Ancient Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 4: The Ancient World's Fragile Giant - The Seleucid Empire at war

Ancient Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 4: The  Ancient World's Fragile Giant - The Seleucid Empire at war

Ancient Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 4: The Ancient World's Fragile Giant - The Seleucid Empire at war

The Seleucid Empire was the middle of the three main successor states that emerged from the empire of Alexander the Great, sitting between Macedonia and Ptolemaic Egypt. At its largest extend the Empire spread from the Mediterranean to the borders of India and included most of Alexander's Asia conquests, but it was weakened by a series of Syrian Wars with Egypt, lost its eastern provinces to the Parthians and eventually fell foul of the Romans. The greatest of the later Seleucid emperors, Antiochus III the Great, was defeated by the Romans and the Empire never really recovered from the defeat of his son Antiochus IV at the hands of the Parthians in 129 BC. Despite these setbacks the last remnants of the empire survived until 66 BC when the last emperor was deposed with remarkable ease by Pompey during his victorious campaign in the east.

This issue starts with a longer than usual historical introduction, following the rise and fall of the Seleucid Empire, with accounts of the actions of the more capable emperors. Next we look at the rise of Seleucus himself, an impressive figure who rose from being a senior officer towards the end of Alexander's life to securing the largest empire of any of the successors, despite suffering from a series of setbacks during his career. There is then an interesting reconstruction of the appearance of a member of the Seleucid Imperial Guard.

Next comes a look at the war elephants of the Seleucid army. For much of its existence the Empire had fairly easy access to India and so fielded the most impressive force of war elephants in the eastern Mediterranean. Here we look at how they were raised and used and their successes and failures (including playing a part in the Roman victory at Magnesia). Other articles on the main theme look at Hannibal's time at the court of Antiochus III, helping to explain why he wasn't used as much as we might expect, the naval war between Rome and Antiochus III (including a rare victory for Antiochus won with the help of treachery), and a look at the reforms of the army introduced by Antiochus IV, an untested attempt to cope with the Romans. This is an interesting theme and these articles provide a good introduction to the subject.

Away from the main theme there is an interesting reconstruction of Agamemnon's chest armour, based on a mix of archaeology and Homer's descriptions, and that produced a very beautiful piece of work, and a convincing argument that Roman cavalry helms might have been used for more than just parade duties.

The Seleucid Empire: Historical Introduction
The rise of Seleucus: Seizing Alexander's Asian conquests
Seleucid Royal Guard: An officer of the middle third century BC
Beasts of Battle: Seleucid war elephants
A meeting of great minds: Hannibal at the court of Antiochus the Great
The revenge of Polyxenidas: The naval war with Antiochus the Great, 191-190 BC
A mysterious wall in Caria: The mainland wall of Iasus
The army of Antiochus IV: Organization and structure of the late Seleucid army
Raising the shade of Agamemnon: Reconstructing Homeric armour
Roman cavalry helmets from Hadrian's Wall: Were 'parade' helmets used in actual combat?

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