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Coin of Antiochus VIII. The reverse shows Zeus enthroned, carrying Nike. The Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΦΙΛΟΜΗΤΟΡΟΣ (king Antiochus Philometor). [Source]

Antiochus VIII Epiphanes/Callinicus/Philometor, nicknamed Grypus (hook-nose) was son of Demetrius II Nicator and was crowned as a boy in 125 BC after his mother Cleopatra Thea had killed his elder brother Seleucus V Philometor, ruling jointly with her. After Antiochus defeated usurper Alexander II Zabinas in 123 BC his mother tried to poison him with wine, but the suspicious king forced her to drink the cup herself. (The story may have been inspired by the fact that Grypus was interested in toxicology; some poems about poisonous herbs believed to have been written by him are quoted by the famous physician Galen.)

He married the Ptolemaic princess Tryphaena, but in 116 BC his half-brother and cousin Antiochus IX Cyzicenus (see Antiochus VII Sidetes) returned from exile and a civil war began. Cyzicenus' wife, also named Cleopatra, was a half-sister of Tryphaena and was eventually killed in a dramatic fashion in the temple of Daphne outside Antioch, on the order of Tryphaena. Cyzicenus eventually killed Tryphaena as revenge. The two brothers then divided Syria between them until Grypus was killed by his minister Heracleon in 96 BC. Five of his sons succeeded him.

Despite political shortcomings, Grypus was a popular king. His ugly, lazy appearance on coins (common among the last Seleucids), together with stories of his lavish banquets, made posterity believe his dynasty was degenerated and decadent. This was however a conscious image, an invocation of the hellenistic idea Tryphe - meaning good life, which the last Seleucids strove to be associated with, as opposed to the exhausting civil wars and feuds which troubled their reigns in reality.

A story of his luxorious parties claims he sent food home with guests whom attended banquets, complete with a camel as beast of burden, as well as an with attendant to carry the guest himself. This should certainly have caused some strain on the already depleted treasury.

Antiochus VIII,

Seleucid Ruler
Preceded by: Cleopatra
Succeeded by: Antiochus IX

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