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Antiochus IV Epiphanes

For other uses, see Epiphanes (disambiguation).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (/ænˈtaɪ.əkəsɛˈpɪfəniːz/; Greek: Ἀντίοχος Δ΄ ὁ Ἐπιφανής, Antíochos D' ho

Epiphanḗs, “God Manifest"; [1] c. 215 BC – 164 BC) was

a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until

his death in 164 BC. He was a son of King Antiochus III the Great. His original name was Mithradates (alterna- tive form Mithridates); he assumed the name Antiochus after he ascended the throne.

Notable events during the reign of Antiochus IV include his near-conquest of Egypt, which led to a confrontation that became an origin of the metaphorical phrase, "line in the sand" (see below), and the rebellion of the Jewish Maccabees.

Antiochus was the first Seleucid king to use divine ep- ithets on coins, perhaps inspired by the Bactrian Hel- lenistic kings who had earlier done so, or else building on the ruler cult that his father Antiochus the Great had codified within the Seleucid Empire. These epithets in- cluded Θεὸς Ἐπιφανής 'manifest god', and, after his de- feat of Egypt, Νικηφόρος 'bringer of victory'. [2] How- ever, Antiochus also tried to interact with common peo- ple, by appearing in the public bath houses and applying for municipal offices, and his often eccentric behavior and capricious actions led some of his contemporaries to call him Epimanes (“The Mad One”), a word play on his title Epiphanes. [1][3]

1 Rise to power

As the son and a potential successor of King Antiochus

III, Antiochus became a political hostage of the Roman Republic following the Peace of Apamea in 188 BC. When his older brother, Seleucus IV followed his father onto the throne in 187 BC, Antiochus was exchanged for his nephew Demetrius I Soter (the son and heir of Seleucus). After King Seleucus was assassinated by Heliodorus, a usurper, in 175 BC, Antiochus in turn ousted him. Since Seleucus’ legitimate heir, Demetrius

I Soter, was still a hostage in Rome, Antiochus, with the help of King Eumenes II of Pergamum, seized the throne for himself, proclaiming himself co-regent for another son of Seleucus, an infant named Antiochus (whom he then murdered a few years later). [4]


2 Wars against Egypt

Main article: Sixth Syrian War

When the guardians of King Ptolemy VI of Egypt de- manded the return of Coele-Syria in 170 BC, Antiochus launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, conquering all but Alexandria and capturing King Ptolemy. To avoid alarming Rome, Antiochus allowed Ptolemy VI to con- tinue ruling as a puppet king. Upon Antiochus’ with- drawal, the city of Alexandria chose a new king, one of Ptolemy’s brothers, also named Ptolemy (VIII Euer- getes). Instead of fighting a civil war, the Ptolemy broth- ers agreed to rule Egypt jointly.

In 168 BC Antiochus led a second attack on Egypt and also sent a fleet to capture Cyprus. Before reaching Alexandria, his path was blocked by a single, old Roman ambassador named Gaius Popillius Laenas, who deliv- ered a message from the Roman Senate directing Anti- ochus to withdraw his armies from Egypt and Cyprus, or consider themselves in a state of war with the Roman Republic. Antiochus said he would discuss it with his council, whereupon the Roman envoy drew a line in the sand around him and said, “Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate” – im- plying that Rome would declare war if the King stepped out of the circle without committing to leave Egypt im- mediately. Weighing his options, Antiochus decided to withdraw. Only then did Popillius agree to shake hands with him. [5]

3 Sacking of Jerusalem and perse- cution of Jews

While Antiochus was busy in Egypt, a rumor spread that he had been killed. The deposed High Priest Jason gath- ered a force of 1,000 soldiers and made a surprise attack on the city of Jerusalem. The High Priest appointed by Antiochus, Menelaus, was forced to flee Jerusalem dur- ing a riot. On the King’s return from Egypt in 167 BC, enraged by his defeat, he attacked Jerusalem and restored Menelaus, then executed many Jews. [6]

When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm.



He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery. 2 Maccabees 5:11–14

To consolidate his empire and strengthen his hold over the region, Antiochus decided to side with the Hellenized Jews by outlawing Jewish religious rites and traditions kept by observant Jews and by ordering the worship of Zeus as the supreme god (2 Maccabees 6:1–12). This was anathema to the Jews and when they refused, An- tiochus sent an army to enforce his decree. Because of the resistance, the city was destroyed, many were slaugh- tered, and a military Greek citadel called the Acra was established. [7]

Not long after this the king sent an Athe- nian senator to force the Jews to abandon the

customs of their ancestors and live no longer by the laws of God; also to profane the temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus, and that on Mount Gerizim to Zeus the Hospitable, as the inhabitants of the place

requested They

things that were forbidden, so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings prohibited by the laws. A man could not keep the sabbath or celebrate the traditional feasts, nor even admit that he was a Jew. At the suggestion of the citizens of Ptolemais, a decree was issued ordering the neighboring Greek cities to act in the same way against the Jews: oblige them to partake of the sacrifices, and put to death those who would not consent to adopt the customs of the Greeks. It was obvious, therefore, that disaster impended. Thus, two women who were arrested for having circumcised their

also brought into the temple

children were publicly paraded about the city with their babies hanging at their breasts and then thrown down from the top of the city wall. Others, who had assembled in nearby caves to observe the sabbath in secret, were betrayed to Philip and all burned to death. 2 Maccabees 6:1–11

4 Maccabean revolt

Main article: Maccabees

6:1–11 4 Maccabean revolt Main article: Maccabees Mina of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The First and Second

Mina of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

The First and Second Book of Maccabees painted the Maccabean Revolt as a national resistance to a foreign political and cultural oppression. Modern scholars argue that the king was intervening in a civil war between the traditionalist Jews in the country and the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem. [8][9][10] According to Joseph P. Schultz, “Modern scholarship on the other hand considers the Maccabean revolt less as an uprising against foreign op- pression than as a civil war between the orthodox and re- formist parties in the Jewish camp.” [11]

It seems that the traditionalists, with Hebrew/Aramaic names like Onias, contested with the Hellenizers with Greek names like Jason and Menelaus over who would be the High Priest. [12] Other authors point to possible so- cio/economic motives in addition to the religious motives behind the civil war. [13]

What began in many respects as a civil war esca- lated when the Hellenistic kingdom of Syria sided with the Hellenizing Jews in their conflict with the traditionalists. [14] As the conflict escalated, Antiochus took the side of the Hellenizers by prohibiting the reli- gious practices that the traditionalists had rallied around. This may explain why the king, in a total departure from Seleucid practice in all other places and times, banned the traditional religion of a whole people. [15]

5 Final years

Taking advantage of Antiochus’ western problems, King Mithridates I of Parthia attacked from the east and seized the city of Herat in 167 BC, disrupting the direct trade route to India and effectively splitting the Greek world in two.

Recognizing the potential danger in the east, but unwill- ing to give up control of Judea, Antiochus sent a com- mander named Lysias to deal with the Maccabees, while


the King himself led the main Seleucid army against the Parthians. After initial success in his eastern campaign, including the reoccupation of Armenia, Antiochus died suddenly of disease in 164 BC.

6 Jewish tradition

Antiochus IV ruled the Jews from 175 to 164 BC. He is remembered as a major villain and persecutor in the Jew- ish traditions associated with Hanukkah, including the books of Maccabees and the "Scroll of Antiochus". [16] Rabbinical sources refer to him as עשרה harasha (“the wicked”). [17] He has been identified as the “eleventh horn of the beast” in the Book of Daniel (chapters 7 to

12). [18][19]

7 See also

8 Footnotes

[2] C. Habicht, “The Seleucids and their rivals”, in A. E. Astin, et al., Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 B.C., The Cambridge Ancient History, volume 8, p. 341

[4] M. Zambelli, “L'ascesa al trono di Antioco IV Epifane di Siria,” Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica 38 (1960) 363–389

[5] Polybius 29.27.4, Livy 45.12.4ff.

[6] Josephus, Wars of the Jews 1:1:1–2

[7] 1 Maccabees 1:30–37; Witherington

[8] Telushkin, Joseph (1991). Jewish Literacy: The Most Im- portant Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its Peo- ple, and Its History. W. Morrow. p. 114. ISBN 0-688-

[9] Johnston, Sarah Iles (2004). Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide. Harvard University Press. p. 186. ISBN

[10] Greenberg, Irving (1993). The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays. Simon & Schuster. p. 29. ISBN 0-671-87303-


Schultz, Joseph P. (1981). Judaism and the Gentile Faiths:

Comparative Studies in Religion. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 155. ISBN 0-8386-1707-7.


[12] Gundry, Robert H. (2003). A Survey of the New Testa- ment. Zondervan. p. 9. ISBN 0-310-23825-0.

[13] Freedman, David Noel; Allen C. Myers; Astrid B. Beck (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Wm. B. Eerd- mans Publishing. p. 837. ISBN 0-8028-2400-5.

[14] Wood, Leon James (1986). A Survey of Israel’s History. Zondervan. p. 357. ISBN 0-310-34770-X.

[15] Tchrikover, Victor. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews.


9 External links

Antiochus IV Ephiphanes entry in historical source- book by Mahlon H. Smith



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