By DoitzelKaiserIII

Following Alexander the Great’s death, his empire was ultimately divided between three of his successors, the diadochi. The final three divisions were Ptolemy Soter in Egypt, Antigonus Monopthalmos (the One-eye) in Greece, and the vast middle-eastern portion of Alexander’s empire was divided among many Macedonian satraps. One such satrap was Seleucus, an excellent administrator who, after gaining support, crowned himself king of Babylonia in 306 BCE. So began the Seleucid Empire, which would last for another 242 years.

In 304 BCE Seleucus invaded India, which was then called the Mauryan Empire. Because of the immense military challenge that faced Seleucus – a supposed army of 100,000 including 9,000 elephants – he was forced to come to accord with the Mauryans, and he married one of his daughters to the Mauryan king. After a few years of growing influence, Seleucus had managed to convince all the satraps to the east of Babylonia to yield to him. In 301 BCE, a coalition of other generals, including Ptolemy and Seleucus, defeated Antigonus, giving Seleucus control over Syria as well. In 281 BCE Seleucus proceeded to conquer much of Asia Minor. At the staggering age of 80, Seleucus was assassinated by a disgruntled Egyptian fugitive.

After the death of Seleucus, his reign passed on to his son, Antiochus I (281-261 BCE) and subsequently his son, Antiochus II (261-246 BCE). The first crisis in Seleucid history came during the reign of Seleucus II, son of Antiochus II. When one of the wars with the Ptolemiac Empire went awry, the empire nearly broke out into civil war. Also during Seleucus II’s reign, the vast provinces of Bactria under Diodotus and Parthia under Arsaces broke away from the Seleucid Empire. Near the end of the third century BCE, Antiochus III (the Great) became the ruler of the now weak and disorganized empire. He would show that the Seleucids may have been down, but not out.

In 217 BCE, after a series of victories, Antiochus was thrown far back, north of Lebanon, when Ptolemy IV delivered a decisive defeat to the Seleucids and the Battle of Raphia. As a result, the Seleucids lost Palestine and Syria to Ptolemy. Between 209 BCE and 204 BCE Antiochus III marched triumphantly through the eastern provinces which had seceded in the mid-third century. In 198 BCE Antiochus defeated Ptolemy at the Battle of Paneas, which resulted in the Seleucids recapturing Syria and Palestine. The empire had now reached the pinnacle of its power and size. Following his numerous victories in the far east and against Egypt, Antiochus the Great formulated a plan to cross the Hellespont (today the Dardanelles) and get a foothold in Thrace. Then, urged by the fugitive Hannibal, Antiochus invaded Greece after the Romans had withdrawn. This would mark the beginning of the end for the Seleucids.

Antiochus the Great’s daring plan to capture Greece saw him at war with the Roman powerhouse. After being forced to withdraw from Greece at Thermopylae, the Romans then advanced and defeated Antiochus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BCE. Defeated, the Seleucid Empire was forced to cede Asia Minor to the Romans and pay a hefty sum of money to Rome.

Antiochus was now forced to plunder temple treasuries to keep the empire running, a policy which saw him killed in 187 BCE. His empire passed on to his son Seleucus IV Philopator. With the treasury depleted and the army obliterated, there was nothing to stop the Parthians in the east from again breaking free, and expanding in all directions. The Bactrian Kings invaded India and what is now Pakistan, further depleting the size of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to outlaw observation of the Jewish faith, which brought about an armed rebellion in Judea. A Jewish kingdom was established in 166 BCE and recognized by the Seleucids in 142 BCE. Antiochus IV was also initially successful in his Persian campaign, but was killed along the way, which led the Seleucids to a bitter civil war, sponsored partially by the Romans and Ptolemies. Seleucia and Babylon were lost in 141 BCE, as the empire continued to decay and crumble throughout the late second and first centuries BCE. In 64 BCE, the Romans captured Syria and made it into a Roman province, thus putting a complete end to the Seleucid Empire.