According to the Book of Maccabees (I. 3.31, 37; 6.1–3; II. 1.13–17) this desperate ﬁnancial situation drove Antiochus to launch an attack in 187 BC on the temple of Bel in Elymais (Diodorus Siculus 28.3; 29.15; for the date, see Holleaux 1942: 254), an attack which cost the Seleucid emperor and most of his army their lives(according to a late cuneiform king list, Antiochus III died either on 3 July 187 BC [25 III 125 SE] or on the same day of the preceding month, see Sachs and Wiseman 1954: 207). Mørkholm believed, however, that there was more to this campaign than a mere quest for plunder, and instead saw it as a reassertion of Seleucid authority in the east following the humiliation of Antiochus by Rome (Mørkholm 1966: 29). But in general, most scholars have viewed Antiochus’ adventurous attempt ‘to lay his hands on the treasures of a temple of Bel in Elymais . . .[as an] eloquent testimon[y] to the ﬁnancial difﬁculties of the king[s]’ (Mørkholm 1966: 31). Moreover, this act of aggression against what had ostensibly been an ally (viz. the provision of archers at Magnesia) was seen by von Gutschmid as the deﬁning moment in early Elymaean history, the moment when Elymais began to break away from the Seleucid kingdom and to establish its independence (von Gutschmid 1888: 39).
3 Quite apart from his aggressive ambition, Philip, the king of the Macedonians, was so arrogant in prosperity that he had his friends put to death without benefit of trial, destroyed the tombs of earlier generations, and razed many temples to the ground. As for Antiochus, his project of pillaging the sanctuary of Zeus at Elymaïs brought him to appropriate disaster, and he perished with all his host. Both men, though convinced that their armies were irresistible, found themselves compelled by the outcome of a single battle6 to do the bidding of others. In consequence they ascribed to their own shortcomings the misfortunes that befell them, while for the generous treatment that they were accorded they were duly grateful to those who in the hour of victory practised such moderation. So it was that, as if following a design sketched in their own acts, they beheld the decline into which heaven was leading their kingdoms. The Romans, however, who both on this occasion and thereafter engaged only in just wars and were scrupulous in the observance of oaths and treaties, enjoyed, not without reason, the active support of the gods in all their undertakings.
15 Antiochus, pressed for funds and hearing that the temple of Bel in Elymaïs had a large store of silver and gold, derived from the dedications, resolved to pillage it. He proceeded to Elymaïs and after accusing the inhabitants of initiating hostilities, pillaged the temple; but though he amassed much wealth he speedily received meet punishment from the gods.