Coin of Diodotus Tryphon. British Museum.
|Basileus of the Seleucid Empire |
(King of Syria)
|Predecessor||Antiochus VI Dionysus|
|Successor||Antiochus VII Sidetes|
Diodotus (Greek: Διόδοτος) was a king of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. Initially an official under King Alexander I Balas, he led a revolt against Alexander's successor Demetrius II Nicator in 144 BC. He rapidly gained control of most of Syria and the Levant. At first he acted as regent and tutor for Alexander's infant son Antiochus VI Dionysus, but after the death of his charge in 142/141 BC, Diodotus declared himself king. He took the royal name Tryphon Autocrator (Greek: Τρύφων Αὐτοκράτωρ) and distanced himself from the Seleucid dynasty. For a period between 139 and 138, he was the sole ruler of the Seleucid empire. However, in 138 BC Demetrius II's brother Antiochus VII Sidetes invaded Syria and brought his rule to an end.
Diodotus Tryphon is unique in the history of the Seleucid empire, as the only rebel from outside the dynasty to gain control of the whole kingdom. Other rebels had claimed the throne, such as Molon and Timarchus, but they never succeeded in bringing the whole realm under their control and both were defeated within a year of declaring themselves kings. By contrast, Tryphon held power for over seven years from his rebellion in 144 BC until his death in 138 BC.
Diodotus was originally from CasianaApamea. He served as a general for Alexander Balas, during the civil war which the latter fought with Demetrius II Nicator. In 145 BC, when Alexander's father-in-law Ptolemy VI of Egypt switched his support to Demetrius II and invaded Syria, Diodotus and a man called Hierax were in command of the city of Antioch. They surrendered Antioch to Ptolemy and declared him king of the Seleucid Empire. Ptolemy, unwilling to rule both the Egyptian and Seleucid realms directly, declined the title in favour of Demetrius II., a dependent town of the city of
As Demetrius II secured himself on the throne, he began to eliminate former associates of Alexander Balas. Diodotus, probably, considered himself to be in danger, and he fled to an Arab ruler called Zabdiel, who had been entrusted with the care of Alexander Balas's young son. Diodotus with Arab support declared Alexander's son the new king, as Antiochus VI Dionysus. The new king was less than five years old and Diodotus held all actual power as his regent.
Diodotus and Antiochus were initially ignored by Demetrius who had to consolidate his power and was also faced with financial troubles. Utilising the discontent against the ruling regime Diodotus gathered a large army at his headquarters in Chalcis ad Belum. Eventually, Demetrius marched against them but he was defeated in battle, after which Diodotus gained control of Apamea and Antioch. Numismatic evidence indicates that Apamea was taken in early 144 and Antioch in late 144 or early 143.
Diodotus, in the name of the boy-king Antiochus VI, controlled most of Inland Syria, including Antioch, Apamea, Larisa and Chalcis. Demetrius on the other hand based himself in Seleucia Pieria and retained control of many of the Syrian and Phoenician coastal cities and Cilicia. Mesopotamia continued to recognise Demetrius as well and an invasion of the region by Diodotus in mid-144 seems to have been a failure. Territories further east, such as Susa and Elymais were conquered by the Parthians, who eventually took control of Mesopotamia as well in mid-141 BC.
At the same time Diodotus made diplomatic overtures to the Jews under Jonathan Apphus in order to have them join with him against Demetrius, giving him honours and appointing his brother Simon Thassi as general. Jonathan accepted these overtures. Josephus justifies this by claiming that Demetrius had persecuted the Jews and that the memory of Alexander Balas encouraged them to support his son Antiochus VI. The situation did not last, however. The Jewish sources claim that the boldness of the Jonathan's attacks on Demetrius' supporters led Diodotus to fear his power and begin to plot against him. In 142 BC, Diodotus dispatched troops who lured Jonathan to Ptolemais with a small guard and captured him. Although Simon Thassi paid the money that Diodotus had demanded as a ransom for his brother, Diodotus had him executed anyway and attempted to attack Jerusalem. Heavy snowfall forced him to abandon the siege and return to Syria. Simon quickly became a close ally of Demetrius II, who granted extensive freedoms to him - later seen as the moment when the Hasmonean Jewish state achieved full independence.
In the same year an army of Tryphon’s routed a pro-Demetrius force under Sarpedon between Ptolemais and Tyre, but as they were marching along the coast in pursuit, a great tidal wave wiped out the army, according to Athenaeus.
In late 142 or early 141 BC, Antiochus VI Dionysus died, supposedly during a medical operation; most ancient sources accuse Diodotus of having had the young king murdered. Diodotus convinced the army to elect him king.
As king, Diodotus used the name Tryphon Autocrator. 'Tryphon' referred to the Hellenistic royal virtue of tryphe (luxury). Tryphe was sometimes a negative attribute, implying softness, but could also be a positive virtue, advertising the ruler's wealth and ability to reward his subjects. The epithet Autokrator is unique; it is not attested for any other Greek ruler from this period. Edwyn Bevan argued that this epithet was intended to recall the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great, who had held the title of Strategos Autokrator as elected leaders of the Greek forces against Persia. In Bevan's view this reference indicated Tryphon's election as king by the 'free Greco-Macedonian states of Syria'. Boris Chrubasik argues that Tryphon took the epithet in imitation of the Parthian rulers and to emphasise his independence from his predecessors (the term Autokrator literally means 'ruling (by) himself'). The marital overtones of it perhaps served to counter the implications of softness that sometimes were associated with tryphe.
There is no sign that Tryphon considered himself to be part of the Seleucid dynasty. On the contrary, he emphasised the break with his Seleucid predecessors through his unusual title, as well as the iconography of his coinage. His coins depicts him in a mature guise, with a rather fat face and long flowing hair - emphasising the luxuriousness implied by the name Trypon. The reverse side of his coins depict an elaborately decorated Boeotian helmet. This might have been meant to extend his connection to the army, and/or to further emphasise the idea of martial luxury. The break with the Seleucids was also indicated by the abandonment of the Seleucid dating system, in which years were counted continuously from the rise to power of Seleucus I. Tryphon instituted a new system, counting from his own accession as king.
In order to secure Roman recognition of his kingship, Tryphon sent a golden statue of the goddess Nike to Rome. The Roman Senate chose to accept this Nike as a gift from Antiochus VI and did not extend recognition to Tryphon. There is no evidence that any of the neighbouring kings recognised Tryphon's kingship either.
Once he was king, Tryphon expanded his control to at least Ptolemais-Akke and Dor. Demetrius, meanwhile, had journeyed east in 139/8 to fight the Parthians, who had seized control of Mesopotamia the previous year. He was defeated and captured by them July or August of 138 BC, leaving Tryphon as uncontested ruler of the remaining Seleucid territories.
Almost immediately, however, Demetrius' brother, Antiochus VII Sidetes took up the conflict against Tryphon. He declared himself King Antiochus Euergetes, left his home in Rhodes, and landed in Phoenicia in the face of staunch resistance. He married the wife of Demetrius, Cleopatra Thea, further legitimizing his position. Numismatic evidence shows that many coastal cities remained loyal to Tryphon, but that Sidon and Tyre immediately attached themselves to Antiochus' cause. Antiochus also successfully won over Simon Thassi by confirming and augmenting the grants made by his brother.
Antiochus defeated Tryphon in battle and took control of Antioch by the middle of 138 BC. He moved south to the fortress-city of Dor, where he was besieged. From there he escaped by sea to Orthosia and made his way to his home-region of Apamea, where he was besieged again died in late 138 or early 137 BC. Some sources say he was captured and executed, others that he committed suicide.
Antiochus VI Dionysus
| Seleucid King (King of Syria)
with Demetrius II Nicator (145–138 BC)
Antiochus VII Sidetes