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Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars (§§61-65)


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of Appian's book on the Syrian War, or Syriaca, have also come down to us. It deals with the war that the Romans and the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great fought in 192-188, but also discusses, as an appendix, the history of the Seleucid Empire. Therefore, the Syriaca is a valuable source for the history of the ancient Near East between the reign of Alexander the Great and the Roman conquest.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes and additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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[§61] When Erasistratus saw that the king was in earnest and not hypocritical, he told the whole truth. He related how he had discovered the nature of the malady, and how he had detected the secret passion. Seleucus was overjoyed, but it was a difficult matter to persuade his son and not less so to persuade his wife; but he succeeded finally.

Then he assembled his army, which was perhaps expecting something of the kind, and told them of his exploits and of the extent of his empire, showing that it surpassed that of any of the other successors of Alexander [the Great], and saying that as he was now growing old it was hard for him to govern it on account of its size. "I wish," he said, "to divide it, and so at the same time to provide for your safety in the future and give a part of it now to those who are dearest to me. It is fitting that all of you, who had advanced to such greatness of dominion and power under me since the time of Alexander, should cooperate with me in everything. The dearest to me, and well worthy to reign, are my grownup son and my wife. As they are young, I pray they may soon have children to be an ample guarantee to you of the permanency of the dynasty. I will join them in marriage in your presence and will send them to be sovereigns of the upper provinces now. And I charge you that none of the customs of the Persians and other nations is more worthy of observance than this one law, which is common to all of them, 'That what the king ordains is always right.'"

When he had thus spoken the army shouted that he was the greatest king of all the successors of Alexander and the best father. Seleucus laid the same injunctions on Stratonice and his son, then joined them in marriage, and sent them to their kingdom, showing himself even stronger in this famous act than in his deeds of arms.


[§62] Seleucus had seventy-two satraps under him, so extensive was the territory over which he ruled.[1] The greater part he had transferred to his son [Antiochus I Soter], but he continued to reign over the country which lies between the Euphrates and the sea. The last war that he waged was with Lysimachus, for the possession of Phrygia on the Hellespont. [281] Lysimachus was defeated and slain in battle.[2]

Then Seleucus crossed the Hellespont in order to possess himself of Lysimacheia, but [281] he was killed by Ptolemy Keraunos who accompanied him. This Keraunos was the son of Ptolemy Soter and Eurydice, the daughter of Antipater. He had left Egypt from fear, because his father had decided to leave the kingdom to his youngest son. Seleucus had received him as the unfortunate son of his friend, and thus he supported, and took around with himself everywhere, his own murderer.

Coin of Seleucus I Nicator. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.Seleucus I Nicator (British Museum, London; ©**)

[§63] Thus Seleucus died at the age of seventy-three, having reigned forty-two years. It seems to me that the oracle hit the mark in his case when it said to him, "Do not hurry back to Europe; Asia will be much better for you," for Lysimacheia is in Europe, and he then crossed over to Europe for the first time after leaving it with the army of Alexander. It is said also that once when he consulted an oracle in reference to his own death he received this answer:
If you keep away from Argos you will reach your allotted year, but if you approach that place you will die before your time.
There is an Argos in Peloponnese, another in Amphilochia, another in Orestea (whence come the Macedonian Argeadae), and the one on the Ionian sea, said to have been built by Diomedes during his wanderings, - all these, and every place named Argos in every other country, Seleucus inquired about and avoided.
 
While he was advancing from the Hellespont to Lysimacheia a splendid great altar presented itself to his view, which he was told had been built either by the Argonauts on their way to Colchis, or by the Achaeans who besieged Troy, for which reason the people in the neighborhood still called it Argos, either by a corruption of the name of the ship Argo, or from the native place of the sons of Atreus. While he was learning these things he was killed by Ptolemy, who stabbed him in the back.

Philetaerus, the prince of Pergamon, bought the body of Seleucus from Keraunos for a large sum of money, burned it, and sent the ashes to his son Antiochus. The latter deposited them at Seleucia-by-the-Sea, where he erected a temple to his father on consecrated ground, to which ground he gave the name of Nicatoreum.

Bust of Lysimachus. Archaeological museum, Selçuk (Turkey). Photo Marco Prins.
Lysimachus (Archaeological museum, Selçuk)

[§64] I have heard that Lysimachus, who was one of the armor-bearers of Alexander, was once running by his side for a long distance, and, being fatigued, took hold of the tail of the king's horse and continued to run; that he was struck in the forehead by the point of the king's spear, which opened one of his veins from which the blood flowed profusely; that Alexander, for want of a bandage, bound up the wound with his own diadem which was thus saturated with blood; and that Aristandrus, Alexander's soothsayer, when he saw Lysimachus carried away wounded in this manner, said, "That man will be a king, but he will reign with toil and trouble."

Lysimachus reigned nearly forty years, counting those in which he was satrap, and he did reign with toil and trouble. He fell in battle, while still commanding his army, at the age of seventy. Seleucus did not long survive him.

Lysimachus' dog watched his body lying on the ground for a long time, and kept it unharmed by birds or beasts until Thorax of Pharsalia found and buried it. Some say that he was buried by his own son, Alexander, who fled to Seleucus from fear when Lysimachus put to death his other son, Agathocles; that he searched for the body a long time and found it at last by means of the dog, and that it was already partly decomposed. 

The Lysimacheians deposited the bones in their temple and named the temple itself the Lysimacheum. Thus did these two kings, the bravest and most renowned for bodily size, come to their end at nearly the same time, one of them at the age of seventy, the other three years older, and both fighting with their own hands until the day of their death.

Coin of the Seleucid king Antiochus II Theos.
Antiochus II Theos

[§65] After the death of Seleucus, the kingdom of Syria passed in regular succession from father to son as follows: the first was the same Antiochus who fell in love with his stepmother, to whom was given the surname of Soter, "Savior", for driving out the Gauls who had made an incursion into Asia from Europe.

The second was another Antiochus, born of this marriage, who received the surname of Theos, "Divine", from the Milesians in the first instance, because he slew their tyrant, Timarchus.

This Theos was poisoned by his wife. He had two wives, Laodice and Berenice, the former a love-match, the latter a daughter pledged to him by [the Ptolemaic king] Ptolemy[II Philadelphus]. [246] Laodice assassinated him and afterward Berenice and her child. Ptolemy [III Euergetes], the son of [Ptolemy II] Philadelphus, avenged these crimes by killing Laodice.[4] He invaded Syria and advanced as far as Babylon. The Parthians now began their revolt, taking advantage of the confusion in the house of the Seleucids.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Syrian wars   :   part fourteen
Corupedium. Photo Jona Lendering.
Corupedium
Note 1:
This is greatly exaggerated. Twenty is a better estimate. Antiochus' reign of the eastern half of the empire is described in several recently discovered Babylonian chronicles, called Antiochus and Sin (BCHP 5), Ruin of Esagila (BCHP 6), Antiochus and India (BCHP 7), and the Juniper Garden Chronicle (BCHP 8).

Note 2:
He defeated Lysimachus in the battle of Corupedium (281). There is some new evidence in the End of Seleucus Chronicle (BCHP 9).

Note 3:
This war, the Laodicean or Third Syrian War, is described in greater detail over here; the siege of Babylon is now known from the Ptolemy III Chronicle (BCHP 11).

Note 4:
Incorrect: Laodice was still alive in 236.

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