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Demetrius II Nicator

For the similarly named Macedonian ruler, see Demetrius II of Macedon. For the Macedonian prince, see Demetrius the Fair.

Demetrius II (Ancient Greek: Δημήτριος Β`, Dimítrios Défteros; died 125 BC), called Nicator (Ancient Greek: Νικάτωρ, Nikátor, "Victor"), was one of the sons of Demetrius I Soter possibly by Laodice V, as was his brother Antiochus VII Sidetes. He ruled the Seleucid Empire for two periods, separated by a number of years of captivity in Hyrcania in Parthia:[2] first from September 145 BC to July/August 138 BC and again from 129 BC until his death in 125 BC.[3] His brother Antiochus VII ruled the Seleucid Empire in the interim between his two reigns.

Demetrius II Nicator
Coin of Demetrius II Nicator (cropped), Ptolemais in Phoenicia mint.jpg
Basileus of the Seleucid Empire
(King of Syria)
ReignSeptember 145 – July/August 138 BC
PredecessorAlexander Balas
SuccessorDiodotus Tryphon
Basileus of the Seleucid Empire
(King of Syria)
Reign129 – 126 BC
PredecessorAntiochus VII Sidetes
SuccessorAlexander II Zabinas or Cleopatra Thea
Borncirca 160 BC
Died125 BC
Spouse
Issue
DynastySeleucid
FatherDemetrius I Soter
MotherLaodice V?

BiographyEdit

As a young boy, Demetrios fled to Crete after the death of his father, his mother and his older brother, when Alexander Balas usurped the Seleucid throne.

First reign (147-139 BC)Edit

Victory over Alexander Balas

About 147 BC he returned to Syria with a force of Cretan mercenaries led by a man called Lasthenes, while Alexander Balas was occupied with a revolt in Cilicia. In 145 BC Ptolemy VI Philometor, king of Egypt, ostensibly in support of Alexander Balas, but he switched his support to Demetrius. Ptolemy sealed the alliance by divorcing his daughter Cleopatra Thea from Alexander and remarrying her to Demetrius. Shortly after, Antioch surrendered to the Egyptian forces and offered the kingship to Ptolemy VI. However, he insisted Demetrius would become king, believing that Rome would not tolerate the unification of Egypt and Syria. Ptolemy pledged to serve as "a tutor in goodness and a guide" to Demetrius II. He probably intended for Demetrius to serve as a puppet ruler.[4][5][6]

Alexander returned from Cilicia with his army, but Ptolemy VI and Demetrius II defeated his forces at the Oenoparas river.[7] Alexander then fled to Arabia, where he was killed. Ptolemy was wounded in the battle and died three days later.[8] With both his rival and his self-appointed guardian gone, Demetrius took the opportunity to assert his control over his kingdom. By late 145, Demetrius II had expelled all Ptolemaic troops from Syria and reasserted Seleucid control by leading his own forces all the way down to the Egyptian border.[9][5][10]

Antiochene riots
 
Coin of Demetrius II. The reverse shows Zeus bearing Nike. The Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΝΙΚΑΤΟΡΟΣ, i.e. "of king Demetrius God victorious". The date ΔΠΡ is year 184 of the Seleucid era, corresponding to 129–128 BC.

However, new troubles soon arose. Once he had expelled the Egyptian forces, he demobilised a large portion of his army.[11] It appears that his financial situation led him to cut the soldiers' wages and debase the coinage.[12] Demetrius had also punished the city of Antioch severely for having supported Alexander against his father and for speaking to him disrespectfully. He disarmed the citizens and the Cretan mercenaries under Lasthenes slaughtered those who resisted, including women and children. This led the Antiochenes to rise up and besiege Demetrios in his palace. Jewish troops violently restored Demetrius' control, burning down a large portion of the city in the process. This left the city even more hostile to him.[13][14]

Rebellion of Diodotus

In order to secure his hold on power, Demetrius had eliminated officials associated with Alexander Balas. One of these officials, the general Diodotus, fled into Arabia, where he secured the infant son of Alexander Balas and proclaimed him king as Antiochus VI Dionysus.[15][14] Many of Demetrius' soldiers defected to Diodotus, out of anger at his conduct or the cuts to their pay. Demetrius was defeated in battle and lost control of Apamea and Antioch to Diodotus.[16] Numismatic evidence indicates that Apamea was lost in early 144 and Antioch in late 144 or early 143.[17][18]

Demetrius proved unable to retake the capital, instead establishing himself in Seleucia Pieria.[19] Antiochus VI died in 142 or 141, but Diodotus made himself king as Tryphon, but the division of the kingdom between Demetrius in Seleucia and Diodotus in Antioch persisted. Initially, Diodotus succeeded in bringing the leader of Jonathan Apphus onto his side, but this relationship broke down; ultimately Diodotus captured and exectued Jonathan. By means of adroit diplomacy and grants of extensive freedoms, Demetrios II was able to secure the Jonathan's brother Simon Thassi as a close ally. These grants were later seen by the Hasmonean Jewish state as the moment when they achieved full independence.[20][21]

Parthian war and captivity (139-130 BC)Edit

 
Demetrius Nicator, King of Syria, Killed as He Attempts to Land at Tyre

Mithridates I, king of Parthia had taken advantage of the conflict between Demetrius and Tryphon to seize control of Susa and Elymais in 144 and of Mesopotamia in mid-141 BC.[22] In 139/8, Demetrius journeyed east to reclaim these territories from the Parthians. He was initially successful, but was defeated in the Iranian mountains and taken prisoner in July or August of 138 BC. Parthian control of Mesopotamia was thus reaffirmed. In Syria, Tryphon was briefly left as uncontested ruler of the remaining Seleucid territories, but the Seleucid dynasty's grip was reestablished under Antiochus VII Sidetes, the younger brother of Demetrius, who also married Cleopatra Thea.[23]

King Mithridates had kept Demetrius II alive and even married him to a Parthian princess named Rhodogune, with whom he had children. However, Demetrius was restless and twice tried to escape from his exile in Hyrcania on the shores of the Caspian Sea, once with the help of his friend Kallimander, who had gone to great lengths to rescue the king: he had travelled incognito through Babylonia and Parthia. When the two friends were captured, the Parthian king did not punish Kallimander but rewarded him for his fidelity to Demetrius. The second time Demetrius was captured when he tried to escape, Mithridates humiliated him by giving him a golden set of dice, thus hinting that Demetrius II was a restless child who needed toys. It was however for political reasons that the Parthians treated Demetrius II kindly.

In 130 BC Antiochus Sidetes felt secure enough to march against Parthia, and scored massive initial successes. Now Phraates II made what he thought was a powerful move: he released Demetrius, hoping that the two brothers would start a civil war. However, Sidetes was defeated soon after his brother's release and never met him. Phraates II set people to pursue Demetrius, but he managed to safely return home to Syria and regained his throne and his queen as well.

Second reign (130-125 BC)Edit

However, the Seleucid kingdom was now but a shadow of its former glory, and Demetrius had a hard time ruling even in Syria. Recollections of his cruelties and vices – along with his humiliating defeat – caused him to be greatly detested.[24] The Egyptian queen Cleopatra II set up an army for Demetrius, hoping to engage him in her civil wars against her brother king Ptolemy VIII, but this only added to his grief. The troops soon deserted, and king Ptolemy VIII reacted by setting up yet another usurper, a man named Alexander II Zabinas against Demetrius.

In 126 BC, Demetrius was defeated in a battle at Damascus.[24] He fled to Ptolemais but his wife Cleopatra Thea closed the gates against him.[25] He was captured and then killed on a ship near Tyre,[24] after his wife had deserted him. Demetrius II was certainly incapable of handling the developing threats to the Seleucid empire, but his reputation for cruelty was probably undeserved. He was only around fourteen at his coronation, and the real power was in the hands of others.

He was succeeded by his queen Cleopatra Thea in co-regency with two of their sons, Seleucus V Philometor and Antiochus VIII Grypus.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Ogden, Daniel (1999). Polygamy Prostitutes and Death. The Hellenistic Dynasties. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. p. 150. ISBN 07156 29301.
  2. ^ Britannica article on Demetrius
  3. ^ "Demetrius II Nicator". Livius.org.
  4. ^ I Maccabees 11; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 13.106-107, 115
  5. ^ a b Bevan Chap 9
  6. ^ Chrubasik, Boris (2016). Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men who would be King. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 9780198786924.
  7. ^ Strabo 16.2.8.
  8. ^ I Maccabees 11.1-11.19
  9. ^ Josephus, Antiquites of the Jews 13.120; Astronomical Diaries III.144 obv. 35
  10. ^ Chrubasik, Boris (2016). Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men who would be King. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 134–5. ISBN 9780198786924.
  11. ^ I Maccabees 11.38; Josephus AJ 13.129.
  12. ^ Chrubasik, Boris (2016). Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men who would be King. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 135 n.45. ISBN 9780198786924.
  13. ^ Diodorus Bibliotheca 33.4.2–3; I Maccabees 11.45–50; Josephus AJ 13.137–41
  14. ^ a b Chrubasik, Boris (2016). Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men who would be King. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 135–136. ISBN 9780198786924.
  15. ^ Diodoros Bibliotheca 33.4.2; 1 Maccabees 11.39–40
  16. ^ Diodoros Bibliotheca 33.4a; 1 Maccabees 11.55-56; Josephus AJ 13.144
  17. ^ Houghton, Arthur (1992). "The Revolt of Tryphon and the Accession of Antiochos VI at Apamea". Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau. 71: 119–141.
  18. ^ Chrubasik, 2016 & 136-7
  19. ^ Livy Periochae 52
  20. ^ I Maccabees 13.35-49
  21. ^ Chrubasik, 2016 & 139-140
  22. ^ Chrubasik, 2016 & 137 n. 50 & 51
  23. ^ Astronomical Diaries III 137 A rev. 8–11; I Maccabees 14.1-3; Josephus AJ 13.186; Porphyry FGrH 260 F32.16; van der Spek, Robertus (August 1997). "New Evidence from the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries Concerning Seleucid and Asarcid Chronology". Archiv für Orientforschung. 44/45: 172.; Chrubasik & 2016 140
  24. ^ a b c   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Demetrius s.v. Demetrius II". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 983.
  25. ^ Bevan Chap 10

BibliographyEdit

  • Chrubasik, Boris (2016). Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men who would be King. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198786924.
Demetrius II Nicator
Born: Unknown Died: 125 BC
Preceded by
Alexander Balas
Seleucid King (King of Syria)
146–139 BC
with Antiochus VI Dionysus (145–142 BC)
Diodotus Tryphon (142–139 BC)
Succeeded by
Antiochus VII Sidetes
Preceded by
Antiochus VII Sidetes
Seleucid King (King of Syria)
129–126 BC
with Alexander II Zabinas (129–123 BC)
Succeeded by
Cleopatra Thea