Deme'trius I. or Deme'trius Soter
) I., king of SYRIA, surnamed SOTER (Σωτήρ
), was the son of Seleucus IV. (Philopator) and grandson of Antiochus the Great. While yet a child, he had been sent to Rome by his father as a hostage, and remained there during the whole of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.
He there formed an intimacy with the historian Polybius.
After the death of Antiochus, being now 23 years old, he demanded of the senate to be set at liberty and allowed to occupy the throne of Syria in preference to his cousin, Antiochus Eupator. His request however having been repeatedly refused by the senate, he fled secretly from Rome, by the advice and with the connivance of Polybius, and landed with a few followers at Tripolis in Phoenicia. The Syrians immediately declared in his favour; and the boy Antiochus with his tutor Lysias were seized by their own guards and put to death. (Plb. 31.12
; Appian, App. Syr. 46
; Justin, 34.3
; Liv. Epit.
xlvi.; Euseb. Arm. p. 166, fol. edit.; 1 Macc.
vii.; Zonar. 9.25
As soon as he had established himself in the kingdom, Demetrius immediately sought to conciliate the favour of the Romans by sending them an embassy with valuable presents, and surrendering to them Leptines, who in the preceding reign had assassinated the Roman envoy, Cn. Octavius. Having thus succeeded in procuring his recognition as king, he appears to have thought that he might regulate at his pleasure the affairs of the East, and expelled Heracleides from Babylon, where as satrap he had made himself highly unpopular; for which service Demetrius first obtained from the Babylonians the title of Soter (Plb. 32.4
; Diod. Exc. Leg. xxxi.; Appian, App. Syr. 47
.) His measures against the Jews quickly drove them to take up arms again under Judas Maccabaeus, who defeated Nicanor, the general of Demetrius, and concluded an alliance with the Romans, by which they declared the independence of Judaea, and forbade Demetrius to oppress them. (J. AJ 12.10
; 1 Macc.
He further incurred the enmity of the Romans by expelling Ariarathes from Cappadocia, in order to substitute a creature of his own: the Roman senate espoused the cause of Ariarathes, and immediately restored him. (Plb. 32.20
; Appian, App. Syr. 47
; Liv. Epit.
xlvii.; Justin, 35.1
While Demetrius was thus surrounded on all sides by enemies, his own subjects at Antioch were completely alienated from him by his luxury and intemperance.
In this state of things, Heracleides, whom he had expelled from Babylon, set up against him an impostor of the name of Balas, who took the title of Alexander, and pretended to be the son of Antiochus Epiphanes.
This competitor appears to have been at first unsuccessful; but, having obtained the powerful protection of Rome, he was supported also with large forces by Attalus, king of Pergamus, Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, and Ptolemy Philometor, as well as by the Jews under Jonathan Maccabaeus. Demetrius met him in a pitched battle, in which he is said to have displayed the utmost personal valour, but was ultimately defeated and slain. (Plb. 33.14
; Appian, App. Syr. 67
; Diodor. Exc. Vales. xxxiii.; Justin, 35.1
; J. AJ 13.2
; 1 Macc.
x.; Euseb. Arm. p. 166.) Demetrius died in the year B. C. 150, having reigned between eleven and twelve years. (Clinton, F. H.
iii. p. 323; Plb. 3.5
He left two sons, Demetrius, surnamed Nicator, and Antiochus, called Sidetes, both of whom subsequently ascended the throne.