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in Religion Past and Present Online

(the Great; died 187 bce) and IV (Epiphanes; died 164 bce, Elymais), father and son, were Seleucid kings in Syria. Antiochus III reigned from 223 bce until his death and was able to enlarge the borders of his kingdom greatly: his "Anabasis" of the years 212-205, to Armenia, Iran, Bactria, India, and Arabia, won him the title "the Great." In 200 bce he took Palestine from the Ptolemies (Ptolemaic dynasty) in the Fifth Syrian War. In the 190s Antiochus entered Thrace and mainland Greece. He became involved in war with Rome, which had just recently finished its Second Punic War and was free to become involved in the eastern Mediterranean. This war culminated in Antiochus's defeat at Magnesia (190 bce) and the Treaty of Apamaea (188 bce), which imposed humiliating terms upon Syria. Antiochus was first succeeded by his son Seleucus IV and then in 175 bce by Antiochus IV, who played a considerable role in religious history. Contravening the Hellenic tradition of non-intervention in Jewish religion, he authorized the removal and appointment of high priests and it was under his rule that Jerusalem saw the beginnings of institutionalized Hellenization: already in the 170s Antiochia-in-Jerusalem was founded in his honor with his permission (2 Macc 4). In the early 160s Antiochus became involved in conflict with the Jews; his activities ranged from plundering the temple of Jerusalem (and other temples) to the imposition of decrees against the practice of Judaism, thus engendering both martyrdom and rebellion. These decrees, a radical departure from the tolerance normally characteristic of paganism, were possibly an ill-advised response to a Jewish rebellion, hinted at in 2 Macc 5. These events occurred around the same time as Antiochus's humiliation in Alexandria at the hands of Rome, when he was thrown out at a moment's notice, after successfully conquering Egypt. The patent reversal of Antiochus's fortunes could have encouraged a Jewish revolt, and (cf. Dan 11.30) it may also have engendered a less than balanced response in Antiochus. Polybius claims, in the fragments of Book 26, that Antiochus was not the most balanced individual. Be that as it may, Antiochus's attention was not riveted by his Judaean affairs, although the Jewish sources understandably give great prominence to them. After a magnificent military spectacle in Daphne in 166 bce, he set off for a new eastern campaign, like his father before him - and like him died in its course in Elymais, not before abrogating his decrees against Judaism. Several sources describe his death, at times with great relish, as illustrating the divine punishment of those characterized by hubris or those who persecuted the Jews; see esp. 2 Macc 9; 1 Macc 6; Jos. Ant. XII, 354-359.

in Religion Past and Present Online