Seleucid army

The Seleucid army was the army of the Seleucid Empire, one of the numerous Hellenistic states that emerged after the death of Alexander the Great.

As with the other major Hellenistic armies, the Seleucid army fought primarily in the Greco-Macedonian style, with its main body being the phalanx. The phalanx was a large, dense formation of men armed with small shields and a long pike called the sarissa. This form of fighting had been developed by the Macedonian army in the reign of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. Alongside the phalanx, the Seleucid armies used a great deal of native and mercenary troops to supplement their Greek forces, which were limited due to the distance from the Seleucid rulers' Macedonian homeland.

Seleucid Army
Active312–63 BC
CountrySeleucid Empire
AllegianceSeleucid dynasty
RoleArmy of the Seleucid Empire under the Seleucid dynasty
Size62,000 (c. 217 BC)
57,000–70,000 (c. 190 BC)
22,000 (c. 160 BC)
EngagementsThird War of the Diadochi
Fourth War of the Diadochi
Galatian invasions
Syrian Wars
Anabasis of Antiochus III
Seleucid–Parthian wars
Roman–Seleucid War
Maccabean Revolt
Parthian War
Seleucid Dynastic Wars
Seleucus I Nicator
Antiochus I Soter
Antiochus III the Great
Diodotus Tryphon


The distance from Greece put a strain on the Seleucid military system, as it was primarily based around the recruitment of Greeks as the key segment of the army. In order to increase the population of Greeks in their kingdom, the Seleucid rulers created military settlements. There were two main periods in the establishment of settlements, firstly under Seleucus I Nicator and Antiochus I Soter and then under Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The military settlers were given land, "varying in size according to rank and arm of service'.[1] They were settled in 'colonies of an urban character, which at some point could acquire the status of a polis".[2] Unlike the Ptolemaic military settlers, who were known as Kleruchoi, the Seleucid settlers were called Katoikoi. The settlers would maintain the land as their own and in return they would serve in the Seleucid army when called. The majority of settlements were concentrated in Lydia, northern Syria, the upper Euphrates and Media. The Greeks were dominant in Lydia, Phrygia and Syria.[3] For example, Antiochus III brought Greeks from Euboea, Crete and Aetolia and settled them in Antioch.[4]

These settlers would be used to form the Seleucid phalanx and cavalry units, with picked men put into the kingdom's guards regiments. The rest of the Seleucid army would consist of a large number of native and mercenary troops, who would serve as light auxiliary troops. However, by the time of the Daphne Parade in 166 BC, the large number of ethnic contingents were missing from the army of Antiochus IV. This was most likely due to the army reform that was undertaken by Antiochus IV.[5] In his reign, Antiochus IV had built 15 new cities "and their association with the increased phalanx... at Daphne is too obvious to be ignored".[6]



The principle guard infantry of the Seleucid army was the 'Silver-Shields', or Argyraspides. They were a permanently embodied guard unit, which was formed from the sons of military settlers.[7] They were armed in the Macedonian manner with a sarissa and fought in the phalanx formation, much like the other Hellenistic armies of the time. The Argyraspides were probably a corps of about 10,000 men[8] who were picked from the entire kingdom to serve in this unit.[9] The whole kingdom may mean 'regions like Syria and Mesopotamia, which were the nucleus of the Seleucid Kingdom, there was a greater density of Greek soldiers'.[10]

'Romanized' infantry

In 166 BC, at the Daphne Parade under Antiochus IV, the Argyraspides corps is only seen to be 5,000 strong. However, 5,000 troops armed in the Roman fashion are present and they are described as being in the prime of their life, perhaps denoting their elite nature.[11] It is possible that the missing 5,000 men of the Argyraspides were the 5,000 'Romanized' infantry marching alongside them. The training of a segment of the royal guard in "Roman' methods was probably down to several factors. Firstly, Antiochus IV had 'spent part of his early life in Rome and had acquired rather an excessive admiration for Rome's power and methods".[12] Secondly, the future wars that the Seleucids might be fighting would probably be in the eastern satrapies against mobile enemies and other large areas of land. Training troops in this way would add to the overall efficiency and capability of the army and make it more manoeuvrable. Indeed, the 'Romanized' troops are seen facing the Maccabees at the Battle of Beth Zechariah in 162 BC.[13] Thirdly, the defeat of the Antigonids at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC was a great culture shock, showing the complete destruction of the Macedonian military system at the hands of the Roman legion.

It has been suggested that the fact that these 5,000 men are marching at the head of the army was meant to show Antiochus IV's intention of reforming the entire Seleucid army along Roman lines, though whether or not this complete reform actually took place is unknown.[14] The true extent of the adoption of Roman techniques is unknown, some have suggested that the infantry are in fact more likely to be Thureophoroi or Thorakitai, troops armed with an oval shield of the Celtic type, a thrusting spear and javelins.[15]

Chrysaspides and Chalkaspides

The majority of the Seleucid phalanx was probably formed by the two corps that are mentioned in the Daphne Parade of 166 BC, namely the 10,000 Chrysaspides (Greek: Χρυσάσπιδες 'Golden-Shields') and the 5,000 Chalkaspides ('Bronze-Shields').[16] Little else is known specifically about them, although they may have been present at the battle of Beth-Zachariah in 162.[17]

Citizen militia

There was a militia, at least in Syria. They were from the Greek cities who had no specific role within the regular army. We do not find the militias involved in the great campaigns before the general decline of the kingdom, which occurred in the latter half of the second century BC. By then, many important military settlements had fallen to Pergamon and Parthia. In 148 BC, at the Battle of Azotos against the Maccabees, the Seleucid army was called the 'Power of the Cities', probably owing to the high proportion of citizen militia mobilized from the coastal cities.[18] Citizens of Antioch played a major role in the overthrowing of Demetrius II Nicator. Demetrius, having taken the throne, decided to disband the majority of the regular army and reduce its pay by a large amount.[19] In place of the regular army, Demetrius' power rested with his Greek, especially Cretan, mercenaries in what was known as the 'Cretan Tyranny'.[20][21][22] Not long after, the majority of the citizen militia was wiped out in Antiochus VII's disastrous Parthian War of 129 BC.[23] The militia were most likely armed and fought in the style of the Thureophoroi.[24]

Allied, vassal and mercenary infantry

Due to the lack of Greeks in the lands of the Seleucid kingdom, the use of allied, vassal and mercenary troops was great. They were often used as light and auxiliary troops, supplementing the phalanx and cavalry. Large numbers of native contingents fought at the Battle of Raphia in 217 BC. Among them were 10,000 Arab infantry, 5,000 Dahai, Carmanians and Cilicians.[25] Certain ethnic contingents, be they vassal or mercenary, were of considerable use. For example, Thracian mercenaries along with Mysian, Cilician, Lycian, and Vassal troops from the mountainous areas of the empire were used by Antiochus III in conjunction with Thorakitai in his storming of the Elburz range in 210 BC.[26] The Persian and Iranian troops were most likely of a higher professional military standing than most of the other contingents, as they are seen on garrison duty throughout the empire.[27] In the review at Daphne in 166 BC, the large numbers of allied and vassal contingents are missing. They were of doubtful reliability, usefulness and efficiency. So much so that Appian blamed them for the defeat at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC.[28] The absence of auxiliaries from the army of Antiochus IV may have contributed to its strength. Making up for the loss of ethnic contingents, the army was supplemented by mercenaries, who were more experienced and better trained. The Thracian and Galatian mercenaries at Daphne would have been of good use in campaigns in the rough, hilly terrain. For example, the arms and equipment of the Thracian troops allowed the individual soldier greater mobility and freer action in hand-to-hand combat than a phalangite could adopt.[29]


Unlike the more westerly powers, like the Romans and other Greek states, where infantry dominated the battlefield, in the 'vast spaces to the east, the horse cultures were more influential'.[30] Speed and mobility were the key, especially when dealing with foes like the Parthians and the Greco-Bactrians. The Parthian style of warfare was based around heavily armoured cavalrymen, Cataphracts, and horse archers, which were used in hit and run style tactics. The eastern style of horse warfare would have a deep impact in the reign of Antiochus III, when he armed his heavy cavalry along Parthian lines. However, unfortunately for the Seleucids, their main rivals, the Romans and Ptolemies, used armies that were centered around a core of good infantry. In this sense, there was a sense of the overvaluing of cavalry as an offensive arm. Antiochus III was an excellent cavalry commander, his assault at Tapuria in 208 BC as described by Polybius[31] could almost act as a 'military treatise on how to conduct a cavalry battle'.[32] However, Antiochus III was not as apt when dealing with infantry, be it Greek or Roman. At Magnesia, Antiochus' disregard for his phalanx and his misdirected cavalry charge led to his defeat. The Seleucid cavalry, after the introduction of the Cataphract, can be sub-divided into several categories. Firstly, there were the heavy cavalry of which there were Kataphraktoi (armoured) and Aphraktoi (unarmoured). The Aphraktoi were divided into two groups, lancer and missile troops. The lancers, who performed the job of heavy cavalry before the Cataphract, were known by numerous names, for example dorataphoroi, sarissaphoroi, kontophoroi, xystophoroi and lonchophoroi. Xystophoroi and lonchophoroi were mentioned specifically by Titus Flamininus whilst in discussion with the Achaeans.[33] The light cavalry was used to skirmish, so troops such as those that fought in the Tarentine style were common within this category, although there were numerous native contingents too.

Agema, Hetairoi and Nisaioi

Along with the guard infantry unit, there were two guard cavalry regiments, each 1,000 strong.[34] These were the Agema (the 'Guards') and the Hetairoi ('Companions'). The Hetairoi were recruited from the younger generation of military settlers and acted as the standing guard cavalry unit of the army, serving in peace and in war.[35] However, it seems that writers referred to them by several names other than just the 'companions'; the basilike ile ('royal squadron' or 'regia ala' according to Livy), and the hippos hetairike ('horse companions').[36][37] Bar-Kochva presumes that from this their full title may well have been the 'royal ala of the companions'.[38] The Agema 'consisted of Medes, selected men, with a mixture of horsemen of many races from the same part of the world.[39] Both corps of cavalry could escort the king into battle, or both could be brigaded together into one unit of 2,000.[40] Both units were armed with a xyston, a cavalry lance not so dissimilar to the sarissa. They were also equipped with a cuirass and helmet. After the introduction of the Cataphract, the Hetairoi were given similar but lighter protection. As for the Agema, they were probably equipped the same as the cataphracts.[41] Another regiment of horse that was similarly armed to the cataphracts was the Nisian cavalry (Nisaioi), which was composed of Iranians.


At the Daphne parade, there was also a regiment of 'picked', known as Epilektoi, horsemen, numbering 1,000. The Epilektoi were most likely recruited from the city of Larissa, which was founded by colonists from Larissa on the Greek mainland. After the loss of Media, the main recruiting ground for the Agema, to the Parthians, the Epilektoi were given the title and role of the Agema by Alexander Balas.[42]


Despite the prospect of a mobile cavalry phalanx, the cavalry still faced problems. The xyston was still too short to meet the sarissa phalanx head on. The weight of their armour restricted movement, but the elimination of a shield for protection made the rider and horse more vulnerable. The desire to meet the phalanx head on and the need for protection was remedied after the anabasis of Antiochus III to the eastern satrapies in 210-206 BC. At this time, Antiochus came into contact with the Parthian cavalry, of which some were heavily armed with scale armour for both the rider and horse and longer lances known as a kontos. The kontos 'almost equalled the phalangite sarissa'.[43] The cataphract had numerous advantages though. First, their armour provided protection from missiles, arrows, spears and pikes. Second, the kontos allowed them to block an enemy advance and attack from further away. For example, the Seleucid cataphracts were able to beat the Ptolemaic cavalry and attack their phalanx at Panium in 200 BC with relative ease. Nevertheless, they still had their problems. Like the phalanx, an attack on their flank could prove fatal for the rider and these difficulties were exploited by infantry 'which assaulted the cataphracts from the flanks, attacking body parts of the riders and horses that were unprotected by armour'.[44] The cataphracts could also have their kontos grabbed from them or be knocked off their horse. In order to remedy this, semi-heavy cavalry were needed to watch their flanks.

While the Seleucid cataphracts were certainly of Greek or Persian descent, Livy describes a contingent of 3,000 cavalry "clad in mail armour and known as 'cataphracti'" present at the Battle of Magnesia, standing next to a contingent of Galatian infantry,[45] which Appian later also describe being of Galatian descent.[46]


Along with the citizen militia infantry, there were also militia cavalry units recruited in the cities, known as Politikoi. This cavalry consisted of those richest citizens who did not hold the legal status of 'Macedonians'.[47] Citizen cavalry of this sort was seen at the Daphne parade and, in this case, was probably just from Antioch and not collected from all of the coastal cities. The Politikoi was probably not organised into regiments; instead, it was likely that it comprised a collection of separate squadrons, with each squadron having its own distinctive dress and equipment.[48]

Tarantine cavalry

The Seleucids employed a number of Tarantine cavalry, either as mercenaries or – more likely – equipped and trained in the "Tarantine fashion". They were present at the Battle of Panium[49] and the Battle of Magnesia.[50]


Camels are attested in use in the Seleucid army at the battle of Magnesia, but their small number (500) suggests they were not a regular addition.[51] According to Xenophon, their scent scared off horses.[52]

Allied, vassal and mercenary cavalry

The Seleucids fielded several types of mercenary, vassal and allied cavalry. At the Battle of Magnesia Antiochus deployed Dahae horse archers, Gallograecian (Galatian) cavalry and camel-borne Arab archers.[53]


Despite the numerous advantages that the Seleucids had at the height of their power, the empire soon began to fall into decline, especially with the coming of so many dynastic wars between the rival claimants to the Seleucid throne. The Romans, increasingly after the death of Antiochus IV, supported those claimants who they felt would be weak and no threat to them. The Roman senate supported the young and weak Antiochus V over the stronger and more capable Demetrius, who was a hostage in Rome at the time. When Demetrius took the throne as Demetrius I, Rome further undermined him by supporting Alexander Balas and numerous rebel groups, such as those of John Hyrcanus in Judea.[54] The ever weakening empire led to the Parthians' sweeping into and taking over their eastern satrapies. These conquests took place at the same time as the bitter civil wars in the empire. There was a moment of success and strength with the Parthian campaign of Antiochus VII, but his death in battle led to further defeat and decline. The loss of these territories meant the loss of vital economic and manpower resources. By the beginning of the 1st century BC, the Seleucid kingdom was still troubled by instability caused by civil war between the northern and southern branches of the Seleucid royal household. The loss of manpower and political instability may well have ensured that the Seleucid army was dependent on mercenaries and citizen militias and unable to maintain a phalanx of the size seen at Raphia and Magnesia.


  1. ^ Head, 1982, p.20
  2. ^ Chaniotis, 2006, p.86
  3. ^ Head, 1982, p.23
  4. ^ Chaniotis, 2006, p.85
  5. ^ Bar-Kochva, 1989, p.191
  6. ^ Griffith, 1935, p.153
  7. ^ Bar-Kochva,1979, p.59-62
  8. ^ Sekunda, 2001, p.89
  9. ^ Polybius 5.79.4
  10. ^ Cambridge Ancient History: Volume VII, 1984, p.190
  11. ^ Polybius 30.25.3
  12. ^ Tarn, 1980, p.184
  13. ^ I Macc.6.35
  14. ^ Sekunda, 2001, p.98
  15. ^ Beston, 2002, p.388-389
  16. ^ Sekunda, 2001, p.91
  17. ^ I.Macc.6.39
  18. ^ Head, 1982, p.24
  19. ^ Bevan, 1902, p.224
  20. ^ I Macc.II.38
  21. ^ Josephus Ant.XIII.129
  22. ^ Josephus Ant.XIII.144
  23. ^ Head, 1982, p.24
  24. ^ Head, 1982, p.24
  25. ^ Head, 1982, p.25
  26. ^ Bar-Kochva, 1979, p.142-45
  27. ^ Head, 1982, p.25
  28. ^ Appian Syr.37
  29. ^ Bar-Kochva, 1989, p.16
  30. ^ Gaebel, 2002, p.242
  31. ^ Polybius 10.49
  32. ^ Gaebel, 2002, p.293
  33. ^ Plut.Flam.17.5
  34. ^ Head, 1982, p.23
  35. ^ Head, 1982, p.23
  36. ^ Livy XXXVII.40
  37. ^ Appian, Syr.32
  38. ^ Bar-Kochva, 1979,p.68
  39. ^ Livy XXXVII.40
  40. ^ Head, 1982, p.23
  41. ^ Head, 1982, p.118
  42. ^ Sekunda, 1994, p.24
  43. ^ Bar-Kochva, 1989, p.13
  44. ^ Bar-Kochva, 1989, p.13
  45. ^ Livy XXXVII.40
  46. ^ Appian 11.31-32
  47. ^ Sekunda, 1994, p.24
  48. ^ Sekunda, 1994, p.24
  49. ^ Polybius 16.18
  50. ^ Livy XXXVII.40
  51. ^ Appian, Syriaca 7
  52. ^ Xenophon, Cyropaedia, Ζ.1.27
  53. ^ Livy XXXVII.40
  54. ^ Sherwin-White & Kuhrt, 1993, p.222


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  • Livy, History of Rome
  • Appian, Syrian Wars
  • Astin, A.E., Frederiksen, M.W., Ogilvie, R.M., Walbank, F.W. (eds.) (1984), The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume VII
  • Beston, Paul (2002), Review, The Classical Review, New Series, Vol.52, No.2, p. 388-389
  • Chaniotis, Angelos (2006), "War in the Hellenistic World"
  • Gaebel, Robert E. (2002), Cavalry Operations in the Ancient Greek World
  • Griffith, G.T. (1935), The Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World
  • Sekunda, Nick (1994), Seleucid and Ptolemaic Reformed Armies 168-145 BC, Volume 1: The Seleucid Army
  • Sekunda, Nick (2001), Hellenistic Infantry Reform in the 160's BC
  • Schwerin-White, Susan, & Kuhrt, Amelie (1993), From Samarkhand to Sardis: A new approach to the Seleucid Empire
  • Bar-Kochva, Bezalel (1979), The Seleucid Army: Organization and Tactics in the Great Campaigns
  • Bar-Kochva, Bezalel (1989), Judas Maccabaeus: The Jewish Struggle Against the Seleucids
  • Head, Duncan (1982), Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars 359 BC to 146 BC
  • Bevan, Edwyn Robert, (1902), The House of Seleucus, Vol. II
  • Tarn, W.W. (1980), The Greeks in Bactria and India
160s BC

This article concerns the period 169 BC – 160 BC.

== Events ==

=== 169 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Greece ======

Macedonian forces led by Perseus of Macedon trap a Roman army led by Consul Quintus Marcius Phillipus near Tempe, but the Macedonians fail to take advantage of their resulting superior tactical position.

King Perseus asks the Seleucid King Antiochus IV to join forces with him against the danger that Rome presents to all of the Hellenic monarchs. Antiochus IV does not respond.

====== Roman Republic ======

Lex Voconia (The Voconian Law) is introduced in Rome by the tribune, Quintus Voconius Saxa, with the support of Cato the Elder. This law prohibits those who own property valued at 100,000 sesterces from making a woman their heir.

=== 168 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Greece ======

The king of Illyria, Gentius, is defeated at Scodra by a Roman force under Lucius Anicius Gallus and then brought to Rome as a captive to be interned in Iguvium. This loss removes Illyria as an important ally for Macedonia and effectively weakens Perseus of Macedon in his battle with Rome.

The Roman general, Lucius Aemilius Paulus, is elected consul and arrives in Thessaly to lead the Roman army which has been trapped by Perseus' forces.

June 22 – The Battle of Pydna (in southern Macedonia) gives Roman forces under Lucius Aemilius Paulus a crushing victory over Perseus and his Macedonian forces, thus ending the Third Macedonian War. Perseus is captured by the Romans and will spend the rest of his life in captivity at Alba Fucens, near Rome.

The Macedonian kingdom is broken up by the Romans into four smaller states, and all the Greek cities which have offered aid to Macedonia, even just in words, are punished. The Romans take hundreds of prisoners from the leading families of Macedonia, including the historian Polybius.

====== Egypt ======

The joint rulers of Egypt, Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II and their sister Cleopatra II send a renewed request to Rome for aid.

====== Seleucid Empire ======

The fleet of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV wins a victory off Cyprus, whose governor then surrenders the island to him.

Antiochus IV then invades Egypt again and occupies Lower Egypt and his forces camp outside Alexandria. However, the Roman ambassador in Alexandria, Gaius Popillius Laenas, intervenes. He presents Antiochus IV with an ultimatum that he evacuate Egypt and Cyprus immediately. Antiochus, taken by surprise, asks for time to consider. Popillius, however, draws a circle in the earth (i.e. "a line in the sand") around the king with his walking stick and demands an unequivocal answer before Antiochus leaves the circle. Fearing the consequences of a war with Rome, the king agrees to comply with the ambassador's demands. In return, the Romans agree that Antiochus IV can retain southern Syria, to which Egypt has laid claim, thus enabling Antiochus IV to preserve the territorial integrity of his realm.

Jason removes Menelaus as High Priest in Jerusalem, which Antiochus IV regards as an affront to his majesty.

=== 167 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Seleucid Empire ======

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, believing Judea to be in revolt, returns to there after the failure of his Egyptian campaign.

The Jewish priest Mattathias of Modi'in defies the king Antiochus IV's decrees aimed at hellenizing the Jews and specifically defies the order that Jews should sacrifice to Zeus. Mattathias slays a Syrian official and escapes into the Judean hills with his five sons and begins a revolt against Seleucid control of Judea.

====== Greece ======

Private documents collected by the Romans when they capture Perseus of Macedon incriminate political leaders of the Achaean League. Many influential Greeks are deported to Rome.

On his way back to Rome, the Roman general Lucius Aemilius Paulus is ordered by the Roman Senate to inflict a brutal revenge on Epirus for being an ally of Macedonia. Seventy towns in Epirus are destroyed and at least 100,000 citizens are sold into slavery. These actions take place despite the fact that Epirus has not aided Perseus in his war with Rome.

====== Roman Republic ======

Lucius Aemilius Paulus returns to Italy with the King of Macedonia, Perseus, as his prisoner for his triumphal procession in Rome, where the Macedonians captured are sold into slavery. The huge amount of booty brought home after the battle enriches Rome allowing the Government to relieve her citizens of direct taxation. As a gesture of acknowledgment for his achievements in Macedonia, the senate awards Lucius Aemilius Paulus the surname Macedonicus.

====== Parthia ======

The Parthians capture the key central Asian city of Herat. This victory effectively chokes off the movement of trade along the Silk Road to China and means that the Hellenic kingdom of Bactria is doomed.

=== 166 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Seleucid Empire ======

The Seleucid king Antiochus IV mounts a campaign against the Parthians who are threatening his empire in the east. He leaves his chancellor, Lysias, with responsibility for the government of southern Syria and the guardianship of his son.

The leader of the Jewish revolt against Syria rule, Mattathias, dies and his third son, Judas, assumes leadership of the revolt in accordance with the deathbed disposition of his father.

The Battle of Beth Horon is fought between Jewish forces led by Judas Maccabeus and a Seleucid army. Maccabeus gains the element of surprise and successfully routs the much larger Syrian army.

The Battle of Emmaus takes place between the Jewish rebels led by Judas Maccabeus and Seleucid forces sent by Antiochus IV and led by Lysias and his general, Gorgias. In the ensuing battle, Judas Maccabeus and his men succeed in repelling Gorgias and forcing his army out of Judea and down to the coastal plain in what is an important victory in the war for Judea's independence.

====== Roman Republic ======

The Roman playwright Terence's Andria (The Girl from Andros) is first performed at the Megalesian games.

====== China ======

Laoshang leads 140,000 Xiongnu cavalry in a raid in Anding, and they reach as far as the royal retreat at Yong.

=== 165 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Seleucid Empire ======

Artaxias I, king of Armenia, is taken captive by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes when he attacks Armenia. Artaxias is forced to recognize Antiochus IV's suzerainty over Armenia before he is released.

====== Roman Republic ======

The Roman playwright Terence's play Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law) is first performed.

=== 164 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Egypt ======

The Egyptian King Ptolemy VI Philometor is expelled from Alexandria by his brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes and flees to Rome to seek support.

====== Seleucid Empire ======

The Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes dies while on a campaign in Tabae (or Gabae, now Isfahan) in Persia. He is succeeded by his son Antiochus V Eupator who is only nine years old. The regent for the boy is the late king's chancellor, Lysias, who has been left in charge of Syria when Antiochus IV departed for his campaign in Persia. Lysias is, however, seriously challenged by other Syrian generals and finds himself with a precarious hold on power. To make matters worse for him, the Roman Senate is holding Demetrius, the son of the former king Seleucus IV and, therefore, the rightful heir to the Seleucid throne, as a hostage. By threatening to release him, the Senate is able to influence events in the Seleucid kingdom.

The Battle of Beth Zur is fought between Jewish rebel forces led by Judas Maccabeus and a Seleucid army led by the regent Lysias. Judas Maccabeus wins the battle and is able to recapture Jerusalem soon after. Judas purifies the defiled Temple in Jerusalem, destroys the idols erected there by Antiochus IV and restores the service in the Temple. The reconsecration of the Temple becomes an annual feast of dedication in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah.

====== Roman Republic ======

Rhodes signs a treaty with Rome and becomes its ally.

Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus is elected censor in Rome.

==== By topic ====

====== Art ======

Construction of the detail of the frieze from the east front of the altar in Pergamon, Athena Attacking the Giants, begins and is finished eight years later. It is now kept at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung, Pergamonmuseum in Berlin, Germany.

=== 163 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Egypt ======

The Ptolemaic king Ptolemy VI Philometor is restored to his throne through the intervention of the citizens of Alexandria. However, the Romans intervene and partition the kingdom, giving Ptolemy VIII Euergetes Cyrenaica and Ptolemy VI Cyprus and Egypt. The two brothers accept the Roman partition.

====== Seleucid Empire ======

In the turmoil following the death of Antiochus IV, the governor of Media, Timarchus becomes the independent ruler of Media, opposing Lysias who is acting as regent for young king Antiochus V Eupator.

Lysias tries to make peace with the Jews in Judea. He offers them full religious freedom if they will lay down their arms. Even though the Chasidim consent, Judas Maccabeus argues for full political as well as religious freedom.

====== Roman Republic ======

The Roman playwright Terence's play Heauton Timorumenos ("The Self-Tormentor") is first performed.

=== 162 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Seleucid Empire ======

The Maccabees, under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, continue their struggle against the Seleucids and persecute the Hellenising faction in Judea.

Seleucid forces still control the Acra, a strong fortress within Jerusalem that faces the Temple Mount. Judas Maccabeus lays siege to the fortress and in response, the Seleucid general and regent to the young Seleucid king Antiochus V, Lysias, approaches Jerusalem and besieges Beth-zechariah, 25 kilometres from the city. Judas lifts his own siege on the Acra, and leads his army south to Beth-zechariah. In the ensuing Battle of Beth-zechariah, the Seleucids achieve their first major victory over the Maccabees, and Judas is forced to withdraw to Jerusalem.

Lysias then lays siege to the city. Just when capitulation by the Maccabees seems imminent, Lysias has to withdraw when the commander-in-chief under the late Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Philip, rebels against him. As a result, Lysias decides to propose a peaceful settlement which is accepted by the Maccabees. The terms of peace involve the restoration of religious freedom, permission for the Jews to live in accordance with their own laws, and the official return of the Temple in Jerusalem to the Jews.

With the aid of the Greek statesman and historian Polybius, the son of the former Seleucid king Seleucus IV Philopator, Demetrius escapes from Rome, where he has been held as a hostage for many years, and returns to Syria to claim the throne from his nephew Antiochus V. In the resulting dispute, Antiochus V and his regent, Lysias, are overthrown and put to death. Demetrius then establishes himself on the Seleucid throne.

====== Georgia ======

The king of Caucasian Iberia, Saurmag I, dies. Having no son, he is succeeded by his son-in-law, Mirian.

=== 161 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Seleucid Empire ======

The rebel Seleucid general and ruler of Media, Timarchus, who has distinguished himself by defending Media against the emergent Parthians, treats Demetrius I's violent accession to the Seleucid throne as the excuse to declare himself an independent king and extend his realm from Media into Babylonia.

With the restoration of peace in Judea, an internal struggle breaks out between the supporters of Judas Maccabeus and the Hellenist party. The influence of the Hellenic Party all but collapses in the wake of the Seleucid defeat.

The Jewish High Priest Menelaus, who is supported by the Hellenist party, is removed from office and is executed. His successor is a moderate member of the Hellenist party, Alcimus. However, when Alcimus executes sixty Jews who are opposed to him, he finds himself in open conflict with the Maccabees. Alcimus flees from Jerusalem and goes to Damascus to ask the Seleucid king, Demetrius I, for help.

The Maccabees, led by Judas Maccabeus, and a Seleucid army, led by the Seleucid general Nicanor, fight the Battle of Adasa, near Beth-horon. Maccabeus wins the battle and Nicanor is killed.

====== Egypt ======

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes, now king of Cyrenaica, convinces the Roman Senate to back his claim for control of Cyprus, but the Egyptian king Ptolemy VI Philometor ignores this threat, and after Ptolemy VIII Euergetes' attempt to conquer the island fails, the Roman Senate disengages from the dispute.

====== Roman Republic ======

The Roman playwright Terence's plays Eunuchus (The Eunuch) and Phormio are first performed.

Envoys of Judas Maccabeus conclude a treaty of friendship with the Roman Senate.

=== 160 BC ===

==== By place ====

====== Seleucid Empire ======

The Seleucid king, Demetrius I, on campaign in the east of his empire, leaves his general Bacchides to govern the western portion of it.

In response to the Jewish high priest, Alcimus', request for assistance, the Seleucid general Bacchides leads an army into Judea with the intent of reconquering this now independent kingdom. Bacchides rapidly marches through Judea after carrying out a massacre of the Assideans in Galilee. He quickly makes for Jerusalem, besieging the city and trapping Judas Maccabeus, the spiritual and military leader of the Maccabees, inside. However, Judas and many of his supporters manage to escape the siege.

Judas Maccabeus and many of his supporters regroup to face the Seleucid forces in the Battle of Elasa (near modern day Ramallah). Greatly outnumbered, the Maccabees are defeated and Judas Maccabeus is killed during the battle.

Judas Maccabeus is succeeded as army commander and leader of the Maccabees by his younger brother, Jonathan.

Demetrius I defeats and kills the rebel general Timarchus and is recognized as king of the Seleucid empire by the Roman Senate. Demetrius acquires his surname of Soter (meaning Saviour) from the Babylonians, for delivering them from the tyranny of Timarchus. The Seleucid empire is temporarily united again.

The Parthian King, Mithradates I, seizes Media from the Seleucids following the death of Timarchus.

====== Bactria ======

The king of Bactria, Eucratides I, is considered to have killed Apollodotus I, an Indo-Greek king who rules the western and southern parts of the Indo-Greek kingdom, when he invades the western territories of that kingdom.

====== China ======

A Painted banner, from the tomb of the wife of the Marquis of Dai (of the Han Dynasty in Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan, is made (approximate date). It is nowadays preserved at the Historical museum in Beijing.

====== Armenia ======

Artavasdes I succeeds his father Artaxias I as king of Armenia.

====== Roman Republic ======

The Roman playwright Terence's play Adelphoe (The Brothers) is first performed at the funeral of the Roman general, Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus.

217 BC

Year 217 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Geminus and Flaminius/Regulus (or, less frequently, year 537 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 217 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.


Agema (Greek: Ἄγημα), is a term to describe a military detachment, used for a special cause, such as guarding high valued targets. Due to its nature the Agema most probably comprises elite troops.


The Argyraspides (in Greek: Ἀργυράσπιδες "Silver Shields"), were a division of the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great, who were so called because they carried silver-plated shields. They were picked men commanded by Nicanor, the son of Parmenion, and were held in high honour by Alexander. They were hypaspists, having changed their name to the Argyraspides whilst in India under Alexander (Arrian Anabasis 7.11.3). After the death of Alexander (323 BC) they followed Eumenes. They were veterans, and although most of them were over sixty, they were feared and revered due to their battle skills and experience.

At the Battle of Gabiene they settled with Antigonus Monophthalmus when he managed to take possession of their baggage train (consisting of their families and the result of forty years of plunder). They obtained the return of their possessions, but in exchange delivered their General Eumenes to him (316 BC).

Antigonus soon broke up the corps, finding it too turbulent to manage, also executing their commander, Antigenes. He sent them to Sibyrtius, the Macedonian satrap of Arachosia, with the order to dispatch them by small groups of two or three to dangerous missions, so that their numbers would rapidly dwindle. However, others may have been retired to live in Macedonian settlements in Asia.

The Seleucid kings of Syria employed an infantry phalangite corps of the same name. At the Battle of Raphia in 217 BC the Argyraspides took up positions against the Ptolemaic phalanx. Polybius describes them as being armed in the Macedonian manner (Polyb. 5.79.4, 82.2). Their position besides the king at the Battle of Magnesia suggests that they were the premier infantry guard unit in the Seleucid army. They were men chosen from the whole kingdom (Polyb. 5.79.4) and constituted a corps of 10,000 men at Raphia. At the Daphne parade held by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 166 BC the Argyraspides were 5,000 strong. However the corps of men described by Polybius as being armed and dressed in the 'Roman fashion' numbered 5,000, and Bar-Kochva suggests that these men, who are described as being in the prime of life, might have also been a division of the Argyraspides, putting the number of the corps back up to 10,000 strong.

The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, among other ways in which he imitated Alexander the Great, had in his army bodies of men who were called argyroaspides and chrysaspides. Livy mentions a cavalry corps called silvershields as the royal cohort in the army of Antiochus III the Great at Magnesia.

Battle of Beth Zur

The Battle of Beth Zur was fought between the Maccabees led by Judah Maccabee and a Seleucid Greek army led by Viceroy Lysias in 164 BC. Maccabee won the battle, and was able to recapture Jerusalem soon after. The Jews did not fight in open terrain; they used guerrilla and hit and run tactics to slowly beat back the Seleucid army and eventually rout it.

According to 1 Enoch chapters 83-90 (the Animal Apocalypse), the battle was joined on the side of the Maccabees by an angel who had been recording the event.

Battle of Elasa

The Battle of Elasa was fought between Jewish and Seleucid armies during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. The skirmish resulted in the defeat of outnumbered Maccabee forces and the fall of the Jewish leader Judah Maccabee. Despite the defeat and consequent overtake of Jerusalem by the Seleucids, Judah Maccabee's brothers continued in their revolt against the Seleucids and eventually succeeded in expulsion of the Seleucid forces from the region and establish an independent Kingdom.

Battle of Ma'aleh Levona

The Battle of Ma'aleh Levona was the first hand-to-hand combat battle fought between the Maccabees and the Seleucid Empire in 167 BCE. The Jewish forces were led by Judah Maccabee and the Seleucid army force was under the command of Apollonius.After the Maccabean Revolt started, Judah relocated his guerrilla combat units at the northern part of Samaria. Apollonius, governor of Samaria, was sent with the local Samarian armies to link up with Seleucid forces from Jerusalem.

Maccabaee gained the element of surprise by ambushing the enemy army at Wadi Haramia and successfully destroyed the much larger Syrian Greek army, personally killing its commander. Another force was soon sent against Maccabaee, which led to the Battle of Beth Horon.

Battle of Panium

The Battle of Panium (also known as Paneion, Ancient Greek: Πάνειον, or Paneas, Πανειάς) was fought in 200 BC near Paneas (Caesarea Philippi) between Seleucid and Ptolemaic forces as part of the Fifth Syrian War. The Seleucids were led by Antiochus III the Great, while the Ptolemaic army was led by Scopas of Aetolia. The Seleucids achieved a complete victory, annihilating the Ptolemaic army and conquering the province of Coele-Syria. The Ptolemaic Kingdom never recovered from its defeat at Panium and ceased to be an independent great power. Antiochus secured his southern flank and began to concentrate on the looming conflict with the Roman Republic.

Battle of Raphia

The Battle of Raphia, also known as the Battle of Gaza, was a battle fought on 22 June 217 BC near modern Rafah between the forces of Ptolemy IV Philopator, king and pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt and Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire during the Syrian Wars. It was one of the largest battles of the Hellenistic kingdoms and was one of the largest battles of the ancient world. The battle was waged to determine the sovereignty of Coele Syria.

Cycladic culture

Cycladic culture (also known as Cycladic civilisation or, chronologically, as Cycladic chronology) was a Bronze Age culture (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC) found throughout the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artefacts which broadly complements Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.

Hasmonean dynasty

The Hasmonean dynasty ( (audio); Hebrew: חַשְׁמוֹנַּאִים, Ḥashmona'im) was a ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE the dynasty ruled Judea semi-autonomously from the Seleucids. From 110 BCE, with the Seleucid Empire disintegrating, the dynasty became fully independent, expanded into the neighbouring regions of Samaria, Galilee, Iturea, Perea, and Idumea, and took the title "basileus". Some modern scholars refer to this period as an independent kingdom of Israel.The dynasty was established under the leadership of Simon Thassi, two decades after his brother Judas Maccabeus (יהודה המכבי Yehudah HaMakabi) defeated the Seleucid army during the Maccabean Revolt. According to 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and the first book of The Jewish War by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 CE–c. 100), Antiochus IV moved to assert strict control over the Seleucid satrapy of Coele Syria and Phoenicia after his successful invasion of Ptolemaic Egypt was turned back by the intervention of the Roman Republic. He sacked Jerusalem and its Temple, suppressing Jewish and Samaritan religious and cultural observances, and imposed Hellenistic practices. The ensuing revolt by the Jews (167 BCE) began a period of Jewish independence potentiated by the steady collapse of the Seleucid Empire under attacks from the rising powers of the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.

In 63 BCE, the kingdom was invaded by the Roman Republic, broken up and set up as a Roman client state. However, the same power vacuum that enabled the Jewish state to be recognized by the Roman Senate c. 139 BCE was later exploited by the Romans themselves. Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, Simon's great-grandsons, became pawns in a proxy war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. The deaths of Pompey (48 BCE) and Caesar (44 BCE), and the related Roman civil wars temporarily relaxed Rome's grip on the Hasmonean kingdom, allowing a brief reassertion of autonomy backed by the Parthian Empire. This short independence was rapidly crushed by the Romans under Mark Antony and Octavian.

The dynasty had survived for 103 years before yielding to the Herodian dynasty in 37 BCE. The installation of Herod the Great (an Idumean) as king in 37 BCE made Judea a Roman client state and marked the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. Even then, Herod tried to bolster the legitimacy of his reign by marrying a Hasmonean princess, Mariamne, and planning to drown the last male Hasmonean heir at his Jericho palace. In 6 CE, Rome joined Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea (biblical Edom) into the Roman province of Iudaea. In 44 CE, Rome installed the rule of a procurator side by side with the rule of the Herodian kings (specifically Agrippa I 41–44 and Agrippa II 50–100).

Hellenistic armies

The Hellenistic armies is the term applied to the armies of the successor kingdoms of the Hellenistic period, which emerged after the death of Alexander the Great. After his death, Alexander's huge empire was torn between his successors, the Diadochi (Greek: Διάδοχοι). During the Wars of the Diadochi, the Macedonian army, as developed by Alexander and Philip II, gradually adopted new units and tactics, further developing Macedonian warfare and improving on the tactics used in the Classical era. The armies of the Diadochi bear few differences from that of Alexander, but during the era of the Epigonoi (Ἐπίγονοι, "Successors"), the differences were obvious, favoring numbers over quality and weight over maneuverability. The limited availability of Greek conscripts in the east led to an increasing dependence on mercenary forces, whereas in the west, Hellenistic armies were continuously involved in wars, which soon exhausted local manpower, paving the way for Roman supremacy. The major Hellenistic states were the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Antigonid kingdom (Macedonia). Smaller states included: Attalid Pergamum, Pontus, Epirus, the Achaean League, the Aetolian League, Syracuse, and other states (like Athens, Sparta etc.).

Judas Maccabeus

Judah Maccabee (or Judas Maccabeus, also spelled Machabeus, or Maccabaeus, Hebrew: יהודה המכבי, Yehudah ha-Makabi) was a Jewish priest (kohen) and a son of the priest Mattathias. He led the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire (167–160 BCE).

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah ("Dedication") commemorates the restoration of Jewish worship at the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE, after Judah Maccabeus removed all of the statues depicting Greek gods and goddesses and purified it.

Maccabean Revolt

The Maccabean Revolt (Hebrew: מרד החשמונאים‎) was a Jewish rebellion, lasting from 167 to 160 BCE, led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic influence on Jewish life.


The Maccabees (), also spelled Machabees (Hebrew: מכבים or מקבים, Maqabim; Latin: Machabaei or Maccabaei; Greek: Μακκαβαῖοι, Makkabaioi), were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea, which at the time was part of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 167 BCE to 37 BCE, being a fully independent kingdom from about 110 to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion, expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest and reduced the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.


In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (; Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy are examples), as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.

Seleucid Dynastic Wars

The Seleucid Dynastic Wars were a series of wars of succession that were fought between competing branches of the Seleucid Royal household for control of the Seleucid Empire. Beginning as a by-product of several succession crises that arose from the reigns of Seleucus IV Philopator and his brother Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 170s and 160s, the wars typified the final years of the empire and were an important cause of its decline as a major power in the Near East and Hellenistic world. The last war ended with the collapse of the kingdom and its annexation by the Romans in 63 BC.

Seleucid–Parthian wars

The Seleucid–Parthian wars were a series of conflicts between the Seleucid Empire and Parthia which resulted in the ultimate expulsion of the Seleucids from Persia and the establishment of the Parthian Empire. The wars were caused by Iranian tribes migrating into Central Asia and the inability of the Seleucids to properly defend or hold together their vast empire.


The thorakitai (Greek: θωρακίται, singular: θωρακίτης, thorakites) were a type of soldier in Hellenistic armies similar to the thureophoroi. The literal translation of the term is "cuirassiers", which suggests that they may have worn a short Celtic mail shirt or possibly a linothorax.

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