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date: 26 September 2023

Laodice (3), Seleucid queen, consort of Antiochus (3) IIIfree

Laodice (3), Seleucid queen, consort of Antiochus (3) IIIfree

  • Monica D'Agostini


Laodice was the daughter of Mithradates II of Pontos and Laodice, daughter of the Seleucid king Antiochus II. In c. 222 bce, she married Antiochus III and was proclaimed queen. As a Seleucid queen, she was present at the battle of Raphia in 217 bce between her husband and Ptolemy IV. By acting as a benefactor and engaging in humanitarian initiatives in Asia Minor, she contributed to the political relationship between the Seleucids and local institutions. Because of her patronage, she received honours from cities. In 193 bce, Laodice was the first Seleucid queen to have a ruler cult that mirrored that of her husband and his ancestors. The cult was established by Antiochus III and was to be managed by eponymous high priestesses. Laodice gave birth to two Seleucid kings, Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV, and a Seleucid queen also named Laodice. Her daughter Cleopatra married Ptolemy V. Although Antiochus III remarried in 192 bce, she remained the only Seleucid queen. During the reign of her son Seleucus IV she appears in inscriptions as queen mother, after the king and before her daughter, the queen.


  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Near East

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

Laodice (3) was a queen of Persian and Greco-Macedonian descent. She was the daughter of Mithridates II of Pontus and the Seleucid Laodice, the granddaughter of the king Antiochus II and the niece of another king, Seleucus II. Laodice (3) was also the sister-in-law of the Seleucid usurper Achaeus the Younger, who ruled Asia Minor between 221 and 214/3 bce (Polyb. 8.20.11).

Laodice married her cousin, the newly enthroned Seleucid king Antiochus III, c. 223/2–222/1 bce (Polyb. 5.43.1–4). By renewing the alliance between the Seleucids and Mithridatids, the union furthered the Anatolian marriage policy which Antiochus II had already employed to strengthen Seleucid authority in Asia Minor.1 The ceremony encompassed two moments: the wedding and the enthronement, which took place at different times and places. Laodice first met with the Seleucid admiral Diogenetus, who escorted her from Cappadocia to Seleucia on the Zeugma. Here Antiochus III waited for her with his army. The Seleucid king welcomed Laodice with a grand procession, and they celebrated the nuptials with a royal ceremony. Thereafter, the couple went to Antioch on the Orontes, where the ruler publicly proclaimed her basilissa, queen. This is the first documented instance of a female royal enthronement in the Seleucid kingdom. There may have been similar ceremonies before, but no record has survived. The account of the wedding and enthronement stresses the Achaemenid lineage of the queen, progeny of the seven Persian houses. Her father, Mithridates II, emphasized his ancestors’ link with the Great King Darius, who had granted his family their rule. The wedding thus united the two royal heritages of the empire, the Macedonian and the Iranian.2

Soon after the wedding, c. 221 bce, Laodice had her firstborn, Antiochus the Younger (Polyb. 5.55.3–4). Laodice and Antiochus III had at least two other sons, Seleucus IV Philopator and Antiochus IV Epiphanes. They also had at least four daughters: the eldest was Laodice, who married Antiochus the Younger in 196/5 bce and, after his death in 193 bce, her other sibling Seleucus IV. She may also have married her third brother, Antiochus IV. An anonymous royal girl was also proposed as wife to Demetrius, the son of the king Euthydemus of Bactria, c. 206 bce. Additionally, in the 190s bce Laodice’s daughter Cleopatra became the wife of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (c. 194/3 bce), and her sister Antiochis was married to Ariarathes IV of Cappadocia (c. 193 bce). Antiochus III also offered another of his daughters to Eumenes II of Pergamum, who rejected her (App. Syr. 3–5; Livy 33.19.9, 33.40.3, 35.13.4; Polyb. 11.34.9, 18.51.10; I.Estremo Oriente 190, 191, 193, 194; OGI 252 and 771).3

In 217 bce, Laodice was at the side of her husband Antiochus III at the battle of Raphia, near Gaza, against Ptolemy IV. According to Egyptian documents, the royal couple fled after a significant defeat that ended the Fourth Syrian War between the Seleucids and Ptolemies for control of the Levant (CG 31008 and 50048).4 Laodice’s counterpart, Ptolemy IV’s wife and sister Arsinoe III, also participated in the battle (Polyb. 5.83.3, 5.84.1), riding alongside her husband and encouraging the army to fight (3 Maccabees 1:1–4)

Civic Policy

Laodice was politically active throughout the kingdom as a Seleucid queen, as is well attested in sources.5 In 215/4 bce, Laodice appeared with a diadem in a jugate portrait on clay seal impressions from Seleucia on the Tigris together with a young man, probably her eldest son Antiochus.6 Moreover, Laodice engaged in acts of patronage as a benefactress and, in exchange, received honours, both with Antiochus III and alone. The earliest attestation of Laodice’s interaction with institutions in the kingdom dates to 213 bce, when she wrote to the people of Sardis in relation to the hardship endured by its citizens (SEG 39.1284–1285). Antiochus III had imposed severe penalties on the inhabitants because they had sided with the secessionist usurper Achaeus the Younger against the Seleucid king. In March 213 bce, however, Antiochus III relieved the city from the sanctions and allowed it to rebuild. Sardis received economic privileges from the king and queen to aid its recovery from the consequences of the conflict, and, in exchange, the city reaffirmed its loyalty to the Seleucid house. In a letter, Laodice promised Sardis that she would provide it with benefits since the city had dedicated to her a sacred area, named the Laodikeion; an altar; and a festival, the Laodikeia, along with a procession and a sacrifice to Zeus Genethlios, protector of the family, for the king, the queen, and their children. It is unclear whether Sardis was issuing pre-emptive honours for the queen or was responding to a previous benefaction.7 However, it may be no coincidence that this first important honorific document came from Sardis, the same city that had been the capital of her homonymous sister Laodice, Achaeus’s wife, until a few months earlier.8

Laodice’s son Antiochus the Younger was associated to the throne by his father in 210 bce when he was only eleven or twelve years old. Although there is no evidence that Laodice acted as formal regent for him during Antiochus III’s campaigns in Iran and Central Asia (212/1–205 bce), she was at her son’s side.9 In these years, she may have appeared on a second seal impression dating to 207/6 bce, but the identification is uncertain as the woman on the seal could also be her daughter Laodice.10 When Antiochus III returned from his campaign in the east, he committed himself to reinforcing Seleucid relationships with the institutions of Asia Minor, also involving his wife. c. 203 bce, he granted Teos benefits to help the city recover from the continuous wars and the burden of the contributions it had paid (SEG 41.1003.I). The city and its territory were proclaimed sacred, inviolate, and exempt from tribute. Laodice must have taken an active part in the benefaction, since the Teians praised her for her philanthropic attitude, stressing the harmony between her disposition and that of her husband. As a sign of gratitude and loyalty, Teos erected cult statues not only of Antiochus III but also of Laodice. The couple shared a shrine with Dionysus (as synnaoi theoi) and received honours as benefactors and saviours. The city later voted sacrifices and celebrations for the rulers, which were called Antiocheia and Laodikeia, set up a bronze statue of the king in the council chamber, and dedicated an eponymous fountain in the agora to the queen. In so doing, they embedded the queen’s cult in the familial dimension of the urban fabric: as a memorial to Laodice’s patronage, the city made water from the queen’s fountain a requirement for civic sacrifices, funeral rituals, and bathwater for brides. Priests, priestesses, and anyone using the water from the fountain had to wear white clothing and crowns. Although the text is damaged and unclear, the fountain’s water had also some unique role in the bridal bath (SEG 41.1003.II).11

The queen intervened again, c. 196 bce, to support civic institutions in difficulty and further her husband’s policies. Laodice wrote to the city of Iasos following Antiochus III’s recovery of it and his granting of some benefits. Since the king wanted to increase the citizen body and the city was suffering the aftermath of “unexpected calamities,” among them an earthquake, Laodice decided to engage in a humanitarian act toward the city’s people, especially the indigent, contributing to the fight against depopulation and poverty. Every year for ten years, she donated one thousand Attic medimnoi of wheat to the city, to be sold at a fixed price. The income provided the dowries of the daughters of indigent citizens, giving not more than three hundred Antiochean drachmas for each woman. Laodice also committed to helping the city further with its reconstruction, as her “brother,” the king, wished (I. Iasos 4). Laodice aimed at increasing the citizen body and improving its conditions: c. 200 couples were supposed to benefit from this policy (see euergetism). As a sign of gratitude, Iasos instituted a cult of Laodice as “Queen Aphrodite Laodice,” who presided over marriage, and they appointed a priestess for it. The celebrations involved sacrifices by the newlyweds and annual processions of girls on Laodice’s birthday, in commemoration of the queen’s benefaction.12 Similarly, in exchange for some benefits, honours and sacrifices were voted by the city of Herakleia Latmos in Caria (c. 196–193 bce) for Antiochus III, Laodice, and their children (SEG 37.859).

Through her patronage, Laodice established a political relationship between the queen and the cities of Asia Minor. Her acts singled out the female public presence in the city, centring on the family as component of the larger community. She contributed to the welfare of damaged cities by supporting demographic growth. As patroness of brides and wedded couples, Laodice strengthened the Seleucid presence in Asia Minor, starting from the revival (or creation) of civic bodies loyal to the royal dynasty.13

Laodice used her own resources but acted parallel to Antiochus III and in conjunction with his policy, thus situating female royal agency in the context of the ruling couple. It has been argued that Laodice and Antiochus III were the first instances of the Seleucid monarchs acting together as a royal couple and as one political voice.14 Official communications indeed emphasized and in fact exaggerated the bond between the rulers. Laodice was addressed not only as the queen and the loving wife but also as the “sister” of the king, and she often referred to Antiochus as “brother,” even though they were only cousins. Thus, their common lineage reinforced the affective bond between the rulers and served to emphasize the harmony and like-mindedness of the couple. The extreme endogamy among the Seleucid rulers, fictive for Antiochus III and Laodice, real for their offspring Antiochus the Younger and Laodice, presented the dynasty as a self-generated lineage.15

Ruler Cult

In 193 bce, an official ruler cult celebrated Queen Laodice as an active and loving member of the royal dynasty. Antiochus III increased the honour of his wife by issuing a prostagma, a royal edict, concerning the establishment of the kingdom’s ruler cult for her. In this edict, Antiochus III mirrored the ruler cult previously created for himself and his ancestors, which was empire-wide, state-organized and centrally administered. However, the queen’s new cult also incorporated some of the features of the Asia Minor civic honours for the queen. Laodice bore the title of “Sister Queen” to stress her belonging to the royal linage. Moreover, she was honoured for her affection for the king, her care for him, and her piety toward the divine. By emphasizing the love and devotion of the queen for the king, the prostagma linked the queen to her paradigmatic familial role as wife and companion of Antiochus III.

Laodice was the first Seleucid queen to be granted such a cult and to receive eponymous high priestesses in every satrapy who would imitate her husband’s high priests. They wore golden crowns bearing her image and were inscribed in the contracts after the high priests of the king’s and the ancestors’ cult. The royal edict was sent to the satraps, but only three copies survive: one from Eriza in Phrygia (Dereköy, Turkey), another from Laodicea in Media (Nihavend, Iran), and a third from Kermanshah in Iran; these were places of strategic relevance for the control of routes. Copies of the edict include the names of two high priestesses: Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II of Telmessos in Lycia, granddaughter of the dynast Lysimachus and descendent of the diadoch Lysimachus of Thrace, was appointed in Phrygia (or Caria) by virtue of her kinship with the royal family. A Laodice, maybe the daughter of Antiochus III, was the high priestess in Media (SEG 37.1010).16 At the time, she was married to her brother Antiochus. Considering the prestige of these women’s role and public exposure, it is likely that the other priestesses were also relatives of the royal family.

Last Years

During his campaign in Greece, in 192/1 bce, Antiochus III married a girl from Chalcis, the daughter of Cleoptolemus, a local man of rank. By renaming her Euboea, he associated her with the inclusion of the region in the Seleucid hegemony. However, the nuptials were not royal, and he did not grant her the title of queen. After his defeat at Thermopylae in 191 bce, she escaped to Ephesus with the king (Polyb. 20.8.1–5; Diod 29.2; Livy 36.11.1–2; App. Syr. 20).17

Although the king had more than one wife, Laodice was the only queen during the reign of Antiochus III. Surviving her firstborn Antiochus, she remained queen even after the death of her husband, during the reign of her son, Seleucus IV and her daughter Laodice. She is mentioned in two Greek inscriptions from Seleucea on the Eulaios (Susa) as the queen mother, after king Seleucus IV and before his wife, Queen Laodice. The reference to the queen is partially reconstructed in the dedication of 183/2 bce (I.Estremo Oriente 190; SEG 7.17, 55.1591) but can be read in the manumission act dated to 177/6 bce (I.Estremo Oriente 191; SEG 7.2).18 It has been suggested that Seleucus IV, in the 170s bce, granted new honours to a Queen Laodice by associating her with the goddess Aphrodite Nikephoros. The queen could have been his wife but was most likely his mother, who was celebrated in her old age or at the time of her death.19

Laodice died at some point after 177/6 bce, but the circumstances of her death are unknown.


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