Seleucid Empire

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Seleucid Empire
Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν
Basileía tōn Seleukidōn
312 BC – 63 BC
Tetradrachm of Seleucus I – the horned horse, the elephant and the anchor all served as symbols of the Seleucid monarchy.[1][2] of Seleucid Empire
Tetradrachm of Seleucus I – the horned horse, the elephant and the anchor all served as symbols of the Seleucid monarchy.[1][2]
The Seleucid Empire (light blue) in 281 BC on the eve of the murder of Seleucus I Nicator
The Seleucid Empire (light blue) in 281 BC on the eve of the murder of Seleucus I Nicator
Common languages
• 305–281 BC
Seleucus I (first)
• 65–63 BC
Philip II (last)
Historical eraHellenistic period
312 BC 
301 BC
192–188 BC
188 BC
167–160 BC
• Seleucia taken by Parthians
141 BC
129 BC
 63 BC
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)
• 301 BC[8]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Macedonian Empire
Parthian Empire
Maurya Empire
Province of Syria
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Hasmonean kingdom

The Seleucid Empire (

Macedonian Empire originally founded by Alexander the Great.[12][13][14][15]

After receiving the

Persia, the Levant, and what are now modern Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Turkmenistan

The Seleucid Empire was a major center of

Indian ruler Chandragupta of the Maurya Empire in 305 BC led to the cession
of vast territory west of the Indus and a political alliance.

In the early second century BC, Antiochus III the Great attempted to project Seleucid power and authority into Hellenistic Greece, but his attempts were thwarted by the Roman Republic and its Greek allies. The Seleucids were forced to pay costly war reparations and had to relinquish territorial claims west of the Taurus Mountains in southern Anatolia, marking the gradual decline of their empire. Mithridates I of Parthia conquered much of the remaining eastern lands of the Seleucid Empire in the mid-second century BC, while the independent Greco-Bactrian Kingdom continued to flourish in the northeast. The Seleucid kings were thereafter reduced to a rump state in Syria, until their conquest by Tigranes the Great of Armenia in 83 BC, and ultimate overthrow by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC.


Contemporary sources, such as a loyalist decree honoring Antiochus I 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.[18]

Starting from the 2nd century BC, ancient writers referred to the Seleucid ruler as the

Lord of Asia, and other designations;[19] 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.[20]


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, Perdiccas, and the vast territories were divided among Alexander's generals, who thereby became satraps at the Partition of Babylon, all in that same year.

Rise of Seleucus

Alexander's generals, known as diadochi, jostled for supremacy over parts of his empire following his death. Ptolemy I Soter, a former general and then current satrap of Egypt, was the first to challenge the new system, which eventually led to the demise of Perdiccas. Ptolemy's revolt created 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 later used as the foundation date of the Seleucid Empire.

Babylonian War (311–309 BC)

The rise of Seleucus in Babylon threatened the eastern extent of the territory of Antigonus I Monophthalmus in Asia. Antigonus, along with his son Demetrius I Poliorcetes, 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 the historian 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.[21]

Seleucid–Mauryan War (305–303 BC)

conscript army of 600,000 men and 9,000 war elephants.[22]

Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received, formalized through a treaty, vast territory west of the Indus, including the

Balochistan province of Pakistan.[23][24] 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.[21]

"Chandra Gupta Maurya entertains his bride from Babylon": a conjectural interpretation of the "marriage agreement" between the Seleucids and Chandragupta Maurya, related by Appian[21]

It is generally thought that Chandragupta married

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 ceded 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

Following his and Lysimachus' decisive victory over Antigonus at the 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

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

Greco-Bactrian kingdom
c. 245 BC.
Polyainos (Strat. 7.40), in which Vahbarz (Oborzos) is said to have killed 3000 Seleucid settlers.[34][32][33]