Antiochus III Megas

Ruled 222-187 b.c.

Son of Seleucus II and Laodice II

Married first to Laodice, daughter of Mithridates II, 221 b.c

    -Antiochus Neos = Laodice (sister)

    -Seleucus IV Philopator = Laodice IV

    -Antiochus IV Epiphanes = Laodice IV

    -Cleopatra I Syra = Ptolemy V

    -Laodice = Antiochus Neos

    -Antiochis = Ariarathes IV of Cappadocia

    -Nysa(?) = Pharnaces of Pontus

Married second to Euboea of Chalcis, 190 b.c.

    -Unnamed daughter?

Bust of Antiochus III, The Louvre, Paris.

Antiochus III Megas

Son of Seleucus II and Laodice II, Antiochus was made either viceroy or satrap in the East during the short reign of his elder brother Seleucus III and was likely around twenty when he was assasinated (Pol.2.71.4, Porphyry F45, Eus.Chron.1.40.12, Grainger 1997, 20). After he took the throne in 222 he was quickly faced with the rebellions of his relative, Achaeus, and Molon. (Pol.5.40.6-42.3).

Amidst great pomp and circumstance, the young king took Laodice, daughter of Mithridates II of Pontus, as his wife in a ceremony performed at the symbolic location of Seleucia-Zeugma in 222 (Pol.5.43.1-4). The marriage itself is difficult to classify as exo- or endo-gamic given that Laodice and Antiochus were cousins through his aunt Laodice, though this is hardly a rare occurrence amongst Seleucid marriages. Laodice III was a highly visible figure during the reign of Antiochus III, appearing in several inscriptions compiled in a dossier by Ma 2000. Her name generally appears alongside that of her husband and the pair are occasionally referred to - or refer to each other - as ‘brother and sister’ (Jones 1993, Ma 2000, 255). Given our certainty of Laodice’s descent, the title ought not to be taken literally but rather as a metaphorical expression of the intimacy and collaboration of the royal pair in the affairs of administration (Nourse 2002, 237). The identification of the queen as ‘sister’ - in the same was it was used by Ptolemy III and Berenice II even though they were not actually siblings - strengthened Laodice’s position within the family, thereby conveying a sense of family intimacy, stability, and harmony to the reigning trio. In reward for her exceptional piety, loyalty, and affection to her husband, Antiochus III decreed that Laodice be honoured with a state cult and an eponymous priesthood, the intricacies of which are best discussed by Debord 2003 and van Nuffelen 2004.

The marriage produced, in order, three sons: Antiochus ‘Neos,’ Seleucus IV Philopator, and Antiochus IV Epiphanes, originally named Mithridates. In an unprecedented dynastic manoeuvre for the Seleucids, and perhaps in imitation of the Ptolemies or Achaemenids, in the winter of 196-5 Antiochus III married his younger son Antiochus to his sister Laodice (App.Syr.4). The union is the only attested instance of full-sibling marriage in the dynasty, and represents an attempt by Antiochus to make consanguinity a prerequisite for succession (Ogden 1999, 135, Bielman-Sanchez 2003, 46).

The metaphorical intimacy of Antiochus III and Laodice III was meant to be concretely realized in the union of their children, but the design was shattered with the death of Antiochus Neos in 192 (Livy 35.15.2, Aymard 1940). I see no reason to suspect Antiochus III’s involvement in the murder of his son, especially given his elaborate dynastic machinations. After the death of her brother/husband, Laodice disappears from our sources save for two inscriptions: one naming her chief priestess of her mother’s cult in Media, and another honouring her at Delos (Austin 158 and OGIS 251, Grainger 1997, 48). Unlike the vast majority of Seleucid scholars, I fail to see a convincing reason why she ought to be also identified as the wife of both Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV for reasons I shall discuss in the context of Antiochus III’s successor. There is, I would argue, neither concrete nor convincing grounds for such an unprecedented instance of triple-sibling marriage in a dynasty that previously had never privileged consanguineous unions.

Livy’s mention of two other sons, Ardys and Mithridates, at 33.19 I take as erroneous and agree with Holleaux’s very convincing argument that they were in face subordinates of Antiochus III, not his sons (Holleaux 1912).

In a monumental marriage that irrevocably intertwined the two dynasties, Antiochus III married his daughter Cleopatra I Syra to Ptolemy V in 193/2 B.C. at the close of the Seleucid triumph that was the Fifth Syrian War (App.Syr.5, Jos.AJ.12.154, Porphyry F47, 49a, Pomeroy 1990, 23, and Whitehorne 2001, 81-4). Celebrated at the symbolic location of Raphia, the marriage has been seen by some as essentially reducing the Ptolemies to the status of Seleucid client-kings (Grainger 2010, 274). While this is perhaps a bit excessive, the marriage nevertheless brought the Seleucids and Ptolemies into such close interrelation that mutual interference became inevitable.

To consolidate his alliances before his invasion of Thrace, Antiochus III married his daughter Antiochis to Ariarathes IV of Cappadocia who would become an ally in the Roman War (Diod.31.10.2, 31.19.7, Pol.31.17.2, App.Syr.5, Bevan 1902a, 2.57-9). The perhaps embroidered tale of her intervention in the succession of her sons in recounted at Diod.31.19.7.

An unknown daughter of Antiochus III was offered to Demetrius of Bactria as part of a diplomatic agreement mentioned at Pol.11.39.9, but there is no indication either of her identity or if the marriage ever actually took place.

A third daughter - whom I take to be the same as Nysa - was offered to Eumenes of Pergamon along with several cities as a dowry, but the Attalid declined the marriage alliance and in so doing aligned himself against the Seleucids (App.Syr.5, Pol.32.30.8, Bevan 1902a 2.59-62). (Perhaps?) the same Nysa is later mentioned in a decree at Athens in honour of Pharnaces of Pontus and his wife that is discussed by Reniach 1906, 46-8.

Finally, in 190 B.C. Antiochus III married Euboea, the daughter of Cleombrotus of Chalcis, to solidify his ties with Greece (Pol.20.8.1-5, App.Syr.16.2, Livy 36.11.1-2, Athenaeus 439e-f). It is unclear whether Laodice was still alive by the time Antiochus took his second wife, but I suspect she was. As in the case of Antiochus II and Laodice, I see no reason why a repudiation would be absolutely necessary, and Euboea’s lack the title basilissa or such cultic honours as Laodice had received lead me to believe that she was clearly second in the eyes of Antiochus III. A lacuna from the Seleucid court from between 177 and 176 could possible be taken as indication that she was still alive after the death of Antiochus III, discussed by Bielman-Sanchez 2003.

Antiochus and Euboea gave birth to one unnamed daughter, mentioned at Livy 37.44.6 and in the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries in 187 (Grainger 1997, 71).