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March 21st, 2012
THE SELEUCID EMPIRE (312 BCE – 63 BCE)
SELEUCUS I (311-280 BCE) AND THE
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SELEUCID EMPIRE
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320 BCE – Seleucus I Nicator appointed Satrap of Babylon.
315 BCE – Seleucus I expelled as satrap by Antigonus I; flees to Egypt.
311 BCE – Seleucus I returns to Babylon; wrests control away from Antigonus I; starting date for Seleucid
rule.
310-309 BCE – Demetrius I Poliorketes and Antigonus I defeated in a series of guerilla campaigns.
309-306 BCE – Seleucus I subdues upper satrapies; retakes Bactria-Sogdiana; invades India (under
Chandragupta Maurya).
305 BCE – Seleucus recognizes Chandragupta Maurya’s sovereignty in India; marries daughter to
Chandragupta in exchange for war-elephants.
301 BCE – Seleucus I, in alliance with Lysimachus, defeats Antigonus I and Demetrius I at Ipsus; Seleucus I
receives Coile Syria and Phoenicia by treaty.
298 BCE – Seleucus I seizes Samaria from Ptolemy I; Levant a major bone of contention between Ptolemies
and Seleucids.
294-289 BCE – Seleucus I snatches away territories from Demetrius I in Asia Minor; Son, Antiochus I
appointed co-ruler (292 BCE).
287-286 BCE – Seleucus I captures Demetrius I (286 BCE).
282-281 BCE – Dynastic struggle in Thrace; Seleucus I invades and defeats Lysimachus (b. of Corupedium –
281 BCE).
281-280 BCE – Seleucus I undertakes invasion of Macedon; assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus (280 BCE).
THE SELEUCID EMPIRE (280 BCE)
SELEUCID RULERS
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Seleucus I Nicator (311-280 BCE).
Antiochus I Soter (281-261 BCE).
Antiochus II Theos (261-246 BCE).
Seleucus II Callinicus (246-225 BCE).
Seleucus III Ceraunus (225-222 BCE).
Antiochus III Megas (222-187 BCE).
Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BCE).
Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BCE).
Antiochus V Eupator (164-162 BCE).
Demetrius I Soter (161-150 BCE).
Alexander I Balas (152-145 BCE).
Demetrius II Nicator (145-138 BCE).
Antiochus VI Dionysus (145-140 BCE).
Diodotus Tryphon (141-138 BCE).
Antiochus VII Sidetes (138-129 BCE).
Demetrius II Nicator (129-125 BCE).
Alexander II Zabinas (129/123 BCE).
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Cleopatra Thea (125 BCE).
Seleucus V (125 BCE).
Cleopatra Thea & Antiochus VIII Grypus
(125/121 BCE).
Antiochus VIII Grypus (121/96 BCE).
Antiochus IX Cyzicenus (115-95 BCE).
Demetrius II Eucareus (97-87 BCE).
Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator (96-94
BCE).
Antiochus XI Epiphanes Philadelphus (9592 BCE).
Philip I Philadelphus (95-75 BCE).
Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator (94-88
BCE).
Antiochus XII Dionysus (87-82 BCE).
Tigranes II the Great of Armenia (74-69
BCE).
Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (69-64 BCE).
Philip II Philoromaeos (67-65 BCE).
THE SELEUCID KINGS:
LIVIUS. ORG
http://www.livius.org/a/1/maps/seleucids.gif
MAIN CHALLENGES OF THE SELEUCID EMPIRE
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Largest of the successor kingdoms.
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Most geographically and ethnically diverse.
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Co-extensive with the Persian Empire pre-Alexander.
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Alexander’s campaigns by-passed large swaths of territory.
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Control of hinterland and upper satrapies always tenuous.
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Control of Western satrapies tenuous owing to ambitions of other successor
states (esp. Ptolemies).
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Interference of Rome after ca. 192 BCE.
MAJOR EVENTS IN SELEUCID REIGN TO 164 BCE
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Antiochus I Soter (281-261 BCE) – The First Syrian War (280-279 BCE, 274-271 BCE);
Cappadocia independent under Ariarathes II (279 BCE); Gallic incursions (279-275 BCE);
Eumenes I of Pergamum gains independence (263-262 BCE); loss of control in north-western
Asia Minor.
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230-227 BCE – Parthians revolt and overrun Hyrcania; Diodotus (Satrap of Bactria-Sogdiana)
declares independence (230 BCE); Seleucus II forced to negotiate a settlement; loss of control
in the upper satrapies.
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The “anabasis” of Antiochus III (212-205 BCE) – Re-affirms Seleucid suzerainty over Parthia
and recognizes Euthydemus I as vassal king of Bactria, re-establishes ties with Mauryian India.
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The Syrian War with Rome (192-188 BCE) – Defeated at b. of Magnesia (189 BCE); Peace of
Apameia (188 BCE), Rome gives Asia Minor to Rhodes and Pergamum.
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Antiochus IV Epiphanes lauches Sixth Syrian War (170-168 BCE) in “defense” of the Egyptian
boy-king Ptolemy VI; violation of Peace of Apameia brings Roman intervention (Gaius Popilius
Laenas); Antiochus IV interference in Judah results in Revolt of the Maccabees (166 BCE) with
Roman support; Judah wins nominal independence from Seleucid control.
THE PARTHIAN EXPANSION:
A CLOSER LOOK
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245 BCE – Seleucus II Callinicus just succeeded to throne (246 BCE); Andragoras (satrap of Parthia)
declares independence; Parmi take advantage of crisis to overrun Parthia.
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235 BCE – Seleucus II attempts to recover Parthia but is defeated; Parmi control of Parthia acknowledged;
Parmi henceforth known as Parthians.
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Arsaces I (first king of Parthia) est. capital at Hecatompylos; Arsacid Dynasty.
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Arsacid kings receive Seleucid acknowledgment as “vassal kings”; independent but loyal to Seleucid
monarchs.
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209-204 BCE – Antiochus III re-conquers Parthia but leaves Arsacid kings in place in exchange for tribute
and acknowledgment of Seleucid supremacy.
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Mithradates I the Great (171-138 BCE) resumes Parthian expansion taking part of Bactria and Media;
Babylonia taken in 141 BCE; Demetrius II Nicator captured trying to retake Babylonia (ca. 139 BCE).
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129 BCE – Antiochus VII Sidetes dies in an attempt to retake Babylonia; Upper satrapies are lost; Seleucid
power limited principally to Syria.
CRISIS IN THE UPPER SATRAPIES
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“When the people beyond the Taurus revolted as the kings of Syria and
Media, who also controlled those parts, were fighting with each other,
Bactria and all the territory near it was the first to be made independent by
the men who enjoyed the confidence of the kings, namely Euthydemus and
his followers. Then Arsaces, a Scythian, at the head of some of the nomad
tribes of the Dahae, who are called Parmi and live along the Oxus, invaded
Parthia and established control over it. Initially he was weak as he and his
successors had to fight against men dispossessed of their territory, but later
they became so powerful by seizing neighboring lands through continuous
successes in war that in the end they became masters of all the territory
within (i.e. to the east of) the Euphrates. They also seized part of Bactria by
reducing the Scythians, and even before this Eucratides and his followers; at
present they rule so much territory and so many peoples that they have
become as it were rivals of the Romans for the extent of their empire…”
(Strabo XVI.2.14. M.M. Austin, Doc. 144)
THE PARTHIAN EMPIRE
http://www.livius.org/a/1/maps/parthia_map.jpg
THE SELEUCIDS AND ROME TO 188 BCE
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Confrontation begins with Antiochus III the Great (222-187 BCE).
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205 BCE – Alliance between Antiochus III and Philip V of Macedon to invade Egypt (Ptolemy IV having died);
The Fifth Syrian War (202-195 BCE).
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196 BCE – Antiochus III invades Thrace; confronted by a Roman embassy demanding abandonment of
territories in Asia; Antiochus III ignores the threat – occupies Thrace.
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194 BCE – Antiochus’ III operations in Hellespont angers Eumenes II (king of Pergamum, friend of Rome);
Eumenes II complains to Rome.
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192 BCE – Antiochus III invited by Aetolian League to “free the Greeks”; The Syrian War (192-188 BCE);
Hannibal of Carthage a special advisor to Antiochus III.
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191 BCE – Philip V of Macedon and the Achaean League side with Rome; Antiochus III defeated at b. of
Thermopylae; Aetolian League abandons Antiochus III.
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190 BCE – Roman sign an armistice with Aetolian League; Hannibal defeated by Rhodes at sea; Rome and
Pergamum defeat Antiochus III at b. of Magnesia.
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190-189 BCE – Romans mopping up.
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188 BCE – Peace of Apamea.
THE CONFERENCE OF LYSIMACHEA (196 BCE)
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“Just as Antiochus’ designs in Thrace were going as he wished, Lucius Cornelius and
his colleagues sailed into Selymbria; they were the ambassadors sent by the Senate
to arrange peace between Antiochus and Ptolemy (V). At the same time there arrived
three of the ten commissioners, Publius Lentulus from Bargylia and Lucius
Terrentius and Publius Villius from Thasos. Their presence was promptly reported to
the king and they all met together a few days later at Lysimachea; and Hegesianax
and Lysias, the envoys sent to Titus (Flamininus) also happened to arrive at this
time. The private meetings of the king and the Romans were quite informal and
friendly, but afterwards when they met in public council to discuss matters of state
policy things took a very different turn. Lucius Cornelius demanded that Antiochus
should give up all cities in Asia under the rule of Ptolemy (V) which he had just
captured, and he earnestly requested him to evacuate those under Philip (V). He also
advised him to keep away from the autonomous cities. Finally, he said that he could
not understand why he had crossed to Europe with such a large army and fleet:
there was no other reasonable interpretation of his action than that he was seeking
to attack the Romans. With these words the Romans fell silent.” (Polybius, XVIII.4950. M.M. Austin, Doc. 154).
CONDITIONS OF THE PEACE OF APAMEA (188 BCE):
CF. M.M. AUSTIN, DOC. 161
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Antiochus not to allow Roman enemies to pass through Seleucid territory.
Not to make war against people of Europe or the islands.
Will abandon all territory north of the Taurus range and restore all cities without plunder.
Return all Roman deserters or those from Eumenes II.
Surrender Hannibal of Carthage and any Aetolians.
Surrender all elephants and all warships.
Shall not receive mercenaries or refugees from territory subjugated by Rome.
Any land, houses, property belonging to Rhodians in Seleucid territory shall be returned to
them.
Antiochus III shall pay the Romans 10,000 talents over 10 years + 540,000 modii of corn.
Antiochus III shall give king Eumenes II of Pergamum 350 talents over 5 years + 127 talents
and 1,208 drachmas up front.
Antiochus III shall provide 20 hostages to Rome between the ages of 18 and 45; must change
them every three years.
Antiochus III can go to war if attacked but cannot assume sovereignty over vanquished enemies
or take them into an alliance.
Complaints between Antiochus III and another state shall be referred to arbitration.
THE SELEUCID SITUATION BY 188 BCE
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Upper satrapies only nominally under Seleucid
control; Parthia firmly under Arsacid control from
204 BCE; Bactria under Diodotid control from ca.
230 BCE; India under the Mauryans.
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Seleucid territory limited to Syria and parts of the
Fertile crescent.
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Under the watchful eye of Rome; Rome always
willing to back anti-Seleucid movements; Romans
become natural friends to the Ptolemies.
THE REIGN OF SELEUCUS IV PHILOPATOR:
(187-175 BCE)
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189 BCE – Seleucus IV made co-ruler with his father (Antiochus III).
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187 BCE – Antiochus III dead; Seleucus IV attempts diplomacy to
recover lost territories (esp. in the east) – unsuccessful.
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178 BCE – Seleucus IV marries his daughter Laodice V to Perseus
(king of Macedon); Eumenes II of Pergamum denounces Seleucus IV
to Rome (i.e. marriage a violation of the Peace of Apamea); Seleucus
IV forced to deliver son Demetrius to Rome as a hostage.
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175 BCE – Seleucus IV having difficulty paying indemnity to Rome;
Heliodorus sent to Jerusalem to take money from the temple
(unsuccessful); Heliodorus returns and assassinates Seleucus IV;
succeeded by brother, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
THE REIGN OF ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES:
(175-164 BCE)
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175 BCE – Seleucus IV Philopator assassinated by Heliodorus; Dynastic struggle;
Antiochus IV (only a minor) placed on throne with help from Eumenes II of Pergamum
– Implications?
174 BCE – Antichus IV appoints Jason as high priest in Jerusalem causing tension in
Judah.
173 BCE – Re-founds Babylon as a Greek city; settles large numbers of Greek
settlers.
171 BCE – Parthians begin expansion into upper satrapies under Mithradates I.
170 BCE – Ptolemy VI attempts to retake Palestine, Judah, Phoencia from Seleucids;
touches of Sixth Syrian War (170-168 BCE); Antiochus IV builds a navy, seizes Cyprus
and moves on Egypt; violation of the Peace of Apamea.
168 BCE – Antiochus IV confronted in Egypt by Roman envoy Lucius Popilius Laenas;
forced to abandon Egyptian campaign.
167 BCE – Antiochus IV intervenes in Judah; rededicates the temple in Jerusalem.
166-164 BCE – The revolt of Judas Maccabeas with Roman support; Jewish control
of Jerusalem restored; Judah essentially independent from 164 BCE.
THE ROMAN ULTIMATUM TO ANTIOCHUS IV (168 BCE)
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“When Antiochus (IV) had advanced against Ptolemy (VI) in order to take control of
Pelusium, he was met by the Roman commander (C.) Popilius Laenas. The king
greeted him by voice from a distance and offered to him his right hand, but Popilius
presented to him the tablet he had in his hand which contained the Senate’s decree,
and asked Antiochus to read it first. In my opinion, he did not want to display any
mark of friendship before finding out the intentions of the recipient, whether he was
a friend or an enemy. When the king had read it, he said he wanted to consult with
his friends on these developments, but Popilius in reply did something which
seemed insolent and arrogant to the highest degree. With a vine stick which he had
in his hand he drew a circle around Antiochus and told him to give his reply to the
message before he stepped out of that circle. The king was astounded at the
arrogance and after hesitating for a moment said he would do everything the
Romans asked from him. Thereupon Popilius and his colleagues shook him by the
hand and all welcomed him graciously. The decree of the Senate required him to put
an end at once to the war with Ptolemy. And so within a stated number of days
Antiochus withdrew his army to Syria, deeply distressed at what had happened but
yielding to present circumstances…” (Polybius XXIX. 27. M.M. Austin, Doc. 164)
THE SELEUCIDS AND JUDAH:
A CLOSER LOOK
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Judah under Seleucid control since the Fifth Syrian War (202-195 BCE);
Antiochus III greeted as a liberator; Jews allowed their ancestral customs.
Two factions emerging in Judah after ca. 200 BCE (Hellenizers and
Traditionalists).
175 BCE – Seleucus IV Nicator became interested in the temple at
Jerusalem; having trouble paying the Roman indemnity; Heliodorus sent to
try and seize temple wealth; failure led to his assassination of Seleucus IV.
174 BCE – Jason (Hellenizer) appointed High Priest in Jerusalem; Greek
customs introduced into Jerusalem side-by-side with Jewish customs.
171 BCE – Jason replaced by Menalaus as High Priest; increasingly
aggressive attempts to suppress Jewish customs and impose Greek
customs (esp. in religious worship).
168 BCE – After humiliation by Rome in Egypt, Antiochus IV rounds on
Jerusalem; plunders the city and the temple.
167 BCE – Active campaigns to suppress Jewish custom.
166-164 BCE – Revolt of the Maccabees.
ANTIOCHUS III AND THE JEWS
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“…And out of respect for the Temple he issued a proclamation
throughout the whole kingdom in the following terms: ‘No foreigner
shall be allowed to enter the precinct of the Temple which is
forbidden to the Jews, except for those who are accustomed to doing
so after purifying themselves in accordance with ancestral custom.
Nor shall anyone bring into the city the flesh of horses, mules, wild or
tame asses, leopards, foxes, and hares, and generally any of the
animals forbidden to the Jews. Nor is it allowed to bring in their skins,
nor even to rear any of these animals in the city. Only the sacrificial
animals used by their ancestors, necessary for a propitious sacrifice
to God, shall they be allowed to use. Whoever transgresses any of
these rules shall pay to the priests a fine of 3,000 drachmas of
silver.’” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities XII. 145-146. M.M. Austin, Doc.
167).
ANTIOCHUS IV AND THE JEWS:
PLUNDERING CITY AND TEMPLE (169 BCE)
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“…After defeating Egypt Antiochus returned in the year
143 (=169); he marched against Israel and entered
Jerusalem with a massive army. In his arrogance he
penetrated the sanctuary, and seized the golden altar
and the lamp for the light with all its fittings, and the
table for the offering of the loaves, the libation vases,
the cups, the golden censers, the veil, the crowns, the
golden ornaments on the façade of the Temple which he
stripped off completely. He went away to his country
taking everything, shedding much blood and uttering
words of extreme arrogance…” (I Maccabees 1.10-25.
M.M. Austin, Doc. 168)
THE SUPPRESSION OF JEWISH CUSTOMS
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“The king then issued a proclamation to the whole of his kingdom that they all
should form one people and that they should each give up their own customs. All
nations acquiesced in the royal edict. Many Israelites accepted his worship and
sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. The king also sent letters by
messenger to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah that they should follow customs
alien to their land, banish holocausts, sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary
and profane the sabbaths and festivals, defile the sanctuary and the holy men, build
altars and sacred enclosures and idol’s temples, sacrifice pigs and unclean animals,
leave their sons uncircumcised, defile themselves with every kind of impurity and
abomination, so as to forget the Law and change all their ordinances. Anyone who
did not conform to the king’s edict would be punished with death. In accordance with
all these instructions he sent letters to the whole of his kingdom; he set up
inspectors over the whole people and ordered the cities of Judah to sacrifice in each
and every city. Many of the people joined with them, whoever abandoned the Law,
and they caused great evil in the land, and drove Israel into all its secret hiding
places. On the 15th day of Chislev in the year 145 (= December 167), he built the
abomination of desolation on the altar, and in the cities of Judah around they built
altars, and offered incense at the doors of houses and in the streets. Any books of
the Law that were found were torn up and burnt.” (I Maccabees 1.45-56. M.M.
Austin, Doc. 168)
MANAGING THE EMPIRE
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Persian infrastructure left in place; Seleucid monarchs appoint satraps to govern satrapies;
powerful satrapies kept loyal by recognizing them as independent vassal kingdoms (i.e. Bactria
after 230 BCE).
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Four main capitals (Ecbatana, Persis, Sousa, Seleucia on Tigris); capital really where Seleucid
court happens to be at the moment.
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Land tenure system left in place; Royal land; Seleucid kings have the power to give land, cities,
and people to loyal supporters.
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King retains control of markets, mines, salt production, and forests.
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General practice not to interfere with local customs and governance; nominal local autonomy
given in exchange for tribute, taxes, troops, and loyalty.
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Cultivation of a divine image.
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Hellenization through: 1. Construction of Greek cities with Greek settlers. 2. Re-founding other
cities as Greek cities (i.e. Babylon). 3. Encouraging large-scale Greek immigration.
THE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT OF ANTIOCHUS II (254 BCE)
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“We have sold to Laodice [his divorced wife] Pannu Kome and the
manor house and the land belonging to the village, bounded by the
land of Zelia and by that of Cyzicus and by the old road which used to
run above Pannu Kome, but which has been ploughed up by the
neighboring farmers so that they might take the place for themselves
– the present Pannu Kome was founded later – and any hamlets
(topoi) there may be on this land, and the laoi who live there with
their households and all their property, and with the income of the
fifty-ninth year, at a price of thirty talents of silver – and likewise any
people who, being laoi, have moved from this village to other topoi –
on the terms that she will pay no taxes to the treasury and that she
will have the right to join the land to any city she wishes.” (Welles,
R.C., no. 18, ll. 1-14. F.W. Walbank, 1981)
AN AKKADIAN CUNEIFORM DECREE OF
ANTIOCHUS I AT BORSIPPA (268 BCE)
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“I am Antiochus, the great king, the legitimate king, the king of the
world, the king of Babylon, king of all countries, the caretaker of the
temples Esagila and Ezida, the first (born) son of King Seleucus, the
Macedonian, king of Babylon. When I conceived of the idea of
(re)constructing Esagila and Ezida, I formed with my august hands
(when I was still) in the country of Hatti the first brick for Esagila and
Ezida with finest oil and brought it (with me) for the laying of the
foundation of Esagila and Ezida….O Nebo, lofty son, (most) wise
among the gods, splendid and worthy of praise, first-born son of
Marduk, child of Arua, the queen who fashioned all creation, do look
friendly upon me and may – upon your lofty command which is never
revoked – the overthrow of the country of my enemy….” (J.B.
Pritchard, ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old
Testament, 1969: 317. M.M. Austin, Doc. 189)
LIVING GODS:
INSCRIPTION AT SELEUCIA IN PIERIA UNDER SELEUCUS IV
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Column A: “…priests of the year one hundred
and…,(priest) of Zeus Olympius and Zeus
Coryphaeus,/Niceratus son of Niceratus;
(priest) of Apollo of Daphne, Callicles son of
[Diogenes]; priest of Apollo, Zenobius son of
Zenon;/(priest) of Seleucus (I) Zeus Nicator and
Antiochus (I) Apollo Soter and Antiochus (II)
Theos and Seleucus (II)/Callinicus….” (OGIS 245.
M.M. Austin, Doc. 177)
THE SELEUCID DECLINE
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Losses of Upper Satrapies in the East and Western losses after the Peace of Apamea (188 BCE) and
the Maccabean Revolt (166-164 BCE) seriously weakened the Seleucids.
Plagued by frequent dynastic conflict.
164 BCE – Antiochus IV dies; succeeded by son Antiochus V.
162 BCE – Roman ambassador Gnaeus Octavius demands disbanding of all Seleucid shipping
(violation of Apamea); Octavius killed by mob at Antioch; Senate sends Demetrius I Soter (Son of
Seleucus IV; Hostage at Rome since 178 BCE) to overthrow Antiochus V.
162-152 BCE – Demetrius I Soter regains control of Babylon (160 BCE); unsuccessful attempts to
regain Judah; Revolt of Alexander Balas (152 BCE) – non-Seleucid backed by Ptolemies and Rome.
150 BCE - Alexander Balas defeats Demetrius I Soter near Antioch.
145 BCE – Demetrius II (son of Demetrius) overthrows Alexander Balas; Empire torn by supporters of
Seleucids and supporters of Balas.
139 BCE – Iranian plateau overrun by Parthians and Demetrius II captured; succeeded by Antiochus
VII (brother of Demetrius II); Antiochus fought to regain Mesopotamia from Parthians; killed in battle
in 129 BCE; Seleucid rule disintegrating.
100 BCE – Seleucid kingdom limited to Syria centered on Antioch and Damascus; plagued by civil
wars and internal conflict often manipulated by major powers (i.e. Ptolemies, Romans, Parthians etc.);
source of continued instability in the region.
63 BCE – Syria conquered by Rome (Pompey the Great); Pompey turned most of the Near Eastern
states into client-kingdoms; Seleucids were deposed and Syria turned into the Roman province of
Asia.