Antiochus VIII ‘Grypus’

Ruled 125-121 (with his mother), 121-96 b.c. independently.

Son of Demetrius II and Cleopatra Thea

Married first to Cleopatra Tryphaena, daughter of Ptolemy VIII

    -Laodice Thea = Mithridates I of Commagene

    -Antiochus XII Philopator Callinicus

    -Philip I

    -Antiochus XI Epiphanes Philadelphus

    -Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator

    -Demetrius III

Married second to Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Ptolemy VIII

    -No issue

Siver tetradrachm bearing jugate portraits of Cleopatra Thea and Antiochus VIII, Mint of Antioch, 123/2 b.c.

Antiochus VIII ‘Grypus’

So-nicknamed because of his trademark hooked nose. Antiochus VIII was the son of Demetrius II and Cleopatra Thea who was elevated to the Seleucid throne by his mother after the death of Demetrius II and the brief reign of Seleucus V. His brother Seleucus had, after his release from Parthia, taken the diadem without the support of his mother, who, according to Appian and Justin, killed him for the transgression (App.Syr.68-9, Justin 39.1.9, also Livy.Epit.60 and Porphyry F32.23-4, Ogden 1999, 151, and Grainger 1997, 31-2). Cleopatra Thea reigned independently for roughly a year and minted her own coinage, but then associated herself with her younger son by Demetrius, Antiochus. In so doing, he became Antiochus VIII.

The paired rule, however, was not to endure long. As Justin recounts, Cleopatra Thea remained as overbearing as ever and began to chafe at the independence her son was increasingly exhibiting on the throne. After a day of hunting in the heat, when he returned to the palace he was offered a cool drink by his mother. Suspecting the worst, Antiochus insisted she take the first sip, and thus died Cleopatra Thea, wife of three Seleucid kings, inadvertently by her own hand (Justin 39.2.7-8, Whitehorne 2001, 162).

The first of two attested marriages for the king, who reigned unusually long by the chaotic standards of the late Seleucids, was to Cleopatra Tryphaena in roughly 124/3 B.C. (Justin 39.2.1, 39.2.3-12, RE 11.748-50, Whitehorne 2001, 162). We can attribute, with some degree of certainty, a striking six children to the marriage: five sons and one daughter, Laodice (Jos.AJ.13.13.4, Porphyry F32.25-8, and Bellinger 1949, 72). For the troubled interactions of their sons with one another and the group of rival claimants to the throne, I defer to the far more thorough analysis and narrative of Whitehorne 2001 and Bellinger 1949.

A sisterly feud amongst the Egyptians spilled over into Syria with the roughly-concurrent marriage of Cleopatra Tryphaena to Antiochus VIII, and Cleopatra IV to his half-brother Antiochus IX. After a victory by her husband, Cleopatra Tryphaena - so Justin recounts - persuaded her husband to murder in a brutal manner her much-reviled sister. In return for this, after Antiochus IX later defeated Antiochus VIII in battle, he sought vengeance for his wife’s murder by killing Tryphaena in turn (Justin 39.3.2-12, Bellinger 1949, 68-9).

Their daughter Laodice would go on to marry Mithridates I of Commagene, and assume the title ‘Philadelphus’ as a sign of the newly forged unity between the two houses (Muccioli 1994, 414-6). That the kings of Commagene would later go one to claim Seleucid and Persian descent through this one late Seleucid female is testament to endurance of the pedigree, if not the family’s power.

Antiochus VIII later received a replacement bride from his ally in Egypt, Cleopatra III. In 102, Cleopatra Selene, after her forcible divorce from her brother Ptolemy IX, was sent to Syria to marry the widower king (App.Syr.69, Justin 39.4.4, Whitehorne 2001, 167). She arrived along with reinforcements for her new husband to bolster his campaign (Jost.AJ.13.12.3-13, Justin 39.4.4). The pair produced no attested children.