Seleucid Empire History

The death of powerful Alexander, emperor of a vast empire spanning a great number of lands, in 323 B.C. left a large gap in what were once his territories. It allowed room for his loyal generals to become little more than dogs, tearing apart the shreds of the Empire for their own purposes and power-hungriness. While other generals such as Ptolemy Soter took their fill, another general named Seleucus staked his claim in Babylon, which now lies within modern-day Iraq. His realm spread over the majority of the eastern half of Alexander's empire and each had their own capital: Antioch in Syria, and Seleucia in the Anatolia.

The following years were times of expansion, and inversely times of decreasing land for the fledging nation. Seleucus pushed the borders of his new nation to near Macedon, with intentions of going even further. However, this new empire had grown quickly, and was rather unstable. Seleucus failed in an attempted conquest of India a few, but was forced into an alliance due to the overwhelming forces of Chandragupta Maurya. Other nations also prevented him from extending his borders too far. At the time surrounding his death circa 281 B.C., many portions of what he had build were beginning to fall apart.The Parthian Empire had its roots in Seleucus's Empire; 250 B.C. marked the cession of many provinces and sections of his land, including Parthia and Bactria. When the heir of the once-great general came into power, Seleucus II found himself engulfed in morecivil wars and encroaching enemies. He fought against his brother, and the descendant of a rival Macedonian general in Egypt (related to the aforementioned Ptolemy), the latter of which lead to a defeat for the Seleucids.

However, around 233 B.C, when Seleucus II's son, Antiochus III, took the throne, things began to look up for the Empire. Although once again not successful in besieging Egypt, Antiochus managed to reel back in the nations of Pathia and Bactria. Around 205 B.C., following a campaign into India, which ended in him receiving tribute from the king Sophagansenus, he discovered that the death of Ptolmaic Egypt's latest king had left the kingdom in the hands of a child. He saw an opportunity to finally break through Egypt and make it Seleucid. Following some wheeling and dealing with Egyptian leaders, Antiochus ousted the Ptolemaic leadership and, in 198 B.C., gained control of southern Syria and Palestine.

Unfortunately, these events led Antiochus to become overconfident. On the urging of an exiled Hannibal, Antiochus led an assault into Greek territory, which was repulsed circa 191 B.C. by the up-and-coming Romans. He lost all of his European territory and portions of Asia Minor. While trying to find a vassal to pay for the incredible deficit now facing him, Antiochus III died.

From that time forward, the Seleucid Empire only went downhill. The Maccabean revolt against Seleucid power in Palestine effectively ended their power there, and the Parthians once again left the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus IV, the leader at that time, around 170 B.C., was killed while attempting to sort out the situations plaguing the kingdom. Civil wars pulled apart the nation, eventually bringing what was referred to as the Seleucid Empire to merely Antioch and a few other surrounding areas. The Jews were entirely independent at this time, as the dynasties of the Empire were killed, replaced and repeated over the years. Essentially, the structure was destroyed until all provinces had ceded. Those that held out in Antioch were quite weak, and not much more than a border between the warring states around them.

When the soon-to-be Roman Empire came knocking at the door, conquering and assimilating nations into their own, the end for the Seleucids finally came. In this system, local governments were usually allowed to maintain a portion of their power, as was shown during the Jewish occupation during the time of Christ. However, the Romans found the Seleucids to be simply too troublesome. They killed the squabbling kings and turned Antioch and the few other remaining cities into fully-governed Roman provinces.

Although it is debatable about Seleucid power and government, there is no denying they shaped major events in Asia Minor and beyond.