Demetrius III Eucaerus

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Demetrius III Eucaerus
King of the Seleucid Empire (King of Syria)
Reign 95 BC (with Antiochus X Eusebes, Antiochus XI Epiphanes, and Philip I Philadelphus)
Predecessor Seleucus VI Epiphanes
Successor Philip I Philadelphus or Antiochus XII Dionysus
Born Unknown
Died 88 BC
Dynasty Seleucid
Father Antiochus VIII Grypus
Mother Tryphaena

Demetrius III (died 88 BC), called Eucaerus ("well-timed," possibly a misunderstanding of the derogative name Akairos, "the untimely one"), Philopator and Soter, was a ruler of the Seleucid kingdom, the son of Antiochus VIII Grypus and his wife Tryphaena.


The earliest coins struck in the name of Demetrius III started to be produced in the Seleucid year 216 (97/96 BC),[note 1][2] the only ancient literary dealing with Demetrius III's career are the works of Josephus and the Pesher Nahum, a sectarian commentary on the Book of Nahum.[3] Historian Kay Ehling noted that Josephus' account is a condensed summary, and that the actual course of events surrounding Demetrius III's seizure of power need to be reconstructed.[4] Thus, interpreting the numismatic evidence is instrumental for the problematic chronological reconstruction of Demetrius III's reign.[5]

Name and royal titulary[edit]

Demetrius (translit. Demetrios) is a Greek name that means "belonging to Demeter", the Greek goddess of fertility.[6] Seleucid kings were mostly named Seleucus and Antiochus; "Demetrius" was used by the Antigonid dynasty of Macedonia as a royal name, and its use by the Seleucids, who had Antigonid decent, probably signified that they were heirs of the latter.[7] Hellenistic kings did not use regnal numbers, which is a modern practice; instead, they used epithets to distinguish themselves from similarly named monarchs.[8][9] Demetrius III's most used epithets are Theos (divine), Philopator (father-loving) and Soter (saviour);[10] All his Damascene coins have the aforementioned epithets inscribed,[11] but some coins from Antioch and Cilicia have the epithets Philometor (mother-loving) and Euergetes (benefactor),[12][13] which also appear on some coins from Seleucia Pieria combined with the epithet Callinicus (nobly-victorious).[12] Theos Philopator Soter served to emphasise Demetrius III descent from the line of his grandfather Demetrius II who bore the epithet Theos; Soter was an epithet of Demetrius III's great-grandfather Demetrius I, while Philopator represented Demetrius III's devotion to his deceased father Antiochus VIII.[14] With Philometor, Demetrius III probably sought to emphasise his Ptolemaic decent through his mother Tryphaena.[15]

Eucaerus is a popular nickname used by the majority of modern historians to denote Demetrius III; this is a mistranscription of the nickname given by Josephus in his works The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. The earliest Greek manuscripts of Josephus' works contain the nickname Akairos in three places. Eucaerus appeared as a later development, and is attested in the Latin versions of the manuscripts.[note 2][18] Eucaerus translates to "well-timed", while Akairos means "the untimely one".[19] Josephus did not explain the origin of Akairos;[20] he seems to be mocking Demetrius III's humiliating defeat after his almost complete victory.[21] Such popular nicknames are never found on coins, but are handed down through ancient literature only;[22] neither Eucaerus or Akairos were used by the king on his coinage.[23] Josephus is the only source for the nickname; in the view of historians David Levenson and Thomas Martin, Eucaerus should not be used to refer to the king; instead, Akairos, or one of Demetrius III's official epithets should be used.[18]

Manner of succession[edit]

According to Josephus, Ptolemy IX of Egypt installed Demetrius III in Damascus following the death of Antiochus XI 93 BC; this statement can not be correct as the date given by Josephus contradicts the numismatic evidence from Damascus.[2] Despite the chronological error, several arguments justify the existence of a collaboration between Ptolemy IX and Demetrius III;[24] according to Ehling, the assumption of the epithet Philometor (mother loving) was meant to highlight Demetrius III's relation to his uncle Ptolemy IX, the brother of Tryphaena.[15]

The numismatist Oliver Hoover viewed the ascendance of Demetrius III through the context of the war of sceptres, a military conflict between Ptolemy IX, and his mother Cleopatra III, who was allied with Alexander Jannaeus of Judaea. This war ended in 101 BC, and took place in Coele-Syria; Ptolemy IX was defeated and retreated to Cyprus. However, Hoover noted that Josephus synchronised the retreat of Ptolemy IX with the death of Antiochus VIII in 97/6 BC; such a synchronization is perceived as imprecise by many scholars, but Hoover suggested that Josephus consciously associated the two events. According to Hoover, Josephus' account regarding Ptolemy IX's installation of Demetrius III in Damascus indicates that the Egyptian monarch did not evacuate Syria after the conclusion of his war with Cleopatra III, or that he perhaps invaded a second time to help Demetrius III following the death of his father. Ptolemy IX probably hoped to use his nephew as an agent in the region; if Demetrius III was installed by his uncle in Damascus in 97/96 BC, then Josephus' synchronisation between Ptolemy IX's departure and the death of Antiochus VIII is correct.[25] Only one Damascene obverse die is known from the year 97/96, indicating that Demetrius III's reign started late that year, giving him little time to produce more dies.[26]

Ehling proposed a different reconstruction of events; he contested the dating of Antiochus VIII's death to 96 BC based on Demetrius III's earliest dated coins and argued in favour of 98/97 BC for the former's death and the latter's succession.[11] Ehling's argument agrees with the view of numismatist Arthur Houghton,[27] who noted that the volume of coins minted by Seleucus VI, the immediate successor of Antiochus VIII, before his takeover of Antioch in 95 BC, surpassed any other mint known from the late Seleucid period.[28] This led Houghton to suggest 98 or 97 BC instead of 96 BC for the death of Antiochus VIII as one year was not enough for Seleucus VI to produce his coins.[29] Hoover rejected the new dating, noting that it was not rare for a king to double his production in a single year at times of military campaigns, which was the case for Seleucus VI who was preparing for war against his uncle Antiochus IX,[30] the 96 BC date is deduced from the statement of Josephus who wrote that Antiochus VIII, who assumed the throne in 125 BC, ruled for twenty nine years and this date is corroborated by Porphyry who gave the year 97/96 for Antiochus VIII's death;[27] the academic consensus prefers the year 96 BC for the death of Antiochus VIII.[31]

Ehling's construction of Demetrius III's early reign have Demetrius III declaring himself king immediately after the death of his father;[32] with the help of Ptolemy IX, who, in the view of Ehling, probably supported his nephew with money, troops and ships,[4] Demetrius III landed in Seleucia in Pieria, whose inhabitants were known for being Ptolemaic sympathizers, and was crowned king.[15] Demetrius III then took Antioch and spent few weeks in the city before the arrival of Antiochus IX.[32] Demetrius III then marched on Damascus and made it his capital in 97 BC.[15] Ehling counted on numismatic arguments; since all the Damascene coins of Demetrius III, which ceased production when the monarch lost his throne, carried dates from 97/96 to 88/87 BC, and the coins bearing the epithets Philometor Euregetes from Antioch bear no dates, then it is logical to assume that the Antiochene issues preceded the Damascene one.[12] Ehling explained the change of royal titulary from Philometor Euergetes Callinicus in the north to Theos Philopator Soter in Damascus as a sign of a break between Demetrius III and Ptolemy IX; the Syrian king cast the epithet Philometor and instead invoked his father's heritage by assuming the epithet Philopator.[15] On the other hand, the majority of numismatists date Demetrius III's Antiochene coins to the year 88/87 BC.[33][34]

Judaean Campaign[edit]

To the south he defeated the Maccabean king Alexander Jannaeus in battle, following a request for assistance by Jewish rebels, but the hostility of the local Jewish population forced him to withdraw. While attempting to dethrone his brother, Philip I Philadelphus, he was defeated by the Arabs and the Parthian Empire, and taken prisoner. He was kept in confinement in Parthia by Mithridates II until his death in 88 BC.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Some dates in the article are given according to the Seleucid era which is indicated when two years have a slash separating them. Each Seleucid year started in the late autumn of a Gregorian year; thus, a Seleucid year overlaps two Gregorian ones.[1]
  2. ^ Eucaerus also appears in the tables of contents written in the sixth century for the older Greek manuscripts. Those tables are actually summaries of the main text;[16] they sometimes contain discrepancies with the main work.[17]



  1. ^ Biers 1992, p. 13.
  2. ^ a b Atkinson 2016, p. 10.
  3. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 311.
  4. ^ a b Ehling 2008, p. 239.
  5. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 310.
  6. ^ Hoschander 1915, p. 651.
  7. ^ Bevan 2014, p. 56.
  8. ^ McGing 2010, p. 247.
  9. ^ Hallo 1996, p. 142.
  10. ^ Burgess 2004, p. 23.
  11. ^ a b Ehling 2008, p. 232.
  12. ^ a b c Ehling 2008, pp. 232, 233.
  13. ^ Houghton, Lorber & Hoover 2008, p. nr. 2444.
  14. ^ Hoover, Houghton & Veselý 2008, p. 212.
  15. ^ a b c d e Ehling 2008, p. 240.
  16. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 315.
  17. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 316.
  18. ^ a b Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 307.
  19. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 309.
  20. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 335.
  21. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 336.
  22. ^ Ehling 2008, p. 97.
  23. ^ Levenson & Martin 2009, p. 313.
  24. ^ Dąbrowa 2011, p. 177.
  25. ^ Hoover 2006, p. 28.
  26. ^ Hoover, Houghton & Veselý 2008, p. 204.
  27. ^ a b Ehling 2008, p. 231.
  28. ^ Houghton 1989, pp. 97, 98.
  29. ^ Houghton 1989, p. 98.
  30. ^ Hoover 2007, p. 286.
  31. ^ Houghton 1989, p. 97.
  32. ^ a b Ehling 2008, p. 234.
  33. ^ Hoover, Houghton & Veselý 2008, p. 208.
  34. ^ Lorber & Iossif 2009, p. 103.


External links[edit]

Demetrius III Eucaerus
Born: Unknown Died: 88 BC
Preceded by
Seleucus VI Epiphanes
Seleucid King (King of Syria)
95 BC
with Antiochus X Eusebes (95 BC)
Antiochus XI Epiphanes (95 BC)
Philip I Philadelphus (95 BC)
Succeeded by
Philip I Philadelphus or Antiochus XII Dionysus