Rome, the Seleukid East and the Disintegration of the Largest of the Successor Kingdoms in the 2nd Century BC
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Although Antiochos III Megas had been defeated by the Romans in 191/90 BC, his son Seleukos IV managed to consolidate it, and his youngest son Antiochos IV Epiphanes (175– 164) even became the most powerful monarch of his time. After a brief succession crisis (164/62), the kingdom regained strength once more under his grandson Demetrios I Soter (162–150). Only the revolt of Alexander I Balas in 153 resulted in a near-permanent crisis. Dynastic rivalries proliferated and catalyzed the further disintegration of the realm culminating in the Parthian conquests of Media, Mesopotamia and Persia by 140. With the death of Antiochos VII Sidetes (129), the loss of the territories east of the Euphrates became permanent, and Seleukid dissolution continued until Pompey deposed Antiochos XIII in 64/63. Reflecting on the multiple factors that contributed to the disintegration, I shall argue (1) that the heterogeneous nature of the kingdom need not be seen as weakness per se. Also, the negative impact of the Peace of Apameia in general (2) and, especially, the financial needs due to indemnity payments to Rome (3) have been overstated. (4) Roman diplomacy after 188 was harmful, but barely decisive for determining the fate of the Seleukids. (5) Ptolemaic interference was more destructive, but by itself not strong enough to annihilate the Seleukid colossus. The worst enemies of the Seleukids were the Seleukids themselves. This inner-dynastic rivalry got more frequent and more harmful through Roman manipulation and Ptolemaic intervention. (6) The combination of those three factors under Balas finally crippled the realm beyond repair in that it further induced the loss of the Iranian satrapies, and soon thereafter even the Babylonian heartland – areas that had previously functioned as the backbone of legitimate Seleukid kingship and resilience.
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Altay Coskun (2019). Rome, the Seleukid East and the Disintegration of the Largest of the Successor Kingdoms in the 2nd Century BC. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18875