Demetrius II Nicator

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For the similarly named Macedonian ruler, see Demetrius II of Macedon. For the Macedonian prince, see Demetrius the Fair.

Demetrius II (Greek: Δημήτριος Β` died 125 BC), called Nicator (Greek: "Νικάτωρ", i.e. "Victor"), was one of the sons of Demetrius I Soter, brother of Antiochus VII Sidetes and his mother could have been Laodice V. He ruled the Seleucid Empire for two periods, separated by a number of years of captivity in Parthia.


In Exile

As a young boy, he fled to Crete after the death of his father, his mother and his older brother, when Alexander Balas usurped the Seleucid throne.

First Reign

About 147 BC he returned to Syria, and with the backing of Ptolemy VI Philometor, king of Egypt, regained his father's throne. The Egyptian king also divorced his daughter Cleopatra Thea from Balas and remarried her to Demetrius.[1] Alexander fled to the Nabateans who, anxious to stay on good terms with Egypt, cut off his head.

However, Demetrius was not a popular king. The people of Syria had little respect for the young boy, who had come to power with the help of Egypt and Cretan mercenaries led by the ruthless condottiere Lasthenes. The Antiochenians offered the Seleucid throne to Ptolemy VI, who had already conquered most of southern Syria for his own interest. However, he insisted Demetrius would become king, knowing that Rome would never tolerate a unified Hellenistic state, and the year after Ptolemy VI was killed when Alexander Balas made a last desperate attempt to regain his throne. The Egyptian troops marched home, leaderless and disillusioned, and with Balas dead as well Demetrius became sole master of the Seleucid kingdom.

But new troubles soon arose. The pillaging of the Cretan soldiers caused the Antiochenians to rise in rebellion, and only after terrible massacres was order restored. Soon after, the general Diodotus conquered Antioch and had his protégé Antiochus VI Dionysus, the infant son of Alexander Balas, proclaimed king. Demetrius proved unable to retake the capital, instead establishing himself in Seleucia. Diodotus had Antiochus VI deposed a few years later, and made himself King as Tryphon, but the division of the kingdom between the legitimate Seleucid heir and the usurper in Antioch persisted.

Defeat and captivity

In 139 BC Parthian activity forced Demetrius to take action. He marched against Mithradates I, king of Parthia and was initially successful, but was defeated in the Iranian mountains and taken prisoner the following year. The Babylonian province of the Seleucid empire became Parthian, but in Syria was the dynasty's grip was reassured under Antiochus VII Sidetes, the younger brother of Demetrius, who also married Cleopatra Thea.

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