Seleucid Empire

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Seleucid Empire

Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν
312 BC–63 BC
201209071746a Berlin Pergamonmuseum, Tetradrachme Seleukos' I, Silber, Pergamon, 281-280 v.u.Z.jpg
Tetradrachm of Seleucus I - the horned horse, the elephant and the anchor all served as symbols of the Seleucid monarchy. [3] [4]
Seleucid Empire (flat map).svg
The empire at its greatest extent prior to the Seleucid–Mauryan war [ disputed ]
Capital
Common languages
Religion
GovernmentMonarchy
Basileus  
 305–281 BC
Seleucus I (first)
 65–63 BC
Philip II (last)
Historical era Hellenistic period
312 BC
301 BC
192–188 BC
188 BC
167–160 BC
63 BC
Area
303 BC [7] 3,000,000 km2 (1,200,000 sq mi)
301 BC [7] 3,900,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)
240 BC [7] 2,600,000 km2 (1,000,000 sq mi)
175 BC [7] 800,000 km2 (310,000 sq mi)
100 BC [7] 100,000 km2 (39,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Vergina Sun - Golden Larnax.png Macedonian Empire
Maurya Empire Blank.png
Province of Syria Spqrstone.jpg
Parthian Empire Blank.png
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom Blank.png
Hasmonean kingdom Blank.png
Osroene Blank.png
Faravahar background Faravahar at Behistun.jpg
Faravahar background
History of Greater Iran

The Seleucid Empire ( /sɪˈljsɪd/ ; [8] Ancient Greek : Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, Basileía tōn Seleukidōn) was a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty, which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC; Seleucus I Nicator founded it following the division of the Macedonian Empire vastly expanded by Alexander the Great. [9] [10] [11] [12] Seleucus received Babylonia (321 BC), and from there, expanded his dominions to include much of Alexander's near-eastern territories. At the height of its power, the Empire included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

Hellenistic period Period of ancient Greek and Mediterranean history

The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the subsequent conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt the following year. The Ancient Greek word Hellas is the original word for Greece, from which the word Hellenistic was derived.

Seleucus I Nicator Alexandrian general

Seleucus I Nicator was one of the Diadochi. Having previously served as an infantry general under Alexander the Great, he eventually assumed the title of basileus and established the Seleucid Empire over much of the territory in the Near East which Alexander had conquered.

The Partition of Triparadisus was a power-sharing agreement passed at Triparadisus in 321 BC between the generals (Diadochi) of Alexander the Great, in which they named a new regent and arranged the repartition of the satrapies of Alexander's empire among themselves. It followed and modified the Partition of Babylon made in 323 BC upon Alexander's death.

Contents

The Seleucid Empire became a major center of Hellenistic culture – it maintained the preeminence of Greek customs where a Greek political elite dominated, mostly in the urban areas. [12] [13] [14] [15] The Greek population of the cities who formed the dominant elite were reinforced by immigration from Greece. [12] [13] Seleucid expansion into Anatolia and Greece halted abruptly in the early 2nd century BC after decisive defeats at the hands of the Roman army. Seleucid attempts to defeat their old enemy Ptolemaic Egypt were frustrated by Roman demands. Having come into conflict in the East (305 BC) with Chandragupta Maurya of the Maurya Empire, Seleucus I entered into an agreement with Chandragupta whereby he ceded vast territory west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern-day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan and offered his daughter in marriage to the Maurya Emperor to formalize the alliance.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Anatolia Asian part of Turkey

Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, Asian Turkey, the Anatolian peninsula, or the Anatolian plateau, is the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Armenian Highlands to the east, and the Aegean Sea to the west. The Sea of Marmara forms a connection between the Black and Aegean Seas through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and separates Anatolia from Thrace on the European mainland.

Roman army terrestrial forces of Roman governments

The Roman army was the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of Ancient Rome, from the Roman Kingdom to the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and its medieval continuation the Eastern Roman Empire. It is thus a term that may span approximately 2,206 years, during which the Roman armed forces underwent numerous permutations in composition, organisation, equipment and tactics, while conserving a core of lasting traditions..

Antiochus III the Great attempted to project Seleucid power and authority into Hellenistic Greece, but his attempts were thwarted by the Roman Republic and by Greek allies such as the Kingdom of Pergamon, culminating in a Seleucid defeat at the 190 BC Battle of Magnesia. In the subsequent Treaty of Apamea in 188 BC, the Seleucids were compelled to pay costly war reparations and relinquished claims to territories west of the Taurus Mountains. The Parthians under Mithridates I of Parthia conquered much of the remaining eastern part of the Seleucid Empire in the mid-2nd century BC, while the independent Greco-Bactrian Kingdom continued to flourish in the northeast. However, the Seleucid kings continued to rule a rump state from Syria until the invasion by Armenian king Tigranes the Great in 83 BC and their ultimate overthrow by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC.

Antiochus III the Great Seleucid ruler

Antiochus III the Great was a Hellenistic Greek king and the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire. He ruled over the region of Syria and large parts of the rest of western Asia towards the end of the 3rd century BC. Rising to the throne at the age of eighteen in 222 BC, his early campaigns against the Ptolemaic Kingdom were unsuccessful, but in the following years Antiochus gained several military victories and substantially expanded the empire's territory. His traditional designation, the Great, reflects an epithet he assumed. He also assumed the title Basileus Megas, the traditional title of the Persian kings. A militarily active ruler, Antiochus restored much of the territory of the Seleucid Empire, before suffering a serious setback, towards the end of his reign, in his war against Rome.

Hellenistic Greece

In the context of ancient Greek art, architecture, and culture, Hellenistic Greece corresponds to the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the annexation of the classical Greek heartlands by the Roman Republic. This culminated at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC, a crushing Roman victory in the Peloponnese that led to the destruction of Corinth and ushered in the period of Roman Greece. Hellenistic Greece's definitive end was with the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, when the future emperor Augustus defeated Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony, the next year taking over Alexandria, the last great center of Hellenistic Greece.

Roman Republic Period of ancient Roman civilization (509 BC-27 BC)

The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Name

Contemporary sources, such as a loyalist degree from Ilium, in Greek language define the Seleucid state both as an empire (arche) and as a kingdom (basileia). Similarly, Seleucid rulers were described as kings in Babylonia. [16]

Ilium (Epirus)

Ilium or Ilion, also known as Troja (Τροΐα), was a city of ancient Epirus It is mentioned in the Aeneid of Virgil as a foundation of Helenus after the Trojan War in the land of the Chaonia.

Starting from the 2nd century BC, ancient writers referred to the Seleucid ruler as the King of Syria, Lord of Asia, and other designations; [17] the evidence for the Seleucid rulers representing themselves as kings of Syria is provided by the inscription of Antigonus son of Menophilus, who described himself as the "admiral of Alexander, king of Syria". He refers to either Alexander Balas or Alexander II Zabinas as a ruler. [18]

Lord of Asia was the title given to Alexander the Great after the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC. The title passed on to his successors after his death in Babylon in 323 BC, though none of them held any actual power in Asia or any other part of the Hellenistic Alexandrian Empire; the actual power fell to the numerous regents or the rebellious Persian satraps. With the partition of his empire and the rise of the Diadochi, the title of Lord of Asia fell in abeyance.

Antigonus, son of Menophilus was a Seleucid official (nauarchos). He served under king Alexander, in the mid-2nd century BC. He is known from an inscription found in the city of Miletus.

Alexander Balas Seleucid ruler

Alexander I Theopator Euergetes, surnamed Balas, was the ruler of the Greek Seleucid kingdom in 150/Summer 152 – August 146 BC. Alexander defeated Demetrius Soter for the crown in 150 BC. Ruling briefly, he lost the crown to Demetrius II Nicator during his defeat at the Battle of Antioch in Syria, dying shortly after.

History

Partition of Alexander's empire

Alexander, who quickly conquered the Persian Empire under its last Achaemenid dynast, Darius III, died young in 323 BC, leaving an expansive empire of partly Hellenised culture without an adult heir. The empire was put under the authority of a regent in the person of Perdiccas, and the territories were divided among Alexander's generals, who thereby became satraps, at the Partition of Babylon, all in that same year.

Alexander the Great King of Macedon

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and he created one of the largest empires of the ancient world by the age of thirty, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.

Achaemenid Empire first Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration, for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.

Darius III Last king of the Achaemenid Empire

Darius III, originally named Artashata and called Codomannus by the Greeks, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, from 336 BC to 330 BC. Artashata adopted Darius as a dynastic name.

Rise of Seleucus

Alexander's generals (the Diadochi) jostled for supremacy over parts of his empire. Ptolemy, a former general and the satrap of Egypt, was the first to challenge the new system; this led to the demise of Perdiccas. Ptolemy's revolt led to a new subdivision of the empire with the Partition of Triparadisus in 320 BC. Seleucus, who had been "Commander-in-Chief of the Companion cavalry" (hetairoi) and appointed first or court chiliarch (which made him the senior officer in the Royal Army after the regent and commander-in-chief Perdiccas since 323 BC, though he helped to assassinate him later) received Babylonia and, from that point, continued to expand his dominions ruthlessly. Seleucus established himself in Babylon in 312 BC, the year used as the foundation date of the Seleucid Empire.

Babylonian War (311-309 BC)

The rise of Seleucus in Babylon threatened the eastern extant of Antigonus I territory in Asia. Antigonous, along with his son Demetrius I of Macedon, unsuccessfully led a campaign to annex Babylon. The victory of Seleucus ensured his claim of Babylon and legitimacy. He ruled not only Babylonia, but the entire enormous eastern part of Alexander's empire, as described by Appian:

Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he [Seleucus] acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus. [19]

Seleucid–Mauryan War (305-303 BC)

In the region of Punjab, Chandragupta Maurya (Sandrokottos) founded the Maurya Empire in 321 BC. Chandragupta conquered the Nanda Empire in Magadha, and relocated to the capital of Pataliputra. Chandragupta then redirected his attention back to the Indus and by 317 BC he conquered the remaining Greek satraps left by Alexander. Expecting a confrontation, Seleucid gathered his army and marched to the Indus. It is said that Chandragupta himself fielded an army of 600,000 men and 9,000 war elephants. [20]

Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received vast territory, sealed in a treaty, west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan. [21] [22] Archaeologically, concrete indications of Mauryan rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. According to Appian:

He [Seleucus] crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. [23]

"Chandra Gupta Maurya entertains his bride from Babylon": a conjectural interpretation of the "marriage agreement" between the Seleucids and Chandragupta Maurya, related by Appian Chandra Gupta Maurya entertains his bride from Babylon.jpg
"Chandra Gupta Maurya entertains his bride from Babylon": a conjectural interpretation of the "marriage agreement" between the Seleucids and Chandragupta Maurya, related by Appian

It is generally thought that Chandragupta married Seleucus's daughter, or a Macedonian princess, a gift from Seleucus to formalize an alliance. In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 war elephants, [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar state). Megasthenes wrote detailed descriptions of India and Chandragupta's reign, which have been partly preserved to us through Diodorus Siculus. Later Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka the Great, is also recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court. [30]

The Indians occupy [in part] some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus (Chandragupta Maurya) in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants. [31]

Other territories lost before Seleucus' death were Gedrosia in the south-east of the Iranian plateau, and, to the north of this, Arachosia on the west bank of the Indus River.

Westward expansion

Coin of Seleucus I Nicator SeleucosCoin.jpg
Coin of Seleucus I Nicator

Following his and Lysimachus' victory over Antigonus Monophthalmus at the decisive Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, Seleucus took control over eastern Anatolia and northern Syria.

In the latter area, he founded a new capital at Antioch on the Orontes, a city he named after his father. An alternative capital was established at Seleucia on the Tigris, north of Babylon. Seleucus's empire reached its greatest extent following his defeat of his erstwhile ally, Lysimachus, at Corupedion in 281 BC, after which Seleucus expanded his control to encompass western Anatolia. He hoped further to take control of Lysimachus's lands in Europe – primarily Thrace and even Macedonia itself, but was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus on landing in Europe.

His son and successor, Antiochus I Soter, was left with an enormous realm consisting of nearly all of the Asian portions of the Empire, but faced with Antigonus II Gonatas in Macedonia and Ptolemy II Philadelphus in Egypt, he proved unable to pick up where his father had left off in conquering the European portions of Alexander's empire.

Breakup of Central Asian territories

Antiochus I (reigned 281–261 BC) and his son and successor Antiochus II Theos (reigned 261–246 BC) were faced with challenges in the west, including repeated wars with Ptolemy II and a Celtic invasion of Asia Minor distracting attention from holding the eastern portions of the Empire together. Towards the end of Antiochus II's reign, various provinces simultaneously asserted their independence, such as Bactria and Sogdiana under Diodotus, Cappadocia under Ariarathes III, and Parthia under Andragoras. A few years later, the latter was defeated and killed by the invading Parni of Arsaces - the region would then become the core of the Parthian Empire.

In Bactria, the satrap Diodotus asserted independence to form the Greco-Bactrian kingdom c.245 BC. DiodotusGoldCoin.jpg
In Bactria, the satrap Diodotus asserted independence to form the Greco-Bactrian kingdom c.245 BC.

Diodotus, governor for the Bactrian territory, asserted independence in around 245 BC, although the exact date is far from certain, to form the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. This kingdom was characterized by a rich Hellenistic culture and was to continue its domination of Bactria until around 125 BC when it was overrun by the invasion of northern nomads. One of the Greco-Bactrian kings, Demetrius I of Bactria, invaded India around 180 BC to form the Indo-Greek Kingdoms.

The Seleucid satrap of Parthia, named Andragoras, first claimed independence, in a parallel to the secession of his Bactrian neighbour. Soon after, however, a Parthian tribal chief called Arsaces invaded the Parthian territory around 238 BC to form the Arsacid dynasty, from which the Parthian Empire originated.

Antiochus II's son Seleucus II Callinicus came to the throne around 246 BC. Seleucus II was soon dramatically defeated in the Third Syrian War against Ptolemy III of Egypt and then had to fight a civil war against his own brother Antiochus Hierax. Taking advantage of this distraction, Bactria and Parthia seceded from the empire. In Asia Minor too, the Seleucid dynasty seemed to be losing control: the Gauls had fully established themselves in Galatia, semi-independent semi-Hellenized kingdoms had sprung up in Bithynia, Pontus, and Cappadocia, and the city of Pergamum in the west was asserting its independence under the Attalid Dynasty.[ citation needed ] The Seleucid economy started to show the first signs of weakness, as Galatians gained independence and Pergamum took control of coastal cities in Anatolia. Consequently, they managed to partially block contact with the West. [32]

Revival (223–191 BC)

Silver coin of Antiochus III the Great. AntiochusIII.jpg
Silver coin of Antiochus III the Great.
The Seleucid Empire in 200 BC (before expansion into Anatolia and Greece). Seleucid-Empire 200bc.jpg
The Seleucid Empire in 200 BC (before expansion into Anatolia and Greece).

A revival would begin when Seleucus II's younger son, Antiochus III the Great, took the throne in 223 BC. Although initially unsuccessful in the Fourth Syrian War against Egypt, which led to a defeat at the Battle of Raphia (217 BC), Antiochus would prove himself to be the greatest of the Seleucid rulers after Seleucus I himself. He spent the next ten years on his anabasis (journey) through the eastern parts of his domain and restoring rebellious vassals like Parthia and Greco-Bactria to at least nominal obedience. He won the Battle of the Arius and besieged the Bactrian capital, and even emulated Alexander with an expedition into India where he met with king Sophagasenus (Sanskrit: Subhagasena) receiving war elephants.

Actual translation of Polybius 11.34 (No other source except Polybius makes any reference to Sophagasenus):

"He (Antiochus) crossed the Caucasus Indicus (Paropamisus) (Hindu Kush) and descended into India; renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians; received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether; and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him. [33] Having traversed Arachosia and crossed the river Enymanthus, he came through Drangene to Carmania; and as it was now winter, he put his men into winter quarters there." [34]

When he returned to the west in 205 BC, Antiochus found that with the death of Ptolemy IV, the situation now looked propitious for another western campaign. Antiochus and Philip V of Macedon then made a pact to divide the Ptolemaic possessions outside of Egypt, and in the Fifth Syrian War, the Seleucids ousted Ptolemy V from control of Coele-Syria. The Battle of Panium (198 BC) definitively transferred these holdings from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids. Antiochus appeared, at the least, to have restored the Seleucid Kingdom to glory.

Expansion into Greece and war with Rome

The reduced empire (titled: Syria, Kingdom of the Seleucids) and the expanded states of Pergamum and Rhodes, after the defeat of Antiochus III by Rome. Circa 188 BC. Asia Minor 188 BCE.jpg
The reduced empire (titled: Syria, Kingdom of the Seleucids) and the expanded states of Pergamum and Rhodes, after the defeat of Antiochus III by Rome. Circa 188 BC.

Following the defeat of his erstwhile ally Philip by Rome in 197 BC, Antiochus saw the opportunity for expansion into Greece itself. Encouraged by the exiled Carthaginian general Hannibal, and making an alliance with the disgruntled Aetolian League, Antiochus launched an invasion across the Hellespont. With his huge army he aimed to establish the Seleucid empire as the foremost power in the Hellenic world, but these plans put the empire on a collision course with the new rising power of the Mediterranean, the Roman Republic. At the battles of Thermopylae (191 BC) and Magnesia (190 BC), Antiochus's forces suffered resounding defeats, and he was compelled to make peace and sign the Treaty of Apamea (188 BC), the main clause of which saw the Seleucids agree to pay a large indemnity, to retreat from Anatolia and to never again attempt to expand Seleucid territory west of the Taurus Mountains. The Kingdom of Pergamum and the Republic of Rhodes, Rome's allies in the war, gained the former Seleucid lands in Anatolia. Antiochus died in 187 BC on another expedition to the east, where he sought to extract money to pay the indemnity.

Roman power, Parthia and Judea

Statue of a prince without a crown, traditionally thought to be a Seleucid prince, maybe Attalus II of Pergamon. Bronze, Greek artwork of the Hellenistic era, 3rd-2nd centuries BC. Seleucid prince Massimo Inv1049.jpg
Statue of a prince without a crown, traditionally thought to be a Seleucid prince, maybe Attalus II of Pergamon. Bronze, Greek artwork of the Hellenistic era, 3rd-2nd centuries BC.

The reign of his son and successor Seleucus IV Philopator (187–175 BC) was largely spent in attempts to pay the large indemnity, and Seleucus was ultimately assassinated by his minister Heliodorus.

Seleucus' younger brother, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, now seized the throne. He attempted to restore Seleucid power and prestige with a successful war against the old enemy, Ptolemaic Egypt, which met with initial success as the Seleucids defeated and drove the Egyptian army back to Alexandria itself. As the king planned on how to conclude the war, he was informed that Roman commissioners, led by the Proconsul Gaius Popillius Laenas, were near and requesting a meeting with the Seleucid king. Antiochus agreed, but when they met and Antiochus held out his hand in friendship, Popilius placed in his hand the tablets on which was written the decree of the senate and told him to read it. When the king said that he would call his friends into council and consider what he ought to do, Popilius drew a circle in the sand around the king's feet with the stick he was carrying and said, "Before you step out of that circle give me a reply to lay before the senate." For a few moments he hesitated, astounded at such a peremptory order, and at last replied, "I will do what the senate thinks right." He then chose to withdraw rather than set the empire to war with Rome again. [35]

The latter part of his reign saw a further disintegration of the Empire despite his best efforts. Weakened economically, militarily and by loss of prestige, the Empire became vulnerable to rebels in the eastern areas of the empire, who began to further undermine the empire while the Parthians moved into the power vacuum to take over the old Persian lands. Antiochus' aggressive Hellenizing (or de-Judaizing) activities provoked a full scale armed rebellion in Judea the Maccabean Revolt. [36] Efforts to deal with both the Parthians and the Jews as well as retain control of the provinces at the same time proved beyond the weakened empire's power. Antiochus died during a military expedition against the Parthians in 164 BC.

Civil war and further decay

Coin of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. AntiochusIVEpiphanes.jpg
Coin of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Silver coin of Alexander Balas. AlexanderI.jpg
Silver coin of Alexander Balas.

After the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid Empire became increasingly unstable. Frequent civil wars made central authority tenuous at best. Epiphanes' young son, Antiochus V Eupator, was first overthrown by Seleucus IV's son, Demetrius I Soter in 161 BC. Demetrius I attempted to restore Seleucid power in Judea particularly, but was overthrown in 150 BC by Alexander Balas – an impostor who (with Egyptian backing) claimed to be the son of Epiphanes. Alexander Balas reigned until 145 BC when he was overthrown by Demetrius I's son, Demetrius II Nicator. Demetrius II proved unable to control the whole of the kingdom, however. While he ruled Babylonia and eastern Syria from Damascus, the remnants of Balas' supporters – first supporting Balas' son Antiochus VI, then the usurping general Diodotus Tryphon – held out in Antioch.

Meanwhile, the decay of the Empire's territorial possessions continued apace. By 143 BC, the Jews in the form of the Maccabees had fully established their independence. Parthian expansion continued as well. In 139 BC, Demetrius II was defeated in battle by the Parthians and was captured. By this time, the entire Iranian Plateau had been lost to Parthian control.

Demetrius Nicator's brother, Antiochus VII Sidetes, took the throne after his brother's capture. He faced the enormous task of restoring a rapidly crumbling empire, one facing threats on multiple fronts. Hard-won control of Coele-Syria was threatened by the Jewish Maccabee rebels. Once-vassal dynasties in Armenia, Cappadocia, and Pontus were threatening Syria and northern Mesopotamia; the nomadic Parthians, brilliantly led by Mithridates I of Parthia, had overrun upland Media (home of the famed Nisean horse herd); and Roman intervention was an ever-present threat. Sidetes managed to bring the Maccabees to heel and frighten the Anatolian dynasts into a temporary submission; then, in 133, he turned east with the full might of the Royal Army (supported by a body of Jews under the Hasmonean prince, John Hyrcanus) to drive back the Parthians.

Sidetes' campaign initially met with spectacular success, recapturing Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Media. In the winter of 130/129 BC, his army was scattered in winter quarters throughout Media and Persis when the Parthian king, Phraates II, counter-attacked. Moving to intercept the Parthians with only the troops at his immediate disposal, he was ambushed and killed. Antiochus Sidetes is sometimes called the last great Seleucid king.

After the death of Antiochus VII Sidetes, all of the recovered eastern territories were recaptured by the Parthians. The Maccabees again rebelled, civil war soon tore the empire to pieces, and the Armenians began to encroach on Syria from the north.

Collapse (100–63 BC)

By 100 BC, the once formidable Seleucid Empire encompassed little more than Antioch and some Syrian cities. Despite the clear collapse of their power, and the decline of their kingdom around them, nobles continued to play kingmakers on a regular basis, with occasional intervention from Ptolemaic Egypt and other outside powers. The Seleucids existed solely because no other nation wished to absorb them – seeing as they constituted a useful buffer between their other neighbours. In the wars in Anatolia between Mithridates VI of Pontus and Sulla of Rome, the Seleucids were largely left alone by both major combatants.

Mithridates' ambitious son-in-law, Tigranes the Great, king of Armenia, however, saw opportunity for expansion in the constant civil strife to the south. In 83 BC, at the invitation of one of the factions in the interminable civil wars, he invaded Syria and soon established himself as ruler of Syria, putting the Seleucid Empire virtually at an end.

Seleucid rule was not entirely over, however. Following the Roman general Lucullus' defeat of both Mithridates and Tigranes in 69 BC, a rump Seleucid kingdom was restored under Antiochus XIII. Even so, civil wars could not be prevented, as another Seleucid, Philip II, contested rule with Antiochus. After the Roman conquest of Pontus, the Romans became increasingly alarmed at the constant source of instability in Syria under the Seleucids. Once Mithridates was defeated by Pompey in 63 BC, Pompey set about the task of remaking the Hellenistic East, by creating new client kingdoms and establishing provinces. While client nations like Armenia and Judea were allowed to continue with some degree of autonomy under local kings, Pompey saw the Seleucids as too troublesome to continue; doing away with both rival Seleucid princes, he made Syria into a Roman province.

Culture

Bagadates I (Minted 290–280 BC) was the first indigenous Seleucid satrap to be appointed. BagdatesI290-280BCEPersia.jpg
Bagadates I (Minted 290–280 BC) was the first indigenous Seleucid satrap to be appointed.

The Seleucid empire's geographical span, from the Aegean Sea to what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, created a melting pot of various peoples, such as Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Medes, Assyrians and Jews. The immense size of the empire, followed by its encompassing nature, encouraged the Seleucid rulers to implement a policy of ethnic unitya policy initiated by Alexander.

The Hellenization of the Seleucid empire was achieved by the establishment of Greek cities throughout the empire. Historically significant towns and cities, such as Antioch, were created or renamed with more appropriate Greek names. The creation of new Greek cities and towns was aided by the fact that the Greek mainland was overpopulated and therefore made the vast Seleucid empire ripe for colonization. Colonization was used to further Greek interest while facilitating the assimilation of many native groups. Socially, this led to the adoption of Greek practices and customs by the educated native classes in order to further themselves in public life, and at the same time the ruling Macedonian class gradually adopted some of the local traditions. By 313 BC, Hellenic ideas had begun their almost 250-year expansion into the Near East, Middle East, and Central Asian cultures. It was the empire's governmental framework to rule by establishing hundreds of cities for trade and occupational purposes. Many of the existing cities beganor were compelled by forceto adopt Hellenized philosophic thought, religious sentiments, and politics although the Seleucid rulers did incorporate Babylonian religious tenets to gain support. [38]

Synthesizing Hellenic and indigenous cultural, religious, and philosophical ideas met with varying degrees of successresulting in times of simultaneous peace and rebellion in various parts of the empire. Such was the case with the Jewish population of the Seleucid empire; the Jews' refusal to willingly Hellenize their religious beliefs or customs posed a significant problem which eventually led to war. Contrary to the accepting nature of the Ptolemaic empire towards native religions and customs, the Seleucids gradually tried to force Hellenization upon the Jewish people in their territory by outlawing Judaism. This eventually led to the revolt of the Jews under Seleucid control, which would later lead to the Jews achieving independence from the Seleucid empire.

List of Seleucid rulers

See also

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