Antiochus IV Epiphanes  [ca. 215 -164 BCE]

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 him & claim control of most of Egypt & Cyprus (169 BCE).  Despite these victories, however, Roman intervention on behalf of the Ptolemaic kingdom deprived him of all his territorial gains. His retreat (166 BCE) set the stage for the Jewish revolt led by Judah Maccabee (165 BCE).  

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 his realm.

Soon after he assumed the Seleucid throne (175 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 (166 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.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 12.234-246, 257-270, 293-297,  316-320, 354-361.
                   ______, Against Apion  1.34, 2.80-84,90-102.
                   Livy, History of Rome 41.20-25, 42.6, 45.11-13.
                   Appian, History of Rome: Syrian Wars 7.39, 8.45, 11.66.

Other online resources:

The images on the coins above illustrate the official metamorphosis of Antiochus IV into a deity.  The face of the first [a silver tetradrachma] bears the clean-shaven likeness of the king wearing the royal diadem.  The reverse side portrays an enthroned bearded Zeus with scepter in his left hand & the figure of winged Victory [Greek: Nike] in his outstretched right hand [a slight modification of the mythical motif on the back of coins of Alexander the Great]. The inscription [with top at left edge] reads: Basileos Antiochou [continuing to left of throne] Theou Epiphaniou [concluding at bottom] Nikephorou ["of King Antiochus, God Manifest, Victory bearer']. The face of the bronze coin at the right portrays a bearded Antiochus as Zeus laureate himself, wearing the victor's wreath.  The reverse side [not shown] identifies the image: "of King Antiochus, God Manifest." Both coins were minted in Antioch.


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