Last update 31-Aug-2008
Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, the so-called Seleucid Cappadocia, the Persians, Parthians, Bactrians, Arabs, Tapyri, Sogdiani, Arachotes, Hyrcanians, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus.
He built cities throughout the entire length of his dominions and named sixteen of them Antioch after his father, five Laodicea after his mother, nine after himself, and four after his wives, that is, three Apamea and one Stratonicea. ... To others he gave names from Greece or Macedonia, or from his own exploits, or in honor of Alexander; ...
|Ruler:||Seleukos I Nikator (“Seleukos the Victor”), Seleukid King (founder of the Seleukid dynasty), born probably c. 358 or c. 354 BC, satrap of Babylonia 320 - 315 BC, second satrapy from May 311 BC,1 as King 305/4 - 281 BC, died August/September 281 BC2 (killed by Ptolemy Keraunos3)|
|Father:||Antiochos, general of Philip II, king of Macedonia4|
|Sibling: 5||Laodike 6|
|Wifes:||(1)||Apama I, date of birth unknown (daughter of Spitamenes of Baktria), married Seleukos I in 324 BC (as his first wife)7|
|(2)||Stratonike I (daughter of Demetrios I Poliorketes, King of Makedon, and Phila, daughter of Antipater, the regent of Makedon), initially the second wife of Seleukos I (married him in 298 BC),8 then married to her stepson Antiochos I in 294 BC9, died 253 BC10|
|Children: 11||By Apama I:|
|(1)||Antiochos I, Seleukid King, born c. 323 BC,12 coregency with his father Seleukos I 294 - 281 BC,13 sole reign 281 - 261 BC, died 261 BC|
|By Stratonike I:|
|(2)||Phila, wife of Antigonos II Gonatas, King of Makedon|
1 Seleucus recovered Babylon in May 311 BC. See Finkel and Van der Spek, The Diadochi Chronicle (a part of Babylonian Chronicles): BM 36313 and 34660, reverse, lines 3-4 and the corresponding commentary (see also Reader’s edition, note 2).
2The Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period (also known as King List 6), BM 35603, obverse, lines 6-8 (a reading proposed by Van der Spek):
|6||Year 7 (SEB = 305/304 BCE), which is year 1: Seleucus (I Nicator was) king.|
|7||He reigned for twenty-five years.|
|8||Year 31, Ulûlu [= month VI]: Se(leucus I), the king, was killed in the land of the Hanaeans.|
3 Ptolemy Keraunos, son of Ptolemy I and Eurydice, born c. 319/18 BC or a little later, passed over as heir to the throne of Egypt c. 287/5 BC, died c. January/February 279 BC. See Bennett, Egyptian Royal Genealogy: Ptolemy Ceraunus.
Appian, Syriake 62: Then Seleucus (Seleukos I) crossed the Hellespont in order to possess himself of Lysimacheia, but he was killed by Ptolemy Keraunos who accompanied him. This Keraunos was the son of Ptolemy Soter (Ptolemy I) and Euridice, the daughter of Antipater. He had left Egypt from fear, because his father had decided to leave the kingdom to his youngest son. Seleucus had received him as the unfortunate son of his friend, and thus he supported, and took around with himself everywhere, his own murderer.
Eusebius, Chronicle, pp. 251-252: He (Seleukos I) reigned for 32 years, from the first year of the 117th Olympiad [312 B.C.] until the fourth year of the 124th Olympiad [281 B.C.], and lived in all for 75 years. Eventually, he was ambushed and killed by his friend Ptolemaeus, called Ceraunus.
Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 17.2: In this war, Lysimachus (who had previously lost, by various chances of fortune, fifteen children) died, with no small bravery, and crowned the ruin of his family. Seleucus (Seleukos I), overjoyed at such a triumph, and what he thought greater than the triumph, that he alone survived of all Alexander’s (Alexander the Great’s) staff, the conqueror of conquerors, boasted that “this was not the work of man, but a favour from the gods,” little thinking that he himself was shortly after to be an instance of human instability; for in the course of about seven months, he was treacherously surprised by Ptolemy (Ptolemy Keraunos), whose sister Lysimachus had married, and put to death, losing the kingdom of Macedonia, which he had taken from Lysimachus, together with his life.
Memnon, History of Heracleia, 8.1-3: Seleucus (Seleukos I), encouraged by his success against Lysimachus, set out to cross over to Macedonia. He longed to return to his fatherland, from which he had set out with Alexander (Alexander the Great), and he intended to spend the rest of his life there (he was already an old man), after handing over the government of Asia to his son Antiochus (Antiochos I). But Ptolemaeus Ceraunus (Ptolemy Keraunos), because the kingdom of Lysimachus had come under Seleucus’ control, was himself accompanying Seleucus; he was not despised like a prisoner, but given the honour and consideration due to the son of a king. His hopes were raised by the promises which Seleucus made to establish him back in Egypt as the rightful heir to the kingdom, when his father Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy I) died. However, though he was honoured with so much attention, these favours failed to improve the disposition of an evil man. He formed a plot, fell upon his benefactor and killed him. Then he jumped on a horse and rushed to Lysimacheia, where he put on a diadem, and escorted by a splendid bodyguard went out to meet the army; they were forced to accept him and call him king, though they had previously served under Seleucus.
Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.16.2: After these successes, which were shortly followed by the fall of Lysimachus, he (Seleukos I) entrusted to his son Antiochus (Antiochos I) all his empire in Asia, and himself proceeded rapidly towards Macedonia, having with him an army both of Greeks and of foreigners. But Ptolemy (Ptolemy Keraunos), brother of Lysandra (daughter of Ptolemy I and Eurydice), had taken refuge with him from Lysimachus; this man, an adventurous character named for this reason the Thunderbolt (i.e. Keraunos), when the army of Seleucus had advanced as far as Lysimachea, assassinated Seleucus, allowed the kings to seize his wealth, and ruled over Macedonia until, being the first of the kings to my knowledge to dare to meet the Gauls in battle, he was killed by the foreigners.
Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.19.7: Bolgius (leader of Gauls) attacked the Macedonians and Illyrians, and engaged in a struggle with Ptolemy (Ptolemy Keraunos), king of the Macedonians at that time. It was this Ptolemy who, though he had taken refuge as a suppliant with Seleucus (Seleukos I), the son of Antiochus, treacherously murdered him, and was surnamed Thunderbolt because of his recklessness. Ptolemy himself perished in the fighting, and the Macedonian losses were heavy.
4 The names of his parents are mentioned by Appian and Justin:
Appian, Syriake 57: He (Seleukos I) built cities throughout the entire length of his dominions and named sixteen of them Antioch after his father, five Laodicea after his mother, nine after himself, and four after his wives, that is, three Apamea and one Stratonicea.
Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 15.4: The merit of Seleucus (Seleukos I) was well known, and his birth had been attended with extraordinary circumstances. His mother Laodice, being married to Antiochus, a man of eminence among Philip’s (Philip II’s) generals, seemed to herself, in a dream, to have conceived from a union with Apollo, and, after becoming pregnant, to have received from him, as a reward for her compliance, a ring, on the stone of which was engraved an anchor and which she was desired to give to the child that she should bring forth. A ring similarly engraved, which was found the next day in the bed, and the figure of an anchor, which was visible on the thigh of Seleucus when he was born, made this dream extremely remarkable. This ring Laodice gave to Seleucus, when he was going with Alexander (Alexander the Great) to the Persian war, informing him, at the same time, of his paternity. After the death of Alexander, having secured dominion in the east, he built a city, where he established a memorial of his two-fold origin; for he called the city Antioch from the name of his father Antiochus, and consecrated the plains near the city to Apollo. This mark of his paternity continued also among his descendants; for his sons and grandsons had an anchor on their thigh, as a natural proof of their extraction.
5 There is also a fictional sister called Didymaia invented for propaganda purposes as a sign of the family’s devotion to Apollo, see Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 44 - Didymaia, and p. 53 - Seleukos I.
Malalas, Chronicle, 198: After defeating him (Antigonos Monopthalmos), Seleucus (Seleukos I), seized the whole of Asia and the best of the [possessions] of Antigonus. Seleucus appointed Nicomedes and Nicanor to govern the whole of the satrapy of Asia; they were his relatives, being the sons of Didymea (Didymaia), his sister.
6 Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 48 - Laodike (3) (he refers to Eustathius 916)
7 She married Seleukos I in Alexander the Great’s mass wedding at Susa.
Arrian, Anabasis, 7.4: In Susa also he (Alexander the Great) celebrated both his own wedding and those of his companions. He himself married Barsine, the eldest daughter of Darius (Dareios III), and according to Aristobulus, besides her another, Parysatis, the youngest daughter of Ochus. He had already married Roxana, daughter of Oxyartes the Bactrian. To Hephaestion he gave Drypetis, another daughter of Darius, and his own wife’s sister; for he wished Hephaestion’s children to be first cousins to his own. To Craterus he gave Amastrine, daughter of Oxyartes the brother of Darius; to Perdiccas, the daughter of Atropates, viceroy of Media; to Ptolemy (Ptolemy I) the confidential body-guard, and Eumenes the royal secretary, the daughters of Artabazus, to the former Artacama, and to the latter Artonis. To Nearchus he gave the daughter of Barsine and Mentor; to Seleucus (Seleukos I) the daughter of Spitamenes the Bactrian. Likewise to the rest of his Companions he gave the choicest daughters of the Persians and Medes, to the number of eighty. The weddings were celebrated after the Persian manner, seats being placed in a row for the bridegrooms; and after the banquet the brides came in and seated themselves, each one near her own husband. The bridegrooms took them by the right hand and kissed them; the king being the first to begin, for the weddings of all were conducted in the same way. This appeared the most popular thing which Alexander ever did; and it proved his affection for his Companions. Each man took his own bride and led her away; and on all without exception Alexander bestowed dowries, He also ordered that the names of all the other Macedonians who had married any of the Asiatic women should be registered. They were over 10,000 in number; and to these Alexander made presents on account of their weddings.
Plutarch, Alexander, 70.2: At Susa he (Alexander the Great) brought to pass the marriage of his companions, took to wife himself the daughter of Dareius (Dareios III), Stateira, assigned the noblest women to his noblest men, and gave a general wedding feast for those of his Macedonians who had already contracted other marriages. At this feast, we are told, nine thousand guests reclined at supper, to each of whom a golden cup for the libations was given. All the other appointments too, were amazingly splendid, and the host paid himself the debts which his guests owed, the whole outlay amounting to nine thousand eight hundred and seventy talents.
Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 12.10: Soon after he (Alexander the Great) married Statira, the daughter of king Darius (Dareios III); but, at the same time, he gave the noblest virgins, chosen from all the conquered natives, as wives to the chiefs of the Macedonians; in order that the impropriety of the king’s conduct might be rendered less glaring by the practice becoming general.
8 Plutarch, Demetrius 32: But not long after Seleucus (Seleukos I) sent to treat with Demetrius (Demetrios Poliorketes) for a marriage betwixt himself and Stratonice (Stratonike I), daughter of Demetrius by Phila. Seleucus, indeed, had already, by Apama (Apama I), the Persian, a son named Antiochus (Antiochos I), but he was possessed of territories that might well satisfy more than one successor, and he was the rather induced to this alliance with Demetrius, because Lysimachus had just married himself to one daughter of King Ptolemy (Ptolemy I), and his son Agathocles to another. Demetrius, who looked upon the offer as an unexpected piece of good fortune, presently embarked with his daughter, and with his whole fleet sailed for Syria. ... At Rhosus, where his wife Phila was now with him, he was met by Seleucus, and their communications with each other at once were put on a frank, unsuspecting, and kingly footing. First, Seleucus gave a banquet to Demetrius in his tent in the camp; then Demetrius’ received him in the ship of thirteen banks of oars. Meetings for amusements, conferences, and long visits for general intercourse succeeded, all without attendants or arms; until at length Seleucus took his leave, and in great state conducted Stratonice to Antioch.
9 Appian, Syriake 59-61: Seleucus (Seleukos I), while still living, appointed his son, Antiochus (Antiochos I), king of upper Asia in place of himself. If this seems noble and kingly on his part, even nobler and wiser was his behavior in reference to his son’s falling in love, and his self-restraint in suffering; for Antiochus was in love with Stratonice (Stratonike I), the wife of Seleucus, his own stepmother, who had already borne a child to Seleucus.
Recognizing the wickedness of this passion, Antiochus did nothing wrong, nor did he show his feelings, but he fell sick, took to his bed, and longed for death. Nor could the celebrated physician, Erasistratus, who was serving Seleucus at a very high salary, form any diagnosis of his malady. At length, observing that his body was free from all the symptoms of disease, he conjectured that this was some condition of the mind, through which the body is often strengthened or weakened by sympathy.
Grief, anger, and other passions disclose themselves; love only is concealed by the modest. As Antiochus would confess nothing when the physician asked him in confidence, he took a seat by his side and watched the changes of his body to see how he was affected by each person who entered his room. He found that when others came the patient was all the time weakening and wasting away at a uniform pace, but when Stratonice came to visit him his mind was greatly agitated by the struggles of modesty and conscience, and he remained silent.
But his body in spite of himself became more vigorous and lively, and when she went away he became weaker again. So the physician told Seleucus that his son had an incurable disease. The king was overwhelmed with grief and cried aloud. Then the physician added, “His disease is love, love for a woman, but a hopeless love.”
Seleucus was astonished that there could be any woman whom he, king of Asia, could not prevail upon to marry such a son as his, by entreaties, by gold, by gifts, by the whole of this great kingdom, the eventual inheritance of the sick prince, which the father would give to him even now, if he wished it, in order to save him. Desiring to learn only one thing more, he asked, “Who is this woman?”
Erasistratus replied, “He is in love with my wife.”
“Well then, my good fellow,” rejoined Seleucus, “since you are so bound to us by friendship and favors, and are a model of goodness and wisdom in matters of small moment, will you not save this princely young man for me, the son of your friend and king, unfortunate in love but virtuous, who has concealed his sinful passion and prefers to die rather than confess it? Do you so despise Antiochus? Do you despise his father also?”
Then Erasistratus changed his tactics, and, as though he were giving him a knock-down argument, said, “You would not give Antiochus your wife if he were in love with her, although you are his father.”
Seleucus swore by all the gods of his royal house that he would willingly and cheerfully give her, and make himself an illustrious example of a kind and good father to a chaste son who controlled his passion and did not deserve such suffering. Much more he added of the same sort, and, finally, began to lament that he could not himself be the physician to his unhappy boy, but must needs depend on Erasistratus in this matter also.
When Erasistratus saw that the king was in earnest and not hypocritical, he told the whole truth. He related how he had discovered the nature of the malady, and how he had detected the secret passion. Seleucus was overjoyed, but it was a difficult matter to persuade his son and not less so to persuade his wife; but he succeeded finally.
Then he assembled his army, which was perhaps expecting something of the kind, and told them of his exploits and of the extent of his empire, showing that it surpassed that of any of the other successors of Alexander [the Great], and saying that as he was now growing old it was hard for him to govern it on account of its size. “I wish,” he said, “to divide it, and so at the same time to provide for your safety in the future and give a part of it now to those who are dearest to me. It is fitting that all of you, who had advanced to such greatness of dominion and power under me since the time of Alexander, should cooperate with me in everything. The dearest to me, and well worthy to reign, are my grownup son and my wife. As they are young, I pray they may soon have children to be an ample guarantee to you of the permanency of the dynasty. I will join them in marriage in your presence and will send them to be sovereigns of the upper provinces now. And I charge you that none of the customs of the Persians and other nations is more worthy of observance than this one law, which is common to all of them, ‘That what the king ordains is always right.’”
When he had thus spoken the army shouted that he was the greatest king of all the successors of Alexander and the best father. Seleucus laid the same injunctions on Stratonice and his son, then joined them in marriage, and sent them to their kingdom, showing himself even stronger in this famous act than in his deeds of arms.
Plutarch, Demetrius 38: To add to this unexpected good fortune, news arrived that Ptolemy (Ptolemy I) had dismissed his (Demetrios I Poliorketes’) mother and children, bestowing upon them presents and honours; and also that his daughter Stratonice (Stratonike I), whom he had married to Seleucus (Seleukos I), was remarried to Antiochus (Antiochos I), the son of Seleucus, and proclaimed Queen of Upper Asia.
For Antiochus, it appears, had fallen passionately in love with Stratonice, the young queen, who had already made Seleucus the father of a son. He struggled very hard with the beginning of this passion, and at last, resolving with himself that his desires were wholly unlawful, his malady past all cure, and his powers of reason too feeble to act, he determined on death, and thought to bring his life slowly to extinction by neglecting his person and refusing nourishment, under the pretence of being ill. Erasistratus, the physician who attended him, quickly perceived that love was his distemper, but the difficulty was to discover the object. He therefore waited continually in his chamber, and when any of the beauties of the court made their visit to the sick prince, he observed the emotions and alterations in the countenance of Antiochus, and watched for the changes which he knew to be indicative of the inward passions and inclinations of the soul. He took notice that the presence of other women produced no effect upon him; but when Stratonice came, as she often did, alone, or in company with Seleucus, to see him, he observed in him all Sappho’s famous symptoms,- his voice faltered, his face flushed up, his eyes glanced stealthily, a sudden sweat broke out on his skin, the beatings of his heart were irregular and violent, and, unable to support the excess of his passion, he would sink into a state of faintness, prostration, and pallor.
Erasistratus, reasoning upon these symptoms, and, upon the probabilities of things, considering that the king’s son would hardly, if the object of his passion had been any other, have persisted to death rather than reveal it, felt, however, the difficulty of making a discovery of this nature to Seleucus. But, trusting to the tenderness of Seleucus for the young man, he put on all the assurances he could, and at last, on some opportunity, spoke out and told him the malady was love, a love impossible to gratify or relieve. The king was extremely surprised, and asked, “Why impossible to relieve?” “The fact is,” replied Erasistratus, “he is in love with my wife.” “How!” said Seleusus, “and will our friend Erasistratus refuse to bestow his wife upon my son and only successor, when there is no other way to save his life?” “You,” replied Erasistratus, “who are his father, would not do so, if he were in love with Stratonice.” “Ah, my friend,” answered Seleucus, “would to heaven any means, human or divine, could but convert his present passion to that; it would be well for me to part not only with Stratonice, but with my empire, to save Antiochus.” This he said with the greatest passion, shedding tears as he spoke; upon which Erasistratus, taking him by the hand, replied, “In that case, you have no need of Erasistratus; for you, who are the husband, the father, and the king, are the proper physician for your own family.” Seleucus, accordingly, summoning a general assembly of his people, declared to them, that he had resolved to make Antiochus king, and Stratonice queen, of all the provinces of Upper Asia, uniting them in marriage; telling them, that he thought he had sufficient power over the prince’s will that he should find in him no repugnance to obey his commands; and for Stratonice, he hoped all his friends would endeavour to make her sensible, if she should manifest any reluctance to such a marriage, that she ought to esteem those things just and honourable which had been determined upon by the king as necessary to the general good. In this manner, we are told, was brought about the marriage of Antiochus and Stratonice.
10 Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 67 - Stratonike (3) (he refers to Sachs and Hunger, Astronomical Diaries, -253)
11 Other possible son named Achaios is sometimes accepted, but there is no reliable evidence for this. See Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 5 - Achaios (2), and p. 53 - Seleukos I. Nevertheless, the titulatury of Antiochos I on the so-called Antiochos Cylinder from the Ezida Temple in Borsippa (see Van der Spek and Stol, The Antiochus Cylinder) indicates that Seleukos I had more than one son. The 4th row of the column 1 calls Antiochos I his “first son” (the reading is proposed by Van der Spek and Stol):
|i.1.||Antiochus, the great king,|
|i.2.||the mighty king, king of the world, king of Babylon, king of lands,|
|i.3.||caretaker of Esagila and Ezida,|
|i.4.||first son of Seleucus, the king,|
|i.5.||the Macedonian, king of Babylon,|
|i.6.||am I. When I desired to build ...|
The original cuneiform expressions can be translated both as “first in rank” and “foremost”. In both of these cases, it is likely that there were more sons, although it cannot be excluded that “foremost son” was something of a literary topos. (Van der Spek, personal communication)
12 Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 9: born c. 323 BC; Houghton and Lorber, Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part I, Vol. 1, p. 111: born 324 BC
13 Houghton and Lorber, Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part I, Vol. 1, p. 111
- Appian:Roman History, Book XI - The Syrian Wars. Translated by Horace White. Macmillan and Co., New York, 1899. (The Perseus Digital Library, http://www.perseus.org/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=App.+Syr.+1.1; Livius.org, http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/appian/appian_syriaca_00.html)
- Arrian:Anabasis. Translated by E. J. Chinnock, 1893. (Alexander The Great - Sources, http://websfor.org/alexander/arrian/intro.asp)
- Bennett, Christopher J.:Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Website, http://www.tyndalehouse.com/Egypt/
- Eusebius of Caesarea:Chronicle (Latin Schoene ed.). Translated into English by Andrew Smith. (Attalus, http://www.attalus.org/translate/eusebius.html)
- Finkel, Irving L.; Spek, Robartus J. van der:Babylonian Chronicles of the Hellenistic Period. (Livius.org, http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/chron00.html)
- Grainger, John D.:A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer. Brill, Leiden - New York - Köln, 1997.
- Green, Peter:Alexander to Actium. University of California Press, Berkeley - Los Angeles, 1990.
- Houghton, Arthur; Lorber, Catharine:Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part I, Volumes 1 and 2. The American Numismatic Society, New York, in association with Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Lancaster/London, 2002. (abbr. SC I)
- Justin (Marcus Junianus Justinus):Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. Translated by Rev. John Selby Watson, M.A. George Bell and Sons, London, 1897. (See Forum Romanum website, http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/justin/english/index.html - 1853 Edition)
- Malalas, Johannes:Chronicle (Greek Dindorf’s ed.). Translated into English by Andrew Smith. (Attalus, http://www.attalus.org/translate/malalas.html)
- Memnon:History of Heracleia. Translated from Jacoby’s Greek text (FGrH_434) by Andrew Smith. (Attalus, http://www.attalus.org/translate/memnon1.html)
- Pausanias:Description of Greece. Translated by W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, 1918. (The Perseus Digital Library, http://www.perseus.org/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+toc)
- Plutarch:Alexander. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. Harvard University Press, Cambridge / Massachusetts - London / England. William Heinemann Ltd. 1919. (The Perseus Digital Library, http://www.perseus.org/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plut.+Caes.+toc)
- Plutarch:Demetrius. Translated by John Dryden. (4Literature.net, http://www.4literature.net/Plutarch/Demetrius)
- Spek, Robartus J. van der; Stol, Marten:The Antiochus Cylinder. (Livius.org, http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/antiochus_cylinder/antiochus_cylinder1.html)
- Spek, Robartus J. van der:personal communication. (February 2008)