Demetrius II Nicator  [ca. 161 - 125 BCE; assassinated]

The son of Demetrius I went into exile at age 11, when Alexander Balas killed his father (150 BCE). In exile he allied himself to Ptolemy VI & married his daughter, Cleopatra Thea. Three years later he returned with an army of Cretan mercenaries raised by his father-in-law & deposed Balas (145 BCE), earning him his epithet ["the victor"]. But the young king's victory was short-lived. First he faced a formidable challenge from the rebel general Trypho who posed as regent for Balas' son Antiochus VI before usurping the throne for himself. Then, even before Trypho's defeat, Demetrius' forces had to fend off a Parthian invasion (140 BCE).  Demetrius himself was captured (139 BCE) & spent the next decade as a hostage, leaving his younger brother Antiochus VII to rule his diminished realm.  Released from captivity in 129 BCE, he was briefly restored to the throne of a divided kingdom until his own assassination.

Demetrius' troubles provided the opportunity for Johanan Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean ruler of Jerusalem, to claim Jewish independence -- which Demetrius acknowledged to gain Jewish support in his struggle with his rivals -- & to annex Seleucid territory beyond Judea.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 13.86-87, 109-160, 174-187, 218-222, 267-271.
                   1 Maccabees 10:67-73; 11:8-12,19,28-55; 13:34-40; 14:1-3.
                   Appian, History of Rome: Syrian Wars 67-68.

Other resources on line:

  • 1 Maccabees 13 - includes Jewish account of Demetrius' recognition of Jewish independence [Good News translation posted by Bible Gateway].

This silver tetradrachma from Demetrius' second reign shows the influence of his exile in Parthia. For instead of the traditional Hellenistic clean-shaven profile found in his coins before 139 BCE, the king is here portrayed in Persian style with full beard. The fact that the figure on the back of the coin--enthroned Zeus, holding winged Victory [Nike] --is bearded may also have influenced the depiction of the king.  For the accompanying inscription -- [B]asileos Demetriou Theou Nikatoros ["of King Demetrius, Victor God"] -- clearly claims him to be the incarnation of the king of gods himself.

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