The empire was created by Alexander the Great’s general Seleucus constituted the largest Hellenistic kingdom of the successor states.
Seleucus began his career as a Macedonian noblemen and soldier under Alexander. After Alexander’s death he was one of the several Macedonian generals, known collectively as the Diadochi or Successors, who seized portions of the conqueror’s domain.
In an effort to gain more power and influence, Seleucus pushed the boundaries of his empire as far as the Indus River in India and it was here in 305 BC that the Mauryan dynasty of India engaged in a crucial conflict with the Seleucids.
By the time of his death, Seleucus had imposed control on an empire whose boundaries stretched from southern Thrace through Anatolia , the modern near and middle east and central Asia to the frontiers with ancient India in the east, north to the arid steppe-land beyond the Syr Darya river, and south to the waters of the Arab-Persian gulf.
Seleucus was succeeded by his son Antiochus I Soter (324-261 BC). The Seleucid dynasty rules for three centuries with Damascus as their kingdom’s capital.
Seleucus’ successors spent much of their fighting rivals in Asia Minor, southern Syria and Palestine and the eastern provinces.
Seleucid ambitions in the Mediterranean arena led to fierce competition with other Hellenistic kingdoms there: the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Attalids of Pergamum and the Antigonids of Macedonia.
The Seleucids’ governing and soldiering classes came from a Greek and Macedonian minority based on the western cities and in military colonies throughout: these people ruled a population of Syrians, Persians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Jews and others.
Seleucid permitted local customs and languages, but Greek language and culture spread quickly.
The Seleucid Empire’s significance for history is its role in Hellenizing the Levant. Long after the end of the Seleucid Empire, Greek was still the language of commerce, government and higher learning in the Near East.
The Seleucid Empire was finally destroyed by conflict with Parthians in the east in the second century BC and by the growing power of Rome in the west.
Seleucid Empire (312 BC – 63 BC)
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