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Antiochus I Soter

(c. 324—261 bc)

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eldest son of Seleucus I and the Bactrian Apame, crown prince (mār šarri) in Babylonia before he became co-regent with Seleucus I (292–281/0); then held responsibility for the ‘Upper Satrapies’, when he married Seleucus' second wife, Stratonice, daughter of Demetrius the Besieger, for political as well as romantic reasons, since Demetrius still posed a threat. This apparent division of royal power (coins from the eastern satrapies, e.g. Bactria, were still minted under the names of both Seleucus and Antiochus, and in inscriptions Seleucus' name took precedence) perhaps indicates both Seleucus' perception of the importance of the eastern part of the empire and of the need for royal authority there, and also of Antiochus' potential acceptability there as a half-Iranian king.

Antiochus was, with Seleucus I and Antiochus III the Great, one of the most dynamic and successful of the Seleucid kings and played a crucial part in consolidating the empire, both territorially and institutionally. His huge colonizing and consolidating activity through the Seleucid empire, apart from many city foundations in Anatolia, include in the east, the oasis city of Antioch Margiana, not far from modern Merv (Strabo 11. 10. 2), Soteira in Aria (region of Herat), and continued input for foundations such as Ai Khanoum, in northern Afghanistan and Antioch-Persis, probably modern Bushire.

Antiochus' continuation of Seleucus I's work in Babylonia, using the Babylonian kingship as a political and religious focus for support, is mirrored in the famous building inscription from the temple of Esida in Borsippa, near Babylon (268), which also refers to the rebuilding of the temple of Esagila at Babylon, in the rituals of which Antiochus also took part. The note of concord with Babylonian traditions and with Babylonian gods can be understood as intentional Seleucid policy of using Babylonian kingship as a vehicle for rule in Babylonia, the core of the empire.

At his accession (281), Antiochus had to restore control of his father's empire, by military force, in many regions, e.g. revolts in Syria and in Anatolia, where dynasts in Bithynia and Pontus became independent, and reinforce Seleucid claims to Thrace, which the kingdom continued to reiterate until the reign of Antiochus III. In this period Sardis in Lydia became one of the Seleucid royal capitals (besides Antioch in Syria, Seleuceia on Tigris in Babylonia), as a base for political and military operations in the western parts of the empire. Antiochus was the first of the Hellenistic kings to organize an army to deal with the incursions into Anatolia of the Celts (Galatians) and their disruption of life in country and city. He is famous for his decisive victory over the Celts at the battle of Elephants, penning them back to a small area in the Halys region. Antiochus was also in conflict with Ptolemy II over Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, but by the end of the 270s, peace had been restored with Coele-Syria and Phoenicia remaining under Ptolemy's rule and the Seleucid eastern empire apparently under control.

Guy Thompson Griffith; Susan Mary Sherwin-White

Subjects: Classical studies

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