The Later Seleucids
- Seleucus IV Philopator: 187-175 BCE
- Antiochus IV Epiphanes 175-164 BCE
- Antiochus V Eupator 164-162 BCE
- Demetrius I Sotor 162-150 BCE
- Alexander Balas 150-146 BCE
- Demetrius II Nicator (part 1) 146-140 BCE
- Antiochus VII Sidetes 139-129 BCE
- Demetrius II Nicator (part 2) 129-125 BCE
- Cleopatra Thea (Antiochus VIII Grypus)125-121 BCE
- Antiochus VIII Grypus 121-96 BCE
- Disintegration 96-83 BCE
- Tigranes of Armenia 83-69 BCE
- Rome takes over
- Why did the Seleucid Empire self-destruct?
Seleucus IV Philopator: 187-175 BCE
Seleucus' strapped-for-cash father raids a temple in Elymais and is killed in the resulting punch up.
 Hence Seleucus becomes sole king.
Though Seleucus' rule is an uneventful period of recovery, the heavy taxation needed to pay the
indemnity to Rome doesn't help Seleucid popularity. Rome insists that
Antiochus the younger son of Antiochus III be replaced as hostage in Rome
the eldest son of Seleucus and his heir. Antiochus takes his time returning
home and ends up in Athens where he (successfully) runs for election.
Seleucus is assassinated
by his first minister Heliodorus.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes 175-164 BCE
The Seleucids have always chosen the eldest son up till now so Seleucus' eldest son, Demtrius should be the new king.
However, there are two problems with Demetrius. First, he is in Rome and it will take time for him to return.
Second, and for Heliodorus surely the most important, Demetrius is sure to execute Heliodorus for murdering his father should he return.
Hence Seleucus' younger son, Antiochus, still a child is proclaimed king. 
Antiochus, on hearing of his brother Seleucus' murder, leaves Athens and sails
for Pergamon. Then with Pergamonese help he seizes power in
Syria. The claim of Demetrius, the eldest son of Seleucus
and still a hostage in Rome, is quietly forgotten.
In 173 an anti Seleucid faction comes to power in Egypt which
is determined to regain Coele Syria. The invasion (170/169) is defeated
and Antiochus invades Egypt capturing Pelusium and Ptolemy
Philometor the King. Alexandria proclaims Ptolemy Euergetes Philometor's
King and prepares to fight on. Antiochus does a deal with Ptolemy Philometor
and leaves Egypt divided with Philometor ruling from Memphis. The two Ptolemy brothers however agree to rule
jointly so Antiochus again invades. Just as he is approaching Alexandria(168) he is met by Popillius
who gives him a letter from the Senate demanding Antiochus' withdrawal from Egypt. Antiochus asks for time to consult. Popillius draws
a line in the sand round Antiochus demanding a answer before he crosses the line.
Such arrogant behavior leaves Antiochus gob smacked but he also knows that Rome has just crushed Macedon (at Pydna).
He pulls out of Egypt.
In Jerusalem Antiochus intervenes rather brutally in the faction fighting
that has troubled the client Jewish state. This helped provoke the
rebellion of the Maccabees and gains Antiochus very bad press -
to the writer of Daniel becomes virtually the anti-christ.
In 165 he headed East but died of illness the following year.
Antiochus V Eupator 164-162 BCE
Lysias acts as regent for the nine year old son of Antiochus.
The Jewish revolt smoulders on. In 163 Octavius an envoy
sent from Rome orders the burning of ships built
in excess of treaty limits and the butchering of the war elephants. Lysias complies but Octavius is assassinated 
much to the horror
of Lysias but he is helpless to prevent the public expression of support for the assasin and the envoys flee for their lives. Of course there are those who say that Lysias secretly incited the unrest
but when Demetrias (who as the son of of Seleucus Philopator has a rather good claim to the Seleucid throne) asks the senate to be allowed to leave Rome they refuse - as Polybius says because it would not be in Rome's interest.
Or to put it more bluntly - why should the senate risk the overthrow of someone like Lysias who is so supine in the face of Roman high handedness that he is willing to provoke popular feeling to boiling point.
Demetrius I Sotor 162-150 BCE
Demetrius escapes from Rome,
lands at Tripolis
and proclaims himself King. Lysias' rule collapses and the mutinous
troops capture the boy Antiochus and Lysias. Demetrius has qualms about seeing a boy butchered in front of him,
so he says to his troops "let me not see their faces" and the soldiers butcher Lysias and Antiochus out of his sight.
Demetrius now sets about alienating everyone who matters. He makes no secret of his contempt for his Syrian subjects and the feeling is very soon mutual.
He then alienates Pergamon by placing his claimant on the throne of Kapidokia (Pergamon quickly restores her claimant so not much to show for that).
The King of Pergamon now "discovers" a son of Antiochus Epiphanes, Alexander and decks him out appropriately for his (newly acquired?) origins.
He is widely known as Balas but, if as Justin hints,
that this is the name he had before he became the son of a king, probably not to his face.
Alexander Balas is established in Cilicia and,
while not strong enough to move south, becomes a focus of discontent. Egypt is alienated when Demetrias bribes a governor of Cyprus to hand the island over to him.
(But the said governor is exposed and commits suicide before the handover can be made - so even less to show for that)
But things start to look really bleak when Demetrius loses the confidence of Rome who gives her backing to
Alexander Balas. Balas establishes
a base at Ptolemais and Demetrius is killed in the fighting.
Alexander Balas 150-146 BCE
Alexander is married off to Cleopatra Thea, the daughter of Ptolemy
Philometor (King of Egypt). Three years pass while Balas enjoys his
Kingdom but now Demetrius ( all of 14 years old), son of Demetrius Sotor arrives with the backing
of a bunch of Cretan mercenaries led by Lasthenes. Ptolemy comes to Ballas'
aid (and just happens
to spend time capturing the cities of Palestine that Egypt has always
considered it's inheritance). Ballas, who can do without such 'help',
attempts to assassinate Ptolemy (or is Ballas being
framed to cover Ptolemy's betrayal?).
Ballas flees to Cilicia and the Atiochenes proclaim Ptolemy as King.
Knowing that Rome will not permit this he persuades Antioch to accept Demetrius
who marries Cleopatra Thea.
Demetrius II Nicator (part 1) 146-140 BCE
Balas makes one last play but is defeated and killed but Ptolemy
is mortally wounded. Lasthenes gets Demetrius to order a massacre of
the leaderless Ptolemid army. The Jewish leader Johnathan is bought off
by a grant of autonomy. Lasthenes knowing that the native
Greek soldiery is a threat to his position orders them to be disarmed. Antioch
rises against Demetrius but the rising is brutally put down by the Cretan
mercenaries and Jewish troops sent by Johnathan.
Antioch is looted and with a large part of the city destroyed by fire is
cowed but nemesis is at hand.
the son of Balas, Antiochus, as King. Antioch and most of inland Syria
joins him. The civil war drags on and within three years Antiochus has
died of "illness" and Diodotus has proclaimed himself King as Tryphon.
In an attempt to break the deadlock Demetrius by passes Tryphon and
enters Mesopotamia in an attempt to recapture it from the Pathians.
Though initially successful he is soon captured by the Pathians.
Antiochus VII Sidetes 139-129 BCE
Antiochus, Demetrius's younger brother is proclaimed King and
marries (you've guessed it) Cleopatra Thea. He defeats Tryphon. He then
moves on Jerusalem and ends (for the moment) Jewish independence.
By 130 BCE he is ready to take on Parthia who he defeats in three battles and from who he wrests Babylon.
The desperate Parthian King releases Demetrius Nicator (bad move) and
stirs revolt amongst Antiochus' new conquests who do not find Seleucid
taxes to their liking (good move). Antiochus is completely wrong footed
by the revolt and is caught, heavily outnumbered, by the Parthian
main army and killed. The Parthian king immediately sends cavalry
to recapture Demetrius but too late.
Demetrius II Nicator (part 2) 129-125 BCE
Demetrius arrives in Syria at the same time as news of Antiochus' death
and regains both his throne and his wife Cleopatra Thea.
(Cleopatra has however taken the precaution to send her son
by Sidetes, Antiochus, to Cyzicus in Asia Minor.) After a
botched invasion of Egypt by Demetrius, Ptolemy Euergetes discovers
a son of Balas known as Antiochus Zabinas. (Is he really the son of Balas?
Does anyone care?) Zabinas quickly gains control of the inland region
once held by Tryphon and Syria is again divided. Finally
Demetrius is defeated outside Damascus and retreats to Ptolemais
only to find the gates closed against him by his wife Cleopatra. He takes
a ship and is killed on Cleopatra's orders.
Cleopatra Thea (Antiochus VIII Grypus)125-121 BCE
Cleopatra now dominates the legitimist faction. She briefly puts Selecus, the eldest son
of Demetrius on the throne, but kills him when he is foolish enough to put forward his claim. She then decides to rule in her own right.
As a sop to those unaccustomed to female rule she associates her rule with her son,
the pliable Antiochus Grypus (hooknosed). Cleopatra secures a bride for Gryphus - Tryphaina, the daughter of King Ptolemy so ending Egyptian support for Zabinas. Zabinas is defeated by Grypus. Okay, Gryphus is still a boy -the generals appointed by Cleopatra defeated Zabinas but Gryphus made a good figurehead. Zabinas raids a temple in Antioch in order to get the gold to raise a new army and as result the citizens rebel and thow him out of the city. His flight ends in the camp of Gryphus. His survival there is very brief.
Grypus proves to be less and less pliable. Things come to a head
when Cleopatra offers a cup of wine to Grypus when he has returned
from the hunt. As this is most definitely not her habit Grypus has
a hunch this is not maternal concern. He insists she drink the wine.
She drinks. She dies.
Antiochus VIII Grypus 121-96 BCE
Grypus (ie hook nose) demonstrates the superiority of male rule by spending
his time feasting at Daphne and writing verses on poisonous snakes.
Antiochus, the son of Sidetes who Cleopatra Thea sent to Cyzicus so as to save him
from Demetrius, arrives in Syria to make a play for the throne. This is helped
by the arrival of Cleopatra a Ptolemid princess who decided to go adventuring
after she fell out with her mother the Queen and who has acquired an army
on the way. Cleopatra marries
(known as Cyzicenus). As Cyzicenus's half brother Grypus's wife is Tryphaena
who is Cleopatra's sister this gives the civil war an extra incestuous twist.
Antioch as usual is held by the rebel forces of Cyzicenus. Grypus moves
on Antioch while Cyzicenus has left it in the hands of Cleopatra. Antioch
falls. Tryphaena demands the death of Cleopatra. Gryphus refuses.
Convinced this is a sign of a secret desire on the part of Grypus
for Cleopatra, she sends troops to the sanctuary in Daphne where
Cleopatra has taken refuge. Cleopatra hangs on to the image of
Artemis with such desperation that the soldiers cannot break her hold
so instead they cut through her wrists. Cleopatra's death is soon avenged when
Tryphaena falls into the hands of Cyzicenus and is executed.
Disintegration 96-83 BCE
Grypus is murdered by his minister Heracleon who proclaims himself King.
However Grypus's eldest son, Seleucus, inherits
most of his father realm with Heracleon retaining
a small principality round Beroea. Seleucus marches on
Cyzicenus and kills him in battle. Cyzicenus' son Antiochus Eusebes
is proclaimed King and in turn defeats Seleucus who flees to Cilicia
and establishes himself in Mopsuhestia. The people of Mopsuhestia,
unable to support a King's lifestyle rebel and Seleucus dies in his burning palace.
Philip and Antiochus, the brothers of Seleucus avenge themselves on
Mopsuhestia and then march on Antioch where they are defeated and Antiochus riding his
horse into the Orontes is drowned.
A fourth son of Grypus, Demetrius arrives, backed by Ptolemid troops, and
establishes himself in Damascus. What follows is a period of confused fighting
that the historical records do not do justice. Seleucid "Kings" are now
little more than local barons.
Tigranes of Armenia 83-69 BCE
Tigranes moves into Syria. A faction in Antioch invites him in. Magadates,
Tigranes' governor sits in the Palace in Antioch. The Syrians
are soon unhappy with Armenian rule but Tigranes is not so
easy to get rid of as a Seleucid prince. Only a couple of isolated
cities still recognize Seleucid rule (notably Seleucia). But
Tigranes is foolish enough to annoy the Romans and Tigranes is defeated
Rome takes over
A son of Antiochus Eusebes establishes himself in Antioch with Lucullus'
approval but soon being challenged Philip son of Philip, son of Grypus.
Both are however little more than tools in the ambitions of minor
Arab chieftains. Pompeus arrives and decides to establish Syria as
a Roman Province.
Why did the Seleucid Empire self-destruct?
The Romans did not conquer the Seleucid Empire. After the defeat at
empire was still strong. The Pergamonese and
Ptolemids stirred things up for their own ends but essentially
the Seleucids destroyed themselves in bitter and,
by the end, continuous civil war. Why?
Bevan's explanation is folly. The Seleucids had the bad luck
to be produce a bunch of tyrants who squandered the fine empire they
inherited from illustrious ancestors. Peter Green's explanation goes
deeper but is essentially the same
(though unlike Bevan he regards the Empire as flawed from the start).
"If the 'degenerate' has any meaning at all the later Seleucids and Ptolemids were degenerate:
selfish, greedy, murderous, weak, stupid, vicious,sensual, vengeful....
In both dynasties we also find the cumulative effect
of centuries of ruthless exploitation: a foreign elite, with no
long term economic insight, aiming at little more than the immediate profits
and dynastic self perpetuation, backed (for their own ends)
by shrewd local and foreign businessmen and always able to count
on a mercenary army when resentment reached boiling point."
Peter Green: Alexander to Actium p555
Updated April 2021
False prophecy in Daniel The book of Danial dates from this period
- ^Justin 31.2
- ^Edwyn Robert Bevan, House of Seleucus, p120
- ^ Appian Syrian Wars 45
- ^Edwyn Robert Bevan, House of Seleucus, p126
- ^ The Syrian Wars John Grainger p284-5
- ^Diodorus_Siculus 31.2
Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars 46
- ^Edwyn Robert Bevan, House of Seleucus, p187
1 Maccabees 7
- ^Edwyn Robert Bevan, House of Seleucus, p206
- ^Polybius 3.5
- ^Diodorus_Siculus 31.32
- ^Justin 35.1
- ^Justin 38.10
- ^Dr. John D. Grainger The Fall of the Seleukid Empire 187-75 BC p130
- ^Dr. John D. Grainger The Fall of the Seleukid Empire 187-75 BC p131