Seleucus I Nicator

Summary

Seleucus I (358 – September 281 B.C.), nicknamed Nicator (Ancient Greek: Σέλευκος Αʹ Νικάτωρ, Séleukos Aʹ Nikátōr, Seleucus the Conqueror), founder of the Seleucid Empire named after him, was initially a field general under Alexander the Great and one of his diadoes, among whom he passes as the most humane and capable.

In the struggle for the empire of Alexander, his main opponent was generally Antigonos I Monophthalmos, later his son Demetrios Poliorketes. The territories of the two diadochen bordered on each other, as Seleucus” center of power was initially in Mesopotamia and spread even further eastward.

He became satrap of Babylon in 321 or 320 BC at the Reich of Triparadisus, but was expelled by Antigonos in 316 and had to flee to the court of Ptolemy in Egypt. With his help, Seleucus managed to eliminate Demetrios in the Battle of Gaza (312 BC), thus gaining supreme command of Alexander”s cavalry. Finally, he was able to return to Babylon the following year, whereupon the battle against Antigonos was fought and won (Babylonian War 311-309 BC). In the year 305 BC he assumed the title of king, following Antigonos, who had proclaimed himself king of Macedonia. This was the beginning of the dynasty of the Seleucids, who would rule Syria until the Romans established their authority here in 64 BC through the actions of Pompey Magnus.

From the Indian ruler Chandragupta Maurya he received 500 war elephants as a gift and this gave him military superiority against Antigonus, whom he defeated with a coalition army at Ipsos in 301. By this victory he obtained Syria and founded the following year on the river Orontes the city of Antiochia ad Orontem or Antiochia dei Siri after the name of his father Antiochus.

Antiochia became the center of refined luxury and parvenuous display. Next to the beach, the Dafne district was built, where the wealthiest of the then world spent their lives. The city also took the crown in the cultural field. On the Tigris he built Seleukeia, not far from Babylon. The favorable position and the new rulers of Seleukeia led the Babylonians to move more and more from their city. Babylon itself became a ghostly hill of ruins.

After the foundation of Antiochia, he turned his attention almost exclusively to the west of his empire and also obtained control of most of Asia Minor in 281 BCE, through a victory over Lysimachus at the Battle of Corupedium.

Through extensive city foundations, Apamea (Syria) on the Orontes and Seleucia on the Tigris (the aforementioned Seleukeia), Seleucus spread Greek culture in an oriental environment. He was also the only one of the diadochs who did not disown his oriental wife, Apame, but in addition to her he also married the much younger Stratonice, the daughter of Demetrios Poliorketes. Later he ceded her, as was customary among Eastern princes, to his son Antiochus I, who was thus also his co-regent and intended successor since 293. In an attempt to annex Macedonia and Thrace as well, he was killed by Ptolemy Ceraunus, son of Ptolemy I, a few weeks after defeating Lysimachus.

Seleucus was the son of Antiochus. Historian Junianus Justinus relates that Antiochus was one of the generals of Philippus II of Macedonia, but he is not mentioned in other sources and nothing is known about his alleged career under Philippus. It is possible that Antiochus was a member of an important Macedonian noble family. Seleucus” mother was probably named Laodice, but nothing else is known about her. Later, Seleucus named a number of cities after his parents. Seleucus was born in Europos, in the northern part of Macedonia. Just a year before his birth (if the year 358 BC is accepted as his date of birth), the Paeonians had invaded this region. Philippus, however, defeated the attackers and completely subjugated them to Macedonian rule only a few years later. It is not certain when Seleucus was born. Justinus says he was 77 years old at the battle of Corupedium, which would place his birth date in the year 358 BC. Appianus, however, says that Seleucus was 73 years old during that battle, which means that his birth year would be 354 BC. Eusebius of Caesarea, however, mentions that he was 75 years old, which would make his birth date 356 BC, which would mean that he was the same age as Alexander the Great. It is likely that this was propaganda to compare him to Alexander.

As a teenager, Seleucus was chosen to serve as the king”s page (paides). It was common for all male descendants of noble families to serve first in this position and later as officers in the king”s army.

A number of legends, similar to the ones told about Alexander the Great, were told about Seleucus. It was told that Antiochus told his son before he left to fight the Persians with Alexander that his real father was actually the god Apollo. The god was said to have left a ring with a picture of an anchor as a gift for Laodice. Seleucus had a birthmark that was shaped like an anchor. It was told that Seleucus” sons and grandsons had similar birthmarks. This story is similar to the one told about Alexander. It is most likely that the story was merely propaganda by Seleucus, who probably invented this story to present himself as the natural successor to Alexander.

John Malalas relates that Seleucus had a sister named Didymeia, whose sons were named Nicanor and Nicomedes. It is most likely that these sons did not really exist. It is possible that Didymeia refers to Didyma, the oracle of Apollo at Miletus. It is also suggested that Ptolemy was actually the uncle of Seleucus.

In the spring of 334 BC, as a young man of about 23 years of age, Seleucus accompanied Alexander to Asia. By the time of Alexander”s campaigns in India, which began in the latter part of the year 327 BC, Seleucus had been put in charge of the elite infantry corps of the Macedonian army: the Hypaspists (shield-bearers, later known as the Argyraspides). It is told by Arrian that when Alexander crossed the Hydaspes by boat, he was accompanied by Perdikkas, Ptolemy I Soter, Lysimachus and also Seleucus. During the subsequent Battle of the Hydaspes (356 BCE), Seleucus led his troops against King Poros” elephants. It is likely that Seleucus had no real role in the actual planning of the battle. Nor is it mentioned that he occupied a significant, independent position during the battle, unlike, for example, Craterus, Hephaestion, Peithon, and Leonnatus – each of whom had large detachments under his command. Seleucus” royal hypaspists were constantly under Alexander”s care. Later they took part in the Indus Valley campaign in the battles against the Mallians and in crossing the Gedrosian Desert.

At the great marriage ceremony at Susa in the spring of 324 BC, Seleucus married Apame (the daughter of Spitamenes) and she gave birth to his eldest son and successor Antiochus I Soter, at least two legitimate daughters (Laodice and Apame) and possibly another son (Achaeus). During the same event, Alexander married the daughter of the last Persian king Darius III while several other Macedonians married other Persian women. After Alexander”s death (323 BCE), when almost all other Macedonian officers dumped their wives from Susa, Seleucus was one of the few who kept their wives and Apame remained his consort (later queen) for the rest of her life.

Antique sources mention Seleucus three times just before Alexander”s death. He participated in a sailing trip near Babylon, took part in the dinner feast of Medius of Larissa with Alexander, and visited the temple of the god Serapis. At the first of these events, Alexander”s diadem was blown off his head and landed on the reeds close to the tombs of the Assyrian kings. Seleucus jumped off the boat and swam to the diadem to go get it and placed it on his own head as he returned so it would stay dry. It is doubtful that this story should be believed. The story of the dinner at Medius” may be true, but the plot to poison the king may be questioned. In the latter story, Seleucus reportedly slept in the temple of Serapis in the hope that Alexander”s health would improve. The reliability of this story can also be questioned because the Greco-Egyptian Serapis had not been invented at the time.

Alexander the Great died without leaving a successor in Babylon on the night of June 10-11, 323 BC. His general Perdikkas became the regent of all of Alexander”s empire, while Alexander”s physically and mentally disabled half-brother Arrhidaeus was chosen as the next king under the name Philippus III of Macedonia. Alexander”s unborn child (Alexander IV) was also named as his father”s successor. However, with the Reich division of Babylon, Perdikkas divided the vast Macedonian Empire among Alexander”s generals. Seleucus was chosen to lead the Hetairoi in Perdikkas” Royal Army, becoming the most important officer in the army after the regent and commander-in-chief Perdikkas. Several other powerful men supported Perdikkas, including Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Peithon, and Eumenes. Perdikkas” power depended on his ability to hold Alexander”s vast empire together and whether he could force the satraps to obey him.

However, war soon broke out between Perdikkas and the other Diadochen. To strengthen his position, Perdikkas tried to marry Alexander”s sister Cleopatra. The First Diadochen War began when Perdikkas sent Alexander”s body to Macedonia for burial. Ptolemy, however, was able to capture the body and brought it to Alexandria. Perdikkas and his troops followed him to Egypt, upon which Ptolemy conspired against him along with the satrap of Media, Peithon and the commander of the Argyraspides, Antigenes, both of whom served as officers under Perdikkas, and they killed him. Cornelius Nepos mentions that Seleucus also participated in this conspiracy, but this is not certain.

The most powerful man in the empire after Perdikkas” death was now Antipater. Perdikkas”s opponents gathered in triparadisus, where Alexander”s empire was redivided in the Reich Division of Triparadisus (321 BCE). At Triparadisus, the soldiers began to mutiny and were plotting to assassinate their leader Antipater. However, Seleucus and Antigonos were able to prevent this. Because he may have betrayed Perdikkas, Seleucus was rewarded with the rich province of Babylonia. This decision may have been Antigonos” idea. However, this was not without difficulties: after Alexander”s death, Archon of Pella had become satrap of Babylon. Perdikkas, however, had had plans to replace Archon and appoint Docimus as his successor. During his invasion of Egypt, Perdikkas had sent Docimus along with his detachments to Babylon. Archon started a war against him, but was killed in battle. Docimus, who would thus not give Babylonia to Seleucus without a fight, prepared to fight against Seleucus. It is not certain how Seleucus took Babylon from Docimus, but according to a Babylonian chronicle, an important building was destroyed in the city during the summer or winter of 320 BC. Other Babylonian sources say that Seleucus arrived in Babylon in October or November 320 BC. Despite the supposed battle, Docimus was able to escape. However, Seleucus” capital was soon surrounded by Peucestas, the satrap of Persis; Antigenes, the new satrap of Susiana; and Peithon of Media. Babylonia was one of the richest provinces of the empire, but its military power was very small. It is possible that Antipater divided the eastern provinces in such a way that no satrap could gain more power than the others.

Meanwhile, the empire was again in turmoil. Peithon, the satrap of Media, murdered Philippus, the satrap of Parthia, and replaced him with his brother Eudemus as the new satrap. In the west, Antigonos and Eumenes began a war against each other. Like Peithon and Seleucus, Eumenes was one of the former supporters of Perdikkas. Seleucus” biggest problem, however, was Babylon itself. The natives had rebelled against Archon and supported Docimus. The Babylonian priests had great influence over the region. Babylon also had a large population of Macedonian and Greek veterans of Alexander”s army. Seleucus was able to get these priests on his side by bribing them and was thus able to win the people to his side as well.

Second Diadochen War

After the death of Antipater in 319 BCE, the satrap of Media began to expand his power. Peithon gathered a large army of perhaps 20,000 armies. Led by Peucestas, the other satraps of the region brought an army to resist him. Peithon was defeated during a battle in Parthia. He was able to escape to Media, for his opponents did not follow him and returned to Susiana. Meanwhile, Eumenes and his army had arrived in Cilicia, but had to retreat when Antigonos reached the city. The situation was difficult for Seleucus. Eumenes and his army were north of Babylon; Antigonos followed him with an even larger army; Peithon was in Media and his opponents in Susiana. Antigenes, the satrap of Susiana and commander of the Argyraspides had joined Eumenes. Antigenes was in Cilicia when the war between him and Peithon began.

Peithon arrived at Babylon in the fall or winter of 317 BC. Peithon had lost a large number of his troops, but Seleucus had even fewer soldiers. Eumenes decided to march on Susa in the spring of 316 BC. The satraps in Susa had apparently accepted Eumenes” demand to fight for the rightful royal family against the usurper Antigonos. Eumenes marched with his army to the Tigris some 300 stadia (47 km) from Babylon. Seleucus now had to act. He sent two triremes and some smaller ships to hinder the crossing. He also tried to get the former hypaspistai of the Argyraspides on his side, but this did not happen. Seleucus also sent messages to Antigonos. Because of his lack of troops, Seleucus apparently had no plans to really stop Eumenes. He opened the floodgates of the river, but the subsequent flood did not stop Eumenes.

In the spring of 316 BC, Seleucus and Peithon joined Antigonos, who was following Eumenes to Susa. From Susa, Antigonos went to Media, from where he could threaten the eastern provinces. He left Seleucus with a small number of troops to keep Eumenes from reaching the Mediterranean. Sibyrtius, the satrap of Arachosia who had joined Eumenes, thought the situation hopeless and returned to his own province. The armies of Eumenes and his allies were about to fall apart. Antigonos and Eumenes faced each other twice during 316 BC in the battles of Paraitakene and Gabiene. Eumenes was defeated and executed. The events of the Second Diadochen War showed Seleucus” ability to wait for the right moment. Just plunging into battles was not his style.

Flight to Egypt

Antigonos held forth in the winter of 316 BCE in Media, whose satrap once again was Peithon. Peithon”s lust for power had grown and he tried to incite some of Antigonos” troops to rebel against the one-eyed Diadoch. Antigonos, however, discovered the plot and executed Peithon. He then replaced Peucestas as satrap of Persia. In the summer of 315 BC, Antigonos arrived in Babylon and received a warm welcome from Seleucus. However, their relationship soon turned bitter. Seleucus, without asking Antigonos” permission, punished one of his officers. Antigonos became angry and asked Seleucus to give him the revenues of the province, which Seleucus refused to do. However, he was afraid of Antigonos and fled to Egypt with 50 horsemen. It was told that Chaldean astrologers predicted to Antigonos that Seleucus would become the master of Asia and kill him. After hearing this, Antigonos sent soldiers to capture Seleucus, who, however, had fled first to Mesopotamia and then to Syria. Antigonos executed Blitor, the new satrap of Mesopotamia, for helping Seleucus. Modern scholars, however, are skeptical of this story. It seems certain, however, that the Babylonian priests had turned against Seleucus.

During Seleucus” flight to Egypt, there was great turmoil in Macedonia. Alexander the Great”s mother Olympias had been invited back to Macedonia by Polyperchon to oust Cassander. She gained very great respect among the Macedonian army but lost some of it when she had Philippus III and his wife Eurydice killed as well as many other nobles on which she took revenge for their adherence to Antipater during his long reign. However, Cassander got Macedonia back the next year at Pydna and had her killed. Alexander IV, still a young child, and his mother Roxane he locked up in Amphipolis but died under mysterious circumstances in 310 BC. They were probably murdered so that the Diadochen could assume the title of king.

After arriving in Egypt, Seleucus sent his friends to Greece to inform Cassander and Lysimachus, the ruler of Thrace, about Antigonos. Antigonos was now the most powerful of the Diadochen and the others would join against him. The allies sent a proposal to Antigonos asking that Seleucus be allowed to return to Babylon. Antigonos refused and went to Syria, where he planned to attack Ptolemy in the spring of 314 BC. Seleucus was admiral under Ptolemy at that time. At the same time that he began the siege of Tyre, Antigonos allied himself with Rhodes. The island had a strategic location and its fleet could keep allies from joining their armies. Because of the threat from Rhodes, Ptolemy gave Seleucus one hundred ships and sent him to the Aegean. The fleet was too small to defeat Rhodes, but was large enough to force Asander, the satrap of Caria, to join Ptolemy. To demonstrate his power, Seleucus also invaded the city of Erythrae. Ptolemy, however, but the nephew of Antigonos, attacked Asander. Seleucus returned to Cyprus, to which Ptolemy I had sent his brother Menelaus along with 10,000 mercenaries and 100 ships. Seleucus and Menelaus together began to besiege the city of Kition there. Antigonos sent most of his fleet to the Aegean and his army to Asia Minor. Ptolemy now had the opportunity to invade Syria, where he defeated Demetrios, Antigonos” son, in the battle of Gaza in 312 BC. It is possible that Seleucus participated in the battle. Peithon, who had been appointed by Antigonos as the new satrap of Babylon, died in this battle. The death of Peithon gave Seleucus the opportunity to return to Babylon.

Seleucus had prepared well for his return to Babylon. After the battle of Gaza, Demetrios retreated to Tripolis while Ptolemy marched on as far as Sidon. Ptolemy gave to Seleucus 800 men of infantry and 200 men of cavalry. Seleucus was also accompanied by his friends, possibly the same fifty with whom he had fled Babylon. Seleucus conquered Babylon very quickly and the city itself was quickly conquered. Seleucus” friends who had remained in Babylon were released from prison. His return to Babylon was later officially considered the beginning of the Seleucid Empire and that year the first of the Seleucid era.

Conquest of the eastern provinces

Shortly after Seleucus” return, the supporters of Antigonos attempted to recapture Babylon. Nicanor was the new satrap of Media and the strategos of the eastern provinces. His army had about 17,000 soldiers. Evagoras, the satrap of Aria, had joined him. It was clear that Seleucus” small army would not be able to defeat the two in one battle. Seleucus hid his army in the marshes that surrounded the area where Nicanor wanted to cross the Tigris and made a surprise attack at night. Evagoras was killed early in the battle and Nicanor was cut off from his army. The news of Evagoras” death spread among the soldiers who all began to surrender. Almost every one of those soldiers agreed to serve under Seleucus. Nicanor escaped with only a few men.

Even though Seleucus now had about 20,000 soldiers, he was still not strong enough to resist Antigonos. Nor did he know when Antigonos would begin his counterattack. On the other hand, he knew that at least two eastern provinces had no satrap. Most of his own troops came from these provinces. Some of Evagoras” troops were Persian. Perhaps some of the troops were Eumenes” soldiers, who had a reason to hate Antigonos. Seleucus decided to take advantage of this situation.

Seleucus spread several stories among the provinces and the soldiers. According to one, he had seen Alexander standing next to him in a dream. Eumenes had tried to use a similar propaganda trick. Antigonos, who had been in Asia Minor while Seleucus had been in the east with Alexander, could not use Alexander in his own propaganda. Seleucus, because he was Macedonian, had the ability to gain the trust of the Macedonians in his army, which had not been the case with Eumenes.

After becoming satrap of Babylon again, Seleucus began to become much more aggressive in his policies. In a short time he conquered Medias and Susiana. Diodorus Sicullus relates that Seleucus also conquered territories that were close to it, which may refer to Persis, Aria or Parthia. However, Seleucus did not reach Baktria or Sogdiana. The satrap of the former was Stasanor, who had remained neutral during the conflicts. After the defeat of Nicanor”s army, there was no army in the east that could have resisted Seleucus. It is not certain how Seleucus arranged the administration of his conquests. Most of the satraps had died. In theory, Polyperchon was still Antipater”s successor and the official regent of the Macedonian Empire. It was his duty to select the satraps. But Polyperchon was still allied to Antigonos and thus still an opponent of Seleucus.

Antigonos” answer

Antigonos sent his son Demetrios with 15,000 men of infantry and 4,000 men of cavalry to recapture Babylon. He apparently gave Demetrios a time limit, after which he had to return to Syria. Antigonos believed that Seleucus still ruled only Babylon. Perhaps Nicanor had not told him that Seleucus now had at least 20,000 soldiers. It seems that the scale of Nicanor”s defeat was not clear to all parties. Antigonos did not know that Seleucus had conquered most of the eastern provinces or probably cared little about the eastern parts of the empire.

When Demetrios arrived in Babylonia, Seleucus was somewhere in the east. He had Patrokles behind to defend the city. Babylon was fortified in an unusual way. It had two fortified forts, in which Seleucus had left his garrisons. The inhabitants of the city were transferred to the areas around the city, some as far away as Susa. The area around Babylon was excellent for defense, with cities, swamps, canals and rivers. Demetrios” troops began to besiege the forts of Babylon and captured one of them. The second fort proved more difficult for Demetrios. He left his friend Archelaos to continue the siege with 5,000 men of infantry and 1,000 men of cavalry, while he himself left. The ancient sources do not mention what happened to these troops. Perhaps Seleucus later had to recapture Babylon from Archelaos.

Babylonian War

In the course of 9 years (311-302 BCE), while Antigonos was occupied in the west, Seleucus brought under his authority the entire eastern part of Alexander”s army as far as the Jaxartes and the Indus.

In 311 BC, Antigonos concluded a peace treaty with Kassander, Lysimachus and Ptolemy, which gave him the opportunity to deal with Seleucus. Antigonos” army had at least 80,000 soldiers. Even if he had left half of his army behind in the west, he would still have an advantage over Seleucus just in numbers. Seleucus may have received help from Kossaians, the ancestors of the Kassites. Antigonos had destroyed their lands while he was waging war against Eumenes. Seleucus also may have recruited some troops from Archelaos. When Antigonos finally invaded Babylonia, Seleucus” army was much larger than before. Many of his soldiers certainly hated Antigonos. The people of Babylonia were also hostile to him. So Seleucus did not have to place garrisons to keep the inhabitants from rebelling.

Little information is available about the conflict between Antigonos and Seleucus; only a very vague Babylonian account of the events of the war remains. The description of the year 310 BC has completely disappeared. It seems that Antigonos conquered Babylon. However, his plans were interrupted by Ptolemy, who launched a surprise attack in Cilicia.

We do know that Seleucus defeated Antigonos in at least one decisive battle. This battle is only mentioned in Polyaenus” Strategemata. Polyaenus mentions that the forces of Seleucus and Antigonos fought throughout the day, but when night came the battle was still undecided. The two armies agreed that they would rest during the night and continue fighting in the morning. Antigonos” troops, however, slept without armor. Seleucus ordered his troops to eat and sleep in formation. Shortly before sunrise, Seleucus” troops attacked Antigonos” army, who were still without their weapons and thus could be easily defeated. It may be questioned whether this story is historically accurate.

The Babylonian War eventually ended in victory for Seleucus. Antigonos was forced to retreat to the west. Both sides strengthened their borders. Antigonos built some forts near the Balikh while Seleucus had some cities built, including Dura Europos and Nisibis.

Seleucia

The next important act of Seleucus was the founding of the city of Seleucia. The city was built on the banks of the Tigris probably in 307 or 305 BC. Seleucus made Seleucia his new capital, thus imitating Lysimachus, Kassander and Antigonos, for they all had cities named after themselves. Seleucus also brought the Babylonian currency into circulation in his new city. Babylon was soon overshadowed by Seleucia, and the story goes that Antiochus, Seleucus” son, brought the entire population of Babylon to his father”s capital in 275 BCE. The city flourished until the year 165, when the Romans destroyed it.

One story about the founding of the city goes as follows: Seleucus asked the Babylonian priests on what day he would best found the city. The priests calculated the day, but, wanting the foundation to fail, told Seleucus a different date. The plot failed, however, because when the correct day came, Seleucus” soldiers spontaneously began to build the city. When asked about it, the priests admitted their act.

The struggles among the Diadochen reached their climax when Antigonos, when the old royal line of Macedonia had come to an end, declared himself king in 306 BC. Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Kassander and Seleucus soon followed his example. Agathocles of Syracuse also declared himself king at about the same time. Seleucus, like the four other main Macedonian generals, took up the title and style of Basileus.

Chandragupta Maurya and the eastern provinces

Seleucus again turned his attention to the east. In the year 305 B.C., Seleucus went to India and apparently conquered territories up to the Indus and finally started a war with the Maurya Empire of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya:

Always waiting for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in his counsel, he conquered Mesopotamia, Armenia, “Seleucid” Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Baktria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjoining peoples that had been subjugated by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that borders of his empire were the largest in Asia after Alexander”s. The entire region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus. He crossed the Indus and began a war with Sandrocottus (Chandragupta Maurya), the king of the Indians, who were settled on the banks of that river, until they came to an agreement and entered into a marriage contract. -Appianus, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55

Only a few sources mention his activities in India. Chandragupta (known in Greek sources as Sandrokottos), founder of the Maurya Empire, had conquered the Indus Valley and several other parts of the eastern regions of Alexander”s empire. Seleucus began a campaign against Chandragupta and crossed the Indus. The two leaders eventually came to an agreement, and having signed a treaty in 305 B.C., Seleucus ceded a fairly large territory to Chandragupta in exchange for 500 war elephants, which would play a key role in the following battles, especially at Ipsus. The Indian king probably married the daughter of his Greek rival. According to Strabo, the ceded territories were bounded by the Indus:

The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom is the Paropamisus mountain: then, to the South, the Arachoti: then, to the South, the Gedroseni, with the other tribes occupying the coast; and the Indus lies, in breadth, along all these places; and of these places, in part, some are in the hands of the Indians, though they had formerly been of the Persians. Alexander took these from the Arians and founded settlements there, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrokottos , on the terms of a marriage and receiving 500 elephants. -Strabo 15.2.9

Thus, it seems that Seleucus surrendered the easternmost provinces of Arachosia, Gedrosia, Paropamisadae and perhaps Aria. On the other hand, he was accepted by the other satraps of the eastern provinces. His Persian wife, Apame, may have helped carry out his rule in Baktria and Sogdiana. Mainstream scholars claim that Chandragupta was given vast territories west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush and Balochistan. This could be proven archaeologically, if the concrete indications of Maurya”s influence, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Asoka known to be located in modern-day Kandahar, among other places, are any indication. But the Edicts of Asoka were chiseled two generations after the territorial surrender of Seleucus, and it is therefore also possible that the land in which the edicts are found was conquered by Maurya”s son Bindusara, or Asoka himself.

Other authors argue that the argument about Seleucus” surrender of what is now southern Afghanistan was wrongly derived from a statement by Pliny the Elder that referred to not the lands given to Chandragupta, but the different opinions of the word India:

In fact, most geographers do not look at India as a country bounded by the river Indus, but add to it the four satrapies of Gedrosia, Arachosia, Aria and Paropamisadae, thus making the Cophes the farthest boundary of India. According to other writers, however, these areas should be counted with Aria -Plinius, Naturalis Historia VI, 23

Also, the passage of Arrian explaining that Megasthenes lived in Arachosia with the satrap Sibyrtius, from where he traveled to India to visit Chandragupta Maurya, contradicts the idea that Arachosia was under the rule of Maurya:

Megasthenes lived with Sibyrtius, the satrap of Arachosia, and speaks of his visits with Sandrakottos , the king of the Indians. – Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri V,6

Notwithstanding, Arachosia is normally considered, like the other three regions, as territory that was added to the territories of the Mauryar Empire.

The alliance between Chandragupta and Seleucus was confirmed with a marriage. Chandragupta or his son married a daughter of Seleucus, or perhaps there was a diplomatic recognition of mixed marriages between Indians and Greeks. An Indian Puranic source, the Pratisarga Parva of the Bhavishya Purana also describes the marriage of Chandragupta to a Greek princess, the daughter of Seleucus (Suluva

Added to this marriage agreement or alliance, Seleucus sent an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Maurya in Pataliputra. Very little remains of Megasthenes” description of his journey.

It seems that the rulers were friendly to each other, for as several classical sources mentioned this agreement, Chandragupta sent several gifts such as Aphrodisiacs to Seleucus.

Seleucus gained knowledge of most of northern India, as explained by Pliny the Elder during his various embassies to the Maurya Empire:

The other parts of the country [beyond the Hydaspes, the farthest river of Alexander”s conquests] were discovered and beheld by Seleucus Nicator: viz.

Seleucus apparently struck coins during his stay in India, as several coins bearing his name have been unearthed in India. These coins describe him as Basileus (king), suggesting a later date than 306 BCE. Some of them also mention Seleucus along with his son Antiochus as king, suggesting that the date they were minted was later than 293 BCE. No Seleucid coins were minted in India thereafter and shows the surrender of the Seleucid territories west of the Indus to Maurya.

It is possible that Seleucus founded a fleet in the Persian Gulf and in the Indian Ocean.

Battle of Ipsus

The war elephants given to Seleucus by Chandragupta proved to be very useful when the Diadochen finally decided to deal with Antigonos. Kassander, Seleucus and Lysimachus defeated Antigonos and Demetrios in the battle of Ipsus. Antigonos died in the battle, but Demetrios escaped. After the battle, Seleucus gained Syria under his rule. He thought Syria was the region from the Taurus Mountains to Sinai, but Ptolemy had conquered Palestine and Phoenicia. In 299 BCE, Seleucus allied himself with Demetrios and married his daughter, Stratonice. Stratonice was also the daughter of Antipater”s daughter Phila. Seleucus had a daughter by Stratonice, who was also named Phila.

Demetrios” fleet defeated Ptolemy”s fleet and therefore Seleucus did not have to fight him.

However, Seleucus could not enlarge his kingdom to the west. The main reason was that he did not have enough Greek or Macedonian troops. During the battle of Ipsus, he had less infantry than Lysimachus. His strength lay in his war elephants and in traditional Persian cavalry. To increase his army, Seleucus tried to attract settlers from Greece by founding four new cities-Seleucia in Pieria and Laodicea in Syria on the coast and Antiochia ad Orontem and Apamea in the Orontes Valley. Antioch became the headquarters of his government. The new Seleucia was to become his new fleet base and a gateway to the Mediterranean. Seleucus also founded six smaller cities. It is told of Seleucus that there were few princes who had such a passion for building cities. He is said to have built nine Seleucias, sixteen Antiochs and six Laodiceas.

Defeat of Demetrios and Lysimachus

Seleucus appointed his son Antiochus I as his co-ruler and co-king of the eastern provinces in 292 B.C. because it seemed that the vast empire needed a dual government. In 294 B.C., Stratonice married her stepson Antiochus I. Seleucus reportedly supported the marriage after discovering that his son would die of heartbreak. This allowed Seleucus to get rid of Stratonice because her father Demetrios had now become king of Macedonia.

The alliance between Seleucus and Demetrios ended in 294 BC when Seleucus conquered Cilicia. Demetrios invaded Cilicia in 286 BC and easily conquered it, which meant that Demetrios was now threatening the main regions of Seleucus” empire in Syria. Demetrios” troops, however, were tired and had not yet received their pay. Seleucus on the other hand, was known as a cunning and wealthy leader who had gained the admiration of his troops. Seleucus blocked the roads leading from Cilicia to Syria and urged Demetrios” troops to join him. Meanwhile, he also tried to avoid a battle with Demetrios. Finally, Seleucus turned to Demetrios himself. He showed himself in front of his soldiers and took off his helmet, thus showing Seleucus that it was himself. Demetrios” troops now began to collectively abandon their leader. Demetrios was imprisoned in Apamea and died in captivity several years later.

Lysimachus and Ptolemy had supported Seleucus against Demetrios, but after the latter”s defeat the alliance began to disintegrate. Lysimachus ruled Macedonia, Thrace and Asia Minor. But he got into trouble with his family. Lysimachus executed his son Agathocles, whose wife Lysandra escaped to Seleucus in Babylonia.

After the murder of his son, Lysimachus began to become less and less popular. This gave Seleucus the opportunity to defeat his last rival. His intervention in the west was requested by Ptolemy Keraunos, who, upon the accession to the throne of his brother Ptolemy II (285 BC), had fled first to Lysimachus and then to Seleucus. Seleucus invaded Asia Minor and defeated his rival at the battle of Corupedium in Lydia in 281 BC. Lysimachus was killed in the battle. Ptolemy I had also died a few years earlier. So Seleucus was now the only living contemporary of Alexander.

Administration of Asia Minor

Before his death, Seleucus tried to get the administration of Asia Minor in order. The region was ethnically very different as it consisted of Greek cities, Persian aristocracy and indigenous peoples. Seleucus may have tried to defeat Cappadocia, but was unsuccessful. Lysimachus” former officer Philetaerus ruled Pergamon independently. On the other hand, Seleucus apparently founded a number of new cities in Asia Minor.

Few letters still exist from the one Seleucus sent to the various temples and cities. All the cities in Asia Minor sent embassies to their new ruler. It is mentioned that Seleucus complained about the number of letters he received and that he was forced to read. He was apparently a popular ruler. In Lemnos he was celebrated as a liberator and a temple was built to honor him. According to a local custom, an extra cup of wine was always offered for Seleucus at dinner. His title during this period was Seleucus Soter (savior). However, when Seleucus left for Europe, the reorganization of Asia Minor was not yet fully completed.

Seleucus now owned all of Alexander”s empire except Egypt and advanced to conquer Macedonia and Thrace. He intended to leave Asia to Antiochus and would satisfy himself by spending his old age in the ancient Macedonian kingdom. However, he had barely crossed the Thracian Chersonesos when he was assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunos at Lysimacheia in September of 281 BC.

It seems clear that after he conquered Macedonia and Thrace, Seleucus would have attempted to conquer Greece. He had already prepared for this campaign by using the various gifts he had received. He was also a candidate to become an honorary citizen of Athens.

Antiochus began the cult around his father. A cult of personality formed around the later members of the Seleucid dynasty, and Seleucus was later worshipped as a son of Zeus Nicator. An inscription found at Ilion (Troy) advises priests to sacrifice to Apollo, the ancestor of Antiochus” family. Several anecdotes about Seleucus” life became popular in the classical world.

Sources

  1. Seleucus I Nicator
  2. Seleucus I Nicator