Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
The name given to the Macedonian dynasty, which was founded by Seleucus, a general under Alexander the Great, and ruled over Syria from 312 B.C. In 321 Seleucus received the satrapy of Babylonia from Antipater, administrator of Alexander's empire. After being temporarily supplanted by Antigonus, he returned to Babylonia after the battle of Gaza (312), from which his rule is dated (the first year of the Seleucid era). SELEUCUS I NICATOR (312-281 B.C.) assumed the title of king in 306. He first subdued Upper Asia as far as the Indus and Jaxartes The battle of Ipsus brought Syria under his dominion; although he had to recognize the supremacy of Egypt over Phoenicia and Palestine. By a victory over Lysimachus he conquered the greater part of Asia Minor (281), but a little later, when he encroached on European territory, he was murdered by Ptolemy Ceraunus. Besides various other cities, Seleucus founded the magnificent residential towns of Seleucia on the Tigris and Antiochia on the Orontes.
He was succeeded by his son, ANTIOCHUS I SOTER (281-61), who, through fear of the Parthians, transferred his residence to Antiochia.
Under Soter's son, ANTIOCHUS II THEOS (261-46), began the wars with the Ptolemies for the possession of Phoenicia and Palestine. The marriage of Antiochus II to Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, brought about a temporary cessation of the struggle; but on Ptolemy's death, Laodice, the first and disowned wife of Antiochus, was recalled and avenged herself by having Antiochus, Berenice, and their child put to death.
The son of Antiochus and Laodice, SELEUCUS II CALLINICUS (246-26), succeeded. To avenge the death of his sister and to assure his possession of Syria, King Ptolemy III Euergetes made a successful campaign against Seleucus, advancing victoriously as far as the Euphrates. The eastern provinces passed gradually into the hands of the Parthians, and portions of the western were lost to Attalus II of Pergamum. While in flight after a battle in which he had suffered defeat at the hands of Attalus, Seleucus was killed by a fall from his horse.
SELEUCUS III CERAUNUS (226-24), the elder son of Seleucus, succeeded, and on his assassination the younger son ANTIOCHUS III THE GREAT (224-187). To secure possession of Coele-Syria and Palestine this monarch began a war with Ptolemy V; although defeated at Raphia (217), the battle of Paneas (198) resulted in his favor, Palestine thenceforth belonging to the Syrian Empire. Interference in the affairs of the west led to a war with Rome. After the battle of Magnesia (189) the king had to accept harsh conditions and surrender his possessions in Asia Minor north of the Taurus. Antiochus was unable to conquer Parthia, which his father had lost. During an attempt to plunder a temple in Elam, he was slain by the natives.
He was succeeded by his elder son, SELEUCUS IV PHILOPATOR (187-75). Seleucus secured the return of his younger brother Antiochus, who lived as a hostage in Rome, by sending his own son Demetrius thither instead. Before Antiochus arrived home, Seleucus had been murdered by his minister Heliodorus; the former was thus able to take possession of the Throne, which really belonged to his nephew Demetrius.
ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES (175-64) was an ambitious prince, of a truly despotic nature and fond of display. Entanglements with Egypt gave him the occasion to make repeated successful inroads into that country, and in 168 he might have succeeded in securing possession of it, had not the Romans compelled him to withdraw (embassy of Popilius Laenas). His hostile measures against the Jews, whom he tried to hellenize by sheer force, resulted in the Machabean rising (see THE MACHABEES). He died at Tabæ in Persia, while on a campaign against the Parthians.
His son ANTIOCHUS V EUPATOR (164-62) was a minor, and simply a tool in the hands of the imperial administrator Lysias. Both were removed by the son of Seleucus IV, DEMETRIUS I SOTER (162-15), who had previously lived as a hostage at Rome. Alexander Balas, who claimed to be a son of Antiochus IV, rebelled in 151, and Demetrius fell in battle. His son Demetrius continued the war against Alexander Balas (150-45) in union with the Egyptian king Ptolemy VI. Conquered by the latter near Antiochia, Alexander fled to Arabia, and was there treacherously murdered.
DEMETRIUS II NICATOR (145-38 and 129-25) found his right to the throne contested by Diodotus (surnamed Tryphon), a general of Balas, in favor of the latter's son Antiochus VI, a minor. Later (141), setting aside his ward, Tryphon strove to secure the throne for himself. When Demetrius II was captured during an expedition against the Parthians and cast into prison, his brother Antiochus continued the war against Tryphon, who, being finally overcome committed suicide (138).
ANTIOCHUS VII SIDETES(138-29) was killed during a campaign against the Parthians. Demetrius II, who had been released from captivity during the war, now became king for the second time (129-25). An anti-king in the person of Alexander Zabinas, a supposed son of Alexander Balas, was set up in 128 by the Egyptian king, Ptolemy VII Physcon. Conquered near Damascus, Demetrius had to flee, and was murdered when he attempted to land in Tyre.
He was followed by his elder son SELEUCUS V, who, at the instigation of his own mother, was removed shortly after his accession. His younger brother, ANTIOCHUS VIII GRYPUS (125-113) conquered Alexander Zabinas and had him executed (125), but he himself was driven from his throne by his maternal half-brother ANTIOCHUS IX CYZICENUS (113-95), the youngest son of Antiochus VII. Returning, however, after two years, Grypus succeeded in winning for himself a large part of Syria, the king dom being thus divided.
On the death of Antiochus VIII (96) his domains and claims were inherited by his elder son SELEUCUS VI. Defeated by Seleucus near Antiochia in 95, Antiochus IX committed suicide to escape imprisonment. However, his son ANTIOCHUS X defeated Seleucus in the same year, and the latter had to flee to Cilicia, where he died. His two brothers ANTIOCHUS XI and Philip continued the war, but were defeated, and during the flight Antiochus XI met death in the waves of the Orontes. PHILIP continued the war, and succeeded in securing possession of at least a portion of Syria, while the fourth son of Antiochus VIII, DEMETRIUS III EUCERUS, was elevated to the rank of king in Damascus by Ptolemy Soter II of Egypt.
Antiochus X was finally overcome by the brothers, Philip and Demetrius. Concerning his death we have conflicting reports. According to Appian he was first completely ousted by Tigranes (see below), although he seems to have asserted himself in a portion of Syria. Failing in his design of reconquering Judea, Demetrius endeavoured to supplant his brother Philip, besieging him in Beroea, but was surrounded by the Parthians whom Philip had summoned to his aid, and forced to surrender. He died at the Court of the Parthian king. Philip now marched on Antiochia, secured possession of the city, and thenceforth held sway over Syria (about 88).
In Coele-Syria and Damasous, however, appeared a new pretender in his youngest brother, ANTIOCHUS XII DIONYSUS, who made himself king of these parts, but later fell in a campaign against the Nabataeans (about 84). Meanwhile, King Tigranes of Armenia appeared from the north, and in 83 succeeded in possessing himself of the kingdom.
After overcoming Tigranes in 69, Lucullus granted the realm to the son of Antiochus X, ANTIOCHUS XIII ASIATICUS, the last of the Seleucids. In 64 Pompey made Syria a Roman province, and Antiochus XIII was murdered a short time afterwards.
FLATHE, Gesch. Macedoniens, II (Leipzig, 1834); HOLM, Griechenlands Gesch., IV (Berlin, 1894); NIESE. Gesch. der griech. u. maced. Staaten seit der Schlacht bei Chaeronea (3 parts Gotha, 1893-1903): KUHN, Beitrdge zur Gesch. der Seleuciden (programme of Altkirch in Alsace, 1891); BEVAN, The House of Seleucus (2 vols., London, 1902). Concerning the relations of the Seleucids with the Jews, cf. SCHURER, Gesch. des jud. Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, I (3rd ed., Leipsig, 1903), 166 sqq.
APA citation. (1912). Seleucids. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13690a.htm
MLA citation. "Seleucids." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13690a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.