A Review of Information on the Wives and
Children of Demetrius II of Macedonia

Don C. Stone, don@donstonetech.com – Version of Oct. 22, 2017


The wives and children of Demetrius II of Macedonia have been discussed in many articles and compilations.  The evidence is sparse and somewhat contradictory.  The wives (or almost-wife) are:

1. Stratonice;

2. Nicaea;

3. Phthia;

4. Chryseis.

1. Demetrius first married Stratonice, daughter of Antiochus I Soter of Syria, according to the classical authors Eusebius and Justin.  This marriage may have been connected with the end of the Second Syrian War.  Presumably it took place by 253 BC, when Stratonice was attested in an inventory from Delos as daughter-in-law of Demetrius' father Antigonus Gonatas.  Alternatively, Gabelko and Kuzmin (2008, 2017) argue that Stratonice was the daughter of Antiochus II Theos and granddaughter of Antiochus I Soter, and they argue that the Stratonice who married Ariarathes III of Cappadocia was a daughter of Antiochus I Soter; they date the latter marriage to ca. 260, making this Stratonice likely more than 40 years old at the birth of her first child known to us, her husband's heir Ariarathes [IV], who was born perhaps ca. 233/2, since he was admodum puer at his accession in 220 according to the exaggeration-prone Justin (29.1.4).  However, Renzo Lucherini has suggested (personal communication, 9/26/2012 and 10/1/2012) that Ariarathes IV could have been a late son who became the heir because his older brothers had died prematurely.

2. Around 245/4 Antigonus Gonatas arranged for his son Demetrius to marry Nicaea, the widow of Alexander of Corinth.  As described by Plutarch, the preparations for this wedding were actually a ruse that enabled Antigonus to gain control of the fortress on the Acrocorinth. Most historians doubt that the marriage was formally completed.

3. The Roman epitomist Justin, drawing on an extensive earlier history written in the time of Augustus by Pompeius Trogus, supplied information about the next marriage of Demetrius.  Justin said (28.1.1-4):

When Olympias, daughter of Pyrrhus king of Epirus, had lost her husband Alexander [II, king of Epirus], who was also her [half] brother, she took upon herself the guardianship of her sons Pyrrhus and Ptolemy, whom she had by him, and the administration of the kingdom; and finding that the Aetolians wanted to take from her a part of Acarnania, which the father of the boys had received as a recompense for assisting them in war, she addressed herself to Demetrius [II] king of Macedonia, and gave him her daughter Phthia in marriage (though he was already united to [Stratonice] a sister of Antiochus king of Syria), that she might secure by right of relationship the assistance which she could not obtain from his compassion. A marriage was accordingly solemnized, by which Demetrius gained the love of a new wife, and the hatred of his former one; who, as if divorced, went off to her brother Antiochus, and excited him to make war upon her husband.  (Retrieved from http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/justin/english/trans28.html; translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson, 1853.)

However, some information has recently come to light which shows that Justin (or Trogus) made a mistake or has been misinterpreted in the above passage.  Rigsby and Hallof (2001) showed that Alexander II of Epirus was alive in 243, based on an inscription on a stele from the Greek island of Cos (Kos), specifically Inscriptiones Graecae XII 4 1. 220V, L. 64–71.  This is a decree from the city of Leucas of asylia (inviolability) for the Temple of Asclepius, Cos.  (Rigsby’s Asylia: Territorial Inviolability in the Hellenistic World (1996) has some coverage of the Temple of Asclepius, Cos, on pp. 106, ff.: http://books.google.com/books?id=0Y5Ur_7lPW4C&pg=PA106&lpg=PA106; for more complete coverage, see Inscriptiones Graecae XII 4 1.)  Many modern historians have interpreted Justin as saying that Stratonice, first wife of Demetrius II, fled to the court of Antiochus II after the marriage of Demetrius II and Phthia, daughter of the deceased Alexander II.  We now see that this could not be correct, because Antiochus II died in 246 (and was succeeded by his son Seleucus II, who ruled for 20 years), whereas Alexander II did not die until after Aug. 243; Justin could have given the wrong name for the king of Syria, or he could perhaps be referring to Antiochus Hierax.  (Stratonice's nephew Antiochus Hierax ruled then in nearby western Asia Minor, and Stratonice may have fled first to him without having definite plans for what to do after that; at any rate she continued traveling east to Syria, where her other nephew, Seleucus II, was in power.)

This asylia inscription is supplied and discussed on pages 272-3 of “Décrets d’Asylie, de Macédoine et d’Epire,” by Miltiade B. Hatzopoulos (2007), http://books.google.com/books?id=I_kFU6h77ssC&pg=PA272&lpg=PA272.  After explaining the dating of the inscription to August 243, Hatzopoulos mentions that it contradicts some information of Justin.  Hatzopoulos unfortunately garbles his message and says that the inscription shows Justin was wrong about the supposed wedding of Antiochus II, who died in 246, with a daughter of the late Alexander II, who was alive and well in 243. 

A consequence of realizing this mistake or misinterpretation of Justin is that another aspect of Justin’s description can now be explained more naturally than before.  Justin says that the widowed Queen Olympias sought the help of King Demetrius [II] of Macedonia and offered her daughter Phthia to him.  Some have said that since Demetrius became king in 239, the negotiations and marriage cannot have taken place before 239.  Others have inferred that the marriage had to have been prior to 246 in order for Stratonice to be able to flee to the court of Antiochus II, and in order to make this early marriage date possible they point out (e.g., Ogden 1999, p. 178 and notes 52 and 63) that an inscription has confirmed that Demetrius was associated on the throne from at least 257.  Concerning Demetrius' title, though, Gabelko and Kuzmin believe that despite his co-rule with his father, Demetrius did not hold the official title of basileus before 239; see note 28 in the forthcoming “A Case of Stratonices” by Gabelko and Kuzmin (2017) for details.  However, since we now know that the inferred marriage of Demetrius and Phthia in 246 or earlier must be discarded, the simplest interpretation of Justin is that Demetrius’ father had died and Demetrius was the (sole) king of Macedonia at the time of the negotiations with Queen Olympias and Demetrius’ subsequent marriage to Phthia, both of which no doubt took place in 239 early in his reign. 

The asylia inscription is also discussed by Kuzmin and Gabelko (2012, p. 34), who summarize the analysis of the inscription, in particular its dating.  The important point is that after we make the correction that Stratonice fled not to Antiochus II but to his son Seleucus II, there are no particular difficulties with the quoted passage of Justin (28.1.1-4).

A surviving inscription with information about Phthia is dated several years after this marriage.  Daniel Ogden (1999, p. 181) reports:

An Athenian inscription of 236-5 in honor of one Aristophanes, in which some of the royal names have been subjected to damnatio memoriae [erasure], refers to Demetrius and a 'queen' (basilissēs) of his and their (plural) children.  ... the erased name of the queen contained, in its genitive form, five letters: the appropriate form of 'Phthia' (ΦΘΙΑΣ) fits the bill well and seems unavoidable. 

The inscription could be formulaic, as discussed by Ogden (later on p. 181):

It is less clear whether she [Phthia] had any children, despite the inscription's apparent reference to 'their (autōn) children': this phrase is a fairly formulaic one in honorific inscriptions, and may refer hypothetically to children, or even more remotely to 'descendants', to be born in the future.78 If it is used to refer to existing children, it may refer loosely to the children of Demetrius irrespective of biological mother, i.e. Philip and Apama, if the latter existed. 

Elizabeth Carney (2000, p. 311, n. 41):

Rather than assume, as Dow and Edson (1937: 148-49) do, that the references to multiple children by Demetrius and Phthia is conventional and implies nothing about their literal existence, I am inclined to take the reference seriously but note that royal daughters, even as adults, are often unknown and unnamed and that even male children who died very young are unlikely to be known to us.  Phthia may have had several children by this date, none of them Philip V and none of them known to us.

And, indeed, in this case there may be no need to read “their children” as “his children” or “future children” or “descendants;” the two most likely candidates for “their children” are Philip [V] and Apama [III, wife of Prusias I of Bithynia].

At any rate, at the very least this 236-5 inscription tells us that Phthia was then alive and Demetrius’ queen.

Ogden (1999, p. 179) and others have questioned whether Phthia had any children.  Ogden comments (p. 181), “If Phthia did have children herself, and they did survive to adulthood, it is astounding that there is no reference to them in the literary sources, which are extremely rich for the Philip V period (notably Polybius and Livy).”  There is, however, an unusual form of strong evidence that Demetrius II and Phthia had descendants.  This evidence, the inheritance of a genetic defect, is discussed by Gabelko and Kuzmin (2008).  As reported in Plutarch’s Pyrrhus, Pyrrhus of Epirus (d. 272), who was both the paternal and the maternal grandfather of Phthia, had a single curved bone-tooth in his upper jaw, with only indentations where most people have separation between adjacent teeth.  This phenomenon is called gemination or teeth fusion.  (Gabelko and Kuzmin (2008, pp. 159-160) point out that the fusion could have been limited to the upper front teeth which are visible to other people in everyday conversation.)  Prusias Monodous (One-toothed), son of Prusias II Cynegus (Hunter) of Bithynia, had the same genetic defect and thus is almost certainly descended from Pyrrhus and probably from Phthia.  His two most likely possible descents from Phthia are (1) through Apama (assumed to be a daughter of Phthia), wife of his paternal grandfather Prusias I of Bithynia, and (2) through Philip V, his potential maternal grandfather; these descents can be seen at http://ancientdescents.com/PrusiasMonodous_VersionB.html.  The problem with descent (1) is that Apama's name is hard to explain if she is the daughter of Phthia, who has no known ancestors named Apama; if Apama were the daughter of Demetrius' first wife, Stratonice of Syria, she would be descended from an Apama.  The problem with descent (2) is that it contradicts the testimony of Porphyry/Eusebius that Philip V's mother was Chryseis, not Phthia (but see the last paragraph of this article).  In spite of the potential problems with both of these descents, it seems more likely that at least one of them is correct than that they are both wrong and that the descent from Pyrrhus comes through some currently entirely unknown route.  An interactive chart of the ancestors of Prusias Monodous can be found at http://ancientdescents.com/PrusiasMonodous_VersionI.html; at each place in this chart where several different women have been proposed as mother of one of a given ruler's children, you can select which of these women should have their ancestors displayed.  After making one set of choices, you can reload the page to make a different set of choices.

4. At some point the war captive Chryseis enters the picture.  Porphyry/Eusebius reported that Chryseis was the wife of Demetrius and the mother of Philip V (Porphyry FGH 260 F3.13-14 = Eusebius Chronicles i 237-8 [ed. Schöne]):

[Demetrius II of Macedonia] took a woman from his prisoners-of-war to wife, whom he called Chryseis. He had his son Philip [V] from this wife.

The only other literary sources to specify the mother of Philip V (Syncellus 535.19 [Dindorf] and Etymologicum Magnum s.v. Doson) also said she was Chryseis; however, Ogden (1999, p. 180) points out that Syncellus may have obtained this information from Porphyry.

In Brill’s Companion to Ancient Macedon (2011, p. 518 ) R. Lane Fox says:

A long line of historians have continued to call the future King Philip V Phthia’s son …  In fact, no surviving source calls Phthia Philip’s mother.  As Dow and Edson decisively showed in 1937, his mother was someone quite else, a captive girl (probably a Thessalian) whom Demetrios took as a concubine and knew by the fine Homeric name Chryseis.144

144  S. Dow and C. F. Edson, “Chryseis,” HSCP 48 (1937), 127-80, esp. 149-56, well reasserted by D. Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death (Swansea, 1999), 179-83; …

Alternatively, W. W. Tarn (1940) proposes that Phthia and Chryseis are two different names for the same person.  Walbank (1940, pp. 9-10, note 3) reports that even Charles Edson assented to this identification.  Carney (2000, p. 192), however, gives two reasons for thinking that the identity of Phthia and Chryseis, while possible, is unlikely: (1) in other cases where there is a consensus that the same royal woman had more than one name “there has been direct evidence linking the several names and suggesting that they referred to the same person,” while “no ancient source links the two names Phthia and Chryseis;” and (2) “the practice of name changing seems to have died out in the late fourth century, as formal titles for royal women developed.” 

Kuzmin and Gabelko (2012) think that Phthia’s status at court may have decreased after the collapse of royal authority in Epirus (ca. 232) and its reconciliation with the enemy, the Aetolians.  Phthia's fading status could have provided an opportunity for Demetrius to begin a relationship with Chryseis or to increase the status of an existing relationship with her.  If the relationship already existed, when did it begin?  (In Fig. 1, below, the timeline for Demetrius' relationship with Chryseis starts as a gradual gradient, showing that there is a fairly wide period during which the relationship could have begun.)  If it began eight or more years earlier, then Chryseis could well be the mother of Philip V.  Carney (2000, pp. 192-3) pointed out that in the early 230s Demetrius was in his late thirties and still had no heir, so, “Faced with this threat to the succession, he was forced to return to the messy habits [polygamy] of the Argeads and early Successors.  The risk of too many heirs was considerable, but the risk of none at all was greater.”  She thinks that Chryseis was Philip's mother. 

On the other hand, Kuzmin and Gabelko (2012, pp. 39-40) believe that looking at the use of the word “father” in connection with Philip can provide insight into the role of his “mother” Chryseis.  They point out that in Macedonian “official” tradition Philip V had two fathers, Demetrius II and Antigonos Doson.  Polybios (IV. 24. 7; cf. IV. 87. 6) refered to Doson as a “father” of Philip, as did royal letters from Labraunda, Caria (see citations in S. Le Bohec, Antigone Dôsôn, roi de Macédoine, p. 330), and a letter to Philip found in Amphipolis (SEG XXVII. 245; XXXIII. 499).

If Phthia and Chryseis are distinct, then Philip V could have two mothers, respectively biological and adoptive, and Chryseis could be called simply his “mother”, as Doson was called his “father.”  This may be how Justin/Trogus used “mother” (28.3.9):

While these things were occurring in Epirus, king Demetrius in Macedonia died, leaving a son named Philip, quite a child; and Antigonus, being appointed his guardian, and marrying his mother, did his utmost to get himself made king.

In fact, it is possible that Porphyry/Eusebius inferred that Chryseis was Philip’s biological mother from this passage in Justin/Trogus or one like it.  Ogden (1999, p. 180) admits that Porphyry, Syncellus and Etymologicum Magnum do not “inspire the greatest confidence.”

At any rate, Chryseis was or became the mother of Philip [V] in some sense; if she was not his biological mother, she may have become his step-mother, and she later became his adoptive mother.

Mark Passehl recently proposed a rather different history for Chryseis (personal communications, 12/2/2012 and 8/27/2013). He believes that she was a war captive taken by Antigonus Doson. Eusebius (quoted above) does not specify Chryseis' origin, but most historians believe she was Thessalian. Passehl points out:

In this proposal Chryseis was not the mistress or wife of Demetrius II (and not the mother of Philip V) but was married only to Doson, becoming officially the mother of Philip after Doson formally adopted Philip.  Passehl added the comment (1/24/2013) that “if Chryseis was never the wife of Demetrios II, as I believe, then the mother of Philip whom Doson wed (mentioned but not named by Justinus) can only have been Phthia. There's no obstacle to this. Phthia may have died early in Doson's reign, or else he had two wives for a time.”  A possible reason for confusion in Porphyry/Eusebius is that Philip, instead of being a son of Chryseis, may have been a son-in-law, having married a daughter of Chryseis and Doson. This possible marriage, being internal to the Antigonid kingdom, could explain why classical sources (which supply much material on Philip's reign and personality) don't mention, for example, the marriage of Philip which produced his son Demetrius.  This proposed history for Chryseis and Philip definitely deserves further exploration.

Demetrius II alliances

      Fig. 1.  Alliances of Demetrius II of Macedonia: the reconstruction of D. Ogden and R. L. Fox

                  compared to that of O. Gabelko, Y. Kuzmin, and others. (Ogden's work was done before

                  the 2001 publication by Rigsby and Hallof of the crucial asylia decree from Leucas.)



Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly, Women and Monarchy in Macedonia (2000).

Dow, S., and C. F. Edson, “Chryseis”, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 48 (1937), pp. 127-80.

Fox, Robin J. Lane, ed.  Brill’s Companion to Ancient Macedon: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Macedon, 650 BC – 300 AD (2011).

Gabelko, Oleg L., and Yuri N. Kuzmin, “Matrimonial Policy of Demetrios II of Macedonia: New Solutions of Old Problems,” Вестник древней истории / Vestnik drevnej istorii / Bulletin of Ancient History 1 (2008), pp. 141-164. https://www.academia.edu/406967/Матримониальная_политика_Деметрия_II_Македонского_новые_решения_старых_проблем_Matrimonial_Policy_of_Demetrios_II_of_Macedonia_New_Solutions_of_Old_Problems. (In Russian with English summary at the end.)

Gabelko, Oleg L., and Yuri N. Kuzmin, “A Case of Stratonices: Two Royal Women between Three Hellenistic Dynasties,” to appear as a chapter in Seleukeia: Studies in Seleucid History, Archaeology and Numismatics in Honor of Getzel M. Cohen, probably in June 2019. (See https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/182065.)

Hatzopoulos, Miltiade B., “Décrets d’Asylie, de Macédoine et d’Epire,” in Épire, Illyrie, Macédoine: mélanges offerts au professeur Pierre Cabanes, edited by Danièle Berranger, Clermont Ferrand: Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2007.  http://books.google.com/books?id=I_kFU6h77ssC&pg=PA273&lpg=PA273.

Kuzmin, Yuri N., and Oleg L. Gabelko, "Notes on the Matrimonial Policy of the Antigonids in 250–220s B.C.," Проблемы истории, филологии, культуры / Problemy istorii, filologii, kul’tury / Journal of Historical, Philological and Cultural Studies 35 (2012), no. 1, pp. 27-42.  https://www.academia.edu/1505984/Заметки_о_матримониальной_политике_Антигонидов_в_50_20-е_гг._III_в._до_н.э._Notes_on_the_Matrimonial_Policy_of_the_Antigonids_in_250_220s_B.C.  (In Russian with English summary at the end.)

Ogden, Daniel, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death (1999).

Rigsby, Kent J., and Klaus Hallof, “Aus der Arbeit der Inscriptiones Graecae X. Decrees of Inviolability for Kos,” Chiron 31 (2001), pp. 333-346, esp. pp. 342–345.

Stone, Don.  “Ancestors of Prusias Monodous, Version B,” http://donstonetech.com/PrusiasMonodous_VersionB.html. 

Tarn, W. W., “Phthia-Chryseis”, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Supplement Vol. 1 (1940), pp. 483-501.

Walbank, F. W., Philip V of Macedon (1940).



This review is at http://ancientdescents.com/DemetriusII_WivesAndChildren.html.