Menander of Ephesus

Menander of Ephesus: Greek author of a history of Phoenicia.

When he was writing the first books of his Jewish Antiquities, the Greek-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus essentially retold the story of the Bible. He believed that the Jewish sacred literature was historically accurate, but he also realized that non-Jews might reasonably ask questions about the reliability. Therefore, he sometimes quoted from other sources, like the Egyptian priest Manetho, the Babylonian official Berossus, and a Greek author who had published a book about ancient Phoenicia, Menander of Ephesus.

No scholar has ever claimed that Manetho did not exist, and Berossus can be identified with a šatammu of the Esagila named Bêl-re'ušunu. Menander must have been a real person as well, although he is otherwise unknown. It has been assumed that the "Menander of Pergamon" mentioned by Clement of Alexandria is identical to "our" Menander, and it has also been assumed that the Menander that is mentioned in the Byzantine dictionary Suda as pupil of Eratosthenes, is also identical to our scholar. But these are mere assumptions.

Still, it is possible that Josephus quotes him through an intermediary; we know that he quoted Berossus through an author named Alexander Polyhistor, who, in the first half of the first century BCE, collected many rare texts about ancient Judaism. Menander may have been part of this collection as well, and this is problematic because we know that Alexander embellished the stories every now and then.

Below are five fragments from Menander (and one corroborating text from an author named Dius), taken from Josephus's Jewish Antiquities and Against the Greeks, in the translation by William Whiston. The sixth fragment is from Clement of Alexandria and does not inspire much confidence.

Hiram and Solomon (Jewish Antiquities, 8.144-149)

[Fragment 1] [Josephus quotes Menander to prove that the Hiram mentioned as contemporary of king Solomon, is a historical figure.]

Menander also, one who translated the Tyrian archives out of the dialect of the Phoenicians into the Greek language, makes mention of these two kings, where he says thus:

When Abibalus was dead, his son Hiram received the kingdom from him, who, when he had lived fifty-three years, reigned thirty-four. He raised a bank in the large place, and dedicated the golden pillar which is in Zeus's temple. He also went and cut down materials of timber out of the mountain called Lebanon, for the roof of temples; and when he had pulled down the ancient temples, he both built the temple of Heracles, and that of Astarte; and he first set up the temple of Heracles in the month Peritius; he also made an expedition against the Itureans, who did not pay their tribute, and when he had subdued them to himself he returned. Under this king there was Abdemon, a very youth in age, who always conquered the difficult problems which Solomon king of Jerusalem commanded him to explain.

Dius also makes mention of him, where he says thus:

When Abibalus was dead, his son Hiram reigned. He raised the eastern parts of the city higher, and made the city itself larger. He also joined the temple of Jupiter, which before stood by itself, to the city, by raising a bank in the middle between them, and he adorned it with donations of gold. Moreover, he went up to Mount Lebanon, and cut down materials of wood for the building of the temples.

He says also that

Solomon, who was then King of Jerusalem, sent riddles to Hiram, and desired to receive the like from him, but that he who could not solve them should pay money to them that did solve them, and that Hiram accepted the conditions; and when he was not able to solve the riddles [proposed by Solomon], he paid a great deal of money for his fine: But that he afterward did solve the proposed riddles by means of Abdemon, a man of Tyre; and that Hiram proposed other riddles, which, when Solomon could not solve, he paid back a great deal of money to Hiram.

This it is which Dius wrote.

Ithobaal I (Jewish Antiquities, 8.324)

[Fragment 2] [Josephus quotes Menander to prove that the drought during the reign of Ahab (873-852), mentioned in 1 Kings 17-18, is a historical fact.]

Menander mentions this drought in his account of the acts of Ithobaal, King of the Tyrians; where he says thus:

Under him there was a want of rain from the month Hyperberetaeus till the month Hyperberetaeus of the year following; but when he made supplications, there came great thunders. This Ithobaal built the city Botrys in Phoenicia, and the city Auza in Libya.

By these words he designed this want of rain that was in the days of Ahab, for at that time it was that Ithobaal also reigned over the Tyrians, as Menander informs us.

Carthage (Against the Greeks 1.18)

[Fragment 3] [Josephus quotes Menander to prove that the Biblical chronology is reliable.]

Now the time from this king to the building of Carthage is thus calculated:

Upon the death of Hiram, Baleazarus his son took the kingdom; he lived forty-three years, and reigned seven years: after him succeeded his son Abdastartus; he lived twenty-nine years, and reigned nine years. Now four sons of his nurse plotted against him and slew him, the eldest of whom reigned twelve years: after them came Astartus, the son of Deleastartus; he lived fifty-four years, and reigned twelve years: after him came his brother Aserymus; he lived fifty-four years, and reigned nine years: he was slain by his brother Pheles, who took the kingdom and reigned but eight months, though he lived fifty years: he was slain by Ithobaal, the priest of Astarte, who reigned thirty-two years, and lived sixty-eight years: he was succeeded by his son Badezorus, who lived forty-five years, and reigned six years: he was succeeded by Matgenus his son; he lived thirty-two years, and reigned nine years: Pygmalion succeeded him; he lived fifty-six years, and reigned forty-seven years. Now in the seventh year of his reign, his sister fled away from him, and built the city Carthage in Libya.

So the whole time from the reign of Hiram, till the building of Carthage, amounts to the sum of one hundred fifty-five years and eight months. Since then the temple was built at Jerusalem in the twelfth year of the reign of Hiram, there were from the building of the temple, until the building of Carthage, one hundred forty-three years and eight months.

The attack of Šalmaneser V on Phoenicia (Jewish Antiquities, 9.283-287)

[Fragment 4] [Josephus quotes Menander to prove that the campaign of the Assyrian king Šalmaneser V against Samaria (2 Kings 17.3-6), is a historical fact, because the king was indeed active in the west in these years. king Elulaeus is called "Lulli" in Assyrian sources.]

And now the king of Assyria invaded all Syria and Phoenicia in an hostile manner. The name of this king is also set down in the archives of Tyre, for he made an expedition against Tyre in the reign of Elulaeus; and Menander attests to it, who, when he wrote his chronology, and translated the archives of Tyre into the Greek language, gives us the following history:

One whose name was Elulaeus, but was called Pyas, reigned thirty-six years. This king, upon the revolt of the inhabitants of Kition, sailed to them, and reduced them again to a submission. Against these did the king of Assyria send an army, and in a hostile manner over-run all Phoenicia, but soon made peace with them all, and returned back; but Sidon, and Acra, and Palaityros, revolted; and many other cities there were which delivered themselves up to the king of Assyria. Accordingly, when the Tyrians would not submit to him, the king returned, and fell upon them again, while the Phoenicians had furnished him with threescore ships, and eight hundred men to row them; and when the Tyrians had come upon them in twelve ships, and the enemies ships were dispersed, they took five hundred men prisoners, and the reputation of all the citizens of Tyre was thereby increased: but the king of Assyria returned, and placed guards at their river, and aqueducts, who should hinder the Tyrians from drawing water. This continued for five years, and still the Tyrians bore the siege, and drank of the water they had out of the wells they dug.

And this is what is written in the Tyrian archives concerning Šalmaneser V, the king of Assyria.

The Babylonians (Against the Greeks, 1.21)

[Fragment 5] [Josephus quotes Menander to prove that the Babylonian Exile was as long as the Bible suggests, because the Tyrian chronology separates Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus with the same number of years.]

I will now add the records of the Phoenicians; for it will not be superfluous to give the reader demonstrations more than enough on this occasion. In them we have this enumeration of the times of their several kings:

Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years in the days of Ithobaal [III], their king; after him reigned Baal [II], ten years; after him were judges appointed, who judged the people: Ecnibalus, the son of Baslacus, two months; Chelbes, the son of Abdeus, ten months; Abbar, the high priest, three months; Mitgonus and Gerastratus, the sons of Abdelemus, were judges six years; after whom Balatorus reigned one year; after his death they sent and fetched Merbalus from Babylon, who reigned four years; after his death they sent for his brother Hiram, who reigned twenty years. Under his reign Cyrus became king of Persia.

So that the whole interval is fifty-four years besides three months; for in the seventh year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar he began to besiege Tyre, and Cyrus the Persian took the kingdom in the fourteenth year of Hiram.

Hiram's Daughter (Clement, Stromateis, 1.21)

[Fragment 6] [Clement of Alexandria quotes Menander to prove that the Jewish and Tyrian chronology is compatible with the Greek chronology.]

Hiram gave his daughter to Solomon about the time of the arrival of Menelaus in Phoenicia, after the capture of Troy, as is said by Menander of Pergamon, and Laetus in The Phoenicia.

This page was created in 2012; last modified on 12 October 2020.