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Seleucus I

(c. 358—281 bc)

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(c.358–281 bc),

fought with Alexander 2 the Great in the latter's campaigns from Asia Minor to Persia, Bactria, Sogdiana, and India, as a general. Later he was to replay this ‘conquest’ as he, and his son, Antiochus I, brought the eastern ‘Upper Satrapies’ (see satrap) of the former Achaemenid empire gradually under Seleucid control and colonization, wisely negotiating after invasion (c.306) of the Indus region a settlement with Sandracottus. Seleucus ceded the Indus valley, and four adjacent satrapies.

After Alexander's death, Seleucus gained the satrapy of Babylonia (321), which was to form the core of his later kingdom. There he initially supported Antigonus I, but was ousted by him (316) and fled to Egypt. He regained Babylonia (312) with a small task force in a spectacular exploit and thence took Media, Susiana, and perhaps Persis too; as a Babylonian chronicle shows, fighting against Antigonus continued until a battle (308) left Seleucus in control of Babylonia. Seleucus then embarked on further campaigns to the Upper Satrapies, to Bactria‐Sogdiana, and the Indus region (above). He founded Seleucia on Tigris (c.305) as a royal capital, returning westwards to join the coalition of ‘separatist’ generals against Antigonus.

The victory of Ipsus (301) gave Seleucus northern Syria and access to the Mediterranean through Syria and Cilicia. He built Antioch (300) as another of his royal capitals to serve the then limits of his kingdom. Campaigns and colonization by Seleucus, Antiochus, and their officers, continued in the Upper Satrapies (e.g. Media, Sogdiana‐Bactria, the Persian Gulf). See colonization, hellenistic. Seleucus finally won Asia Minor with the victory of Corupedium over Lysimachus (281). A new Babylonian chronicle fragment reveals Seleucus' military objectives after Corupedium as ‘Macedon, his land,’ apparently aiming at the reconstitution of Alexander's unified empire of Macedon and Asia. He launched a campaign, but was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, who wanted Macedonia for himself.

Seleucus was married to the Bactrian princess Apame, mother of his successor and eldest son, the half‐Iranian Antiochus, a prototype of the dynastic marriage alliances with non‐Greek dynasties that the Seleucids pursued as a continuing policy in their relations with non‐Greek peoples in and beyond their realms. Seleucus had prepared Antiochus for the throne since he acted as crown prince in Babylonia before he was appointed co‐regent (292/1–281/0), a mechanism that facilitated the Seleucid succession and continued to be used. Seleucus' second marriage to Stratonice, daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes (290s), seems mainly to have been directed by politics, i.e. a (temporary) pact with Demetrius. However, Stratonice was passed to Antiochus as queen and wife, and Antiochus was dispatched to the eastern satrapies as king with full royal authority (and armies). This looks like a recognition of the need to consolidate in the Upper Satrapies and for royal authority to do it, leaving Seleucus free to deal with problems in Syria and Anatolia.

Seleucus was one of the ablest of the Successors (‘the greatest king of those who succeeded Alexander’: Arrian). Apart from his military victories, he took great care to ‘respect’ and utilize local traditions (e.g. the Babylonian kingship and Babylonian traditions) and to proffer patronage to non‐Greek communities and their sanctuaries as well as Greek ones.


Subjects: Classical studies

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