Antiochos I Soter SELEUKID, King of Syria
(Abt 324 BCE-261 BCE)
Stratonike ANTIGONID of Macedonia, Queen of Syria
(Abt 317 BCE-254 BCE)
Achaeos I SELEUKID, Prince of Syria
(Est 320 BCE-Abt 275 BCE)
Antiochos II Theos SELEUKID, King of Syria
(Abt 286 BCE-246 BCE)
Laodike SELEUKID, Queen of Syria
(-Bef 236 BCE)

Seleukos II Kallinikos SELEUKID, King of Syria
(265 BCE-225 BCE)


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Laodike SELEUKID, Queen of Syria

Seleukos II Kallinikos SELEUKID, King of Syria

  • Born: Jul/Aug 265 B.C.E.
  • Married:
  • Died: 12 Dec 225 B.C.E.

  Orthographic variation: Seleucus II Callinicus SELEUCID

  Research Notes:

Seleucid king. Born in ca. 265, Seleucus was the eldest son of Antiochus II Theos (r. 261-246) and Laodice III, who were both grandchildren of Seleucus I Nicator. Seleucus was married with his niece Laodice, daughter of Andromachus, who was a direct descendant of Seleucus I and Apama, too. Two of their children later became king: Seleucus III Soter (226-223) and Antiochus III the Great (223-187).

Seleucus II was continuously on campaign, like all Seleucid kings, but his twenty-year reign was particularly disturbed by military and political crises, including a Ptolemaic invasion of the Seleucid heartland, nomadic incursions in northern Khorasan, a dynastic war with his own full brother in Asia Minor, and a revolt in Bactria. Ultimately, Seleucus II and subsequently his son, Antiochus III the Great, were able to avert temporarily the dangers threatening the cohesion of the Macedonian empire in the Middle East.

Seleucus’s reign began with a violent struggle over the succession which quickly became a vast international conflict. This so-called Laodicean War (246-241; the conflict is also known as the Third Syrian War), which nearly destroyed the Seleucid empire, was a direct result of the polygamy practiced by Macedonian kings and the ensuing endemic conflicts between court factions built up around respective would-be queen mothers. Antiochus II died in 246 at Ephesus from some illness, shortly after his second wife, Berenice, surnamed Syra, had given birth to a son, another Antiochus (for the name of the son, see Kobes, 1995). Appian (Syriaca 65) accuses the king’s first wife, Laodice, of having poisoned her husband in order to secure the succession of her own son, Seleucus. This is very unlikely. Laodice was not divorced when her husband took a new wife, as the Seleucids practiced polygamous marriage; being a granddaughter of Seleucus I and Apama, Laodice’s son was a full member of the Seleucid house and therefore a more legitimate heir than the child of the outsider Berenice, a daughter of Ptolemy II who had been given in marriage to Antiochus II in 252 to consolidate the end of the Second Syrian War (259-253). Both Seleucus, who had already come of age, and his minor half-brother Antiochus were proclaimed king.

Berenice’s brother, King Ptolemy III, sailed to Syria to support the claims of his nephew, who together with his mother was besieged in a fortified palace at Daphne (modern Harbiye, Turkey). Being the child’s closest male kin, Ptolemy III could claim to be his guardian and thus regent of the Seleucid empire. However, when Ptolemy arrived in Syria with his army, he found his sister and her son assassinated, making Ptolemy the boy’s heir. The ensuing war between Ptolemy III and Seleucus II for mastery in the Middle East is very unevenly documented. Although it seems that some Syrian cities supported the Ptolemaic cause, the court and the army in Asia Minor naturally declared for Seleucus. The governor of Ephesus, however, took the side of Ptolemy, handing him over both the city and Queen Laodice, who, charged with having murdered her rival Berenice and her son, was summarily executed. Ptolemy subsequently took possession of Seleucia in Pieria and Antioch on the Orontes in 246 or 245; Ptolemy’s triumphant entry into the two Seleucid capitals is described in the Gourob Papyrus, an official Ptolemaic account (FGrH II b no. 160; Holleaux, 1942, pp. 281-310).

There followed successful Ptolemaic naval campaigns along the coasts of southwest Anatolia, Ionia, and Thrace, and a major land offensive in the Seleucid heartland. According to his own propaganda, as recorded on his Victory Stelewritten in Greek but incorporating elements of pharaonic ideology. Ptolemy conquered Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Elam, Persia, Media “and the rest of the land as far as Bactria” and brought back “all the sacred objects that had been carried out of Egypt by the Persians” (OGIS 54; cf. 56). The claim to have subdued the Upper Satrapies reflects standard Near Eastern claims to world dominion rather than historical reality, but a recently published Babylonian chronicle in the British Museum (BM 34428; BCHP 11), describing events in the months of Kislîmu and Tebêtu (November-January) of an unspecified year in the Seleucid period (246/5?), confirms that a “king of Egypt” attacked Seleucia on the Tigris and Babylon. Ptolemy abandoned Babylonia soon after on the pretext of a revolt in the Thebaid. In 244 Seleucus reconquered Antioch.

The war dragged on until in 241 an agreement was reached, which legitimized Seleucus’s adoption of the epithet kallinikos (“gloriously victorious”) but left Ptolemy in possession of his recent gains in Asia Minor and the “royal city” Seleucia, where Seleucus I lay buried. It was a cease-fire rather than a peace: the humiliation of the loss of Seleucus’s tomb remained a potential casus belli, while the murders of the royal women Berenice and Laodice added to the eternal Seleucid-Ptolemaic conflict an aspect of blood feud. The Third Syrian War had given the Seleucid dynasty a “thorough shaking” (Ager, 2003, p. 45), but it was not a fatal blow. The acquisitions of Ptolemy III in the Levant were later reconquered by Antiochus III.

The next major conflict fought by Seleucus was the War of the Brothers (ca. 240/39-236). Seleucus’s younger brother Antiochus, surnamed Hierax (The Hawk), had ruled Seleucid Asia Minor in the name of his brother while the latter was fighting Ptolemy in Syria. In ca. 242/1 Hierax set himself up as independent king. Allying himself with the Celts of Galatia and possibly receiving military aid from Ptolemy III (Porphyrius, FGrH 260 F 32.8), Hierax was able to resist Seleucus’s attempt at regaining Asia Minor, defeating his brother in battle near Ankara in ca. 240/39 (or ca. 239/8, cf. Lerner, 1999, p. 33, n. 1). Hierax now turned his attention to the rising power of Pergamon under Attalus I, who proclaimed his independence from the Seleucids in 238/7 after defeating the Galatians. In 236 Seleucus made peace with Hierax and ceded him all territory to the west of the Taurus mountains.

The War of the Brothers encouraged the growth of provincial independence. In Khorasan, Andragoras, the Seleucid governor of Parthia, obtained autonomy for his satrapy, although he did not claim the title of king for himself. Andragoras was attacked and slain by the nomadic Parni somewhere before 236 (Lerner 1999, 33). The Parni had already occupied western Turkmenistan and were now raiding Parthia and Hyrcania. After the conclusion of a truce with Hierax (c. 236-229), Seleucus embarked on an expedition against the Parni and forced them to abandon Parthia and Hyrcania, driving the invaders back to the Caspian steppe (Strabo 11.8.8, cf. Drijvers, 1998; Lerner, 1999, 33-43, argues that the Parni were victorious and took the Seleukid king prisoner). After his victory in Khurasan, Seleucus prepared to continue further east in order to subdue the rebellious satrap of Bactria and Sogdia, Diodotus II...; he was recalled, however, to the west because of renewed hostilities with his brother Hierax, which left Diodotus undefeated and gave the Parni king Arsaces the opportunity to put his affairs in order and prepare for his return.

The extent to which the Parni invasion posed a threat to the Seleucid presence on the northern Iranian plateau at this time is difficult to assess and remains a subject of controversy (see, e.g., Wolski, 1947, and 1950; Kuhrt and Sherwin-White, 1993, pp. 84-90; Lerner, 1999; Strootman, 2016). Seleucid hegemony had been restored by the acknowledgment of the existence of the Parni realm as a vassal principality in the region north of the Alborz and Kopet Dag ranges. Further east, Diodotus II, the satrap of Bactria and Sogdia, had assumed the diadem in the 230s, if not earlier; complete autonomy of Bactria and Parthia, however, was achieved only after the death of Antiochus III.

In Asia Minor, Antiochus Hierax meanwhile had become embroiled with Prusias I of Bithynia and Attalus I of Pergamon. The latter systematically drove Hierax from western Anatolia. After being defeated in battle near Pergamon in ca. 228, Hierax crossed the Taurus mountains, hoping to take over the Seleucid heartland from his brother. Seleucus arrived from the east just in time and drove Hierax from Babylonia. Hierax fled back to Asia Minor, and later to Thrace, where he met a violent death at the hands of a Celtic raiding party in 227. Between 226 and 224, King Seleucus II Callinicus, after falling from his horse, died too. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Seleucus III Soter.

The reign of Seleucus II revealed two inherent weaknesses of the Seleucid state: the problem of internal dynastic strife and the political aspirations of regional rulers at the empire’s periphery. Former historians have regarded the reign of Seleucus II as a watershed in the history of Iran and Central Asia. More recent scholarship, however, has adjusted the views of, notably, W. W. Tarn and J. Wolski that in this period the Parni drove a wedge between east and west, cutting off the Seleucid Near East from the Central Asian provinces. It is now clear that the settlement of the Parni along the Caspian coast could not have cut Seleucid communication lines with the east, since these ran south of the Alborz and Kopet Dag ranges (Kuhrt and Sherwin-White, 1993, pp. 79-80). Around 200 BCE the Parni kings, like the Greek rulers of Bactria and Sogdia, were still formally vassals of the Great King Antiochus III, who was able to restore his authority in Khorasan in 209 with relative ease, and in 205 he even forced the Indian king Sophagenesos into paying tribute (Polybius, 11.39.11-12). Rather, it seems that under Seleucus II a new policy was introduced by which direct government of remote areas by governors appointed by the crown was superseded by a looser system of vassal kingdoms (Strootman, 2011, 2016). Although Seleucid power was weakened under Seleucus II, his reign was a period of transition rather than the ‘beginning of the end’. 1

  Marriage Information:

Seleukos married Laodike SELEUCID, Queen of Syria, daughter of Andromachos SELEUKID, Prince of Syria.


1 Encyclopædia Iranica, Seleucus II Callinicus.

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