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Abdalonymus

Abdalonymus (†312 BCE): descendant of a king of Sidon, appointed in 332 as sole ruler in his home town by Alexander the Great.

Abdalonymus on the Alexander sarcophagus
Abdalonymus on the Alexander sarcophagus
Abdalonymus belonged to the royal house of the Phoenician port Sidon, although we do not know his exact position in the genealogy. The city belonged to the Achaemenid Empire, and the Sidonian king was expected to pay tribute to the most powerful monarch of the ancient world. However, during Abdalonymus' youth, his relative king Tennes (Phoenician Tabnit) revolted. The Egyptian pharaoh Nectanebo II supported the rebellion and sent 4,000 Greek mercenaries, commanded by one of the most capable commanders of that age, Mentor of Rhodes. Still, Tennes and his allies stood no chance against the army of the great king, and when Artaxerxes III Ochus arrived in 346, they surrendered. Tennes was executed by the Persians and the desperate Sidonians set fire to their own city.

The destruction can not have been complete, because thirteen years later, Sidon was a prosperous town again. By that time, its king was Abdastart, a name that the Greeks rendered as Straton. He may have been a nephew of Tennes.

When the war between Macedonia and Persia broke out in 334, Straton supported his superior with ships, which operated under Memnon of Rhodes and Pharnabazus in the Aegean Sea. However, in November 333, Alexander the Great defeated the Persian king Darius III Codomannus in the battle of Issus, and he now marched to the south to Phoenicia. Several local kings surrendered, and Straton was one of them.
   
But after his support of the Persians, Alexander did not trust him and he sent his friend Hephaestion to Sidon to appoint a new king. According to one story, he selected Abdalonymus, who was employed as a gardener. (Perhaps 'gardener' was the titel of a court official.) It is possible that Abdalonymus was chosen because he was the son of Tennes, who had once fought against the Persians and had been killed by them. If this is correct, Abdalonymus was restored to his old rights and may have had a personal motive to be loyal to the conquerors.

We do not know much about his reign, although he reportedly sent unction and salve to Alexander. He died in 312.

Abdalonymus is best known as the man who commissioned the Alexander sarcophagus, a splendid piece of Greek art, discovered in 1887 in the royal necropolis of Sidon. It shows Alexander during a fight against the Persians and the king of Sidon during a hunt.

This page was created in 2003; last modified on 21 July 2014.