Demetrius II Nicator

Ruled 145-138 b.c., 129-125 b.c.

Son of Demetrius I and Laodice V

Married first to Cleopatra Thea, daughter of Ptolemy VI

   -Seleucus V

   -Antiochus VIII ‘Grypus’

   -Laodice = Phraates II of Parthia

Married second to Rhodogune of Parthia, daughter of Mithridates


   -anonymous (App Syr 68)

Silver tetradrachm, second reign of Demetrius II, Mint of Ptolemaïs-Ake, c.127/6 b.c.

Demetrius II Nicator

As popular discontent both amongst the citizens of Syria and his former allies towards Alexander Balas translated into support for another potential claimant to the throne, Demetrius II became the new favourite in the dynastic arena. So unpopular was his predecessor that Demetrius II was given Balas’ wife, Cleopatra Thea, along with the Seleucid throne and Ptolemaic endorsement in 148/7 (Just.AJ.13.108, Diod.32.37, Whitehorne 2001, 151). At this point, Demetrius would have been around 14, and Cleopatra Thea perhaps 19 (Ogden 1999, 148).

Cleopatra’s second marriage proved somewhat more fertile and she gave birth to three children by Demetrius: the future (and ill-fated) Seleucus V, Antiochus VIII ‘Grypus’ - so named because of his distinctive hooked nose - and a daughter, Laodice (Jos.AJ.13.10.1, App.Syr.68, Marcurdy 1932, 96-9, Whitehorne 2001, 151-5, and Ogden 1999,

Although a fragment of John of Antioch (FGrH 4.561) mentions that an otherwise-unattested wife of Demetrius named Apama killed her son Seleucus in Damascus in 126, I believe that he - never amongst the most reliable of authors in such details - is incorrectly identifying Cleopatra Thea as Apama. Given that she is otherwise attested as having killed her son Seleucus V for taking the diadem without her endorsement, the error becomes quite apparent (App.Syr.68-9, Justin 39.1.9, Bellinger 1949, 59, and Ogden 1999, 148-50).

While on campaign in the East against the Parthians, Demetrius was captured by Phraates II in 139 and became a hostage at the Parthian court (Justin 36.1.2-6, 38.9.2-3, Jos.AJ.13.184-186). Despite two failed attempts at escape and rescue he remained in captivity, and was given a sister of Phraates, Rhodogune, to take as his Parthian wife in a scheme that seems to be an attempt by the Parthian King to gain a dynastic foothold amongst the Seleucids (Justin 36.9.3-10, App.Syr.67, Grainger 1997, 43, and Bellinger 1949, 58-9). Appian mentions at least two children from the pair, neither the gender nor the name of either is known (App.Syr.68). 

Cleopatra, during the captivity of Demetrius, married his brother Antiochus VII. Though Appian would have us believe that she played the part of the jilted lover after Demetrius’ marriage to Rhodogune, that she bore his brother several children and later condemned Demetrius to death by shutting him out of Ptolemais-Ake after he returned from Parthia, speak against such a notion (App.Syr.68, Livy.Epit.60). Cleopatra herself would later be forced to drink the very poison with which she had hoped to murder another pretentious son, Antiochus VIII, when her plan was discovered (Justin 39.2).

Laodice, the daughter of Cleopatra Thea and Demetrius II, was brought by her uncle Antiochus VII on his expedition to the East and was captured by the Parthians c.129 B.C. (Justin 38..10.10, Eus.Chron.1.40.19). According to Justin, after she was brought into the harem of the Parthian King, he quickly fell in love with and married her (Macurdy 1932, 98).