Seleucus I Nicator
name =Seleucus I Nicator
title =Seleucid king
caption =Coin of Seleucus I Nicator.
reign =305 BCE - 281 BCE
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Seleucus I (surnamed for later generations Nicator, Greek: Σέλευκος Νικάτωρ, i.e. Seleucus Victor) ("ca." 358 BCE–281 BCE), was a Macedonian officer of
Alexander the Great. In the Wars of the Diadochithat took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire. His kingdom would be one of the last hold outs of Alexander's former empire to Roman rule. They were only outlived by the Ptolemaic Kingdomin Egyptby roughly 34 years.
Early career & ascent to power
Seleucus was the son of Antiochus from Orestis [ Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom - Page 2by John D. Grainger ISBN 0415047013] , one of Philip's generals, and of Laodice. In 333 BC, as a young man of about twenty-three, he accompanied Alexander into Asia and won distinction in the Indian campaign of 326 BC. In 324 BCE Seleucus took as wife
Apama, with whom he had four children: two daughters, Apama and Laodice, and two sons, Antiochus & Achaeus.
When the Macedonian empire was divided in 323 BC (the "
Partition of Babylon"), Seleucus was given the office of " chiliarch", which attached him closely to the regent Perdiccas. Subsequently, Seleucus had a hand in the murder of Perdiccas during the latter's unsuccessful invasion of Egypt in 321 BC.
At the second partition, at Triparadisus (321 BC), Seleucus was given the government of the
Babylonian satrapy. In 316 BC, when Antigonus had made himself master of the eastern provinces, Seleucus felt himself threatened and fled to Egypt. In the war which followed between Antigonus and the other Macedonian chiefs, Seleucus actively cooperated with Ptolemy and commanded Egyptian squadrons in the Aegean Sea.
The victory won by Ptolemy at the battle of Gaza in 312 BC opened the way for Seleucus to return to the east. His return to Babylon was afterwards officially regarded as the beginning of the Seleucid Empire and that year as the first of the
Seleucid era. Master of Babylonia, Seleucus at once proceeded to wrest the neighbouring provinces of Persia, Susianaand Media from the nominees of Antigonus. Raids into Babylonia conducted in 311 BC by Demetrius, son of Antigonus, and by Antigonus himself in 311/310 (the Babylonian War), did not seriously check Seleucus' progress. Over the course of nine years (311-302 BC), while Antigonus was occupied in the west, Seleucus brought the whole eastern part of Alexander's empire as far as the Jaxartesand Indus Rivers under his authority.
In 305 BC, after the extinction of the old royal line of Macedonia, Seleucus, like the other four principal Macedonian chiefs, assumed the title and style of
basileus(king). He established Seleucia on the Tigrisas his capital.
Establishing the Seleucid state
In the year 305 BC Seleucus I Nicator went to India and apparently occupied territory as far as the Indus, and eventually waged war with the Maurya Emperor
As most historians note, Seleucus appears to have fared poorly as he did not achieve his aims. The two leaders ultimately reached an agreement, and through a treaty sealed in 305 BC, Seleucus ceded a considerable amount of territory to
Chandraguptain exchange for 500 war elephants, which were to play a key role in the battles that were to come. According to Strabo, these were territories bordering the Indus:
Modern scholarship often considers that Seleucus actually gave more territory, in what is now southern
Afghanistan, and parts of Persia west of the Indus. This would tend to be corraborated archaeologically, as concrete indications of Mauryan influence, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandhahar, in today's southern Afghanistan.
Some authors claim this is an exaggeration, which comes from a statement made by Pliny the Elder, referring not specifically to the lands received by Chandragupta, but rather to the various opinions of geographers regarding the definition of the word "India" [Debated by Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India", p100] :
Also the passage of
Arrianexplaining that Megastheneslived in Arachosiawith the satrap Sibyrtius, from where he visited India to visit Chandragupta, goes against the notion that Arachosia was under Maurya rule:
Nevertheless, it is usually considered today that Arachosia and the other three regions did become dominions of the Mauryan Empire.
To cement the treaty, there was either some sort of marriage alliance (
Epigamia) involving Seleucus' daughter or the diplomatic recognition of intermarriage between Indians and Greeks.
In addition to this matrimonial recognition or alliance, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador,
Megasthenes, to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra(Modern Patnain Bihar state). The two rulers seem to have been on very good terms, as Classical sources have recorded that following their treaty, Chandragupta sent various presents such as aphrodisiacs to Seleucus. ["And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous] . And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love" Athenaeus of Naucratis, " The deipnosophists" Book I, chapter 32 [http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/Literature/Literature-idx?type=turn&entity=Literature000701860036&isize=M&pview=hide Ath. Deip. I.32] ]
Seleucus obtained knowledge of most of northern India, as explained by
Pliny the Elderthrough his numerous embassies to the Mauryan Empire:cquote2|The other parts of the country [beyond the Hydaspes, the farthest extent of Alexander's conquests] were discovered and surveyed by Seleucus Nicator: namely
*from thence (the
Hydaspes) to the Hesudrus 168 miles
*to the river Ioames as much: and some copies add 5 miles more therto
*from thence to
Rhodapha119, and some say, that between them two it is no less than 325 miles.
*From it to
Calinipaxa, a great town 167 miles-and-a-half, others say 265.
*And to the confluent of the rivers Iomanes and Ganges, where both meet together, 225 miles, and many put thereto 13 miles more
*from thence to the town Palibotta 425 miles
*and so to the mouth of Ganges where he falleth into the sea 638 miles."|Pliny the Elder, Natural history, Book 6, Chap 21 [ [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/holland/pliny6.html Pliny, Natural History, Book 6, Chap 17] also [http://perseus.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plin.+Nat.+6.21 Pliny the Elder, Natural history, Book 6, Chap 21] ]
Seleucus apparently minted coins during his stay in India, as several coins in his name are in the Indian standard and have been excavated in India. These coins describe him as "Basileus" ("King"), which implies a date later than 306 BCE. Some of them also mention Seleucus in association with his son Antiochus as king, which would also imply a date as late as 293 BCE. No Seleucid coins were struck in India thereafter and confirm the reversal of territory west of the Indus to Chandragupta. [ [http://www.snible.org/coins/hn/bactria.html#Seleucus%20and%20Antiochus Coinage of Seleucus and Antiochus in India] ]
In 301 BC he joined
Lysimachusin Asia Minor, and at Ipsus Antigonus fell before their combined power. A new partition of the empire followed, by which Seleucus added to his kingdom Syria, and perhaps some regions of Asia Minor.
In 300 BCE, after the death of Apama, Seleucus married Stratonice, daughter of
Demetrius Poliorcetes. Seleucus had a daughter by Stratonice, who was called Phila. [ [http://www.attalus.org/translate/malalas.html Johannes Malalas - translation ] ] In in 294 BC Stratonice married her stepson Antiochus. Seleucus reportedly instigated the marriage after discovering that his son was in danger of dying of lovesickness. [http://virtualreligion.net/iho/antiochus_1.html Antiochus I Soterentry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith]
The possession of Syria gave him an opening to the Mediterranean, and he immediately founded the new city of
Antioch on the Orontesas his chief seat of government. Seleucia on the Tigris continued to be the capital for the eastern satrapies. About 293 BC, he installed his son Antiochus there as viceroy, the vast extent of the empire seeming to require a double government.
It is said of Seleucus that "few princes have ever lived with so great a passion for the building of cities. He is reputed to have built in all nine Seleucias, sixteen Antiochs, and six Laodiceas"Eastons] .
The capture of Demetrius in 285 BC added to Seleucus's prestige. The unpopularity of Lysimachus after the murder of Agathocles gave Seleucus an opportunity for removing his last rival. His intervention in the west was solicited by
Ptolemy Keraunos, who, on the accession to the Egyptian throne of his brother Ptolemy II (285 BC), had at first taken refuge with Lysimachus and then with Seleucus. War between Seleucus and Lysimachus broke out, and at the decisive battle of Corupediumin Lydia, Lysimachus fell (281 BC). Seleucus now held the whole of Alexander's conquests excepting Egypt in his hands, and moved to take possession of Macedonia and Thrace. He intended to leave Asia to Antiochus and content himself for the remainder of his days with the Macedonian kingdom in its old limits. He had, however, hardly crossed into the Chersonese when he was assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunosnear Lysimachia (281 BC).
* [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~jamesdow/s008/f069878.htm A genealogical tree of Seleucus]
* [http://virtualreligion.net/iho/seleucus_1.html Seleucus I Nicator] entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
References and further reading
* Grainger, John D. "An Empire Builder—Seleukos Nikator", "History Today", Vol. 43, No. 5. (1993), pp. 25–30.
* Grainger, John D. "Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom". New York: Routledge, 1990 (hardcover, ISBN 0-415-04701-3).
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