Seleucid (Hellenic) Empire 305 – 63 BC

Middle East Kingdoms:Ancient Syria


Upon the death of Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, his generals divided the empire between them. Seleucus I gained a huge swathe of territory from Lydia in western Anatolia through the Middle East (including Syria, Phoenicia, and Mesopotamia), to Armenia, Media, Bactria and Persia. The initial capital was at Babylon, but the empire contained such a mix of races and languages that it was rarely a united entity, and gradual losses of territory drove the Seleucids westwards. Their later capital was at Antioch, founded and named after one of their kings. The empire eventually became bottled up in Syria, with enemies all around it.

Argead Dynasty

The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic sections. Alexander’s successors held no real power, being mere figureheads for the generals who really held control of Alexander’s empire.

332 – 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 – 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 – 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

323 – 320 BC


Satrap of Babylonia (323-320 BC). Replaced by Seleucus Nicator.

320 – 305 BC


Satrap of Babylonia (320-305 BC). Became king.

320 – 301 BC

The Empire of Antigonus governs areas of Mesopotamia and Syria during the period of the Diadochi Wars.

312 BC

A cuneiform inscription records the defeat of a Syrian army by the Nabataeans. The Greeks of Seleucid Syria, under the control of the Empire of Antigonus, attempt to attack and plunder the Nabataeans living in Edom on two occasions, but on one of those occasions the Nabataeans chose to buy off Antigonus with expensive gifts.

Seleucid Dynasty

Seleucus fought a number of wars as the Greek empire fragmented in order to secure his own hold on power. In 311 BC he gained Babylon from the Empire of Antigonus and safely held it while Antigonus tried to retrieve it (until 309 BC). The final of these wars was the Fourth War of the Diadochi (generals), which followed the murder of Alexander IV and helped to finalise the empire’s borders. When Antigonus proclaimed himself king in 306 BC, all the other surviving generals followed suite, confirming the dismantling of the empire into various regional domains. Seleucus gained Alexander’s far eastern regions (including Bactria) in the process.

305 – 281 BC

Seleucus I Nicator

General in Alexander‘s Army. Satrap 320-305 BC.

305 BC

Seleucus concedes the Indo-Greek provinces to the Mauryans, which includes the regions of Paropamisadae and Arachosia which border Greek Bactria.

c.301 – c.260 BC

Cappadocia is gained and lost.

280 – 261 BC

Antiochus I Soter

(pr. An-ty-o-kus).

261 – 247 BC

Antiochus II Theos (Anityoka)

256 BC

Parthian incursion into central Persia cuts off the Seleucids from their eastern provinces, so the Macedonian satraps of Bactria and Parthia declare their independence.

248 BC

Parthia secures independence. The Arsacid (Parthian) Era begins in 248/247 BC. This results in a gradual diminution of the Seleucid control of Persia.

246 – 226 BC

Seleucus II Callinicus 246-226

226 – 223 BC

Seleucus III Ceraunus (‘Thunderbolt’)

223 – 187 BC

Antiochus III the Great

Indian Campaign 212-205. Took Ptolemaic Palestine 201-199.

217 BC

Fighting the Egyptian Ptolemy IV for control of their mutual border, Antiochus is fought to a draw at Raphia.

208 – 206 BC

Euthydemus of Bactria repulses an effort at the re-conquest of the eastern province by Antiochus III, resisting a two year siege in the fortified city of Bactra before Antiochus finally decides to recognise his rule.

c.200 BC

The Seleucids gain Idumaea, possibly from Egypt, but lose Ammon.

198 BC

The Seleucids gain Judah and Phoenicia from Hellenic Egypt, and probably Lycia at this time too.

190 – 188 BC

Rome defeats the Seleucids in the Seleucid War, taking Asia Minor as a province in 188 BC. Lycia is awarded to Rhodes. Lydia is probably lost to Pergamum at the same time.

187 – 175 BC

Seleucus IV Philopator

Lost eastern Persia to Parthian expansion in 185 BC.

175 – 164 BC

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Egyptian expedition 170-168 BC.

165 BC

Antiochus IV tries to introduce Hellenic culture into Jerusalem. The resulting Maccabaean revolt splits Judea away from Seleucid control, and the Jews recreate their own independent state based around Jerusalem. Idumaea is also lost.

164 – 162 BC

Antiochus V Eupator

162 – 150 BC

Demetrius I Soter

159 – 147 BC

[Alexander Balas]

146 – 140 BC

Demetrius II Nicator


142 – 141 BC

The Maccabees are uncontested in Judea in 142 BC. The Parthians take Media the following year.

140 BC

The city of Beirut is taken and destroyed by Diodotus Tryphon in his contest with Antiochus VII for the throne.

145 – 142 BC

Antiochus VI Ephiphanes Dionysus

139 – 129 BC

Antiochus VII Eugergetes


139 – 130 BC

The Parthians take Persia. Antiochus VII is the last Seleucid emperor of the east.

129 – 126 BC

Demetrius II Nicator

Restored. Killed by Parthians.

126 BC

The Parthians take Babylonia, killing Demetrius in the process. The Seleucids are left with nothing but Syria which they rule from Damascus.

126 – 121 BC

Cleopatra Thea

126 – 125 BC

Seleucus V

125 – 96 BC

Antiochus VIII Philometer Grypus

116 – 95 BC

Antiochus IX Philopator Cyzicenus

96 – 95 BC

Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator

95 – 83 BC

Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator

95 BC

Antiochus XI Epiphanes Philadelphus

95 – 83 BC

Philip I Epiphanes Philadelphus

95 – 88 BC

Demetrius III Philopator Soter Eucairus

87 – 84 BC

Antiochus XII Dionysus

89 – 69 BC

The Seleucids lose Harran to Armenia as Tigranes the Great conquers and rules much of Syria.

87 -85 BC

Antiochus XII attacks the Nabataeans, intent on recapturing lost territory from them, but although he kills their king, ar-Rabil I, the Nabataeans resist his advance. To make it worse, their new king strikes back and takes southern Syria and Ammon. In 85 BC, the inhabitants of Damascus invite the Nabataean king to become their ruler.

69 BC

Armenia and Rome go to war, and the former’s defeat frees Syria of its control. The following year, Byblos is lost to Rome.

69 – 64 BC

Antiochus XIII Asiaticus

66 – 63 BC

Philip II Philorhomaeus

64 – 63 BC

Virtually crushed out of existence by the Romans on one side and the Parthians on the other, the Seleucids fall to Rome and Syria becomes a Roman province.

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Terrence747 says:

So the real question to me is how much of Greek/Macedonia culture was absorbed by the conquered territories? What good did it do if the Greek culture was not absorbed? How does that make Alexander "great"?