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Antiochus III the Great

Antiochus III the Great (a misconception of Megas Basileous (Great king), the title of the Persian kings which he adopted), 223-187 BC, Seleucus II Callinicus's younger son, a youth of about eighteen, succeeded to a disorganized kingdom (223) as ruler of the Seleucid dynasty.

Not only was Asia Minor detached, but the further eastern provinces had broken away, Bactria under the Greek Diodotus[?], and Parthia under the nomad chieftain Arsaces. Soon after Antiochus's accession, Media and Persia revolted under their governors, the brothers Molon and Alexander.

The young king was in the hands of the bad minister Hermeias, and was induced to make an attack on Palestine instead of going in person to face the rebels. The attack on Palestine was a fiasco, and the generals sent against Molon and Alexander met with disaster. Only in Asia Minor, where the Seleucid cause was represented by the king's cousin, the able Achaeus[?], was its prestige restored and the Pergamene power driven back to its earlier limits.

In 221 BC Antiochus at last went east, and the rebellion of Molon and Alexander collapsed. The submission of Lesser Media, which had asserted its independence under Artabazanes[?], followed. Antiochus rid himself of Hermeias by assassination and returned to Syria (220 BC). Meanwhile Achaeus himself had revolted and assumed the title of king in Asia Minor. Since, however, his power was not well enough grounded to allow of his attacking Syria, Antiochus considered that he might leave Achaeus for the present and renew his attempt on Palestine.

The campaigns of 219 BC and 218 BC carried the Seleucid arms almost to the confines of Egypt, but in 217 BC Ptolemy IV confronted Antiochus at Raphia[?] and inflicted a defeat upon him which nullified all Antiochus's successes and compelled him to withdraw north of the Lebanon. In 216 BC Antiochus went north to deal with Achaeus, and had by 214 BC driven him from the field into Sardis. Antiochus contrived to get possession of the person of Achaeus (see Polybius), but the citadel held out till 213 BC under Achaeus's widow and then surrendered.

Having thus recovered the central part of Asia Minor--for the dynasties in Pergamum, Bithynia and Cappadocia the Seleucid government was obliged to tolerate--Antiochus turned to recover the outlying provinces of the north and east. Xerxes of Armenia[?] was brought to acknowledge his supremacy in 212 BC. In 209 BC Antiochus invaded Parthia, occupied the capital Hecatompylus[?] and pushed forward into Hyrcania. The Parthian king was apparently granted peace on his submission. In 209 BC Antiochus was in Bactria, where the original rebel had been supplanted by another Greek Euthydemus. The issue was again favourable to Antiochus. After sustaining a famous siege in his capital Bactra (Balkh), Euthydemus obtained an honourable peace by which the hand of one of Antiochus's daughters was promised to his son Demetrius.

Antiochus next, following in the steps of Alexander, crossed into the Kabul valley, received the homage of the Indian king Sophagasenus[?] and returned west by way of Seistan and Kerman (206/5). From Seleucia on the Tigris he led a short expedition down the Persian Gulf against the Gerrhaeans of the Arabian coast (205 BC/204 BC). Antiochus seemed to have restored the Seleucid empire in the east, and the achievement brought him the title of "the Great King." In 205 BC/204 BC the infant Ptolemy V Epiphanes succeeded to the Egyptian throne, and Antiochus conduded a secret pact with Philip of Macedonia for the partition of the Ptolemaic possessions.

Once more Antiochus attacked Palestine, and by 199 BC he seems to have had possession of it. It was, however, recovered for Ptolemy by the Aetolian Scopas[?]. But the recovery was brief, for in 198 BC Scopas was defeated by Antiochus at the battle of Panium, near the sources of the Jordan, a battle which marks the end of Ptolemaic rule in Palestine.

Antiochus then moved to Asia Minor to secure the coast towns which had acknowledged Ptolemy and the independent Greek cities. It was this enterprise which brought him into antagonism with Rome, since Smyrna and Lampsacus appealed to the republic of the west, and the tension became greater after Antiochus had in 196 BC established afooting in Thrace. The evacuation of Greece by the Romans gave Antiochus his opportunity, and he now had the fugitive Hannibal at his court to urge him on.

In 192 BC Antiochus invaded Greece, having the Aetolians and other Greek states as his allies. In 191 BC , however, he was routed at Thermopylae by the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio, and obliged to withdraw to Asia. But the Romans followed up their success by attacking Antiochus in Asia Minor, and the decisive victory of Scipio Asiaticus at Magnesia ad Sipylum[?] (190 BC), following the defeat of Hannibal at sea off Side, gave Asia Minor into their hands.

By the peace of Apamea (188 BC) the Seleucid king abandoned all the country north of the Taurus, which was distributed among the friends of Rome. As a consequence of this blow to the Seleucid power, the outlying provinces of the empire, recovered by Antiochus, reasserted their independence. Antiochus perished in a fresh expedition to the east in Luristan (187 BC). The Seleucid kingdom as Antiochus left it to his son, Seleucus IV Philopator.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Preceded by:
Seleucus III Ceraunus
Seleucid dynasty Succeeded by:
Seleucus IV Philopator



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