|Princess of Pontus|
|Queen of the Seleucid Empire
(Queen Consort of Syria)
|Tenure||c. 222 BC – c. 191 BC|
|Coronation||c. 222 BC (ceremony at Zeugma)|
|Predecessor||Consort of Seleucus III Ceraunus|
|Died||after 176 BC|
|Spouse||Antiochus III the Great|
|Father||Mithridates II of Pontus|
Laodice III (in Greek Λαοδικη) also known as Laodika, was a Princess of Pontus and a Seleucid Queen. She was regent for her son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, during the Anabase expedition of her husband, Antiochus III the Great between 212 and 206 BC. Antiochus created a royal cult dedicated to her in 193 BC. In 195 she was pushed out of political life due to her husband's remarriage. The last known activity of her is evidenced in documents in 177-176 BC relating to the court of her son, Seleucus IV.
She was a daughter born to King Mithridates II of Pontus who was a Persian and his wife Laodice who was a mixed-raced Greek-Persian. Her sister was Laodice of Pontus and her brother was Mithridates III of Pontus.
Laodice was married to Antiochus III around 221 BC in a ceremony at Zeugma and named queen at Antioch. Polybios states that she was promised to Antiochus III “a virgin and aforenamed as wife to the king”. The fact that her parents named her ‘Laodice’ in the Seleucid female tradition suggests that her parents intended this marriage from her birth, and named her accordingly. Like her sisters, her marriage was intended as a diplomatic strategy to strengthen relations between the Seleucids and Pont.
Laodice gave birth to her eldest child, Antiochus, while Antiochus set out his expedition against Molon. During her marriage, some historians believe that Laodice and her children sometimes followed Antiochus during his expeditions and assertions of power in certain areas.
Laodice III bore Antiochus III eight children who were: Antiochus, Seleucus IV Philopator, Ardys, an unnamed daughter who was engaged to Demetrius I of Bactria, Laodice IV, Cleopatra I Syra, Antiochis and Antiochus IV Epiphanes born as Mithridates.
Many inscriptions refer to Laodice as the “sister” or “sister-queen” of Antiochus III, and Laodice often referred to Antiochus as “brother”, despite the fact that the couple were only maternal first cousins. This was not an official title, but used for multiple reasons; it played up to attributions of loyalty and devoted like-mindedness of the couple, as well as affirming Laodice’s position as inside the dynasty, and position as equal to her husband. Towns could use the term “sister-queen” to further praise Laodice as a faithful consort. Furthermore, Laodice’s position as ‘sister’ to Antiochus mimicked the traditions of the previous Hekatomnid dynasty that ruled Karia in 4BCE, integrating the Seleucids into the territories traditions. This practise was also borrowed from the Greek world, were Ptolemy II’s marriage to his full sister was likened to the divine union of Zeus and Hera, and started a tradition of representing wives as sisters in the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Laodice and Antiochus furthered the tradition of brother-sister rulers by marrying two of their own children, Antiochus and Laodice, in 195.
In 192 Antiochus took a second wife, Euboea of Chalcis, which caused Laodice to be pushed to the periphery of court. Some historians suggest Laodice was repudiated in favour of the new wife, but there is no evidence of this. Although the second wife did not have the political influence of Laodice, Laodice disappears from record until after the death of Antiochus.
In 210, Antiochus the son was made co-ruler with his father, at the age of 10 or 11 years old, in order to keep the throne secure while Antiochus III went on campaign in the east. During this time Laodice most probably took regency. A clay seal impression is thought to show Antiochus the son in the foreground, with Laodice in the background, suggesting that she overtly displayed her ruling power during her regency.
The royal cult that Antiochus III initiated in 195 is thought to be a way of thanking Laodice for her good management of the kingdom during his absence.
During and after her regency, Laodice continued to exurge her political power by acting as a benefactor, or philanthropist. Philanthropic action is typical of Hellenistic queens, as a way to further their power and assert their position, particularly in the religious sphere, but Laodice was unusually active and her donations addressed political problems and targeted depopulation and poverty by focusing on food and marriage. Laodice’s donations are evidenced in inscriptions of her honours, and her letters to the towns.
In Sardis, Antiochus had imposed a tax of 5%, attached a billeted garrison and confiscated the gymnasium after their resistance to him in 214. In March 213 however, these punishments were greatly lessened, with a 3 year tax exemption, the donation of wood from the royal forest, the restoration of the gymnasium and a donation of 8000 litres of oil for the youths at the gymnasium. Some historians suggest that this exemption may have been influenced by Laodice, as she is particularly honoured in the inscriptions following the donations.
In Teos in 203, Laodice was thanked for helping the city, alongside her husband. The similarity of honours accorded to Laodice at Teos and at Iasos suggest that she acted as benefactor in a similar manner.
In Iasos, the city had suffered the loss of its traditional laws, its freedom, depopulation and poverty as well as an earthquake. In 196 Laodice donated 1000 medimnus of wheat, the profits of which were to be used to ensure each woman getting married a dowry of three hundred Antiochian drachmai. The funding for this came from land that belonged to Laodice, but her use of Strouthiôn, a royal administrator, suggests she did this acting as part of the royal administration rather than as a separate body.
For her help, Laodice received multiple honours, which often focused on honoring her symbolically as a mother. It is not always clear if these honors were given before or after her benefaction of the city. The cities could have given them after in order to honor and thank the queen (probable in Sardis) or it could have been given before, in order to encourage the queen to act generously towards the city (possible in Teos). The giving of honours was the point of depart for a diplomatic exchange, in which the queen would be obliged by laws of exchange to accept the honours and act as a sort of patron to the city. As she received more honours, the cities honoured her in increasingly elaborate manners.
In Sardis, an alter was made and dedicated to Laodice, and there was an annual festival with a sacrifice for the queen, king and children.This festivities were related to Zeus.
In Teos, statues were built of both the king and the queen in the temple of Dionysos. There were sacrifices made to the king and queen during an annual celebration; Antiocheia Kai Laodikeia, with a banquet dedicated to the royal couple. Foreign residents were also expected to hold their own sacrifice at home. An agora was built in the port with a fountain dedicated to Laodice, the water of which was to be used for civic sacrifices, funeral rituels, and bathwater for brides to be. In order to draw the water, one would need to dress all in white and wear a crown. The honours were made “for the rest of time” but stopped in 189 when Antiochus was defeated by the Romans.
In Iasos Laodice was assimilated with Aphrodite, who incarnated sex, maternity and marriage. There was a religious festival on the birthday of the queen, in the month of Aphrodision, during which there would be a procession of the betrothed, dressed in white. Annually, a virgin girl (a parthenon) was elected from a high status family, and named priestess of Laodice. Later, these honours included funds that was dedicated to female education, connecting Laodice with education and the introduction of female citizens into public life. These honours were to continue for 10 years, but got cut short by the defeat of Antiochus.
In 193, more than 10 years after his return from conquest, Antiochus III declared a cult dedicated to Laodice. He had already created a cult for himself in 209, and this new cult was envisioned as a parallel, with priestesses which mirrored his priests. Although the existence of previous honours helped implement the royal cult, they couldn’t compete with the glamour of royal administrative festivities. A royal cult was modelled on the worship of the gods, with a sacrifice, a procession of citizens wearing wreaths and their best clothes, and then competitions. A priestess of the cult of Laodice was named in each city. In Nehavend Laodice, daughter of Antiochus III and Laodice III was named the priestess of the cult of Laodice III, in order to help introduce her into her public role, and advance her position as consort and co-ruler with Antiochus the son. In Carie, Berenice, of the Telmessus dynasty was named high priestess in order to further relations between the Seleucids and local dynasties, and unify the kingdom. Other priestesses also came primarily from local dynasties and the royal family, though some historians theorise that the use of local dynasties may have been somewhat due to the fact that most Seleucid women were not available to be high priestesses, as they were involved in state marriages to neighbouring kings. Although the cult came quite a bit later than Laodice’s regency, Antiochus claimed he started the cult in order to celebrate the virtue of Laodice, and her piety. This has led historians to interpret the cult as a way of thanking Laodice for her management of the kingdom during the absence of the king. However the cult also came at a moment of weakness in the Seleucid Empire, and was useful in promoting unity throughout the empire.
Rather than include the cult in legal acts, or writing to governor-generals to diffuse the act, like he did for other acts, Antiochus III wrote straight to the satraps to spread the cult, such as Anaximbrotos in Phrygia and Menedemos in the orient. Some historians have interpreted this as a lack of interest on the part of Antiochus III. After Antiochos’ remarriage two years later, Antiochus did not work to further the official cult of Laodice, meaning it failed to develop and influence the structure of the empire.
It has been theorised that Seleucus IV perpetrated a later kind of honours related to Laodice by associating her with the goddess Nikephoros-Aphrodite around 177 BCE, due to the relation of Aphrodite to queens and the appearance of bronzes depicting the goddess around the possible time of Laodice’s death. The royal children may have been moved to assert the sacredness of Laodice and her position as queen due to the remarriage of Antiochus.
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- Rowlandson, J., Takahashi, R. “Brother-Sister Marriage and Inheritance Strategies in Greco-Roman Egypt.” Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 99 (2009):104-139.
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- John D. Grainger, A Seleukid prosopography and gazetteer, BRILL, 1997
Laodice IIIBorn: Unknown Died: c. 176 BC
Consort of Seleucus III Ceraunus
|Seleucid Queen (Queen Consort of Syria)
c. 222 BC – c. 191 BC
with Antiochus III the Great (222–187 BC)