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Bodashtart inscriptions

Three of the Bodashtart inscriptions on display at the Louvre (AO 4838, AO 3552, AO 3553)

The Bodashtart inscriptions are a well-known group of between 22 and 24 Phoenician inscriptions from the 6th century BC referring to King Bodashtart.[1][2]

The first known inscription was CIS I 4, said to be found in 1858 in a wall near Sidon.[2]

Subsequently, two series of inscriptions were found in the early 20th century at the Temple of Eshmun, near Sidon in Lebanon, immediately before and during the excavations there. They are known as KAI 15 and 16.[3] One of these set of inscriptions refers to only the name of Bodashtart (KAI 15), and the other refers to both Bodashtart and his heir Yatan-milk (KAI 16).[4][5][1]

In 2004 another significant inscription was reconstructed.[6]


The first known Bodashtart inscription, known today as CIS I 4, currently in the Louvre as AO 4838

This was the earliest known Bodashtart inscription, and is a unique text. The dedication is to Astarte rather than to Eshmun like the other inscriptions.[7]

The inscription reads:[8]

(line 1) BYRḤ [.]MP[‘] BŠT M[LK-] In the month of *MP‘ in the (first?) year of the r[eig-]
(2) -Y MLK BD‘ŠTRT MLK -n of king Bod‘astart, king of the
(3) ṢDNM KBN BD‘ŠTRT Sidonians, he, Bod‘astart
(4) MLK ṢDNM ’YT ŠRN ’R[Ṣ] the king of the Sidonians, dedicated(?) plain of lan[d]
(5) [Z] L[’]LY L‘ŠTRT [this] to his [g]od, to ‘Astarte.

KAI 15 / RES 766

Philippe Berger's 1904 diagram of the first six known inscriptions.
Face A: three blocks, each bearing an inscription, Together, they formed a stele about 2 x 1.5m, which gave the impression of the inscription continuing from one to the other. Upper stone (α) is AO 3553 (2 1/2 lines). Middle stone (β) is AO 3552 (4 1/2 lines). Lower stone (γ) is in two fragments (4 1/2 lines).
Face Β: Two inscriptions on two undivided blocks
Face C: One inscription (2 1/2 lines)

This group of inscriptions, each with text similar to the others, was published together in the Répertoire d'Épigraphie Sémitique as RES 766.[9] They were edited in detail by Philippe Berger in 1904.[10][11]

The inscription reads:[12][13]

MLK BD‘ŠTRT MLK ṢDNM BN BN MLK ’ŠMN‘ZR King Bod‘astart, King of the Sidonians, the son of the son of King Eshmūn‘azor,
MLK ṢDNM BṢDN YM king of Sidonians in Sidon-of-the-Sea,
ŠMM RMM ’RṢ RŠPM ṢDN MŠL ’Š BN WṢDN ŠD (or ŠR?) High-Heavens, Rasapim-Land, (and) Sidon, that he built,[14] and (in) Sidon-of-the-Field (inland or rural Sidon).
’YT HBT Z BN L’LY L’ŠMN ŠD (or ŠR?) QDŠ He built this temple for his god Eshmūn of the Holy Field(?).

The discovery was made by four workers who were extracting blocks from the temple on behalf of Druze leader Nassib Jumblatt (see Jumblatt family). They noticed that certain blocks had inscriptions with the engravings painted in red. A local antiques dealer bought three of the stones all with the same inscription. Due to the enormous size of the blocks, they were cut down to just 15 or 20 cm in thickness, and some stones were also cut into two or three pieces.[15]

A number of forgeries were subsequently produced.[10]

The excavated wall had two layers of construction: the inner layer showed more careful assembly of the blocks; the KAI 16 inscriptions were on the inside face of the blocks, such that they were not initially visible.[16]

Inscription Discovered Current Location Inventory Code Image Ref.
A (RES 287) 1900 Louvre (on display) AO 3552 [17]
B (RES 288) 1900 Louvre (on display) AO 3553 [18]
C (RES 289) unknown unknown
D (RES 290, 291, 294) 1900 Louvre AO 4078 [19]
E (RES 292) 1900 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
F (RES 293, 296) 1901 Istanbul Archaeology Museums Inv. 1457 [20]
G 1903 Istanbul Archaeology Museums Inv. 1486
H 1903 Istanbul Archaeology Museums Inv. 1488
I 1903 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
RES 1200 1900 Louvre (claimed to be a forgery)[21] AO 4077 [22]

KAI 16 / RES 767

This group of inscriptions, each with text similar to the others, was published together in the Répertoire d'Épigraphie Sémitique as RES 767.[23] They were edited in detail by Wilhelm Freiherr von Landau in 1904.[24]

The inscriptions read:[12][13]

MLK BD‘ŠTRT WBN ṢDQ YTNMLK   King Bod‘astart and his legitimate son Yatonmilk,
MLK ṢDNM BN BN MLK ’ŠMN‘ZR MLK ṢDNM King of the Sidonians, the son of the son of king Esmūnazor, king of the Sidonians:
’YT HBT Z BN L’LY L’ŠMN ŠD (or ŠR?) QDŠ he built this temple for his god Eshmūn of the Holy Field(?).

The KAI 16 inscriptions were found in the eastern part of the wall, in the outer layer of blocks, which had been placed less carefully than the inner layer. Again, the inscriptions were turned inwards (walled in) so that they could not be seen.[25]

Inscription Discovered Current Location Inventory Code Image Ref.
A (RES 507) 1902 AUB Museum
B 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
C 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums Inv. 3538
D 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
E 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
F 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
G 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
H 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
I 1904 Istanbul Archaeology Museums
K 1904 in situ (may be the Contenau inscriptions)
Contenau I 1920 in situ[26] n.a.
Contenau II 1920 in situ n.a.
Contenau III 1920 in situ n.a.

Bodashtart's water channel project

A fourth Bodashtart inscription, comprising eleven lines, was described by Paolo Xella and José-Ángel Zamora in 2004. The inscription had been discovered and photographed by Maurice Chéhab around 1960 on a rocky bank of the Awali river, some three kilometers from the mouth of the river, in an area where later an electric power plant was built. The in situ inscription seems to exist no longer, and Chéhab had never published it. But Xella and Zamora succeeded in tracking down Chéhab's photographs, and they conclude that the inscription probably refers to the construction of a water channel to bring water from the Awali river to the Eshmun temple complex northeast of Sidon, with its ritual ablution basins. Bodashtart had considerably enlarged this temple complex, so the local Yidlal water source would probably no longer be sufficient to meet its increased water needs.[6]

The inscription is dated to ca. 520 BCE. It reads:[6]

(line 1) [BY]RḤ ZBḤ ŠM[Š BŠ]NT ŠB‘ IIIIIII LMLKY MLK BD‘ŠTRT [In the mo]nth of Zebaḥ-Šama[š], [in ye]ar seven 1+1+1+1+1+1+1 of (the) reign of King Bod‘ashtart,
(2) [M]LK [ṢD]N[M BN] B[N] MLK ’ŠMN‘ZR MLK ṢDNM BṢDN [Y]M [k]ing of the [Sido]n[ians, son of the s]on of King Eshmun‘azor, king of the Sidonians, (king) in Sidon-of-the-Se[a],
(3) ŠMM RMM ’RṢ RSPM WṢDN ŠD KBN W’Š <BN>(?)[27] P‘L MLK BD‘ŠTRT MLK ṢDNM ’YT (in) High-Heavens, (in) Rasapim-Land, and (in) Sidon-of-the-Field. This is what he built and that he has made, King Bod‘ashtart, king of the Sidonians:
(4) ...] NBL Z Y ’[.. ’]ŠMN ŠR QDŠ B‘N YDLL LKNNM HMM [...] ’L(?) ’Š ŠQ [? ... ...] this «NBL» (water channel?)[28] [... of(?) E]shmun the Holy Prince, at the YDLL source,
(5) ...]LMB [... ...] ’ŠMN W’YT ’ŠR ’ŠT(?) WP‘L BNM ’YT [... ...] in [... (of?)] Eshmun, and the place of a pillar(?). And he has made in them (?; or: and he has made buildings ...) [...
(6) ... ... ...] ’SMN W’YT ŠRYT ’Š TḤT ’[... ... (of?)] Eshmun, and the architraves that are below the [...
(7) MLK(?)] ’ŠMN‘ZR [...]GMMB‘D[... ...] RBM ’[...]BRNMŠ[.]‘[.]T king?] Eshmun‘azor [... ...] many(?) [... ...
(8) Y[L?]M [W?]’Š Y‘BD [MM(?) ... ... ... and] who may serve [water? ...
(9) ...]’Y[T’(?)]Š YŠ[.]K[... ...]MY[..]Ḥ[... ?? (translation impossible, only a few single letters are readable)
(10) ...]T[...
(11) ...]


Kings of Sidon: the Eshmunazar dynasty[29]

The chronology of Bodashtart's inscriptions and of his reign have been sketched by P. Xella and J.Á. Zamora López.[30] In fact, they suggest that sources are now abundant enough that we may be on the threshold of being able to write Bodashtart's biography.[31]

The oldest inscription is CIS I 4, dating from the king's first reignal year. It describes the dedication of a plot of land to Astarte—a fitting activity for kings of Sidon, who also were high priests—,[32] but Bodashtart had not yet completed any building activities. The king, who was only a cousin of the last king Eshmunazar II, may have tried to justify an illegal succession by stressing his religious sense of duty, and by also mentioning his being a grandson of Eshmunazar I.

Next, the canal inscription dates from the seventh year of his reign. In the intervening five years Bodashtart had finished an extensive building program at the Eshmun temple, and probably also in the three urban districts mentioned in the inscription.

A few years later Bodashtart in KAI 15 records his building activities in those three districts, and also in a fourth urban district, appropriately called "Sidon of the Ruler".

KAI 16 dates from a few more years later. Only the building of the temple complex for Eshmun is mentioned. In this inscription Bodashtart for the first time mentions his son Yatonmilk, whom he explicitly calls a legitimate successor to the throne. This may be indicative of some uneasiness about his own rightfulness as a king. It is not known whether Yatonmilk ever has actually become king of Sidon.

Between 575 and 400 BCE no less than twelve names of rulers of Sidon are known (among them one queen-regent, Amoashtart). Bodashtart was the fifth of them, his regnal years cannot have been many, probably from c. 525 till c. 515. His accession may then have been related to a military campaign of the Persian king Cambyses II in 525 BCE, that ended in Cambyses's conquest of Egypt.


  1. ^ a b Bordreuil, 1990, "L'exemple le plus impressionnant est certainement celui des nombreuses dedicaces de Bodachtart decouvertes dans le temple d'Echmoun pres de Saida et conservees aujourd'hui dans plusieurs musees, auxquelles s'ajoutent trois exemplaires demeures in situ... Le nombre des inscriptions de Bodachtart mises au jour et repertories est a ce jour d'au moins dix-neuf (KAI 15 + 16) dont neuf (KAI 16) mentionnent Yatonmilk patronyme de Bodachtart. Il faut y ajouter RES 767 K in situ et les trois mentionnes par G. Contenau, soit quatre, a moins que RES 767 K ne soit la premiere mentionnee par G. Contenau, ce qui reduirait le supplement a trois. De plus on ne sait si l'estampage de RES 289 C correspond a un exemplaire connu par ailleurs ou s'il est le seul temoignage d'un exemplaire aujourd'hui disparu. A ma connaissance le nombre d'inscriptions de Bodachtart doit donc varier entre vingt-deux et vingt-quatre exemplaires dont douze ou treize mentionnent Yatonmilk patronyme de Bodachtart."
  2. ^ a b Zamora, 2007
  3. ^ Xella, Paola; José-Ángel Zamora López; Astrid Nunn (2005). "L'inscription phénicienne de Bodashtart in situ à Bustān ēš-Šēẖ (Sidon) et son apport à l'histoire du sanctuaire". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins (in French). 28 (121): 119–129. ISSN 0012-1169. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
  4. ^ Lipiński, Edward (1995). Dieux et déesses de l'univers phénicien et punique (in French). Peeters Publishers. pp. 120–496. ISBN 978-90-6831-690-2.
  5. ^ Elayi, Josette (2006). "An updated chronology of the reigns of Phoenician kings during the Persian period (539–333 BC)" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  6. ^ a b c Paolo Xella et José-Ángel Zamora, Une nouvelle inscription de Bodashtart, roi de Sidon, sur la rive du Nahr al-Awwali près de Bustān ēš-Šēẖ Archived 2017-08-14 at the Wayback Machine, BAAL, 8, 2004, pp. 273-300. Compte-rendu réalisé par Astrid Nunn
  7. ^ Bordreuil, 1990, "Il est étonnant de constater que cette inscription (fig. 18), connue un demi-siècle plus tôt que les dédicaces sidoniennes de Bodachtart, n'a pratiquement jamais été jointe au dossier jusqu'à présent. Cette unique inscription de Bodachtart fils de Bodachtart est dédiée à 'Achtart et non pas à Echmoun mais cela ne constitue pas un problème car le culte de 'Achtart comme celui d'Echmoun faisait partie des traditions de la famille régnante. On sait qu'Echmouna- zor II, dont la mère portait le nom de 'M'èTRT, s'attribue l'édification du temple d'Echmoun et de 'Achtart."
  8. ^ CIS I (1881) nr. 4 (pp. 22-23).
  9. ^ Répertoire d'Épigraphie Sémitique, Volume 1 p.155
  10. ^ a b Berger Philippe. Inscriptions phéniciennes de fondation du temple d'Esmoun à Saïda. In: Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 45e année, N. 6, 1901. p. 853. DOI :
  11. ^ Berger Philippe. Mémoire sur les inscriptions de fondation du temple d'Esmoun à Sidon. In: Mémoires de l'Institut national de France, tome 37, 1e partie, 1904. pp. 265-296. DOI :
  12. ^ a b Donner, Herbert; Rölig, Wolfgang (2002). Kanaanäische und aramäische Inschriften (5 ed.). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. p. I, 4.
  13. ^ a b Krahmalkov, Charles R. (2000). Phoenician-Punic Dictionary. Leuven: Peeters / Departement Oosterse Studies. ISBN 90-429-0770-3.
  14. ^ This was the most recently built district, note that in a inscription published in 2004 (see below) this district is not yet mentioned.
  15. ^ Berger Philippe. Mémoire sur les inscriptions de fondation du temple d'Esmoun à Sidon. In: Mémoires de l'Institut national de France, tome 37, 1e partie, 1904. pp. 265-296. DOI : "La découverte, comme cela arrive le plus souvent en épigraphie, a été, paraît-il, purement accidentelle. Quatre ouvriers travaillaient à extraire des blocs pour le compte de Nassib-bey Djemblat. En détruisant méthodiquement une très large assise, au niveau de l'excavation signalée plus haut, ils s'aperçurent que certains blocs portaient sur leurs faces des inscriptions dont les caractères, gravés en creux dans la pierre, étaient peints en rouge. Un marchand d'antiquités du voisinage, mis au courant de la découverte, acheta, pour quelques medjidiés, trois de ces pierres qu'on croyait appartenir à la même inscription. Le volume et le poids énorme des blocs n'en permettant pas le transport, on les retailla sur leur épaisseur, qui fut ainsi artificiel¬ lement réduite à 15 ou 20 centimètres, et on sectionna, en outre, certaines pierres en deux ou trois morceaux. Le tout fut alors transporté soit chez lui, soit chez le cheik grec catholique du village d'Halalieh."
  16. ^ W. Freiherr von Landau: Vorläufige Nachrichten über die im Eschmuntempel bei Sidon gefundenen phönizischen Altertümer, Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, X, 1 (and IX, 5): "An dieser Stelle waren deutlich aus der Beschaffenheit des Mauerwerks zwei Epochen des Baues feststellbar, deren erstere die beiden inneren, deren spätere die beiden äusseren Schichten des gewaltigen unteren Baues bildeten. Die erstere unterschied sich von der andern durch sorgfältigere Aneinanderfügung der Blöcke und durch die Bearbeitung der Vorderseite, welche durch die Vorlegung der beiden späteren Schichten verdeckt worden war. Dieser Schicht mit den bearbeiteten Vorderseiten gehören die Blöcke an, welche die (nach innen gekehrten, also nicht sichtbaren) Inschriften Bod-Astarts trugen. "
  17. ^ AO 3552
  18. ^ AO 3553
  19. ^ AO 4078
  20. ^ Lagrange, M. J. (1902). "Note Sur les Inscriptions Trouvées Par Macridy-Bey a Bostan-Ech-Cheikh". Revue Biblique (1892-1940). 11 (4): 515–526. JSTOR 44100674.
  21. ^ Charles Cutler Torrey, "A Forged Phoenician Royal Inscription in the Louvre." The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 58, no. 2 (1941): 135-38. Accessed August 12, 2020. "Visiting the Phoenician Collection in the Louvre in 1929, I was interested to see Beshira's inscription conspicuously placed, bearing the number A.O. 4077. The stone makes a fine appearance, as its former owner had said of it. Possibly it has deceived no one; but for the reputation of the old Phoenician carvers of inscriptions the fact of its true origin and character should be made known by a label, if it is put on exhibition. Since, however, the Collection possesses more than one of the inscribed stones from this temple, with the inscription complete and perfectly legible, there will be no good reason for exhibiting this additional example when it is understood to be a forgery."
  22. ^ AO 4077
  23. ^ Répertoire d'Épigraphie Sémitique, Volume 1 p.158
  24. ^ W. Freiherr von Landau: Vorläufige Nachrichten über die im Eschmuntempel bei Sidon gefundenen phönizischen Altertümer, Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, X, 1 (and IX, 5)
  25. ^ W. Freiherr von Landau: Vorläufige Nachrichten über die im Eschmuntempel bei Sidon gefundenen phönizischen Altertümer, Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, X, 1 (and IX, 5): "Ausser diesen Inschriften mit ihrem regelmässig wiederholtem Text war noch eine mit einem davon verschiedenen Inhalte gefunden worden, welche sich im American College in Beirut befindet. Ihre Wichtigkeit für die Gewinnung eines Anhaltspunktes zur Bestimmung der Person Bod-Astarts und seines Verhältnisses zu dem Bau des Tempels war von Anfang an klar; der Zustand der Inschrift und Schwierigkeiten des Textes führten aber auf Zweifel und Bedenken, welche kaum über Vermutungen hinauskommen Hessen. Sie war vor Beginn der Ausgrabungsarbeiten und nach den Angaben der Arbeiter als erste in dem östlichen Teil der Mauer gefunden worden, wo von der die Inschriften tragenden Blockreihe bei Aufnahme der Arbeiten nichts mehr übrig war... Es ist nicht nur eine Inschrift, sondern eine ganze Reihe (bis jetzt neun Stück) dieser Art gefunden worden, und ihr Text steht jetzt vollkommen fest. Dadurch werden nicht nur manche der Voraussetzungen und Erwägungen, welche an den unvollständigen Text geknüpft worden waren, hinfällig, sondern auch die Anschauung über die Entstehung des ganzen Baues, welche auf Grund der Beschaffenheit des Mauerwerkes gebildet worden war, ist wesentlich umzugestalten. Wenn nämlich angenommen wurde, dass eine Inschrift dieser Art ausser der des American College nicht mehr gefunden werden würde, so beruhte das auf der Voraussetzung, dass diese aus derselben Blockreihe (der zweiten von innen) herrührte, wie die der anderen Gattung. Wider alles Erwarten wurden aber die neuen Exemplare in der ersten Reihe von aussen, also der äusseren derjenigen beiden gefunden, deren Blöcke weniger sorgfältig bearbeitet sind und welche als nachträglich vor die beiden andern gelegt angesehen werden muss. Alle diese Inschriften waren ebenso angebracht wie die der anderen Gattung, d. h. sie waren nach innen gekehrt eingemauert, sodass sie nicht gesehen werden konnten. Diese neuen Funde bestimmen also das Mauerwerk der beiden äusseren Reihen, das als später vorgelegt zu gelten hat, zeitlich genauer und zwar anders, als man aus dem äusseren Aussehen schliessen musste: es ist auch noch von Bod-Astart errichtet worden, also zeitlich nicht allzuweit von den beiden inneren Reihen zu trennen. Das Nähere hängt von der Erklärung der ersten Zeile der Inschrift (Stellung Sydyk-jatans zu Bod-Astart) ab, aber eine Veränderung in der Auffassung des Wesens der beiden Teile des Mauerwerks wird dadurch schwerlich herbeigeführt."
  26. ^ Conteneau, Gaston (1924). "Deuxième mission archéologique à Sidon (1920)". Syria (in French). 5 (5–1): 9–23. doi:10.3406/syria.1924.3094. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  27. ^ The text is messed up here due to clumsy correction of an error by the stone cutter.
  28. ^ The word «NBL» is known as a fluid container: "cup, jar, vase". Here it apparently refers to some kind of hydraulic project. A water channel would fit nicely, though other possibilities, such as a cistern, are not excluded [Xella & Zamora (2004), p. 288].
  29. ^ Sader, Hélène (2019), pp. 103-108, 114.
  30. ^ Xella, P.; Zamora López, J. Á. (2013). 'Découvertes récentes dans l'aire du sanctuaire d'Eshmoun à Sidon', in: Actas VI Congresso Internacional de Estudos Fenícios e Púnicos, Lisboa, Portugal, 2005. Lisboa. pp. 224-236: pp. 235-236. Retrieved 26 May 2022.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  31. ^ Xella & Zamora López (2013), p. 236.
  32. ^ Sader, Hélène (2019). The history and Archaeology of Phoenicia. Atlanta: SBL. p. 106. ISBN 9780884144052.


  • Pierre Bordreuil, Gubel E., "Quel est le nombre des dedicaces de Bodachtart?", Bulletin d'antiquités archéologiques du Levant inédites ou méconnues VI. In: Syria. Tome 67 fascicule 2, 1990. pp. 483–520.
  • Zamora, José Á. "The Inscription from the First Year of King Bodashtart of Sidon's Reign: CIS I, 4." Orientalia, NOVA SERIES, 76, no. 1 (2007): 100–13. Accessed August 12, 2020.
  • Charles Cutler Torrey (1902). A Phoenician Royal Inscription. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 23, 156–173. doi:10.2307/592387
  • Xella, Paolo, and José-Ángel Zamora López. “L’inscription Phénicienne de Bodashtart in Situ à Bustān Eš-Šēḫ (Sidon) et Son Apport à l’histoire Du Sanctuaire.” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 121, no. 2 (2005): 119–29.
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Bodashtart inscriptions
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