Alexander Balas  [killed 145 BCE]

Rival of Demetrius I who (ca. 153 BCE) claimed to be son of Antiochus IV.  Balas attracted the support of a loose coalition of Egypt, Rome, Pergamum, Cappodocia & Judea -- all of which were interested in weakening the Seleucid dynasty. In return for Judean support he appointed Judah Maccabee's brother, Jonathan, high priest, giving legitimacy to the Hasmonean family's de facto rule in Jerusalem.  Following his decisive military defeat of Demetrius (150 BCE), he claimed the Seleucid throne & married Cleopatra Thea, the daughter of the Egyptian ruler, Ptolemy VI. But once in office Balas quickly proved to be an incompetent ruler.  His wreckless involvement in a plot to assassinate his father-in-law cost him his wife & the support of Egypt. His own troops abandoned him when Demetrius II attacked Syria (147 BCE) with Egyptian aid. As other allies deserted him, only the Jews continued to support him, since he allowed them to reclaim a greater degree of religious & political independence than his predecessors. The circumstances of his death are uncertain.  Either he was killed by Demetrius' forces or murdered as a refugee in Arabia.

References: 1 Maccabees 10:1-11:19.
                   Josephus, Antiquities 13.35-58, 80-87, 106-119.
                   Justin, Epitome 39.1-2.

Other resources on line:

Alexander's claim to be the legitimate heir of Antiochus IV is graphically illustrated by this silver tetradrachma, which practically mirrors Antiochus' own early coinage. The coin's face portrays Alexander clean-shaven with the royal diadem, while the reverse bears the image of the enthroned Zeus holding the victory goddess Nike in his outstretched hand.  The Greek inscription reads (from right of throne to left) Basileos Alexandrou Theopatoros Euergetou ("of King Alexander, son of a beneficent God"). Alexander's appeal to divine sonship was designed to be understood in the context of the Seleucid imperial cult that celebrated Antiochus IV as the manifestation of Zeus himself.

For high resolution images of these and other coins of Alexander Balas see Ancient Coinage of Seleucia, Alexander 1 in David Surber's excellent ancient coins website: Wildwinds.

Perspective on the World of Jesus

Copyright 1999-2008 by Mahlon H. Smith
All rights reserved.

an American Theological Library Association Selected Religion Website
OCLC catalog no.: 62046512

Reader  since May 1999 on Web Counter.