Seleucus I Nicator Biography

Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian army officer, rose to power after the death of Alexander the Great and established the Seleucid Empire, which covered a significant portion of the conquered territories in the Near East. Initially supporting Perdiccas, Seleucus eventually conspired and assassinated him due to military failures and a mutiny. Despite fleeing from Babylon, Seleucus returned and successfully expanded his dominions, ruling over the eastern region of Alexander’s empire. Although his attempts to retake the Indian satrapies were unsuccessful, he reached a settlement by marrying his daughter to King Chandragupta of the Maurya Empire. Sadly, Seleucus was assassinated, and his son Antiochus I succeeded him as the ruler of the Seleucid Empire.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 78
  • Born Country: Greece
  • Died on: 281 BC

Childhood & Early Life

Seleucus I Nicator was born around c. 358 BC in Europos, in the northern region of Macedon, to Antiochus and Laodice. His father, Antiochus, possibly served Philip II of Macedon as an officer and later became a military general. Seleucus had a sister named Didymeia. After becoming king, Seleucus named several cities after his parents.

According to customs followed by noble families, Seleucus served as a page to the king during his teenage years. There are several legends associated with Seleucus, including one that claims his real father was the god Apollo. It is said that before going to battle with Alexander against the Persians, Antiochus told Seleucus that his real father was Apollo. Seleucus and his descendants were said to have birthmarks in the shape of an anchor, which was a symbol associated with Apollo.

Serving Alexander the Great

Seleucus accompanied Alexander the Great to Asia in 334 BC and was later elevated to command the “Shield-bearers,” the elite infantry corps in the Macedonian army. He played a role in various battles and campaigns, including the Battle of the Hydaspes against King Porus and the Indus Valley campaign.

Death of Alexander & Aftermath

After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, a dispute arose among his generals regarding his successor. Perdiccas became the regent of the empire, and a compromise was arranged for Alexander’s half-brother, Arrhidaeus, to become king. Seleucus was made commander of the Companion cavalry and a senior officer in the Royal Army.

Conflicts between Perdiccas and other generals led to his assassination, and Antipater became the new regent. Seleucus was appointed Satrap of Babylon during this time. Wars continued, and Seleucus eventually fled to Egypt, where he convinced fellow generals to join a coalition against Antigonus.

Return to Babylon, Conquests & Rule

Seleucus recaptured Babylon in 312 BC, marking the beginning of the Seleucid era and the foundation of the Seleucid empire. He aggressively expanded his dominions, conquering the Median and Persian lands. Seleucus founded the city of Seleucia and made it the capital of the Seleucid Empire.

Seleucus also attempted to recapture the Indian satrapies of the Macedonian Empire, leading to the Seleucid-Mauryan War. Although the war ended in a Mauryan victory, a settlement was reached that saw the annexation of the Indus Valley region to the Maurya Empire.

Seleucus received 500 War Elephants from the Mauryans, which played a significant role in his victories against Antigonus and Lysimachus. However, his control over the regions of Alexander’s empire was short-lived, as he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus in 281 BC.

Family & Personal Life

Seleucus married Apama, daughter of the Sogdian baron Spitamenes, and they had three children together. In 300 BC, he married Stratonice of Syria, daughter of king Demetrius Poliorcetes, and they had a daughter named Phila. Seleucus arranged for his son, Antiochus, to marry Stratonice due to his passionate love for her.

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