Antiochus IV Epiphanes

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Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Basileus of the Seleucid Empire
Antiokhos IV.jpg
Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.
Reign175–164 BC
Born215 BC
Died164 BC (Age 52)
PredecessorSeleucus IV Philopator
SuccessorAntiochus V Eupator
WifeLaodice IV
IssueAntiochus V Eupator, Laodice VI, Alexander Balas, Antiochis, and possibly Laodice (wife of Mithridates III of Pontus)
DynastySeleucid dynasty
FatherAntiochus III the Great
MotherLaodice III
 
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Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Basileus of the Seleucid Empire
Antiokhos IV.jpg
Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.
Reign175–164 BC
Born215 BC
Died164 BC (Age 52)
PredecessorSeleucus IV Philopator
SuccessorAntiochus V Eupator
WifeLaodice IV
IssueAntiochus V Eupator, Laodice VI, Alexander Balas, Antiochis, and possibly Laodice (wife of Mithridates III of Pontus)
DynastySeleucid dynasty
FatherAntiochus III the Great
MotherLaodice III

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (/ænˈt.əkəs ɛˈpɪfənz/; Greek: Ἀντίοχος Ἐπιφανής, Antíochos 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 (alternative 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 epithets on coins, perhaps inspired by Bactrian Hellenistic 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 included Θεὸς Ἐπιφανής 'manifest god', and, after his defeat of Egypt, Νικηφόρος 'bringer of victory'.[2] However, Antiochus also tried to interact with common people, 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]

Rise to power[edit]

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]

Wars against Egypt[edit]

When the guardians of King Ptolemy VI of Egypt demanded 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 continue ruling as a puppet king. Upon Antiochus' withdrawal, the city of Alexandria chose a new king, one of Ptolemy's brothers, also named Ptolemy (VIII Euergetes). Instead of fighting a civil war, the Ptolemy brothers 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 delivered a message from the Roman Senate directing Antiochus 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" – implying that Rome would declare war if the King stepped out of the circle without committing to leave Egypt immediately. Weighing his options, Antiochus decided to withdraw. Only then did Popillius agree to shake hands with him.[5]

Sacking of Jerusalem and persecution of Jews[edit]

While Antiochus was busy in Egypt, a rumor spread that he had been killed. The deposed High Priest Jason gathered 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 during 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, Antiochus sent an army to enforce his decree. Because of the resistance, the city was destroyed, many were slaughtered, and a military Greek citadel called the Acra was established.[7]

Not long after this the king sent an Athenian 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 also brought into the temple 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 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

Maccabean revolt[edit]

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 oppression than as a civil war between the orthodox and reformist 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 socio/economic motives in addition to the religious motives behind the civil war.[13]

What began in many respects as a civil war escalated 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 religious 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]

Final years[edit]

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 unwilling to give up control of Judea, Antiochus sent a commander 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.

Legacy[edit]

The reign of Antiochus was the last period of real strength for the Seleucid Dynasty, but in some ways his rule was also fatal to the Empire. Antiochus IV was a usurper and left an infant son named Antiochus V Eupator as his only heir. The result was a series of civil wars between rival claimants to the throne, effectively crippling the Empire during a critical phase in the wars against Parthia.

Jewish tradition[edit]

Antiochus IV ruled the Jews from 175 to 164 BC. He is remembered as a major villain and persecutor in the Jewish traditions associated with Hanukkah, including the books of Maccabees and the "Scroll of Antiochus".[16] Rabbinical sources refer to him as הרשע harasha ("the wicked").[17]

Book of Daniel[edit]

Most historical critical scholars and Jewish commentaries[18] view the Book of Daniel as being written during the time of Antiochus IV, with the prophetic visions describing him. Antiochus is seen as the "little horn" of Daniel 8, the "prince who is to come" of Daniel 9, and the final "King of the North" of Daniel 11.

According to one view,[citation needed] Antiochus should not be seen as the "little horn" of Daniel 7, for that "horn" arose from the fourth beast, or the fourth world empire, which is a world empire after Greece.[19] The world empires of Medo-Persia and Greece are identified directly in Daniel 8, symbolized by the ram (Medo-Persia) and the male goat (Greece),[20] with the first king of the Greek empire correlating to Alexander. After the great horn is broken while at the peak of its power (Alexander dies), four other horns arise "toward the four winds of heaven", correlating to the division of Alexander's empire among four of his generals, one of which was Seleucus. Then a "little horn" emerges from one of those horns and grows powerful, arrogant, and boastful against heaven, removes the daily sacrifices (the Continual), casts down the place of the sanctuary, casts down the truth to the ground, and yet continues to prosper with apparent impunity.[21] The character and actions of this "little horn" correlate with the character and actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.[citation needed]

Most Christian biblical scholars consider the Book of Daniel to be authentic, written by Daniel during his lifetime, with the prophetic visions relating to Antiochus IV also written before the historical events now known, a belief that is supported by the partial fulfillment of the prophesies contained in Daniel 9[22] which predict the coming of "Messiah the Prince" to the day of Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 AD.[23]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Antiochus IV Epiphanes
  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
  3. ^ Polybius 26.10
  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 Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History. W. Morrow. p. 114. ISBN 0-688-08506-7. 
  9. ^ Johnston, Sarah Iles (2004). Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide. Harvard University Press. p. 186. ISBN 0-674-01517-7. 
  10. ^ Greenberg, Irving (1993). The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays. Simon & Schuster. p. 29. ISBN 0-671-87303-2. 
  11. ^ 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 Testament. 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. Eerdmans 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.
  16. ^ Vedibarta Bam — And You Shall Speak of Them: Megilat Antiochus The Scroll of the Hasmoneans
  17. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  18. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Book of Daniel
  19. ^ Daniel 7:7-8
  20. ^ Daniel 8:20-21
  21. ^ Daniel 8:10-12
  22. ^ Daniel 9:25
  23. ^ Anderson, Sir Robert (1894). "X". The Coming Prince. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1481007931. 

External links[edit]

Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Born: 215 BC Died: 164 BC
Preceded by
Seleucus IV Philopator
Seleucid King
175–164 BC
Succeeded by
Antiochus V Eupator