Demetrios II (Seleucid Empire)

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Demetrios II. Theos Nicator Philadelphos (* shortly before 160 BC; † 125 BC ), son of Demetrios I Soter , was king of the Syrian Seleucid Empire from 145 BC. Chr. – 139/138 BC And from 129 BC BC – 125 BC Chr.

Demetrios II coin.

Early life and seizure of power

When the usurper Alexander I Balas in 153 BC BC took up the fight for the Syrian throne against the Seleucid Demetrios I Soter with Roman consent, the latter let his older sons Demetrios II and Antiochus VII Sidetes flee to Knidos with treasures . 150 BC Demetrios I fell in the fight against Alexander Balas, who was among others by Ptolemy VI. received support from Egypt . Now the usurper became the new Seleucid ruler and received Cleopatra Thea , a daughter of the Egyptian king, as his wife.

147 BC BC Demetrios II opened the fight for his fatherly kingdom and initially went to Cilicia with a mercenary army recruited by the Cretan Lasthenes . Apollonios, the governor of Koile Syria , joined him, but was subject to the Maccabees Jonathan, who was allied with Alexander Balas . Ptolemy VI came 146 BC. BC to aid his son-in-law Alexander Balas with strong forces in Phenicia , but occupied all cities on the way. Arrived in Seleukia Pieria , he had this city also provided with a Ptolemaic garrison and switched sides. He took his daughter Cleopatra Thea from her husband and now offered her as part of an alliance contract to Demetrios II as his wife. The reasons for this step by the Ptolemaic king are controversial. In any case, an assassination attempt allegedly instigated by Alexander Balas against his father-in-law should not have been the main reason.

Alexander Balas was still fighting against the rebellious inhabitants of Cilicia when Ptolemy VI. appeared before the Seleucid capital Antioch . There Alexander Balas had entrusted his confidants Tryphon (also called Diodotos) and Hierax with power, but they now fell away. They persuaded the Antiochenes - who were afraid of Demetrios II's revenge because of their bad behavior towards his father Demetrios I - to hand over their city to the Egyptian king. Alexander Balas' troops stationed in Antioch and the inhabitants of the city now offered the Egyptian king to become monarch of the Seleucid Empire, probably because they feared reprisals from Demetrios II. Ptolemy VI tied himself. The diadem that had been offered was changed, but in a second meeting he probably renounced dual rule in Egypt and Syria, especially in view of a probable contradiction of the world power Rome , but declared that he only wanted to annex Koilesyria, but leave the rest of the Seleucid Empire to Demetrius II for whose good behavior he guarantees. The historian Polybius calls Ptolemy VI. however King of Syria.

Coming from Cilicia, Alexander Balas lost around June 145 BC. The decisive battle near the river Oinoparas (today Afrin ) not far from Antioch against Demetrios II. And his Egyptian supporters. While fleeing to an Arab sheikh, Balas was killed soon after. But also Ptolemy VI. quickly succumbed to his injuries sustained in battle. Demetrios II now became the undisputed sole ruler of Syria.

First government

Demetrios II tried in vain to bring the army of the fallen Pharaoh under his power; it fled to Egypt. He could only capture the elephants. All troops that Ptolemy VI. when the occupation was in Syrian cities, are said to have been massacred by their inhabitants. Demetrios II now adopted the nickname Nikator . Coin inscriptions prove that he also carried the cult title Theos Philadelphos . When he learned that the Maccabees Jonathan was besieging the Seleucid occupation forces in the castle of Jerusalem , he summoned him to an interview with Ptolemais . Jonathan obeyed the order and gave Demetrios II gracious gifts. The Maccabees recognized the supremacy of the Seleucid king and the continued whereabouts of his troops in Jewish fortresses. For this Demetrios II waived his tax rights in Judea in return for a tribute payment of 300 talents and left Jonathan the high priesthood and rule over the three districts annexed by Samaria Lod, Ephraim and Ramatajim.

With his wife Cleopatra Thea Demetrios II had the sons Seleukos V Philometor and Antiochus VIII. Grypus as well as probably a daughter Laodike.

When Demetrios II considered his power to be consolidated, he believed he could get along with the Cretan mercenaries, who were absolutely devoted to him, while he dismissed the local troops, whom he made enemies. He suppressed an uprising movement in Antioch with his mercenaries and 3,000 Jews sent by Jonathan. With brutal severity, he took revenge on the hostile residents of the capital. His style of government is generally described as cruel and dissolute. His tyranny was supported by Minister Lasthenes.

After Demetrios II came to power, the strategist Tryphon fled to the desert of Eastern Syria, as he feared the revenge of his son Demetrios II because of his former defection from Demetrios I; for this reason he had also been one of those who Ptolemy VI. had wanted to persuade them to take over the Seleucid royal crown. Because Demetrios II made himself more and more hated by the people, especially in Antioch, because of his despotic way of government, Tryphon soon gained a large number of visitors, including from the dismissed troops. He took up the fight against Demetrios II and legitimized it by the fact that he fell into his hands two-year-old son of Alexander Balas and Cleopatra Thea as Antiochus VI. proclaimed the new king (145 BC). Since Demetrios II had not kept his promise to withdraw the Seleucid occupation troops from the Jewish fortresses and demanded further tribute, he had also come into conflict with Jonathan. Tryphon conquered the hinterland of northern Syria, defeated an army of Demetrios II, captured his elephants and now also got Antioch in his possession. So Demetrios II had to withdraw to Seleukeia. Tryphon now entered into an alliance with Jonathan. The generals Demetrios II fought unsuccessfully against those in the name of Tryphon and Antiochus VI. operating Jewish Maccabees troops. These gradually wrested control of southern Syria from Demetrios II. The Seleucids thus left the northern Syrian coast from Tire to Seleukeia, as well as a part of Cilicia and the eastern provinces of Babylonia and Media , as a domain . Until about 143 BC BC Tryphon was also able to bring some cities on the north coast of Syria, such as Berytos , Byblos , Ptolemais and Ascalon, into his power, without the exact course of the fighting being reconstructed due to lack of sources.

When Tryphon murdered Jonathan, who had become too independent for him (143 BC), he made enemies of the Jews, who then again approached Demetrios II under the leadership of Jonathan's brother Simon . This recognized 142 BC Chr. Simon as high priest and granted him tax exemption.

Parthian captivity

Although Tryphon now fought extremely unsuccessfully against the Maccabees, Demetrios II was apparently unable to take advantage of this situation. He had to devote himself to the incursion of the Parthians under their king Mithridates I into Babylonia. Middle of 141 BC The Parthians succeeded in conquering Seleukeia on the Tigris . The Hellenized sections of the population of Babylonia hated the newly established Parthian rule and asked Demetrios II through embassies to help them shake off the foreign yoke. So the Seleucid moved in 140 BC. BC against Mithridates I and allegedly could count on the support of the Elymeans, Bactrians and other peoples. Perhaps he hoped, after a victory in this war in the east of his empire, to be able to defeat Tryphon in Syria as well (according to the Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus ). At first his campaign, on which he advanced to the media, was very successful. Mithridates I, however, deceived Demetrios II through apparent peace talks, so that he could have him defeated and captured by a Parthian general. The Seleucid king was then held for ten years. As a result of this victory, Mesopotamia remained until 130 BC. Under Parthian rule.

First Mithridates I showed the captured Seleucid king in chains to the peoples who had fallen away from Parthian rule. As a result, however, Demetrios II's prison conditions improved significantly. He was able to spend his imprisonment in a dignified manner in Hyrcania and was even married to Rhodogune , who was a daughter of Mithridates I and sister of Phraates II . The latter became the new Parthian ruler after Mithridates' death (138 BC). Cleopatra Thea reacted angrily to the news of her husband's marriage with Rhodogune and married Demetrios' brother Antiochus VII, who soon defeated Tryphon and became the new Syrian king.

The Parthian king's promise to soon allow Demetrios II to return to his kingship in Syria was not kept. Therefore, with the help of his friend Kallimander, the Seleucid attempted to escape, but this was foiled. He had to return to Rhodogune and submit to closer supervision. The marriage with his Parthian wife had several children. Nevertheless, Demetrios II wanted to flee again when he saw no end of his imprisonment after a long time. He was intercepted just before the border, but still treated well and sent back to Hyrcania. Since Antiochus VII was militarily enterprising, the Parthians wanted to keep his brother Demetrios II ready as a possible rival for the Syrian throne. This explains the generous treatment of the prisoner.

Return and death

In fact, Antiochus VII undertook in 130 BC An initially extremely successful campaign against the Parthians. Now Phraates II released Demetrios II because he was supposed to fight as pretender against his brother for rule in the Seleucid Empire. However, Antiochus VII found already at the beginning of 129 BC. BC died in the Parthian War and Demetrios II was able to return to his empire before the Parthians could intercept him a third time.

First Demetrios II succeeded in re-establishing his rule as Seleucid king, but only in northern Syria and Cilicia. At that time, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra II , the mother Cleopatra Theas, waged war against her brother consort Ptolemaios VIII and asked her son-in-law Demetrios II for military assistance. In return, she promised him participation in the government of Egypt. The Seleucid king accepted the offer, but was defeated by Ptolemy VIII at the Egyptian border fortress Pelusion and had to retreat (129/128 BC). Now Ptolemy VIII went on the offensive and set up a Seleucid anti-king named Alexander II Zabinas , who wanted to gain rule in Syria. The military position of Demetrios II was weak and several cities in northern Syria such as Antioch and Apamea fell away from him. According to coins, the Seleucid was able to maintain his rule in Tire, Sidon , Seleukeia and Ptolemais.

Demetrios II lost the decisive battle near Damascus against Zabinas (126 BC). During the flight, the city gates of Ptolemais remained closed to him on the orders of Cleopatra Thea, who ensured that he did not find refuge in Tire either, but was killed near this city.



  1. Justin 35, 2, 1.
  2. ^ 1. Maccabees 10:67-89; Flavius ​​Josephus , Jüdische Antiquities 13, 86-102; Justin 35, 2.
  3. ^ 1. Maccabees 11: 1-12; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 103–110; Diodorus 32, 9c and 33, 3; on this W. Huss (2001), p. 585.
  4. Diodorus 32, 9c; 33, 3; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 111–115; 1. Maccabees 11:13 ; on this W. Huss (2001), p. 586f.
  5. Polybios 39, 7, 1.
  6. W. Huss (2001), p. 588.
  7. Diodor 32, 9d; 32, 10, 1; 32, 10, 8; 1. Maccabees 11: 15-18; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 116–119; Strabo 16, p. 751; Titus Livius , periochae 52.
  8. ^ 1. Maccabees 11:18 ; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 13, 120.
  9. ^ 1. Maccabees 11: 20-37; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 121–128.
  10. Diodorus 33, 4 and 9; 1. Maccabees 11:38 and 11: 41-52; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 129f .; 13, 133-142.
  11. ^ 1. Maccabees 11:54 ; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 13:144.
  12. 1 Maccabees 11:53; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 13, 143.
  13. ^ 1. Maccabees 11: 55f .; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 144f .; Livy, periochae 52.
  14. ^ 1. Maccabees 11: 60-74; 12, 24-34; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13: 148–162; 13, 174-180.
  15. ^ 1. Maccabees 14: 1-3; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 184ff .; 13, 219; Appian , Syriaca 67; Justin 36, 1, 1-5; 38, 9, 2.
  16. Appian, Syriaca 67; Justin 36, 1, 5f .; 38, 9, 3.
  17. Justin 38: 9, 4-10.
  18. ↑ Justin 38:10.
  19. Jump up ↑ Justin 39, 1, 1-6; Eusebius of Caesarea , Chronicle 1, 257f. ed. beautiful; among others
  20. Justin 39: 1, 7f .; Appian, Syriaca 68; Josephus, Jüdische Antiquities 13, 268; Eusebius of Caesarea, Chronicle 1, 257f. ed. beautiful; Livy, periochae 60.
predecessor Office successor
Alexander I. Balas King of the Seleucid Empire
145-139 BC Chr.
Antiochus VI.
Antiochus VII King of the Seleucid Empire
129–125 BC Chr.
Alexander II. Zabinas