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Last update 1-Jan-2008
Ptolemy, king of Egypt, ... sent an Egyptian youth, the son of a merchant named Protarchus, to claim the throne of Syria by force of arms, having forged a story, that he had been admitted into the family of King Antiochus by adoption, and the Syrians, at the same time, refusing no man for their king, if they might but be freed from the insolence of Demetrius. The name of Alexander was given to the youth, and great succours were sent him from Egypt.
... Alexander ... was kindly and of a forgiving nature, and moreover was gentle in speech and in manners, wherefore he was deeply beloved by the common people.
|Ruler:||Alexander II Theos Epiphanes Nikephoros (“Alexander, God Manifest, Carrying Victory”),1,2 nicknamed Zabinas (“the Bought One”),3 King of a part of the Seleukid Empire, born perhaps c. 150 BC,4 reigned 128 - 123/2 BC, died 123/2 BC (either executed or committed suicide after his capture by Antiochos VIII)5|
1 According to Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 39.1, the name Alexander was given to him when he was sent to Syria as a pretender for the Seleukid throne:
Ptolemy (Ptolemy VIII), king of Egypt, ... sent an Egyptian youth, the son of a merchant named Protarchus, to claim the throne of Syria by force of arms, having forged a story, that he had been admitted into the family of King Antiochus (Antiochos VII) by adoption, and the Syrians, at the same time, refusing no man for their king, if they might but be freed from the insolence of Demetrius (Demetrios II). The name of Alexander was given to the youth, and great succours were sent him from Egypt.
2 The complete list of Alexander II’s epithets is known from a unique gold stater (reverse inscription: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ), see Newell, SMA, 358. Few types of bronze coins employ an abbreviated form of the epithets on the gold stater (the word ΘΕΟΥ is omitted), see, e.g., Houghton, CSE, 315 and 413, and SNG Spaer, 2411. Nevertheless, the majority of Alexander II’s coins bear no epithets.
3 The word Zabinas is a Greek form of the Aramaic Z’bînâ meaning “bought”. See Bevan, The House of Seleucus, Vol. II, p. 249 (footnote 3) and p. 306 (Appendix Z), for more information.
The nickname is mentioned by Eusebius, Chronicle, pp. 257-258, and by Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 34/35.22. Note that Alexander II is called Zebina by Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.267-269. Trogus, Prologues to the Philliopic History, Prologus of Book 39, uses the form Zabinaeus but, according to Bevan, ibid, it seems to be a corruption.
Eusebius, Chronicle, pp. 257-258: As soon as he (Demetrios II) returned from captivity, he turned his attention to Egypt; he advanced as far as Pelusium, but when Ptolemaeus Physcon (Ptolemy VIII) confronted him Demetrius had to retreat, because his soldiers hated him and refused to obey his orders. Angered by this, Ptolemaeus set up Alexander (Alexander II), a pretended son of Alexander (Alexander I), to be king of Asia; Alexander was called Zabinas by the Syrians, because he was thought to have been bought by Ptolemaeus to take on this role.
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 34/35.22: When Antipater, Clonius, and Aeropus, leaders of note, revolted and seized Laodiceia (Laodikeia ad Mare), Alexander (nicknamed Zabinas) successfully attacked the city.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.267-268: But as for king Demetrius (Demetrios II), who had a mind to make war against Hyrcanus (John Hyrcanus), there was no opportunity nor room for it, while both the Syrians and the soldiers bare ill-will to him, because he was an ill man. But when they had sent ambassadors to Ptolemy (Ptolemy VIII), who was called Physcon, that he would send them one of the family at Seleueus, in order to take the kingdom, and he had sent them Alexander (Alexander II), who was called Zebina, with an army, and there had been a battle between them, Demetrius was beaten in the fight, and fled to Cleopatra his wife (Kleopatra Thea), to Ptolemais (Ake-Ptolemais); but his wife would not receive him. He went thence to Tyre, and was there caught; and when he had suffered much from his enemies before his death, he was slain by them.
Trogus, Prologues to the Philliopic History, Prologus of Book 39: These things are contained in the thirty-ninth volume. How, when Antiochus Sidetes (Antiochos VII) was killed by the Parthians, his brother Demetrius (Demetrios II) was released and subsequently recovered the throne of Syria, losing his life when Alexander Zabinaeus (Alexander II) was bribed to make war on him: his (Demetrios II’s) son Antiochus Grypos (Antiochos VIII) defeated Zabinaeus and seized the throne: then he fought a war in Syria and Cilicia with his brother Antiochus Cyzicenus (Antiochos IX).
4 Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 7
5 Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 39.2: A battle then took place between the kings (between Alexander II and Antiochos VIII), in which Alexander was defeated, and fled to Antioch, Here, being without money, and pay being wanted for his soldiers, he ordered a statue of Victory of solid gold, which was in the temple of Jupiter, to be removed, palliating the sacrilege with jests, and saying that “Victory was lent him by Jupiter.” Some days after, having ordered a golden statue of Jupiter himself, of great weight, to be taken away secretly, and being caught in the sacrilegious act, he was forced to flee by a rising of the people, and being overtaken by a violent storm, and deserted by his men, he fell into the hands of robbers, and being brought before Grypus (Antiochos VIII), was put to death.
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 34/35.28.1-2: Alexander (Alexander II), having no confidence in the masses because of their inexperience of the hazards of war and their readiness for any change, did not venture to join battle, but resolved to get together the royal treasures and steal the offerings dedicated to the gods, and with these to sail away by night to Greece. He made an attempt to plunder the temple of Zeus, employing for the purpose certain barbarians, but was detected, and together with his troops all but met with condign punishment on the spot. Having managed, however, to slip away with a few men, he attempted to make his escape to Seleuceia (Seleukeia in Pieria). The news, however, outran him, and when the Seleuceians heard about the temple robbery, they barred his entry into the city. Having failed in this attempt too, he rushed to seek refuge at Posideium, clinging to the sea-coast in his flight.
Alexander, after his temple robbery, tried to escape to Posideium. ... He was, in fact, apprehended and taken before Antiochus (Antiochos VIII) at his camp only two days after the temple robbery. ... But yesterday he had been a king, and the leader of forty thousand men under arms. Now he was being led in chains to face insults and punishment at the hands of his foes.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.269: So Alexander (Alexander II) took the kingdom, and made a league with Hyrcanus (John Hyrcanus), who yet, when he afterward fought with Antiochus (Antiochos VIII) the son of Demetrius (Demetrios II), who was called Grypus, was also beaten in the fight, and slain.
Eusebius, Chronicle, pp. 257-258: Demetrius (Demetrios II) was succeeded by his son Seleucus (Seleukos V), who died soon afterwards as a result of his mother’s accusations (accusations of Kleopatra Thea). His younger brother Antiochus (Antiochos VIII) came to power in the second year of the 164th Olympiad (123/2 BC), and in the third year (122/1 BC) he defeated Zabinas (Alexander II), who killed himself with poison because he could not endure the defeat.
See also Trogus, Prologues to the Philliopic History, Prologus of Book 39 (the quotation is presented in footnote 3).
6 Alexander II’s parentage is unclear. According to Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 39.1, he was a son of a merchant of Egypt named Protarchus but he pretended to be an adoptive son of Antiochos VII (see footnote 1 for the quotation). Eusebius, Chronicle, pp. 257-258, says that he was a pretended son of Alexander I Balas (see footnote 3 for the quotation). Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.267-268, neither disputes nor confirms his Seleukid parentage (see footnote 3 for the quotation).
- Bellinger, Alfred R.:The End of the Seleucids. Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 38, June 1949, pp. 51-102. New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
- Bevan, Edwyn Robert:The House of Seleucus, 2 volumes. Ares Publishers, Chicago, 1985 (reprint of the London 1902 original edition).
- Diodorus Siculus:Library of History. Books XXXIII–XL. Translated into English by Francis R. Walton. The Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge / Massachusetts - London / England, 2001 (reprint of the 1967 edition).
- Eusebius of Caesarea:Chronicle (Latin Schoene ed.). Translated into English by Andrew Smith. (Attalus, http://www.attalus.org/translate/eusebius.html)
- Grainger, John D.:A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer. Brill, Leiden - New York - Köln, 1997.
- Green, Peter:Alexander to Actium. University of California Press, Berkeley - Los Angeles, 1990.
- Houghton, Arthur:Coins of the Seleucid Empire from the Collection of Arthur Houghton. The American Numismatic Society, New York, 1983. (abbr. CSE)
- Houghton, Arthur; Spaer, Arnold (with the assistance of Catharine Lorber):Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. Israel I. The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins. Italo Vecchi Ltd., London, 1998. (abbr. SNG Spaer)
- Josephus, Flavius:Antiquities of the Jews. Translated by William Whiston. John E. Beardsley, Auburn - Buffalo, 1895. (The Perseus Digital Library, http://www.perseus.org/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=J.+AJ+toc)
- Justin (Marcus Junianus Justinus):Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. Translated by Rev. John Selby Watson, M.A. George Bell and Sons, London, 1897. (See Forum Romanum website, http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/justin/english/index.html - 1853 Edition)
- Newell, Edward T.:The Seleucid Mint of Antioch. Chicago, 1978 (Obol International reprint of the New York 1918 original edition). (abbr. SMA)
- Trogus (Pompeius Trogus):Prologues to the Philippic History. Translated by Roger Pearse, 2003. (The Tertullian Project, http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/justinus_08_prologi.htm)