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Alexander II Zabinas

Alexander II Zabinas

Ruler of the greek seleucid kingdom
The basics
Date of birth
Date of death 123 Antioch, Antakya, Hatay Province, Turkey
The details

Alexander II Zabinas (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρoς Βʹ ὁ Zαβίνας, Aléxandros II ho Zabínas; c. 150–122 BC), who claimed the epithets "Manifest God and Bearer of Victory" (ὁ Θεὸς Ἐπιφανὴς Νικηφόρος, ho Theòs Epiphanḕs Nikēphóros), was a pretender to the throne of the Seleucid Empire who controlled parts of Syria between 128 and 123 BC. Amid the dynastic wars between the branches of the family of Alexander the Great's general Seleucus, Alexander II was able to defeat Demetrius II but was defeated, captured, and executed by Demetrius's son Antiochus VIII. Alexander was widely regarded as a puppet of the Egyptian king Ptolemy VIII.


Alexander was born c. 150 BC. He seems to have been the son of a hellenized Egyptian merchant named Protarchus but, in the chaos following the Seleucids' loss of Mesopotamia to the Parthians, he claimed to be an adopted son of Antiochus VII. The Seleucid emperor Demetrius II had launched a failed invasion of Egypt in support of Cleopatra II against her brother Ptolemy VIII; part of Ptolemy's retaliation was to support Alexander's claim diplomatically and militarily. (Justin claims Alexander was an assumed regnal name; his epithet Zabinas—"The Purchased One" in hellenized Aramaic—arose from rumors that he was simply a slave that Ptolemy had purchased to use as his catspaw.) Demetrius's own harsh rule further caused several Seleucid cities, including the capital Antioch and Apamea on the Euphrates, to support Alexander of their own free will. Alexander and his Egyptian allies were able to defeat Demetrius, who fled to his wife Cleopatra in Ptolemais. When Cleopatra refused to receive him, he went to Tyre on the Phoenician coast, where he was tortured and killed at his wife's behest.

Alexander II was thereafter able to control parts of Syria between 128 and 123 BC. Diodorus later reported that he "was kindly and forgiving and moreover gentle in both speech and manner, wherefore he was deeply beloved by the common people". He also successfully put down a revolt by "Antipater, Clonius, and Aeropus" in Laodicea. Josephus states that he allied with the Hasmoneans under John Hyrcanus, who had taken the opportunity of Demetrius's captivity, defeats, and death to expand Judea. Once Ptolemy VIII withdrew his military support, however, Demetrius II's son Antiochus VIII was able to defeat Alexander.

Alexander II fled to his capital Antioch and began plundering the treasures of its temples. He was said to have sardonically joked, while melting down a golden statue of Nike previously located in the hand of an idol of Zeus, that "Zeus lends me victory". Justin claims that the jest underscored that the gold was needed to pay his troops and the action was accepted by the Antiochenes. A few days later, however, his men were discovered in the act of removing a great golden statue of Zeus himself for Alexander's own enrichment; this turned the people of the city against him in a violent mob. Diodorus, meanwhile, records that Alexander had lost all hope of being able to defeat Antiochus and planned to pilfer the entire city before fleeing to Greece under cover of darkness; discovered, the townsmen tore threw most of Alexander's "barbarian" guards before he was able to escape to a ship.

Justin states that a storm drove Alexander's ship to shore, where he was abandoned by his men and captured by robbers. Diodorus traces his path along the coast, stating that news of his impiety outran him, causing Seleucia to refuse him entry; he was then captured while attempting to reach Posidium. Eusebius has Alexander killing himself with poison, where other sources state he was brought to Antiochus's camp and executed in 122 BC, two days after his desecration of Antioch's Temple of Zeus.


Coin of Alexander II: Zeus is represented on the reverse, holding in his right hand a small image of victory. A similar idol in Antioch would later be involved in Alexander's downfall.

Several of his coins are extant. A single gold stater bears his full list of epithets; the majority of his coinage list none.

The contents of this page are sourced from a Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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