The Seleucid Empire

Book Details

Author  Charles River Editors
Publisher  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date   November 16, 2016
ISBN  1540448908
Pages  44

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*Includes pictures *Includes ancient accounts of the Seleucid Empire *Includes a bibliography for further reading In 323 BCE, Alexander the Great was on top of the world. Never a man to sit on his hands or rest upon his laurels, Alexander began planning his future campaigns, which may have included attempts to subdue the Arabian Peninsula or make another incursion into India. But fate had other plans for the young Macedonian king. One night, while feasting with his admiral Nearchus, he drank too much and took to bed with a fever. At first, it seemed like the fever was merely a consequence of his excess, and there was not much concern for his health, but when a week had elapsed and there was still no sign of his getting better, his friends and generals began to grow concerned. The fever grew, consuming him to the point that he could barely speak. After two weeks, on June 11, 323 B.C., Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, Hegemon of the League of Corinth, King of Kings, died. On his deathbed, some historians claim that when he was pressed to name a successor, Alexander muttered that his empire should go “to the strongest”. Other sources claim that he passed his signet ring to his general Perdiccas, thereby naming him successor, but whatever his choices were or may have been, they were ignored. Alexander’s generals, all of them with the loyalty of their own corps at their backs, would tear each other apart in a vicious internal struggle that lasted almost half a century before four factions emerged victorious: Macedonia, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. During the course of these wars, Alexander’s only heir, the posthumously born Alexander IV, was murdered, extinguishing his bloodline for ever. Despite the infighting among them, one thing Alexander’s generals did agree upon was their Hellenistic culture. Most famously, Ptolemy’s line firmly established the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks while ruling over Egypt, and by marrying within their family line, the Ptolemaic pharaohs kept their Hellenistic heritage until the very end of Ptolemy’s line, which died with Cleopatra in 30 BCE. Although the Seleucid Empire is less well known, Alexander’s general Seleucus was no less successful in “Hellenizing” Persia and parts of Asia Minor. The Greek influence is still readily visible in the region thousands of years later. Anthropologists have found that some of the earliest Buddha statues constructed in India bear an uncanny resemblance to Ancient Greek depictions of Apollo, and local legend has it that the wild olive trees that grow in some regions of Afghanistan sprang from the olive seeds that Macedonian soldiers spat out on the march – not to mention the presence of Balkan features such as red hair and blue eyes among a significant amount of the locals there to this day. Legends of Alexander crop up amid the popular mythology of half the world, and while some among the Persian Empire called him “the accursed”, it is now widely believed that the story of the prophet Dhul-Qarnayn ("The Two-Horned One") in the Qur’an is a reference to Alexander. For a time, the Seleucids commanded the largest empire in the world as it stretched from the high plains and deserts of what is now Afghanistan in the east to parts of the Levant and Asia Minor in the west. The empire’s early kings were strong and shrewd and committed to the ideas of Hellenism as much as holding power and expanding the realm of their empire, but later rulers did not prove as capable. In time, the Seleucid royal house often descended into orgies of violence which were driven by ambitious men and women. Despite its troubles and its sheer size and scope, the Seleucid Empire lasted for several centuries, and it would not truly reach its end until the heyday of Rome. As a result, the Seleucid Empire managed to leave an indelible mark on the region that has lasted to this day.

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