The Rise of the Seleukid Empire 323-223 BC

The Rise of the Seleukid Empire 323-223 BC

John D Grainger
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
For most of us the “Seleukids*” are a very vague memory from what we've read of the expansion of the Roman Empire, mainly due to the Romans being one of the few original sources available to us. I knew almost nothing about them when I asked for this title to review, which I “lost” about halfway through and then had to replace, just, as you've no doubt guessed, to find the “lost” copy after I'd received its replacement.

I was on an adventure in new knowledge, and our guide on this journey is a former teacher with a particular interest in the Classical and Hellenistic Greek periods with a number of titles previously published covering these periods. This is a reprint of the title which was originally published in 2014.

This book is the first volume of a trilogy, covering the complete history of the Seleukid Empire, the further volumes being “The Seleukid Kingdom of Antiochus III” and “The Fall of the Seleukid Empire”. In the introduction the author explains why we know so little of the Seleukid Empire and how the Roman's view of the Empire has prevailed through all this time.

We start with the death of Alexander the Great, which threw his vast Empire into disarray and led to the wars of the diadochi. Seleukos, who started as an officer in an Elite guard unit emerged as ruler of the largest and richest part of Alexander's Empire, he then goes on to explain how he started to rule the Empire and how this differed from others of Alexander's successors and integrated the locals with his mixture of Greek and Macedonian administrators and soldiers. We watch as he expands his holdings and how he subsequently intends to hold what he has by founding, or in some cases re-founding for both revenue raising and military reasons.

After covering Seleukos's conquests we learn of his murder and the succession and how his heir meets the various challenges thrown up by this. We follow the various campaign's and events through the dynasty Seleukos founded through the time frame given at the start.

The book is well written and the narrative is engaging, my sole complaint is the mapping. To cover such a lengthy period I would have hoped for copious mapping illustrating the events in a clear chronological order, unfortunately, the mapping is limited to three maps, all at the start of the book. Again the fault of this is more likely to lie with the editor and not the author, I would have preferred more maps to help illustrate the various events as one reads through, not having to constantly flip back to the beginning to the limited mapping provided.

* As there is dispute as to whether it should be Seleukid or Seleucid I have deferred to the spelling preferred by the Author; he knows a lot more than I do.

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