Seleukos II Kallinikos SELEUKID, King of Syria
(265 BCE-225 BCE)
Laodike SELEUKID, Queen of Syria
Mithridates II, King of Pontus
(-Abt 220 BCE)
Laodike SELEUKID, Princess of Syria
Antiochos III "Megas" SELEUKID, King of Syria
(Abt 241 BCE-187 BCE)
Laodike, Princess of Pontus

Antiochos IV Epiphanes Nikephoros SELEUKID, King of Syria
(Abt 215 BCE-164BCE)


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Laodike SELEUKID, Princess of Syria

Antiochos IV Epiphanes Nikephoros SELEUKID, King of Syria

  • Born: Abt 215 B.C.E.
  • Married: After 193 B.C.E.
  • Died: Nov/Dec 164 B.C.E.

  Orthographic variation: Antiochus IV Epiphanes Nicephorus SELEUCID

  Research Notes:

Antiochus IV Epiphanes Nicephorus, son of Antiochus III; he cannot have been born much before 215 B.C. and must have been at least eighteen years old in 189 (cf. Polybius, Histories 21.41 [43 Büttner-Wobst].22). After the battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.), Antiochus was sent to Rome as a hostage and was kept there until ca. 176-175 B.C. After his release, he spent some time in Athens. Learning that his brother, Seleucus IV, had been assassinated by Heliodorus, Antiochus gained the support of the Attalids of Pergamum, who crowned him king late in 175 B.C. (OGIS, no. 248; Appian, Syriaca 45). Antiochus’s alliance with Eumenes of Pergamum apparently lasted throughout his reign (Appian, Syriaca 45; cf. Polybius, Histories 30.30.4; Livy Periochae 46). The Babylonian King List puts his accession in September, 175 B.C., too early to account for the events between the death of his brother Seleucus IV and Antiochus’s coming to power (Sachs and Wiseman, “A Babylonian King List,” pp. 204, 208; cf. Daniel 11:21-22; Porphyry in Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 260 F49; Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, pp. 42-44).

Probably soon after his accession Antiochus married a certain Laodice who may have been the widow of his brother Seleucus IV (OGIS, no. 252; cf. Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, p. 49, n. 44); the marriage may have served as an expedient to smooth the transition. The only known children of this marriage were Antiochus V (b. 173 B.C.) and Laodice. (Concerning another alleged son, see O. Mørkholm, “The Accession of Antiochus IV of Syria,” American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 11, 1964, pp. 63-76.) The claim that Alexander Balas was his son has been disputed since antiquity.

During the first half of his reign, Antiochus’s most immediate preoccupations in foreign policy were relations with Rome and Egypt. He invaded Egypt in 170-69 and again in 168 B.C.. but a Roman ultimatum delivered to him at his camp near Alexandria caused him to relinquish Egypt at once. Two years later, during the summer of 166, he celebrated a grandiose festival at Daphne near Antioch, with a procession of over 50,000 soldiers and lavish games and banquets (Polybius, Histories 30.25-26). At about the same time charisteria were held in Babylon and the king was hailed is “savior of Asia” (OGIS, no. 253; cf. Zambelli, “L’ascesa al trono,” pp. 377-78). W. Tarn’s attempts to link these two festivals with the eastern campaigns of Antiochus and Eucratides is not supported by the evidence (Greeks in Bactria, pp. 193-95). An area of grave conflicts was Judea, where, on his return from Egypt (169 or 168 B.C.), he robbed the Temple treasury in Jerusalem. Later on, in a singular move, he changed the Temple cult and prohibited observance of Jewish law under penalty of death. To what extent these measures were caused by a prior rebellion is unclear. In any event, when the king’s armies were unable to crush the ensuing revolt, he granted conditional amnesty to the rebels early in 164 and ended the ban on observance of the Jewish law (1 Maccabees 1-6; 2 Maccabees 4-9; 11:27-33; Josephus Bellum Judaicum 1.31-39; idem, Antiquitates Judaicae 12.237-92).

Antiochus’s sudden leniency may have been caused by his desire to avoid trouble in Palestine while on a campaign in the eastern part of his empire (cf. Tacitus Histories 5.8.4-5; Daniel 11:44). Our information about his eastern expedition is very fragmentary. In 147 Seleucid Era (probably spring, 165 B.C.) he set out from Antioch, crossed the Euphrates, and continued through “the Upper Country” (1 Maccabees 3:37). He left Lysias behind as administrator of the western provinces and guardian to his son Antiochus V (1 Maccabees 3:32-33). Antiochus probably marched first against the king of Armenia, Artaxias (Diodorus 31.17a; Appian, Syriaca 45, 66; Porphyry in Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 260 F38, 56). According to Appian (Syriaca 66), Antiochus even took him prisoner. But Artaxias was allowed to remain ruler of Armenia as a vassal king.

From Armenia Antiochus must have moved southeast. Pliny (Naturalis historia 6.138-39) tells us that the fifth King Antiochus “restored” the town of Charax on the Persian Gulf and gave it his own name. As Antiochus V (164-62) can hardly be meant, it has been suggested that his passage refers to Antiochus IV. Pliny’s count may include either Antiochus’s older brother, who was co-regent of Antiochus III, or perhaps Antiochus Hierax (cf. Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, p. 168). Pliny further relates (6.147) that the coast from Charax onward was first explored for Antiochus IV. This statement is incorrect, because Antiochus III had been in this region in 204 (Polybius, Histories 13.9.4-5). Pliny also reports a double victory over the Persians by a certain Numenius “put in charge of Mesene by King Antiochus” 16.152), i.e., Antiochus III or IV (Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, pp. 169-70).

In Elymais Antiochus attempted to seize the treasures of the temple of Nanaia (2 Maccabees 1:13; cf. Polybius, Histories 31.9; Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae 12.354-55; Porphyry, in Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 260 F53, 56; Appian, Syriaca 66). Several authors, most notably Bouché-Leclercq, have thought this a doublet of Antiochus III’s fatal attempt at robbing the temple of Bel in Elymais (Histoire I, pp. 297-306; cf. Diodorus, 28.3, 29.15). Holleaux (Etudes III, pp. 255-79) has refuted this thesis and shown that Josephus and Porphyry clearly understood that Polybius was writing about Antiochus IV, that the tradition about both attempted temple robberies goes back directly to Polybius, and that the differences between the two stories preclude simple duplication. The similarity is based on the fact that both kings suffered financial difficulties. But Antiochus IV, rather than risk being killed like his father, gave up his attempt when the natives threatened armed resistance.

Shortly afterwards, Antiochus died at Tabae (Gabae?) in Persis of an unknown disease (Polybius, Histories 31.9; Porphyry, in Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 260 F56; cf. Appian, Syriaca 66; differently 2 Maccabees 1:13-16). Most of the details surrounding the attempted temple robbery and death of Antiochus as reported in 1 Maccabees 6:1-13 (cf. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae 12.354-59) and 2 Maccabees 9 are legendary and cannot be used as historical evidence. From the Babylonian King List (Sachs and Wiseman, “A Babylonian King List,” pp. 204, 208) it seems that the news of his death arrived in Babylon between November 19 and December 19, 164 B.C. This accords with the dates given by 1 Maccabees 6:16 (149 Seleucid Macedonian Era [began October, 312] = 164-63 B.C.) and Porphyry, in Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 260 F32.12 (Olympic calendar [01., began summer, 776]154, 1, i.e., the first year after the 154th quadrennial Olympic cycle = 164-63 B.C.). However, Granius Licinianus (ed. M. Flemisch, Leipzig, 1904, pp. 5-6) dates Antiochus’s death to 163 B.C. (consulship of T. Sempronius Gracchus).

Even though Antiochus’s eastern expedition was not entirely successful, at least nominal Seleucid rule over the eastern satrapies continued until Demetrius II. The rationale for Antiochus’s policy concerning the eastern provinces of his empire remains obscure. Against Tarn (Greeks in Bactria, p. 203), there is no evidence that Eucratides, King of Bactria, acted on his behalf and was his “sub-king.” An inscription from Babylon speaking of Antiochus as “foun[der and benefactor] of the city” (OGIS, no. 253 with conjectures by Zambelli, “L’ascesa al trono,” p. 378) does not prove that he intended to make Babylon the capital of his empire (see Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, pp. 172-75).

Against the notion that Antiochus’s eastern campaign was aimed mainly against the Parthians, it may be said that the chief evidence for this (Tacitus Histories 5.8.4-5) combines events that are at least 25 years apart. Therefore, the question of whether Tacitus’s Parthorum bellum, was that of Antiochus IV or Antiochus VII has been a point of contention. As we do not know the date of the Parthian defection, we may tentatively accept the plain meaning of Tacitus’s statement about Antiochus’s (preparation for his) Parthian war (so Bevan, House of Seleucus, London, 1902, II, p. 158 n. 5; Altheim and Stiehl, Geschichte Mittelasiens, p. 554; Le Rider, Suse sous les Séleucides, pp. 309-24; differently Otto, “Geschichte des 6. Ptolemäers,” p. 85, n. 3 and Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, pp. 176-80). Perhaps Antiochus’s Parthian problems began already with the accession of Mithridates I Arsaces V (ca. 171 B.C.), but he had to put off his expedition because of the more immediate threat from Egypt (cf. Le Rider, Suse sous les Séleucides, p. 311).

Except for the province of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, we know very little about the Seleucid administration under Antiochus. The provinces of Media (Diodorus 31.27a) and Babylonia (Appian, Syriaca 45) were governed by the satrap Timarchus of Miletus (see Bengtson, Strategie II, pp. 86-88). Both he and his brother Heracleides, who was appointed secretary of the treasury, were the king’s intimates (Appian, Syriaca 45). Whether Persis was under his control is uncertain. It had a Seleucid governor under Antiochus III, but its independence is attested ca. 150 B.C. (Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, p. 30 n. 40). Despite revolts in Judea, Armenia, and Cilicia, conflicts with Egypt and Parthia, and strong pressures from Rome, Antiochus was able to keep the bulk of the Seleucid empire intact.

Ancient tradition noticed two outstanding concerns of Antiochus, for the cities and for the gods (e.g., Polybius, Histories 26.1.10-11; 29.24.13; Livy Periochae 41.20.5-9). The only “foundations” of cities that can be ascribed to him with any confidence are those of Babylon (OGIS, no. 253), Ecbatana-Epiphaneia (Charax, in Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 103 F41), Epiphaneia in Armenia (Stephanus Byzantinus, s.v. Epiphaneia), Jerusalem (2 Maccabees 4:9; see M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, Philadelphia, 1974, II, p. 184; differently J. Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, Garden Ctty, 1976, pp. 111-17), and probably Antiochia-Charax Spasinu (Pliny, Naturalis historia 6.139; contrast V. Tscherikower, Die hellenistischen Städtegründungen, Leipzig, 1927, p. 176). Antiochus spent unusual sums on gifts to Hellenistic cities and subsidies for public buildings (cf. Livy Periochae 41.20.5-9, but see also Polybius, Histories 32.8.5).

Antiochus’s coinage gives no clear evidence as to his policies, although it does provide some peculiar data. In about 169 B.C. many municipa1 Mints in the western part of the empire and in northern Mesopotamia started issuing bronze coins that combined features of royal and municipal coinage. The common date suggests a royal initiative, although there is considerable diversity of coin types and weight standards (Mørkholm, “Municipal Coinages,” pp. 64-66), and the purpose of the issues is not clear. Antiochus was the first Seleucid king to be called a god (theos) on his coinage. This title was used by the mint of Antioch consistently from 173/2 and in Ace-Ptolemais from 168 B.C., but the eastern mints used it rarely or never (Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, p. 113). Because of the lack of uniformity it is better not to speak of a general religious reform. Antiochus is not known to have interfered in the religious life of his subjects except in Judea (see Mørkholm, Antiochus IV, p. 132 n. 53, against S. Eddy, The King is Dead, Lincoln, 1961, pp. 135-36).

Antiochus’s personality was as puzzling to many ancients as it is to moderns. Polybius (26) describes his erratic behavior at length (cf. Diodorus 29.32), but his information is probably derived from sources close to Antiochus’s rival, Demetrius (cf. Polybius, Histories 31.14.3). The Jewish tradition, seeing only the persecutor, mingles fact with legend and is therefore of limited value for a general assessment. In his own dynasty his memory was revered; his son was named Eupator in memory of his father’s bravery (Appian, Syriaca 46) and as late as 144 B.C. his portrait appeared on tetradrachms of Antiochus VI. Fragments of a bronze portrait found by A. Stein in Šami, Iran, have been tentatively assigned to Antiochus (Rostovtzeff, History I, p. 66, pl. X.I), but Mørkholm (“Studies,” pp. 64-66) has shown that this identification is most probably incorrect.

Antiochus was thwarted in his plans for the West by Roman intervention, and his premature death cut short any designs he may have had in the East. His only outstanding achievement for which we have literary, epigraphic, and numismatic evidence is the promotion of Hellenistic cities. We have no basis for making him a hero, as Tarn has done (Greeks in Bactria, pp. 188-90), nor is there reason to suppose that he was deranged (so Otto, “Geschichte des 6. Ptolemäers,” p. 84; Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire I, p. 279). 1

  Marriage Information:

Antiochos married his elder sister Laodike, widow of his elder brothers Antiochos and Seleukos IV Philopator.


1 Encyclopædia Iranica, Antiochus IV.

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