Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Orfeas Katsoulis | Feb 1, 2024

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Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 215 BCE-164 BCE) was a Macedonian-born Syrian king of the Seleucid dynasty, son of Antiochus III the Great, who reigned in Syria from 175-164 BCE.

He pursued a policy of Hellenization of the population, which eventually led to a revolt in Judea and the Maccabean Wars. The reign of Antiochus IV was characterized by the relative rise and stabilization of the Syrian kingdom, but after his unexpected death the state finally fell into decay.


The parents of Antiochus IV Epiphanes were members of the Macedonian and Persian clans:

Antiochus III and Laodicea III were cousins (their common grandparents were Antiochus II Theos and Laodicea I), but marriages between relatives were common in the Hellenistic world, which adopted this custom from the conquered Persians. The wedding ceremony took place in 222 BC at Seleucia-u-Zeugma on the Euphrates.

Birth, adolescence

Antiochus IV was born around 215 BC, named Mithridates at birth. He was the third son of the royal couple (after the elder Antiochus and the middle Seleucus), so his chances of receiving the paternal throne were very small. His older brothers were actively involved in government: the eldest son Antiochus was appointed co-emperor of his father in 210 BC, and in 193 was appointed governor-general of the upper satrapies (the eastern regions of the state, the center of which was Midia). That year, however, he died suddenly at the age of 27, his death causing deep sorrow at the royal court. His middle son Seleucus actively helped his father, and for him he rebuilt the city of Lysimachea in Thrace.

Staying in Rome

After the restoration of stability in his state and the capture of Kelesiria, Antiochus III strengthened his influence in Asia Minor and Thrace. This caused anxiety to Rhodes, the kingdom of Pergamum and the Romans, who demanded that the Minor Asian cities seized from the Egyptians and Macedonians return their freedom and not enter into Europe. A further exchange of embassies led to nothing.

In 192 BC. Aetolia demanded from the king to raise the people of Greece to fight Rome, and eventually his small army (10,000 infantrymen, 500 riders and 6 fighting elephants) landed in Thessaly Demetriades. However, his only ally was only Aetolia, and Rome was joined by Macedonia along with Rhodes and Pergamum. In 191 BC the Syrian army was defeated at the battle of Thermopylae, after which he fled to Asia Minor. There the next year his newly assembled army was defeated by the allied armies of Rome and Pergamos at the Battle of Magnesia.

After this event the king had no choice but to accept Rome's terms, which had not changed during the king's departure for Asia Minor from Greece:

In the winter of 190-189 BC a Seleucid embassy led by Antipater arrived in Ephesus with hostages to confirm the peace treaty being concluded. They then arrived in Rome with representatives of other Greek states. The Senate ratified the treaty and distributed the lands confiscated from Antiochos III to Pergamos (the Thracian city of Chersonesos, Lysimachia, Tralli, Ephesus, Telmis, the regions of Phrygia, Great Phrygia, Mysia, Lycaonia, Myliad and Lydia) and Rhodes (Caria and Lycia). After the treaty was accepted by the victors, Roman legates arrived at Apamea for Antiochus III, where the king also approved it.

During the royal son's stay in Rome, significant changes took place in his homeland. In 187 BC Antiochus III was killed by the locals while trying to confiscate the wealth of the temple of Bela in Elam to pay Rome. He was succeeded by Seleucus IV Philopator, who could not devote the required attention to foreign and domestic policy because of the financial problems arising in the course of the payments demanded by Rome.

In 178 BC the Syrian king was able to secure the release of his brother by sending his own eldest son Demetrius, then about nine years old, instead. Antiochus spent the next three years in Athens, which gave him city citizenship and the position of head of the magistrate. In the autumn of 175 BC Seleucus was killed by his own minister Heliodorus, who had proclaimed himself regent to his young son Antiochus. The dignitary could count on the support of the local and Greco-Macedonian nobility, who were unhappy with the deceased's inability to restore order within the country and restore its former glory beyond its borders.

The coup was not supported by the neighboring rulers, and with the help of the soldiers of King Eumenes II of Pergamon the king's brother entered the capital, Antioch. Seleucus' former ministers soon fell from the scene. Heliodorus was killed, Appolonius, who had a strong influence on Seleucus, went to Miletus, and Hyrcanus, who during the entire reign of Philopator was actually an independent ruler of the lands between Arabia and Judea, killed himself for fear of retribution for the wars with the Arab tribes. Two brothers, Heliodorus and Timarchus, who had been with him during his Roman captivity, were the principal advisers of the regent. The first became finance minister and the second viceroy of the eastern satrapies.

Seleucus married his brother's widow, Laodicea IV, after which he adopted her son and heir to the throne, also changing his name to Antiochus. But the regency lasted only a few years when the new minister Andronicus killed the governor's adopted son, for which he was executed.

Antiochus IV sought to strengthen his prestige among the Hellenic population by a variety of means: he regularly bestowed gifts on the polis and Greek temples, and organized lavish religious festivals. For the same purpose the tsar did even more eccentric things: he met the first common people he met in the streets, ostentatiously visited public baths, solved petty disputes in the agora, during the feast in Daphne he himself performed the duties of an administrator. Some contemporaries saw in these activities a manifestation of simple-mindedness and mockingly "renamed" Antiochus "Epimanes" (Greek Ἐπιμανής "insane").

He also attempted to restore the military power of the state and strengthen royal authority by sharply accelerating the process of Hellenization of the local population of Syria and Mesopotamia. New polities were created alongside the existing cities (Babylon, for example). The construction of theaters and gymnasiums was encouraged. Some local temples were dedicated to the Greek gods (e.g. the Samaritan temple on Mount Garizim). Those who embraced Greek culture received various privileges. On the whole, this policy was quite successful and led to a temporary rise of the kingdom.


The king was actively engaged in urban planning and built the fourth quarter of Antioch, Epiphany, thereby turning the city into a tetrapolis, whose districts were separated from each other by an inner wall. This district contained a theater, a city citadel, the Senate building, and the temple of Jupiter the Capitol, which had a gilded ceiling and gilt-covered walls.

The king retained a special bond with Athens, where he spent several years after his liberation and from where he headed for Antioch. The townspeople rejoiced at his victory and honored his chief allies, the rulers of Pergamum, Eumenes II and Attalus II. Several statues of Epiphanes were erected in the Agora, three decrees were issued by the city authorities in honor of his high friends, and a fourth decree in honor of Philonides of Laodicea is also preserved. Two Athenian citizens dedicated statues to Antiochus in the sanctuary of Apollo on the island of Delos.

But the king himself did not forget about Athens and ordered his architect Decimus Cossicius to complete the temple of Zeus the Olympic, the construction of which had begun under the VI century BC tyrant Pisistratus. The construction work was in full swing, but the death of the king stopped it on their own, and the temple was finally completed already under the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Also the Athenian citizens in the kingdom of Epiphanes had special privileges. But the generosity of the king was also felt by the people of other Greek cities outside his dominion: Olympia (gave a cloth with oriental embroidery), Kizikos (gave gold crockery for the table in the narthex), Megalopolis (gave money to build most of the city walls), Tegea (promised to build a marble theater, but did not finish it), the people of Rhodes he gave the things they needed.

Religious Policy

In 167 B.C. Antiochus learned that Lucius Aemilius Paul, the victor over Perseus of Macedonia, had celebrated with great magnitude a triumph in the city of Amphipiolis, commemorating his victory in the war with Macedonia. The king also decided to organize something similar in the Antiochian suburb of Daphne.

First there was a procession of military detachments. Both the subjects of the sovereign himself (Cilicians, natives of the Iranian region of Nischa, Macedonian settlers) and numerous mercenaries from Scythia, Thrace, Galatia and Mysia (the latter region was subordinated to the kingdom of Pergamum, and recruitment there could not take place without the knowledge of Everyman) took part in it. In addition to these, chariots and elephants, as well as a 5,000-strong band of soldiers armed according to the Roman model, participated in the march. This was followed by a peaceful procession of slaves with gold and silver objects, 800 young men with gold wreaths, and statues of all the gods worshipped in the Seleucid kingdom. At the Daphne parade Antiochus IV acted as steward and actively supervised both the parade in the suburbs and the many feasts, keeping track of the arrangement of the guests and issuing instructions to the servants. Shortly after the events ended, a Roman embassy led by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, father of the Gracchus brothers, visited the capital to examine the mood in Syria. In spite of the Egyptian events, Antiochus received the Roman ambassadors very cordially, making his own palace available to the guests, which convinced them of their friendly feelings toward the Roman republic.

Everything captured during the Egyptian campaign and the money raised by the king's "friends" was used to organize the festivities, which lasted thirty days. In honor of the festivities during the reign of Antiochus IV, gold staters (didrachms of Attic weight) were issued.


Antiochus III in the war with Ptolemy V Epiphanes was able to seize the territory of Kelesiria (which included Palestine and Phoenicia), which had been the cause of several wars between Seleucids and Ptolemies for decades. In 196 BC the treaty of peace was signed, according to which the winner's daughter Cleopatra became Epiphanes' wife. Antiochus chose the conquered territories as his daughter's dowry, taxes on which were divided equally between the Seleucids and Lagids. However, the final status of Cleopatra's dowry raised questions among his contemporaries.

Only his death in 180 B.C. prevented Ptolemy V from launching an invasion of the occupied lands. Cleopatra as regent under her young children Ptolemy VI Philometor, Ptolemy VIII Everget and Cleopatra II kept both countries from military action. Her death in 176 B.C. changed the balance of power, and the eunuch from Khuzestan Euley and the former Syrian slave Lenaeus became regents, who resumed preparations for war.

In 172 B.C. the official coronation of Ptolemy VI took place, who was to rule with his sister and brother. Antiochus' representative Appolonius was present at the ceremony, thanks to whom his lord had full information about the moods in Egypt. Both the Egyptian and Syrian courts sent ambassadors to the Roman senate to persuade them to take their side in the coming struggle, but the Roman lawmakers left the matter unattended because of the war with Perseus the Great, only extending the alliance treaty with the Ptolemies.

First Hike

In 170 B.C., in a speech to a popular assembly in Alexandria, the guardians promised a speedy conclusion to the coming war, during which the entire Seleucid kingdom would be conquered. After this, an army was sent to Caesarea, along with a cart full of jewels, gold and silver, with which the regents planned to bribe the garrisons of the enemy cities.

Antiochus Epiphanes was ready to fight, for which he built a new war fleet in advance and brought back fighting elephants to the army, which was forbidden under the terms of the Apotheosis Peace. The Syrian army met the enemy near the Egyptian city of Pelusium, where it was completely defeated. The king showed humanity by ordering his soldiers not to kill enemy soldiers, but to take them alive as prisoners. This move hastened the capture of the city and further advance through the country.

After that the troops went to Memphis, where, according to St. Jerome, the king was crowned Pharaoh (it is possible that he only formally performed the ritual). On the advice of Eblaeus, Ptolemy VI tried to escape by sea to the sacred island of Samothrace, but was caught and taken to the camp of his uncle Antiochus IV. At this time in Alexandria the rebellious people and the army deposed Eblaeus and Lenaeus, proclaiming Ptolemy Evergetus, then fifteen years old, ruler. Under the leadership of the new ministers, Comanus and Cyneus, the city prepared for a siege as the rest of Egypt was in Seleucid hands.

The ambassadors from the Greek states, who were in the Egyptian capital, went to the Syrian camp with an offer to mediate in the peace negotiations. The king received them at Memphis, where he pointed out to them his legitimate rights to Kelessiria. His only demand was that the Alexandrians recognize the authority of their rightful ruler, Ptolemy VI. He did not succeed in occupying Alexandria, so leaving Ptolemy Philometor in Memphis and having posted a strong garrison in Pelusia, Antiochus returned to Syria in 169 BC. The tsar was counting on an escalation of the struggle between the brothers.

Second trip

However, after the departure of the Syrian troops, Ptolemy VI went to Alexandria, where he met with his brother and sister. They agreed to rule together, thus Egypt no longer needed the services of a third party. Antiochus IV, however, had no intention of abandoning the conquered lands, having begun minting coins for them based on Egyptian copper denominations with Zeus-Amon or Isis on the obverse and an eagle standing on a bundle of lightning on the reverse. Ambassadors were sent to the Achaean Union, asking them to support the legitimate authority and provide mercenaries for the coming struggle against Seleucidus. However, the supporters of Rome prevailed in the popular hearings there, and only the ambassadors were sent to Egypt.

In the spring of B.C. 168 the Syrian army again marched, but this time in two detachments. The first headed for Egypt, the second aimed at the island of Cyprus, whose strategist Ptolemy Macron handed over power to the conquerors and went over to their side. Epiphanes, who had entered the country near Rinocolour, received Egyptian ambassadors, who thanked him on behalf of his nephew for helping him to regain power, and asked him not to disturb the peace. The king responded by demanding the surrender of Cyprus, Pelusium and the possessions near the mouth of the Nile River to him, after which he set a deadline for replying.

End of War

After the end of the ultimatum the Syrians repeated their previous year's journey, the local population offering them no resistance out of obedience and fear. Four miles from Alexandria, in the suburb of Eleusinus, a Roman embassy led by Gaius Popillius Lenatus arrived to join the army of Antiochus IV. The envoy had been waiting on the island of Delos for information about the outcome of the Third Macedonian War, and, having received news of the complete defeat of the Perseus army at the battle of Pydna, he went to the Ptolemies. Further events took place as follows:

The king's confusion can be explained by several reasons. Gaius Lenat had known Antiochus since the time he had been a hostage in the Eternal City, and no one could have expected such abrupt behavior. Besides, the ambassador violated an unwritten law of the Seleucid court, according to which the king made decisions only after consulting with his royal friends.

A few days later the Seleucid army left Egypt and the Roman commissioners arrived in Cyprus. Under their supervision, the last troops left the island, after which the power of the Ptolemies was restored in full.

Antiochus IV, however, had reason not to be too upset by the restored status quo. During the two campaigns all of Egypt was plundered and looted by the invaders, thereby adding to the king's treasury.


When the armies of Antiochus III conquered Jerusalem, they were greatly supported by the nobles and priests, who received generous gifts for their participation. They were all exempted from paying personal taxes, and the high priest regained the right to levy taxes while being restored to his status as head of the nation. At the same time the privileges of the city were confirmed and extended.

At first the process of Hellenization in Jerusalem, as apparently in many other cities, was peaceful. Part of the population, including some of the priests, decided to adopt Greek customs and live as a separate community. However, the situation was complicated by the struggle between the factions supporting different candidates for the high priesthood, and by the very specific nature of Judaism itself.

The Politics of Antiochus IV

In 170 B.C. Antiochus had to bring an army into the city to restore order; and in 168 B.C. the unrest caused by the rumor of the king's death grew into a large-scale rebellion. Antiochus organized a punitive campaign and brutally crushed the rebellion, and Jerusalem was sacked. The king then decided, relying on a progressive section of the zhretses, to proceed to the forcible Hellenization of the inhabitants. He turned the Jerusalem temple into a sanctuary for Zeus and personally slaughtered a sacrificial pig on its altar in front of everyone. Religious persecution ensued, with public executions, torture, etc. The city's fortifications were torn down and a new fortress built nearby, where the Philhellenes were relocated.

The Maccabean Revolt

Soon severe persecution caused a new revolt led by the Maccabees (at the same time the rebellion grew and took on the character of a war of independence. Despite repeated attempts by Antiochus' successors to recapture Jerusalem, the struggle ended in victory for the Jews. In honor of this victory, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is still celebrated today.

In the summer of 165 BC Antiochus IV organized a campaign to the eastern parts of his kingdom, because some satrapies declared independence or were captured by neighboring rulers, who after the Syrian War sensed the weakening of central authority, also this event could replenish the state treasury. Before his departure, his minor son Antiochus V was appointed co-ruler of the king, and Lysias was appointed guardian, who was given part of the army and the administration of the territory from the Egyptian border to the Euphrates River.

The first target of the campaign was the former satrapy of Armenia. It was ruled by the commander of Antiochus III Artashes, who had rejected the power of the king after Rome's victory at the battle of Magnesia. According to Strabo, Artashes captured Taronitida from the Seleucids. According to Appianus, the army of Epiphanes invaded the country and imprisoned the Armenian king himself, and garrisons were placed in his lands under the command of the strategist Numenius. According to Strabo, Moses of Chorena, Diodorus of Sicily, Porphyry, from the words of the church father Jerome, he crossed the Euphrates with his troops and encountered the Armenian army which in its turn had forced the Tigris River and was moving towards him. As a result, Antiochus did not cross the Tigris, Tmorik (Taronitida) remained within Armenia, and in 161 BC Artashes again entered the struggle with Seleucus and began to actively support the rebel satrap of Media and Babylonia, whose rebellion significantly weakened the Seleucid kingdom.

After that the army set out for Persia, and on the way Antiochus reestablished the colony of Antioch, on the site of which the city of Spasinu Charax later developed. Visiting Persepolis, in 164 he visited the Midian Ekbatana, which was renamed Epiphany in honor of the ruler.

There are at least two versions of the death of Antiochus IV in the fall of 164 BC:

From the marriage with Laodicea IV were born:

Antiochus also had a relationship with the concubine Antiochis, to whom he gave the cities of Tarsus and Malles, whose inhabitants rebelled over this decision of the ruler.

Foreign and domestic policy

The war with Egypt was an attempt for Antiochus IV to regain the former greatness for his kingdom, but the incident with the Roman ambassador clearly demonstrated his inability to maintain his independent position. After this incident there was no state left in the eastern Mediterranean that did not listen to the will of the Eternal City.

The Hellenistic policy, which had cost Epiphanes himself his life, ended up in a struggle with the religious cults of Judea and the eastern provinces, thus nullifying any possible gains. The antagonism between the Maccabees and the Greeks and the local population never disappeared, and although Antiochus V had the decrees of his father revoked, this had no effect on the policy of the Maccabees, who continued the struggle. Years later Rome would look at Judea and take it under its nominal protection, while the natives of the eastern satrapies would side with the Parthian kings in their struggle against the Seleucids.

The results of the board

Antiochus IV, who had good military and diplomatic skills, was never able to bring order to the state. By his death the uprisings in Judea had not been suppressed, nor had order been restored in the east. The confusion with regency and diligent observance of the terms of the Peace of Apamea weakened the position and popularity of Lysias, and in 161 BC the population of the country enthusiastically accepted the son of Seleucus IV Demetrius, who managed to escape from Rome for the throne. Returning to the country, Demetrius immediately ordered the assassination of his guardian and young son Antiochus Epiphanes.

From this point on, the decline of the country began, and none of the subsequent kings died a natural death. The state was torn apart by constant infighting between representatives of side branches of the Seleucid dynasty and impostors. The kingdom could be ruled by two claimants at once, which was actively used by neighboring countries that interfered in its internal politics and expropriated the possessions of the descendants of Seleucus I Nicator.


  1. Antiochus IV Epiphanes
  2. Антиох IV Эпифан
  3. Принадлежавшие Селевкидам владения не имели самоназвания. В источниках это государственное образование именовалось как Сирийское царство, местное население считало себя поданными конкретного правителя этой династии; см. Бикерман. Государство Селевкидов. С. 5-7.
  4. Общественное здание, где за государственный счет кормились имевшие на это право горожане; см. Тит Ливий. История Рима от основания города. Книга XLI. Гл. 20.
  5. Не имевшие официальных должностей люди, бывшие одной из составляющих царского двора; см. Бикерман. Государство Селевкидов. С. 41.
  6. Pour la majorité des sources antiques, Balas est un aventurier originaire de Rhodes qui se fait passer pour le fils illégitime d'Antiochos IV.
  7. Le récit qu'en a fait Polybe a disparu.
  8. ^ Come osservato dagli esegeti dell'interconfessionale Bibbia TOB. Anche gli studiosi della École biblique et archéologique française (i curatori della Bibbia di Gerusalemme), concordemente a quelli del "Nuovo Grande Commentario Biblico", rilevano che "2Maccabei è da preferirsi a 1Maccabei su un punto importante in cui essi non sono d'accordo: 1Mac 6,1-13 pone la purificazione del tempio prima della morte di Antioco Epìfane; 2Mac 9,1-29 la situa dopo". (Bibbia TOB, Elle Di Ci Leumann, 1997, p. 1897, ISBN 88-01-10612-2; Bibbia di Gerusalemme, EDB, 2011, p. 1009, ISBN 978-88-10-82031-5; Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Roland E. Murphy, Nuovo Grande Commentario Biblico, Queriniana, 2002, p. 562, ISBN 88-399-0054-3.).
  9. ^ /ænˈtaɪ.əkəs ɛˈpɪfəniːz, ˌæntiˈɒkəs/; Ancient Greek: Ἀντίοχος ὁ Ἐπιφανής, Antíochos ho Epiphanḗs, "God Manifest"
  10. ^ See Book of Daniel for details. In general, scholars fall into two camps: some believe that some form of the first six chapters of Daniel circulated in the 6th, 5th, or 4th centuries BC, shortly after the events of the book, and only the final six chapters were written during the Maccabean period (such as Lester L. Grabbe). Other scholars argue that the entire work was created in the Maccabean period, although presumably loosely influenced by older legends of the Babylonian period. Some traditionalist scholars defend that the entire work was written during or shortly after the life of the Prophet Daniel; of the traditionalists, some say that the prophecies therein have not yet been fulfilled, which would render it unrelated to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, while others of the traditionalist bent see the work as loosely foretelling Antiochus IV.[24]

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