ARMIES OF THE SUCCESSOR STATES: THE SELEUCIDS

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Of the empires created from out of the Wars of the Diadochi, none started on firmer military footing than that founded by Seleucus Nicator (“the Victorious”; or, alternately, “the Conqueror”).

At the time of his murder in 281 BC, Seleucus command (arguably) mightiest army the world had yet seen. He had defeated, and then combined with own, the armies of his erstwhile rivals Antigonus Monophthalmus  (“One Eyed”) and Lysimachos. Put another way, of the four great Macedonian Successor armies fighting at Ipsus in 301 BC (twenty years earlier), all of the some 160,000 combatants now served Seleucus.

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Seleucus I Nicator

Within were men that had been junior rankers under Philip and Alexander; who had first conquered Greece and then laid  “the whole of Asia” (for that is how they thought of the Persian Empire they had subdued) beneath their spears . These were hard men who had marched across the Middle East and back; veterans of the greatest campaigns and most titanic battles of the age. This force represented the combined experience and victorious tradition that was the Macedonian military machine founded by Philip and perfected by Alexander.

Seleucus was assassinated by an estranged son of Ptolemy Soter, King of Egypt. A portion of his “Grande Armee” chose to serve the assassin, the freebooting prince Ptolemy Keraunos. Presumably these were the veterans of Lysimachus’ army, only newly enlisted in Seleucus’ service after their master’s death at the Battle of Corupedion, and with scant loyalty to the House of Seleucus. Ptolemy Keraunos  used them to seize the throne of Macedonia for himself. The rest of Seleucus’ army either dispersed or returned east; to be settled by his son, Antiochus Soter across the empire as “kleroi”, military colonists. These  formed the nucleus of the future army of the Seleucid Empire.Hellenistic_World_250BCE_map

Thus perhaps more than any of the other Successor Kingdoms the Seleucid Royal Army traced its lineage and maintained the traditions of the army of Alexander and his immediate Successors (many of which were great military leaders in their own rights). This, combined with the vast financial resources of what had been the Persian Empire at their disposal, made the Seleucid army the largest, the most lavishly equipped, and (arguably) the most effective of the armies of the Successor kingdoms…..

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