Diodotus Tryphon

Diodotus Tryphon

Coin of Diodotus Tryphon. British Museum.
King of the Seleucid Empire (King of Syria)
Reign Seleucid Empire: 142–138 BC
Predecessor Antiochus VI Dionysus
Successor Antiochus VII Sidetes
Born Casiana
Died 138 BC

Diodotus Tryphon (Greek: Διόδοτος Τρύφων) was a king of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire who initially acted as regent and tutor for the son of Alexander Balas, but soon declared himself king in 142 BC after the death of his charge, Antiochus VI Dionysus.


As general for Balas and Antiochus VI

Originally from Casiana, a dependent town of the city of Apamea, he had served as a general for Alexander Balas and along with the Egyptian Heirax was given command of the city of Antioch.[1] With the impending defeat of Balas at the hand of Demetrius II Nicator, Diodotus defected Antioch to Demetrius, but he, after the victory of Demetrius in 145 BC, again defected to fight for the claim to the throne of the son of Alexander Balas, Antiochus VI Dionysus.[2]

Ignored initially by Demetrius, Diodotus utilised the discontent against the ruling regime and gathered a large army, based at his headquarters at Chalcis, and eventually ejected Demetrius from Antioch itself in 144 BC. Diodotus, in the name of the boy-king Antiochus VI, controlled most of Inland Syria, including Antioch, Apamea, Larisa and Chalcis – these cities having been angered by Demetrius II’s misrule and the discharge of the native Greco-Macedonian soldiery in favour of foreign Cretan mercenaries. Demetrius on the other hand held sway in the outer regions of the empire, including Cilicia and the eastern provinces (where news and the effects of his misrule were not known well enough for discontent to be shown) and along the Syrian and Phoenician coastal cities.[3]

At the same time Diodotus made diplomatic overtures to the Jews under Jonathan Apphus in order to have them join with him against Demetrius, who was incredibly unpopular due to his continued persecution of the Jews. It was made easier for Jonathan to ally with Antiochus VI due to his association with his father Balas, who was a great friend of the Jews.[4]

As King

In 142 or 141 BC Antiochus VI Dionysus died, supposedly during a medical operation, however accusations were made against Diodotus that he was himself behind the young king’s death.[5] Despite this he convinced the army to elect him king, taking the titles of Basileus, as was tradition for Hellenistic kings, but also that of Autokrator. The term Autokrator is unique in the fact that it is not included on the coinage of any other Greek ruler from this period and that the Latin equivalent is that of Imperator. However the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great took the titles of Strategos Autokrator when they were elected by the Greek states to lead their armies - so Diodotus may well have intended this title to denote his election as king by the 'free Greco-Macedonian states of Syria'.[6] As king he took the regal name of Tryphon. Having been made king Diodotus, Tryphon expanded his control to at least Ptolemais-Akke and Dor.[7]

Coin of Diodotus Tryphon.

To further legitimize his position and extend his connection to the army, many of his coins depicted on their obverse the 'national' helmet of the Greco-Macedonian soldiery.

However the boldness of the Jewish offensives against the loyalists of Demetrius led Diodotus to fear an ever increasing Jewish independence, and as such began to plot against Jonathan – this being whilst Antiochus VI was still alive. Luring Jonathan to Ptolemais with a small guard, Diodotus kidnapped him and unsuccessfully held him for ransom. He eventually had Jonathan executed and initiated an invasion of Judea, which failed due to either weather conditions or Jewish garrisons blocking the suitable pathways into Judea.[8]

In the same year an army of Tryphon’s routed a pro-Demetrius force under Sarpedon in between Ptolemais and Tyre, but as they were marching along the coast in pursuit a great tidal wave, according to Athenaeus, wiped out the army.[9]

Demetrius, meanwhile, had journeyed east to combat the encroachment of the Parthians, but in 139 BC was captured and forced into captivity in Parthia. With the detested Demetrius gone, his brother, Antiochus VII Sidetes, left his home in Rhodes and married the wife of Demetrius, Cleopatra Thea, further legitimizing his position. Tryphon’s support began to deteriorate with Antiochus now the leader of the Seleucid dynastic faction in the empire.

Antiochus successfully pushed back Tryphon’s forces and besieged him in the fortress-city of Dor on the coast. Tryphon escaped by sea to Orthosia and made his way to his home-region of Apamea, where, being chased by Antiochus, he was either put to death or committed suicide.[10]

Diodotus Tryphon was unique in the history of the Seleucid empire to be the only major rebel to actively claim the throne for the whole kingdom, as opposed to the rebels Molon and Timarchus who had launched regional bids for power and had not desired to rule the whole kingdom. In addition, Tryphon’s rebellion was one of the longest lasting – beginning in 145 and ending with his death in 138 BC.

See also


  1. Strabo 14.2.10;Diodorus 33.3
  2. 1 Maccabees 11.39
  3. Josephus AJ 13.44;Bevan, ‘The House of Seleucus’, Vol.II, p.226-228
  4. Josephus AJ 13.145-148
  5. Diodorus 33.28; Livy 55.11; Justin 36.7; Josephus 13.128
  6. Bevan, ‘The House of Seleucus’, Vol.II, p.302
  7. Bevan, ‘The House of Seleucus’, Vol.II, p.230-231
  8. 1 Maccabees 12.39-53; Josephus AJ 13.203-218
  9. Athenaeus 8.333
  10. Josephus AJ 13.223; 1 Maccabees 15.10-38; Strabo 14.5.2

External links

Preceded by
Antiochus VI Dionysus
Seleucid King (King of Syria)
142138 BC
with Demetrius II Nicator (145138 BC)
Succeeded by
Antiochus VII Sidetes
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