Since the third son of Antiochus
III was not in direct line for the Seleucid throne, he was sent to
Rome as a hostage after his father's defeat by the Romans (189 BCE)
. Fourteen years later (175
BCE) his older brother, Seleucus
IV, secured his release shortly before being murdered by
his own chief minister. Antiochus avenged his brother's death &
claimed the throne instead of his nephew, Demetrius, who was
a 12 year old hostage in Rome. When Ptolemy VI sought to occupy Palestine, Antiochus moved
swiftly to defeat & claim control of most of Egypt & Cyprus (169
Despite these victories, however, Roman intervention on behalf of the Ptolemaic
him of all his territorial gains. His retreat (166
BCE) set the stage for the
revolt led by Judah
Antiochus' lack of lasting military
achievements was offset by his policy of Hellenization. He
was not only a lavish benefactor of shrines to Greek gods across the
eastern Mediterranean -- including the temple of Zeus at Athens --, in
territories he controlled he actively promoted the cult of the living
ruler founded by his father, representing himself as the
manifestation of the supreme god, Zeus (hence the epithet epiphanes).
Thus, he turned the advancement of Greek culture into a political tool to
publicize his own claims of absolute power. And as the supreme god
incarnate he assumed personal responsibility for all religious cult within
Soon after he assumed the Seleucid throne
BCE), Antiochus filled the vacant office of high priest of the Jewish
temple state in Jerusalem (which his father had brought under Seleucid
control a quarter of a century earlier) with a Hellenized Judean priest
who took the Greek name Jason, but replaced him in 172
BCE with his
brother Menelaus, on promise of greater tribute. To curry Antiochus'
support, these rival priests completely Hellenized Jerusalem, promoting
Greek culture & building a gymnasium for Olympic sport.
While Antiochus was conquering Egypt (169
BCE), Jason's forces recaptured Jerusalem & slaughtered supporters of
Menelaus. Returning from Egypt (167
BCE) Antiochus sacked Jerusalem
& rebuilt it as a Seleucid fortress. Torah observance was
outlawed & the imperial cult brought into the Jewish temple itself
with the erection of a statue of Antiochus as Zeus with a Hellenistic
altar of sacrifice. Jews who resisted were subject to execution.
Antiochus returned in triumph to Antioch
BCE) but soon had to turn his attention to more serious challenges to
his suzerainty on his eastern border in campaigns against Armenia &
the Parthians. He fell ill & died while in Persia
BCE). Meanwhile, the concentration of the bulk of his forces in the
eastern provinces enabled the family of a Jewish priest named Mattathias
to oust the Antiochene party from Jerusalem, purge the temple & begin
the formation of an independent Jewish state.
257-270, 293-297, 316-320, 354-361.
Apion 1.34, 2.80-84,90-102.
of Rome 41.20-25,
of Rome: Syrian Wars 7.39,
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