THE SELEUCID DYNASTY
312 - 280 BC


After the death of Alexander the Great in the afternoon of 11 June 323 BCE, his empire was divided by his generals, the so-called Diadochi. One of them was his friend Seleucus, who became king of the eastern provinces - more or less modern Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, together with parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. His kingdom had two capitals, which he founded in c.300: Antioch in Syria (pictures) and Seleucia in Iraq. Babylon was a third important city. The empire was, like the empire of Alexander, actually the continuation of the empires before: Persia, Babylonia and Assyria.
Coin of the first Seleucid ruler, Seleucus I Nicator.

Seleucus I


Seleucus' reign lasted from 312 to 280 , and he was succeeded by his descendants, who continued to govern these countries for two centuries. But c.246, during a short interregnum, the Seleucids lost much territory in the east, where the Parni settled themselves in the satrapy of Parthia -in northern Iran- and the satrapy of Bactria -Afghanistan- became independent. The Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great was able to reconquer these territories between 209 and 204. In the southwest, the Seleucid kings fought several wars with the Egyptians; in 200, their king was forced to cede Palestine to Antiochus III. Seleucid power was at its zenith.
Coin of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great.

Antiochus III the Great


In 196, Antiochus III crossed the Hellespont in order to add Thrace to his empire (which happened in 194). This was something that the Romans could not allow to happen, and war between the two superpowers broke out in 192. Antiochus received support from many Greek towns and help from the famous general Hannibal, but was defeated and forced to pay a tremendous sum of money. Moreover, the Seleucid empire lost its possessions in what is now Turkey.
Bust of Pompey the Great at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket, KÝbenhavn (Danmark).

Pompey the Great


The tide was turning against the Seleucid monarchy. In the west, Rome became too powerful to resist; they backed the Jews, who liberated themselves in the years after 165 (the so-called Maccabaean revolt). At the same time, the Parni founded the Parthian empire, which seized away the eastern provinces. The towns in Babylonia, a.o. Seleucia and Babylon, were captured between April and June 141. New losses followed, until in 64, the Roman general Pompey the Great made an end to the Seleucid kingdom.