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Seleucid Empire

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Seleucid Empire

312 BC–63 BC

Tetradrachm of Seleucus I, the horned horse, the Elephant and the anchor were all used as symbols of the Seleucid monarchy.[1][2]

The empire at its greatest extent and on the eve of the death of Seleucus I, 281 BC
Capital Seleucia
(305–240 BC)

(240–63 BC)
Language(s) Greek(official)[3]
Religion Olympianism
Babylonian religion[4]
Government Monarchy
 - 305–281 BC Seleucus I (first)
 - 65–63 BC Philip II (last)
Historical era Hellenistic period
 - Wars of the Diadochi 312 BC
 - Battle of Ipsus 301 BC
 - Roman–Syrian War 192–188 BC
 - Treaty of Apamea 188 BC
 - Maccabean Revolt 167–160 BC
 - Annexed by Rome 63 BC
 - 301 BC[5] 3,000,000 km2 (1,158,306 sq mi)
 - 240 BC[5] 2,600,000 km2 (1,003,866 sq mi)
 - 175 BC[5] 800,000 km2 (308,882 sq mi)
 - 100 BC [5] 100,000 km2 (38,610 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Macedonian Empire
Province of Syria
Parthian Empire
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Hasmonean kingdom
Today part of
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The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic (or Ancient Greek) successor state of Alexander the Great's empire. At its greatest extent, the Empire covered central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkmenistan, Pamir and the Indus Valley.

Primarily, it was the successor to the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, and was followed there by the Islamic Caliphate (Rashidun Empire) conquest and rule, from 650s to 660s AD. Later on, much of this area became part of the Umayyad Empire and then the Abbasid Empire.

There were over 30 kings of the Seleucid dynasty from 323 to 63 BC.

The partition of Alexander's empire (323–281 BC)

Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire but later died young, leaving his huge empire of partly Hellenized culture without an adult heir.

The empire was put under the management of a regent named Perdiccas in 323 BC, and the territories were divided between Alexander's generals, who thereby became satraps, at the Partition of Babylon. Leaders who thought they should have more, started wars to get it. Soon the various parts of the empire were fighting each other.

The early Seleucid Empire

Seleucus I Soter was one of Alexander's generals who received a portion of the huge empire Alexander had carved out. He received huge expanses of land in Syria, Babylon, Anatolia, even as far out as India. When Perdiccas was killed in a political assassination by Ptolemy of Egypt, the empire that was barely held together then splintered apart. The Seleucid Empire quickly expanded, eventually taking parts of Thrace in the west and advancing past the Indus in the East.

Seleucus I clashed several times with his southern rival for power, the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The Ptolemaic Dynasty controlled most of Egypt and the lands around it, and would fight the Seleucid Empire on many occasions for control of Syria. Seleucus I conquered much of Anatolia, and was preparing to invade Macedonia, when he was assassinated. This momentarily put an end to the Seleucid Empire's ambitions in Greece. After Seleucus I died, his heirs spent much of their time and money trying to maintain the enormous empire they had inherited. In this, they were rather successful, but the vastness of the empire defied attempts by the successors of Seleucus to control it effectively.


  1. Cohen, Getzel M; The Hellenistic dettlements in Syria, the Red Sea basin, and North Africa, pp. 13.
  2. Lynette G. Mitchell; Every inch a king: comparative studies on kings and kingship in the ancient and medieval worlds, page 123.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Richard N. Frye, The history of ancient Iran, (Ballantyne Ltd, 1984), 164.
  4. Julye Bidmead, The Akitu Festival: religious continuity and royal legitimation in Mesopotamia, (Gorgias Press, 2004), 143.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Rein Taagepera (1979). "Size and duration of empires: growth-decline curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D". Social Science History 3 (3/4): 115–138. doi:10.2307/1170959 .