20. Kinyras at Sidon? The Strange Affair of Abdalonymos

This chapter addresses a curious problem that may entail a further mainland ‘Kinyras’, this time at Sidon. Abdalonymos—‘Servant of the Gods’ in Phoenician (Abd-elonim)—was said to be an impoverished member of the Sidonian royal house, installed by Alexander as king of that city in 333–332 after deposing ‘Straton’ (that is Abdastart III) following the battle of Issos. [1] He is epigraphically attested and appears in several further Alexander episodes. [2] A sarcophagus from the royal necropolis of Sidon, showing a battle-scene in which Alexander is accompanied by a Companion in Persian dress, is usually thought to have been dedicated by him, or to contain his remains. [3] How long he reigned is unknown, but he will have been deposed by one of Alexander’s successors before the end of the fourth century. [4]
Despite his realness, however, our accounts of Abdalonymos’ promotion have a fablelike quality, tending towards the moral that kings owe their position to Chance, and keep it by Virtue. The basic story must go back to Kleitarkhos, the early and colorful Alexander-historian who favored reversals-of-fortune. [5] It is told, with cosmetic variations, by Plutarch and the so-called vulgate authors who followed Kleitarkhos—Curtius Rufus, Diodoros Siculus, and Justin in his epitome of Pompeius Trogus. [6] Curtius Rufus and Justin correctly place the events at Sidon, an agreement that indicates that this was true of Kleitarkhos too. Diodoros moves the tale to Tyre—perhaps for reasons of dramatic pacing—but his identification of the deposed king as Straton betrays Sidon as the original location. [7]
Unexpectedly, however, Plutarch transfers the tale to Paphos, and applies it there to the last of the Kinyradai. This concise version, which otherwise contains all essential features, may be quoted in full:
And again in Paphos, when the reigning king was clearly unjust and wicked, Alexander cast him out and began seeking for an alternative, since the race of the Kinyradai seemed to be waning and giving out. But there was one, after all, who they said still survived—an obscure pauper of a man, maintaining himself carelessly in some garden. [8] Those who had been sent for him arrived, and he was found drawing water for his garden beds. He was really shocked as the soldiers laid hold of him and ordered him to march. And when he had been brought in his cheap garments to Alexander, he was proclaimed king and assumed the royal purple, and became one of the so-called Companions. His name was Abdalonymos. [9]
Some scholars have suspected the influence of Persian or other ANE folktale patterns, a rags-to-riches kingship along the lines of Sargon, Moses, David, or Cyrus the Great. [10] One may also see the imprint of Hellenistic moral philosophy, [11] especially in the version of Curtius Rufus, where Abdalonymos recalls the old man of Vergil’s Georgics—a natural Epicurean whose well-tended garden makes him more fortunate than a king. Abdalonymos’ poverty is due to his essential probity; he goes about his work blissfully ignorant of the events rocking Asia. [12]
According to the more detailed accounts of Curtus Rufius and Diodoros, Alexander bade Hephaistion recruit a suitable replacement for Straton. When Hephaistion offered the position to a guest-friend (or two), it was declined on the grounds that the appointment should be made from the royal stock; Abdalonymos was then put forward. All accounts focus on his surprise at being suddenly seized, clad in royal purple, and enthroned, before becoming a favorite in Alexander’s Companions. A genuine member of the royal house may well have been necessary to secure public goodwill and cultic approval; and a relatively disempowered scion would make a more reliable client-king. [13]
But how on earth did this tale become connected with Paphos and the Kinyradai? [14] Plutarch himself may not be responsible for the error. In treating Alexander, he often relied on the various fabricated documents (letters, diary) that in later Hellenistic times filled public appetite for new or better information about the great conqueror. [15] This complex process would provide ample opportunity for the development of a spurious moralizing anecdote. Still, the tale’s attachment to Paphos cannot have been random, and calls for some explanation.
Alexander is not known to have set foot on Cyprus personally. All the Cypriot kings, going over to Alexander after Issos and contributing ships for the siege of Tyre, were indemnified for having served the Persians under compulsion. [16] A famous catastrophe was already on record for Nikokles and the whole royal family in 310/309 after Alexander’s death. [17] But the ancient controversy about whether the disaster befell Nikokles of Paphos or Nikokreon of Salamis arose very early, being reflected already in the Parian Marble (inscribed in 264/263). [18] The transfer of the conflagration to Salamis may have left a vacuum in some minds as to what became of the famous Kinyradai at Paphos. But why should the particular tale of Abdalonymos have filled this gap? One would hardly expect a member of the Paphian royal house to have a good Phoenician name. [19]
An alternative hypothesis should therefore be contemplated—that Kleitarkhos connected the Sidonian royal house to ‘Kinyras’, using the name as the most appropriate ‘Greek’ gloss for the city’s dynastic ancestor. This is made quite possible in principle by the evidence for Kinyras at Byblos (Chapter 19). H. Lewy boldly suggested long ago, without reference to the present problem, that Agenor, the mythical king of Sidon whose son Kadmos pursued Europa westwards, was a linguistic doublet of Kinyras. [20] While ‘Agenor’ does have a clear Greek etymology (‘very manly’), one might plead folk remodeling. Also worth noting are Kadmos’ association with the lyre, and his well-toned wife Harmonia. [21] An appropriate Sidonian royal cult is also ready to hand: the Astarte whose name was piously born by Straton/Abdastart and his predecessors, who served as her priests—a distinctly Kinyras-like role. [22] As it happens, Kleitarkhos also discussed the tale of Myrrha, presumably in connection with Alexander’s Phoenician campaign. [23] Although he followed Panyassis in making her father Theias and locating the myth at Byblos, [24] this would be understandable if he connected Kinyras rather with Sidon in explicating the affair of Abdalonymos.
Another line of evidence that may be relevant relates to Euagoras I and the self-styled Kinyrad dynasty of Salamis. [25] At the height of his power, Euagoras controlled Tyre and several other Phoenician cities. [26] I have argued that his Kinyrad posture was meant to have broad appeal on Cyprus, including to its Phoenician communities; if so, it could have availed equally well in his mainland possessions. [27] His son or grandson, Euagoras II, was expelled from Salamis, probably during the revolt against Persia in 351. Persian support for his restoration there was eventually undermined by court slander, but Diodoros tells us that he was assigned a mainland kingdom, and good numismatic evidence indicates that this was precisely Sidon. Ruling poorly for only a few years (ca. 344–341), he was compelled to flee; it is not clear whether he alienated his own citizens, crossed the Persians, or both. He was succeeded there by Straton who ruled for about ten years before being put down by Alexander. [28] Meanwhile, Pnytagoras, apparently grandson of Euagoras I, had followed Euagoras II at Salamis; he was among the Cypriot kings who sailed into Sidon with 120 ships for Alexander’s expedition against Tyre. [29] Could Alexander have agreed to reestablish the Salaminian dynasty in the city? In this case, ‘Abdalonymos’ might be seen as a throne-name designed to present a native aspect, and his humble origin a means of obscuring the scheme.
A Sidonian Kinyras, in any form, would provide a ready stimulus for the displacement of the tale to Paphos, with which most Aegean Greeks will have associated the Kinyras. When the story’s rags-to-riches appeal gave it a popular life of its own, it would gladly wander from Sidon and come to its more obvious home, whose last kings, rightly or wrongly, were as famed for decadent power as Straton himself. [30] The moral thrust of the story presupposes an essential enduring righteousness of the royal line, when not corrupted by despotism and luxury, which is quite in tune with the virtuous Kinyras examined in Chapter 13. On this point, at least, Kinyras is a plausible prior cause for the story in any of its forms. [31]


[ back ] 1. See generally Lane Fox 1980:184; Green 1991:246; Heckel and Yardley 1997:143. Clearly the variant forms Balonymos (Diodoros), Aralynomos or Alynomos (Plutarch), and Abdellonymos (Pollux Onomastikon 6.105) result from textual corruption (cf. Hammond 1983:119), as well perhaps as variations in rendering the Phoenician name. The etymology of ‘Alynomus’ attempted by Ribichini 1982:496n67 is thus unnecessary.
[ back ] 2. See Lane Fox 1980:184.
[ back ] 3. Grainger 1991:61–62; Palagia 2000:188–189, plausibly noting that Abdalonymos, as a parvenu, would have had good reason to portray himself at Alexander’s side. But for a new reading of the monument, see Heckel 2006.
[ back ] 4. Grainger 1991:61–62; Palagia 2000:186.
[ back ] 5. Hammond 1983:43, 113, 119.
[ back ] 6. Diodoros Siculus 17.47.1–6; Curtius Rufus 4.1.16–26; Plutarch Moralia 340c–e; Justin Epitome 11.10.8–9.
[ back ] 7. Hammond 1983:43; Grainger 1991:34.
[ back ] 8. Diodoros includes the colorful touch that Abdalonymos was working as a hired laborer: ἔλαβεν αὐτὸν ἔν τινι κήπῳ μισθοῦ μὲν ἀντλοῦντα (17.47.4).
[ back ] 9. Plutarch Moralia 340c–d: πάλιν ἐν Πάφῳ, τοῦ βασιλεύοντος ἀδίκου καὶ πονηροῦ φανέντος, ἐκβαλὼν τοῦτον Ἀλέξανδρος ἕτερον ἐζήτει, τοῦ Κινυραδῶν γένους ἤδη φθίνειν καὶ ἀπολείπειν δοκοῦντος. ἕνα δ’ οὖν ἔφασαν περιεῖναι πένητα καὶ ἄδοξον ἄνθρωπον ἐν κήπῳ τινὶ παρημελημένως διατρεφόμενον. ἐπὶ τοῦτον οἱ πεμφθέντες ἧκον, εὑρέθη δὲ πρασιαῖς ὕδωρ ἐπαντλῶν· καὶ διεταράχθη τῶν στρατιωτῶν ἐπιλαμβανομένων αὐτοῦ καὶ βαδίζειν κελευόντων. ἀχθεὶς δὲ πρὸς Ἀλέξανδρον ἐν εὐτελεῖ σινδονίσκῃ βασιλεὺς ἀνηγορεύθη καὶ πορφύραν ἔλαβε καὶ εἷς ἦν τῶν ἑταίρων προσαγορευομένων· ἐκαλεῖτο δ’ Ἀβδαλώνυμος. For the corrupt variants of his name, see n1.
[ back ] 10. Lane Fox 1980:184; Hammond 1983:43.
[ back ] 11. Cf. Hammond 1983:119.
[ back ] 12. Curtius Rufus 4.1: Causa ei paupertatis sicut plerisque probitas erat. Intentusque operi diurno strepitum armorum, qui totam Asiam concusserat, non exaudiebat.
[ back ] 13. Scholars have attempted various historical explanations. For Lane Fox 1980:382, Abdalonymos’ insulation from the decadence of the court made him a kindred spirit to Alexander (“just the oriental to see something congenial in Asia’s new and unexpected king”). Green 1991:246 sees a calculated dramatic move designed to establish an unfailingly loyal client-king. Grainger 1991:34 suggests that Abdalonymos was purposefully excluded from the court by his royal relations, and even from the city limits.
[ back ] 14. The Paphian version was accepted as factual by Frazer 1914 1:42–43; Ribichini 1982:496. While HC:152 rightly saw it as fabulous, that cannot completely discredit the historicity of the Sidonian version (see below). NPHP:26, though considering it a myth, gives credence to Paphos as the proper locale since the decadence of the Paphian kings became a topos in the fourth century: see Athenaios 255c–257d, who cites both Antiphanes fr. 200 PCG and Klearkhos of Soloi fr. 19 Wehrli; cf. Paphos:205.
[ back ] 15. See e.g. Powell 1939; Pearson 1955.
[ back ] 16. Arrian Anabasis of Alexander 2.20.3.
[ back ] 17. Diodoros Siculus 20.21.2–3; Polyainos Stratagems 8.48. For this episode’s rightful location at Paphos, see p416n95.
[ back ] 18. Parian Marble B 17 (FGH 239).
[ back ] 19. While Greek and Phoenician royal names alike appear at Lapethos (p339, 510), the explanation for them remains open; and the known Paphian royal names are all Greek.
[ back ] 20. Lewy 1895:226. Astour 1965:139n5, though agnostic on this point, nevertheless (p. 308) interpreted Kynortas—one of the pre-Dorian kings of Sparta, brother of Hyakinthos (Pausanias 3.1.3; [Apollodoros] Library 1.9.5, 3.10.3)—as ‘knr-player’; and even connected Kynortion and Myrtion, the names of two peaks above the sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros (Pausanias 2.27.7), with Kinyras and Myrrha. Both ideas, though approved by Dugand 1973:200–202, are highly doubtful.
[ back ] 21. Nonnos has him pretend to have surpassed Apollo on the instrument; his alleged punishment is not the usual death, but the breaking of his strings (Dionysiaka 1.485–505), and he is rewarded with marriage to Harmonia, herself with lyric associations (2.663–666). For Harmonia, see Franklin 2006a:55 and n42; but note that I no longer hold to my interpretation there of [Nikomakhos] Excerpts 1 (MSG:266): instead of Ἀχαιοὺς δὲ ὑπὸ Κάδμου τοῦ Ἀγήνορος παραλαβεῖν (suggested by R. Janko), I would revert to Jan’s ὑπὸ Κάδμον in MSG. In other words, the Achaeans did not receive the lyre ‘from Kadmos’ (which would contradict the passage’s earlier assertion that Orpheus first received it from Hermes), but ‘in the time of Kadmos’ (a sign that the passage comes from an early chronographic source, perhaps Hellanikos: see for now Franklin 2003:302n12; Franklin 2012:747).
[ back ] 22. See p407n45.
[ back ] 23. Kleitarkhos FGH 137 F 3 (= Stobaios Anthology 40.20.73) with Jacoby in RE 11 (1922), 638. Cf. p284.
[ back ] 24. See p284.
[ back ] 25. See p346–347, 351–359.
[ back ] 26. Diodoros Siculus 15.2.4; HC:135–136; cf. p347.
[ back ] 27. See p535–359.
[ back ] 28. Diodoros Siculus 16.46.3; HC:146–147 and n3.
[ back ] 29. Arrian Anabasis of Alexander 2.20.3. For Pnytagoras’ relationship to Euagoras, see HC:143n3.
[ back ] 30. See n14 above.
[ back ] 31. Cf. Ribichini 1982:496: “La distinzione tra il prestigio del ricchissimo sovrano ‘del tempo del mito’, e la miseria del timido e povero suo discendente ‘dei tempi reali’ non poteva essere più chiaramente delineata.”