Seleucus I Nicator

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Seleucus I (surnamed for later generations Nicator, Greek:Σέλευκος Νικάτωρ) (c. 358 BC281 BC), was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great. In the wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire.

Early career & ascent to power

Seleucus was the son of Antiochus, one of Philip's generals, and of Laodice. In 333 BC, as a young man of about twenty-three, he accompanied Alexander into Asia and won distinction in the Indian campaign of 326 BC. When the Macedonian empire was divided in 323 BC (the "Partition of Babylon"), Seleucus was given the office of chiliarch, which attached him closely to the regent Perdiccas. Subsequently, Seleucus had a hand in the murder of Perdiccas during the latter's unsuccessful invasion of Egypt in 321 BC.

At the second partition, at Triparadisus (321 BC), Seleucus was given the government of the Babylonian satrapy. In 316 BC, when Antigonus had made himself master of the eastern provinces, Seleucus felt himself threatened and fled to Egypt. In the war which followed between Antigonus and the other Macedonian chiefs, Seleucus actively cooperated with Ptolemy and commanded Egyptian squadrons in the Aegean Sea.

The victory won by Ptolemy at the battle of Gaza in 312 BC opened the way for Seleucus to return to the east. His return to Babylon was afterwards officially regarded as the beginning of the Seleucid Empire and that year as the first of the Seleucid era. Master of Babylonia, Seleucus at once proceeded to wrest the neighbouring provinces of Persia, Susiana and Media from the nominees of Antigonus. A raid into Babylonia conducted in 311 BC by Demetrius, son of Antigonus, did not seriously check Seleucus' progress. Over the course of nine years (311-302 BC), while Antigonus was occupied in the west, Seleucus brought the whole eastern part of Alexander's empire as far as the Jaxartes and Indus Rivers under his authority.

In 305 BC, after the extinction of the old royal line of Macedonia, Seleucus, like the other four principal Macedonian chiefs, assumed the title and style of King. He established Seleucia on the Tigris as his capital.

Establishing the Seleucid state

His attempt to restore Macedonian rule beyond the Indus, where Chandragupta Maurya had established himself, was not successful. Greek sources are curiously silent on this topic leading historians to believe that Seleucus was defeated; nevertheless, a peace treaty signed between the two kings in 302 BC. Seleucus ceded what is now Pakistan and southern Afghanistan but received 500 elephants, which were to play a key role in the battles that were to come. To cement the treaty, there was either some sort of marriage alliance involving Seleucus' daughter or the diplomatic recognition of intermarriage between Indians and Greeks. Seleucus himself took as wife Apama, whom he had three children with: two daughter, Apama and Laodice and sons Antiochus & Achaeus. After the death of Apama, Seleucus married Stratonice, daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes, Seleucus had a daughter by Stratonice, who was called Phila.[1]

In 301 BC he joined Lysimachus in Asia Minor, and at Ipsus Antigonus fell before their combined power. A new partition of the empire followed, by which Seleucus added to his kingdom Syria, and perhaps some regions of Asia Minor.

The possession of Syria gave him an opening to the Mediterranean, and he immediately founded the new city of Antioch on the Orontes as his chief seat of government. Seleucia on the Tigris continued to be the capital for the eastern satrapies. About 293 BC, he installed his son Antiochus there as viceroy, the vast extent of the empire seeming to require a double government.

It is said of Seleucus that "few princes have ever lived with so great a passion for the building of cities. He is reputed to have built in all nine Seleucias, sixteen Antiochs, and six Laodiceas"[1].

The capture of Demetrius in 285 BC added to Seleucus's prestige. The unpopularity of Lysimachus after the murder of Agathocles gave Seleucus an opportunity for removing his last rival. His intervention in the west was solicited by Ptolemy Keraunos, who, on the accession to the Egyptian throne of his brother Ptolemy II (285 BC), had at first taken refuge with Lysimachus and then with Seleucus. War between Seleucus and Lysimachus broke out, and at the decisive battle of Corupedium in Lydia, Lysimachus fell (281 BC). Seleucus now held the whole of Alexander's conquests excepting Egypt in his hands, and moved to take possession of Macedonia and Thrace. He intended to leave Asia to Antiochus and content himself for the remainder of his days with the Macedonian kingdom in its old limits. He had, however, hardly crossed into the Chersonese when he was assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunos near Lysimachia (281 BC).

External links


  • [1] This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.
  • Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom by John D. Grainger ISBN 0415047013

Preceded by:
(Alexander IV)
Seleucid King
312/305–281 BC
Succeeded by:
Antiochus I Soter

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