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Seleucus I Nicator (358-280)

Seleucus I Nicator (358-280)

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Seleucus I Nicator (358-280)

Seleucus I Nicator began life as a Macedonian noble and a junior officer in the army of Alexander the Great. He ended it as the founder of the Seleucid Empire, and came close to reunited Alexander’s empire under his rule. In the period immediately after Alexander’s death, Seleucus served as an officer in the army of Perdiccas, taking part in his murder during a botched invasion of Egypt.

Seleucus began his close association with his future empire in 321 BC, when he was appointed satrap of Babylon. Under Alexander Babylon had been the potential future capital of the empire – for most of his successors it was an eastern backwater. Seleucus retained more of Alexander’s eastern ambitions – he was the only one of the senior successors not to repudiate the Iranian wives Alexander had given then all.

Seleucus remained in command in Babylon until 315. In that year he was forced out of his satrapy by Antigonus Monophthalmus, who had emerged from the first round of fighting between the successors in a very strong position, controlling Asia Minor, Syria and now the east. Seleucus fled to Ptolemy, where he found refuge and support.

Ptolemy was always opposed to anyone who might become powerful enough to threaten his rule in Egypt. In 315 that figure was Antigonus. The same was true for Cassander and Lysimachus, and together they issued an ultimatum to Antigonus. He refused their terms, triggering the Third Diadoch War. He then left his son Demetrius to defend his position in southern Syria and Palestine.

Seleucus spent the next three years in Egypt, waiting for Ptolemy to act. Finally, in 312 Ptolemy was ready. He inflicted a heavy defeat on Demetrius (battle of Gaza), opening to road back to Babylon. Seleucus took his chance, returning to Babylon where he quickly regained power. The defeat at Gaza forced Antigonus to make peace with Cassander and Lysimachus, soon joined by Ptolemy. The peace of 311 did not include Seleucus.

One of the most obscure of Hellenic Wars followed (Babylonian War). Antigonus invaded Babylonia, but was defeated in a battle whose date and location is unclear. It was probably fought close to Babylon in 309/8, but we can not be sure. The future actions of both men suggests that they made peace in 308.

From 308 Seleucus concentrated on the eastern borders of his empire, where he was involved in a war with Chandragupta, the Mauryan ruler. This lasted until some time in 305-3, when Seleucus surrendered the far east of his empire to Chandragupta in return for five hundred war elephants.

In 305 Seleucus finally adopted the royal title, following Antigonus, who had made the move after the conquest of Cyprus (306 BC).

The successes of Antigonus and Demetrius may have triggered this peace. Seleucus joined the great coalition against Antigonus, bringing his elephants to the battlefield at Ipsus (301 BC). In the aftermath of that victory, Seleucus was granted Syria. Ptolemy had been promised the south of Syria, but had not appeared at Ipsus, so Seleucus had been given the entire area. However, during 301 Ptolemy had seized southern Syria, as far as the River Eleutherus (now the northern border of the Lebanon). This southern area now became known as Coele-Syria, and would remain a source of tension between Egypt and the Seleucid Empire. For the moment any conflict was avoided by Seleucus, who did not oppose Ptolemy’s possession of the area in recognition of the debt he owned to him.

In the aftermath of Ipsus, the focus of Seleucus’s empire moved west to northern Syria. In 300 he founded a new western capital at Antioch by moving Antigoneia, recently founded by Antigonus, as well as Seleucia-in-Pieria, the port of Antioch. This area would become the heart of the Seleucid Empire.

For the next few years events were dominated by the adventures of Demetrius in Greece and Macedonia. In 288 Seleucus was expelled from Macedonia and embarked on an adventure that ended in Cilicia in 286. There he was eventually trapped, outnumbered and forced to surrender. Unusually Seleucus kept him alive, in a gilded cage on the Orontes. Three years later Demetrius died after three years of uninterrupted debauchery.

Late in live Seleucus was given an unexpected chance to reunite most of Alexander’s empire. Lysimachus had become king of Macedonia after 288, but quickly made himself unpopular, not least by executing his son and heir. His widow fled to Seleucus, who now found himself pressured to intervene in Macedonia. Late in 282 he invaded Asia Minor, where he was greeted with offers of assistance. The next year he defeated Lysimachus at the battle of Corupedium (281 BC). Lysimachus was killed during the battle.

In the aftermath Seleucus found himself ruler of Asia Minor, and in a strong position to take Macedonia. He waited until 280 to travel to Macedonia, but he never reached his destination. Soon after landing on the European shore of the Hellespont, Seleucus was murdered by Ptolemy Keraunos, who went on to seize power in Macedonia himself. Seleucus was succeeded by his son Antiochus I Soter, who retained most of Asia Minor.

Seleucus I Nicator

Seleucus was the son of Antiochus, a general of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great. Seleucus participated in the conquest of the Persian empire as one of Alexander’s officers, and in 326 bce he commanded the Macedonian infantry against King Porus of India in battle on the Hydaspes River. In 324 Alexander ordered a mass wedding ceremony at Susa (in Persia) to put into practice his ideal of uniting the peoples of Macedonia and Persia. On this occasion Seleucus married Apama, the daughter of Spitamenes, the ruler of Bactria. Of all the Macedonian nobles, he was the only one who did not repudiate his wife after Alexander’s death.

After Alexander died (323 bce), Seleucus was given the command of the hetairoi (companions) cavalry and took part in the regent Perdiccas’s campaign to oust Ptolemy, the governor (satrap) of Egypt. In Egypt, however, he joined with others in the assassination of Perdiccas. When the empire was divided in 321, he was given the governorship (satrapy) of Babylon. At the same time, Antigonus Monophthalmus (the One-Eyed) had been placed in command of a campaign against Eumenes of Cardia, a supporter of Perdiccas. In 317 Seleucus aided Antigonus but, after Eumenes’s execution in 316, Antigonus demanded that Seleucus give an accounting of the income from his satrapy. Seleucus refused to give the accounting and escaped capture by fleeing to Ptolemy in Egypt.

From 316 to 312 Seleucus remained in Ptolemy’s service. He took the initiative in forging a coalition among Ptolemy, Lysimachus (the ruler of Thrace), and Cassander (who laid claim to Macedonia) against Antigonus, whose desire to become the ruler of the whole of Alexander’s empire was a threat to them all. In the resulting coalition war (315–311), Seleucus was made one of Ptolemy’s generals and jointly with him commanded the Ptolemaic troops that defeated the force of Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, at the Battle of Gaza in southern Syria (312).

Seleucus once again turned his attention to returning to Babylonia, and in August 312 he was able to reconquer Babylon with only a small army. This conquest marked the beginning of the Seleucid era, which is dated Dios 1 (October 7), 312, in the Macedonian calendar and Nisan 1 (April 3), 311, in the Babylonian calendar. Antigonus ordered Nicanor, one of his generals, to invade Babylonia from the east and his son Demetrius to attack it from the west, but they failed to oust Seleucus. When Antigonus made peace with his enemies in 311, Seleucus was not included.

Little is known about the next few years of Seleucus’s reign he presumably used them to consolidate his gains. In the year 305 he followed the example of the other successors and assumed the title of king (basileus). He embarked on an expansion of his kingdom throughout the Iranian east (the upper satrapies) as far as India, but his advance was eventually halted by Chandragupta (called Sandrocottus or Androcottus in Greek and Latin sources), the founder of the Mauryan empire of India. In a pact concluded by the two potentates, Seleucus agreed to territorial concessions in exchange for 500 elephants. Their pact also contained a marriage clause, in which Seleucus may have agreed to send a daughter to India, but details of the arrangement are unknown.

Developments in the west were also a factor in causing Seleucus to end his campaign in India (303). He had joined a coalition that Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus had once again formed against Antigonus and Demetrius. In the winter of 302 Seleucus was back in Asia Minor and, together with Cassander and Lysimachus, defeated Antigonus in the Battle of Ipsus (301). The victors divided the lands of their enemy among them, with Seleucus being given Syria. The southern part of Syria, Coele Syria, had in the meantime been occupied by Ptolemy, who had not taken part in the war. This gave rise to the long series of Syrian wars between the Seleucids and Ptolemies. For the time being, however, Seleucus declined to enforce his claim he merely transferred his capital from Seleucia on the Tigris to the newly founded city of Antioch on the Orontes (301–300).

Ptolemy, anxious to improve relations with Lysimachus, had given him his daughter Arsinoe in marriage. To provide a counterbalance, Seleucus asked for the hand of Stratonice, the daughter of Demetrius, and in 298 the wedding was held with much pomp at Rhosus in Syria. Soon, however, Seleucus’s territorial demands (e.g., the surrender of Cilicia and the cities of Tyre and Sidon) ruptured the previously harmonious relationship with Demetrius.

In 294 a sensational scandal occurred at the court of Seleucus. Antiochus, his son by Apama, fell in love with his beautiful stepmother, Stratonice, and his unrequited passion affected his health. Seleucus gave him Stratonice, assigned him as commander in chief to the upper satrapies, and appointed him co-regent.

In 285 Seleucus took Demetrius prisoner, thus foiling his attempt to conquer Asia, and interned him in Apamea, where he died in 283. Subsequently, Seleucus intervened in dissensions in the house of Lysimachus, who had had his son Agathocles assassinated. In February 281 Lysimachus fell in a battle against Seleucus at Corupedium, and Seleucus gained control of Lysimachus’s kingdom. He was now near his goal of reestablishing Alexander’s empire. He crossed over to Europe to enter Macedonia, but at the end of August or beginning of September 281, he was murdered by Ptolemy Ceraunus, who had been passed over by his father, Ptolemy, as successor to the Egyptian throne. Seleucus’s son and successor, Antiochus I, entombed his father’s ashes in Seleucia, initiated (probably) the posthumous cult of his father, and ordered his veneration as Zeus Nicator.

Seleucus was an energetic ruler, creating the Seleucid empire, which gained its greatest expansion under his rule. He took great interest in the administration of his territories and founded many new cities. He also encouraged scientific research: Patrocles explored the Caspian Sea and Megasthenes the Ganges River. A bronze bust—a very impressive likeness of him, conveying his imposing personality—was found in Herculaneum (in Italy) and is now in Naples.

Seleucus I Nicator (358-280) - History

Seleucus I Nicator 358-281 BC

Seleucus was a general in Alexander III the Great 's army.

Alex and Seleucus went way back. Seleucus' father, Antiochus, was already a general for Alexander's father, Philip II.

One of Seleucus' major battles was the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC.

In 324 BC, Seleucus married Apama, the princess of Bactria. Seleucus and Apama had a son, Antiochus.

Later, Seleucus married Stratonice and when his son fell in love with stepmother Stratonice, Seleucus gave his blessings and married the two. That's right. 285 BC. Those were the days.

In 321 BC, Seleucus became satrap , or governor, of Babylon.

In 301 BC, Seleucus teamed up with Lysimachus , Cassander , and Ptolemy and got rid of Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus , the famous encounter of the diadochi .

And here is a map of Seleucus' world in 301 BC:

In February 281 BC, Seleucus managed to kill Lysimachus in the Battle of Corupedium . He didn't have long to celebrate because in September 281 BC, he was killed by Ptolemy's son, Ptolemy Ceraunus.

Seleucus I Nicator

Seleucus I Nicator (l. c. 358-281 BCE, r. 305-281 BCE) was one of the generals of Alexander the Great (l. 356-323 BCE) who make up the group of Diadochi ("successors") who divided the vast Macedonian Empire between them after Alexander's death in 323 BCE (the others being Cassander, Ptolemy, and Antigonus). Despite not receiving his share of the fallen king's empire until several years later, Seleucus I Nicator (meaning "unconquered" or "victor") was one of the more capable of the successors to Alexander's empire. Seleucus and his descendants established what became known as the Seleucid Empire (312-63 BCE) which lasted nearly 250 years.

Early Life of Seleucus

As with the other successors to Alexander, Seleucus was the son of a Macedonian nobleman, one of King Phillip II's generals. While little else of his family is known, historians do speak of a dream his mother had in which he was fathered not by Antiochus but by the Greek god Apollo. In the dream she received a unique ring inscribed with the symbol of an anchor. According to the legend, Seleucus was born with the same anchor symbol in the form of a tattoo on his thigh. This oddity of birth led him to later lay claim to a divine kingship however, some believe the entire story is a concoction, and he simply wished to emulate Alexander's similar claim to divinity. Even though his relationship to Alexander is not fully known (he may or may not have been a close companion), Seleucus followed the young Macedonian king's quest to conquer the Persian Empire and defeat Darius III (r. 336-330 BCE) in a number of engagements, finally conquering the Achaemenid Persian Empire by 330 BCE.


The only certainty concerning Seleucus I's role in the Persian campaign is that he was one of the commanders of the hypaspists - the silver shields. This elect guard served as a buffer between the cavalry and infantry – a kind of elite police force. Each member of the hypaspists was carefully chosen on an individual basis not only for their social standing (there were regular and royal hypaspists) but also for their physical strength and bravery. The hypaspists were known for their adept mobility and often used on special missions in rugged terrain as well as in situations that called for hand-to-hand combat.

Little of Seleucus' presence is mentioned in ancient sources until the Battle of Hydaspes (326 BCE) against King Porus of India. Prior to the battle, as Alexander and his forces crossed the Hydaspes River and prepared to meet the Indian king and his elephants, Alexander changed his normal defensive alignment. He stationed his archers (over 1,000) ahead of his Companion cavalry – this served as a screen against the elephants they were followed by the infantry, the remaining cavalry, and lastly Seleucus and his hypaspists. Alexander's deployment was sound he had wanted to avoid putting his cavalry directly against the elephants. Luckily for Alexander and his men, the elephants proved ineffective, actually doing more harm to the Indians than the Macedonians.


As Alexander had moved across Asia battling the Persians from Granicus (334 BCE) through Issus (333 BCE) and Gaugamela (331 BCE), he had hoped to unite the two worlds, spreading Hellenistic culture. Hydaspes, however, proved to be Alexander's last major conflict he would and could go no further. After defeating King Porus in India, his men balked at going any further. Despite his plans, Alexander was forced to return to Babylon. While there he had to come to terms with rebellions, not only by the Persian provinces but also many of his own men. They resented the presence of Persians within the army and being forced to take Persian wives. (Only Seleucus kept his Persian wife, Apama). Alexander died in 323 BCE before many of these problems could be resolved.

Alexander's Death

While Seleucus's name does not appear among those who chose to rebel against Alexander, it is mentioned just prior to the death of Alexander. The question arose among his generals– what to do with the body of the fallen king if he dies. The historian Plutarch in his The Life of Alexander mentions Seleucus only one time when he wrote: “It was also on this day that Python and Seleucus were sent to the sanctuary of Sarapis to ask if they should bring Alexander there, but the god told them to leave him where he was. And then he died late in the afternoon of the twenty-eighth.”

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The Successor Wars

The reason for Ptolemy's desire to divide the empire was a selfish one, for he achieved a long time goal and acquired Egypt. While he proved to be a capable “pharaoh,” one of his first acts was to kidnap the body of Alexander and bring him to Egypt. Perdiccos, who saw himself as the true successor to Alexander, had planned to ship the king's body to Macedonia where a tomb was being constructed however, Ptolemy stole the body as it arrived in Damascus. This action led to an immediate and lengthy war between Peridiccos and Ptolemy. Although he served as an officer under Perdiccos and at first sided with him, Seleucus turned against him and aligned himself with Ptolemy. Some historians even believe he took part in Peridiccos' assassination. As a reward for his assistance, Seleucus was named governor of Babylon by Antipater.

Because of jealousy and ambition among the other successors, Seleucus was unable to maintain his province's borders, and when Antigonos the One-Eyed invaded Babylon, Seleucus fled to Egypt in 316 BCE, seeking assistance and refuge from Ptolemy. In 312 BCE, and with the assistance of Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimander, Seleucus was able to defeat Antigonos in the Battle of Gaza and regain his lost territory.


Seleucus' Empire

Over the next few years, he assisted in the defeat and death of Antigonos at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE, expanding his empire into Syria. Later, he captured the son of Antigonos, Demetrios, and held him prisoner until Demetrios' death in 285 BCE. Likewise, Seleucus proved himself to be a capable general and strategist in his own right he expanded his own territory into Asia Minor and India, making peace and securing his southern border with the Indian ruler Chandraguta.

He built the cities of Antioch (his new capital) and Seleucia located on the Tigris River. At the Battle of Corupedium, he defeated and killed Lysimachos, setting his eyes on Macedonia however, he never succeeded in his conquest, dying in his attempt, killed by the son of his former ally, Ptolemy, who had wanted Macedonia for himself. Seleucus's memory would survive long after him, for his family established an empire that would live for generations to come.

Seleucus I Nicator

  • Married to Stratonice I Demetriusdr , born (321 BC) - Antiokia, Syria, deceased (268 BC) - Syria (Parents : Demetrius I Poliorcetes † & Phila I Antipatrosdr † )
  • Married to Apama I Spitamenesdr , born (345 BC) - Persia, Iran, deceased (280 BC) - Syria,
  • Seleucus II Callinicus †
  • Laodice II Antiochusson †
  • Antiochus III Soter †
  • Antiochus Hierax †
  • Berenice Antiochusdr
  • Ntf Antiochusdr
  • Stratonice Antiochusdr †
  • Seleucus II Callinicus †
  • Laodice II Antiochusson †
  • Antiochus III Soter †
  • Antiochus Hierax †
  • Berenice Antiochusdr
  • Ntf Antiochusdr
  • Stratonice Antiochusdr †

Domestic Policy

Since the beginning of the reign of Antiochus I, protracted wars for the possession of Asia Minor by the middle of the 270s, BC, caused an acute strain on financial resources, which prompted the king to impose emergency taxes in Babylonia and the seizure of land from the inhabitants of Babylon, Kutah, Borsippa, as well as the sale of the royal land, due to the policy of Pitane. Apparently, at the same time, it was necessary to include an extraordinary tax on the population of the Asia Minor satraps, which was collected in order to obtain funds for combating the raids of Galatians.

Appian on the career of Seleucus

Seleucus had served under Alexander the Great and was vizier after his death. In 320, he was made satrap of Babylonia. Although he lost possession of his satrapy between 315 and 311, he grew out to be one of the most powerful monarchs after Alexander.

The Greek historian Appian of Alexandria describes Seleucus' career in several chapters of his History of the Syrian War, which are here quoted in the translation of M.M. Austin.

The career of Seleucus

[52] After the Persians, Alexander the Great was king of the Syrians, as well as of all the people whom he saw. When he died leaving one very young son and another as yet unborn. note [Alexander's official wife Roxane was pregnant she became mother of a boy, Alexander IV. His mistress Barsine was mother of a son named Heracles.] the Macedonians, being deeply attached to the family of Philip, chose as their king Arridaeus, Alexander's half-brother, although he was believed to be dim-witted, and changed his name from Arridaeus to Philip.

While the children of Alexander were growing up (they even placed the pregnant mother under guard), his friends divided the peoples of the empire into satrapies, which Perdiccas note [Perdiccas was regent from 323 to 320.] shared out among them in the name of king Philip Arridaeus.

Not long after, when the kings were put to death, the satraps became kings. note [Philip Arridaeus was executed in 316 by Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, who fought for the rights of her son's son Alexander IV (more). In the winter of 312/311, the satraps concluded a treaty and promised to give their powers to the boy king, when he was old enough. Instead, the boy was immediately killed. In 306, the first of the Diadochi, Antigonus Monophthalmus, accepted the royal title, soon followed by the other rulers.] The first satrap of the Syrians was Laomedon of Mytilene, appointed by Perdiccas, and then Antipater, who after Perdiccas was guardian of the kings. Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt, sailed against Laomedon and sought to bribe him to hand over Syria, which protected Egypt's flank and was a good base to attack Cyprus. He failed and so arrested him, but Laomedon bribed his guards and escaped to Alcetas in Caria. For some time Ptolemy ruled Syria he sailed back to Egypt after leaving garrisons in the cities. note [In 319-318.]

[53] Antigonus was satrap of Phrygia, Lycia and Pamphylia, and was appointed overseer of the whole of Asia by Antipater note [Successor of Perdiccas as regent.] when he returned to Europe. He besieged Eumenes, satrap of Cappadocia, whom the Macedonians had voted an enemy, but Eumenes escaped and seized control of Media. Eventually Antigonus captured Eumenes and put him to death, and on his return was received in great pomp by Seleucus the satrap in Babylonia. note [In the spring of 315.]

One day Seleucus insulted an officer without consulting Antigonus, who was present, and Antigonus out of spite asked for accounts of his money and his possessions Seleucus, being no match for Antigonus, withdrew to Ptolemy in Egypt. Immediately after his flight, Antigonus deposed Blitor, the governor of Mesopotamia, for letting Seleucus escape, and took over personal control of Babylonia, Mesopotamia and all the peoples from the Medes to the Hellespont (Antipater was dead by now).

With so much territory in his power he became at once an object of jealousy to the other satraps. And so an alliance was formed between Seleucus, the chief instigator of the coalition, Ptolemy, Lysimachus satrap of Thrace, and Cassander son of Antipater, who ruled the Macedonians in his father's name. They sent a joint embassy to Antigonus to demand that he share out between them and other Macedonians, who had been expelled from their satrapies, the territory he had acquired and his money. Antigonus treated them with scorn, and so they went to war jointly against him, note [The ultimatum was delivered in the winter of 315/314 the Third Diadoch War started in the spring.] while he made counter-preparations, expelling the remaining garrisons of Ptolemy in Syria and laying his hands on the parts of Phoenicia and Coele Syria, as it is called, that were still under Ptolemy.

[54] Crossing the Cilician Gate, he left his son Demetrius, then about 22 years old, at Gaza with his army to meet the attacks of Ptolemy from Egypt. Ptolemy won a brilliant victory over him at Gaza and the young man took refuge with his father. Ptolemy immediately sent Seleucus to Babylon to recover his rule, giving him for the purpose 11,000 infantry and 300 cavalry. With such a small force Seleucus recovered Babylon, where the inhabitants received him enthusiastically, and within a short time he greatly extended his empire. note [In the second half of May 311. As we will see in a moment, Seleucus immediately took Media from its pro-Antigonus satrap Nicanor, and added Elam in 310.]

Antigonus defeated an attack by Ptolemy, winning a brilliant victory over him at sea off Cyprus his son Demetrius was in command. note [The naval battle off Salamis in 306.] This splendid achievement caused the army to proclaim both Antigonus and Demetrius kings the other kings were dead by this time, Arridaeus the son of Philip, Olympias and the sons of Alexander. note [Philip Arridaeus was executed in 316 by Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, who fought for the rights of her son's son Alexander IV (more). In the winter of 312/311, the satraps concluded a treaty and promised to give their powers to the boy king, when he was old enough. Instead, the boy was immediately killed. In 306, the first of the Diadochi, Antigonus Monophthalmus, accepted the royal title, soon followed by the other rulers. Go here for the story of the new kings., who received their titles in 306-305.] . Ptolemy's own army also proclaimed him king, so that his defeat should not place him in a position of inferiority vis-à-vis the victors. And so for these men different circumstances led to similar results the rest immediately followed their example and from satraps they all became kings.

[55] And so it was that Seleucus became king of Babylonia, and also of Media, after he had killed in battle with his own hand Nicanor who had been left by Antigonus as satrap of Media. note [In the winter of 311/310, five years before Seleucus accepted the royal title. Appian's chronology is a bit confused.] He waged many wars against Macedonians and barbarians the two most important were against Macedonians, the latter war against Lysimachus king of Thrace, the former at Ipsus in Phrygia against Antigonus, who was commanding his army and fighting in person although over 80 years old.

After Antigonus had fallen in battle, note [At Ipsus, in 301.] the kings who had joined with Seleucus in destroying Antigonus, shared out his territory. Seleucus obtained then Syria from the Euphrates to the sea and inland Phrygia. note [Which was occupied by Lysimachus and became really Seleucus' land after he had defeated him in 281.] Always lying in wait for the neighboring peoples, with the power to coerce and the persuasion of diplomacy, he became ruler of Mesopotamia, Armenia, Seleucid Cappadocia (as it is called), note [The central part of Cappodocia was occupied by the Galatians the northern part became an independent kingdom under the name Pontus.] the Persians, Parthians, Bactrians, Arians and Tapurians, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and all other neighboring peoples whom Alexander had conquered in war as far as the Indus. The boundaries of his rule in Asia extended further than those of any ruler apart from Alexander the whole land from Phrygia eastwards to the river Indus was subject to Seleucus. He crossed the Indus and made war on Sandracottus, note [The Indian king Chandragupta Maurya of the Ganges valley. In 304, they concluded a peace treaty, in which Seleucus gave up all lands east of the Hindu Kush and received many war elephants.] king of the Indians about that river, and eventually arranged friendship and a marriage alliance with him. Some of these achievements belong to the period before the end of Antigonus, others to after his death.

[. ] note [A section with omina is omited.]

[57] Immediately after the death of Alexander he became commander of the Companion cavalry, note [In fact, he was chiliarchos, "vizier".] which Hephaestion and after him Perdiccas had commanded during Alexander's lifetime, then after this satrap of Babylonia and eventually after satrap, king. His great successes in war earned him the surname of Nicator [the Victorious] this explanation seems to me more likely than that it was due to the killing of Nicanor.

He was tall and powerfully built one day when a wild bull was brought for sacrifice to Alexander and broke loose from his bonds, he resisted him alone and brought him under control with his bare hands. That is why his statues represent him with horns added.

He founded cities through the whole length of his empire there were sixteen called Antioch after his father, note [Not all towns in this catalogue were really founded by Seleucus his descendants also built cities, and several were in fact foundations of Alexander.] five Laodicea after his mother, nine named Seleucia after himself, four called after his wives, three Apamea and one Stratonicea. Of these the most famous up to the present are the two Seleucias, by the sea and on the river Tigris, Laodicea in Phoenicia, Antioch under Mount Lebanon and Apamea in Syria. The others he called after places in Greece or Macedonia, or after his own achievements, or in honor of Alexander the king. That is why there are in Syria and among the barbarians inland many Greek and many Macedonian place-names, Berroea, Edessa, Perinthus, Maronea, Callipolis, Achaea, Pella, Europus, Amphipolis, Arethusa, Astacus, Tegea, Chalcis, Larissa, Heraea, Apollonia, also in Parthia Soteira, Calliope, Charis, Hecatompylos, Achaea, among the Indians Alexandropolis, and among the Scythians an Alexandria Eschatê. Also, called after the victories of Seleucus himself there is Nicephorium in Mesopotamia and Nicopolis in Armenia very near to Cappadocia.

[58] They say that when he was undertaking the foundation of the two Seleucias, that of Seleucia by the sea was preceded by a portent of thunder, and that is why he consecrated thunder as their divinity, and the inhabitants continue to worship thunder and sing hymns in its honor up to the present day. They also say that for the foundation of Seleucia on the Tigris the Magians were ordered to select the day and the hour when the digging of the foundations was to begin, but they falsified the hour, as they did not wish to have such a stronghold threatening them. Seleucus was waiting for the given hour in his tent, while the army ready for work kept quiet until Seleucus would give the sign. Suddenly at the more favorable hour they thought someone was ordering them on to work and sprang up not even the efforts of the heralds could hold them back. The work was completed, but Seleucus in despair questioned the Magians a second time about the city they asked for a promise of impunity and then spoke: "Sire, what has been fated, for better or for worse, no man or city can change (for there is a fate of cities as well as of men). It pleased the gods that this city should last a long time, because it came into being at this hour. We feared it would be a stronghold against us and sought to divert the decrees of fate, but they proved stronger than the cunning of the Magians and the ignorance of a king.

Fortune has smiled on the beginnings of this city of yours it shall be great and long-lasting. Fear of losing our own prosperity led us into error we ask you to confirm your pardon to us."

[62] Seleucus had 72 satraps under him, note [This is greatly exaggerated. Twenty is a better estimate.] so vast was the territory he ruled. Most of it he handed over to his son, note [Antiochus Soter (281-261). Seleucus' descendants are called the Seleucids, his kingdom the Seleucid empire or - to use its real name - Asia.] and ruled himself only the land from the sea to the Euphrates. His last war he fought against Lysimachus for the control of Hellespontine Phrygia he defeated Lysimachus who fell in the battle, and crossed himself the Hellespont. note [He defeated Lysimachus in the battle of Corupedium (281).] As he was marching up to Lysimachea note [The capital of Lysimachus' kingdom, on the Hellespont.] he was murdered by Ptolemy nicknamed Keraunos who was accompanying him. note [In September 280. His surname means "thunderbolt".]

This Keraunos was the son of Ptolemy Soter and Eurydice the daughter of Antipater he had fled from Egypt through fear, as Ptolemy had in mind to hand over his realm to his youngest son. Seleucus welcomed him as the unfortunate son of his friend, and supported and took everywhere his own future assassin. And so Seleucus met his fate at the age of 73, having been king for 42 years.

Seleucid empire

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Seleucid empire, (312–64 bce ), an ancient empire that at its greatest extent stretched from Thrace in Europe to the border of India. It was carved out of the remains of Alexander the Great’s Macedonian empire by its founder, Seleucus I Nicator. (See also Hellenistic Age.)

Seleucus, one of Alexander’s leading generals, became satrap (governor) of Babylonia in 321, two years after the death of Alexander. In the prolonged power struggle between the former generals of Alexander for control of the disintegrating empire, Seleucus sided with Ptolemy I of Egypt against Antigonus I, Alexander’s successor on the Macedonian throne, who had forced Seleucus out of Babylonia. In 312 Seleucus defeated Demetrius at Gaza using troops supplied by Ptolemy, and with a smaller force he seized Babylonia that same year, thereby founding the Seleucid kingdom, or empire. By 305, having consolidated his power over the kingdom, he began gradually to extend his domain eastward to the Indus River and westward to Syria and Anatolia, where he decisively defeated Antigonus at Ipsus in 301. In 281 he annexed the Thracian Chersonesus. That same year, he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, the disgruntled son of Ptolemy I.

Seleucus was succeeded by his eldest son, Antiochus I Soter, who reigned until 261 and was followed by Antiochus II (reigned 261–246), Seleucus II (246–225), Seleucus III (225–223), and Antiochus III the Great (223–187), whose reign was marked by sweeping administrative reforms in which many of the features of the ancient Persian imperial administration, adopted initially by Alexander, were modernized to eliminate a dual power structure strained by rivalry between military and political figures. The empire was administered by provincial stratēgoi, who combined military and civil power. Administrative centres were located at Sardis in the west and at Seleucia on the Tigris in the east. By controlling Anatolia and its Greek cities, the Seleucids exerted enormous political, economic, and cultural power throughout the Middle East. Their control over the strategic Taurus Mountain passes between Anatolia and Syria, as well as the Hellespont between Thrace and Anatolia, allowed them to dominate commerce and trade in the region. Seleucid settlements in Syria, primarily Antioch, were regional centres by which the Seleucid empire projected its military, economic, and cultural influence.

The Seleucid empire was a major centre of Hellenistic culture, which maintained the preeminence of Greek customs and manners over the indigenous cultures of the Middle East. A Greek-speaking Macedonian aristocratic class dominated the Seleucid state throughout its history, although this dominance was most strongly felt in the urban areas. Resistance to Greek cultural hegemony peaked during the reign of Antiochus IV (175–163), whose promotion of Greek culture culminated in his raising a statue to Zeus in the Temple at Jerusalem. He had previously ordered the Jews to build shrines to idols and to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals and had forbidden circumcision—essentially prohibiting, on pain of death, the practice of the Jewish law. This persecution of the Jews and desecration of the Temple sparked the Maccabean uprising beginning in 165. A quarter-century of Maccabean resistance ended with the final wresting of control over Judea from the Seleucids and the creation of an independent Judea in Palestine.

The Seleucid empire began losing control over large territories in the 3rd century bce . An inexorable decline followed the first defeat of the Seleucids by the Romans in 190. By that time the Aegean Greek cities had thrown off the Seleucid yoke, Cappadocia and Attalid Pergamum had achieved independence, and other territories had been lost to the Celts and to Pontus and Bythnia. By the middle of the 3rd century, Parthia, Bactria, and Sogdiana had gained their independence the conquest of Coele Syria (Lebanon) and Palestine by Antiochus III (200) and a brief occupation of Armenia made up to some extent for the loss of much of Anatolia to the Romans. The decline accelerated after the death of Antiochus IV (164) with the loss of Commagene in Syria and of Judea in Palestine. By 141 all lands east of the Euphrates were gone, and attempts by Demetrius II (141) and Antiochus VII (130) could not halt the rapid disintegration of the empire. When it was finally conquered by the Romans in 64 bce , the formerly mighty Seleucid empire was confined to the provinces of Syria and eastern Cilicia, and even those were under tenuous control.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

Seleucus I Nicator (358-280) - History

Orthographic variation: Seleucus Nicator SELEUCID

Research Notes:

SELEUCUS I Nicator (r. 312-281 BCE), the founder of the Seleucid empire, who succeeded in re-uniting the greater part of the former Achaemenid empire after the death of Alexander the Great. Arrian (Anabasis 7.22.5) describes him as &ldquothe greatest king of those who succeeded Alexander, of the most royal mind, and ruling over the greatest extent of territory, next to Alexander himself.&rdquo

Seleucus was born in ca. 358 BCE. His father, Antiochus, was a lesser nobleman from Europus in Lower Macedonia, of the warrior class of the hetairoi (&ldquocompanions&rdquo) of the king. His mother&rsquos name was Laodice. According to a birth myth preserved in Justin (15.4), probably going back to Seleucid propaganda (perhaps of the reign of Antiochus I, r. 312-261 BCE), Seleucus was fathered by the god Apollo while his mother lay sleeping as a sign of his divine parentage, Seleucus had on his thigh a birthmark in the shape of an anchor. The story explains why the Seleucids used the anchor as a dynastic emblem, e.g., as counter-mark on coins, and why Apollo was the tutelary deity of the Seleucid family. Virtually nothing is known about Seleucus&rsquos youth. There can be little doubt, however, that as an adolescent Seleucus served as a royal page at the court of Philip II, receiving military training and intellectual education together with Philip&rsquos son Alexander, who was about the same age as he. Between 334 and 323 Seleucus accompanied Alexander on his campaigns in Asia, holding the court office of sōmatophulax (&ldquobodyguard&rdquo). The seven sōmatophulakes, personal attendants responsible for the king&rsquos welfare and safety, were partly recruited from among the former youth companions of the Macedonian king. After the destruction of the aristocrat faction led by Parmenio in 330, Alexander promoted these loyal intimates to high office, replacing members of the high nobility who opposed the king&rsquos increasing autocracy.

Thus Seleucus first enters history in India in 326 as the newly appointed captain of the hypaspist infantry guard (Arrian, Anabasis 5.13.4 for Seleucus&rsquos career under Alexander, see Grainger, 1992, pp. 1-23). Seleucus was present at the great wedding at Susa (324), where Alexander gave his marshals Iranian princesses in marriage, hoping to reconcile and pacify the Iranian nobility. Seleucus married Apama, daughter of the Bactrian leader Spitamenes (Arrian, Anabasis 7.4.6 for her, see O&rsquoNeil, 2002). Until his violent death in 327, Spitamenes had been Alexander&rsquos principal adversary during the three-year guerilla war in Bactria and Sogdia, and perhaps the most formidable opponent the Macedonian king ever encountered. The marriage with Apama had far-reaching consequences for Seleucus&rsquos later career, as it created family ties with the leading families in the Iranian northeast, where the first Seleucids eventually were more successful in gaining recognition than Alexander had been.

At the Babylonian Settlement following Alexander&rsquos death in 323, Seleucus took the side of the regent Perdiccas, who appointed him commander (hipparchos) of the Companion Cavalry, promoting him to the rank of chiliarch, a title previously held by Alexander&rsquos favorite Hephaestion and by Perdiccas himself (Diodorus, 18.3.4 Appian, Syriaca 57 Justin, 13.4.17 cf. Bosworth, 2002, pp. 29-63, esp. 56). Thus for some years Seleucus officially was the second most important magistrate in the Macedonian empire. Soon, however, he decided that he was backing the wrong horse, and in May/June 320 he was among the conspirators who assassinated Perdiccas during a campaign against the insubordinate new satrap of Egypt, Ptolemy son of Lagus (Diodorus, 18.36.1-5 for the date, see Landucci Gattinoni, 2005). The grateful Ptolemy became Seleucus&rsquos principal ally for the next eighteen years.

At a conference at Triparadeisus in Syria (320), power in the Macedonian empire was distributed anew, this time including commanders who had not been present in Babylon in 323, the most important of whom was Antigonus Monophthalmus (&ldquothe One-Eyed&rdquo). The new regent, Antipater, Alexander&rsquos viceroy in Macedonia, took away the chiliarchy from Seleucus (to give it to his own son, Cassander) but gave him the rich and centrally located satrapy of Babylonia (Diodorus, 18.39.6). In the years 319-315 Seleucus made his satrapy a virtually autonomous principality, obtaining the goodwill of the Babylonians by means of patronage and consideration for local traditions (Diodorus, 19.91.1-2 Kuhrt and Sherwin-White, 1993, p. 10). After being driven from Babylonia by his enemy Antigonus in 315, Seleucus recaptured his satrapy in 312 with the help of Ptolemy and finally drove out the Antigonid forces after a battle near Babylon in 308 (BM 35920 = Grayson, 1975, no. 10). The Seleucid kingdom would later date its history from 312 BCE, the year of Seleucus&rsquos return to Babylonia.

His Mesopotamian power base secure, and Antigonus having shifted his attention to the Mediterranean, Seleucus now embarked on a lightning campaign through the Upper Satrapies (308-306), becoming master of Iran and Bactria by subduing satraps loyal to Antigonus with military force and by winning over the others through skillful diplomacy (Kuhrt and Sherwin-White, 1993, p. 12). By ca. 306 Seleucus was in India, crossing the Indus to fight the recently created Mauryan empire. About a year later he withdrew his forces after reaching an agreement with the Mauryan emperor Chandragupta. According to this treaty, the details of which remain obscure, Seleucus yielded all lands to the south and east of the Hindu Kush rangeincluding Gandhara and the Indus valleyin return for alliance and perhaps the formal acknowledgment of his suzerainty. He also received a force of 500 Indian war elephants (Plutarch, Life of Alexander 62 Strabo, 15.2.9, 16.2.10 the round number is somewhat suspect but is supported by Diodorus, 20.113.4, who says that at Ipsus Seleucus disposed of a force of 480 elephants cf. Plutarch, Life of Demetrius 28.3 see Wheatley, 2014).

It was then time to return to the west and challenge Antigonus, who together with his son Demetrius Poliorcetes (&ldquothe Besieger&rdquo) had steadily consolidated his control of Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. In 306 Antigonus and Demetrius had assumed the Macedonian title of king (basileus) following a naval victory against Ptolemy off Salamis on Cyprus. The next year, Seleucus followed suit, as did Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus, who controlled, respectively, Egypt, Macedonia, and Thrace. Although the title of basileus implicated claims to the entire Macedonian empire, Seleucus entered into alliance with Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus, and in 301 the allies destroyed the Antigonid army at Ipsus in Phrygia Antigonus died on the battlefield, but Demetrius made his escape to continue the war in the Aegean, until he was finally captured by Seleucus in 285. Victory at Ipsus was mainly due to the allied superiority in cavalry, mostly Iranian horsemen fighting for Seleucus, as well as Chandragupta&rsquos war elephants. The victors divided among themselves the countries held by Antigonus, Seleucus&rsquos prize being the Levant. But when he returned from Asia Minor to claim his share, he found Ptolemy already in control of Phoenicia, South Syria, and Palestine. Although Seleucus decided not to resolve the matter by war, the dispute over the spoils of Ipsus remained the principal casus belli between Seleucids and Ptolemies in the following century.

Still, Seleucus was able to expand his empire to the west, acquiring northern Mesopotamia, North Syria, Armenia and the eastern half of Anatolia (for the scope and organization of Seleucus&rsquos empire after Ipsus, see Kuhrt and Sherwin-White, 1993, pp. 14-21). Further expansion took place in the Persian Gulf, where the island of Failaka became the southernmost Seleucid outpost. It was now clear that Seleucus had become the most powerful of Alexander&rsquos successors, but his position was threatened by his erstwhile allies Ptolemy, who aimed at controlling the coastal areas around the eastern Mediterranean basin, and Lysimachus, who became king of Macedonia after the death of Cassander and created an empire around the Aegean comprising western Asia Minor.

After Ipsus, Seleucus spent about a decade consolidating his gains. In this task he was aided by his son Antiochus, the later king Antiochus I Soter. Antiochus, who was the son of Seleucus and Apama and thus half-Iranian, was made vice-king in 292/1 and given responsibility for Babylonia and the Iranian lands, while Seleucus himself built up the western part of the empire (Appian, Syriaca 59). Antiochus&rsquos succession to the throne was secured beforehand by his marriage to Seleucus&rsquos own wife Stratonice, a daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and by conferring upon him the title of basileus even while his father was still alive. A Babylonian chronicle from this period, describing sacrifices made by Antiochus to the moon god Sin, therefore refers to him as mar &scaronarri &ldquocrown prince&rdquo (Grayson, 1975, no. 11). Thus the conflicts inherent in the polygamy and absence of primogeniture characteristic of the Macedonian nobility were evaded. In time, the memory of this political marriage turned into folktale: a young prince is secretly in love with his father&rsquos new wife when the father finds out, he magnanimously gives her away, thus saving the life of his lovesick son (Appian, Syriaca 59-61 cf. Broderson, 1985 Breebaart, 1967). On coins struck in Bactria and Aria-Drangiana, the two kings are named together as equals (see, e.g., Houghton and Lorber 2003, nos. 233, 235, 279, 281, 285-290).

The old satrapal structure of the Achaemenid empire remained basically intact. Seleucus focused on the founding of cities and the establishment of fortresses and military colonies. Throughout the empire, cities were built or rebuilt and named after members of the Seleucid family. Appian (Syriaca 57) lists sixteen cities named Antiocheia after his father, five Laodikeia after his mother, three Apameia after his Iranian wife, one Stratonikeia after his second wife, and nine Seleukeia after himself, but some of these cities may actually have been founded by Antiochus I. Ancient historiography informs us mainly about the history of Seleucus&rsquos foundations in the western half of his empire. These included the capitals Seleucia on the Tigris&mdashlocated in the vicinity of Babylon and destined to become the largest city in the Seleucid empire&mdashand, in North Syria, Antioch on the Orontes and Seleucia in Pieria. Amidst the grassy pastures of the middle Orontes valley, Apamea was built as an assembly point for the army, serving as base of operation in future wars against the Ptolemies. Halab (Aleppo) and Harran (Urfa) were refounded and given the names of towns in Macedonia: Beroea and Edessa. At strategic intersections and river crossings, military strongholds were built, e.g., Dura Europus, Seleucia-Zeugma, and Jebel Khalid on the Euphrates.

Little is known about the city foundations in Iran and further east. Here, the vice-king Antiochus took responsibility for the creation of cities and the construction of a string of defenses along the Bactrian border, founding, e.g., Antioch in Persis and most likely Aï Khanum, and refounding Alexandria Eschate in the Marv oasis as Antioch in Margiana. After Seleucus&rsquos death the policy of city (re)foundings was continued in western Asia Minor under Antiochus I and Antiochus II. The cities, populated with a mixture of Greek, Macedonian, and indigenous settlers, served not merely military, but also economic, purposes, as Seleucus actively encouraged economic growth and long-distance trade.

Seleucus was over 70 years old when he decided to mobilize the enormous resources of his empire against Lysimachus and conquer the European part of Alexander&rsquos empire. In the winter of 282/1 the two armies met at Corupedium in Lydia. Lysimachus was slain, and his army defeated. Seleucus added western Asia Minor to his empire and crossed the Hellespont, presenting himself to the Greek cities as a liberator from tyranny who had come to restore democracy and autonomy (Funck, 1994). Upon reaching Lysimachia, however, his army mutinied, and he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, a son of the deceased Ptolemy I who had taken refuge at Seleucus&rsquos court after his half-brother Ptolemy II had succeeded to the throne (Appian, Syriaca 62 Grayson, 1979, no. 12). His ashes were brought back to Syria, where he was buried in Seleucia in Pieria in a sanctuary called the Nicatoreum. After the death of the conqueror, the western part of the empire was thrown into turmoil, while Ceraunus for a short time took possession of Macedonia and Thrace the eastern satrapies, however, remained loyal to the house of Seleucus, so that Antiochus I, in the first five years of his reign, was able to restore order in Syria and Asia Minor. Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece remained outside the grasp of the Seleucids, but claims to these regions were only given up after the failure of Antiochus III&rsquos invasion of Europe in the early second century BCE. 1

Marriage Information:

Seleukos married Apama of Sogdiana-Bactria, daughter of Spitamenes, Bactrian nobleman, about 324 BCE. (Apama died about 280 BCE.)

Marriage Information:

Seleukos also married Stratonike ANTIGONID, daughter of Demetrios I Poliorcetes ANTIGONID, King of Macedonia and Phila I, Princess of Macedonia, about 300 BCE. (Stratonike ANTIGONID was born about 317 BCE in Macedonia died in Sep/Oct 254 BCE in Sardis, Lydia.)

Seleucus I Nicator (358-280) - History

the name of five kings of the Greek dominion of Syria who are hence called Seleucidae . Only one--the fourth --is mentioned in the Apocrypha.

(1) Seleucus I (Nicator, "The Conqueror"), the founder of the Seleucids or House of Seleucus, was an officer in the grand and thoroughly equipped army, which was perhaps the most important part of the inheritance that came to Alexander the Great from his father, Philip of Macedon. He took part in Alexander's Asiatic conquests, and on the division of these on Alexander's death he obtained the satrapy of Babylonia. By later conquests and under the name of king, which he assumed in the year 306, he became ruler of Syria and the greater part of Asia Minor. His rule extended from 312 to 280 B.C., the year of his death at least the Seleucid era which seems to be referred to in 1 Maccabees 1:16 is reckoned from Seleucus I, 312 B.C. to 65 B.C., when Pompey reduced the kingdom of Syria to a Roman province. He followed generally the policy of Alexander in spreading Greek civilization. He founded Antioch and its port Seleucia, and is said by Josephus (Ant., XII, iii, 1) to have conferred civic privileges upon the Jews. The reference in Daniel 11:5 is usually understood to be to this ruler.

(2) Seleucus II (Callinicus, "The Gloriously Triumphant"), who reigned from 246 to 226 B.C., was the son of Antiochus Soter and is "the king of the north" in Daniel 11:7-9, who was expelled from his kingdom by Ptolemy Euergetes.

(3) Seleucus III (Ceraunus, "Thunderbolt"), son of Seleucus II, was assassinated in a campaign which he undertook into Asia Minor. He had a short reign of rather more than 2 years (226-223 B.C.) and is referred to in Daniel 11:10.

(4) Seleucus IV (Philopator, "Fond of his Father") was the son and successor of Antiochus the Great and reigned from 187 to 175 B.C. He is called "King of Asia" (2 Maccabees 3:3), a title claimed by the Seleucids even after their serious losses in Asia Minor (see 1 Maccabees 8:6 11:13 12:39 13:32). He was present at the decisive battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.). He was murdered by HELIODORUS (which see), one of his own courtiers whom he had sent to plunder the Temple (2 Maccabees 3:1-40 Daniel 11:20).

For the connection of the above-named Seleucids with the "ten horns" of Daniel 7:24, the commentators must be consulted.

Watch the video: Seleucus I Nicator (June 2022).


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