Demetrius the Fair

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

Demetrius the Fair or surnamed The Handsome (Greek: Δημήτριος ὁ Καλός, around 285 BC-249 BC or 250 BC), also known in modern ancient historical sources as Demetrius of Cyrene, was a Hellenistic king of Cyrene.

Family[edit]

Demetrius was of Greek Macedonian descent. He was surnamed The Fair, because he was an attractive man. He was born and raised in Macedonia. Demetrius was named after his father and was the youngest of the children of King Demetrius I of Macedon and his wife, Ptolemais. Demetrius I married Ptolemais as his fifth wife around 287 BC/286 BC in Miletus, while this was Ptolemais’ first marriage. Demetrius was the only child born into the marriage as in 283 BC his father had died. From his father’s previous marriages, Demetrius had various paternal half siblings, who included king Antigonus II Gonatas, princess and later queen of the Seleucid Empire Stratonice of Syria.

Demetrius’ maternal grandparents were the first Greek-Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter and noblewoman Eurydice. Among his maternal aunts were queen Arsinoe II of Egypt and among his maternal uncles were pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Macedonian King Ptolemy Keraunos (Keraunos was Ptolemais’ full blooded brother). Among his maternal cousins were pharaoh Ptolemy III Euergetes. His paternal grandparents were Macedonian king Antigonus I Monophthalmus and noblewoman Stratonice, while his paternal uncle was the general Philip.

Cyrenaica[edit]

Not much is known about him until 249 BC. Greek Cyrenaean king Magas of Cyrene died in 249 BC or 250 BC. His widow, was the powerful Greek monarch Apama II. Apama was Demetrius’ niece, who was a daughter of his paternal half sister Stratonice of Syria from her marriage to Greek king of the Seleucid Empire Antiochus I Soter.

Apama summoned Demetrius from Macedonia. She offered Demetrius, her daughter with Magas (and only child) princess Berenice II in marriage to him. Demetrius in return, would become King of Cyrenaica and protect Cyrenaica from the Ptolemaic dynasty. Demetrius agreed to Apama’s request and married Berenice. When he married Berenice and became king, there was no opposition in his rise to the throne. When Demetrius became king, he became so ambitious it reached the point of recklessness.

Sometime after his marriage to Berenice, Demetrius and Apama became lovers. Jealous of her husband's affair with her mother, Berenice argued with both of them and fatally stabbed Demetrius who died in Apama’s arms. The poem Coma Berenices by Greek poet Callimachus (lost, but known in a Latin translation or paraphrase by Catullus), apparently refers to her killing of Demetrius: "Let me remind you how stout-hearted you were even as a young girl: have you forgotten the brave deed by which you gained a royal marriage?"

Marriages and children[edit]

Demetrius's first marriage was to an Olympias, a Greek noblewoman from Larissa, the daughter of a Greek nobleman, Polycletus or Polyclitus of Larissa. She probably died before 249 BC. Their children were Antigonus III Doson, the later Greek Macedonian King, and Echecrates, a nobleman about whom not much is known apart from the fact that he had a son whom he named after his brother Antigonus. A few months before his paternal second cousin Greek King Philip V of Macedon’s death, Echecrates' son Antigonus revealed to Philip that Philip's son, the prince Perseus of Macedon, had made false accusations against his brother, Philip's other son, Demetrius, whom Philip had then had put to death. Philip, indignant at Perseus’ conduct appointed Antigonus as his successor. When Philip died in 179 BC and Antigonus became king, Perseus ousted Antigonus and had him executed.

In 249 or 250 BC, Demetrius married his great niece, the Greek Cyrenaean princess and future Greek queen of Egypt, Berenice II. Berenice killed Demetrius, out of jealousy and revenge because Demetrius and her mother became lovers.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

Demetrius the Fair
Died: 249 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Magas
King of Cyrene
250 BC – 249 BC
Vacant
Republic, under Ptolemaic rule from 246 BC
Title next held by
Ptolemy VIII Physcon