates are derived from Josephus’s Against Apion i.18, where Josephus quotes the Phoenician historian Menander as follows:

Pygmalion . . . lived fifty-six years,[11] and reigned forty-seven years. Now, in the seventh year of his reign, his sister fled away from him, and built the city of Carthage in Libya.

Pygmalion’s dates, if this citation is to be trusted, are thus dependent on the date of the founding of Carthage. Here ancient classical sources given two possibilities: 825 BC or 814 BC. The 814 date is derived from the Greek historian Timaeus (c. 345-260 BC), and is the more commonly accepted year. The 825 date is taken from the writings of Pompeius Trogus (1st century BC), whose forty-four book Philippic History survives only in abridged form in the works of the Roman historian Justin. In a 1951 article, J. Liver argued that the 825 date has some credibility because, with it, the elapsed time between that date and the start of building of Solomon’s Temple, given as 143 years and 8 months in Menander/Josephus, agrees very closely with the date of approximately 967 BC for the start of Temple construction as derived from 1 Kings 6:1 (fourth year of Solomon) and the date given by most historians for the end of Solomon’s forty-year reign, i.e. 932 or 931 BC.[12] If, however, the starting place is 814 BC, measuring back 143 or 144 years does not agree with this Biblical date.


Liver advanced a second reason to favor the 825 date, related to the inscription of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria, mentioned above, where it was mentioned that philological studies have equated this Ba’li-manzer with Balazeros (Baal-Eser II), grandfather of Pygmalion. The best texts of Menander/Josephus give six years for Balazeros, followed by nine years for his son and successor Mattenos (Mattan I), making 22 years between the start of Balazeros’s reign and the seventh year of Pygmalion. If these 22 years are measured back from 814 BC, they fall short of the 841 date required for Balazeros’s tribute to Shalmaneser. With the 825 date, however, Balazeros’s last year would be approximately 841 BC, the time of the tribute to Shalmaneser.

These two agreements, one with an Assyrian inscription and the other with a Biblical datum, have proved quite convincing to scholars such as J. M. Peñuela,[13] F. M. Cross.,[14] and William H. Barnes.[15] Peñuela points out that the following consideration reconciles the two dates for Carthage derived from classical authors: 825 BC was the year that Dido fled Tyre, and she did not found Carthage until 11 years later, in 814 BC. Josephus, citing Menander, says that “in the seventh year of [Pygmalion’s] reign, his sister fled away from him, and built the city of Carthage in Libya” (Against Apion i:18). There are two events mentioned here: the flight from Tyre and the founding of Carthage. The language used would suggest that it was the first of these events, Dido's flight, that took place in Pygmalion's seventh year. Between the two events the following took place: Dido and her ships sailed to Cyprus, where about 80 of the men with her took wives. Eventually the Tyrians arrived on the north coast of Africa, where they received permission to build on an island in the harbor of the place where Carthage was eventually to be built. Peñuela quotes Strabo to show that some time then elapsed before the founding of Carthage: “Carthage was not founded immediately. Indeed, a small island having been captured previously in the Carthaginian harbor, Dido settled there. She fortified the place, which she used as a citadel of war against the Africans, who kept her from the shore.”[16] Justin (18:5 10–17) also mentions the time on this island, which he names as Cothon, and says that Dido and her company built a circle of houses there.[16] Eventually peace was made with the inhabitants on the mainland, and the Tyrians were given permission to build a city. Peñuela maintained that these various events between the departure from Tyre and the eventual rapprochement with the inhabitants on the mainland explain the eleven-year difference between Pompeius Trogus's date of 825 BC and the 814 date derived from other classical authors for Carthage's founding.

This understanding of the chronology related to Dido and her company resulted in the following dates for Pygmalion, Dido, and their immediate relations, as derived from F. M. Cross[14] and Wm. H. Barnes:[17]

  • Baal-Eser II (Ba‘l-mazzer II) 846-841 BC
  • Mattan I 840-832 BC
  • 831 BC: Pygmalion begins to reign
  • 825 BC: Dido flees Tyre in 7th year of Pygmalion
  • 825 BC and possibly some time thereafter: Dido and companions on Cyprus
  • Between 825 BC and 814 BC: Tyrians build settlement on island of Cothon
  • 814 BC: Dido founds Carthage on mainland
  • 785 BC: Death of Pygmalion

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The traditional king-list of Tyre is derived from Josephus, Against Apion i. 18, 21, and Jewish Antiquities viii. 5.3; 13.2. His list was based on Menander of Ephesus, who drew his information from the chronicles of Tyre. (Jewish Encyclopedia: "Phenicia").
  2. ^ C. 825-780 according to Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, 2008:120f and note p. 382.
  3. ^ a b F. M. Cross, “An Interpretation of the Nora Stone,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 208 (Dec. 1972) 16.
  4. ^ Alteratively, "the text honours a god, most probably in thanks for the traveller's safe arrival after a storm" (Fox 2008:121, following for the c. 800 date, E. Lipinski, "The Nora fragment", Mediterraneo antico 2 (1999:667-71) and for the reconstruction of the text Lipinski2004:234-46), rejecting Cross..
  5. ^ F. M. Cross, “An Interpretation of the Nora Stone,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 208 (Dec. 1972) 17.
  6. ^ Fuad Safar, “A Further Text of Shalmaneser III from Assur,” Sumer 7 (1951) 3-21.
  7. ^ J. Liver, “The Chronology of Tyre at the Beginning of the First Millennium B.C.” Israel Exploration Journal 3 (1953) 119-120.
  8. ^ J. M. Peñuela, “La Inscripción Asiria IM 55644 y la Cronología de los Reyes de Tiro”, Sefarad 13 (1953, Part 1) 219-28.
  9. ^ Cross, “Nora Stone,” 17, n. 11.
  10. ^ William H. Barnes, Studies in the Chronology of the Divided Monarchy of Israel (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991) 29-55.
  11. ^ The copies of Josephus/Menander in the Codex Laurentianus, the old Latin version of Cassiodorus, and Theodotion give 56 years; copies of Eusebius’s "Chronography" in Armenian, plus some Greek extracts of it, give 58 years. From Barnes, Studies 40, note n.
  12. ^ J. Liver, “The Chronology of Tyre at the Beginning of the First Millennium B.C.,” Israel Exploration Journal 3 (1953) 116-117.
  13. ^ Peñuela, “La Inscripción Asiria”, (Part 1), 217-37 and (Part 2) Sefarad 14 (1954) 1-39.
  14. ^ a b Cross, “Nora Stone” 17, n. 11.
  15. ^ Barnes, Studies 51-53.
  16. ^ a b Strabo (17:3 14-15), cited in Peñuela, “La Inscripción Asiria” Part 2, p. 29, note 167.
  17. ^ Barnes, Studies 53.