King Ahiram ruled one of the greatest cities, Byblos ( from where comes the word ‘ Bible ‘ ), known as Gebal in the holy book. This ancient city was part of Phoenicia, and is today located on the Lebanese coast. It was first occupied in Neolithic times ( 8,000 to 4,000 B.C.E. ) and became one of the major trade/seaport centers from about 3,000 B.C.E. Many empires ( Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian etc. ) extorted tribute in the form of lumber from the great cedar forests of Lebanon, through Byblos.

ahiram sarcophagus

ahiram sarcophagus

Ahiram or, more correctly, Ahirom was a Phoenician king of Byblos (ca. 1000 BC.) Ahirom is not attested in any other Ancient Oriental source. He became famous only by his Phoenician inscribed sarcophagus which was discovered in 1923 by the French excavator Pierre Montet in tomb V of the royal necropolis of Byblos. He was succeeded by his son Ittobaal who is the first to be explicitly entitled King of Byblos.

Excavations were begun as early as 1921 of this area, and among the great findings was the tomb of King Ahiram who lived about 1,000 B.C.E. His sarcophagus bears his curse…………

 “If any King, or Governor or Army commander exposes this coffin, then let his judicial scepter be broken, let his Royal throne be overthrown, let a vagabond efface his inscription.”

ahiram sarcophagus

ahiram sarcophagus

Well, needless to say, this did not deter the French archaeologists who unearthed and opened his tomb. But Ahiram was none-the-less given proper honors, complete with this Phoenician inscription ( upside down ) of his curse on this 5 Livres banknote of Lebanon. All in brand new condition.

An inscription of 38 words is found on parts of the rim and the lid of the sarcophagus. It is written in the Old Phoneician dialect of Byblos and is the oldest witness to the PHOENICIAN ALPHABET of considerable length discovered to date:

Sarcophag of Ahiram inscription.png

According to the recent re-edition of the Ahirom inscriptions by Reinhard G.Lehmann), the translation of the sarcophagus inscription reads:

A coffin made it [It]tobaal, son of Ahirom, king of Byblos, for Ahirom, his father,lo, thus he put him in seclusion. Now, if a king among kings and a governor among governors and a commander of an army should come up against Byblos; and when he then uncovers this coffin – (then:) may strip off the sceptre of his judiciary, may be overturned the throne of his kingdom, and peace and quiet may flee from Byblos. And as for him, one should cancel his registration concerning the libation tube of the memorial sacrifice.

ahiram sarcophagus

ahiram sarcophagus

The formulas of the inscription were immediately recognised as literary in nature, and the assured cutting of the archaic letters suggested to Charles Torrey a form of writing already in common use. A 10th-century BC date for the inscription has become widely accepted.

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