Antiochus IV

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Antiochus IV

Antiochus IV (ca. 215-163 B.C.), called Epiphanes, or "God on Earth," was a king of Syria. He attempted to impose Hellenic culture on the Jews and thus precipitated the rebellion of the Maccabees.

The third son of Antiochus III, Antiochus IV succeeded his brother Seleucus IV as ruler of the Seleucid empire in 175 B.C. Nicknamed Epimanes, or "Goon on Earth," for his eccentric behavior, Antiochus proved an energetic and capable ruler.

He maintained a vigorous foreign policy. In 169, in response to a planned invasion of Israel and Lebanon by the Egyptian king Ptolemy VI, Antiochus moved first, defeated the Egyptians in the Negeb, and advanced to the Nile at Memphis. He accepted Ptolemy's submission, and when a separatist movement crowned the Egyptian king's brother as Ptolemy VII in Alexandria, he left Ptolemy VI to deal with the usurper. Antiochus withdrew, keeping only Pelusium, the frontier fortress east of the Nile Delta, as pawn. The Ptolemaic brothers united in 168, and Antiochus again invaded Egypt while another of his armies took the Egyptian island of Cyprus. Antiochus was about to besiege Alexandria when an ultimatum from the Roman Senate ordered him to evacuate both Egypt and Cyprus. No match for Rome, Antiochus accepted and had to be satisfied with a "victory over Egypt" festival at Daphne.

Early in his reign Antiochus strengthened his control of Cilicia (modern district of Mersin and Adana), and he reduced Artaxias, the independent ruler of Armenia (modern eastern Turkey), to the status of a client king. In the later years of his reign, Antiochus campaigned in the eastern provinces. He strengthened Media in central Iran against the rising power of Parthia, farther to the northeast. He also attempted an unsuccessful invasion of Susiana in southern Iran, allegedly in order to loot the temple of Anaitis, and an exploration of the Persian Gulf fell short of an invasion of Arabia.

Antiochus relied on Macedonians and Greeks to man his kingdom's administrative services and the armed forces. He tried to increase the reservoir of talent by drawing native peoples into Hellenized cities and by reorganizing native cities along Greek lines, often renaming them Epiphania or Antiochea. These cities included Babylon, Uruk, Ecbatana, and Jerusalem. Asserting his divinity, Antiochus claimed temple treasures and imposed Greek cults. The policy proved disastrous in Judaea, where confiscation of some temple funds and enforced worship of Zeus Olympius in place of Jehovah caused an uprising and guerrilla warfare by the Maccabees from 167 to 164. Antiochus abandoned the policy before his death in Media in 163, but the tide of Asian reaction to Hellenism was rising, and the circle of Syria's enemies was closing in.

Further Reading

Antiochus IV is discussed in S. K. Eddy, The King Is Dead (1961). J.D.C. Pavry, ed., Oriental Studies in Honor of Cursetji Erachji Pavry (1933), contains a biography of Antiochus by C. A. Kincaid. There is an extensive treatment of Antiochus in W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India (1938; 2d ed. 1951), and a shorter account of his reign in M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (3 vols., 1941).

Additional Sources

Price, Walter K., The coming antichris, Chicago, Moody Press 1974. □

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Antiochus IV

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