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Seleukid Empire, Cleopatra Thea Eueteria AR Tetradrachm. Sole reign. Ake-Ptolemais, dated SE 126/125 BC. Diademed and veiled bust of Cleopatra Thea right, wearing stephane / BAΣIΛIΣΣHΣ KΛEOΠATΡAΣ ΘEAΣ EΥETHPIAΣ, double-cornucopiae tied with fillet, monogram to right, [date IΠP (= year 187) in exergue]. SC 2258.2; BMC 1 = LSM, NNM 84, 7; Houghton, CSE 803; Seyrig, Tresors II, 30.242; Spink 3014, 87. 15.76g, 32mm, 12h.

Good Very Fine. Excessively Rare; the sixth known example.

From the collection of A.S., Canada.

The life of Kleopatra Thea Eueteria ("Kleopatra the Goddess of Plenty") would have been worthy of immortalisation in Shakespearean tragedy as few but the lives of the Ptolemies are; such was the complexity of her life and the constant intrigue that surrounded her, it is most surprising that she has never been the subject of major artistic work or representation in historical fiction.

Born into the Ptolemaic royal family of Egypt in circa 164 BC, Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II, who were brother and sister. It seems that early in her life she had been betrothed to her uncle Ptolemy VIII Physcon, who was the rival King of Egypt in an uneasy triumvirate. However in 150 BC she was married to the usurper king of the Seleukid Empire, Alexander Balas, at a sumptuous ceremony in Ake Ptolemaïs; this marriage would produce a son, Antiochos VI Dionysos. In 145 though, her father invaded Syria, defeated Balas in battle and remarried her to Demetrios II, the son of the former king deposed by Balas, only to die himself a few days later in uncertain circumstances. With the death then of her father Ptolemy VII Philometor, Cleopatra Thea's erstwhile fiancé Ptolemy Physcon married her mother Cleopatra II, and six years later replaced her with her daughter Cleopatra III, Cleopatra Thea's sister.

Cleopatra bore her new husband Demetrios II two sons who would later grow up to be kings themselves: Seleukos V Philometor, and Antiochos VII Grypos. In 139, Demetrios II was captured while fighting the Parthians, and held hostage. With the loss of the king, Demetrios' younger brother Antiochos VII Sidetes assumed the throne, taking Cleopatra Thea as his wife the following year. She bore him too at least one son, Antiochos IX Kyzikenos.

In 129, in a bid to destabilise the Seleukid Empire, the Parthians released Demetrios II to reclaim his throne and wife from his brother. Conveniently, that same year Sidetes was killed in battle against the Parthians, and thus Demetrios regained his throne, taking Cleopatra as his wife once more. By now though the empire was a shadow of its former self, and Demetrios faced difficulties maintaining his control over his reduced territories. Recollections of his old cruelties and vices, along with his humiliating defeat and apparent good treatment in Parthia, caused him to be detested. Ptolemy Physcon, now at odds with his former wife Cleopatra II, who had fled Egypt to the court of her daughter and son-in-law, set up the usurper Alexander II Zabinas in opposition to Demetrios. Alexander defeated Demetrios in battle at Damascus in 126, and fled to Ptolemaïs whereupon Cleopatra closed the gates against him. After this final desertion by his wife, he was captured, possibly tortured, and died a miserable death on a ship near Tyre.

This coin was struck in the brief period after the death of Demetrios and before his eldest son Seleukos V became king in 125. During that time Cleopatra held the reins of empire and ruled as Queen in her own right, issuing this very brief (and today extremely rare) coinage. Seleukos V was murdered on his mother's orders soon after his accession, and then from 125 to 121 BC Cleopatra Thea ruled jointly with Demetrios' younger son Antiochos VIII Grypos, who was still a teenager at his crowning. Defeating Alexander II Zabinas in 123, the victorious returning king was offered a poisoned cup of wine by his mother, who apparently feared losing her control over him, but the suspicious Antiochos instead forced her to drink it herself. So perished Cleopatra Thea, though her influence was yet felt for many years: while Antiochos Grypos proved a competent king, reorganising the state and providing stability and financial recovery, all this would end in 114 when Cleopatra's son by Antiochos Sidetes, Antiochos Kyzikenos, returned to Syria to claim the throne, sparking renewed civil war.

Seleukid Empire, Cleopatra Thea Eueteria AR Tetradrachm. (rxv317)

Price: £15,384.00

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  • (Rates for 24/04/2018)
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