Saturday, 17 March 2012

Inscription upon the sarcophagus of King Eshmunazar II

King Eshmunazar II was the King of Sidon during the 5th century BC.  His sarcophagus displays an inscription identifying the king buried within and warning the people not to disturb him.  This was during the period when Canaan was under the Persian Empire.  The sarcophagus was made by Egyptians specifically for the Sidonian royal court, unlike the sarcophagus of King Tabnit, which was actually a re-used Egyptian one, belonging to the Egyptian general Penephtah (it even had some hieroglyphics which were erased).  Within Eshmunazar's inscription we read that there are two Sidons, which are also mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions.  There was most likely a Sidon of the sea and a Sidon of the mountain, both of them falling into the Kingdom of Sidon and inhabited by the Sidonians.  There is also a reference to a 'King of Kings' or 'Lord of Kings' in this inscription, which may be a divine title for a god, or may instead refer to the Persian 'Great King'.  This is the inscription upon the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar:

"In the month of Bul, in the fourteenth year of the royalty of King Eshmunazar, king of the two Sidons, son of King Tabnit, king of the two Sidons, King Eshmunazar, king of the two Sidons, said as follows: I am carried away, the son of (few) days, an orphan, the son of a widow. And I am lying in this coffin, and in this tomb, 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 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 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 every ordinary man, who will open this resting-place or who will carry away the coffin where I repose, or who will carry me away from this resting-place: may they not have any funeral couch with the shades (the Rephaim/Rapi'uma), may they not be buried in a grave, and may there not be a son or offspring to succeed to them, and may the sacred gods abandon them to a mighty ruler who (might) rule them, in order to exterminate that royal race or man who will open this resting-place or who will take away this coffin, and also the offspring of this royal race, or of that ordinary man. There shall be to them no root below, nor fruit above, nor living form under the sun. For I am carried away, the son of (few) days, an orphan, the son of a widow. For I, Eshmunazar, king of the two Sidons, son of King Tabnit, king of the two Sidons, the grandson of King Eshmunazar, king of the two Sidons, and my mother Amoashtart, the priestess of Ashtart, our mistress, the queen, the daughter of King Eshmunazar, king of the two Sidons: it is we who have built the temple of the gods, and the temple of Ashtart, on the Sidon of the sea, and have placed there (the image of) Ashtart in Shamem-Addirim. And it is we 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 for the gods of the two Sidons, in the Sidon of the sea, a temple of Baal-Sidon and a temple of Ashtart-name-of-Baal. Moreover, the Lord of Kings gave us Dor and Jaffa, the mighty lands of Dagon, the rich grainlands in the plain of Sharon, in accordance with the important deeds which I did. And we annexed them 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 and may he not uncover me and may he not carry me away from this resting-place. Otherwise, the sacred gods shall abandon them and exterminate this royal race and this ordinary man and their offspring for ever."


The actual sarcophagus of King Eshmunazar II, and a drawing of it

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