Seleucids and Their Dynasty

Image ID: 1624754 Antiochus Ephiphanes.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Seleucid king 175-164 B.C., favored Greek culture. His suppression of Judaism led to the Wars of the Maccabees. "Apud fuluim ursinum in nomismate argenteo." Written on border: "Antiochus IV, Epiphanes.". NYPL Digital Gallery

The Seleucids were the rulers of the eastern part of Alexander the Great's empire from June 312 to 64 B.C. They were Hellenistic Greek kings in Asia.

When Alexander the Great died, his empire was carved up. His first generation successors were known as the "diadochi". [See map of the Kingdoms of the Diadochi.] Ptolemy took the Egyptian part, Antigonus took the area in Europe, including Macedonia, and Seleucus took the eastern part, Asia, which he ruled until 281.

The Seleucids were the members of the dynasty that ruled Phoenicia, Asia Minor, northern Syria and Mesopotamia. Jona Lendering names the modern states that comprise this area as:

  • Afghanistan,
  • Iran,
  • Iraq,
  • Syria,
  • Lebanon,
  • parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

The followers of the eponymous Seleucus I were known as the Seleucids or the Seleucid Dynasty. Their actual names included Seleucus, Antiochus, Diodotus, Demetrius, Philip, Cleopatra, Tigranes, and Alexander.

Although the Seleucids lost parts of the empire over time, including Transoxania, lost to the Parthians in about 280, and Bactria (Afghanistan) around 140-130 B.C., to the nomadic Yuezhi (possibly the Tocahrians) [E. Knobloch's Beyond the Oxus: Archaeology, Art and Architecture of Central Asia (1972)], they held on to parts. It was only in 64 B.C. that the era of Seleucid rule ended when the Roman leader Pompey annexed Syria and Lebanon.

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Gill, N.S. "Seleucids and Their Dynasty." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Gill, N.S. (2020, August 26). Seleucids and Their Dynasty. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Seleucids and Their Dynasty." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).