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SELEUCEIA or SELEUCIA Σελεύκεια, two towns in Syria.


AD BELUM (Σελεύκεια πρὸς Βήλῳ), sometimes called SELEUCOBELUS, situated in the district of Cassiotis, placed by Ptolemy in long. 69° 30′, lat. 34° 45′. The Belus was a tributary of the Orontes, running into it from the W., and since, as Pococke remarks, Seleucia was exactly in the same latitude as Paltos, it must have been due E. of it. Now Boldo, the ancient Paltos, lies two hours S. of Jebilee, ancient Gabala, on the coast. Seleucia ad Belum must be looked for 1° 10′ to the E., according to Ptolemy's reckoning, who places Paltos in long. 63° 20′, lat. 34° 45′. Modern conjecture has identified it with Shogh and Divertigi, which is placed 30 miles E. of Antioch. (Ptol. 5.15.16; Pococke, Syria. vol. ii. p. 199.) Pliny mentions it with another not elsewhere recognised, in the interior of Syria: “Seleucias praeter jam dictam (i. e. Pieria), duas, quae ad Euphratem, et quae ad Belum vocantur” (5.23.19).


PIERIA (Σελεύκεια Πιερία: Eth. Σελευκεύς), a maritime city of Syria, placed by Ptolemy in long. 68° 36′, lat. 35° 26′, between Rhossus and the mouths of the Orontes. Its ancient name, according to Strabo, was “Rivers of Water” (Ὕδατος ποταμοί), a strong city, called Free by Pompey (Strab. 16.2.8). Its position is fully described by Polybius. [p. 2.953]It was situated on the sea between Cilicia and Phoenice, over against a large mountain called Coryphaeum, the base of which was washed on its W. side by the sea, towards the E. it dominated the districts of Antioch and Seleucis. Seleucia lay on the S. of this mountain, separated from it by a deep and rugged valley. The city extended to the sea through broken ground, but was surrounded for the most part by precipitous and abrupt rocks. On the side towards the sea lay the factory (τά ἐμπορεῖα) and suburb, on the level ground, strongly fortified. The whole hollow (κίτος) of the city was likewise strongly fortified with fine walls, and temples, and buildings. It had one approach on the sea side, by an artificial road in steps (κλιμακωτήν), distributed into frequent and continuous slopes (cuttings?--ἐλκλίμασι) and curves (tunnels?--σκαιώμασι). The embouchure of the Orontes was not far distant--40 stadia, according to Strabo (xvi. p.750). It was built by Seleucus Nicator (died B.C. 280), and was of great importance, in a military view, during the wars between the Seleucidae and the Ptolemies. It was taken by Ptolemy Euergetes on his expedition into Syria, and held by an Egyptian garrison until the time of Antiochus the Great, who, at the instigation of Apollophanes, a Seleucian, resolved to recover it from Ptolemy Philopator (cir. B.C. 220), in order to remove the disgrace of an Egyptian garrison in the heart of Syria, and to obviate the danger which it threatened to his operations in Coele-Syria, being, as it was, a principal city, and well nigh, so to speak, the proper home of the Syrian power. Having sent the fleet against it, under the admiral Diognetus, he himself marched with his army from Apameia, and encamped near the Hippodrome, 5 stadia from the city. Having in vain attempted to win it by bribery, he divided his forces into three parts, of which one under Zeuxis made the assault near the gate of Antioch, a second under Hermogenes near the temple of the Dioscuri, the third under Ardys and Diognetus by the arsenal and suburb, which was first carried, whereupon the garrison capitulated (Plb. 5.58-60). It was afterwards a place of arms in the further prosecution of the war against Ptolemy (66). The Mount Coryphaeum of Polybius is the Pieria of Ptolemy and Strabo, from which the town derived its distinguishing appellation. Strabo mentions, from Posidonius, that a kind of asphaltic soil was quarried in this place, which, when spread over the roots of the vine, acted as a preservative against blight (vii. p. 316.) He calls it the first city of the Syrians, from Cilicia, and states its distance from Soli, in a straight course, a little less than 1000 stadia (xiv. p. 676). It was one of the four cities of the Tetrapolis, which was a synonym for the district of Seleucis, the others being Antioch, Apameia, and Laodiceia, which were called sister cities, being all founded by Seleucus Nicator, and called by the names respectively of himself, his father, his wife, and his mother-in-law; that bearing his father's name being the largest, that bearing his own, the strongest. (Strab. xvi. p.749.) The auguries attending its foundation are mentioned by John Malalas (Chronographia, lib. viii. p. 254). It became the port of Antioch, and there it was that St. Paul and Barnabas embarked for Cyprus, on their first mission to Asia Minor (Acts, 13.4), the Orontes never having been navigable even as far as Antioch for any but vessels of light draught. Pliny calls it “Seleucia libera Pieria,” and describes it as situated on a promontory (5.21) clxxv. M. P. distant from Zeugma on the Euphrates (12). He designates the Coryphaeum of Polybius, the Pieria of Strabo, Mount Casius, a name also extended by Strabo to the mountains about Seleucia, where he speaks of the Antiocheans celebrating a feast to Triptolemus as a demigod, in Mount Cassius around Seleucia (xvi. p. 750). The ruins of the site have been fully explored and described in modern times, first by Pococke (Observations on Syria, chap. xxii. p. 182, &c.), who identified many points noticed by Polybius, and subsequently by Col. Chesney (Journal of the R. Geog. Society, vol. viii. p. 228, &c.). The mountain range noticed by Polybius is now called Jebel Musa; and the hill on which the city stood appears to be the “low mountain, called Bín-Kilíseh,” or the 1000 churches. Part of the site of the town was occupied, according to Pococke, by the village of Kepse, situated about a mile from the sea. The masonry of the once magnificent port of Seleucia is still in so good a state that it merely requires trifling repairs in some places, and to be cleaned out; a project contemplated, but not executed, by one Ali Pasha, when governor of Aleppo. The plan of the port, with its walls and basins, its piers, floodgates, and defences, can be distinctly traced. The walls of the suburb, with its agora, the double line of defence of the inner city, comprehending in their circumference about 4 miles, which is filled with ruins of houses; its castellated citadel on the summit of the hill, the gate of Antioch on the SE. of the site, with its pilasters and towers, near which is a double row of marble columns; large remains of two temples, one of which was of the Corinthian order; the amphitheatre, near which Antiochus encamped, before his assault upon the city, with twenty-four tiers of benches still to be traced; the numerous rocky excavations of the necropolis, with the sarcophagi, always of good workmanship, now broken and scattered about in all directions, all attest the ancient importance of the city, and the fidelity of the historian who has described it. Most remarkable of all in this view is the important engineering work, to which Polybius alludes as the only comnmunication between the city and sea, fully described by Col. Chesney, as the most striking of the interesting remains of Seleucia. It is a very extensive excavation, cut through the solid rock from the NE. extremity of the town almost to the sea, part of which is a deep hollow way, and the remainder regular tunnels, between 20 and 30 feet wide, and as many high, executed with great skill and considerable labour. From its eastern to its western extremity is a total length of 1088 yards, the greater part of which is traversed by an aqueduct carried along the face of the rock, considerably above the level of the road. Its termination is rough and very imperfect, about 30 feet above the level of the sea; and while the bottom of the rest of the excavation is tolerably regular, in this portion it is impeded by large masses of rock lying across it at intervals: which would imply either that it was never completed, or that it was finished in this part with masonry, which may have been carried off for building purposes. It is, perhaps, in this part that the stairs mentioned by Polybius may have been situated, in order to form a communication with the sea. There can be no doubt whatever that this excavation is the passage mentioned by him as the sole communication between the city and the sea; and it is strange that any question should have arisen concerning its design. A rough plan of the site is given by Pococke (p. 183); but a much more [p. 2.954]carefully executed plan, with drawings and sections of the tunnels, &c., has lately been published by Captain Allen, who surveyed the site of the harbour, but not of the town, in 1850. (The Dead Sea, &c., Map at end of vol. i., and vol. ii. pp. 208--230.)



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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Polybius, Histories, 5.60
    • Polybius, Histories, 5.58
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 66
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