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Josette Elayi

Josette Elayi
Elayi in 2014
Born (1943-03-29) 29 March 1943 (age 80)
Other namesJosette Elayi-Escaich
OccupationAntiquity historian
Known forPhoenician studies
SpouseAlain Elayi
AwardsKnight of the Legion d'honneur

Josette Elayi-Escaich (French pronunciation: [ʒoʊzət əlɑːjiː əskɑːʃ]; born 29 March 1943) is a French antiquity historian, Phoenician and Near-Eastern history specialist,[1][2] and honorary scholar at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Elayi authored numerous archaeology and history works, and literary novels. She is well known to the French public through her novels and for her calls for reform and activism against the CNRS research policy bias. In 2007 Elayi was decorated Knight of the Legion of Honor by the French state.

Early life and education

Josette Elayi née Escaich was born on 29 March 1943 in Les Bordes-sur-Lez, a small former commune now merged into Bordes-Uchentein in the Couserans (part of the Ariège department) in France's Pyrenees mountains. She studied in the nearby town of Saint-Girons. At the Saint-Girons high school, Elayi had an affinity for science and literature, but a skiing accident caused her to fall behind in science. Elayi recounts that "the literary course was much more rewarding than the sciences at the time". Elayi's parents wanted her to become a teacher, but after her baccalaureate, she went to Toulouse to study classical literature. Elayi is a holder of a Doctorat ès Lettres, the highest doctoral degree in France, and multiple other degrees in oriental languages from Lyon, Paris and Nancy universities.[3][4]

Work, research and academia

Elayi taught literature in Emilie de Rodat school in Toulouse between 1966 and 1968 before moving on to Notre-Dame school in Lyon where she taught for the next four years.[4] In 1973, Elayi obtained a teaching position in the Lebanese University's faculty of letters in Beirut. Elayi's interest for the history of the Phoenicians was stirred during her short stay in Beirut. When the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975, Elayi moved to Baghdad where she taught French literature at the Al-Mustansiriya University until 1978.[3][4] Elayi settled in Paris in 1980, she taught in the Lycée Charlemagne before joining the CNRS as a researcher in ancient history in 1982.[4]

Elayi is versed in fifteen modern and extinct languages. Elayi developed a multidisciplinary historiography method that combines epigraphy, numismatics, archaeology, economics and sociology; she applied this methodology in her works on the history of the Phoenicians.[5] She writes regularly in journals and has received two prizes from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, and a prize from the French Numismatic Society (Société française de numismatique).[citation needed]

Phoenician and Near-Eastern history studies

In 1982, when she was recruited by the CNRS as a senior researcher, Elayi found that her field of research, the history of ancient Phoenicia, was not included in university curricula; it was confined to the Orientalism department which existed until 1991. Phoenician studies were then consigned to the department of Antiquity studies. The CNRS allowed Elayi full-time research and freedom to choose her subjects without teaching-hours constraints.[6] In 1988 her relationship with the CNRS took a negative turn; faced with the lack of support of the committee, Elayi started her own research group, the Association for the research on Syria-Palestine in the Persian Period (ASPEP). ASPEP was embraced and supported by an international network of researchers and obtained public and private funding. Elayi also launched and directs a specialized international journal the Transeuphratène, and wrote a number of historical monographs about Phoenicia and the Ancient Near East. Elayi has also organized more than thirty international and regional meetings. Her scientific program is aimed to develop the little-explored field of Phoenician history using multidisciplinary tools.[6][7]

Her celebrated Trésors de monnaies phéniciennes et circulation monétaire (Ve-IVe siècles avant J.-C.) [Treasures of Phoenician coins and monetary circulation (5th-4th centuries B.C.)] showcases 75 Phoenician coin treasure troves among which 20 that were unpublished. The work highlights aspects of the economic and political history of Phoenician and ancient Near-Eastern cities in the 4th and 5th centuries BC; it delves into and adds new chronological data to the political and economic context of the first bronze coins production, circulation, control and production workshops.[8] This research was followed up by her 2016 Phoenician Coinages, a body of knowledge completely dedicated to mainland Phoenicia numismatics under the Persian hegemony.[nb 1] The book summarizes 59 monographs and journal articles written following over 30 years of research by Elayi, her spouse Alain-Gérard, and other contributing scholars;[9] noting that Elayi and her spouse developed an original method for the metrological study of coins including distinguishing monetary standards or legal weight, from a manufactured standard.[10]

Literary work

Elayi has written a number of novels that draw inspiration from her real life experiences and contemporary issues. In 2009, she published her first novel Le survivant [The survivor] based on her experience of the civil war in Beirut. Two years later, Elayi wrote her second novel Secrets de granite [Secrets of granite]; the book is inspired by her native Ariège region.[3] L'ombre de Saddam [The shadow of Saddam] came out in 2015; the geopolitical thriller portrays Saddam Hussein before his seizure of power.[11] Her 2017 Pourquoi je suis devenu un terroriste [Why I became a terrorist] came two years after the Paris terrorist attacks, it follows a Spanish student's descent into extremism.[12] Elayi's 2018 novel Arwad, une île syrienne à la dérive [Arwad, a drifting Syrian island] draws parallels between the fall of the insular Phoenician city of Arwad and war-time Syria.[13] In 2019 Elayi published Ange Garelli where the Corsican protagonist is haunted by the discovery of a secret linking him to Napoleon Bonaparte.[14][15] In 2023 Josette Elayi published "Le roi qui noya Babylone". In 2023 A.G. Elayi and J. Elayi published "Le voyage d'Archimède au 21e siècle" éditions Douro.

Personal life

Elayi is married to Alain-Gérard Elayi, a Lebanese nuclear scientist; they have two children together.[3][16]

Personal views and activism

Elayi who had a rocky relationship with the CNRS launched an attack against what she described as the CNRS of corporatism, ambiguity, and bias under the guise of scientific democracy when evaluating French research. She accused the CNRS of making errors of judgment in the recruitment and promotion of researchers and scientific teams, leading to the deterioration of the quality of French research.[6] This crisis was particularly marked after the 2002 and 2003 CNRS budget cuts causing worsening researcher working conditions and the decline of their financial resources.[17] Elayi committed to system reform.[6] She took on media outlets and issued two books where she elaborated her views on CNRS research dysfunctions and proposed a better distribution of credits based on a correct assessment of the competence of researchers.[18][19] Elayi was consulted by successive research ministers in an effort to create the Agency for the Evaluation of Research and Higher education which saw the light in 2007.[6]

Elayi is a vocal defender of the teaching of classical languages, which was threatened by curriculum reforms spearheaded by then-Minister of National education and research Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. The reforms proposed to replace Latin and Greek classes by an "initiation to ancient languages" course within the French courses, and to integrate the teaching of these two languages within the French literature courses. Elayi criticized the lack of a timetable, a program, funding or continuity and expressed indignation that teaching of classical languages would be left to non-specialized teachers and to the discretion of headmasters.[20] Despite nation-wide polemic the bill was passed in August 2016.[21]

Awards and distinctions

In 1995 the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres awarded Elayi with the Gregor Mendel prize for her work on coin economy and circulation in Phoenicia and the Ancient Near-East in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.[nb 2][22] Six years later, the academy awarded Elayi and Hussein Sayegh with the Adolphe Noël des Vergers prize for their research on the Phoenician port quarter of Beirut.[nb 3][23] In 2001, she received the Babut Prize from the French Numismatic Society for her research on ancient coins.[24] In 2007 Elayi was decorated Knight of the Legion of Honor by then Minister of superior education François Goulard for her work on Phoenician history.[3]


The WorldCat database lists more than 200 publications by Josette Elayi in her various fields of expertise;[4] she has authored more than 44 books and is the editor of seventy one books.[25][26]

This following is a list of her most widely held publications:

  • Elayi, Josette (2024). L'Empire babylonien, entre haine et fascination (in French). ISBN 978-2-262-09951-0. OCLC 1043306368.
  • Elayi, Josette (2023). Esarhaddon, King of Assyria. ISBN 978-1-957 454-97-9. OCLC 1043306367.
  • Elayi, Josette (2021). L'Empire assyrien. Histoire d'une grande civilisation de l'Antiquité (in French). ISBN 978-2-262-07667-2. OCLC 1043306368.
  • Elayi, Josette (2018). Sennacherib, King of Assyria. ISBN 978-0-88414-318-5. OCLC 1043306367.
  • Elayi, Josette (2018). The history of Phoenicia. ISBN 978-1-937040-82-6. OCLC 1037944871.
  • Elayi, Josette (2017). Sargon II, King of Assyria. ISBN 978-0-88414-223-2. OCLC 975999230.
  • Elayi, Josette; Elayi, A. G (2014). A monetary and political history of the Phoenician city of Byblos in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. ISBN 978-1-57506-304-1. OCLC 879033985.
  • Elayi, Josette; Elayi, A. G (2015). Arwad, cité phénicienne du nord (in French). ISBN 978-2-85021-240-6. OCLC 910179498.
  • Elayi, Josette; Elayi, A. G (2009). The coinage of the Phoenician city of Tyre in the Persian period (5th-4th cent. BCE). Leuven; Walpole, MA: Peeters. ISBN 978-90-429-2202-0. OCLC 476143018.
  • Elayi, Josette (2005). ʻAbdʻaštart Ier, Straton de Sidon: un roi phénicien entre Orient et Occident (in French). Paris: Gabalda. OCLC 61189974.
  • Elayi, Josette; Elayi, A. G (1997). Recherches sur les poids phéniciens (in French). Paris: Gabalda. ISBN 978-2-85021-102-7. OCLC 38333231.


  1. ^ Mainland Phoenicia is the area located around coastal modern Lebanon and parts of the Syrian littoral. Mainland cities included Sidon, Tyre, Byblos, and Arwad among others. Maeir, Philip (2 January 2016). "Phoenicia: Episodes and Anecdotes from the Ancient Mediterranean". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 148 (1): 72–74. doi:10.1080/00310328.2016.1159418. ISSN 0031-0328. S2CID 163724122.
  2. ^ Elayi, Josette (1943- ) Auteur du texte; Elayi, Alain G. Auteur du texte (1993). Trésors de monnaies phéniciennes et circulation monétaire : Ve-IVe siècles avant J.-C. / J. Elayi et A. G. Elayi.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Elayi, Josette; Sayegh, Hala; Sapin, Jean (2000). Un quartier du port phénicien de Beyrouth au Fer III - Perse (in French). Paris: Gabalda. ISBN 978-2-85021-125-6. OCLC 44747096.


  1. ^ Hobeika, Joséphine (2 September 2020). "Faire escale à Beyrouth, rêver de son passé millénaire et magnétique..." [A stopover in Beirut, a magnetic dream of its millenary past...]. L'Orient-Le Jour. Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Elayi, Josette [WorldCat Identities]". Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e Muller, Caroline (2 November 2013). "J. Elayi, du Couserans à la Phénicie" [J. Elayi, from Couserans to Phoenicia]. (in French). Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e Elayi, Josette (2011). "Biographie et publications de Josette Elayi |". Digitorient (in French). Archived from the original on 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  5. ^ Elayi, Josette (2018). The History of Phoenicia. Lockwood Press. ISBN 978-1-937040-81-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e Elayi, Josette (5 October 2009). "La Phénicie étudiée à travers le prisme de l'histoire" [Phoenicia studied through the prism of history]. La revue pour l'histoire du CNRS (in French) (24). doi:10.4000/histoire-cnrs.9160. ISSN 1298-9800. Archived from the original on 11 September 2020 – via Openedition journals.
  7. ^ "Welcome to Transeuphratene". Archived from the original on 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  8. ^ Elayi, Josette (1943- ) Auteur du texte; Elayi, Alain G. Auteur du texte (1993). Trésors de monnaies phéniciennes et circulation monétaire : Ve-IVe siècles avant J.-C. / J. Elayi et A. G. Elayi.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Duyrat, Frédérique (2016). "Josette Elayi, Alain-Gérard Elayi, Phoenician Coinages, Supplement 18 to Transeuphratène, 2 vol., Paris, Gabalda, 2014". Revue Numismatique. 6 (173): 593–596.
  10. ^ Duyrat, Frédérique (2016). "Josette Elayi, Alain-Gérard Elayi, Phoenician Coinages, Supplement 18 to Transeuphratène, 2 vol., Paris, Gabalda, 2014". Revue Numismatique. 6 (173): 593–596.
  11. ^ Aïssaoui, Mohammed (26 August 2015). "Rentrée littéraire : Saddam Hussein avant le chaos" [Literary comeback: Saddam Hussein before the chaos]. Le (in French). Archived from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  12. ^ Elayi, Josette (2017). Pourquoi je suis devenu un terroriste: Roman [Why I became a terrorist]. ASIN 2343117101.
  13. ^ Paul, Arnaud (5 April 2018). "Syrie : "Le passé contribue en partie à comprendre le présent"" [Arwad, a drifting Syrian island]. (in French). Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  14. ^ C., A. (24 December 2019). "Des auteurs ariégeois sous le sapin" [Ariègeois authors under the Christmas tree]. (in French). Archived from the original on 25 December 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  15. ^ d'AzinatTv, Laurence (22 November 2019). "Le nouveau roman de Josette Elayi : " Ange Garelli, descendant de Napoléon "" [The new novel by Josette Elayi: "Angel Garelli, descendant of Napoleon"]. (in French). Archived from the original on 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  16. ^ Duyrat, Frédérique. Compte rendu de Josette Elayi et Alain-Gérard Elayi, Phoenician Coinages, Supplement 18 to Transeuphratène, 2 volumes, Paris, Gabalda, 2014, 606 p., 86 planches, dans la Revue numismatique (2016), p. 593-596.
  17. ^ "Le CNRS met de l'ordre dans ses comptes". Les Echos (in French). 12 January 2004. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  18. ^ Elayi, Josette (2004). Pièges pour historien et recherche en péril [Traps for historians and research at risk] (in French). Idéaphane. ISBN 978-2-906838-05-5.
  19. ^ Elayi, Josette (2005). La face cachée de la recherche française [The hidden face of French research] (in French). Idéaphane. ISBN 978-2-906838-10-9.
  20. ^ Elayi, Josette (16 October 2015). "Est-il trop tard pour sauver le latin et le grec ?" [Is it too late to save Latin and Greek?]. Le (in French). Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  21. ^ Cuneo, Louise (29 August 2016). "Réforme du collège : ce qui va changer pour les élèves à la rentrée". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  22. ^ "Suppléments à Transeuphratène". Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Palmarès 2001". Académie des Inscriptions et des Belles-Lettres (in French). 28 February 2011. Archived from the original on 4 July 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  24. ^ "Titulaires du prix Babut – Société française de numismatique" (in French). Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  25. ^ "Elayi, Josette". Worldcat. WorldCat. 2020. Archived from the original on 11 September 2020. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  26. ^ "Josette Elayi |" (in French). Retrieved 17 September 2020.
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Josette Elayi
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