The Seleucids (Daniel 12)

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Illustration: The Seleucid empire

After the death of Alexander the Great, his massive empire was divided among his generals, who vied for power. One of the major victors was Seleucius I (born ca. 358 B.C.), who seized control of a domain centred in Syria. His dynasty, the Seleucids, governed there from 321 to 64 B.C:

  • Seleucus I Nicator (ruled 312-281 B.C.): A childhood friend of Alexander, he took control of Babylon. A rival Greek general, Antigonus Monophthalmus, forced him to take refuge in Egypt with another Greek general, Ptolemy, Seleucus I returned to power in Syria and Babylon in 312 B.C. In 301 B.C. he moved his capital west to Syrian Antioch, a city he had founded. By the terms of a peace treaty he should have gained control of Palestine – which Ptolemy refused to relinquish. Thereafter, the Seleucids regarded Palestine as rightfully theirs.
  • Antiochus I Soter (ruled 281-261 B.C.): The son of Seleucus I, he fought with Ptolemy II of Egypt in a struggle for control of Palestine and Anatolia (Turkey).
  • Antiochus II Theos (ruled 261-246 B.C.): This ruler was successful against Ptolemy III in the ongoing struggle for control of Anatolia. Ptolemy persuaded him to marry his daughter Berenice, a union that caused dynastic troubles among the Seleucids. Seleucus’ first wife, Laodice, established a rival court at Ephesus and, after Antiochus’ death, had Berenice and her son murdered. This resulted in renewed was between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies (the latter now under Ptolemy II, Berenice’s brother). Anriochus II is the “king of the North” in Daniel 11:6.
  • Seleucus II Callinicus (246-225 B.C.): Son of Antiochus II and Laodice, his reign began with a war against Ptolemy III. During  his lifetime the Seleucid empire nearly collapsed.
  • Seleucus III Soter (225-223 B.C.): His brief reign focused upon a failed campaign to regain control of Anatolia.
  • Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.C.): The  younger son of Seleucus II, he was the Selucids’ most successful warrior-king. He first campaigned south into Palestine against the Ptolemies but was stopped at Raphia by Ptolemy IV in 217 B.C. Turning east, he won victories against Bactria and Parthia. In a new war against the Ptolemies, now under Ptolemy V, he wrestled control of Palestine in 200 B.C., after which he focused on regaining Anatolia. Was broke out between Rome and the Seleucids, and Antiochus III was defeated in several battles. Antiochus III is the “king of the North” in Daniel 11:11-13.
  • Seleucus IV Philopatar (187-175 B.C.): The son of Antiochus III, his reign was hampered by the financial strain of heavy tribute paymens to Rome.
  • Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.): A younger son of Antiochus III and a usurper of the throne after the assassination of Selecus IV, Antiochus was the most infamous Seleucud. He attempted to extirpate Judaism and replace it with a Hellenistic culture; his enormities are recorded in 2 Maccabees 5, an Apocryphal book. His oppression prompted Jewish rebellion in the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes almost conquered Egypt in 168 B.C., but turned back when the Roman C. Popilius Leanas warned him to proceed no further.
  • Antiochus V Eupator (164-162 B.C.): Two men, Pjilip and Lysias, contended for control of this boy during his brief reign; the confusion left an opening for the Jewish Maccabees against the Greeks. Though not entirely successful, they did win religious concessions.
  • Demetrius I Soter (162-150 B.C.): A son of Seleucus IV, he had Philip and Lysias put to death and assumed the throne himself. Wars with the Jews continued. Judas Maccabeus was killed in battle and replaced by his brother Jonathan, who defeated the Seleucids.
  • Thereafter Seleucid power weakened steadily. A usurper named Alexander Balas contended ineffectively for the Seleucid throne. Demetrius II, son of Demetrius I, seized power and ruled from around 145 to 140 and again from approximately 129 to 125 B.C. (between which times he was a prisoner of the Parthians). Meanwhile, Antiochus VI Epiphanes Dionysus (a son og Alexander Balas). Antiochus VII Sidetes (a brother of Demetrius II) and Tryphon (another usurper) vied for power. This situation made the Jews power brokers, further illustrating how far the Seleucids had declined. The last Seleucid ruler was Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (69-64 B.C.); in the final year of his reign Pompey the Great made Syria a Roman province.


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