'the Victorious': Seleucus Nicator and the world after Alexander

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Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Empire Long Divided...

The reign of Argeus I is, in some ways, a turning point. For the first time since 306 BCE (with the formal dissolution of Alexander's empire), the old Hellenistic empire was reunited under a single king. Finally, some 126 years later (counting from 180 BCE with the death of Gorgias I and the dissolution of the Polyphontic kingdom), a single Hellenistic king ruled from Greece in the west to Bactria in the east, from Sogdiana to Egypt and, nominally at least, even into Nubia. It was, at the time, the largest empire in the world and, under Argeus' rule, it would finally reach its political, economic, and cultural height. Of course, that wasn't due to happen right away and the first few years of Argeus' reign would prove... difficult in many ways. Of particular note was the continued issue of actually restabilising the Upper Satrapies and putting down pro-Polyphontic or otherwise secessionist tendencies. Amongst his many concerns was the large number of central Asian peoples who had moved into Sogdiana and Parthia over the last 30 years, many of whom had settled in Sogdiana but others of whom had come into the service of Gorgias I and II during the rise of the Polyphontic kingdom.

Between 184 and 180 BCE, Argeus had started dealing with this problem by effectively trying to fold these same elements into his own armed forces, establishing a series of deals with different central Asian groups through which he could access their cavalry strength for his own benefits. This had worked wonders and, by the time of Gorgias I's death in 180, Argeus possessed a rather significant cavalry force. Iranian and Central Asian cavalry would continue to form a very significant part of Argeus' army in the years to come, even as he attempted to try and integrate the Ptolemaic and Seleucid military systems and manpower sources. Indeed, when Argeus fought the Romans during the 170s, his cavalry seems to have been as much as 60% Saka or Parni with another 20-30% being Persian and only a few being of Greek origin. Nevertheless, Argeus would continue to face sporadic raiding parties or uprisings through the Upper Satrapies for years to come, both in the form of Polyphontic resurgence movements (most famously the revolt of 175 BCE) and just others who disliked the encroachment of Argeus' power. Still, centralised power (as it were) in the upper satrapies would never quite be the same as it was under Antiochus II, especially in the furthest eastern regions such as Bactria and, indeed, Sogdiana which would remain as semi-autonomous satrapies throughout Argeus' reign. In particular, the satraps of Bactria, going forward, would often have to be treated with as being almost foreign kings and tended to not always obey the king's directives. With that said, this was a situation which would work well, at least under Argeus, as Bactria and Sogdiana continued to pay tribute and provide soldiers without the need for any direct interventionism and all the costs that would entail.

At the local level, this was a situation which would allow Sogdiana and Bactria both to prosper under their respective dynasties. In the case of Sogdiana, the relevant dynasty is the so-called Anakletiads (named after the first satrap of Sogdiana after Gorgias I's death, Anakletos). Anakletos, a Greco-Egyptian general from Alexandria, would be placed in command of Sogdiana and would remain devoted to Argeus until his death in 167 BCE at which point Argeus gave command over to his son, Damianos, and, from there, Sogdiana came back under effectively dynastic rule. In Bactria, the Megasthenic dynasty continued under Dionysios and his descendants. Some people have suggested that what Argeus did here was a huge mistake and, in some ways, it is easy to see why. Effectively, Argeus was surrendering the royal ability to dictate who governed these two regions at will and reducing royal involvement to a rubber stamp of these dynastic lines. In the long run, this effectively strengthened regional powerbases and reduced royal authority quite dramatically. On the other hand, however, it also allowed reduced the expenditure and interventionism required in both regions. Certainly, under Argeus I and II, there seems to have been no break in trade routes to and from the centre of the empire and no point at which this situation prevented the king from marching through or into these lands with his armies. Seleucid judges continued to travel, laws were promulgated and we still see Seleucid letters popping up in cities through networks of benefaction. Indeed, if we were to go by epigraphic evidence alone, we could easily be fooled into thinking that nothing had changed.

For example, two inscriptions, one in Ai Khanoum from the reign of Antiochus II (around 240 BCE) and another from Bactria during that of Argeus I are effectively identical and make no mention of local dynasts or powerholders in any way shape or form. The only clear break we see in tradition is that, from 210 or so onwards, we start to see other, local, benefactions in greater numbers. That is to say, these local dynasts begin to promulgate their own letters and benefactions in greater quantities and on larger scales than previously. Under Diomedes, Seleucid inscriptions die off, especially after 200 BCE, and only really pick up again in 182 with the earliest known Argeus I inscription in Bactria. What is also interesting is that, under Argeus I, no fewer than 53 inscriptions have been found across Bactria and Sogdiana, of which 31 are from the period between 180 and 170 BCE. It seems that this period saw extensive benefactions and royally funded building works across both satrapies shortly after Argeus' reconquest in the late 180s, probably as he attempted to consolidate his power and secure his rule. Certainly, Argeus would travel through the Upper Satrapies almost every year between 180 and 178 BCE, fighting several battles and generally trying to prop up his own control in the region.

Alongside Sogdiana and Bactria, Persia was of real concern. This, of course, had been the powerbase of Gorgias Soter and many there still remained loyal to his cause. In 181 BCE, several of Soter's supporters were purged and both trials and 'sudden deaths' would continue throughout the early 170s. Some cities were banned from having walls and a series of new garrisons appear dotted around Persia from the 180s onwards. Perhaps the most drastic impact, however, was Argeus' forced relocation of several thousand Persians in 179 BCE and their movement to Syria. Many of these seem to have been bureaucrats with a few poets and other literary figures and the goal seems to have been largely to help strip some of the cultural 'power' of Persia and bring as many resources back to Syria as possible. Certainly, it was here that Argeus now attempted to create the very centrepiece of his empire. In 177 BCE, Argeus returned to Antioch where he set about repairing much of the damage caused by Aristarchus. Of note, he rebuilt damaged sections of the old Seleucus III-era library, repaired the walls and otherwise encouraged urban growth. In truth, Argeus left a reasonably small impact on Antioch beyond just repairing the damage of the last few decades at least in terms of direct royal building programmes. There are certainly some developments worth noting; the construction of a new shrine to Dionysus just outside of the royal necropolis as well as a brand-new 'Demetrium' to honour his adoptive father, the deceased prince Demetrios. Argeus is also said to have added a new wing to the palace complex. Perhaps the most dramatic addition, at least within the royal necropolis, was the construction of a monumental stoa across from the main entrance to the complex.

Architecturally, the stoa is interesting. It was a two-story stoa (quite unusual in its own way) with two rows of columns in each level. On the ground floor, the columns were largely of the Corinthian order on the outside with thinner Ionic columns on the inside. On the upper level, the order was reversed with Ionic columns on the outside and a series of Corinthian columns on the inside. Entering the complex, a visitor would have been unable to see the tombs at first, hidden as they were by the stoa and were forced either to go around the structure or through it, entering the actual burial grounds through doorways at either end of the structure which would take visitors through low, dark, corridors until they emerged into the bright light of the necropolis and were confronted with the tombs of past Seleucid kings. This was important because it shows a very Hellenistic choice in playing with light and dark in contemporary architecture. That is to say that, for a visitor, the stoa effectively disguised the site until they, quite literally, emerged from the darkness into the bright sunshine and would be met with the grandeur of the old tombs. It also forced the visitor to reckon with the ideology and imagery of Argeus himself. The back wall of the stoa was brightly painted with images of mythological scenes taken from the stories of Dionysus (one of Argeus' own patron god and, as a conqueror of the 'east', a very relevant topic for the king), Herakles (another traveller and conqueror god and one quite popular amongst Argeus' soldiers) and, between both, Apollo the dynastic god of the Seleucids. Placed below these were captured shields and weapons given as dedications from all across the empire. It was, in effect, masterful propaganda. A visitor was not only faced with three gods relevant to Argeus' ideology (all of which he could claim descent from), but a clear reminder of his own many victories and of the sheer scale and diversity of those he had conquered.

Within the complex itself, Argeus also took the time to spruce up the environment. The tombs themselves were reminiscent of old Macedonian tombs; large tumuli with buried architectural elements. They did, however, take things a good few steps further than the old Argead tombs. Of note was their sheer size, a good deal larger than most of the Argead tombs at Aigai and utilising architectural elements in a manner more reminiscent of certain 4th-Century tombs in Thrace rather than in Macedonia. Of course, this was not universal since tomb design had changed over time. For instance, Seleucus 'Nikator's' tomb, built around 179 BCE, is very reminiscent of the tombs at Aigai as are those of Antiochus I, Seleucus II and Antiochus II. From the time of Seleucus III onwards, we see tumuli being raised somewhat both through retaining walls and through positions on higher ground, forcing the visitor to literally climb up to them. This was not usually done in the tombs at Aigai (not deliberately anyway) but is seen in at least one 4th Century Thracian tomb. Exactly which tomb is which is not always clear to us; Tomb A has been positively identified as that of Antiochus II although any grave goods (and the body) are now lost. Tomb B has been suggested as being either Antiochus I or Seleucus II while Tomb C is, sometimes controversially, designated as that of Seleucus Nikator (although some have suggested it to be Antiochus I). Tomb F is the fourth of these 'early' tombs and must be either Antiochus I, Seleucus Nikator or Seleucus II depending on who you ask although it is the smallest of the tombs at the Antioch necropolis. Many of these seem to have been located directly behind the stoa itself, probably because they were built before the site itself was expanded under Argeus II.

Tombs D and E are smaller, and have been positively identified as Seleucus III and Antiochus III respectively such that Tomb G, surprisingly a good deal bigger, is most likely that of Seleucus IV and was probably built by Argeus in the 180s or 70s. By this point, the old boundary of the necropolis was becoming limiting and Argeus I instituted the first expansion to the north around the same time at which he was building the tomb of Seleucus IV. At around the same time, Argeus erected a series of free-standing columns topped with relevant statues; Alexander the Great, Seleucus Nikator, Antiochus II and Apollo. Later, Argeus II would expand the complex dramatically to fit the tomb of his own father. Not far from the site was a second necropolis which has been termed the 'Queen's Necropolis' although the term is somewhat misleading. Here, a series of smaller tumuli were found which were traditionally designated being the tumuli of Seleucid queens. Several were most likely those of queens and Tomb 14 was positively identified as Apama, Seleucus 'Nikator's' wife a few years ago, but not all of them seem to have been. In 2018, archaeologists excavating at the site found a small shrine just outside of Tomb 11 which was identified as a Demetrium, leading to the conclusion that the occupant of Tomb 11 was most likely Demetrios himself. Certainly, literary sources confirm that Argeus paid tribute to both Prince Antiochus (his biological father) and Demetrios at Antioch upon first taking the city, suggesting that this secondary necropolis was reserved for Seleucid royal family members who were not kings.

So why am I talking about this? Well aside from the fact that it is interesting, it has an interesting parallel to what Argeus did in Egypt. His building works on the royal necropolis in Alexandria would have to wait until the 160s and 50s but they were on a much smaller scale due to the more limited space (notably, the royal necropolis in Alexandria was inside the palace complex and, yes, was the burial place of Alexander). Here, Argeus erected another series of statues (although we don't know whether they were on columns) including one of Alexander identical to that in Antioch, Ptolemy I, Ptolemy II and Dionysus. Another series of statues would also be erected at Aigai including Alexander, Philip, Olympias (interestingly enough), and Heracles. These statues seem to have been an attempt to connect these three burial sites and begin to create a joined ideology of royal descent. Argeus' entire claim to power rested on him claiming ties to both the Seleucid and Ptolemaic royal families (and to the Argeads via the Ptolemies). This gave him potential descent from three gods and connections to a lot of powerful kings who were buried all over the place. As such, Argeus was trying to stamp his presence and image all across these burial sites, reinforcing the notion of his own descent from these powerful figures and tying their legacy intimately to himself.

Outside of Antioch, Argeus actually had a much larger impact. Syria would see a series growth in population and urbanisation under Argeus, reaching perhaps as many as 6 million people by around 150 BCE. Antioch, of course, grew as did Seleukeia-on-Orontes and Apamea but population growth has been noted all across Syria and as far as Phoenicia. Sometime around 164 BCE, the city of Tyre would be 'refounded' as an official polis and, by this point, the city seems to have had quite an extensive Greek population alongside its Phoenician population. Of note, Argeus set about a series of major changes to the road networks in southern Syria and Judaea, working to rationalise and join the Ptolemaic and Seleucid road networks more thoroughly to promote trade and interactions. Ports were expanded along the Syrian coast and, through his authority over Cyprus, garrisons established on the island to help protect trade. In particular, Argeus seems to have been at great pains to ensure easy transport between Antioch and Alexandria, probably to help protect his position in Egypt even when he was away. What he never did was fully adjoin the political systems of both. It is interesting that, even in the reign of Argeus II, Cyprus and the Nesiotic League are still referred to as having ties with 'Egypt' or 'the Ptolemies'. At no point did Argeus ever truly attempt to create a uniform system of governance across both regions and, to some degree, Egypt and the Seleucid Empire seem to have been governed both separately and as a single empire. Certainly, the Romans seem to have viewed Argeus as ruling a single unified empire but Argeus' own documentation does not always support this. In Egypt, at least, Argeus still uses Ptolemaic and Egyptian titulary and there is no attempt to replace the old Ptolemaic administration.

Indeed, during the early periods, we see very little cross-movement of administrators either. Anakletos, who took over Sogdiana in 180, is a very rare example of a Greco-Egyptian entering the Seleucid administrative system. While we do hear of a uptake in the numbers of people from Syria, Anatolia, and Central Asia in Egypt, there is no evidence that they were included in the Egyptian administrative system. In some of the more odd cases, we know that cities even in Asia Minor and Greece still paid allegiance to either the Seleucid Empire or Ptolemaic Egypt and Argeus himself doesn't seem to have attempted to really do anything about that since the result was effectively the same. What we certainly do see is a much greater ease (and volume) of movement between Egypt and, especially, Syria during this period. In the 150s, an author claimed that it was not uncommon for people to travel between Antioch and Alexandria on a frequent basis to the point at which he asks whether an Antiochean would have more in common with an Alexandrian than either would with Greeks living elsewhere in Syria or Egypt respectively. Indeed, during the reign of Argeus I, we begin to see references to an identity known as 'Antiochean', a distinct social identity comparable to the 'Alexandrians' of Egypt which would, under his successor, be a legally recognised identity separate from the population of Syria at large.

Movement between major libraries seems to have been quite common under Argeus as well. Certainly, a flourishing industry of literary copying took place as copies of various books were made and moved, probably due to royal orders, between some of the Seleucus III-era libraries. This is, incidentally, confirmed by a note found in excavations near Oxyrhynchus and dating to around 167 BCE. The note in question (designated P. Oxy. 672) is a letter addressed to a scholar at the Library of Alexandria by the name of Irenaeus by a powerful local official enquiring about the arrival of 'those copies ordered from Ant[ioch]'. Incidentally, this same Irenaeus would later become the head of the library in 162 BCE and is known to have spent in Antioch, visiting both the king and library on several occasions. Later, a young Euphemios is known to have travelled extensively between Alexandria and Antioch and his work on the Siege of Tyre actually had two copies made from the outset, one for each library.

This does not mean that Antioch was a capital city. Argeus, in fact, returned to the system of several 'royal cities' including Pella, Sardis, Seleukeia (refounded in 184 BCE), Babylon (because Seleukeia, in 180 BCE, was still small and badly damaged), Ecbatana and Alexandria amongst others. However, Antioch and Alexandria do appear in our sources as the most prominent of these although we should note that that is, in part, because they were the two main literary centres of the empire and produced a lot of written sources and thus have a certain bias in their perception. Still, the general centre of Seleucid power under Argeus does appear to have been largely based around the Levant, running up from Egypt to Syria, a region which absolutely flourished in the 2nd Century. Syria is the most dramatic example of growth but Judaea also seems to have seen some reasonably largescale development, partly because of Argeus' own good relationship with the Jewish population, a holdover from the Ptolemies who had also enjoyed good relations with the Jews, both in Judaea and in Egypt itself. Jewish soldiers continued to be an important part of Argeus' armies and it is said that he maintained a personal bodyguard comprised mostly of Jewish and Nubian soldiers from his own campaigns in Nubia in the 190s.

Chapter Forty: The Roman Problem


Okay, let's step back a few years now because one area has gone rather unremarked upon for the last few decades; Macedonia and Greece. See, in the great political divisions of the late 3rd and early 2nd Centuries, Greece and Macedonia played a surprisingly small role. I small surprisingly because compare this to, say, the rise of Antiochus II or the role of the Greeks even during the rebellions against Antiochus I in the early-mid 3rd Century. When you remember the difficulties faced by the first three or so Seleucid kings in Greece and Macedonia, the relative silence of the region in the chaos of the early 2nd Century is astonishing. However, the reason for this is that many of the Macedonians who had come with Antiochus II in 260 BCE had, by now, long since settled into the centre of the empire in Syria and, to a lesser degree, Mesopotamia. In fact, despite the efforts of Antiochus II to increase the population of Macedonia, the 3rd Century had seen a continued movement of peoples away from the region and towards the heartlands of the empire. In particular, reasonably large numbers of Greeks and Macedonians appear in southern Asia Minor and Syria with other migrations south towards Egypt seeking fortune, fame, stability or a dozen other things.

This had increasingly helped centralise many important figures within the region stretching from Asia Minor down to Mesopotamia. Similarly, the concurrent rise of central Asian interests within the army, the lack of a queen of Macedonian birth following the death of Kleopatra had served to dramatically weaken the influence of Macedonia at court. Even under Diomedes, power continued to rest more firmly in the hands of Macedonians of Syrian origin than it did in those of Macedonians from Macedonia. The issue is, however, that events hadn't stopped moving in Greece and Macedonia during this period. Following a high point of Seleucid influence under Seleucus III, influence from the empire had begun to decline dramatically throughout the beginning of the 2nd Century. This, of course, was very aggressively aided by the increasing encroachment of the Romans.

See, at the end of the 3rd Century, the Romans had emerged victorious from a bloody struggle with the Carthaginian general Hannibal. By about 203 BCE, the Romans were in possession of much of the western Mediterranean and, remember, Illyria. While the Seleucid kings were coming under the influence of Diomedes, Roman power waxed large across the seas, spreading outwards in every direction including into Greece. In Epirus, you may recall, the Seleucids had effectively been left in control of the kingdom by about 215 BCE through the regency of Stratonice over her grandson, Helenus backed up by Seleucid forces under the command of general Isidoros. Stratonice, it is worth remembering, was the daughter of Antiochus I and wife of Ptolemy I of Epirus. Until her death in 210 BCE, Stratonice effectively held her grandson in a vice-grip, a period during which Isidoros became more and more of a feature at court. The result was such that, when Stratonice died, Isidoros stepped in with relatively little bloodshed to take control of the regency. The same year, of course, saw the death of Seleucus III and, only two years later, the death of his son Antiochus III.

Back in Macedonia, however, the 210s had seen the rise of Callistratus, the son of Heron, a Seleucid military commander who had played a role in the rise of Seleucid power in Epirus back in the 220s. Heron had ordered an intervention in Epirus in response to Roman advances in 226 BCE and was ultimately demoted for it although the very doctrine he had practiced in Epirus, which is to say propping up the Epirote kings as puppets, was readily taken up by the Seleucids. As a result, Heron remained somewhat popular and successful in Macedonia until his death in 218 BCE after which there seems to have been no issue in bringing his family back into the fold. In 217 BCE, his son Callistratus took up a command in Macedonia and, in part due to his aristocratic connections and the success of the Seleucid policy in Epirus, became satrap around 214 BCE. This was aided by a close relationship between Callistratus and the family of Isidoros into which he was married around 220 or 219 BCE. With this in mind, it's very likely that Isidoros effectively used his position as the main Seleucid general in the region (first in Macedonia and then, after 215, in Epirus) to ally himself with Heron's family and helped Callistratus' own rise to power. For the Seleucid government back in Syria, the good relationship between Callistratus and Isidoros promised a positive and effective governance over the region for years to come. And for years, it did.

In 208 BCE, Diomedes took the executive step of centralising the western satrapies into one and created the, very unpopularly named, 'western satrapy'. Under this, Macedonia, Epirus and Thrace were subsumed under the overall command of Callistratus. The name itself drew huge criticism and, only a couple of years later, it was renamed to the 'Kingdom of Macedonia' and Callistratus would be referred to only as 'Royal Representative'. This naming convention, incidentally, would remain under Argeus I. In effect, the Kingdom of Macedonia would remain intact as a semi-separate political entity to that of the Seleucid empire albeit under the same king and broadly the same government policies. Again, think of something similar (but not identical) to a personal union. It isn't a one-to-one comparison but the similarities are not necessarily entirely inappropriate. It certainly can come across as confusing the way that, under Argeus, the Seleucid, Macedonian, and Ptolemaic kingdoms are sometimes treated as three separate entities and yet act as one. It is also interesting that Diomedes gave way here and it seems that the concession to the Macedonians was something of an acknowledgement that he simply couldn't deal with a revolt there just now and didn't care enough to try.

Still, the situation worked well enough for now. In fact, under Callistratus, Seleucid power expanded in Greece. After 208 BCE, Callistratus and Isidoros expanded Seleucid military installations in Epirus and, following the death of king Helenus in 204 BCE at the age of 38, they installed his son, Pyrrhus III as king at only 14. In Greece, Callistratus maintained and expanded Seleucid fortifications and acted effectively instead of the king at meetings of the Hellenic league. Under his auspices, this became ever more closely tied to Seleucid foreign policy and votes were pushed through creating a joint army to be led by two generals, one chosen by the league itself and one appointed by the Seleucid king which is to say appointed by Callistratus. Callistratus, of course, appointed himself to take up this position in a move which surprised absolutely nobody. By 203 BCE, Seleucid agents began appearing more and more throughout Boeotia and Attica and, finally, in 202 BCE, Callistratus himself appeared before the Athenian assembly to argue for the establishment of a 'royal protection force' in the Piraeus, quite neatly sidestepping the obvious issue that this was very similar to the garrisons established by the Antigonids in the 3rd Century. While he was rejected in 202 BCE, Callistratus would establish a garrison near Megara.

On that point, Callistratus faced quite distinct opposition from both the Peloponnesians and the Aetolians throughout the late 3rd Century. In particular, the Achaean and Aetolian Leagues came to rival Callistratus' influence on several fronts and, during the period between 208 and 198 BCE, began aligning themselves with the next major power in the chain... Rome. In 200 BCE, a war broke out between the Hellenic League (see: Callistratus) and the Achaean League over the issue of Corinth. See, Corinth had been approached by the Achaean League to join in protection against Callistratus who, in turn, had encouraged the Hellenic League to make its own approach to the city. Callistratus had then attempted to win Corinth over by offering to grant the city preferential terms in its trade with the Seleucid empire (something he probably wasn't actually allowed or able to promise the city) including exemptions from taxes in several Syrian ports (something he certainly wasn't able to grant). Corinth accepted the offer on the understanding that Callistratus promised not to establish any garrisons within the city limits although a permanent diplomat would be allowed. Callistratus accepted, seeing an opportunity to expand his influence in the Peloponnese, at which point Athens found out about the deal and threw a tantrum.

Worried that the Corinthians would be granted tax exemptions that would threaten the, until then, dominant Athenian trade with the Seleucid empire (Athens appears to have been one of the major ports of import for goods moving from the east during the 3rd Century) and outraged by the apparently lower levels of oversight, the Athenians sent a delegate to Callistratus to complain. When they were pawned off without an answer, they returned to the city in anger. However, the situation was soon to change again. See, by this point, the Corinthians had begun to realise that Callistratus had fed them a lot of bullshit and he had been rebuffed several times by Diomedes on the question of lowered taxes on Corinthians, leading to him returning with ever worsening deals. The Corinthians promptly tried to back out of the agreement at which point Callistratus pulled the rug out and told them 'no, you can't leave'. The Corinthians turned to the Achaeans and war broke out. The war would last some two years before Corinth eventually surrendered and a garrison was established. Between 198 and 195 BCE, then, the Seleucids (Callistratus) would maintain garrisons at the Acrocorinth and along the diolkos, the road running across the Isthmus.

In response to this, the Achaeans reached out to the Romans for the first time. Bare in mind, of course, that the Romans were one of the major powers of the Mediterranean and their own... distrust of the Seleucids was far from unknown. In 194 BCE, just as Aristarchus began his own march on Antioch and the rest of the empire fell into chaos, the Romans began their own movements. They were helped by a series of events beyond Callistratus' own control; in 195 BCE, Isidoros died and his replacement, Philistratus, proved remarkably unable to actually maintain the same authority in Epirus that Isidoros had. The result was that, in 194 BCE, Philistratus was faced with an internal coup by Helenus' brother, Ptolemy, which he barely managed to put down. Ptolemy escaped the city and fled north to Epirus where he too asked the Romans for help. The result was that, in 194 BCE, the Romans agreed to intervene in Greece for the first time. This would become known as the Callistratid War, mostly because the main protagonist on the Seleucid side was Callistratus.

For the next three years, the Romans would fight a long war against Callistratus in Epirus, the Peloponnese, and Aetolia. The Roman army, led by Scipio Africanus (consul for the second time in 194 BCE), scored several major victories during the first year of the war and Pyrrhus III was overthrown in favour of Ptolemy II who would become effectively a Roman client king in the region. However, following the end of Africanus' consulship, the campaigns of 193 BCE proved slow going. Seleucid garrisons in southern Epirus and Acharnania (the regions taken by Pyrrhus in the 3rd Century) fought hard but, caught between the Romans and Aetolian attacks, they found themselves outmanoeuvred and forced to surrender. In the north, Callistratus defeated a Roman attack on Macedonia in 193 BCE but was unable to prevent the Achaeans making headway in the south. Another Roman push in 192 BCE forced Callistratus to try and respond in both Macedonia and Lokris against Roman and Aetolian forces while the Achaeans managed to break through the garrison on the Acrocorinth and take the city (with the help of the Corinthians themselves). In the aftermath, Seleucid forces on the diolkos were destroyed and the Achaeans raided Attica but were driven off by Seleucid forces.

By 191 BCE, Callistratus was clearly on the defensive and, with no actual centralised support coming, was forced to come to terms with the Romans by himself. In the treaty of 191 BCE, Callistratus was forced to abandon Epirus, Corinth and any territories in Acharnania as well as to disband several fortifications in Lokris. The 'Seleucids' (which is to say Callistratus who, really, wasn't allowed to make such promises) also agreed to pay a war indemnity to the Romans and the Aetolians and were to turn over Pyrrhus, who had fled to Macedonia to the Romans. In the end, however, Callistratus would prove unable to actually turn over Pyrrhus who, fearing his arrest, fled further east into the chaos of the Seleucid empire where he would remain until the early 170s when Argeus would 'rediscover' him.

With that said, if the 190s were bad time for Callistratus, the 180s were even worse. See, in 189 BCE, Callistratus died. With no real guidance coming from Diomedes, power passed rather bloodlessly to his son, Alexander. Under Alexander, Seleucid power continued to wane in Greece despite the relationship between the Achaeans and Rome beginning to fray. Simply put, the Romans still didn't really want any Seleucid resurgence and continued to take steps to counter it. In 188 BCE, taking advantage of Alexander's recent rise to power, Roman delegates were sent to 'inspect' the frontier to 'ensure' the Seleucids 'kept their side of the bargain'. This, of course, became an excuse to demand several more concessions from Alexander including the removal of more fortifications and an extra indemnity. Fearing that he couldn't beat the Romans, Alexander backed down, a move which would become something of a trend for him. Indeed, over the next few years, Alexander would be compelled to abandon more forts, including (following the threat of a Roman intervention) all those in Boeotia and Attica as well as agreeing that no Seleucid soldier would ever step foot west of the Pindos mountains. It's unclear whether the Romans knew that Alexander couldn't really make any of these deals or whether, if they did know, they even cared. As far as the Romans were concerned they were legally binding enough to justify whatever actions they needed. The problem was that, back in the Seleucid heartland, they held absolutely no legitimacy.​
Good update, and hope you enjoyed your vacation.

I have a feeling the Selecuids will survive (unlike OTL) but they will be reduced to Syria/Mesopotamia in TTL...
Thanks for the chapter!!!

As far as the Romans were concerned they were legally binding enough to justify whatever actions they needed. The problem was that, back in the Seleucid heartland, they held absolutely no legitimacy.
The seeds of conflict have been planted and the clash of titans is coming, cant wait for the next chapter
See, at the end of the 3rd Century, the Romans had emerged victorious from a bloody struggle with the Carthaginian general Hannibal
What happened to Hannibal after the war? On our timeline he fled to the Seleucids, but what about this one?
What's the fate of Titus Quinctius Flamininus of OTL Cynocephalae fame and the peace faction he led (as opposed to the pro-war faction of the Scipio brothers)?
Looking forward to the Rome-Seleucid clashes here, and good update.

Waiting for more, of course...
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Loved this TL, together with "Actium: two Caesars are not enough" it's the best rendition of politics in the ancient world, with all of its Clientelism, Patronage, tradition, Right, etc... hoping it will be continued.
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