Antiochus III the Great

6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire (r. 222–187 BC)

Antiochus III
Basileus Megas
Bust from the Louvre, possibly Roman copy of Hellenistic portrait of Antiochus III
Basileus Megas of the Seleucid Empire
ReignApril/June 223 – 3 July 187 BC
(36 years)
PredecessorSeleucus III Ceraunus
SuccessorSeleucus IV Philopator
Bornc. 241 BC
Susa, Seleucid Empire
Died3 July 187 BC (aged 54)
Susa, Seleucid Empire
SpouseLaodice III
Euboea of Chalcis
Seleucus IV Philopator
Laodice of Bactria
Laodice IV, Queen of the Seleucid Empire
Cleopatra I Syra, Queen of Egypt
Antiochis, Queen of Cappadocia
Antiochus IV
Antiochos ho Mégas
Ἀντίoχoς ὁ Μέγας
("Antiochus the Great")
FatherSeleucus II Callinicus
MotherLaodice II
ReligionGreek polytheism

Antiochus III the Great (/ænˈtəkəs/; Greek: Ἀντίοχος ὁ Μέγας Antíokhos ho Mégas; c. 241 – 3 July 187 BC)[1] was a Greek Hellenistic king and the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire, reigning from 223 to 187 BC.[2][3][4] He ruled over the region of Syria and large parts of the rest of western Asia towards the end of the 3rd century BC. Rising to the throne at the age of eighteen in April/June 223 BC, his early campaigns against the Ptolemaic Kingdom were unsuccessful, but in the following years Antiochus gained several military victories and substantially expanded the empire's territory. His traditional designation, the Great, reflects an epithet he assumed. He also assumed the title Basileus Megas (Greek for "Great King"), the traditional title of the Persian kings. A militarily active ruler, Antiochus restored much of the territory of the Seleucid Empire, before suffering a serious setback, towards the end of his reign, in his war against Rome.

Declaring himself the "champion of Greek freedom against Roman domination", Antiochus III waged a four-year war against the Roman Republic beginning in mainland Greece in the autumn of 192 BC[5][6] before being decisively defeated at the Battle of Magnesia. He died three years later on campaign in the east.


Background and early reign

Seleucid Kingdom at the time of Antiochus's accession to the throne.

Antiochus III was a member of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty.[7][8][9][10] He was the son of king Seleucus II Callinicus and Laodice II, aunt of Seleucus, and was born around 242 BC near Susa in Persia.[11] He may have borne a non-dynastic name (starting with Ly-), according to a Babylonian chronicle. He succeeded, under the name Antiochus, his brother Seleucus III Ceraunus, upon the latter's murder in Anatolia; he was in Babylon at the time.[12]

Antiochus III inherited a disorganized state. Not only had Asia Minor become detached, but the easternmost provinces had broken away, Bactria under the Seleucid Diodotus of Bactria, and Parthia under the rebel satrap Andragoras in 247–245 BC, who was himself later vanquished by the nomad chieftain Arsaces. In 222 BC, soon after Antiochus's accession, Media and Persis revolted under their governors, the brothers Molon and Alexander. The young king, under the influence of the minister Hermeias, headed an attack on Ptolemaic Syria instead of going in person to face the rebels. The attack against the Ptolemaic empire proved a fiasco, and the generals sent against Molon and Alexander met with disaster. Only in Asia Minor, where the king's cousin, Achaeus, represented the Seleucid cause, did its prestige recover, driving the Pergamene power back to its earlier limits.[13]

In 221 BC Antiochus at last went far east, and the rebellion of Molon and Alexander collapsed which Polybius attributes in part to his following the advice of Zeuxis rather than Hermeias.[14] The submission of Lesser Media, which had asserted its independence under Artabazanes, followed. Antiochus conspired with his physician and allies to have Hermeias assassinated,[15] and then returned to Syria (220 BC). Meanwhile, Achaeus himself had revolted and assumed the title of king in Asia Minor. Though, due to the brewing mutiny of his troops arising from their dissatisfaction over his rebellion against their king, Achaeus desisted from his attempted coup and retreated.[16] While sending additional threats to Achaeus, Antiochus left him for the time being and renewed his attempts on Ptolemaic Syria.[17][13]

Early wars against other Hellenistic rulers

Seleucid Empire after the wars of expansion

The campaigns of 219 BC and 218 BC carried the Seleucid armies almost to the confines of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, but in 217 BC Ptolemy IV defeated Antiochus at the Battle of Raphia. This defeat nullified all Antiochus's successes and compelled him to withdraw north of Lebanon. In 216 BC his army marched into western Anatolia to suppress the local rebellion led by Antiochus's own cousin Achaeus, and had by 214 BC driven him from the field into Sardis. Capturing Achaeus, Antiochus had him executed. The citadel managed to hold out until 213 BC under Achaeus's widow Laodice who surrendered later.[13]

Having thus recovered the central part of Asia Minor (for the Seleucid government had perforce to tolerate the dynasties in Pergamon, Bithynia and Cappadocia), Antiochus turned to recovering the outlying provinces of the north and east. He besieged Xerxes of Armenia in 212 BC, who had refused to pay tribute, and forced his capitulation.[18] In 209 BC Antiochus invaded Parthia, occupied the capital Hecatompylos and pushed forward into Hyrcania, winning the Battle of Mount Labus. The Parthian king Arsaces II apparently successfully sued for peace.[13]

Bactrian campaign and Indian expedition

The year 209 BC saw Antiochus in Bactria, where the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I had supplanted the original rebel. Antiochus again met with success.[19] Euthydemus was defeated by Antiochus at the Battle of the Arius but after sustaining a famous siege in his capital Bactra (Balkh), he obtained an honourable peace by which Antiochus promised Euthydemus's son Demetrius the hand of Laodice, his daughter, and allowed Euthydemus himself to keep his royal title.[13][20]

Antiochus next, following in the steps of Alexander, crossed into the Kabul valley, reaching the realm of Indian king Sophagasenus and returned west by way of Seistan and Kerman (206/5).[13] According to Polybius:

He crossed the Caucasus and descended into India, renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus, king of the Indians, and received more elephants, raising their number to a total of one hundred and fifty, and provisioned his army once more on the spot. He himself broke camp with his troops, leaving behind Androsthenes of Cyzicus to bring back the treasure which this king (Sophagasenus) had agreed to give him.[21][20]

Persia and Coele Syria campaigns

From Seleucia on the Tigris he led a short expedition down the Persian Gulf against the Gerrhaeans of the Arabian coast (205 BC/204 BC). Antiochus seemed to have restored the Seleucid empire in the east, which earned him the title of "the Great" (Antiochos Megas).[22] In 205/204 BC the infant Ptolemy V Epiphanes succeeded to the Egyptian throne, and Antiochus is said (notably by Polybius) to have concluded a secret pact with Philip V of Macedon for the partition of the Ptolemaic possessions.[13] Under the terms of this pact, Macedon was to receive the Ptolemaic possessions around the Aegean Sea and Cyrene, while Antiochus would annex Cyprus and Egypt.

Once more Antiochus attacked the Ptolemaic province of Coele Syria and Phoenicia, and by 199 BC he seems to have had possession of it before the Aetolian leader Scopas recovered it for Ptolemy. But that recovery proved brief, for in 198 BC Antiochus defeated Scopas at the Battle of Panium, near the sources of the Jordan, a battle which marks the end of Ptolemaic rule in Judea.[13]

War against Rome and death

Antiochus then moved to Asia Minor, by land and by sea, to secure the coast towns which belonged to the remnants of Ptolemaic overseas dominions and the independent Greek cities. This enterprise earned him the antagonism of the Roman Republic, since Smyrna and Lampsacus appealed to the Republic, which at the time acted as a defender of Greek freedom. The tension grew when Antiochus in 196 BC established a footing in Thrace. The evacuation of Greece by the Romans gave Antiochus his opportunity, and he now had the fugitive Hannibal at his court to urge him on.[13][23]

In 192 BC Antiochus invaded Greece with a 10,000-man army, and was elected the commander in chief of the Aetolian League.[24] In 191 BC, however, the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio routed him at Thermopylae, forcing him to withdraw to Asia Minor. The Romans followed up their success by invading Anatolia, and the decisive victory of Scipio Asiaticus at Magnesia ad Sipylum (190 BC), following the defeat of Hannibal at sea off Side, delivered Asia Minor into their hands.[13]

By the Treaty of Apamea (188 BC) Antiochus abandoned all the country north and west of the Taurus Mountains, most of which the Roman Republic gave either to Rhodes or to the Attalid ruler Eumenes II, its allies (many Greek cities were left free). As a consequence of this blow to the Seleucid power, the outlying provinces of the empire, recovered by Antiochus, reasserted their independence.[13] Antiochus mounted a fresh eastern expedition in Luristan, where he was killed while pillaging a temple of Bel at Elymaïs, Persia, in 187 BC.[6]


Coin of Antiochus the Great. The Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ, of King Antiochus.

In 222 BC, Antiochus III married Princess Laodice of Pontus, a daughter of King Mithridates II of Pontus and Princess Laodice of the Seleucid Empire. The couple were first cousins through their mutual grandfather, Antiochus II Theos. Antiochus and Laodice had eight children (three sons and five daughters):[25]

In 191 BC, Antiochus III married a girl[clarification needed] from Chalcis, whom he named "Euboea". They had no children. Laodice III may have fallen in disgrace; however, she clearly survived Antiochus III, and appears in Susa in 183 BC.[26]

Antiochus and the Jews

Antiochus III resettled 2000 Jewish families from Babylonia into the Hellenistic Anatolian regions of Lydia and Phrygia.[27] Josephus portrays him as friendly towards the Jews of Jerusalem and cognizant of their loyalty to him (see Antiquities of the Jews, Book XII, Chapter 3),[28] in stark contrast to the attitude of his son. In fact, Antiochus III lowered taxes, granted subventions to the Temple, and let the Jews live, as Josephus puts it, "according to the law of their forefathers."[29]

Antiochus III is the "king of the north" referred to in Daniel 11:11-19.[30]

Books of Maccabees

Antiochus III is mentioned in the deuterocanonical Books of the Maccabees. The subject of Maccabees is the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus' son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus III is first mentioned in 1 Maccabees 1:10, when Antiochus IV is introduced as "son of King Antiochus [Antiochus III]". Antiochus III is mentioned later in 1 Maccabees 8, which describes Judas Maccabeus' knowledge of the deeds of the Roman Republic, including an allusion to the defeat of Antiochus III by the Romans. The NRSV says "They [the Romans] also had defeated Antiochus the Great, king of Asia, who went to fight against them with one hundred twenty elephants and with cavalry and chariots and a very large army. He was crushed by them; they took him alive and decreed that he and those who would reign after him should pay a heavy tribute and give hostages and surrender some of their best provinces, the countries of India, Media, and Lydia. These they took from him and gave to King Eumenes." (1 Maccabees 8:6-8)

Cultural portrayals

  • During the Caroline era, the play Believe as You List was centred around Antiochus's resistance to the Romans after the Battle of Thermopylae. The play was originally about Sebastian of Portugal surviving the Battle of Alcazar, returning and trying to gather support to return to the throne. This first version was censored for being considered "subversive" because it portrayed Sebastian being deposed, it had comments in favour of an Anglo-Spanish alliance and it was possibly pro-Catholic. That led to the final version changing to the story of Antiochus, which led to historical inaccuracy in exaggerating his defeat at that phase in history to fit the earlier text and turning Spaniards into Romans and the Catholic eremite into a Stoic philosopher.[citation needed]
  • Antiochus features towards the end of Norman Barrow's historical novel, The High Priest (Faber & Faber, 1947), after his forces have reacquired Jerusalem from the Ptolemaic occupation. The book was noted by John Betjeman in the Daily Herald as "interesting".[31]

See also

  • iconAsia portal


  1. ^ "Antiochus III the Great". Archived from the original on 4 May 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  2. ^ Davies, Philip R. (2002). Second Temple studies III: studies in politics, class, and material culture. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-8264-6030-1. The difference is that from the perspective of Antiochus III, the Greek king of a Greek empire, or from the later point of view of a head of state communicating with a Greek city-state
  3. ^ Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu world, Volume 2. Concept Publishing Company. p. 510. ISBN 978-81-7022-375-7. Antiochus III the Great. Greek king who ruled an empire including Syria and western Asia (including Mesopotamia and Iran) towards the end of the 3rd century BC. It was during his time that Bactria became independent under Euthydemos. Shortly afterwards Antiochus III crossed the Hindu Kush and attacked an Indian prince named Subhagasena (Sophagasenas of the classical writers) who ruled over the Kabul valley. Antiochus III defeated Subhagasena, extorted from him a large cash indemnity and many elephants before he went back to his country. This invasion produced no permanent effect.
  4. ^ Jones, Peter V.; Sidwell, Keith C. (1997). The World of Rome: An Introduction to Roman Culture. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-521-38600-5. Antiochus III, the Greek king of Syria (the dynasty there was called 'Seleucid'), was busily expanding in Asia Minor and in 196 BC even crossed into Europe to annex part of Thrace.
  5. ^ Whitehorne, John Edwin George (1994). Cleopatras. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-415-05806-3. the autumn of 192 BC they heard that Antiochus III had crossed over to Greece with his army and declared himself the champion of Greek freedom against Roman domination.
  6. ^ a b Wilson. Nigel Guy (2006). Encyclopedia of ancient Greece. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-415-97334-2. ANTIOCHUS III THE GREAT c242-187 BC Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great was the sixth king (223-187 BC) … Antiochus landed on the mainland of Greece posing as a champion of Greek freedom against the Romans (192 BC).
  7. ^ Bertman, Stephen (2003). Handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia. Infobase Publishing. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-8160-4346-0. Antiochus III (222–187 BC) A member of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty
  8. ^ Zion, Noam; Spectre, Barbara (2000). A Different Light: The Big Book of Hanukkah. Devora Publishing. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-930143-37-1. Antiochus III, the Greek Seleucid Dynasty of Greater Syria captures Judea. 172 or 171-163
  9. ^ Baskin, Judith R.; Seeskin, Kenneth (2010). The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture. Cambridge University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-521-68974-8. The wars between the two most prominent Macedonian Generals dynasties, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, unalterably change the history of the land of Israel…As a result the land of Israel became part of the empire of the Syrian Greek Seleucids.
  10. ^ Glubb, Sir John Bagot (1967). Syria, Lebanon, Jordan. Thames & Hudson. p. 34. OCLC 585939. Although the Ptolemies and the Seleucids were perpetual rivals, both dynasties were Macedonian and ruled by means of Macedonian officials and Macedonian soldiers. Both governments made great efforts to attract immigrants from Macedonia and Greek city states, thereby adding yet another racial element to the population.
  11. ^ Jonsson, David J. (2005). The Clash of Ideologies. Xulon Press. p. 566. ISBN 978-1-59781-039-5. Antiochus III was born in 242 BC, the son of Seleucus II, near Susa, Persia.
  12. ^ "BCHP 12 (Seleucus III Chronicle) - Livius".
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Seleucid Dynasty s.v. Antiochus III. the Great". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 604–605.
  14. ^ [1] [dead link]
  15. ^ Polybius, Histories. 5.56
  16. ^ Polybius, Histories. 5.57
  17. ^ Polybius, Histories. 5.58
  18. ^ Chahin 1987, p. 190.
  19. ^ "Polybius 10.49, Antiochus Engages the Bactrians". Archived from the original on 18 May 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Polybius 11.34, Antiochus Moves from Bactria Through Interior Asia". Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  21. ^ Kosmin 2014, pp. 35–36.
  22. ^ Appian, The Syrian Wars 1.1
  23. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Antiochus s.v. Antiochus III." . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 132.
  24. ^ Bringmann, Klaus (2007). A history of the Roman republic. Polity. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-7456-3371-8. The Aetolians called on Antiochus the 'liberate' Greece and to act as arbitrator between them and the Romans. Thereupon the king landed in Demetrias in the late autumn of 192 with a small army, and the Aetolian assembly elected him supreme strategos. His attempt to gather together al those who were dissatisfied with the peace agreement of 196 under the banner of Greek freedom had some success but proved a failure overall.
  25. ^ "Antiochus III the Great - Livius". Archived from the original on 4 May 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  26. ^ I. Estremo Oriente 190
  27. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Amsterdam University Press. 2000. p. 61. ISBN 978-90-5356-503-2. Jewish settlements in the interior of Asia Minor were known as early as the 3rd century BC when Antiochus III resettled 2000 Jewish families from Babylonia into Lydia and Phrygia
  28. ^ "The Antiquities of the Jews 12:3:3". Archived from the original on 2 December 2021. Retrieved 14 December 2021.
  29. ^ E. Bickerman, "La Charte séleucide de Jérusalem," REJ 100 (1935): 4–35.
  30. ^ Chisholm, Robert B. (2009). Handbook on the Prophets. Baker Books. p. 309. ISBN 9781585583652. Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  31. ^ "Books - by John Betjeman". Daily Herald. British Newspaper Archive. 22 April 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 18 February 2018.


  • Bar-Kochva, Bezalel (1976). The Seleucid Army. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bevan, Edwyn Robert (1902). The House of Seleucus. London: Edward Arnolds.
  • Chahin, M. (1987). The Kingdom of Armenia: A History. Curzon Press.
  • Cook, S. A.; Adcock, F. E.; Charlesworth, M. P., eds. (1928). The Cambridge Ancient History. Vol. 7 & 8. New York: Macmillan.
  • Grabbe, Lester L. (1992). Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian. Fortress Press.
  • Kincaid, C. A. (1930). Successors of Alexander the Great. London: Pasmore and Co.
  • Kosmin, Paul J. (2014), The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in Seleucid Empire, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0674728820
  • Livy (1976). Bettenson, H (ed.). Rome and the Mediterranean. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0140443189.
  • Rawlings, Hunter R. (1976). "Antiochus the Great and Rhodes, 197–191 BC". American Journal of Ancient History. 1: 2–28.
  • Schmitt, Hatto (1964). Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Antiochos' des Grossen und Seiner Zeit. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.
  • Sherwin-White, Susan; Kuhrt, Amélie (1993). From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Taylor, Michael J. (2013). Antiochus the Great. Barnsley: Pen and Sword.
  • Grainger, John D. (2015). The Seleukid Empire of Antiochus III (223–187 BC). Barnsley: Pen and Sword.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antiochus III.
  • Antiochus III "the Great" entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
  • Antiochus III entry in 'Seleucid Genealogy' Archived 22 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine
Antiochus III the Great
Born: c. 241 BC Died: 187 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by Seleucid King
(King of Syria)

223–187 BC
Succeeded by
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ArgeadsAntipatridsAntigonidsPtolemiesMonarchs of CyreneSeleucidsLysimachidsAttalidsGreco-BactriansIndo-GreeksMonarchs of BithyniaMonarchs of PontusMonarchs of CommageneMonarchs of CappadociaMonarchs of the
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