(261-246 BC)

Antiochos II on the Belevi Sarcophagus in the Ephesus Museum

Antiochos II was born to his parents, Antiochos I Soter and Stratonike II, around 287 BC. Shortly after the execution of his rebellious brother, Seleukos, around 269 Antiochos II was officially associated with his father in the kingship and designated as heir to the throne.

At about the age of 24 the young king took up the reigns of power in his own right, beginning one of the more obscure periods of Seleukid history. Despite a reputation for alcoholism and excessive sensuality in some quarters, Antiochos II showed distinctive vigour in his dealings with Ptolemaic Egypt. and the cities of Asia Minor. He continued to wage the war conducted by his father to dislodge the forces of Ptolemy II from coastal Asia Minor with a good deal of success. In 258 BC the king managed to remove Timarchos, the pro Egyptian tyrant of Miletos, and for this great service the Milesian civic body voted him the title of Theos ('God').


<>The fall of Miletos caused the Ptolemaic forces in nearby Ephesos to mutiny and that city too was made over to the Seleukid house. These events made such a great impression on the Ionian Greeks that hundreds of years later, when Rome was the great world power, they still made appeals to the freedoms and liberties granted by Antiochos II Theos. Ephesos also gained the distinction of becoming a favourite headquarters for Seleukid kings and their families in the west.

<>Outside of Asia Minor Antiochos II was also at work in expanding the Seleukid Empire. He crossed into Europe at the head of an army to reclaim the Thracian territory lost at the death of Seleukos I Nikator and even managed to raise support among the local chieftains for the project. It is possible that the king may also have had designs on the nearby port city of Byzantion.
<>By 253 BC Antiochos II had shown that the Seleukid house was once again a strong power in the eastern Aegean and Mediterranean, causing the proponents of war in Alexandria to reconsider their position. Ultimately a peace agreement was struck between the king and Ptolemy II Philadelphos and the Second Syrian War was at last brought to a conclusion. As part of the treaty Antiochos gained a new wife of Ptolemaic stock, although he was already married to and had heirs by his first wife, Laodike. To solve this slight difficulty, Antiochos divorced Laodike and married his new queen, Berenike in 252 on the Seleukid/Ptolemaic frontier in Koile-Syria. The knew queen was known as Phernophoros ('the Dowry-bringer') because of the immense wealth that she brought to her new husband from Egypt. Territorial concessions in Kilikia and Pamphylia may also have been part of her great dowry.
Ephesos theatre and Hellenistic fountain

<>Although Berenike gave birth to an heir, her marriage to Antiochos II does not seem to have been especially happy. Laodike was not the sort of woman to brook rivals and by 246 she had brought Antiochos II back to her in Ephesos while Berenike and her child languished in Antioch. The decision to return to his first wife may have been fateful for the king, for before the year was out he was dead. It was widely rumoured that Laodike had poisoned him in an attempt to secure the succession for her children, Seleukos II and Antiochos Hierax.  The rumour gained credence by the events that immediately followed the death of Antiochos II. Agents of Laodike and Seleukos II murdered Berenike and her child, Antiochos, thereby destroying the tenuous peace between Seleukid and Ptolemy and igniting the disastrous Third Syrian War (246-241 BC), more popularly known as the Laodikean War, after its main author.

A new and troubled age was ushered in. Not only had a bitter war with the Ptolemies broken out, but the policy of Antiochos II was doomed to come back to haunt his descendants. Although he had increased Seleukid authority in the western portions of the empire, the north and east was crumbling away. In the late 250s BC Kappadokia and Bithynia claimed their independence with their own native rulers. Diodotos I, the satrap of Baktria also led his provence out of the Seleukid sphere at about this time. The great empire of Seleukos I Nikator was gradually slipping away.

View coins of Antiochos II Theos

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