Seleucus IV Philopator

Ruled 187-175 b.c.



Son of Antiochus III and Laodice III



Married to Laodice IV, parentage unknown

    -Demetrius I Soter = Laodice (unknown)

    -Antiochus (d.168)

    -Laodice = Perseus of Macedon













The ‘Heliodorus Stele.’ correspondance between Seleucus IV and Heliodorus regarding the Hebrew Temple

Seleucus IV Philopator


Son of Antiochus III and Laodice III, Seleucus IV became co-regent with his father in 193 and then king in 187 after his father’s death in the East (Pol.18.51.8, App.Syr.26, Holleaux 1916). His reign, as Grainger notes, was an unusually quiet one by Seleucid standards and was focussed more on recovery and consolidation after the disastrous terms of the Roman peace than on expansion or campaigning (Grainger 1997, 63-5, and Hoover 2002, 83-5).


Nearly every scholar of the Seleucids to date his assumed that Seleucus IV, and later his brother Antochus IV, were married in sequence to their sister Laodice after the death of her husband/brother Antiochus Neos. Such a far-reaching assumption, though almost universally accepted, rests on connections made using very tenuous evidence. The only literary mention that we have of this Laodice (RE 18) is in the context of her marriage to Antiochus Neos in Appian, and then she disappears entirely from the literary record only to appear in an inscription naming her a high priestess of her mother’s cult. Laodice (RE 19), wife of Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV is never actually mentioned in the literary sources and appears only epigraphically and numismatically. Scholars have simply presumed that the two are the same based on convenience and the presumption that Antiochus III would have simply –and immediately – substituted Seleucus IV for Antiochus Neos. The argument is entirely inferential, and even Dittenberger doubted that the connection could be made with any degree of certainty. 


I agree with Dittenberger in seriously doubting the possibility that Laodice (RE 18) is the same as Laodice (RE 19). The chronology of the equation also does not necessarily follow: if such a replacement was automatic, then why did Antiochus III wait four years to name his new heir? Moreover, if we presume that Seleucus IV was born around 220-15 BC, as seems likely, then by the death of his brother he would have been between 28 and 23 years old; the chances of him having already married are likely, especially as he was a governor in Thrace. Antiochus III showed himself to be perfectly willing to marry his other children off to various client dynasts and even to the Ptolemies, and likely would not have hesitated to find another match for this now-widowed Laodice. I see no reason to assume that he automatically transferred Laodice 18 to her younger brother. By the reign of Antiochus III, Seleucid marriage connections had spread the name of Laodice everywhere from Cappadocia, Anatolia, and Pontus to Parthia and it is as if there is a contemporary shortage of Laodices. Given the emphasis and frequency with which later Seleucid women who took multiple husbands in succession are mentioned in the ancient literary sources, I suspect – though this is by no means definitive – that Justin or Polybius would have made some note of such a monumental dynastic event as one sister being married to three brothers in succession. If Antiochus truly was inspired by the Ptolemaic model to such serial close endogamy, then he would have realized the importance of such a dynastic trait to the public image and pompe of the dynasty. As such we would expect these marriages to advertised broadly, be it in inscriptions, numismatic iconography, or even the surname philadelphus but, alas, no such publicity appears. I find it difficult to believe that an event described by contemporary scholars as a monumental shift in dynastic policy would have completely slipped below the radar of the ancients.


That being said, I strongly agree with the identification of Laodice 19 as the wife of both Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV in succession. For this we need only to look at numismatic iconography for substantiation: in an article from 2002, Hoover compares portraits of a veiled queen that appear on coins struck by both Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV and concludes that the two women are one and the same. Seleucus IV would have prominently displayed his wife on his coinage to promote an image of family solidarity that is in keeping with the general theme of rebuilding and consolidation that characterizes his reign as a whole. Antiochus IV, for his part, would have included her to legitimate his rule after he technically usurped the throne from the son of Seleucus. The levirate marriage of the widowed Laodice by Antiochus IV would have given a sense of continuity between the two brothers’ reigns while bolstering Epiphanes’ own legitimacy. Incidentally – and again this is a tenuous point but nonetheless one that ought to be made – the Laodice depicted on the coinage of Seleucus IV appears noticeably young, subtly reinforcing the notion that she is a younger bride taken from elsewhere and not the sister of Seleucus who would, by the time of his reign, have been roughly 25-30. All in all, I argue that Laodice, wife of Antiochus Neos, was not the same Laodice who married Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV in succession. Instead, this latter Laodice was taken from one of the many related dynasties that formed the Seleucid extended family and was married to Seleucus in accordance with the well-established habit of choosing wives from client dynasties as a means of reinforcing the central authority of the house.


At any rate, this Laodice IV, of unknown parentage, is recorded in OGIS 252 and  I Delos 1497 (Grainger 1997, Laodice (15), 50). The couple had three attested children: an elder son Demetrius, younger son Antiochus, and daughter Laodice. Demetrius was sent as a hostage to Rome in 178 in accordance with the terms of the peace, where he would remain until 162 (Pol.31.2.5, App.Syr.45, Justin 34.3.6-8, Grainger 1997, 41).


Laodice, daughter of Seleucus IV and Laodice IV, was married to Perseus of Macedon as a striking sign of solidarity between the two houses in 177 B.C (Pol.26.7, Livy 42.12, Justin 35.1.2). Although many scholars have, in a similar technique to the aforementioned cross-identification of Laodice IV, presumed that this Laodice returned to Syria after Perseus’ defeat and married her brother Demetrius, I reject this in accordance with the erudite arguments of Helliesen 1980.


On the death of his father his younger son Antiochus was made king after Rome refused to release his older brother Demetrius (Pol 31.12). The young king was briefly adopted as co-regent by his uncle Antiochus IV, until he was murdered after the birth of a son to Antiochus IV and Laodice IV (John of Antioch F58, Diod.30.7.2, Austin 138, Le Rider 1986, 409-17).


-AJPM