Antiochus VII Sidetes

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Antiochus VII Sidetes
Seleucid King
Antiochus VII coin (Mary Harrsch).jpg
Coin of Antiochus VII Sidetes. British Museum.
Reign Seleucid kingdom: 138–129 BC
Died 129 BC
Predecessor Diodotus Tryphon
Successor Alexander II Zabinas
Consort Cleopatra Thea
Issue Antiochus IX Cyzicenus
Dynasty Seleucid dynasty
Father Demetrius I Soter
Mother possibly Laodice V

Antiochus VII Euergetes, nicknamed Sidetes (from Side), ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, reigned from 138 to 129 BC. He was the last Seleucid king of any stature.

Biography[edit]

He was one of the sons of Demetrius I Soter, the brother of Demetrius II Nicator and his mother may have been Laodice V. Antiochus was elevated after Demetrius' capture by the Parthians. He married Cleopatra Thea, who had been the wife of Demetrius. Their offspring was Antiochus IX, who thus became both half-brother and cousin to Seleucus V and Antiochus VIII.

Coin of Antiochus VII, depicting the Dioscuri.

Sidetes defeated the usurper Tryphon at Dora[1] and laid siege to Jerusalem in 132. According to Josephus[2] the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus opened King David's sepulchre and removed three thousand talents, which he then paid Antiochus to spare the city. Nevertheless, Antiochus' respectful treatment of the Jews, and respect for their religion, earned him their gratitude and added name, Euergetes ("the Benefactor"). With no Jewish sources of that time (the Book of Maccabbees ends few years before his time) it is unclear if the siege on Jerusalem ended with a decisive Seleucid victory or simply a peace treaty. Furthermore the fact is that Jewish forces later assisted Sidetes in his wars, and that for nearly 20 years after his death, John Hyrcanus refrained of attacking areas under Seleucid control. All in all it indicates a renewal of the friendly relations from the time of Demetrius II.

Antiochus spent the final years of his life attempting to reclaim the lost eastern territories, overrun by the Parthians under their "Great King", Mithridates I. Marching east, with what would prove to be the last great Seleucid royal army (including a force of Judean mercenaries under John Hyrcanus), he defeated Mithridates in two battles, killing the aged Parthian king in the last of these. He restored Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Media to the Seleucid empire, before dispersing his army into winter quarters.

The Seleucid king and army spent the winter feasting, hunting, and drinking (the Seleucids maintained the Macedonian tradition of heavy drinking). As with any time an army is quartered upon a population, tensions soon grew between the locals and the Syrian troops.

The new Parthian ruler, Phraates II, had not been idle; raising a new army while stirring up rebellion in the Seleucid occupied towns of Media. Hoping to further sew dissension amongst his foe, Phraates also released his long-held prisoner, Demetrius II, Antiochus' older brother, to return to Syria and reclaim the throne.

That winter (130-129 BCE), several Median towns rose in rebellion and attacked their Seleucid garrisons. Antiochus marched to support one such isolated garrison with only a small force (likely only his Royal Guards). In a barren valley, he was ambushed and killed by Phraates II and a large force of Parthians, which had entered the country without being detected. The last great Seleucid king died in battle, a fitting end for the heir of Seleucus I Nicator (the Conqueror). (One disputed account has Antiochus take his own life, after the battle is lost, to avoid capture by the Parthians.)

After Antiochus VII Sidetes, the Parthians regained the territory briefly lost, and the Seleucid realm was now restricted to Syria.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Josephus, The Jewish War (1:52)
  2. ^ Josephus The Jewish Wars (1:60)

External links[edit]

Antiochus VII Sidetes
Born: Unknown Died: 129 BC
Preceded by
Diodotus Tryphon
Seleucid King
138–129 BC
Succeeded by
Demetrius II Nicator and
Alexander II Zabinas