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Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Central Levant States



Inhabited from about 4000 BC (and perhaps as early as the Neolithic age in 6000 BC), the name of this coastal city means 'fishery'. Claimed by many to be the oldest of the Canaanite or Phoenician cities, it vies with Gebal for that honour.

Sidon is located in modern Lebanon, about 40km (25 miles) north of Tyre and the same distance south of Biruta, and is now its third-largest city, a busy port called Saydah. For the reason that it is still occupied, archaeological research of the Canaanite city is very difficult, so its history is pieced together from what records remain, plus what digs can be carried out during any rebuilding or construction projects.

c.2000 - 1800 BC

Egypt maintains a trading presence in the region.

18th cent BC


1453 BC

The Egyptians conquer the Levant and Syria and establish three provinces in their conquered territories which are named Amurru (in southern Syria), Upe (in the northern Levant), and Canaan (in the southern Levant). Each one is governed by an Egyptian official. Native dynasts are allowed to continue their rule over the small states, but have to provide annual tribute. The city of Sarepta is a vassal of Sidon by this time.

1300s BC

Zimr-Hadda / Zimrida II

1300s BC


c.1200 BC

There is general collapse in the region as instability grips the Mediterranean coast and the Hittite empire is destroyed by the Sea Peoples and other various groups. Arvad, Gebal, Sidon, and Tyre, all with prominent harbours, manage to survive unscathed, although the wealthy customers disappear for a time.

MapPhoenician Sidon

In the first millennium BC, Sidon, on the long coastal strip of modern Lebanon, was one of the most important Canaanite cities in Phoenicia. It was partly responsible for creating the great commercial empire which operated from the Lebanese coast. It was also from Sidon that a party went out to found the city of Tyre, and the two later became rivals, with each of them claiming to be the mother city of Phoenicia.

The Greeks knew Sidon as the home of the Princess Europa, whom Zeus supposedly abducted while disguised as a white bull. Sidon's most important industry was glass-making, which was conducted on a vast scale, and the production of valuable purple dye. All of the Phoenician cities were great seafaring merchants with technically improved ships that had a large loading capacity. They sailed the length of the Mediterranean and beyond, establishing colonies in North Africa and Spain from the tenth century onwards.

c.1050 BC

A weakened Egypt loses its remaining imperial possessions in Canaan.

c.955 BC

According to the Old Testament, the First Temple of Jerusalem is completed in Israel, apparently by craftsmen from Sidon. Soloman also enters into a matrimonial alliance with Sidon, but Sidon's influence is already waning as Tyre gains pre-eminence in Phoenicia, and it may well be that it is already controlled by Tyre. Any list of rulers for the city in this period invariably shows names of kings who are based in Tyre.

853 BC

FeatureAn alliance of states is formed which includes Ammon, Arvad, Byblos, Damas, Edom, Egypt, Hamath, Kedar, and Samaria (seemingly despite recent conflict between Damas and Samaria). Together they fight Shalmaneser III of Assyria at the Battle of Qarqar which consists of the largest known number of combatants in a single battle to date, and is the first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts. Despite claims to the contrary, the Assyrians are defeated, since they do not press on to their nearest target, Hamath, and do not resume their attacks on Hamath and Damas for about six years.

738 BC

All of the Phoenician states become vassals of Assyria, but local arrangements for governance are left in place.

722 BC

Shalmaneser's invasion allows Tyre to gain possession of Sarepta.

704 - 701 BC

With the death of Sargon II of Assyria, many of the former subject states rebel. It takes the Assyrians until 701 BC to get around to quelling the Phoenician states. Tyre and Sidon fall without a fight, and the cities in their orbit surrender.

Port of Sidon
The port of Sidon, one of the principal ports on the Phoenician coastline

676 - 612 BC

Assyria conquers all of Phoenicia. In Sidon, subject kings may be allowed to remain in power, at least during the later stages of Assyrian rule, although their names are unknown. However, as Tyre appears to lose its ability to control events in the city, it seems likely that the two cities no longer share the same rulers.

600s - 573 BC

Tyre regains control over Sidon.

573 - 539 BC

Babylonia conquers Phoenicia including Sidon.

539 BC

Sidon and all of Phoenicia is submerged within the Persian empire. Vassal kings are allowed to remain in charge in the city.

Persian Vassal Kings of Sidon

Small Nav - Persian & Greek Empires

Part of the empire, Sidon was one of the four Phoenician vassal 'kingdoms' to be established and controlled by sub-kings in the name of the Persian king. This took it out of the control of the Shoftim of Tyre (if that city had been able to apply any control after 573 BC), and gave it more independence and influence than it had enjoyed for centuries. Sidon became prominent in the region until the revolt of 358 BC, although not to the point where it could dominate the other Phoenician cities.

The political system for the cities under Persian rule can only be reconstructed at its most basic level, so there are still many unanswered questions about this period, but the kings dressed in Persian style, issued coins with the head of the Persian king on them, and rebuilt the royal palace in the Persian style. They also supplied the Persian navy in various campaigns, along with Egyptians, Cypriots and Ionians, especially campaigns in Egypt and Greece.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983).)

Eshmunazzar / Eshmun'azar I

fl c. 490s BC

Tabnit I

fl c.480s BC

Amastoreth / Anysus

4th cent? BC

Eshmun'azar / Eshmun'azar II

'King of the Sidonians'. Vassal to Persia?


Queen mother and regent during Eshmun'azar II's minority.

Otherwise unknown, the sarcophagus of Eshmun'azar II is discovered in AD 1855, with the above inscription on the lid and a comment that his mother had been a priestess of Ashtart, 'the goddess of the Sidonians'.


407 - 374 BC

Ba'al Sillem II

Ba'al Sillem I is unknown.

c.374 - 363 BC

Bodastart I Strato / Bodashtart / Straton

363 - 358 BC

Tabnit II / Tennes

Rebelled against Persia. Put to death.

358 BC

Tabnit leads the rebellion in Sidon against seemingly weak Persian rule. The rebellion is crushed in the same year and the city razed, partially thanks to Tennes taking fright at the Persian response and betraying his own city (a stray Babylonian tablet speaks of the arrival in Babylon and Susa in late 345 BC of Sidonian captives and women for the palace). A replacement king has to rebuild it, but the city loses its regional pre-eminence.

Bodastart II

346 BC

Satraps Mazaeus of Khilakku and Bēlsunu of Ebir-nāri lead fresh contingents of Greek mercenaries to put down the revolt in the Levant. Phoenicia is attacked first, but both satraps are repulsed. The Persian king himself is forced to follow up with a more direct intervention.

Yaton Melik

fl mid-300s BC


333 - 332 BC

Index of Greek SatrapsIn 334 BC Alexander of Macedon launches his campaign into the Persian empire by crossing the Dardanelles. Much of Anatolia falls by 333 BC and Alexander proceeds into Syria during 333-332 BC to receive the submission of Ebir-nāri, which also gains him Harran, Judah, and Phoenicia (principally Byblos and Sidon, with Tyre holding out until it can be taken by force). Athura, Gaza, and Egypt also capitulate (not without a struggle in Gaza's case). Sidon accepts Alexander, probably with some relief as the Persian retaliation of a dozen years earlier will still be an open sore. With Phoenicia having been taken, the region is governed from Tyre.

332 - 329? BC


Satrap of Sidon and Tyre under the Greek empire.

329? BC

Tyre is incorporated into the satrapy of Syria within the Greek empire. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC Tyre is largely dominated by Ptolemaic Egypt until 219-217 BC, when the Fourth Syrian War sees Seleucid ruler Antiochus III fighting Ptolemy IV for control of their mutual border. Antiochus recaptures Seleucia Pieria, Tyre, and other important Phoenician cities and their Mediterranean ports, but is fought to a draw at Raphia on Syria's southernmost edge. The subsequent peace treaty sees all the gains other than Seleucia Pieria relinquished. Seleucid control is probably reconfirmed more permanently in 195 BC and remains in place until the mid-first century BC.