Ancient Greek History

Selucid Empire – Alexander the Great’s Conquered Territory

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The Seleucid Empire governed a large territory encompassing parts of Mesopotamia, Persia, and even areas as far east as Afghanistan and Pakistan. In its nearly two and a half centuries of existence, the Seleucid Empire ruled over a people as diverse as its expansive territory and made its mark as one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of the ancient world. In this article, we’ll take an in depth look at the Seleucid Empire, analyzing its rise and decline as well as its cultural heritage.

Rise of the Seleucid Empire

The Seleucid Empire is rooted in the conquests of Macedonian leader Alexander the Great. Alexander died in 323 BC without an adult heir. As such, one of his generals, Perdiccas, was appointed regent and divided the kingdom into smaller territories ruled by the Diadochi, who were Alexander’s most trusted commanders. Eventually, the Diadochi revolted against Perdiccas and created their own private kingdoms. One of these generals was Seleucus, Alexander’s cavalry commander, who established the Seleucid Empire in Babylonia in 312 BC.

At the birth of his new kingdom, Seleucus faced many challenges to his rule. One of the most formidable foes Seleucus contended with was Chandragupta, ruler of the Mauryan Empire in India. After several campaigns, Seleucus and Chandragupta developed a great sense of respect for each other and settled the dispute with an alliance that saw the Mauryan ruler marry one of Seleicus’s daughters. Antigonus, who ruled over much of Syria and Asia Minor, was another major adversary for Seleucus. With the help of Lysimachus, another Diadochi, Seleucus defeated Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, bringing the Seleucid Empire almost into Macedon itself.

Decline of the Seleucid Empire

The decline of the Seleucid Empire was the result of many factors. The Seleucid Empire prospered for decades and, in 191 BC, the empire’s ruler, Antiochus, sought to rule over Greece itself. This led to war with the Aetolian League and its ally, the Roman Republic. The two foes were more than a match for Antiochus, who was forced to retreat. In the burdensome treaty that followed, the Seleucid Empire lost much of its territory in Asia Minor and had to pay a large indemnity to their foes.

Over the next century, the Seleucid Empire slowly disintegrated due to weak rulers and all too frequent civil wars on its frontiers. Eventually, the once proud kingdom only consisted of a small area in Syria. The empire officially came to an end in 63 BC, when the Roman general Pompey stripped it of its autonomy and turned Syria into a province of Rome.

Culture of the Seleucid Empire

As previously stated, the Seleucid Empire ruled over a massive expanse of territory that encompassed a wide array of cultures and ethnicities. To govern such a diverse territory, Seleucid rulers implemented a policy of Hellenization, which encouraged the spread of Greek ideas and cultural attitudes. Seleucid leaders did this by establishing new Greek cities for trade and public administration. The kingdom was aided in their Hellenization efforts by colonization from the Greek mainland and the desire of native populations to ingratiate themselves to the new ruling class by readily adopting Greek behaviors. Seleucid leaders nevertheless adopted some Babylonia religious traditions to encourage public harmony and acceptance of their rule.

The Seleucid Empire was one of the most important kingdoms of the ancient world. Rulers of Seleucid Empire carried on the legacy of Alexander the Great and introduced large parts of the world to Greek culture and modes of thought.



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This post was written by Greek Boston