Stratonice II (c. 285–228 BCE)

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Stratonice II (c. 285–228 bce)

Seleucid princess. Name variations: Stratoniki or Stratonike. Born around 285; died in 228 bce; daughter of the Seleucid king and queen, Antiochus I Soter and Stratonice I (c. 319–254 bce); married her cousin-nephew Demetrius II, king of Macedonia, in 255 bce (marriage ended, 239); children: Apama.

Stratonice II was the daughter of the Seleucid king and queen, Antiochus I Soter and Stratonice I , and the sister of Antiochus II Theos. In order to secure better relations with the kingdom of Macedon, Antiochus II arranged with its king, Antigonus II Gonatus, for the marriage of his sister to Demetrius II (Antigonus II's son and heir) about 255 bce. Stratonice's husband was about ten years her junior, and was both her cousin (Demetrius' father was the brother of Stratonice I) and her nephew (Demetrius' mother was Phila II , the daughter of Stratonice I and the half-sister of Stratonice II). We know nothing about Stratonice II's marriage except that it produced a daughter, Apama (who eventually married Prusias I of Bithynia), and that it ended in 239 after Demetrius succeeded his father on the Macedonian throne and thereupon married a second wife, Phthia of Epirus . Why Demetrius took a second wife so quickly after his accession can only be conjectured, but it seems that he had little affection for Stratonice II, and that he used her failure to produce a son as an excuse to acquire a new bride. Although polygamy was a well-established tradition among Macedonia's royalty, Stratonice had not grown up in such a household, since her mother (Stratonice I) had been the only spouse of her father. The younger Stratonice took offense at her husband's second marriage, and left him to return to the kingdom of her birth.

Apama (fl. 245 bce)

Queen of Bithynia. Flourished around 245 bce; daughter of Stratonice II and Demetrius II, king of Macedonia; married Prusias I, king of Bithynia.

Back in Asia, Stratonice II made a beeline for Antioch, the capital of the Seleucid Empire, where she: 1) offered herself in marriage to the reigning king, her nephew Seleucus II; and 2) encouraged him to avenge her flight from Macedon by warring on Demetrius II. Seleucus declined to act upon either of Stratonice's suggestions, thereby turning her anger in his direction. Regardless, there was little that Stratonice could do to redress what she considered to be insults until Seleucus II mounted an expedition against the Parthians, and Antiochus Hierax was driven from Anatolia by Attalus I of Pergamon, probably in 229. A brief background: Antiochus Hierax was the brother of Seleucus II, both being sons of Stratonice's brother Antiochus II and his wife Laodice I . When Antiochus II died in 246, Laodice angered her older son, Seleucus II, by encouraging him to share the Seleucid throne with the younger Antiochus Hierax (probably to allow her to play one off against the other for the perpetration of her own influence). Laodice's interference incited a civil war between the brothers (239–236) which was settled only after Seleucus ceded to Antiochus Hierax the Seleucid territories in Anatolia. There Antiochus Hierax (attempting to expand his realm) became the rival of Attalus I, who eventually drove Antiochus from his domain (probably in 229) back to the territory held by Seleucus II.

With Seleucus fighting the Parthians, and with a dispossessed younger brother once again at large within his realm, Stratonice appears to have hit upon a scheme to enhance her influence while avenging herself upon Seleucus II for spurning her matrimonial advances. Encouraging Antiochus Hierax to raise the standard of rebellion against his brother in Babylonia while she did everything she could to turn the city of Antioch against Seleucus, Stratonice hoped to topple Seleucus from his throne before he could react effectively. In this she failed: Seleucus quit his Parthian expedition to drive Antiochus Hierax from Babylonia (he fled to European Thrace, where he was murdered by some Celts in 227), thereafter to besiege Stratonice in Antioch. For a short period, Stratonice held the capital city, but without Antiochus Hierax to offer the Antiochenes in place of Seleucus II, her revolt quickly faded. Stratonice escaped capture in Antioch and fled to the port city of Seleucia. Instead of fleeing the Seleucid Empire for the safety of exile, however, she remained in Seleucia, apparently inspired to do so by a dream she interpreted as favorable to her ambitions. If sent by the gods, Stratonice's dream was a false one, for when Seleucus II caught up with her in Seleucia, he quickly put her to death (228 bce).

William S. Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California