Kleopatra Thea

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Kleopatra Thea (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Θεά) was an daughter of the siblings King Ptolemaios VI Philometor of Egypt and Kleopatra II of Egypt. She was the queen consort of three kings of Syria and the mother of four kings of Syria:

  • King Alexandros Balas of Syria; with whom she was the mother of King Antiochos VI Dionysos of Syria.
  • King Demetrios II Nikator of Syria; with whom she was the mother of King Seleukos V Philometor of Syria and King Antiochos VIII Grypos of Syria.
  • King Antiochos VII Euergetes of Syria; with whom she was the mother of King Antiochos IX Kyzikenos of Syria.


Marriage with Alexandros Balas[edit]

After defeating and slaying his rival King Demetrios I Soter in battle and obtaining the throne of Syria, King Alexandros Balas of Syria asked King Ptolemaios VI Philometor of Egypt for his daughter's hand in marriage.

Now that I have returned to my realm, taken my seat on the throne of my ancestors, and established my rule by crushing Demetrius and gaining control of my country—for I engaged him in battle, he and his army were crushed by us, and we assumed his royal throne—let us now establish friendship with each other. Give me now your daughter for my wife; and as your son-in-law, I will give to you and to her gifts worthy of you.

— 1 Maccabees 10:52–10:54 (NABRE)

Ptolemaios agreed.

Happy the day on which you returned to the land of your ancestors and took your seat on their royal throne! I will do for you what you have written; but meet me in Ptolemais, so that we may see each other, and I will become your father-in-law as you have proposed.

— 1 Maccabees 10:55–10:56 (NABRE)

And Alexandros married Kleopatra Theo at Ptolemais. High Priest Jonathan Apphus of Judah attended the wedding, gave them gifts, and earned their favor. To Alexandros, she gave birth to Antiochos VI Dionysos.

Her father's ambitions[edit]

A few years later, Demetrios I Soter's son Demetrios II Nikator returned from exile and claimed the throne of Syria. Demetrios II sent his general Apollonios to try to subdue Judah, and Jonathan defeated Apollonios at Azotus (Ashdod). Alexandros rewarded Jonathan for his deeds.

However, Ptolemaios VI Philometor sought to undermine his son-in-law's reign. He made his way up the coast under peaceful pretenses and had his men garrison the cities, as far north as Seleucia Pieria. Ptolemaios VI then sought an alliance with Demetrios II, offering to have Demetrios II replace Alexandros as Kleopatra Theo's husband.

He sent ambassadors to King Demetrius, saying: Come, let us make a covenant with each other; I will give you my daughter whom Alexander has married, and you shall reign over your father’s kingdom. I regret that I gave him my daughter, for he has sought to kill me. He was criticizing Alexander, however, because he coveted his kingdom.

— 1 Maccabees 11:9–11:11 (NABRE)

Ptolemaios VI thus gave Kleopatros Theo and his support to Demetrios II. Alexandros returned from Cilicia in order to deal with this turn of event but was Ptolemaios VI and Demetrios II defeated him in the Battle of Oenoparus. Alexandros then fled to Arabia, but Arabian prince Zabdiel killed him and sent Alexandros' severed head to Ptolemaios VI. However, Ptolemaios VI received a fatal wound during the battle and died three days later.

Demetrios II thus became king of Syria with Kleopatra Theo as his consort. To Demetrios II, Kleopatra gave birth to Seleukos V Philometor and Antiochos VIII Grypos.

Jonathan was able to earn this new king's favor, but this favor only lasted as long as Demetrios II needed peace with Judah. Once Demetrios II was confident enough, he began persecuting Jews.

Her son Antiochos VI Dionysos[edit]

Kleopatra Theo's son with Alexandros, Antiochos VI Dionysos, came under the charge of Imalkue the Arabian. Alexandros' former general Diodotos Tryphon obtained possession of Antiochos VI Dionysos, installed Antiochos VI as king of Syria, and defeated Demetrios II. Antiochos VI confirmed and bestowed honors on Jonathan Apphus and Simon Thassi. Demetrios II's generals sought to unseat Jonathan from Judah, and Jonathan defeated them at Hazor.

Diodotos Tryphon then sought do away with Antiochos VI and assume the throne of Syria himself. Tryphon was concerned that Jonathan would not toleration usurpation of the Syrian throne, so he tricked and captured Jonathan. Simon Thassi became leader of Judah and frustrated Tryphon's attempts to invade Judah. Unable to invade Judah, Tryphon had Jonathan killed. Simon recovered Jonathan's remains and buried him.

Tryphon returned to Syria, killed Antiochos VI, and usurped the throne of Syria, while Simon and Demetrios II made peace with each other.

Marriage to Antiochos VII Euergetes[edit]

A general of Mithridates I of Parthia captured Demetrios II. Demetrios II's brother Antiochos VII Euergetes returned from exile, claimed the throne of Syria, married Demetrios II's wife Kleopatra Theo, and defeated Trython. To Antiochos VII, Kleopatra gave birth to Antiochos IX Kyzikenos.

While in captivity, Demetrios II was Mithridates' daughter Rhodogune and had several children by her.

Antiochos VII was initially friendly to Simon but he then made war on Judah. Antiochos VII tasked his general Kendebaios with subduing Judah. Simon's John Hyrkanos defeated Kendebaios, but Simon's law-in-law Ptolemaios, son of Abubu, murdered Simon and Simon's sons Mattathias and Judah and attempted to gain the favor of Antiochos VII. John Hyrkanos foiled Ptolemaios' plan to murder him, and John became High Priest of Judah. However, Antiochos VII besieged Jerusalem and forced John to accept a peace.

Demetrios II's restoration and downfall[edit]

In order to disrupt Syria, King Phraates II of Parthia released Demetrios II. The Parthians defeated and slew Antiochos VII in the Battle of Ecbatana. Kleopatra Theo sent Antiochos IX Kyzikenos, her son by Antiochos VII, to Cyzicus (Kyzikos) for safety. Demetrios II then regained the throne and his wife Kleopatra Theo.

Demetrios II found himself challenged by the pretender Alexandros II Zabinas, who was supported by King Ptolemy VIII Euergetes of Egypt. Alexandros II defeated Demetrios II at Damascus, and Demetrios II fled to Tyre. Kleopatra Theo refused to allow his husband into the city, and Demetrios II was thus killed.

Regency and ruin[edit]

After Demetrios II's death, Kleopatra Theo's son Seleucus V Philometor became king of Syria, but Kleopatra had him murdered. Her younger son by Demetrios II, Antiochos VIII Grypos, then became king of Syria with Kleopatra Theo serving as her regent.

When Antiochos grew older, Kleopatra tried to serve Antiochos VIII poison wine, but Antiochos VIII was suspicious and had her drink the wine instead, killing her. Kleopatra's son by Antiochos VII, Antiochos IX Kyzikenos, claimed the throne of Syria, and the half-brothers eventually decided to divide the kingdom between them.

Antiochos VIII was later assassinated by his minister Herakleon, and Antiochus IX was later killed by Antiochos VIII's son Seleukos VI Epiphanes, and dynastic struggles would continue to plague the Seleucids.