"The most hook-nosed man that ever lived"

Anticohus VIII Epiphanes, son of Demetrius II and Cleopatra Thea, was ruler of the Seleucid Empire from 125-96 BC.  Neighbouring Egypt, the Seleucids had a close relationship with the Ptolemaic Empire and this was strengthened by the marriage of Ptolemy VIII’s daughter, Tryphaena, to Epiphanes.

Epiphanes was also known by his nickname Grypus (“hook-nose”). Charles Oman would write in his 1917 study of Epiphanes’ coinage:

“Assuredly in all the portrait gallery of ancient and modern times none was ever possessed of such a formidable griffin-like beak as this Seleucid monarch. Looking at the portrait of the coins of his later years, we may assuredly call him not a hook-nosed man, but the most hook-nosed man that ever lived.”

Epiphanes’ rule was wrought with instability from the outset. The usurper Alexander II Zabinas currently controlled most of Syria but his Egyptian rivals turned against him and Zabinas was defeated by Epiphanes in 123 BC. Family problems had plagued the Seleucids for many years and there was no exception for Epiphanes. Following the war with Zabinas, Epiphanes’ mother, Cleopatra, would meet her end at the hand of her son. It is thought Cleopatra attempted to poison Epiphanes first but was forced to drink from the poisoned chalice.

Several years later in 116 BC, Epiphanes would war with his half-brother, Antiochus IX Cyzicenus, after he returned from exile. Cyzicenus was married to the former Queen of Egypt and sister of Epiphanes’ wife, Cleopatra IV. Betrayed by Cleopatra’s allegiance with Epiphanes’ enemy, Tryphaena had her sister murdered by soldiers following the capture of Antioch. Less than a year later, Cleopatra Thea would have the tables turned on her and she was captured and killed by Cyzicenus.

With the wives of both Cyzicenus and Epiphanes dead at the hands of the other, the brothers ruled a divided Syria until Epiphanes assassination in 96 BC. The victory was short-lived for Cyzicenus as he was killed in battle by a son of Epiphanes in the same year.


Tetradrachm (121-113 BC)

Dates: 121-113 BC

Mint: Ake-Ptolemais, Syria

Obv: Diademed head of Antiochos VIII right

Rev: Zeus Ouranios, draped, standing facing, head to left, holding star in outstretched hand and long sceptre, crescent above, ΔP monogram in field; ΒAΣΙΛEΩΣ ΑNTIOXOY EΠIΦANOYΣ; all within laurel wreath border

Dimensions: 30.92mm, 16g, 11h

Ref: SC-2336.2