The Wives of the Sons
of Antiochos III of Syria,
with Special Focus on
the Evidence Reviewed by
Iossif and Lorber (2007)

by Don Stone

April 25, 2014, revised Dec. 29, 2014

Important Questions
  A. When did Laodike III die?
  B. Was Laodike IV the only wife of her
      three brothers?
  C. Could the future Seleukos IV have married
      before the death of his oldest brother,
      Antiochos the Son?
  D. Did Laodike, wife of Seleukos IV, die in 182,
      as per the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries?
  E. If Seleukos IV had a second wife, who was she?
  F. How does Antiochos IV's new bronze coinage
      from the late 170s relate to the Laodikes?


In their 2007 article “Laodikai and the Goddess Nikephoros” Panagiotis Iossif and Catharine Lorber discuss Laodike III (the wife of Antiochos III Megas) and discuss the wife or wives of her sons (a single Laodike, or perhaps more than one). At the right I have summarized the coin and seal evidence they analyze and below that, the documentary evidence they analyze. These summaries were prepared in order to make it easy to see what evidence is compatible with each of several possible scenarios which I discuss below. The discussion mentions an important recent re-evaluation of some of the coin evidence.

Important Questions

A. When did Laodike III die?

Many scholars believe that Laodike III, wife of Antiochos III, was alive in 177/6, being mentioned at that time in a reconstruction of a manumission act from Susa that wished her soteria (protection, well-being, salvation). I have listed this interpretation as document no. 3b in my evidence summary. (I note, though, that in Renzo Lucherini's rough translation of this reconstruction, “[for the well-being]” is in square brackets.) Haussoullier/Cumont and Passehl (items 3a and 3c in my summary) instead interpret this as a decree relating to a cult of Seleucid women named Laodike, an interpretation which does not imply that Laodike III was alive in 177/6, but does imply that her cult was still active then. See Passehl's detailed analysis.

Renzo Lucherini discussed Laodike III's death in “The Children of Antiochos III: A Revised Approach” (2015) under The Age of Laodike III, reporting that the last reference to Laodike III is from SE 118, i.e. 194/3 (OGIS 224). “Since there is no indication that Antiochos was polygamous, her death probably occurred between this date (i.e. 194/3) and that of Antiochos III’s marriage to a girl from Chalkis in 191 BC.” John Grainger (Seleukid Prosopography, 1997, p. 49) has the same opinion about a terminus ante quem for Laodike III's death. Could Laodike's deification in spring of 193 B.C. have been ordered by Antiochos III shortly after her death? A potentially somewhat similar earlier situation in a different Hellenistic dynasty is mentioned by Iossif and Lorber, p. 69: “When Arsinoe II died, her brother and husband Ptolemy II didn't replace her name in the royal inscriptions but reinfoced her status by organizing an individual cult for her worship.”

B. Was Laodike IV the only wife of her three brothers?

Iossif and Lorber reviewed relevant evidence and earlier research. They considered a number of scenarios but were most persuaded that Laodike IV was the only wife of her three brothers, Antiochos the Son (Antiochos Neos), Seleukos IV, and Antiochos IV. Following Oliver D. Hoover (“Laodice IV on the Bronze Coinages of Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV,” 2002), they assumed that the veiled diademed female who appears with similar features on various bronzes of kings Seleukos IV and Antiochos IV (with elephant head reverses) was the current wife of the king. Thus, they concluded that the only queen of Seleukos IV and the queen later of Antiochos IV were likely the same person. Since the visual similarity also extended to the female head on a 207/6 seal from Seleukeia on the Tigris, whom they identify as Laodike the Daughter (Laodike IV), they inferred that this Laodike was the only wife of her three brothers. Because some of the elephant head bronzes were believed to have been issued before 182 (though most were from after 182), this inference required disregarding the Babylonian report of the 182 death of Laodike, wife of Seleukos, but it was consistent with all the other evidence they reviewed. Note that the elephant head bronzes were recently re-evaluated (see section D).

In discussing the identity of the veiled female on these bronzes, Hoover (2002, p. 83) claimed that it had to be either Laodike III or Laodike IV. Then he ruled out Laodike III, saying that “it was not normal Seleucid practice at any time to depict the Queen Mother on the coinage unless she was acting as co-regent with her son.” However, could the portrait be that of a deceased deified Laodike III, perhaps appearing on these bronzes as part of a continuing, though perhaps not very vigorous, campaign to remind people of her deification? Note that Gardner and Poole identified the veiled woman on the elephant head bronzes as the goddess Demeter (A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum. The Seleucid Kings of Syria, 1878, pp. xxv-xxvi, 43 [25-26, 83 in the PDF]), though the deified Laodike III could be an equally likely deity. I also thought that the elephant head reverse could be saying that this coin honors the wife of Antiochos the Great, who used elephants in his eastern expeditions and at least one of his Asia Minor campaigns and who issued several coins with elephants on the reverse. However, Catharine Lorber had these comments (email of 12/1/2013):

A problem with identifying the veiled queen on these bronzes as Laodice III is the complete alteration of her nose, from aquiline to upturned. Perhaps idealization could go to such extremes; unfortunately we lack comparative material from the Seleucid kingdom to help us decide.

I offer an alternative interpretation of the elephant head: rather than recalling the martial exploits of Antiochus III, might it not advertise the fact that Seleucus IV had preserved his elephant corps in defiance of the Treaty of Apamea? That seems like a political fact worthy of advertisement—but I can't relate it in any way to the depiction of a queen.

C. Could the future Seleukos IV have married before the death of his oldest brother, Antiochos the Son?

An early marriage for Seleukos would solve a chronological problem (allowing his daughter Laodike to be a reasonable age on her marriage to Perseus of Macedonia in 178/7). Could Seleukos have married in the mid 190s, around the time that his older brother and several sisters were married, perhaps as part of the same program of making alliances via marriage that involved most of his sisters (Appian Syrian Wars 4-5, quoted by Daniel Ogden in Polygamy, 1999, p. 134)? Incidentally, concerning these marriage alliances Ogden says (p. 135):

It is clear that in Antiochus III's world to receive a daughter as bride was to accept the precedence and patronage of her father-in-law [Ogden means father]; the recipients, actual or prospective, of the daughters or the sister listed above were all either minor oriental vassal kings (Ariarathes of Cappadocia, Xerxes of Armenia, Demetrius of Bactria) or other hellenistic kings whom Antiochus had reduced or could claim to have reduced to a status of dependency upon him (Ptolemy and Eumenes).[110] This was a new idea.

I think Ogden is trying too hard here to generalize and make a rule. In this period I suspect that it's not so much that the father of a royal bride took precedence over the father of a royal groom as that when Antiochus III was the father of the bride or groom, he took precedence as the organizer, leader and most powerful member of the anti-Roman alliance which the neighboring king was joining via the marriage of his son or daughter to a child of Antiochus.

Roger Powell (email of 2/19/2013) discusses constraints on the timing of Seleukos' marriage if it took place after the death of his older brother:

As Seleucus was campaigning with his father Antiochus III in Thrace and later Asia Minor from the death of his elder brother in 192 until the battle of Magnesia in December 190, a marriage to his brother’s widow could not have taken place until after the battle (Livy XXXVII.44). In fact he was still in Asia Minor the following year (see Livy XXXVIII. 13 & XXXVIII. 15) at Antiochia (spring 189) and Apamea in Phrygia. When the Treaty of Apamea (in Phrygia) was signed circa April 188, Antiochus III and presumably Seleucus were almost certainly in Syria, with the latter, one assumes, a recently married man. If Seleucus did not return to Syria until the autumn or winter of 189, therefore, a marriage to his widowed sister Laodike could only have taken place post August 189 and before the Treaty of Apamea was signed in April 188. This analysis, of course, is based on the assumption that Laodike remained in Syria after the death of her husband Antiochus in 192 and was not summoned to western Asia Minor by Antiochus III to become Seleucus’s bride.

Renzo Lucherini noted (email of 8/11/2012) that in the Seleukid dynasty (and other Hellenistic dynasties) heirs married only after they acceded to the throne or were associated as co-regents, beginning with Antiochos I, who married his stepmother Stratonike after he was named co-king by Seleukos I. Mark Passehl pointed out specifically (email of 25 May 2013 to Renzo Lucherini) that Seleukos could not have married his sister Laodike in the period 192-190 “without being elevated as co-king at the same time. Therefore the earliest possible date for such a putative marriage is 189 B.C., when he was appointed co-king.” If Laodike was born the next year, she would be at the oldest perhaps 11 at her marriage to Perseus in 178/7, not impossible but relatively unlikely. Passehl (email of 12/14/2013) questions whether Perseus would have accepted such an immature bride, "thus interferring with his own dynastic plans."

Incidentally, Ogden (Polygamy, 1999, p. 137-8) says, "The association of Seleucus IV on the throne is not attested until 188 (by Babylonian records), but may well have followed immediately the death of Antiochus the Son." If Seleucus IV became co-king and married his widowed sister shortly after the death of Antiochus the Son, that would relieve some chronological stress (having a very young Laodice marry Perseus). However, Renzo Lucherini reported that the Babylonian documentation refutes Ogden's speculation (email of 12/4/2013): "The last mention of the co-regency between Antiochos III and Antiochos the Son is dated 28 January 192 (VS XV 32; it is a bill of sale). The first mention of the reign of Antiochos alone is of 18 March 192 (unpublished tablet MLC 2652) while the last one is dated 9 February 189, about two months before the first attestation of the co-regency with Seleukos IV (AD dated between 3 April and 2 May 189) (and not 188 as Ogden writes). Between these dates there are other documents that attest a reign of Antiochos without any co-regent, showing that the hypothesis that Seleukos became co-king just after his brother's death is mistaken."

On the other hand, if Perseus' wife Laodike was the daughter of Seleukos and a wife whom he married when Antiochos the Son married Laodike the Daughter (or soon after), then their daughter Laodike could easily be born, say, around 192, making her about 15 at her marriage to Perseus.

See “The Children of Antiochos III: A Revised Approach” by Renzo Lucherini (2015), under the entry Seleukos IV, for an exploration of the possible identity of this proposed first wife of Seleukos.

D. Did Laodike, wife of Seleukos IV, die in 182, as per the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries?

As mentioned above, in 2007 Iossif and Lorber believed that some of the bronzes with elephant head reverses were from before 182. Recently Catharine Lorber supplied these comments (email of 12/1/2013):

I'm no longer sure that it's valid to date the Laodice/elephant head bronzes before 182. They have relatively few control combinations compared with the Apollo/Apollo bronzes, meaning that they could have been produced in a shorter time frame. Plus, they seem to duplicate the Artemis/Artemis denomination, leading to the thought that one of these types might have replaced the other at some point. I suppose I was slow to come to this suspicion because the Laodice bronzes have both of the obverse controls of the Apollo/Apollo and other bronze denominations, ME and AYB. But we have no clear evidence that these controls were used in succession; the sharing of many reverse controls could be compatible with the existence of two workshops, each designated by one of these obverse controls. If, as now seems possible, the Laodice/elephant head bronzes did not begin before 182, the types might have been introduced specifically to honor a new queen, the second wife of Seleucus IV.

Also (emails of 12/3/2013 and 12/7/2013):

My thoughts on the Laodice/elephant head bronzes were provoked by your discussion of the problems of identification. They were also facilitated by various recent studies that drew my attention to the usually discontinuous nature of ancient coin production.

The intermittent character of ancient coin production is implicit in the work of Francois de Callatay; see, for example, "Calculating ancient coin production: seeking a balance," NC 1995, pp. 289-312. He argues that medieval mint records point to a maximum daily output of 3,000 coins per die. Considering that modern estimates for the average productivy of a tetradrachm die range from 15,000 to 40,000 coins, die lifetimes must have been something on the order of 5 to 14 days--and that's assuming that they were even used to their full capacity, which surely wasn't always the case. If you look at die studies that identify the number of dies used in particular issues of coinage, there just have to be a lot of gaps. Some Ptolemaic examples are mentioned in my paper, "The Grand Mutation: Ptolemaic Bronze Currency in the Second Century B.C."

If the Laodice/elephant head bronzes began after 182, there would be no obstacle to accepting the Babylonian astronomical diary report that Laodike, wife of Seleukos, died in 182 and assuming that he remarried after this. As Iossif and Lorber say (p. 68), “The hypothesis of a second marriage is consistent with the youthful appearance of the queen portrayed on the octadrachm [from 175] (though we cannot discount the possiblilty that she was rejuvenated and idealized).”

A rather minor point is that the death of the first wife of Seleukos IV in 182 means that the relationship between Seleukos' son Demetrios I and the young king whose death he ordered, Antiochos V Eupator, would be first cousin (perhaps double first cousin or a similar variation), whereas if the same Laodike was the only wife of Seleukos IV and Antiochos IV, then the relationship would be closer: uterine brother (as well as paternal first cousin).

E. If Seleukos IV had a second wife, who was she?

The similarity of the female on the elephant-head bronzes to the female in the earlier 207/6 BC seal from Seleukeia on the Tigris and to the female in the later 175 BC gold oktadrachms from Antioch on the Orontes argues for a family relationship among these females (including the possibility that they are the same woman).

Catharine Lorber has recently called attention (email to Renzo Lucherini of 4/3/2014) to a gold mnaieion depicting Kleopatra I, daughter of Antiochos III; she was then widow of Ptolemy V and regent for their son Ptolemy VI, so the coin is dated to the period 180-176. This coin is illustrated, for example, in R. R. R. Smith's Hellenistic Royal Portraits (1988), Plate 75.15-16, described on p. xiii. Lorber says, "It is very nearly contemporary with the gold oktadrachm of Laodike, widow of Seleukos IV, and the child Antiochos. In my opinion, there is a close resemblance between the two queens and I take it as evidence that they were sisters." A close resemblance would strengthen the case that the wife of Antiochos IV (and second wife of Seleukos IV) was a daughter of Antiochos III, and the most obvious choice would be the widowed Laodike the Daughter (assuming she was available). Perhaps after Antiochos the Son died in early 192, his father Antiochos III decided to hold his widow Laodike the Daughter in reserve for possible later use in cementing an alliance. The rejection of an unnamed daughter of Antiochos III by Eumenes II of Pergamon had shown that the process of making alliances via marriage may have recently reached a point of diminishing returns, but this strategy might become viable again later. However, Antiochos III was defeated at Thermopylae in 191 and at Magnesia ad Sipylum in 190, and his options thus were dramatically curtailed. Then he died in 187, and Seleukos IV inherited the throne. When Seleukos' first wife died in 182, he may have decided that he would revive the brother-sister marriage program that his father had begun (especially since Seleukos' focus was mostly on internal affairs and not on external alliances/adventures). On the other hand, see Lucherini's “The Children of Antiochos III: A Revised Approach” for other possible histories for Laodike the Daughter after the death of her brother/husband Antiochos the Son.

A second possibility, pointed out by Iossif and Lorber (p. 68, next-to-last sentence plus note 24), is that this woman was a sister of Laodike the Daughter and that she took the unusual step of adopting the throne name Laodike. (I imagine that in this case Laodice the Daughter would be deceased.)

Mark Passehl has proposed a third way to account for the facial similarity. In an email of 27 August 2013, he said that Seleukos could have married second his double niece, a daughter of Antiochos the Son and Laodike the Daughter [this double niece could be called “Laodike the Granddaughter”], born ca. 194/3 and marrying perhaps ca. 180/79 at the age of about 14.

A speculative set of corrections to Malalas, at, produces a possible candidate for this second wife of Seleukos, but the text may be too subject to misinformation, confusion or corruption to permit much confidence in any repairs that might be attempted. Furthermore, we need to consider the apparent family resemblance of the second wife of Seleukos IV to various daughters of Antiochos III and Laodike III. The candidate second wife from the Malalas corrections, a daughter of Ariarathes of Cappadocia (Ariarathes III or Ariarathes IV), has a close relationship to Antiochos III or Laodike III only if she is a daughter of Ariarathes IV and Antiochis, daughter of Antiochos III and Laodike III. Since Ariarathes IV and Antiochis married ca. 193, their oldest daughter would be at the oldest around 10 when the first wife of Seleukos IV died in 182. The young age of this possible oldest daughter and the lack of a compelling political motivation make it seem quite unlikely that she became the second wife of Seleukos IV.

F. How does the new bronze coinage of Antiochos IV from the late 170s relate to the Laodikes?

Iossif and Lorber say (p. 71):

The veiled female bust disappeared from the bronze coinage of Antiochos IV c. 173/2, but very shortly afterward he introduced a new and even more enigmatic female figure to his coinage. We refer to the goddess Nikephoros, who seems to be intimately connected with the king's epiphany as a solar god.

On p. 63 (concerning this Nikephoros) they say:

the official dissemination of her image in scattered cities led us to suspect a connection to the feminine side of the Seleukid royal cult.

On p. 75, discussing the new bronzes they say:

Another, perhaps more likely candidate [than Laodike IV] for a cult [and thus a person able to be identified with the goddess on these new bronzes] is the king's mother, Laodike III. For one thing, this would be more in line with Babylonian tradition: the very few royal women mentioned in Mesopotamian inscriptions were the mothers of kings, perhaps commemorated for their “role in maintaining the dynastic succession.”[50] We have already described the foundation of Laodike's cult in 193, though we questioned its geographic extent and can cite no documents attesting to the perpetuation of her worship. …. We have no record concerning the death of Laodike III, but given her likely age in 177/6 [they interpret the Susa document as wishing her “soteria” then], there is a reasonable chance that she died in the next few years. The sudden appearance of the goddess Nikephoros, marked as an epiphany by the star above her head, may reflect new honors accorded the Queen-Mother in her old age, or her entry among the (other) gods at the time of her death.[52]

Note that there was a civic cult for Laodike III at Iasos, where she was honored as Aphrodite Laodike, having donated dowries for the daughters of poor citizens there. See Franciszek Sokolowski (“Divine Honors,” 1972, p. 174):

Aphrodite was believed to assist the girls who wanted to marry, and on this account Laodike could be called indeed 'Aphrodite'. But I guess that the queen might be connected with Aphrodite in a common cult as a σύνναος θεός [sharing the same temple]. This supposition is confirmed by much evidence....

From the perspective of my proposal that the veiled female on the old elephant-head bronzes was a deified Laodike III (still possible but perhaps somewhat unlikely), the appearance of Nikephoros (a form of Aphrodite) on the new coins could be a continuation of the honors accorded to the long-dead Laodike III: on the old bronzes she was honored through her own image; on the new bronzes she was honored via the image of the goddess Nikephoros.


I think the most likely scenario is that the future Seleukos IV first married somewhat before his brother Antiochos' death in 193/2 (allowing his daughter Laodike to be a reasonable age at her marriage to Perseus). This first wife died in 182, as per the Babylonian astronomical diaries, and Seleukos remarried after that to another Laodike, who after his death married his brother Antiochos IV. The image on the elephant head bronzes may be this latter Laodike. This scenario is consistent with all the evidence reviewed by Iossif and Lorber (and re-evaluated by Lorber); in cases where there are multiple interpretations of a piece of evidence, this scenario is consistent with a plausible interpretation of that evidence. However, in a situation like this where the evidence is so sparse, consistency with all the evidence is certainly not proof, and the other scenarios should be kept is mind as possibilities. The problem of the wife or wives of the sons of Antiochus III and Laodice III is indeed a thorny one.


Erickson, Kyle Glenn (2009). The Early Seleucids, Their Gods and Their Coins. PhD thesis, University of Exeter.

Gardner, Percy, with Reginald Stuart Poole, ed. (1878). A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum. The Seleucid Kings of Syria.

Grainger, John D. (1997). A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer. Leiden/New York/Köln: Brill.

Hoover, Oliver D. (2002). “Laodice IV on the Bronze Coinages of Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV.” American Journal of Numismatics 14: 81-87.

Iossif, Panagiotis, and Catharine Lorber (2007). “Laodikai and the Goddess Nikephoros.” L'Antiquité Classique 76: 63-88.

Lucherini, Renzo (2015). “The Children of Antiochos III: A Revised Approach.” Seleukid Traces website,

Ogden, Daniel (1999). Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death: The Hellenistic Dynasties. London: Duckworth, with The Classical Press of Wales.

Passehl, Mark (11 Sept. 2012). “Stemma of Early Seleucids,” with two pages of analysis and discussion of this text.

Sokolowski, Franciszek (1972). “Divine Honors for Antiochos and Laodike at Teos and Iasos.” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 13: 171-176.