Demetrios II: Seleukid king, then POW, then king again

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Nov 21, 2020 at 8:59 PM.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Seleucid Demetrios II.jpg
    Seleukid Kingdom. Tyre (?) mint. AE 21 (21 mm, 5.54 g). Demetrios II Nikator, Second Reign (129-125 BC). Obverse: Laureate head of Demetrios right. Reverse: Poseidon standing facing, holding phials and trident; bilingual inscription Demetrios the King" in Greek and Phoenician, symbols in field. This coin: Purchased from Marc R. Breitsprecher, November 2020.

    Demetrios II was born around 160 BC to the Seleukid king Demetrios I. In 150, Demetrios I was overthrown and slain by a usurper, Alexander Balas, and young Demetrios had to flee to Crete. He re-entered Syria with some Cretan mercenaries in 147 BC, but it wasn't until two years later that the Egyptian king Ptolemy VI entered the fight on Demetrios' side, offering to serve as a "tutor" (read: puppet-master) to the young king and forcing his daughter, Cleopatra Thea, to divorce Alexander Balas and marry Demetrios instead. Alexander Balas was chased out of Syria, and Ptolemy VI died of wounds sustained in battle, leaving Demetrios in sole charge of the Seleukid kingdom. Soon one of Alexander Balas' former generals, Diodotus, raised a major rebellion and proclaimed himself regent for an infant son of Alexander Balas, who he called Antiochos VI. The Parthian king Mithradates I (164-132 BC) took advantage of the chaos to capture Seleukid territory in Mesopotamia (including the cities of Seleukia-on-the-Tigris and Babylon) and Elymais. Demetrios counterattacked the Parthians in 138 BC, but was captured alive by the Parthians. Fortunately for him, the Parthian king treated him well, sending him to live (under luxurious house arrest) in a palace and marrying him to a Parthian princess named Rhodogune. Demetrios twice tried to escape his captivity. After the second attempt, Mithradates sent him a pair of golden dice, which was interpreted as an insult that Demetrios was a restless child in need of toys. Meanwhile, in Syria, Demetrios' younger brother had taken the throne as Antiochos VII (and also taken Demetrios' wife Cleopatra Thea as his own. I suspect she was getting tired of being passed around from king to king, but unfortunately history does not record her thoughts on the situation.)

    In 130 BC, Antiochos VII marched against the Parthians, and had great initial success in retaking Mesopotamian territory. The new Parthian king, Phraates II (son of the great Mithradates I), decided to release Demetrios in hopes that he would be able to stir up rebellion among the Seleukids. However, in 129 BC the Parthians killed Antiochos VII at the Battle of Ekbatana and quickly reclaimed Mesopotamia. Phraates realized that Demetrios was no longer useful, but Demetrios was able to make it back to Seleukid territory without being recaptured. In Syria, he reclaimed his throne, as well as the by-now undoubtedly tired Cleopatra Thea. The Egyptian king Ptolemy VIII set up another usurper against him, Alexander II, and in 126 BC Demetrios was defeated in battle at Damascus. He fled to Ptolemais, but Cleopatra Thea shut the city gates against him, and he was later killed on a ship near Tyre. He was succeeded by his son Seleukos V with Cleopatra Thea as co-regent; but she soon had Seleukos killed and ruled with their other son, Antiochos VIII, until 121 BC when he foiled her attempt to poison him, forcing her to drink the deadly wine instead.

    I like this coin for the Game-of-Thrones-esque history behind it, including the tie-in to Parthia, but I was also attracted to it by the clear legend in Phoenician. This is valuable historical evidence demonstrating that, even after 150+ years of Hellenization under Alexander the Great and his Seleukid successors, the Phoenician language was still important in the Phoenician territory. This is hardly a mint-state coin, but all the designs and inscriptions are clear, and I think the "desert patina" only enhances the aesthetic qualities. Please post your coins of Demetrios II, or whatever else is related.
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  3. David@PCC


    That's one of the nicest of the type I've seen @Parthicus and one I'm still missing. Those were minted in Laodicea in Phoenicia modern Beirut.
    Demetrios II, SECOND REIGN
    Mint: Sidon
    Year 186, 127/126 BC
    Obvs: Diademed and draped bust of Demetrios II right beardless within dotted border, B behind.
    Revs: ΣIΔΩNOΣ ΘEAΣ in two lines to left, Phoenician script to right "of the Sidonians". Astarte on prow left holding asphlaston and naval trophy. ζΠΡ to right.
    AE 18x19mm, 4.60g
    Ref: SC 2189.8; HGC 9, 1137(R2)

    Demetrios II, FIRST REIGN
    Mint: Perhaps Seleucia in Pieria
    146 to 138 BC
    Obvs: Diademed head of Demetrios II right within dotted border.
    Revs: BAΣΙΛEΩΣ ΔHMHTPIOY in two lines on right, NIKATOPEΣ on left. Anchor, flukes upward. Lily/Lotus flower inner right.
    AE 16x17mm, 3.90g
    Ref: cf. SC 1928; HGC 9, 1008(R2)
    Note: Unpublished with control mark unlisted. This mark only noted for drachms.
  4. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    What a perfectly centered example! Great with the full visible inscriptions.

    Demetrios II Nikator, First Reign (146-138 B.C.) AR Drachm, ΔΗ mint in Syria or Phoenicia, year ΔOP (174) = 139/8 B.C.
    Diademed head of Demetrios to right.
    Reverse: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΔHMHTPIOY ΠIΛAΔEΛΠOY NIKATOPOΣ, cornucopia; ΔH monogram and ΔOP (date) below.
    Reference: SC 1936; HGC 9, 978.
    3.72g; 18mm

    Seleukid Kingdom. Demetrios II Nikator (146 - 138 B.C.). First reign. Æ Denomination B, Uncertain mint 94 in Northern Syria, 145 – 144 B.C.
    Laureate head of Apollo right, hair rolled, two long locks escaping down neck.
    Reference: SC 1918;
    5.78g; 18mm
  5. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    First reign:
    Demetrios II Nikator. First reign, 146-138 BC. AR Tetradrachm (26mm; 14.12 gm; 12h). Sidon mint. Dated SE 168 (145/4 BC). Obv: Diademed and draped bust right. Rev: Eagle standing left on prow, palm frond behind; to left, HΞP (date) above monogram; to right, ΣIΔΩ(N) above aplustre. SC 1954.2b; HGC 9, 969.
  6. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    A not so nice second reign:
    Demetrios II Nikator. Second Reign, 130-125 BC. AR Drachm (17mm; 3.80 gm; 12h). Antioch mint. Struck circa 129/8 BC. Obv: Diademed, bearded head right. Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΝΙΚΑΤΟΡΟΣ, Zeus seated left, holding Nike in right hand, scepter in left; two monograms in exergue. SNG Spaer 2164; SMA -; Houghton 287
  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    A very informative write-up. Thanks for sharing.

    Here's a Demetrios II bronze from the "Pentalpha" mint - this gave me a lot of trouble attributing, since I did not know what a "pentalpha" is - it is not a place - it is a thing:

    From Ancient Greek πένταλφα (péntalpha), from πέντε (pente) and ἄλφα (alpha), five alphas. So called for its resemblance to five alphas superimposed at different rotations.

    pentalpha (plural pentalphas)

    1. A pentagram.

    Seleucid - AE Demetrios II corn lot May 2020 (14).jpg
    Seleucid Kingdom Æ 15
    Demetrios II Nikator
    (146-138 B.C.) (first reign)
    'Pentalpha' Mint (Syria/Phoe.)

    Diademed head right / BAΣΙΛEΩΣ ΔHMHTPIOY ΘEOY right, ΪIΛAΔEΛΪOY [NIKATOPEΣ] left. Cornucopiae between, pentalpha inner left.
    SC 1937; HGC 9, 998.
    (6.98 grams / 15 mm)
  8. David@PCC


    Is yours unusually thick? Mine is 4mm
    g293a.jpg g293.jpg

    Attached Files:

  9. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Demetrios II Ar Tetradrachm Sidon First reign Obv bust right diademed and draped. Rv Eagle standing left SC 1954 6b This coin illustrated HGC 969 This coin illustrated Houghton Collection 718 This coin 141-140 BC 13.56 grms 25 mm Photo by W. Hansen SKdemetriosII-7.jpg One thing I bought this coin sometime in the 1990's and I believe that the dealer bought at an auction. If anyone knows..... I would really like to know that info.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020 at 10:36 PM
  10. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting observation - mine is only 3mm thick, but it does seem "chunkier" than the average Seleucid of that diameter, at least in my small collections.

    Mine is a bit light compared to others, which seem to run a bit over 8 grams, while mine isn't quite 7 grams. I couldn't find a ton of examples, as it seems to be a bit scarce.
    David@PCC likes this.
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