Seleucus I. or Seleucus Nicator
) surnamed NICATOR, king of SYRIA, and the founder of the Syrian monarchy.
He was the son of Antiochus, a Macedonian of distinction among the officers of Philip II., but fabulous stories were in circulation (evidently fabricated after he had attained to greatness), which represented him as the offspring of a miraculous intercourse of his mother Laodice with Apollo. (Just. 15.4
.) From the statements concerning his age at his death, his birth may be probably assigned to about B. C. 358, and he would thus be about twenty-four years old when he accompanied Alexander
on his expedition to Asia, as one of the officers of the έταῖροι
, or horse-guards.
He was early distinguished for his great personal strength, as well as courage, of which he is said to have afforded a proof by overcoming a savage bull, unarmed and single-handed. (Appian. Syr. 57 ; Ael. VH 12.16
.) Of his services as an officer we hear nothing during the early campaigns of Alexander
in Asia; but it is evident that lie must have earned the confidence of that monarch, as at the passage of the Hydaspes, in B. C. 327, we find him selected by the king, together with Ptolemy, Perdiccas, and Lysimachus, to accompany him with the body of troops which were to cross the river in the first instance.
In the subsequent battle against Porus, also, he bore an important part. (Arr. Anab. 5.13
But that these services were only a small portion of those actually rendered by him, during the Indian campaigns, may be inferred from the circumstance that, after the return of Alexander
to Susa, Seleucus was one of the officers upon whom the king bestowed, as a rewards the hand of an Asiatic princess. His bride was Apama, the daughter, according to Arrian, of the Bactrian chief Spitamenes. though Strabo calls her father, probably erroneously, Artabazus. (Arr. Anab. 7.4
; Strab. xii. p.578
Seleucus was in close attendance upon Alexander
during his last illness, and is mentioned as one of the officers who consulted the oracle of Serapis in regard to his recovery (Arr. Anab. 7.26
). During the dissensions which followed the death of the great king, he took part with Perdiccas and the other leaders of the cavalry, and was rewarded for his attachment to their cause by obtaining, in the arrangements ultimately adopted, the important post of chiliarch of the ἑταῖροι
, one of the most honourable appointments in the army, and which had previously been held by Perdiccas himself. (Arrian. apud Phot.
p. 69a; Diod. 18.3
; Appian. Syr. 57 ; Just. 13.4
, who inaccurately terms it " castrorum tribunatus.")
The regent, doubtless, thought that he could reckon with security on the fidelity of Seleucus; but the latter, though he adhered to him until the expedition against Egypt, and accompanied him on that occasion, was one of the first to join in the discontents which broke out on the disasters sustained at the passage of the Nile [PERDICCAS], and even put himself at the head of the mutineers who broke into the regent's tent, and transfixed him on their spears. (Corn. Nep. Eum. 5 ; Diod. 18.36
.) During the troubles that followed, we find him interposing his influence and authority with the army, in favour of Antipater, when assailed by the invectives of Eurydice; and, in the second partition of the provinces (at Triparadeisus, B. C. 321), he obtained for his portion the wealthy and important satrapy of Babylonia, of which he hastened to take possession. (Arr. apud Phot.
p. 71b; Diod. 18.39
; App. Syr. 57.
The ambitious designs of Pithon having involved that general in war with the neighbouring satraps, and ultimately led to his expulsion from his own government [PITHON], Seleucus afforded him a refuge in Babylonia, and was preparing to support him by arms, when the approach of Eumenes attracted the attention of both the contending parties in another direction. Seleucus and Pithon immediately declared in favour of Antigonus, and endeavoured, though without success, to prevent Eumenes from crossing the Tigris and effecting a junction with the forces assembled under Peucestes and his brother satraps. Seleucus, however, remained in possession of Babylon, and sent to Antigonus to hasten his march. On the arrival of the latter, he joined him with all his forces, and they advanced together into Susiana, which was annexed by Antigonus to the satrapy of Seleucus, and the latter was appointed to carry on the siege of Susa, while Antigonus himself advanced into Upper Asia against Eumenes.
Before the close of the campaigns in Media, which terminated in the defeat of Eumenes, Seleucus had made himself master of Susa, and returned to Babylon, where he received Antigonus in the most splendid manner, on his return from the upper provinces.
But the victory of that general had entirely altered his position in relation to his former allies, and the fate of Pithon might well serve as a warning to his brother satraps. Nor was it long before these apprehensions were confirmed : Antigonus first took occasion to find fault with some exercise of authority on the part of Seleucus, and at length went so far as to call him to account for the administration of the revenues of his satrapy, an assumption of superiority to which he altogether refused to submit. But Seleucus was unable to cope with the power of his adversary, and consequently determined to escape the fate which awaited him, by timely flight, and secretly quitted Babylon with only fifty horsemen. Antigonus in vain issued orders for his pursuit and apprehension, and he made his way. in safety, through Mesopotamia and Syria, into Egypt, B. C. 316. (Diod. 18.73
; App. Syr. 53.
Here he immediately endeavoured to arouse Ptolemy to a sense of the danger impending from the power and ambition of Antigonus, and succeeded in inducing him to unite with Lysimachus and Cassander in a league against their common enemy. (Diod. 19.56
; App. Syr. 53.
) In the war that followed (for the events of which see PTOLEMAEUS, p. 582) Seleucus took an active part.
He was at first appointed to command the fleet of Ptolemy, with which we find him carrying on operations on the coast of Syria during the siege of Tyre by Antigonus, as well as subsequently in Ionia and the islands of the Aegaean, and rendering important assistance to Menelaus in the conquest of Cyprus.
At length, in B. C. 312, he induced Ptolemy to take the field in person in Coele-Syria, against the youthful Demetrius, and bore an important part in the decisive battle of Gaza.
That victory laid open once more the route to Babylon and the East, and he now prevailed upon Ptolemy to send him, with a small force, to regain possession of his former satrapy. On this daring enterprise he set out with only 800 foot and 200 horse, but was joined by reinforcements on his march through Mesopotamia; and so great was his popularity, that all the inhabitants of Babylonia declared in his favour.
He entered the city without opposition, and speedily reduced the garrison, which had taken refuge in the citadel.
It is from the recovery of Babylon by Seleucus at this period, that the Syrian monarchy is commonly reckoned to commence, and we find the coins of the Syrian kings, as well as many later writers, calculating the years from this epoch.
This era of the Seleucidae, as it is termed, has been determined by chronologers to the 1st of October, B. C. 312. (Diod. 19.58
; Appian. Syr. 54 ;
Euseb. Arm. p. 163 ; Froelich, Annales Regum Syriae,
p. 9; Ideler, Handb. d. Chronologie,
vol. i. pp. 445-451; Clinton, F. H.
vol. ii. p. 172; Eckhel, vol. iii. pp. 210, 221.)
Meanwhile Nicanor, the satrap of Media, had assembled a large force, with which he advanced to oppose Seleucus; but the latter hastened to meet him in the field, totally defeated him at the passage of the Tigris, and followed up his victory by the conquest of Susiana, Media, and some adjacent districts.
But while he was thus engaged in the upper provinces, Demetrius, who had been detached by his father Antigonus, from Syria, had regained possession of Babylon, which Patrocles (who had been left there by Seleucus) was unable to hold against him.
The invader was, however, foiled in the attempt to reduce one of the citadels attached to the capital; and soon after, by his hasty return to Syria left it open to Seleucus to recover possession of Babylonia, which the latter probably effected with little difficulty. (Diod. 19.100
Plut. Demetr. 7.
From this period we are left almost wholly in the dark, as to the subsequent operations of Seleucus, during an interval of nearly ten years.
It is not a little singular that his name is not even mentioned in the treaty of peace concluded in B. C. 311, by his confederates Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander with Antigonus, in which the latter was acknowledged as ruler of Asia. (Diod. 19.105
But though thus apparently abandoned by his allies, he had, in fact, little to fear from Antigonus, who was too much occupied with the affairs of Western Asia to find leisure for another expedition against the East 1
, and Seleucus appears to have been left to pursue, without interruption, his career of conquest in the upper provinces. All details, however, concerning his operations in these quarters, are lost to us; and we know only the general fact, that by a series of successive campaigns he gradually extended his power over all the eastern provinces which had formed part of the empire of Alexander
, from the Euphrates to the banks of the Oxus and the Indus. One of the most memorable of his wars was that with Sandracottus, an Indian king of the regions on the banks of the Ganges, who had availed himself of the disorders which followed the death of Eumenes, to establish his power over the Macedonian satrapies east of the Indus. [SANDROCOTTUS.] Both the date and the circumstances of this war are unfortunately lost; but it was terminated by a treaty by which Seleucus contracted a matrimonial alliance with the Indian monarch, to whom he ceded all the provinces beyond the Indus, and even that of Paropamisus, in exchange for the gift of 500 elephants, an immense addition to his military resources. (Just. 15.4
; Appian. Syr. 55 ; Strab. xv. p.724
Seleucus had followed the example of Antigonus and Ptolemy, by formally assuming, in B. C. 306, the regal title and diadem, which he had already previously adopted in his intercourse with the barbarian nations by whom He was surrounded (Diod. 20.53
; Plut. Demetr. 18
) : and he was probably inferior to none of the rival monarchs in power when he was induced, in B. C. 302, to accede to the league formed for the second time by Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander, against their common enemy Antigonus.
The army which he brought into the field, considerably exceeded those of his allies; and he arrived in Cappadocia before the close of the autumn, with 20,000 foot, 12,000 horse, and the overwhelming force of 480 elephants. (Diod. 20.106
The events of the campaign which followed (B. C. 301), are very imperfectly known; but it seems certain that the decisive victory of the confederates at Ipsus [LYSIMACHUS] was mainly owing to the cavalry and elephants of Seleucus, as well as to the skill with which he himself took advantage of the errors of Demetrius. (Plut. Demetr. 29.
The removal of their common antagonist quickly brought about a change in the dispositions of the Confederates towards each other.
In the division of the spoil, Seleucus certainly obtained the largest share, being rewarded for his services with a great part of Asia Minor (which was divided between him and Lysimachus) as well as the whole of Syria, from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean. Ptolemy, however, laid claim to Phoenicia and Coele-Syria, and the possession of these provinces, so fruitful a subject of dissension between their successors, was near producing an immediate breach between the two kings of Syria and Egypt. Seleucus, indeed, waived his pretensions for the time; but the jealousy thus excited, was increased by the close alliance soon after concluded between Ptolemy and Lysimachus, and Seleucus sought to strengthen himself in his turn, by forming a matrimonial connection with Demetrius. His overtures to that prince were joyfully welcomed, the two rivals met on the most friendly terms, and the nuptials of Seleucus and Stratonice were celebrated, with great magnificence, at Rhosus, on the Syrian coast.
But even before the two princes separated, the seeds of new disputes were sown between them, by the refusal of Demetrius to yield to his son-in-law the important fortresses of Sidon and Tyre. (Plut. Demetr. 31-33 ;
Diod. xxi. Exc. Vat. pp. 42, 43.)
A few years afterwards, Seleucus appears to have taken advantage of the wars which kept Demetrius continually occupied in Greece, to wrest from him the possession, not only of these fortresses, but that of Cilicia also. (Droysen, vol. i. p. 572.)
The empire of Seleucus was now by far the most extensive and powerful of those which had been formed out of the dominions of Alexander
It comprised the whole of Asia, from the remote provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana to the coasts of Phoenicia, and from the Paropamisus to the central plains of Phrygia, where the boundary which separated him from Lysimachus is not clearly defined.
These extensive dominions were subdivided into seventy-two satrapies; an arrangement evidently adopted with a view of breaking down the excessive power previously possessed by the several governors : but notwithstanding this precaution, Seleucus appears to have felt the difficulty of exercising a vigilant control over so extensive an empire, and accordingly, in B. C. 293, consigned the government of all the provinces beyond the Euphrates to his son Antiochus, upon whom he bestowed the title of king, as well as the hand of his own youthful wife, Stratonice, for whom the prince had conceived a violent attachment. (Appian, Syr. 55, 59-62 ;
Plut. Demetr. 38.
In B. C. 288, the ambitious designs of Demetrius (now become king of Macedonia) once more aroused the common jealousy of his old adversaries, and led Seleucus again to unite in a league with Ptolemy and Lysimachus against him.
But he appears to have taken little part in the hostilities which followed, even when Demetrius, driven from his kingdom by Lysimachus, transported the seat of war into Asia Minor; nor was it until the fugitive monarch, hemmed in on all sides, threw himself into Cilicia, that Seleucus 'thought fit to take the field in person. Even then he readily entered into negotiations with Demetrius, and even allowed him to take up his winter quarters, during a truce of two months, in Cataonia; but his apprehensions were soon again roused, he fortified all the mountain passes so as effectually to surround Demetrius, and the latter was at length, after various vicissitudes of fortune, compelled to surrender to the Syrian king, B. C. 286. Seleucus had the generosity to treat his captive in a friendly and liberal manner; but at the same time took care to provide for his safe custody in the city of Apamea, on the Orontes. (Plut. Demetr. 44, 47-50 ; Polyaen. 4.9
. §§ 2, 3, 5.) Lysimachus in vain represented to him the danger of allowing so formidable an enemy any hope of escape, and urged him to put Demetrius at once to death : Seleucus indignantly refused to listen to his proposals; and it is even said that he was really designing to set his illustrious prisoner altogether at liberty, when the death of Demetrius himself, in the third year of his captivity, prevented the execution of the plan. (Plut. Demetr. 51, 52 ;
Diod. xxi. Exc. Vales. p. 561.)
It is probable that Seleucus was influenced as much by policy as by generosity in his conduct on this occasion : increasing jealousies between him and Lysimachus had long threatened to lead to an open rupture, and it was not long after the death of Demetrius before the domestic dissensions in the family of the Thracian king [AGATHOCLES ; LYSIMACHUS] brought on the long-impending crisis.
After the death of the unhappy Agathocles, his widow Lysandra and her children fled for refuge to the court of Seleucus, who received them in the most friendly manner.
The general discontent excited in the dominions of Lysimachus by this event, and the defection of many of his principal officers, encouraged the Syrian king to commence hostilities against him, and he accordingly assembled a large army with which he invaded the dominions of his rival in person. Lysimachus, on his side, was not slow to meet him, and a decisive action ensued at Corupedion, B. C. 281, which terminated in the defeat and death of the Thracian monarch. (Memnon, 100.8; Just. 17.1
,2; Appian. Syr. 62.
) This victory appears to have been followed by the speedy submission of all the Asiatic provinces as far as the Hellespont ; but not contented with this, Seleucus was desirous to occupy the throne of Macedonia, which had been left vacant by the death of Lysimachus; and after spending a few months in arranging the affairs of Asia, the government of which he now consigned wholly to his son Antiochus, he himself crossed the Hellespont at the head of an army.
But he had advanced no farther than Lysimachia, when he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, to whom, as the son of his old friend and ally, he had extended a friendly protection. His body was redeemed by Philetaerus, the governor of Pergamus, who, after paying him due funeral honours, sent his remains to Antiochus, by whom they were deposited at Seleuceia on the Orontes, in a temple dedicated to his memory. His death took place in the beginning of B. C. 280, only seven months after that of Lysimachus, and in the thirty-second year of his reign.
According to Justin, he was at this time more than seventy-seven years old, but Appian makes him only seventy-three. (Appian, Syr. 62, 633 ; Just. 17.1
; Memnon. 100.11, 12; Paus. 1.16.2
; Oros. 3.23
; Euseb. Arm. p. 163.)
We have little information concerning the personal character of Seleucus, but he is pronounced by Pausanias (1.16.3
) to have been the most upright among the successors of Alexander
, and it is certain that his memory is stained with none of those crimes which are a reproach to the names of Lysimachus, Cassander, and even Ptolemy. Of his consummate abilities as a general no doubt can be entertained; and the little we know of his administration of the vast empire which he had united under his sceptre, gives an equally favourable impression of his political talents.
He appears to have carried out, with great energy and perseverance, the projects originally formed by Alexander
himself, for the Hellenisation
of his Asiatic empire; and we find him founding, in almost every province, Greek or Macedonian colonies, which became so many centres of civilisation and refinement. Of these no less than sixteen are mentioned as bearing the name of Antiochia after his father ; five that of Laodicea, from his mother; seven were calied after himself Seleucia, three from the name of his first wife, Apamea; and one Stratoniceia, from his second wife, the daughter of Demetrius. Of these the most conspicuous were -- Seleucia on the Tigris, which in great measure supplanted the mighty Babylon, and became the metropolis of the eastern provinces, under the Syrian dynasty; the city of the same name, near the mouth of the Orontes; and Antiochia, on the latter river, which quickly rose to be the capital of Syria, and continued, for near a thousand years, to be one of the most populous and wealthy cities of the world. Numerous other cities, whose names attest their Macedonian origin--Beroea, Edessa, Pella, &c.-- likewise owed their first foundation to the son of Antiochus. (Appian, Syr. 57 ;
Strab. xvi. pp. 738, 749, 750; Steph. Byz. s. v. Ἀπάμεια
, &c.; Paus. 1.16.3
; Amm. Marc. 14.8.5
. For a full review and examination of these foundations see Droysen, Hellenism.
vol. ii. pp. 651, 680-720.)
Nothing is known with certainty of any children of Seleucus, except his son and successor Antiochus ; but it seems probable that by his second wife, Stratonice, he had a daughter Phila, afterwards married to Antigonus Gonatas. [PHILA, No. 4.]