Seleukid Ideology: Creation, Reception and Response 9783515134781, 3515134786

Seleukid Perspectives explore the largest successor kingdom to Alexander the Great's empire. Seleukid kings establi

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Table of contents :
Preface of the Series Editors
Preface of the Volume Editors
List of Figures
1. Richard Wenghofer and Altay Coşkun — Introduction: The Dialectics of Seleukid Ideology
Section I: Formation of Seleukid Dynastic Ideology
2. Kyle Erickson — Royal Propaganda and the Creation of Royal Status for Seleukos I
3. Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides — The King-Ship of the Seleukids: An Alternative Paradigm for the Anchor Symbol
4. Altay Coşkun — The First Seleukid Benefactions in Miletos and the Creation of a Dynastic Ideology
Section II: Enacting Seleukid Kingship
5. Babett Edelmann-Singer — Material Culture, Ritual Performance, and Seleukid Rule: Antiochos IV and the Procession at Daphne in 166 BCE
6. Stephen Harrison — Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis: A Comparative Perspective on the Seleukid Vision of Empire
7. Rolf Strootman — Ritual Mutilation and the Construction of Treason: The Execution of Molon and Achaios by Antiochos III
8. Benjamin E. Scolnic — Second-Hand Propaganda: Polybios and Zeno on the Role of Antiochos IV at the Battle of Panion
Section III: Resisting Seleukid Royal Authority
9. Deirdre Klokow — Connectivity and Rural Spaces in the Seleukid Empire
10. Gillian Ramsey — Rebel Poleis: The Politics of Anti-Seleukid Violence
Section IV: Reframing Seleukid Ideology
11. Germain Payen — Le royaume artaxiade dans l’Empire séleucide: de dominé à dominant
12. Benjamin E. Scolnic — Śar Wars – How a Judaean Author in the 160’s BCE Transformed a Ptolemaic View of Hellenistic History into a Theology for His Time
13. Eran Almagor — “To All Parts of the Kingdom”: The Book of Esther as a Seleukid Text
Section V: Re-Assessing Seleukid Ideology
14. Richard Wenghofer — Diplomatic Resistance to Seleukid Hegemony
15. Altay Coşkun — The Efficacy of Ideological Discourse: Loyalty to the Seleukid Dynasty in Babylonia, Judaea, and Asia Minor
About the Authors
Index of Names
Index of Sources
Recommend Papers

Seleukid Ideology: Creation, Reception and Response
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Seleukid Ideology Creation, Reception and Response Edited by Altay Coşkun and Richard Wenghofer

Seleukid Perspectives | 1 Geschichte Franz Steiner Verlag Franz Steiner Verlag


contubernium Tübinger Beiträge zur Universitäts- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte

Seleukid Perspectives Edited by Altay Coşkun and Benjamin Scolnic Editorial Board Laetitia Graslin-Thomé, David Engels, and Kyle Erickson Editorial Assistant Deirdre Klokow Volume 1

Seleukid Ideology Creation, Reception and Response Edited by Altay Coşkun and Richard Wenghofer

Franz Steiner Verlag

Cover illustration: Tetradrachm of king Seleukos I, issued by Philetairos, Pergamon, ca. 281/80 BCE. Reverse depicting elephant (facing right), Seleukid anchor (below), and bee as control mark (above); BAΣIΛEΩΣ // ΣEΛEYKOY. Münzkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, no. 18203077. Photo Dirk Sonnenwald. (Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0) Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek: Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. Dieses Werk einschließlich aller seiner Teile ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwertung außerhalb der engen Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist unzulässig und strafbar. © Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2023 Druck: Beltz Grafische Betriebe, Bad Langensalza Gedruckt auf säurefreiem, alterungsbeständigem Papier. Printed in Germany. ISBN 978-3-515-13478-1 (Print) ISBN 978-3-515-13479-8 (E-Book)

Seleukid Perspectives Edited by Altay Coşkun and Benjamin Scolnic Editorial Board Laetitia Graslin-Thomé, David Engels, and Kyle Erickson Editorial Assistant Deirdre Klokow Volume 1

Seleukid Ideology Creation, Reception and Response Edited by Altay Coşkun and Richard Wenghofer

Franz Steiner Verlag

Cover illustration: Tetradrachm of king Seleukos I, issued by Philetairos, Pergamon, ca. 281/80 BCE. Reverse depicting elephant (facing right), Seleukid anchor (below), and bee as control mark (above); BAΣIΛEΩΣ // ΣEΛEYKOY. Münzkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, no. 18203077. Photo Dirk Sonnenwald. (Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0) Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek: Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. Dieses Werk einschließlich aller seiner Teile ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwertung außerhalb der engen Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist unzulässig und strafbar. © Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2023 Druck: Beltz Grafische Betriebe, Bad Langensalza Gedruckt auf säurefreiem, alterungsbeständigem Papier. Printed in Germany. ISBN 978-3-515-13478-1 (Print) ISBN 978-3-515-13479-8 (E-Book)

CONTENTS Preface of the Series Editors.................................................................................... 7 Preface of the Volume Editors ................................................................................ 9 List of Figures........................................................................................................ 11 1. Richard Wenghofer and Altay Coşkun Introduction: The Dialectics of Seleukid Ideology ............................................... 13 SECTION I: FORMATION OF SELEUKID DYNASTIC IDEOLOGY 2. Kyle Erickson Royal Propaganda and the Creation of Royal Status for Seleukos I ..................... 33 3. Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides The King-Ship of the Seleukids: An Alternative Paradigm for the Anchor Symbol ..................................................................................................... 61 4. Altay Coşkun The First Seleukid Benefactions in Miletos and the Creation of a Dynastic Ideology ................................................................................................. 93 SECTION II: ENACTING SELEUKID KINGSHIP 5. Babett Edelmann-Singer Material Culture, Ritual Performance, and Seleukid Rule: Antiochos IV and the Procession at Daphne in 166 BCE .......................................................... 115 6. Stephen Harrison Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis: A Comparative Perspective on the Seleukid Vision of Empire ...................................................................... 135 7. Rolf Strootman Ritual Mutilation and the Construction of Treason: The Execution of Molon and Achaios by Antiochos III ................................................................. 159 8. Benjamin E. Scolnic Second-Hand Propaganda: Polybios and Zeno on the Role of Antiochos IV at the Battle of Panion ................................................................... 177



SECTION III: RESISTING SELEUKID ROYAL AUTHORITY 9. Deirdre Klokow Connectivity and Rural Spaces in the Seleukid Empire ...................................... 201 10. Gillian Ramsey Rebel Poleis: The Politics of Anti-Seleukid Violence ....................................... 219 SECTION IV: REFRAMING SELEUKID IDEOLOGY 11. Germain Payen Le royaume artaxiade dans l’Empire séleucide: de dominé à dominant ............. 237 12. Benjamin E. Scolnic Śar Wars – How a Judaean Author in the 160’s BCE Transformed a Ptolemaic View of Hellenistic History into a Theology for His Time ................ 261 13. Eran Almagor “To All Parts of the Kingdom”: The Book of Esther as a Seleukid Text ............ 283 SECTION V: RE-ASSESSING SELEUKID IDEOLOGY 14. Richard Wenghofer Diplomatic Resistance to Seleukid Hegemony ................................................... 319 15. Altay Coşkun The Efficacy of Ideological Discourse: Loyalty to the Seleukid Dynasty in Babylonia, Judaea, and Asia Minor................................................................. 343 About the Authors ............................................................................................... 367 Index of Names.................................................................................................... 371 Index of Sources .................................................................................................. 381

PREFACE OF THE SERIES EDITORS Seleukid Perspectives explores the kingdom that continues to fascinate students of history because of its wide geographical span, multicultural population, and unending dynastic and political turmoil. The Seleukid Empire was the largest successor to Alexander the Great’s empire and once extended from Asia Minor to the Hindukush. Hellenistic history is en vogue, and it seems that the Seleukids have dethroned the long-time favourite Ptolemies in the recent wave of scholarly production. The number of books on the Seleukids published in the past decade alone dwarfs the contributions to the field made throughout the previous century. This goes along with many conferences and their published proceedings, most of all the Seleukid Study Days and the Nancy conferences, both of which have emphasized a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach. The present book series has derived from the loosely defined Seleukid Study Group that had its start in numbered gatherings in 2011 but actually goes back to the Exeter conference in 2008. Some of the conferences coalesced as book projects: SSD III (Bordeaux 2012) became The Seleukid Empire 281-222 BC: War Within the Family, ed. by K. Erikson, Swansea 2018. SSD IV (Montreal, 2013) became Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire, ed. by A. Coşkun and A. McAuley, Stuttgart 2016. SSD V (Brussels 2015) became Rome and the Seleukid East, ed. by A. Coşkun and D. Engels, Brussels 2019.

When faced with the obstacle of the Covid-19 pandemic, a dynamic digital format was created, to continue this international cooperation. Since May 2021, the monthly Seleukid Lecture Series (SLS) has offered a popular platform for work in progress and typically involves students, early researchers, and established scholars alike. The online program allows for watching the recordings of past events and announces upcoming lectures ( The idea to streamline the publication of original Seleukid research in a book series was born in summer 2022 when work on the volume Seleukid Ideology was nearing submission for peer review and several other book projects were in progress or planning. Our proposal met with an enthusiastic response from Katharina Stüdemann at Franz Steiner Verlag, whose efficiency and attractive conditions we already knew well. We were likewise pleased that our colleagues Laetitia Graslin-Thomé (Nancy), David Engels (Poznań / Warsaw), and Kyle Erickson (Lampeter) accepted


Preface of the Series Editors

our invitation to serve on the editorial board, which assists us with advice and the organization of peer review. We were very lucky that Deirdre Klokow (still a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California at the time of writing) was willing to become our editorial assistant. The release of the first volume would have taken so much longer without her diligence and energy. The first volume of this new series, Seleukid Perspectives, is partly a product of SSD VI (North Bay 2017) and partly of SLS (2021–2022), as will be explained in the Preface of the Volume Editors. Its focus on matters of ideology is both trendy and traditional in that this area has always represented a major emphasis of Hellenistic research but is now pursued with a growing range of theoretical approaches, sources in more than Greek or Latin, and from diverse international perspectives. We are particularly grateful to Laetitia Graslin-Thomé for organizing anonymous peer review of this first volume. We already have a line-up of more Seleukid book projects, hoping to publish volumes 2 on military matters and 3 on Jewish perspectives in 2024, and about three further volumes in the two years thereafter. Once we have dealt with the backlog, we shall also accept submissions from outside the Seleukid Study Group. It is our hope that Seleukid Perspectives will contribute to the stimulating dialogue that is the hallmark of this field. February 2023

Hamden, CT Benjamin Edidin Scolnic

Waterloo, ON Altay Coşkun

PREFACE OF THE VOLUME EDITORS Every book has a history of at least two parts. The first ends with the submission of the book to the press, the second starts thereafter. As editors, we would like to share with our readers some insights into the former, while leaving the latter to our hopes. The roots of this book go back to the beginning of our friendship in 2012. From early on, Seleukid history and modern political theory were among the preferred topics of our convivial conversations. They became the focus of our scholarly cooperation from Seleukid Study Day III on (Bordeaux, September 2012). By 2016, we decided to co-organize a Seleukid Study Day at Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, and we settled on a topic that naturally derived from the previous workshops, then also including Seleukid Study Day IV (Montreal 2013) and V (Brussels 2015). Since all our literary, epigraphic, numismatic, and visual sources on the Seleukids are so heavily imbued with ideological constructs, at times even in multiple and conflicting layers, we felt a more systematic approach was an important desideratum. Historians of the Hellenistic age have always shown some awareness of this aspect. They had thus already begun questioning the 19th-century frameworks that were either Christian-teleological (appreciating the spread of Greek to pave the way to the Gospel) or Nationalistic (decrying inter-ethnic marriages and intercultural exchange as decay). The narrowness of colonial perspectives had also become visible and insufficient in the face of the diversity and complexity of Seleukid materials. Yet, many historical narratives still carried forward uncritical readings of the partisan and moralizing Greek sources, echoed the prejudice of Seleukid weakness as a result of its cultural hybridity, or were slow to overcome the one-sided emphasis on Greek agency at the Macedonian courts. Seleukid Study Day VI thus encouraged the systematic analysis of ideology in all its appearances and sought to focus on the reception of and response to ideological messages. We tried to explore which impact the selections, additions, nuances, and reconfigurations from the perspective of the subjects, vassals, and neighbours had on the ideological discourse, as we find it in our sources. We gradually saw more clearly that all ideology is communication, hence also the legends and symbols shaped at the early-Seleukid court were designed in a dialectic process involving predecessors, neighbours, and subjects. The workshop on Seleukid Ideology resulted in a stimulating event, yet manuscripts came in slowly. Some of the participants had presented work in progress at an early stage, while others had committed their research elsewhere and did not want to duplicate publication. Three of the papers formed part of or developed into


Richard Wenghofer and Altay Coşkun

independent book projects.1 Thus only four of the chapters of the present volume go back to earlier versions delivered in North Bay (Rolf Strootman, Germain Payen) or committed to the planned volume in 2017 (Babett Edelmann-Singer, Gillian Ramsey). We are grateful to these authors for their patience with us, and their revisions and updates (mostly in 2022). In 2018, our concentration shifted to the publication of the proceedings of Seleukid Study Day V and the preparation of the upcoming Seleukid Study Day VII (Sopot near Gdańsk 2019). The two of us continued our work on our own related research areas, Richard on the reaction to the Seleukids by the Greek poleis and Altay on the ambiguous Judaean-Seleukid relations. The conference Culture and Ideology under the Seleucids: An Interdisciplinary Approach, organized by Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides (Macquarie University, Sydney, 29-31 March 2019) revived our interest and allowed us to present important chapters of our research.2 Encouraged by these discussions, we began redesigning our project. However, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in yet another slowdown. But then the launch of the digital Seleukid Lecture Series in May 2021 reinvigorated our efforts. We renewed our exchange with participants of former Seleukid Study Days and connected with many more students and scholars for the first time. Kyle Erickson, Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides, Deirdre Klokow, and Eran Almagor were so kind as to develop their lectures into chapters for the present volume. Richard’s chapter also finds its place here, but likewise represents, together with Altay’s (chs. 14–15), the natural outflow of a discussion we have been entertaining for the past six years. One further chapter was offered by Ben Scolnic (after the conference held at Sopot in 2019) and by Altay (to replace his paper given in North Bay)3 to complete the volume. We would like to express our gratitude to the aforementioned authors for their trust and cooperation. In particular, we are indebted to Ben Scolnic and Deirdre Klokow for their energetic and unwavering support in the production of this book. Thanks also go to the anonymous reviewer and in particular to Laetitia GraslinThomé for her help with all matters Babylonian and Akkadian. Last but not least, a project like this does not come to fruition without the patience and background support of those whom we love most, Liz and Doro (respectively). February 2023




North Bay, ON Richard Wenghofer

Waterloo, ON Altay Coşkun

Kosmin, P.J. 2018: Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire, Cambridge, MA. A. Coşkun’s paper on the Seleukid era had been designed as a response to Kosmin; his research was developed further and partly published in ‘Expansion und dynastische Politik in Pontos: Zwei neue Ären unter Pharnakes I.’, Historia 77, 2022, 2–26; other materials will hopefully feed into a later Seleukid Study Day themed ‘Anchored in Time’. And see B. Scolnic and A. Coşkun, Jewish Responses to Seleukid Rule, in preparation as Seleukid Perspectives 3. A. Coşkun, ‘The Reception of Seleukid Ideology in 2nd-Century BC Judaea’, and R. Wenghofer, ‘Popular Resistance to Seleucid Claims to Hegemony’, in E. AnagnostouLaoutides and S. Pfeiffer (eds.), Culture and Ideology under the Seleucids. Unframing a Dynasty, Berlin 2022, 151–166 and 167–184 respectively. His ch. 4 on Miletos replaces his paper on the Seleukid era, see n. 1 above.


Chapter 2 Fig. 1: Fig. 2:

Silver tetradrachm from the Babylon II mint, struck in the name of Alexander......................................................43 Bronze coin from Seleukeia-in-Pieria, depicting Zeus and the thunderbolt.....................................................................................51

Chapter 3 Fig. 1a: Fig. 1b: Fig. 2: Fig. 3: Fig. 4: Fig. 5: Fig. 6: Fig. 7:

Alexander type tetradrachm, 311–305 BCE....................................65 Alexander type stater, 311–305 BCE..............................................65 Silver tetradrachm, Salamis mint, 300-295.....................................69 Seleukos I, lion tetradrachm, Babylon mint, c. 311–305 BCE.........72 Coin of Mazaios with lion and Ba’al...............................................73 Phoenician War Ship from Sennacherib’s Palace at Nineveh, 705–681 BCE..................................................................................77 Babylonian World Map...................................................................82 Nebuchadnezzar’s clay cylinder, 604–561 BCE.............................83

Chapter 5 Fig. 1:

Tetradrachm of Antiochos IV, Antioch on the Orontes.................122

Chapter 9 Fig. 1: Fig. 2:

Map of the Battle of Panion, following the account of Zeno..........183 Map of the Battle of Panion, following Scolnic.............................191


INTRODUCTION: THE DIALECTICS OF SELEUKID IDEOLOGY Richard Wenghofer and Altay Coşkun The Seleukid Empire (312–64 BCE) was forged in the crucible of war. Alexander III of Macedon had only just subjugated the territories of the erstwhile Achaemenid world under his yoke, when his sudden death in 323 BCE, at thirty-three years of age, unleashed a series of power struggles among his generals, hungry to succeed him as ruler over the newly-minted Macedonian hegemony. The ensuing wars lasted from 322 to 281 BCE, ending only with the death of Seleukos I, the last of the Diadochs, although the impacts of these struggles continued among their successors well beyond 281 BCE.1 Yet, starting in 306 BCE, the most successful of Alexander’s would-be successors (Antigonos I and his son, Demetrios, as well as Lysimachos, Ptolemy I Soter, and Seleukos I Nikator) began styling themselves ‘kings’ (basileis), with none recognizing any territorial limits over their claims to power as such.2 These kings ruled over any territory their spears could reach.3 The tenth-century Byzantine compilation, the Suda, thus defines monarchy (basileia) in this period after Alexander as one that rested neither on descent (phusis) nor justice (dike), but on the ability to competently command an army.4 Insatiable 1




Recent accounts of the Diadochs include Bennett and Roberts 2011/19; Alonso Troncoso and Anson 2013; Hauben and Meeus 2014; Wrightson 2019; Matyszak 2019; Capdetrey 2022. A bit more specific are Champion 2014 (Antigonos); Worthington 2016 (Ptolemy); Howe 2018 (Ptolemy); Grainger 2014 (Seleukos) and 2019 (Antipatros); Hannestadt 2020 (Seleukos); Wheatley and Dunn 2020 as well as Romm 2022 (Demetrios). On the Year of the Kings, see Plut. Demetr. 17f. On the universal claims, symbols, titles, and the courts of Hellenistic kingship, see Bikerman 1938; Ritter 1965; Virgilio 2003; Alonso Troncoso 2005; Michels 2009; Muccioli 2013; Strootman 2014; Engels 2017; AnagnostouLaoutides and Pfeiffer 2022. On the ideology of spear-won land and military victory as the essence of Hellenistic, and especially Seleukid, kingship, see, in addition to the references quoted in the previous note, Mehl 1980/81; Gehrke 1982; Bikerman 1938; Barbantani 2007; Koehn 2007; Coşkun 2012; Nelson 2022; for a more complete bibliography, see Coşkun 2022d, 36f. Suda B 147.2f. (ed. E. Adler) = Suda Online ed. D. Whitehead: Βασιλεία. οὔτε φύσις οὔτε τὸ δίκαιον ἀποδιδοῦσι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰς βασιλείας, ἀλλὰ τοῖς δυναμένοις ἡγεῖσθαι στρατοπέδου καὶ χειρίζειν πράγματα νουνεχῶς: οἷος ἦν Φίλιππος καὶ οἱ διάδοχοι ̓Αλεξάνδρου. τὸν γὰρ υἱὸν κατὰ φύσιν οὐδὲν ὠφέλησεν ἡ συγγένεια διὰ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀδυναμίαν. τοὺς δὲ μηδὲν


Richard Wenghofer and Altay Coşkun

ambition and the spectre of all-encompassing wars thus run like a red thread throughout the history of the Hellenistic monarchies.5 Yet, while scholars have long recognized the significance of the role warfare played in shaping the character of Hellenistic kingship in general, and Seleukid kingship in particular, it has also long been recognized that no king could rule only on the basis of violent coercion for very long. Seleukid kings, just like their Antigonid, Ptolemaic, and Attalid counterparts, had to find ways to clothe their rule with dike, as the Suda would say. To that end, Seleukid kings developed an elaborate repertoire of practices, behaviours, and propaganda aimed specifically at rendering their and their family’s claims to royal authority more acceptable to those they had subjugated. One way or another, ideological messages imply – or even state explicitly – the positive force that the rule of a king or dynasty brings to the subjects and vassals: victory, salvation and divine presence are most often enshrined in the epithets borne by or bestowed on a Seleukid king, as in Seleukos I Nikator, Antiochos I Soter and Antiochos II Theos. The notion of benefaction was reflected in the dynasty’s titulature officially only under Ptolemaic influence in 150 BCE with Alexander (Balas) Euergetes Philadelphos, although it had been attested in the king’s exchanges with cities inside and outside his territory from early on. The theme of noble ancestry and legitimate succession was most creatively developed under the first two kings but did not result in a royal title before Seleukos IV Philopator.6 Yet the development and dissemination of such ideological themes was an exceedingly difficult and complicated endeavour in the Seleukid context, as the polities over whom Seleukid kings claimed royal authority were incredibly diverse in terms of culture, language, ethnicity, and religion, as well as in social and political organization. Each of the polities encompassed by Seleukid domains, whether Greek city-states, temple states, nomadic tribes, or quasi-feudal polities all had their own ideas as to what constituted acceptable political authority, and these ideas no doubt shifted and changed over the long arc of Seleukid history.7 Seleukid kings thus found themselves in the position of having to be all things to all people if they were to maintain their status as kings. That the Seleukid dynasty managed to maintain royal authority for about two and a half centuries testifies to

5 6 7

προσήκοντας βασιλεῖς γενέσθαι σχεδὸν ἁπάσης τῇς οἰκουμένης. ‘Neither nature nor justice gives kingdoms to men, but to those who are able to lead an army and to handle affairs intelligently; such as Philip was, and the successors of Alexander. For family relationship did not benefit the natural son at all because of the weakness of his soul. But those who had no relationship becoming kings of almost the whole inhabited world.’ The provenience of this description is unknown, but it is generally regarded as pertinent for all Diadochs; cf. Austin 2006, no. 45; Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 37. And see the previous note on the military character of Hellenistic kingship. Cf. Chaniotis 2005. The most comprehensive treatment of royal epithets is by Muccioli 2013. For documentation, see Houghton and Lorber SC I; Houghton, Lorber, and Hoover SC II. Major recent accounts or studies of the Seleukids after 281 include Mittag 2006; Ehling 2008; Taylor 2013; Feyel and Graslin-Thomé 2014; 2017; 2021; Grainger 2015a and 2015b; Erickson 2018; Coşkun and Engels 2019; Oetjen 2020; du Plessis 2022; Kosmin and Moyer 2022; Wrightson 2022.



the fact that they were, in the main, successful in compelling local acceptance of their claims to the rightful exercise of royal power. How Seleukid kings went about trying to win over the hearts and minds of the peoples they subjugated has been the subject of a flurry of recent scholarship. These studies have proven to be a tremendous boon to Seleukid scholars, and to our grasp of the social and political histories of the Hellenistic world more generally.8 As one might expect, the approaches to the question of the reactions and responses to Seleukid hegemonic claims are highly varied, as are the conclusions that have been reached. The reasons for this should be immediately obvious. As the contributions in this volume will demonstrate, the nature of Seleukid power – how it was exercised and how it was presented to the diverse communities of the Seleukid Empire – was circumscribed to a considerable degree by local social, cultural, and political conditions and expectations. While much of Seleukid royal image and royal propaganda was fashioned at the Seleukid royal court, none of it was developed in a vacuum. Ideas and iconography rather emerged in reaction to the same efforts being made by competing kings and dynasts, and in dialogue with local conditions prevailing on the ground in subject communities. Seleukid kings thus perforce donned many different guises, depending on local contexts, even if there were certain common elements present in each one.9 Yet examining the construction of Seleukid royal propaganda and royal identity, and assessing its effectiveness, based solely on the self-representations coming out of the Seleukid court would be a bit like listening to only half a conversation: much would be lost. The primary aim of this volume is, therefore, to not only explore further the construction of the Seleukid dynastic ideology and image of kingship, but also to provide the voice of the Seleukid interlocutors in their myriad responses to Seleukid rule in specific local milieus. One of the great challenges inhering in the recovery of the voices of subject communities revolves around sources, which are unfortunately few, scattered, and diverse. However, many a Greek inscription can still be revealing, if read against the grain, while the Jews with their rich literary tradition and the Babylonians with their prolific epigraphic bequest allow for recovering very specific local voices from the Near East. A detailed understanding of the required languages and material cultures is crucial for reconstructing the many local contexts and reactions relevant to the question of the reception of Seleukid royal propaganda. Some of the contributors to this volume do indeed bring such specialized skills to the table and have thus shed muchneeded light on important facets of Seleukid claims to royal authority. Yet other contributors have undertaken a re-examination of various aspects of Seleukid royal propaganda and ideology emerging from the royal court itself, effectively reading 8


In addition to the references cited in the previous notes, see Brodersen 1999/2000; Capdetrey 2007; Kosmin 2014 and 2018; Chrubasik 2016; Coşkun and McAuley 2016; Ogden 2017; Erickson 2019; Fischer-Bovet and von Reden 2021; Anagnostou-Laoutides and Pfeiffer 2022; Lorber 2022. Also note the more immediate context in which this volume has been produced, the Seleukid Study Days (2011–2019) and the Seleukid Lecture Series (2021–2022), which are introduced a bit further in the Preface to this volume. See notes 2, 3 and 7 above.


Richard Wenghofer and Altay Coşkun

the more traditional evidence against the backdrop of concrete local historical conditions to which royal propaganda was meant to respond, and which can then be used to suggest how local polities reacted to Seleukid royal authority. Another great challenge confronting the contributors to this volume is just the question of defining political ‘legitimacy’ in the Hellenistic context. The scholarly literature on this question is rather thin and there is really no agreement.10 And this may simply be for the good reason that formalist approaches to the question of ‘legitimacy’ are better avoided. The Hellenistic world, stretching as it does from the fringes of the Western Mediterranean to the Indus River in modern Pakistan, and from the Republics of Central Asia to the Arab peninsula and North Africa was inhabited by countless peoples bearing a bewildering variety of languages, cultures, and social and political organizations. Each of these peoples had their own ideas about what constituted an acceptable claim to the rightful exercise of political authority, royal or otherwise. And it should not be taken for granted that these perspectives remained the same throughout the Hellenistic period. All of the contributors to this volume were hence left to employ their own ideas about how royal authority was constituted, either explicitly or implicitly, in the variety of Seleukid domains. Our approach to the question of what constituted an acceptable claim to, and exercise of, royal authority thus remains impartial, agnostic, and without prejudice either for or against any particular theory of ‘political legitimacy’. As one mild exception to this open-minded approach, we would like to stress that this very notion of ‘legitimacy’ is post-Hellenistic and that we should look for other factors more conducive to the acceptance or rejection of the rightful claim to royal authority and its exercise in distinctively Hellenistic contexts. Consequently, we feel that an overarching definition of ‘political legitimacy’ uniquely applicable to the Hellenistic period would be both anachronistic and inappropriate.11 Seleukid, Ptolemaic, Antigonid, and Attalid kings no doubt all saw their right to rule as in some sense ‘legitimate’, but it is not clear that their subjects always or necessarily shared their understanding of what such a claim to ‘legitimate’ royal rule entailed.12 Be this as it may, it is nevertheless possible to gauge local reactions toward Seleukid claims to, and exercise of, royal authority, as a proxy for measuring local acceptance or rejection of Seleukid royal pretentions in specifically local social, cultural, and political contexts. This understanding will be exemplified by many studies gathered in the present volume. How to arrange the papers comprised in this volume has been a challenging question that occupied its editors until shortly before its submission to the press. Given the wide range of examples that most chapters draw on, a mere chronological or geographical structure would have been insufficient. One possible way of 10 The introductions to Trampedach and Meeus 2020 or Anagnostou-Laoutides and Pfeiffer 2022 do not reach very far in terms of theoretical reflection, nor do most other works referenced in notes 2–4 and 7 above. Cf. Coşkun 2023 on the ideological framework of Seleukid diplomacy. 11 For further discussion and references, see the last two chapters in this volume. 12 Besides the works listed in notes 1–4, 7, and 9 above, we point to Müller 2009 as an outstanding study on the construction of Ptolemaic royal status (cf. Coşkun 2022b). For the minor Hellenistic kingdoms, see especially Koehn 2007 and Michels 2009.



organizing the individual contributions might have been by splitting them according to royal or dynastic ideology, as some are more concerned with the appeal of the king himself, others exhibiting the greatness of his family and the noble line of succession observed within.13 Another option would have been an arrangement by ideological concepts. The choice that was eventually made was meant to emphasize various stages of the dialectic process in which ideology is shaped, communicated, received, reflected, nuanced, modified, or rejected. The contributions fall somewhat organically into two major parts, those dealing with the ambitions of the royal court to create and endorse ideological concepts in their dialectical contexts, and others focusing more directly on the manifold responses to them outside the court. We finally settled on a further subdivision into five distinct sections. The articles in Section I explore the dialectical formation of Seleukid royal ideology, identity, and strategies for establishing the acceptance of Seleukid claims to rightful royal authority, often in dialogue with ideas regarding acceptable claims to and exercise of political power prevailing in local cultures. Each of the authors has attempted to understand the construction of a specific iteration or face of Seleukid royal imagery and legitimacy as a response to specific, concrete local conditions. The articles in Section II shift attention away from the Seleukid court and toward local polities themselves in an effort to come to terms with the range of possible reactions and responses to Seleukid royal pretensions and the exercise of royal authority in local settings. In Chapter 2, ‘Royal Propaganda and the Creation of Royal Status for Seleukos I’, Kyle Erickson attempts to reconstruct how Seleukos I made full use of the various means he had at his disposal in order to garner acceptance for his rule. Seleukos developed his royal propaganda not in a vacuum, but as part of a dialogue between his court and various local political stakeholders, including other great dynasts such as the Antigonids and the Ptolemies, as well as the image of kingship established under Alexander. Seleukos’ strategies were thus both proactive and reactive. Erickson traces the development of Seleukos’ efforts to establish the acceptability of his reign through a close examination of his coin production and his city foundations and their accompanying foundation myths, noting that the longevity of Seleukid coin types and mythmaking beyond the Seleukid dynasty itself testifies to the effectiveness of those efforts. Seleukos, like Ptolemy and Lysimachos, employed imagery on coins, as well as a series of cleverly crafted myths, in order to present himself as Alexander’s worthy successor. Unlike his competitors, however, he appears to have abandoned this strategy after the Battle of Ipsos (301 BCE) and began to cultivate a new iconography and dynastic mythology that effectively effaced any connections with Alexander as a source of political authority, and presented Seleukos as a divinely ordained king in his own right. Erickson contends that this Seleukid mythmaking, both with regard to the divine sanction of Seleukos’ rule and with respect to his 13 Royal persona: K. Erickson, E. Anagnostou-Laoutides, S. Harrison, R. Strootman, B. Edelmann-Singer, B. Scolnic (on Panion), G. Ramsey, R. Wenghofer. Dynastic lineage or family: A. Coşkun (on Miletos); D. Klokow, B. Scolnic (on Śar Wars).


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city-foundations, is neatly, if incompletely, encompassed in Appian’s Syrian Wars, a series of narratives that originated in the Seleukid court and comprised both traditional Graeco-Macedonian and Near Eastern elements. Erickson’s treatment of Seleukid city foundation narratives is particularly helpful for shedding light on the varied reactions to Seleukid kingship in the reign of Seleukos I. He notes that Appian’s account of the foundation of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris contains negative overtones suggestive of hostility and resistance among the nearby Babylonians, while the stories surrounding the foundation of Antioch-on-the-Orontes and Seleukeia-inPieria points to a more positive local reception of Seleukid royal authority in Syria, thus highlighting the varied local reactions to Seleukid claims to royal authority. With Chapter 3, ‘The King-Ship of the Seleukids: An Alternative Paradigm for the Anchor Symbol’, Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides presents what is in some respects a companion piece to Erickson’s study, as she undertakes an examination of how the Seleukids attempted to create a sense of acceptable royal authority in their Babylonian domains specifically. Anagnostou-Laoutides revaluates much of the scholarship on how the anchor became the Seleukid dynastic symbol par excellence, ubiquitous on Seleukid coinage and prominent in Seleukid court mythologizing. Modern scholarship traditionally connects the Seleukid anchor to the dynastic myth of Seleukid descent from the god Apollo, or else as a symbol evoking Seleukos’ I brief stint as an admiral for Ptolemy I between 315 and 312 BCE. Without rejecting either of these positions outright, Anagnostou-Laoutides, utilizing a variety of Babylonian and other Near Eastern sources, in addition to the more standard numismatic and literary evidence, argues that the use of the anchor symbol on Seleukid coins and in Seleukid myth was intended as a conciliatory gesture, meant to establish dynastic royal authority not only for Greeks and Macedonians settled in Seleukid domains, but for Seleukid subjects in Babylonia as well. Anchors, and nautical imagery more generally, Anagnostou-Laoutides contends, are surprisingly common in Babylonian myth and religious iconography, and are replete with political significance in Near Eastern images of legitimate kingship. In Babylonian, Neo-Assyrian, and Kilikian contexts, to name but a few, ships and their associated paraphernalia adorned temples and are frequently referenced in royal inscriptions. These nautical images appear to represent a ‘ship of state’ motif, common in Near Eastern myth and royal imagery, the stability, security, and good order of which is the prerogative of kings as the gods’ representative on earth. The meaning of the anchor is thus polyvalent, establishing images of Seleukid royal authority not only among their Graeco-Macedonian subjects, but among their Mesopotamian subjects as well. Altay Coşkun continues the theme of creating a sense of royal legitimacy in Chapter 4, ‘The First Seleukid Benefactions in Miletos and the Creation of a Dynastic Ideology’, undertaking a close examination of the Milesian honorary decrees. Coşkun argues that Seleukos I drew upon his warm relations with Miletos, established in 300 BCE through his marriage to the daughter of Demetrios I Poliorketes, who was then holding sway over Miletos, in order to articulate the prosperity of his kingship. It is Seleukos’ first wife Apama who is given prominence in the Milesian epigraphic decree. While recent scholarship has shed much light on the use of the



basilissa role in the public representation of the king and his family, and further claimed some political importance for this specific queen, Coşkun infers from the inscriptions that the diplomacy with the sanctuary city was intended to give status to her as the mother of the designated successor Antiochos, rather than showing any specific individual agency. More importantly, the Milesian honorary decrees allow for reconstructing the character of relations between the Milesians and the Seleukid dynasty in the brief interval between the Battles of Ipsos and Korupedion. Coşkun notes that in the period between 301 and 279 BCE, Miletos, though under the sway variously of Demetrios I Poliorketes and then Lysimachos, Seleukos I, and Ptolemy, largely maintained both its independence and its democracy in the face of competing royal ambitions in the region. Moreover, Seleukos I, like Lysimachos, Ptolemy, and Demetrios, attempted to leverage the widespread popularity of the Didymeion as part of its broader strategy to advertise Seleukid rule in Asia Minor and beyond. Further, the arrival of the Milesian, Demodamas, at the Seleukid court of Antiochos I, together with the dynasty’s patronage of the Didymeion, was the catalyst for the Seleukid dynasty’s adoption of Apollo as their central divinity. Apollo was himself a polyvalent figure with deep political significance in both Greek and Near Eastern contexts. Coşkun’s analysis thus underscores the complexity of the entangled relations between king and city, as Miletos managed to pursue cordial relations with competing dynasts whilst maintaining its democracy and independence as a polis in the period covered by his analysis. Those relations could and did shift according to contingent circumstances on the ground, yet the case of the Milesian decrees specifically reveals what positive relations between Seleukid kings and Greek poleis might look like. Section II explores how later Seleukid kings reminded their subjects of their royal persona, while also reshaping and adapting its design. In Chapter 5, Babett Edelmann-Singer undertakes an examination of the famous pompe at Daphne in ‘Material Culture, Ritual Performance, and Seleukid Rule: Antiochos IV and the Procession at Daphne in 166 BCE’. Edelmann-Singer looks beyond the event as an expression of imperial power in answer to the triumph of Aemilius Paullus, and toward the procession as an expression of the legitimation of Antiochos’ rule. She focuses particular attention on the religious objects carried in the procession, as described by Polybios and Athenaios, arguing that while it is true that Paullus’ procession looms in the background of Daphne, Antiochos in fact intended his procession as a means to communicate his unique vision of kingship to all the peoples over whom he claimed royal authority. Edelmann-Singer notes that a Hellenistic pompe would typically maintain a strict separation between the spectators and the actors. In contrast, similar processions in most Greek poleis would not maintain such a separation (thus representing the city as a whole). But Antiochos did not follow the royal fashion of pompe and thus deliberately conflated his basileia and the oikumene. The universality of Antiochos’ claims is underscored by the presence of all the divinities, both Greek and non-Greek, which processed to the temple of Apollo and Artemis. This is modelled on Babylonian and Assyrian precedents. The pompe at Daphne thus unites Near


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Eastern and Greek traditions, and the enthusiastic participation of envoys from the various communities summoned represents a positive response to the claims to legitimacy that Antiochos intended to convey. In Chapter 6, Stephen Harrison provides a comparative analysis of Persian royal processions described by Herodotos, the Apadana relief carvings, the Behistun inscriptions, and the account of the pompe of Antiochos IV at Daphne in 166 BCE as found in Polybios, Athenaios, and Diodoros. In ‘Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis: A Comparative Perspective on the Seleukid Vision of Empire and the Creation of a Dynastic Ideology’, Harrison examines how Xerxes used royal processions to provide a visual representation of the extent and hierarchical order of Achaemenid rule. The aim of such displays was to establish a sense of royal legitimacy by creating a sense of unity among the peoples under his rule, a unity that ultimately centred on the person of the king in both a figurative and real sense. In the Persian processions, the physical position of the king, relative to his diverse subjects, is made to be seen as the source of order and justice. Harrison then turns to accounts of Antiochos IV’s procession at Daphne, to argue that Antiochos similarly used the royal pompe as a vehicle to reconfigure dynastic space in a way that was consistent with the Seleukid view of empire. He next compares the discrepancies between the Achaemenid and Seleukid conceptualizations of imperial space through the lens of the royal procession. Ultimately, both the Achaemenid and Seleukid representations of kingship aim at establishing unity among ethnically diverse peoples, but do so in different ways according to their respective political ideals. In Chapter 7, ‘Ritual Mutilation and the Construction of Treason: The Execution of Molon and Achaios by Antiochos III’, Rolf Strootman continues the examination of the Seleukid construction of royal authority in a distinctively Persian cultural idiom. He undertakes a close analysis of Antiochos III’s post mortem treatment of the corpses of the usurpers Achaios and Molon as recorded in Polybios. Strootman establishes Persian and other Near Eastern precedents for those actions. He adds further context by examining Alexander’s treatment of Bessos’ corpse, which he sees as the link between Antiochos’ ritual mutilation and the earlier Persian and Near Eastern customary ways of dealing with rebels and usurpers. Strootman addresses the question of ideology and its reception in two key ways. First, the act of ritually mutilating a rebel’s corpse establishes the king’s authority by publicly and visually placing the rebel beyond the pale of civilized society. He is literally rendered monstrous and criminal. Second, the urgent extremity of the act of mutilation suggests a certain level of fear or anxiety on the part of the challenged king, fear that his authority is indeed in question, and not merely by the rebel himself. Ritual mutilation of a rebel, in the Near Eastern context, leverages not only the fear that such a gruesome act would engender in the minds of those contemplating rebellion, but is also a moral pronouncement that places rebels beyond the bounds of civilized humanity. Section II is rounded out with Ben Scolnic’s article, ‘Second-Hand Propaganda: Polybios and Zeno on the Role of Antiochos IV at the Battle of Panion’ (Chapter 8). Scolnic undertakes a reading of Polybios’ account of the Battle of Panion against



the grain, in order to bring the pro-Seleukid sympathies of Polybios’ source, Zeno of Rhodes, to the surface. Zeno appears to have produced a rather tendentious and pro-Seleukid account of the actions of Antiochos IV at the Battle of Panion in pursuit of what, for Zeno, was ultimately a Rhodian political agenda. According to Scolnic, Zeno leverages propaganda from the court of Antiochos IV that aimed at the legitimization of his rule, especially in Koile-Syria and Judea. The narrative of the participation of a young Antiochos IV at the Battle of Panion is a fiction, modelled on the stories of Alexander’s precocious participations in Thrace and elsewhere, and must be rejected as unhistorical for a variety of reasons. Polybios is especially critical of Zeno’s narrative, noting that it is not uncommon for historians to engage in sensationalism or patriotic pride, when narrating certain events, notably not excluding himself from such criticism. Yet Polybios singles out this specific narrative from Zeno, whom he otherwise admires. Polybios’ (harsh) rejection of this specific account turns not merely on a penchant for accuracy, but on a profound personal dislike for Antiochos IV. In the tension that exists between Zeno’s characterization of Antiochos IV’s actions at Panion and Polybios’ perceptions of Antiochos, we can glimpse the range of reactions that could arise toward the possibility of Seleukid royal authority and attempts to promote it with illegitimate means. While the papers in Sections I–II address the question of the how the Seleukid dynasty attempted to create a sense of royal authority that was acceptable to the polities under their sceptre, each with implications for the question of the reception of and reaction to those efforts, the papers in Sections III–V explore more fully the variety of possible local reactions to those efforts. Those reactions could range widely from warm, enthusiastic endorsement of Seleukid claims to royal authority over passive indifference to outright violent resistance. Underpinning the scope of responses is the interplay between Seleukid claims to local authority on the one hand, as well as its variegated exercise in specific local contexts, local ideas about what constituted the legitimate exercise of political power, and local concerns and interests on the other hand. This interplay was far from stable, but shifting and changing according to geography, chronology, and the approaches to the exercise of royal authority adopted by specific Seleukid kings and courtiers, to name just a few of the factors conditioning the relationships between the dynasty and local populations. Section III presents to case studies of local resistance. It opens with Chapter 8 by Deirdre Klokow, ‘Connectivity and Rural Spaces in the Seleukid Empire’. She examines the close relationship between changing land use patterns within Seleukid dominions and what those changing patterns tell us about the relations between the kings and their subjects. Klokow analyses two pieces of evidence, OGIS 225, an inscription providing details of Laodike I’s purchase of Pannuokome in Hellespontine Phrygia from her husband Antiochos II, and the Lehmann Text, a cuneiform inscription which records a land grant of the same Laodike I and her sons Seleukos and Antiochos Hierax to the citizens of Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha. Through a close reading of these two documents, Klokow argues that the Seleukid dynasty shaped land-use patterns to solidify their grip on the territory they claimed as their


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own. She further attempts to gauge the effectiveness of those efforts by identifying local responses. Both inscriptions show the attention paid by Laodike, and hence by the dynasty through her, to local concerns, while manifesting the effective omnipresence of Seleukid rule even in remote rural regions. Klokow concludes that both texts can be read as evidence for the active participation of local landholders in different areas of the Seleukid dominions in the negotiation of Seleukid royal authority in two distinct localized contexts as well as of the positive, or at least willing, reception of Seleukid claims to the legitimate exercise of royal authority. In Chapters 10, ‘Rebel Poleis: The Politics of Anti-Seleukid Violence’, Gillian Ramsey examines the causes and character of popular urban revolt in the Seleukid dominions. She notes that violent revolt can be identified across the myriad polities throughout Seleukid realms, often driven by economic, political, and cultural concerns of local import. And yet the local character of such violent revolts is often obscured by the tendency of the surviving historical narratives to fold those revolts into the stories of great and powerful men seeking personal glory. Ramsey focuses her attention squarely on the polis, which she contends never relinquished its ideals of political autonomy and autarky, even in the teeth of an imposed royal authority. She notes that polis revolts against the Seleukid dynasty were not uncommon. Moreover, polis revolts appear to have been driven primarily by concerns of the citizens themselves, and not necessarily by the ambitions of rebel generals and satraps, although ‘rebel poleis’ might lend active support to such powerful figures. Polis revolts, Ramsey argues, arose when there was a failure of constructive communication between king and city. Such urban revolts were motivated by local issues of polis identity and function, such as economic security and self-determination. However, historiographic and epigraphic evidence documenting such revolts often occludes any reference to why the citizens revolted against the king, describing them generically as chance mishaps. Kings tended to assent to such language, in order to distract from the fact that their authority had indeed been rejected. Such assent to the diplomatic language used to describe urban revolts thus ironically contributed to the propagandistic pretentions of Seleukid kings, even if it masked rather different, less congenial sentiments on the part of polis citizenry. Next comes Section IV with three studies that look back onto Seleukid rule or else treat it as the distant or surreal frame of political existence within which Jewish sensitivities are redressed. In Chapter 11, Germain Payen examines the reception of Seleukid claims to royal authority by the Artaxiad dynasty in Armenia in ‘Le royaume artaxiade dans l’empire séleucide: de dominé à dominant (190–55 a.C.)’. Payen notes that Armenia was always peripheral to the Seleukid world, as it had been for the Achaemenids, in spite of some evidence of Hellenizing influence. But more important was a longstanding preference for freedom from outside imperial control. While it is generally thought that Armenia moved toward independence in the wake of the Peace of Apamea in 188 BCE, Payen contends that there is evidence that first steps were already made shortly before the anabasis of Antiochos III, thus adding weight to the observation concerning the preference for autonomous local rule.



Payen demonstrates that the Artaxiad dynasty attempted to forge its local political legitimacy not through reference to the Seleukids or Romans, but through a purely Armenian, and specifically Orontid, pedigree. While Hellenization proceeded, the Artaxiad kings also went to some length to advertise their Iranian pedigree, marking themselves off from the Seleukid dynasty. Artaxiad diplomatic relations clearly indicated Armenia’s independence from the Seleukids and often militated against their interests, especially in Anatolia. Payen further notes that relations between the Artaxiads and the Seleukids after 179 BCE remained rather ambiguous, yet the exercise of independence only accelerated beginning with the troubled reign of Demetrios I. Payen demonstrates the Artaxiad rejection of Seleukid claims to royal authority in Armenia through a close reading of numismatic evidence. He shows that coin issues of Tigranes, while careful to weave together Greek, Anatolian, Iranian, and Syrian elements, nonetheless occlude the Seleukids and advertise the independent sovereignty of the Artaxiads. Ben Scolnic examines a more clearly anti-Seleukid narrative in Chapter 12, ‘Śar Wars: How a Judaean Author in the 160’s BCE Transformed a Ptolemaic View of Hellenistic History into a Theology for His Time’. Scolnic argues that the highly controversial eleventh chapter in the Book of Daniel must derive from a Ptolemaic source. It is thus anti-Seleukid, although as it stands, it is far from being a proPtolemaic text. Rather, this enigmatic account, composed ca. 166 BCE, though ostensibly set in the 6th Century as a prophetic narrative, addresses the anxieties and fears of many Jews living under the persecutions and occupation of the Seleukid king Antiochos IV. More specifically, Scolnic contends that a distinctly Ptolemaic narrative of the struggles of the Diadochs, likely forged at the Ptolemaic court in the aftermath of the Battle of Ipsos (301 BCE), was recast in a Jewish cultural (or even poetic) idiom. The text thus delegitimizes the royal authority of the Seleukid dynasty and, in particular, that of Antiochos IV, while giving the Jewish people hope that their God remained in control of the seemingly chaotic struggles raging around them. The principal message in Daniel is that God will ultimately succeed in affording his people their independence from foreign domination. After establishing the chronological context for the production of the Ptolemaic narrative underpinning Daniel 11, Scolnic disentangles the meaning of the word śar which is ubiquitous in that chapter. He notes that it can be applied to kings and their supreme commanders, as well as to divine entities that represent and fight for their respective nations on the cosmic level. As the author of Daniel uses the term śar in both ways simultaneously, the scholarship surrounding the most appropriate reading of chapter 11 has been rather confused. Scolnic articulates the author’s desire to represent the conflicts between the Seleukids and Ptolemies over Koile Syria as taking place not only on earth between competing kings and their generals, but in heaven as well between the divine avatars of those kings and their people. Daniel 11 thus predicts that the śar of the Seleukids, a regime which was treacherous and vile right from its inception, will trigger the apocalypse, but that the śar of the Jewish people, the archangel Michael, will ensure that God’s justice will ultimately prevail. Yet even Seleukid oppression is given its purpose in the temporary balance of earthly powers, which had to precede divine salvation.


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In Chapter 13, Eran Almagor continues the study of Jewish reactions to Seleukid royal authority by examining ‘“To All Parts of the Kingdom”: The Book of Esther and Other Jewish Responses to Seleukid Rule’. Almagor argues that some of the more hostile Jewish responses to Seleukid rule are largely reconstructed through the evidence produced in the orbit of the Hasmonaean court. However, other more congenial responses to Seleukid royal authority can be detected in a variety of other Jewish sources, such as the Book of Esther, a source that, he argues, was contemporary with Seleukid rule in the region. Almagor uses discrepancies between the Hebrew and Greek versions of the text of Esther to not only support his dating of its composition in the Seleukid era, but also to show that while the text is ostensibly about the Persians, they are actually stand-ins for the Seleukids. As the behaviour of Esther and her cousin Mordecai occur under the authority of the Persian king, bloody though those actions might be, they nonetheless connote loyalty to the Seleukid dynasty, or at least a recognition of the acceptability of Seleukid rule in Judaea. This disposition in the Book of Esther is in contrast with First and Second Maccabees, which are largely hostile to the dynasty and reflective of the Hasmonaean revolt. The Judaeans thus showed very different responses to the Seleukid dynasty. Almagor’s and Scolnic’s contributions hence demonstrate the nuance and range of possible reactions to the Seleukid exercise of royal authority among the same people, reactions that are conditioned by competing social and political interests at the local level. The two remaining chapters comprised in Section V go beyond the analysis of the dialectic process of the formation, modification, or rejection of royal ideology. They present two – partly conflicting, certainly complementary – perspectives on the effect of Seleukid royal ideology. While admitting the limitation of firm knowledge, they both look for ways around that allow us to explore how genuine the assent to Seleukid pretensions and expressions of loyalty to the king really were. The themes of resistance and tension between the official royal ideology and the desire of autonomy in the kingdom’s poleis form the subject of Richard Wenghofer’s article, ‘Diplomatic Resistance to Seleukid Hegemony’ (Chapter 14). Wenghofer re-examines civic decrees honouring various Seleukid kings, specifically those found in OGIS 222, 229, and 223. These official utterances are examined in light of anti-monarchical comments in Plutarch’s Life of Demetrios and other authors who claim that such decrees are sometimes made disingenuously, often masking intense hostility toward the tyrannical ruler. Wenghofer notes that cities often capitulated to Seleukid royal authority out of fear arising from the asymmetrical power relations between king and polis. However, he argues that such capitulation should not be read as evidence for the acceptance of Seleukid claims to legitimate exercise of royal authority over the polis. This same reasoning is applied to his reinterpretation of the significance of civic decrees honouring Seleukid kings. Wenghofer contends that, in these honorary decrees, poleis can often be seen leveraging the formulaic etiquette of Hellenistic diplomatic language and the carefully crafted public persona of Seleukid kings as a form of public moral suasion. The paradoxical aim was to curtail the exercise of this very royal authority over the



polis. Although open revolt was not uncommon, as Ramsey notes in Chapter 13, this diplomatic approach to the resistance of royal authority was perhaps an even more common strategy on the part of ‘Seleukid’ poleis when confronted with the overwhelmingly superior military might of the kings. In such situations, open revolt rarely seemed to be a viable strategic option. Ultimately, Wenghofer calls for a methodological re-evaluation of our approach to the evidence commonly used to assess the effectiveness and reach of Seleukid royal propaganda in cementing affection and loyalty for the dynasty. The theme of the effectiveness of Seleukid royal ideology is resumed in Chapter 15 with Altay Coşkun’s paper, ‘The Efficacy of Ideological Discourse: Loyalty to the Seleukid Dynasty in Babylonia, Judaea, and Asia Minor’. His primary objective is to demonstrate that Seleukid propaganda was indeed successful at generating not merely compliance with royal writ, but genuine and authentic support for the dynasty on the part of many subjects. Coşkun chooses a Constructivist approach whereby royal propaganda gives voice to the alignment of interests negotiated between kings and local power stakeholders. He then turns this paradigm to the evidence. He produces examples of behaviour on the part of subject communities that can reasonably be read as attesting to the local acceptance of the claims articulated in Seleukid royal propaganda. In order to do this, he elaborates on specific instances where subject communities appear to willingly support a king’s claim to royal authority in the absence of any coercion, and often even at some cost to be shouldered. The prime example are the Babylonians, but other subjects and vassals are likewise drawn on to show that loyalty was indeed displayed at times when the dynasty was weak and mired in crisis, or when there was no immediate or obvious reason for showing allegiance to the king. Loyalty under such circumstances, Coşkun contends, could not have been coerced and so suggests that Seleukid royal propaganda must have been largely effective previously in cementing consensus surrounding the claims to royal authority. This final chapter thus presents us with a way of getting around some of the methodological problems discussed by Wenghofer in Chapter 14. The objective in all sections of this book is to demonstrate the role played by local conditions and expectations in shaping the construction of Seleukid royal authority and how it was received. The Seleukids expended great effort and wealth on rendering their right to exercise royal authority morally acceptable to their putative subjects, but they were not free to construct those claims to authority, and hence their royal image, just as they pleased. In addition to having to react to the pretentions and aggressions of other dynastic competitors, Seleukid kings were constrained by what local polities were willing to accept, and this could vary dramatically from one polity to the next or even within a single polity, as local circumstances or Seleukid kings themselves changed over time. Therefore, while much scholarship has attempted to reveal the contours and characteristics of Seleukid kingship in order to help explain the trajectory of Seleukid history more generally, we have preferred to emphasize the variety of local perspectives and reactions to Seleukid claims to royal authority.


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The Seleukid kings found themselves in radically different circumstances from their Ptolemaic, Antigonid, or Attalid counterparts when it came to forging a royal image and establishing the acceptability of their rule, if only owing to the much higher level of social, cultural, and political diversity in Seleukid dominions. Seleukid kings, if their reign was to be successful, thus effectively had to become chameleons, integrating themselves into local cultures of legitimacy to the maximum degree possible. This did not mean that Seleukid kings surrendered their ambitions for universal rule or their claim to universal royal authority, yet how they chose to express that authority had, perforce, to vary across their territories, and was something of a delicate balancing act. That the Seleukid dynasty was, in general, successful in their endeavours to create local acceptance of their claims to royal authority is patent. The Seleukids did, after all, manage to maintain their imperial pretensions in a realistic way until at least 150 BCE, after which it began a swift descent into ruination. They repeatedly attempted to reverse this course, but without lasting success. This means that Seleukid fortunes remained strong and the dynasty effective in producing claims for royal authority that subject communities and vassals found sufficiently palatable for a little over one hundred and fifty years.14 Less clear, however, are the reasons for this success or at least how to evaluate the significance of that acceptance. The view from the Seleukid court would, of course, have it that Seleukid royal authority was warmly accepted across all their domains. Revolt and resistance were simply framed as the result of a few malevolent individuals acting out of grossly inflated ambition. Acceptance of this view, the view proffered by Seleukid royal propaganda itself, would, however, be naïve. After all, what did it really mean to ‘accept’ Seleukid claims to royal authority? As the papers in this volume demonstrate, the answer to this question depends largely on where one looks and when. Each polity under Seleukid rule experienced Seleukid power differently. However, due to a tendency to focus on the construction and dynamics of Seleukid power from the vantage point of competing royal courts and dynasts, and on how these shaped one another, more complex granularity is often missing from Seleukid scholarship. This tendency is understandable, since it is also the view found in the moralizing and dramatizing literary sources. But we have chosen to read inclusively a wider pool of evidence against the grain and to shift attention away from the arena of global geopolitics. We thus emphasize the interaction between the royal court and local subject communities in shaping the character of Seleukid kingship, royal ideology, and the exercise of power, while still acknowledging the influence of previous and contemporary rival kings and dynasties. As the contributions to this volume demonstrate, local views as to the acceptability of Seleukid royal authority were varied, nuanced, and complex. Some local communities warmly accepted Seleukid royal authority, while others merely tolerated it grudgingly or reacted with banal indifference. Yet other polities resisted Seleukid power and pretence, either through open revolt, or through less 14 Many positive examples, but also the failed attempts at recovery after 150 BCE are discussed by Coşkun in Chapter 15.



confrontational methods. If there is one overarching conclusion to be reached, it is that there is need to move beyond the perspective from the royal court and the sources that arose therein, toward a more fine-grained view, in order to take into consideration the concerns, interests, ambitions, and cultural sensitivities of the local constituents comprising the Seleukid domains. The reward for doing so will be great, since we will only fully grasp the forces underpinning the cohesion of Seleukid power through a deeper understanding of the changing local conditions on the ground, and how these interacted with shifting royal interests. BIBLIOGRAPHY Alonso Troncoso, V. (ed.) 2005: ΔΙΑΔΟΧΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑΣ. La figura del sucesor en la realeza helenística, Madrid. Alonso Troncoso, V. and Anson, E.M. (eds.) 2013: After Alexander: The Time of the Diadochi, Oxford. Anagnostou-Laoutides, E. and Pfeiffer, S. (eds.) 2022: Culture and Ideology under the Seleucids. Unframing a Dynasty, Berlin. Austin, M.M. 2006: The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest. A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation. Second Edition, Cambridge. Barbantani, S. 2007: ‘The Glory of the Spear. A Powerful Symbol in Hellenistic Poetry and Art. The Case of Neoptolemos “of Tlos” (and Other Ptolemaic Epigrams)’, Studi Classici e Orientali 53, 67–138. Bennett, B., and Roberts, M. 2011/19: The Wars of Alexander’s Successors 323–281 BC. Vol. 1: Commanders & Campaigns; vol. 2: Battles & Tactics, Barnsley. Bikerman, E. 1938: Institutions des Séleucides, Paris. Brodersen, K. 1999/2000: Zwischen West und Ost. Studien zur Geschichte des Seleukidenreichs, Hamburg. Capdetrey, L. 2007: Le pouvoir séleucide. Territoire, administration, finances d’un royaume hellénistique (312–129 avant J.-C.), Rennes. Capdetrey, L. 2022: L’Asie Mineur après Alexandre (vers 323–vers 270 av. J.-C.). L’invention du monde hellénistique, Rennes. Chaniotis, A. 2005: War in the Hellenistic World: A Social and Cultural History, Oxford. Chrubasik, B. 2016: Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men Who Would Be King, Oxford. Champion, J. 2014: Antigonus the One-Eyed. Greatest of the Successors, Barnsley. Coşkun, A. 2012: ‘Deconstructing a Myth of Seleucid History: The So-Called “Elephant Victory” over the Galatians Revisited’, Phoenix 66.1–2, 57–73. Coşkun, A. 2022a: ‘The Reception of Seleukid Ideology in 2nd-Century BC Judaea’, in AnagnostouLaoutides and Pfeiffer 2022, 151–166. Coşkun, A. 2022b: ‘Berenike Phernophoros and Other Virgin Queens in Early-Ptolemaic Egypt’, Klio 104.1, 1–43. Coşkun, A. (ed.) 2022c: Galatian Victories and Other Studies into the Agency and Identity of the Galatians in the Hellenistic and Early-Roman Periods, Leuven. Coşkun, A. 2022d: ‘A Survey of Recent Research on Ancient Galatia (1993–2019)’, in Coşkun 2022c, 3–94. Coşkun, A. 2023: ‘Diplomacy against the Odds? Acceptance of Kingship, Civic Freedom, and TrustBuilding under Seleukid Rule’, in R. Feldbacher and J. Fischer (eds.), Connected Worlds. Interregional Contacts in Antiquity, Hamburg 2023.


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Coşkun, A. and McAuley, A. (eds.) 2016: Seleukid Royal Women. Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship, Stuttgart. Coşkun, A. and Engels, D. (eds.) 2019: Rome and the Seleukid East. Selected Papers from Seleukid Study Day V, Brussels, 21–23 Aug. 2015, Brussels. du Plessis, J.C. 2022: The Seleucid Army of Antiochus the Great. Weapons, Armour and Tactics. Foreworded by M.J. Taylor, Barnsley. Ehling, K. 2008: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der späten Seleukiden (164–63 v.Chr.). Vom Tode des Antiochos IV. bis zur Einrichtung der Provinz Syria unter Pompeius, Stuttgart. Engels, D. 2017: Benefactors, Kings, Rulers. Studies on the Seleukid Empire between East and West, Leuven. Erickson, K. (ed.) 2018: The Seleucid Empire, 281–222 BC. War within the Family, Swansea. Erickson, K. 2019: The Early Seleukids, Their Gods and Their Coins, London. Feyel, C., and Graslin-Thomé, L. (eds.) 2014: Le projet politique d’Antiochos IV, Nancy. Feyel, C., and Graslin-Thomé, L. (eds.) 2017: Antiochos III et l’Orient. Actes de la rencontre francoallemande tenue à Nancy du 6 au 8 juin 2016, Nancy. Feyel, C., and Graslin-Thomé, L. (eds.) 2021: Les derniers Séleucides et leur territoire. Actes du colloque international organisé les 20–22 novembre 2019, Nancy. Fischer-Bovet, C. and von Reden, S. 2021: Comparing the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires. Integration, Communication, and Resistance, Cambridge. Gehrke, H.-J. 1982: ‘Der siegreiche König’, AKG 64, 247–277. Grainger, J.D. 2014: The Rise of the Seleukid Empire, Barnsley. Grainger, J.D. 2015a: The Seleukid Empire of Antiochus III (223–187 BC), Barnsley. Grainger, J.D. 2015b: The Fall of the Seleukid Empire (187–75 BC), Barnsley. Grainger, J.D. 2019: Antipater’s Dynasty. Alexander the Great’s Regent and His Successors, Barnsley. Hannestadt, L. 2020: Nicator. Seleucus I and His Empire, Aarhus. Hauben, H., and Meeus, A. (eds.) 2014: The Age of the Successors and the Creation of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (323–276 BC), Leuven. Houghton, A. and Lorber, C. SC I: Seleukid Coins: A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part I: Seleukos I through Antiochos III, 2 vols., New York 2002. Houghton, A., Lorber, C., and Hoover, O.D. SC II: Seleukid Coins: A Comprehensive Catalogue II. Part II: Seleukos IV through Antiochos XIII, 2 vols., New York 2008. Howe, T. (ed.) 2018: Ptolemy Soter. A Self-Made Man, Oxford. Koehn, C. 2007: Krieg – Diplomatie – Ideologie. Zur Außenpolitik hellenistischer Mittelstaaten, Stuttgart. Kosmin, P.J. 2014: The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire, Cambridge, MA. Kosmin, P.J. 2018: Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire, Cambridge, MA. Kosmin, P.J. and Moyer, I.S. (eds.) 2022: Cultures of Resistance in the Hellenistic East, Oxford. Lorber, C.C. 2022: ‘Honoring the King in the Seleukid and Ptolemaic Empires: A Comparative Approach. Part 1’, Electrum 29, 53–72. Matyszak, P. 2019: The Rise of the Hellenistic Kingdoms 336–250 BC, Barnsley. Mehl, A. 1980/81: ‘ΔΟΡΙΚΤΗΤΟΣ ΧΩΡΑ. Kritische Bemerkungen zum “Speererwerb” in Politik und Völkerrecht der hellenistischen Epoche’, AncSoc 11/12, 173–212. Michels, C. 2009: Kulturtransfer und monarchischer ‘Philhellenismus’. Bithynien, Pontos und Kappadokien in hellenistischer Zeit, Göttingen. Mittag, P.F. 2006: Antiochos IV. Epiphanes. Eine politische Biographie, Berlin. Müller, S. 2009: Das hellenistische Königspaar in der medialen Repräsentation: Ptolemaios II. und Arsinoe II., Berlin. Muccioli, F. 2013: Gli epiteti ufficiali dei re ellenistici, Stuttgart. Nelson, T.J. 2022: ‘Beating the Galatians: Ideologies, Analogies and Allegories in Hellenistic Literature and Art’, in Coşkun 2022c, 97–143.



Oetjen, R. (ed.) 2020: New Perspectives in Seleucid History, Archaeology and Numismatics. Studies in Honor of Getzel M. Cohen, Berlin. Ogden, D. 2017: The Legend of Seleucus: Kingship, Narrative and Mythmaking in the Ancient World, Cambridge. Ritter, H.-W. 1965: Diadem und Königsherrschaft. Untersuchungen zu Zeremonien und Rechtsgrundlagen des Herrschaftsantritts bei den Persern, bei Alexander dem Großen und im Hellenismus, Munich. Romm, J. 2022: Demetrius. Sacker of Cities, New Haven. Strootman, R. 2014: Courts and Elites in the Hellenistic Empires. The Near East after the Achaemenids, c. 330 to 30 BCE, Edinburgh. Taylor, M.J. 2013: Antiochus the Great, Barnsley. Trampedach, K. and Meeus, A. (eds.) 2020: The Legitimation of Conquest. Monarchical Representation and the Art of Government in the Empire of Alexander the Great, Stuttgart. Virgilio, B. 2003: Lancia, diadema e porpora. Il re e la regalità ellenistica, Pisa. Wenghofer, R. 2022: ‘Popular Resistance to Seleucid Claims to Hegemony’, in AnagnostouLaoutides and Pfeiffer 2022, 167–184. Wheatley, P. and Dunn, C. 2020: Demetrius the Besieger, Oxford. Worthington, I. 2016: Ptolemy I. King and Pharaoh of Egypt, Oxford. Wrightson, G. 2019: Combined Arms Warfare in Ancient Greece from Homer to Alexander the Great and His Successors, Barnsley. Wrightson, G. 2022: The Battles of Antiochus the Great. The Failure of Combined Arms at Magnesia that Handed the World to Rome, Barnsley.





Abstract: Recent research has elucidated a variety of facets of Hellenistic ideology in general and Seleukid ideology in particular. The present chapter seeks to synthesize the major elements of myth creation and argues, using the fragmented narrative of Appian as a starting point, that it was actively pursued under Seleukos I. Emphasis is put on the historical context of each element of the narrative. A comparison is made to the models set by Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies, Antigonids and Lysimachos, to highlight how Seleukos engaged in the early Hellenistic dialogue on kingship to develop his own royal persona and succeeded in passing his empire intact onto his son.

One important priority for ruling elites after a change in the governing regime is establishing their new status as legitimate rulers. Even in modern democratic governments, where the legitimacy of the new government is less often in question, there still remains a series of performances and the careful use of symbols designed to showcase the legitimate transfer of power. Thus, in countries with strong traditions of governmental legitimacy, these traditional elements help to confirm the passing of power even after closely contested elections. The 2020 American elections tested the power of these symbolic acts of transferring legitimacy from one group to another, as outgoing-President Trump sought to undermine the credibility of the underlying process. The appearance of the outgoing President at the inauguration of the President ideologically underpins the notion of a continuity of legitimate government. Following the 2000 and 2016 American elections, the inaugural ceremonies successfully marked the transition of one President to the next, even if they did not end most of the political discussion about an illegitimate president.1 Lest we consider that this is solely the result of the modern democratic tradition, a similar case could be made for ancient transfers of power, with the attendant ritual 1

For the process of establishing and attacking legitimacy in the vote counting in Florida see Agre 2001; see also Laden 2002. Following the 2016 election, Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded and attended Trump’s inauguration in 2017, even if some figures continued to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory; see Cannon 2020.


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performances.2 This chapter will explore how the early Seleukid court ‘exploit[ed] those means of representation and communication that they did have at their disposal’ to create the image of a legitimate Seleukid King.3 I argue that this propaganda helped enable them to successfully transfer power from one generation to the next. I. ALEXANDER AND THE CREATION OF ROYAL LEGITIMACY UNDER THE SUCCESSORS In states without institutionalised processes for transferring power, a wide variety of options are available to establish a legitimate new regime by demonstrating the status of the new elite as rightful rulers.4 In cases where the new power has overthrown the establishment, as was the situation with Alexander in Persia, several options are available.5 The old power structure can be presented as illegitimate in an effort to reduce its status, an older power structure can be revived to the status of a golden age that has now returned, or the new rulers can claim a new mandate to rule based on other factors.6 None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive, nor does employing any of these methods require that they match the reality on the ground.7 For example, the removal of the ‘Persian yoke’ from Egypt by Alexander in real terms did not require a wholesale dismantling of the prior system of rule or the complete removal of all of the major political players.8 Thus the establishment of a new regime does not need to actually replace all of the old structures of power; the process needs primarily to elevate the status of the new ruling elite and to create the perception of change. For the successors of Alexander the Great, these problems were more acute and more complicated. First, the king they sought to replace had developed an uneasy balance between the Macedonian and Persian dynastic traditions. Furthermore, he governed, much like the Achaemenids, through a range of subordinates, both


3 4

5 6 7 8

See Winter 1993 for the role Mesopotamian palaces played in ensuring the vitality of rule; see Price 1984 for the performance of legitimacy rituals by subjects in the provinces. The most viable Seleukid comparison in the first generations is the handing over of Stratonike from father to son (App. Syr. 59–61.308–327; Plut. Demetr. 38). See discussion below. Trampedach and Meeus 2020b, 13. By legitimate power, I mean power that is not solely dependent on the use of violence to maintain it and may be recognized by other outside powers. This legitimacy must be confirmed through the acceptance of the status of the new elite as rulers. This process of creating a new power structure appears mostly concerned with crystallising the status of the new ruling elite. See Trampedach and Meeus 2020b, 9–11. See Briant 2002 for Alexander within a Persian context. I consciously avoid the term ‘regime change’ given the modern political connotations. See Zanker 1988 and Galinsky 1996 for Augustus’ use of the past in the creation of his new regime. Ma 2013, 2. See Badian 1965, 171f.

Royal Propaganda and the Creation of Royal Status for Seleukos I


Macedonian and non-Macedonian, whose loyalty he courted extensively or replaced. 9 In many cases, these subordinates had developed their own basis of power in the regions with their own long dynastic traditions. Above all, the new empire was bound together by Alexander’s charisma and personal favour. As a result, after his death in Babylon on 11 June 323 BCE,10 the ghost of Alexander continued to exercise an inordinate amount of influence over his successors’ claims to power.11 Those successors were faced with the challenging options of establishing themselves in the traditional Macedonian ruling house, while lacking the essential Argead blood, or establishing their own power relying on local elites or by appealing to various pasts. Recent scholarship has demonstrated how the Diadochoi and Epigonoi, the first two generations of his successors, manipulated Alexander’s image to establish their status as legitimate sovereigns.12 Further, the vast array of new communities under Macedonian rule presented new opportunities to exploit different possibilities of kingship within a regional context. As a result, the development of royal propaganda for each of the kingdoms took place not in a vacuum but as part of a dialogue, not only between the dynasty and local populations, but between the emerging dynasties as well. In the Ptolemaic kingdom, a dual approach was taken depending on the audience; for the Greek audience they were presented as the legitimate successors to Alexander and for an Egyptian audience they were presented as the legitimate Pharaohs.13 Another successor, Lysimachos, appears to have based his status mostly on his service as Alexander’s bodyguard.14 For the local elite who would have formed, at the very least, the lower echelons of the previous regime, the new regimes’ attempts to legitimate their rule posed a different set of challenges in assimilating themselves into the new power structures or opposing them. II. SELEUKOS AND ALEXANDER The legitimacy-building process developed a different narrative in the Seleukid Empire than the other empires. As is the case with all the other successors who served with Alexander, Seleukos likely claimed his status as a candidate for rule based on his personal service during the campaign, thus presenting himself as a legitimate claimant to at least a share in Alexander’s empire.15 As his own successes increased, he moved from attempting to present his tenuous status as Alexander’s 9 10 11 12 13

Lane Fox 2007; Tuplin 2014. Depuydt 1997; Boiy 2004, 116f. Meeus 2009. Bieber 1964; Goukowsky 1978; Bohm 1989; Stewart 1993; Dahmen 2007. For dual Greek-Egyptian imagery in the poetry associated with the Ptolemaic court, see Stephens 2003. For Ptolemaic strategies of legitimacy, see Hazzard 2000; Hölbl 2001, 92–98; Pfeiffer 2008, 64–70; Heerink 2010; Stadler 2012; Fischer-Bovet 2014; Pfeiffer 2014; Caneva 2016; Caneva 2018; Caneva 2020; Caneva and Lorenzon 2020. For the importance of intercultural interaction in Ptolemaic Egypt, see Moyer 2011; Caneva 2019. 14 Bosworth 2002, 274–278. 15 Austin 1986; Meeus 2009; Erickson 2012; Erickson 2019.


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heir to presenting himself as a new ruler with his own divine support. The necessity of transforming his status, from general to satrap and finally to king required that Seleukos convince an array of audiences – his and Ptolemy’s Macedonian soldiers, Babylonian priests, and Iranian nobles to name but a few – of his new status and power in a variety of different ways. Like the other successor kingdoms, the formation of the concept of the Seleukid kingdom was not a single act, but was constantly re-enforced through a range of actions from civic foundations, temple dedications (and rededications) to competitions (athletic, dramatic or musical), festivals,16 performative speeches,17 history,18 and, as Kosmin argues, uniquely through the quantification of time.19 A complete survey of Seleukid dynastic creation is beyond the scope of this chapter,20 but it is important to note a few of the major gaps in our understanding of Seleukid propaganda before focussing this survey. For the early Seleukid period we generally lack two important types of evidence for these repeated performances that are present in Ptolemaic Egypt: praise poetry21 and honorific statues.22 It is unfortunate that much of the performance of imperial creation was ephemeral as it is within these spaces that the local dialogues around the regime would have been at its most apparent. In an attempt to remedy this lack of direct evidence of the dialogue between the emergent imperial court and the local elites, changes within the royal narrative(s) are taken to be part of this ongoing dialogue, if not necessarily a direct result. This chapter will explore two of the other areas where we can discern how the Seleukid narrative shifts as the status of Seleukos changes from satrap to king: his coinage and his city foundations. These two elements have been chosen partially due to their prominence and the availability of evidence, and also owing to their function as an outward expression of dynastic wealth and status that would have had an impact on the local populations. Through their wide circulation, royal coins remain the best documented medium of Seleukid propaganda, as they were the essential means of disseminating the new images of Seleukid power within and beyond their frontiers.23 Furthermore, the adoption of similar dynastic imagery by the Parthians24 and the recurrence of some of the elements of Seleukid myth-making in later Iranian 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Caneva and Lorenzon 2020. Ma 2000; Ceccarelli 2017. See Stevens 2019. See Trampedach and Meeus 2020a for contributions on the range of legitimation acts by Alexander and his successors; see Kosmin 2018 for time in the Seleukid empire. For the most recent survey of the myth-making that surrounded Seleukos I’s rise and maintenance of power, see Ogden 2017. For a systematic analysis of the equivalent dynastic mythmaking in the Ptolemaic kingdom, see Caneva 2016. E.g., Theokr. Idyll 17 and Kallimachos Coma Berenices both serve as recognition and reinforcement of the Ptolemaic house’s status in Alexandrian society. For imagery of the Hellenistic kings, see Ma 2010. There are a large range of Ptolemaic statues representing various members of the dynasty (Stanwick 2002), but Seleukid portraiture outside coinage is much rarer. For a study of Seleukid portraits, see Fleischer 1991. See Erickson 2019 for the argument that Seleukid coinage effectively circulated the SeleukidApollo mythology. Erickson and Wright 2011.

Royal Propaganda and the Creation of Royal Status for Seleukos I


dynastic storytelling25 suggests a degree of effectiveness in the creation of Seleukid kingship ideology and at the very least a regional acceptance of the connection between the imagery and the royal status of the Seleukid kings. The foundation of new cities provided new essential sources of manpower to the kings while at the same time reconfiguring the geography and the materiality of the empire.26 However, these foundations also presented sites of resistance, which could be incorporated into the civic foundation myths highlighting the power of the kings.27 One of the most significant efforts on the part of the early Seleukid court to enter into competition with their immediate predecessor, Alexander, and the other successors is revealed in how they presented their status according to their heritage. The literary result of this competition is evident in Appian’s account of the Seleukid Empire. In his Roman Civil Wars, the second century CE Roman writer Appian provided the only extant history of the Seleukid house. This narrative mainly focuses on Rome’s war with Antiochos III but ends the account with a summary history of the dynasty. In combination with scattered accounts in other authors, we can observe a set of dynastic foundation myths, which the Seleukids created for themselves.28 A narrative of divine support, which confirmed Seleukos’ status as rightful ruler, can be seen in Appian’s account. The relevant chapters 52–64 of his Syrian Wars can be very briefly summarised as follows: the section opens with Seleukos receiving an oracle from the god at Didyma which foretells his death. Next, three kingship myths follow; the first is Seleukos’ receipt of his anchor signet ring from his mother; the second is the story of a self-starting fire that ignites when he sets out from Macedon followed by the conclusion of the story concerning the ring; and lastly the final episode which involves the loss of Alexander’s diadem in the marshes of Babylon and Seleukos’ recovery of it. Appian’s narrative then continues with a short summary of Seleukos’ career and moves on to the list of his city foundations. Following the description of Seleukos’ city foundations, Appian then shifts from tracing the legitimacy of Seleukos to tracing that of his son by relating the story of the transfer of Seleukos’ wife, Stratonike, to her stepson Antiochos and the attendant speech.29 He then relates the foundation myth of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris30 and finally describes Seleukos’ death in Europe with a repetition of the Didymaean oracle. Each of these episodes in Appian’s narrative served to confirm Seleukos’ and his son Antiochos’ status as kings. Appian’s account still echoes the narrative construction the Seleukids utilised to establish their status in competition with the other Diadochoi. One way in which this may have been done was through the exploitation of the various myth-making 25 Engels and Erickson 2016. 26 See Kosmin 2014; For the settlements themselves, see Cohen 1978, 1995, 2006 and 2013. See Mitchell 2018 for the argument for non-Seleukid origins for many of the settlements in Asia Minor. See also Gerrard 2020 for an analysis of the potential uses of the distributed soldiers. 27 This phenomenon can also be seen in the narratives surrounding the foundation of Alexandria (Arr. Anab. 3.2.1; Plut. Alex. 26; Strabo 17.1.6). Cf. Chauveau 1999; Ogden 2011a; Howe 2014. 28 See Hadley 1969; Mehl 1986, 95–103; Ogden 2011b; Ogden 2017. 29 Almagor 2016; Engels and Erickson 2016; Harders 2016; Ramsey 2016. 30 Ogden 2017, 157–165.


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tendencies that proliferated about Alexander after his death. In fact, Fraser suggests that Appian’s narrative bears ‘a generic resemblance to the Alexandrian Romance that may well be purely fortuitous’.31 This resemblance may well be more than ‘purely fortuitous’. Appian seems to have adopted a tradition consisting of a series of stories that served to legitimate the Seleukid dynasty. They resemble the way by which the Alexander Romance may have originally served to establish Ptolemaic legitimacy.32 In fact, as Ogden argues, it stands to reason that the two traditions arose simultaneously and drew on an increasing body of oral tradition in both the Near East and Egypt in developing narratives to justify the new powers.33 Following Ogden, this chapter argues that this narrative, which also appeared on Seleukid coinage and likely on other no longer extant media, was designed to shift the narrative from Seleukos as a subordinate to the king, Alexander, to Seleukos himself as rightful king. Fundamental to this narrative was the foundation of cities both in Babylonia and in Syria and the integration of the elites in both areas as supporters of the Seleukid royal project.34 Before turning to the creation of the Seleukos mythology, I wish to briefly comment on how the most successful rival to the Seleukid house, the Ptolemaic kings, sought to present their founder Ptolemy I as an equal of Alexander and used him to prop up their claims to rule. Perhaps owing to the fact that they possessed Alexander’s body, the Ptolemies always honoured Alexander as the founder of their dynasty through the dynastic cult.35 However, there is one notable exception to the subordination of the Ptolemaic image to that of Alexander. During his reign Ptolemy II elevated his father to a new status and in doing so moved him to a level equal with Alexander.36 This status was not only expressed through cult, but also through repeated performance, either through festivals or poetic verse.37 The Ptolemies’ approach to using Alexander was tied to a power structure that differed from the Seleukid Empire. Many have been misled into thinking the Seleukids presented themselves in the same manner because of the powerful visual impact of Antiochos I of Kommagene’s monument to himself at Nemrud Dağı.38 The placement of Alexander at the head of the Seleukid ancestors in that monument 31 32 33 34

35 36 37 38

Fraser 1996, 36. Stoneman 1991, 9; Caneva 2016, 199–216; Ogden 2017. Ogden 2017. Fraser 1996, 37; Ogden 2011b; Ogden 2017, 99–173. The success of this integration beyond royal narratives or local elites’ views on the narrative is, unfortunately, harder to determine. The lack of apparent resistance may point to some successful integration, although see Wenghofer, ch. 14 in this volume for a counter argument. Hölbl 2001, 92–98; Pfeiffer 2008, 64–70. See Hazzard 2000 for the relative position of Ptolemy I during the reign of Ptolemy II; Heerink 2010 for Ptolemy II’s divine status in Theokr. Idyll 17; also Müller 2011. E.g. Kallixeinos of Rhodes’ description of the ‘Grand Procession of Ptolemy Philadelphos’, see Rice 1983; Theokr. Idyll 17. The monument was designed by Antiochos to stress his own illustrious ancestors both on the Greek and Persian side. There is no indication that the Seleukids made a similar connection to Alexander; the link was a creation of Antiochos I of Kommagene’s propaganda in connecting himself to the great conqueror, rather than the (by then) defunct Seleukids.

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has often led to the assumption that he was also placed there by the Seleukids.39 There is no evidence that Alexander was portrayed as either ancestor or tutelary deity in the early Seleukid court.40 For example, the priest list for the Seleukid cult at Seleukeia-in-Pieria begins with the gods and then proceeds to the kings beginning with Seleukos Zeus Nikator.41 Unlike the Ptolemaic pantheon and its list of kings,42 here Alexander has no place in the lineage. Rather, this separation of the Seleukid house from Alexander was part of a deliberate policy which began under Seleukos I and reached its culmination in the reign of Antiochos I with the creation and subsequent repetition of a new dynastic mythology centred on Seleukos’ and his son’s emergent status as kings. III. ALEXANDER IN EARLY-SELEUKID PROPAGANDA In order to assess how Seleukos came to play a new role and therefore supplanted Alexander as the foundation of royal status for the Seleukid Empire, we first must examine the role Alexander played in early Seleukid propaganda. Seleukos made very limited use of Alexander’s image compared to his rival successors, in particular Ptolemy and Lysimachos. Early in his reign, mints under Seleukos’ control reproduced the same types issued under Alexander with a series of sporadic developments that introduced Seleukos’ own symbols.43 Outside the modification of Alexander’s types, Seleukos only produced a single version of an image of Alexander, which appeared at three eastern mints in a relatively limited time.44 The design of the coinage at all three mints is nearly identical and marks a significant change in iconography of Seleukid coinage, which had hitherto been a continuation of Alexander’s types.45 The obverse of the new coin types feature the head of Alexander facing to the right in an elephant headdress with the skin tied around his neck in imitation of the common Alexandrine Herakles type. Interestingly, this innovation was heavily dependent on earlier Ptolemaic coinage.46 But while the overall image of this coinage is similar to early Ptolemaic

39 OGIS 388–401; Tarn 1951, 140 went so far as to imagine a link between Apama and Alexander, which justified this connection. 40 Young 1996, 322f.; Facella 2006; Strootman 2016; Jacobs 2017. 41 OGIS 245; See Van Nuffelen 2004; Erickson 2019. 42 Pfeiffer 2008, 64–70. 43 The earliest appearances of a symbol we generally link with Seleukos are on the so-called ‘Anchor Alexanders’. See Houghton 1991; Houghton 1998; Houghton and Lorber SC I, p. 43 for a discussion of the mint for this coinage, which Price 1991 had originally placed at Arados. See Fig. 3. 44 Houghton and Lorber SC I, Babylonian mint: no. 101; Susa mint: Gold: no. 183; Bronze: nos. 189, 190; Ekbatana mint: Gold: no. 218, Bronze: nos. 222, 223. 45 Mørkholm 1991, 113. 46 Dahmen 2007, 15 suggests that this represents a cooling of relations between the two kings after Ipsos.


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versions of the image,47 the removal of specific Egyptian characteristics such as the horn of Ammon and the mitra would have attempted to make the image more useful as a part of a Seleukid claim to status as heirs to Alexander’s eastern empire. However, it seems that the choice of image may have been too similar to the Ptolemaic version and thus it proved ineffective as a marker of Seleukos’ status for its intended audience. Lorber and Iossif have recently re-examined and redated this coinage and provided a compelling rationale for its development as part of a dialogue with the Ptolemaic image.48 By redating the initial Alexander gold coinage to 311, they resolve a number of thorny interpretative problems.49 When the coinage had been dated to c. 300, 50 it was normally considered in the light of shifting Ptolemaic-Seleukid relations as an assertation of a claim to the mantle of Alexander equal to that of Ptolemy, or perhaps a threat to the then-disputed Ptolemaic territory in Koile-Syria, or even an acknowledgement of both kings’ status and power. Further, attempts were made to connect this image to one or all of three closely contemporaneous events: Seleukos’ campaign to India, his victory at Ipsos, and/or the foundation of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris. Instead, the earlier dating and interpretation as a donative for the Ptolemaic soldiers that accompanied Seleukos in his efforts to retake Babylon provide a clear rationale for the iconography.51 However, the Susian bronze coinage that utilises this same typology remains die linked to later bronzes (c. 304). As Lorber and Iossif argue, this coinage was limited in circulation and likely targeted soldiers within the region.52 Indeed, the brief appearance and then removal of the explicit link between Alexander and elephants on Seleukos’ coinage may elucidate part of his renegotiation of his status as he moved from Ptolemaic ally to satrap to successor and finally to Seleukid king. This elephant headdress coinage then marks not the culminative act of Alexander imitation, but instead an initial attempt by Seleukos to insert himself into the discussion as a possible legitimate successor to Alexander by stealing Ptolemy’s version of Alexander, as it was now his name that appeared on the coinage. Within the same period, the Seleukid court also exploited the potential of Seleukos to be 47 Lorber 2012 presents an interpretation of this coinage which looks rather towards traditional Egyptian iconography and precedents. 48 Lorber and Iossif 2022. I thank the authors for sharing the paper prior to its publication. 49 Lorber and Iossif 2022. 50 Newell 1938, 113; Tarn 1938, 131; Hadley 1974, 53; Stewart 1993, 315; Dahmen 2007, 15. Newell, Tarn, Hadley, and Stewart date to ca. 305–300, and thus prevent an association of the coinage with Ipsos or the foundation of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris, while moving the production of this coinage closer to Seleukos’ Indian campaign. Dahmen does not appear to prefer any of the three options she proposes. Hadley highlights the nature of Alexander as a protecting deity. See also Iossif 2004; Erickson 2012; Erickson 2019, 30f., besides the references in n. 44 above. 51 Lorber and Iossif 2022. 52 Lorber and Iossif 2022. There is considerable difficulty in identifying end users with the production of any mint. Aperghis 2010 proposed an interesting solution which identified end users by mint markers, which has been generally poorly received, see de Callataÿ 2012. Lorber and Iossif make a compelling case on the basis of coin finds for this bronze coinage serving largely as military pay.

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Alexander’s favoured successor through the series of logoi highlighting Seleukos’ potential future rule alongside the adoption of specific features of Alexander iconography.53 These would have laid the groundwork for his claims to the diadem, the most prominent example being the episode of the lost diadem discussed below. Further, Seleukos enhanced the prominence of elephants as a Seleukid symbol,54 while replacing the imagery of Alexander with his own. Ipsos, then, marked a clear turning point in the relation of the successors both to each other and to Alexander. Before the battle, the reunification of the empire (or even Europe and Asia) under Antigonos remained a very real possibility; after the battle, it appears that only Seleukos still held the ambition and the power to reunite the whole empire. While this dream was never formally abandoned by any of the Hellenistic kings, after the battle of Ipsos, for most of them it appears to have ceased as a practical ambition.55 The anti-Antigonid propaganda, retained in Plutarch, that in a dream Alexander abandoned Antigonos and Demetrios before the battle of Ipsos for Seleukos and Lysimachos, fits as the cap stone of this transition.56 The circulation of this story would have represented a clear shift in support from those who still looked to Alexander’s closest circle as the ultimate authority. However, his performance as potential heir must have failed to connect with the armies, as Seleukos soon appears to further develop his own iconography distinct from that of Alexander. It seems likely that Ptolemy’s stronger claims and control of Alexander’s body prevented any other successor from securing this status as the heir of Alexander. As a result, it appears that Seleukos diverged from his allies Ptolemy and Lysimachos and abandoned the image of Alexander. He replaced the links to Alexander with his own claims of personal success, asserting his own status as a legitimate Zeus-favoured king.57 IV. SELEUKID KINGSHIP IDEOLOGY IN APPIAN’S NARRATIVE While focusing on the developing and severing of links between Seleukos and Alexander in the early Seleukid court, it is important to be mindful of the fact that the Seleukid dynasty’s relationship with Alexander was not stable. Likely beginning in the mid-3rd century and accelerating under Antiochos III against Roman reflections on Alexander, the son of Philip appears to have gained further prominence in the Seleukid court. Perhaps the most notable example is the emergence of Alexander as a royal name late in the dynasty. Further, we must be mindful that Appian preserves only a fragment of the Seleukid discourse and that alternative versions of many of the same episodes would have circulated with differing emphases. Turning to Appian’s digression, which encompasses most of the fantastical stories about 53 It is likely that the story of Alexander addressing Seleukos in a dream (Diod. 19.90) was already circulating before Seleukos’ return from the east. See Ogden 2017, 64. 54 Coşkun 2012; Kosmin 2014, 3, 21, 258; Sekunda 2019; Gerrard 2020, 207–248. 55 Meeus 2009. 56 Plut. Demetr. 29. Hadley 1974, 59; Ogden 2017, 64–66. 57 See Iossif 2004; Erickson 2012; Erickson 2019, 36–39.


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Seleukos, it is neatly encapsulated by the repetition of an oracle from Didyma which concerns Seleukos’ future kingship and death. This oracular pronouncement fits clearly within a Graeco-Macedonian narrative, but this is not necessarily the case for all of the stories Appian includes. In fact, many of these stories were probably recognisable by a variety of audiences as they tapped into older Near Eastern narrative traditions.58 After the first telling of the oracle response from Didyma, Appian begins his digression with a series of three stories that predict Seleukos’ future kingship. The first two are usually interpreted as a form of divine favour. The initial statement that a fire burst forth from his ancestral hearth is normally interpreted as a sign of his future kingship.59 While this sign of divine favour in Appian does clearly express his future kingship, its placement close to the other prophecies concerning his kingship and its similarity to Pausanias’ version suggests that this should be its role.60 It is perhaps telling that Appian does not explicitly include Alexander in Seleukos’ setting out from Macedon as Pausanias (1.16.1) does.61 While this story would have been understandable for a Greek (or even a Roman) audience, the process of divination by flames and the possible connection to Iranian fire temples makes it tempting to also place the story within an Iranian tradition.62 The multiple possible locations for the story alongside its potential Iranian elements suggest that this story has at least two traditions, one that emphasises Seleukos’ divine favour on his own, possibly within an Iranian tradition, and one that emphasises Seleukos’ divine favour in light of his connection to Alexander. It is possible that both stories circulated simultaneously in different regions as the version preserved by Appian highlights a slightly changed emphasis on Seleukos’ own status as king, particularly within an Iranian context. The second story is more extensive, and it is worth examining the text briefly as once again Alexander is not mentioned:63 Also that his mother saw in a dream that whatever ring she found she should give him to wear, and that he should be king at the place where he should lose the ring. She did find an iron ring with an anchor engraved on it, and he lost it near the Euphrates. It is said also that at a later 58 Ogden 2017. 59 See Hadley 1974, 59; cf. Brodersen 1982, n. 284; Ogden 2017, 54–56; Appian Syr. 56.284 ‘It was said also that in Macedonia a great fire burst forth on his ancestral hearth without anybody lighting it’. (Translation by White) 60 Pausanias 1.16.1. 61 Pausanias 1.16.1: ‘And a little further away (a statue of) Seleukos whose future good fortune was shown by unmistakable signs. For Seleukos, when he set out from Macedonia with Alexander, sacrificed in Pella to Zeus, the wood that lay on the altar advanced of its own accord towards the image and it ignited without the application of fire.’ 62 Although not included in the list of examples, Engels 2017, 230–238 argues for the continued importance of Iranian fire cults in Seleukid Syria drawing on connections within the foundation myths discussed below (cf. Ogden 2017, 99–173 for the Greek narrative possibilities). See the increasing literature on the Seleukids place within an Iranian context, e.g. Plischke 2014; Engels 2017; Strootman and Versluys 2017; Canepa 2018. 63 See now Ogden 2017, 23–54 for a full discussion of the various possible strands of Seleukos’ birth legend.

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period, when he was setting out for Babylon, he stumbled against a stone which, when dug up, was seen to be an anchor. When the soothsayers were alarmed at this prodigy, thinking it portended delay, Ptolemy, the son of Lagos, who accompanied the expedition, said that an anchor was a sign of safety, not of delay; and for this reason Seleukos, when he became king, used an engraved anchor for his signet-ring.64

Figure 1: AR Tetradrachm, Babylon II mint, struck in the name of Alexander. Head of Herakles facing right/Zeus Aëtophoros seated left, anchor in left field. Houghton and Lorber SC I no. 94.3; CNG Electronic Auction 224, Lot 264. Photograph and coin:

This story serves two functions in Appian’s narrative. The first is that it clearly develops an aetiology for the prominent use of the Seleukid anchor65 on coinage when Seleukos was still a satrap (Figure 1).66 The second is that it prophesizes his future kingship. Further, it notably puts that prophecy in the mouth of his initial protector and later rival, Ptolemy. This tale connects two stories by their function as aetiologies for the Seleukid anchor; the first section has often been connected to the longer birth myth of Seleukos recorded in Justin’s account: Seleukos’ valour also was distinguished, and his origin was miraculous. His mother Laodike, it seems, after she had been married to Antiochos, a distinguished general of Philip’s, dreamed that she conceived by sleeping with Apollo, and that, having been made pregnant, she was given a ring by the god as a reward for the sex, its stone was engraved with an anchor. Apollo bade her give it to the son she was to bear. The discovery of a ring with the same engraving in the bed the next day made it clear that the vision had been miraculous, as did the appearance of 64 App. Syr. 56.284–287: καὶ ὄναρ αὐτοῦ τὴν μητέρα ἰδεῖν, ὃν ἂν εὕροι δακτύλιον, δοῦναι φόρημα Σελεύκῳ, τὸν δὲ βασιλεύσειν ἔνθα ἂν ὁ δακτύλιος ἐκπέσῃ. καὶ ἡ μὲν ηὗρεν ἄγκυραν ὀφθῆναι. θορυβουμένων δὲ τῶν μάντεων ὡς ἐπὶ συμβόλῳ κατοχῆς, Πτολεμαῖον τὸν Λάγου παραπέμποντα εἰπεῖν ἀσφαλείας τὴν ἄγκυραν, οὐ καταοχῆς εῖναι σύμβολον. καὶ Σελεύκῳ μὲν διὰ τοῦτο ἄρα καὶ βασιλεύσαντι ἡ σφραγὶς ἄγκυρα ἦν. (Translation adapted from White) 65 See Anagnostou-Laoutides, ch. 3 in this volume for a full discussion of the place of the anchor iconography in a wider Near Eastern context. 66 See note 43 above for the so-called ‘Anchor Alexanders’.


Kyle Erickson the sign of the anchor on the thigh of the little Seleukos himself. Therefore Laodike gave the ring to Seleukos when he was setting out on the Persian campaign with Alexander the Great, and she told him about his origin.67

The myth contained in Justin 15.4 can be broken down into three elements all present in Appian: the story concerning the anchor signet ring, as in the Appian logoi, the story of divine birth from Apollo,68 and elements from the self-igniting fire story. But here the ring serves as the symbol of divine favour and possible kingship instead of the self-igniting fire. While Ogden has analysed the various elements of these logoi,69 it is worth highlighting how each element of the narratives that persevered in the Roman sources can both highlight Seleukos’ relation to Alexander or obscure it. The anchor symbol appears to be a key element of Seleukid iconography, which demanded an explanation from the early chroniclers. The anchor was a relatively common symbol on the coinage of Seleukos I and may have been the official marker on Babylonian seals,70 which appeared as early as 311 after his return to Babylon. It has prompted a variety of explanations including his service as navarch under Ptolemy and a Babylonian symbol of various sorts.71 However, if we accept that the logoi in Appian and Justin are Seleukid in origin, then we should not reject the notion that the anchor was a personal symbol of Seleukos that may have even had its origins before he left Macedon.72 It is there that the literary narratives attempted to explain the use of this symbol throughout Seleukos’ growing kingdom. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the anchor origin stories reflect only a tenuous connection with Alexander. The legend may have only begun to circulate as the stories about Seleukos’ origin hinted at a more divine origin. Just like in the fire legend, the Babylonian symbolism and the importance of the river Euphrates may have modified old 67 Justin 15.4.2–7: Huius quoque virtus clara et origo admirabilis fuit; (3) siquidem mater eius Laodice, cum nupta esset Antiocho, claro inter Philippi duces viro, visa sibi est per quietem ex concubitu Apollinis concepisse, (4) gravidamque factam munus concubitus a deo anulum accepisse, in cuius gemma anchora sculpta esset; iussaque donum filio, quem peperisset, dare. (5) Admirabilem fecit hunc visum et anulus, qui postera die eiusdem sculpturae in lecto inventus est, et figura anchorae, quae in femore Seleuci nata cum ipso parvulo fuit. (6) Quamobrem Laodice anulum Seleuco eunti cum Alexandro Magno ad Persicam militiam, edocto de origine sua, dedit. 68 See Erickson 2019, 62–115 for the relationship between Seleukos and Apollo. 69 Ogden 2017, 23–67. 70 See Fig. 1 for the combination of the Alexander legend and the anchor, on which also cf. note 43 above. Wallenfels (2015, 63, n. 27) suggests that the use of the anchor as an official seal might be compared to the ‘corpus of Neo-Assyrian Royal Seals that stereo-typically depict an idealized Assyrian king engaged in heroic combat with a rampant lion with examples known from the ninth (Shalmaneser III) through the seventh centuries (Aššur-eṭel-ilani)’. See also Balakhvantsev 2015 for the appearance of the Seleukid anchor on the terracotta tiles from Old Nisa. 71 Babelon 1890, viii; Haussoullier 1902, 127; Bouché-Leclercq 1914, 610; Mehl 1986, 77; Ogden 2017, 44–50. 72 For an alternative argument on the origins of the Seleukid anchor see Anagnostou-Laoutides, ch. 3 in this volume.

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Babylonian legends.73 This was created for or adapted by yet another audience which was required to confirm Seleukos’ status as king.74 Appian’s third story concerning the future kingship of Seleukos does not fit together in the same way as his first two. The logos goes roughly as follows: while Alexander was surveying the lagoons around Babylon, the wind blew off his diadem and as it landed on a tomb, someone swam to collect the diadem and placed it on their own head to keep it out of the water. The person was then either rewarded or killed. Variant versions also occur in Arrian and Diodoros and it has long been clear that the logos is part of the narrative tradition around Alexander’s death and perhaps should be linked to the Near Eastern tradition of the substitute king ritual.75 The various swimmers and their differing possible outcomes show how these narratives circulated in a variety of guises throughout the entirety of the Hellenistic period and later. However, Appian’s inclusion of Seleukos with the tradition demonstrates the Seleukid dialogue with this type of narrative.76 Like the dream preserved in Plutarch, it is perhaps best to see Seleukos’ appearance in the story as an element in Seleukid claims to rulership stemming from Alexander’s conquests . Thus, the first section of Appian’s digression on Seleukos comprises two different sets of stories; the first set being the stories concerning the fire and the anchor, and the second the story with Alexander’s diadem. The first set could have connections with Alexander, but the versions present in Appian lack these references and therefore create a narrative of Seleukid legitimacy without reference to the king. However, these legends likely circulated in multiple versions or changed depending on the audience. For example, the stories concerning the anchor ring may have developed in stages and generated different traditions. The first version which was accompanied by the self-starting fire explained Seleukid kingship through divine favour, and if we are to judge by Pausanias’ version, the deity was in all likelihood Zeus. The second stage specified Apollo as the god who favoured Seleukos. Further, a version with more explicit Iranian connections to a fire temple may have also circulated. There is no reason to believe that the myths were exclusive of each other, and they could have circulated in a variety of formulations depending on the audience and its pre-conceptions. Unfortunately, both the extant Mesopotamian and the Iranian literary sources, scarce as they are, are devoid of examples of Seleukid myth-making.77 As these seem to be the narratives that are reflected in Seleukid coinage, in particular the use of the anchor and, of course, the diadem, it appears that their 73 74 75 76

See Ogden 2017, 40–44 for narratives on the loss and recovery of rings tied to royal power. Holton 2013. Arr. Anab. 7.23; Diod. 17.16.5–7. See Hamilton 1969, 204. App. Syr. 56.290: οὐ ναύτην ὅλως φασὶν ἀλλὰ Σέλευκον ἐπὶ τὸ διάδημα τοῦ βασιλέως ἐκκολυμβῆσαι, καὶ περιθέσθαι Σέλευκον αὐτὸ τῇ κεφαλῇ, ἵν’ ἄβροχον εἴη. Some narrators, however, omit the whole of this story and say that it was not a sailor at all, but Seleukos who swam after the king’s diadem, and that he put it on his own head to avoid wetting it. 77 While this silence may be telling, the general disappearance of the Seleukids from these legends may be the cause. See Engels and Erickson 2016 for the traditional nature and afterlife stories about Apama.


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repetition – through both narratives and iconography – formed an important part of the process of establishing Seleukos’ status as a king with a diminishing reference to Alexander. Furthermore, we can see that the narratives have elements, which could have been understandable by different cultural audiences. The same can be said for the development of Seleukos’ iconography, as we will see below. When combined with the Apollo birth myth in Justin, which is also epigraphically attested, albeit later,78 we see a version of Seleukid royal status that is not dependent on Alexander but rather directly parallels Alexander’s claims to divine descent from Ammon/Zeus. V. SELEUKOS THE CITY FOUNDER Before turning to Seleukos’ iconography, it is useful to look at the connection between the literary narratives and Seleukos’ reshaping the landscape of his empire. One of the most important perceivable shifts in Seleukid policy after the battle of Ipsos was Seleukos’ new impetus towards founding cities. Under the Argead dynasty, the foundation of a city had been mostly a royal act,79 and this continued under Alexander whose most famous foundation was Alexandria in Egypt but included a number of other cities, which Plutarch totals as seventy.80 The actual number may have been much lower,81 as Plutarch seems to include within Alexander’s total settlements likely founded after his death, for example, Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris. By the Roman period, Alexander was clearly considered the city founder par excellence, but here Appian has Seleukos nearly matching Plutarch’s Alexandrian total, attributing over fifty city foundations to Seleukos.82 As with those attributed to Alexander, these would not all have been Seleukid foundations nor necessarily foundations of Seleukos I.83 Here again, the competition for new cities was not limited to Alexander, but to the other successors as well who all founded new cities within their territories. However, as Seleukos eventually claimed the lion’s share of Alexander’s newly conquered territory, the number of his foundations exceeded those of his rivals.

78 See Erickson 2019, 63–71, who dates the introduction of this legend between 287 and 281 BC based on the dedications to Didyma and inscriptions from Aigai and Erythrai (OGIS 219.26–7; Powell 1925, 140 = I.Erythrai 205 ll. 74f.; Malay and Ricl 2009). For further discussion, see Coşkun, ch. 4 in this volume. 79 Billows 1995, 146f. 80 Plut. De Fort. Alex. I, 328E. 81 The total is likely closer to 20 than to 70. See Fraser 1996, 240–243. Fraser’s table lists 57 possible foundations, with varying degrees of certainty. Tcherikover 1927 gives a possible total of 34. Cohen 2013, 36–38 provides a summary of the possible settlements but does not give a total or a view on them. Cf. Cohen 1978, 1995, 2006 and 2013 for a detailed analysis of all Hellenistic re-foundations and new settlements. 82 App. Syr. 57.295–298. 83 Malalas 8.201–204 attributes 75 cities to Seleukos. Fraser 1996, 37–39. Cohen 1978, 11; see also Seyrig 1970, 290–311.

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The extant literary tradition around new Seleukid settlements reflects the importance of the new major royal foundations, with foundation stories preserved for his Mesopotamian royal city, Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris,84 as well as the cities of the Syrian tetrapolis of Seleukeia, Antioch, Laodikeia, and Apamea.85 In Syria, particularly in his foundation of Antioch, Seleukos entered into direct competition for control over titles in the region with both Antigonos and Alexander.86 Antigonos’ foundation of Antigoneia had occupied a prime position in the Orontes valley. However, Seleukos appears to have been unable to simply rename the existing settlement after himself, a fairly common practice, and forced the occupants of the city to move to his new foundation. This act must have been designed to de-emphasise the status of Antigonos by removing all reference to him from the region, while at the same time reminding the inhabitants that Seleukos had defeated and replaced their former king. It is not only in the sheer number of the cities he founded that Seleukos competed with Alexander and with the other successors, but also in the mythology surrounding the founding of his cities. Appian’s long list of foundations by Seleukos far exceeds the number that is assigned to any of the other Diadochoi. He also outdid Alexander himself. In his Cities of Alexander the Great, Fraser has demonstrated that many of the cities claimed as foundations of Alexander by later authors were most likely Seleukid.87 So it appears that during the wars of the Diadochoi it was Seleukos who took the lead in founding the greatest number of cities. These new civic foundations were a cornerstone of the performance of royal power and propaganda within the early Hellenistic period, connecting the king through rituals with the divine and granting him the status of civic founder, in addition to granting the king new potential sources of revenue and manpower.88 These new settlers also became new audiences for the performance of royal rituals.89 As in the case of Alexander’s foundation in Egypt, the Seleukid foundations of Antioch/Seleukeia-in-Pieria and Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris have legends of divine support for the foundation attached. Further, as Ogden argues, there are a number of parallels between the accounts.90 I will only note a few key similarities. First, Plutarch has a figure appear in a dream to Alexander with instructions on where to build the

84 Cohen 2013, 157–173. 85 See Downey 1961, 24–45; Downey 1963; Grainger 1990; Cohen 1978, 17. Seleukeia: Malalas 8.199; Polyb. 5.59f.; Strabo 16.2.7; Laodikeia: Malalas 8.203; Strabo 16.2.9; Apameia: Malalas 8.205; Strabo 16.2.10. 86 The role of dynastic myth in the foundation of the two Syrian cities Antioch and Seleukeia-inPieria has been discussed by Ogden 2011b and 2017, 99–173. 87 Fraser 1996, 34–46. 88 An example is the founder shrine for Kineas at Ai Khanoum, on which see Mairs 2014. 89 For example, one could read the praise of Theokritos’ Gorgo and Praxinoa for the queen in Idyll 15 not only as Theokritos’ royal encomium (Foster 2006) but also as active recipients of Ptolemaic propaganda (Reed 2000). 90 Ogden 2017, 99–173.


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new city.91 The second element of importance is the marking out of the city with grain. For Alexander’s foundation, this grain is consumed by birds.92 As all the versions make clear, this could have been considered a negative omen, but is interpreted explicitly with a positive connotation.93 In Antioch, there is a similar use of grain to mark out the city street plan, and elephants to mark out the towers on the wall.94 Unlike in Alexandria, the foundation story for Antioch does not have a negative omen, but this is not true for Seleukos’ first major foundation, Seleukeia-on-theTigris. Appian’s version of this foundation shares the quintessential elements of the foundation of Alexandria: the divine intervention and the overturning of negative omens. Seleukos had determined that he required a new foundation which was opposed by the Magi. In order to prevent the city from prospering, they falsified the correct timing for the foundation. Seleukos ordered the army to await his command, but before he could give the appropriate signal, a voice was heard by those assembled and the building work commenced. Seleukos and his heralds were unable to stop the work. Seleukos, fearful of the consequences for deviating from what he believed was the auspicious timing, questioned the Magi. They then explained the failure of their plot and the intervention of a god: That was the reason why not even you could hold them back. What can be stronger in human affairs than a king, unless it be a god, who overcame your intention and supplanted us in giving you directions about the city, being hostile to us and to all the people round about? What can our resources avail hereafter with a more powerful race settled alongside of us? This city of yours has had a fortunate beginning, and it will be great and enduring. We beg that you will confirm your pardon of our fault which we committed from fear of the loss of our own prosperity. 95

Explicit in this narrative is the potential local resentment against the foundation of a new Greek city within the region. This is particularly interesting given Seleukos’ seemingly positive relationship with the city of Babylon,96 but Seleukos’ new foundation was intended to and became the new seat of royal authority in the region. Even if Babylon was not empty, as Pliny tells us (NH 6.122), the new city could 91 See Welles 1962. While I follow Welles in the belief that the excursion to Siwa was connected with Alexander’s desire to found a city in Egypt, compare Howe 2014 on the problems of divine guidance in the foundation of Alexandria 92 Plut. Alex. 26 for flour without the birds; for a similar interpretation, see Arr. Anab. 3.2. 93 Cf. the similar legend in the Historia Alexandri Magni 1.28–33. See Stoneman 2008, 27–49 for the foundation legends and Malkin 2014 for the importance of plurality and mythic variation. 94 Liban. Or. 11.90. 95 App. Syr. 58.305–307: αἱ ἐκεκέλευστο δή· διόπερ οὐδὲ σοῦ κατερύκοντος αὐτοὺς ἔτι ἐπείθοντο. τί ἂν οὖν βασιλέως ἐν ἀνθρώποις εἴη καρτερώτερον ἄλλο ἢ θεός; ὃς τῆς σῆς γνώμης ἐπεκράτησε, καὶ ἡγεμόνευσέ σοι τῆς πόλεως ἀντὶ ἡμῶν, δυσμεναίνων ἡμῖν τε καὶ γένει παντὶ τῷ περιοίκῳ. ποῦ γὰρ ἔτι τὰ ἡμέτερα ἰσχύσει, δυνατωτέρου γένους παρῳκισμένου; ἡ μὲν δὴ πόλις σοι γέγονε σὺν τύχῃ καὶ μεγιστεύσει καὶ χρόνιος ἔσται· σὺ δὲ ἡμῖν, ἐξαμαρτοῦσιν ὑπὸ δέους οἰκείων ἀγαθῶν ἀφαιρέσεως, τὴν συγγνώμην βεβαίου. (Translation White) 96 Geller 1990, 5f.; Houghton and Lorber SC I, p. 43; Diod. 19.90–92. See Kosmin 2018, 19–44 for arguments about the significance of Seleukos’ return to Babylon and the Babylonian festive calendar in the creation of the Seleukid era.

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have been a significant reputational blow to the Babylonian priesthood, which had served as a regional (if not central) seat of Seleukid power since Seleukos’ re-conquest of the city.97 Babylon remained an important centre but was no longer the most important royal city, which perhaps could have represented a familiar return to its status under the Persians.98 However, the Babylonian priesthood appear to have maintained its prominent position within the Seleukid court even after the foundation of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris.99 While these new foundations clearly created tensions, the local priesthoods still maintained a significant position to a greater extent than they had previously under the Persians. This successful integration may be reflected in the appearance of the Euphrates within the anchor ring story highlighted above and within some iconographic elements discussed below. VI. A SELEUKID FOUNDATION STORY INVOLVING ALEXANDER Unlike the foundation myths of Alexandria and Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris, the foundation myth for Seleukeia-in-Pieria/Antioch does not contain the same resistance or negative connotations. In light of that, it is useful to examine some key features of Libanios’ telling of the foundation story for Antioch: And Zeus sent from his sceptre to the altar his companion, the beloved bird. And it flew down into the middle of the fire and seizing the thighs wrapped in flames, carried them off. When the event caught the attention of all eyes and had made clear what was done was not done without the gods, Seleukos put his son on his horse in order to follow the flight from earth and to guide the horse along the path of the bird, wishing to know what the bird would do with the things which it had snatched away. And he, while riding and looking upwards, was led to Emathia by the bird. The eagle, descending there, placed the sacrifice on the altar of Zeus Bottiaios, which was established by Alexander after the spring refreshed him; and it seemed to all, even to those not skilled in interpreting, that Zeus was advising to build a city on that place. And thus Alexander’s desire for a settlement, and the beginning of the task moved towards its end and the chief of the gods was our founder due to his prophetic sign.100

97 Strabo 16.1.5; Paus. 1.16.3; BCHP 5, Rev. 6–9 = Grayson 1975, 11. See Cohen 2013, 157. For Herodotean elements in the narrative, see Brodersen 1982, 162f. See Visscher 2020, 71–79. 98 See Waerzeggers 2015. 99 See Clancier 2014; Visscher 2020, 78–119; Coşkun, ch. 15 in this volume. 100 Liban. Or. 11.86–88: Ζεὺς δὲ κινήσας ἐκ τοῦ σκήπτρου τὸν ἑταῖρον ἑαυτοῦ καὶ φίλον ὄρνιν ἐπὶ τὸν βωμὸν ἔπεμψεν. ὁ δὲ εἰς μέσην καταπτώμενος τὴν φλόγα ἀνελόμενος τὰ μηρία γέμοντα πυρὸς ἀπέφερε. (87) τοῦ συμβάνατος δὲ πάντα ὀφθαλμόν τε καὶ γνώμην ἐπιστρέφοντος καὶ δηλοῦντος ὡς οὐκ ἄνευ θεῶν ἐδρᾶτο, τὸν ὑιὸν ἐφ’ ἵππον ἀναβιβάσας ὁ Σέλευκος εἰς τὸ τὴν πτῆσιν ἀπὸ γῆς διώκειν καὶ τῶι χαλινῶι τὸν ἵππον ἰθύνειν πρὸς τὰς ὁδοὺς τοῦ πτεροῦ, βουλόμενος εἰδέναι, τί τοῖς ἡρπασμένοις ὁ ὄρνις χρήσεται. (88) ὁ δ’ ἱππεύων τε καὶ ἀναβλέπων ἄγεται πρὸς τὴν Ἠμαθίαν ὐπὸ τῆς πτήσεως. οἷ δὴ κατάρας ὁ ἀετὸς ἐπὶ τὸν βωμὸν ἔθηκε τὸν τοῦ Βοττιαίου Διός, ὃν ἱδρυσάμενος ἦν Ἀλέξανδρος, ἡνίκα αὐτὸν εὐφρανεν ἡ πηγή· ἐδόκει τε δὴ πᾶσι καὶ τοῖς οὐ δεινοῖς συμβάλλειν ὁ Ζεὺς εἰσηγεῖσθαι πολίζειν τὸν χῶρον. καὶ οὕτως ἥ τε Ἀλεξάνδρου πρὸς τὸν οἰκισμὸν ὁρμὴ τε καὶ ἀρχὴ πρὸς τέλος ἤιει καὶ ἡμῖν ὁ τῶν θεῶν κορυφαῖος διὰ τῆς μαντεῖας οἰκιστὴς ἐγίγνετο.


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Perhaps the two nearby cities Seleukeia-in-Pieria and Antioch-on-the-Orontes shared this same foundation story. While most scholars have preferred to see this tale of the founding of Seleukeia as duplication of the Antioch myth,101 it also seems possible that Seleukeia, which may have been intended as Seleukos’ new western capital and eventually housed his shrine,102 was the original subject of the myth. However, given that the Antigonid settlers were moved primarily to Antioch, the foundation myth with the movement of the prince was circulated to convince the displaced settlers of divine support for the new city.103 A second element that bears consideration is Alexander’s role in the narrative. The role of Alexander is likely wholly fictitious,104 but it may have a variety of origins. First, certainly by Libanios’ time and already in the Roman period, Alexander was both the more significant cultural figure and the most significant city founder, and as a result, the prestige of the city would have benefited more from Alexander’s involvement than Seleukos’. While the act of foundation was, normally, a single performance, it could be commemorated repeatedly through a variety of means: Libanios’ oration serves as one type of example, the iconographic expression of the mythological links serves as another. Further, the narrative about the foundation did not remain static, as we have seen, and was reconstructed as the new interpreters saw fit.105 As a result, the inclusion of Alexander in the narrative could have occurred after the fall of the Seleukids as the city sought new ways to highlight its significance within the Roman empire. However, if we place the foundation within the period shortly after the battle of Ipsos, then it also fits within what we identified earlier as the period in which Seleukos presented himself as the favoured successor to Alexander, exactly as he appears in Libanios’ narrative. There is some iconographic evidence relating to the foundation myths which suggests that they were not only literary creations but appeared in other media as well.106 Given the large number of Seleukid mints, it is perhaps surprising that, for the most part, foundation legends do not appear to have been part of the Seleukids iconographic repertoire. This is the case in Antioch, where the bronze coinage marks Apollo’s first appearance on Seleukid coinage in the western half of the empire.107 This coinage most likely recognises the most significant local god, Apollo and his major shrine at Daphne rather than an explicit reference to Seleukos’ claimed ancestry. 101 102 103 104 105 106

See Downey 1961, 61–63; Grainger 1990, 57; Ogden 2011b; Ogden 2017, 100. Wright 2018. Cohen 1990, 57. See Downey 1961, 24–45; Downey 1963; Grainger 1990; Cohen 1978, 17. See Malkin 2014. A new mosaic depicting the foundation of Antioch was recently found and then stolen: Olszewski and Saad 2017. Another Roman mosaic depicting the foundation of Apamea has also been stolen: Olszewski and Saad 2016. See also Coşkun, ch. 4 in this volume, n. 39. 107 Houghton and Lorber SC I, pp. 18–22. Although the type does not appear until the reign of Antiochos I, it is perhaps relevant that the first mint to produce what became the standard Seleukid coinage, the Apollo Toxotes coinage, was Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris; see Iossif 2011, 268–72.

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The coinage from the mint at Seleukeia-in-Pieria may be one of the exceptions. According to Appian, Seleukos was guided to found the city by a thunderbolt and therefore made the thunderbolt the local god.108 Here, the coinage reflects both the foundation legend and the local deity, as the reverse of the local bronze coinage depicts a thunderbolt, an anchor on a thunderbolt, or a winged thunderbolt (Figure 2).109 The prominence of Zeus within the foundation coincides with Seleukos’ presentation of his own close connections with Zeus, which developed more explicitly after Ipsos.110

Figure 2: Bronze 22mm, Seleukeia-in-Pieria mint, municipal issue. Laureate head of Zeus facing right/[Σ]ΕΛΕΥΚΕΩΝ above thunderbolt. SNG Spaer 38. Triton V, Lot 528, closed 16 Jan 2002. Photograph and coin:

In addition to their military and strategic functions, Seleukos’ new civic foundations thus played an important role in establishing himself as king. The foundations themselves play a part not only in the competition amongst the successors, with Seleukos’ resettlement of the population of Antigoneia as a forceful example of his success over Antigonos, but also within a wider narrative of divine favour and power amongst the successors. Further, the now invisible sponsorship of festivals, competitions and other religious ceremonies would have reinforced the narrative of Seleukid royal authority for the new settlers and would have formed part of the ongoing dialogue about the place of the city and its inhabitants’ within the empire. While Alexander overshadowed all his successors in the Roman imagination, Seleukos’ numerous foundations appear to have preserved his memory within the

108 App. Syr. 58.299. See Ogden 2017, 107–109. The local god was probably Zeus Kasios or Zeus Keraunios, the first likely being the interpretatio Graeca of a local form of Ba’al, possibly as in Egypt Ba’al Saphon. See Oliveria 2013. 109 Houghton and Lorber SC I nos. 32–34. 110 Erickson 2012.


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region.111 Finally, the narratives appear to demonstrate the king’s ability to overcome local opposition because of divine support.

VII. HEROIC STRENGTH AND BULL HORNS One final area of competitive propaganda that appears within Appian’s narrative is the demonstration of heroic strength by conquering an animal. Within a GraecoMacedonian context, the story retold by Appian bears a striking resemblance to other stories of heroic strength by the other Diadochoi. Appian gives us the following: ‘Physically he (Seleukos) was well-muscled and large, and once when a bull broke free from its bonds at a sacrifice of Alexander’s he blocked it by himself and wrestled it down with his bare hands. For this they add horns to his representations’.112

In contrast, Lysimachos used the foreparts of a lion as a personal symbol, in a similar way to the use of the horned horse and the bull by Seleukos.113 This symbol may have referred to the story in Curtius Rufus in which Lysimachos killed a lion single-handedly.114 Ptolemy’s heraldic animal was the eagle, which linked him to both Zeus and Alexander, and may have alluded to a story of his birth where he was exposed and saved by the eagle of Zeus.115 The use of personal symbols tied to important logoi by the other successors suggests that the Seleukos-bull logos served as an explanation of both the horned representations of Seleukos, and as representation of his might and therefore legitimated his claim to kingship.116 The image of a central male figure fighting one or more animals was a standardised feature of Mesopotamian art by the 3rd millennium BC; we can thus see the successors tapping into this traditional imagery.117 111 It is possible that the cult for Seleukos that survived at Dura-Europos was initially a founder cult for the king. Welles, Fink, and Gilliam 1959, no. 25; Downey 1988, 50 gives the god crowned by Seleukos as the Gad of Dura, whom Drijvers 1980, 67 names as Zeus Olympios/Megistos. 112 App. Syr. 57.294. 113 Mørkholm 1991, 82; Erickson 2019, 40–53. 114 Lysimachos and lion: Curtius 8.1.14f.; Ptolemy and the eagle: the eagle appears as an emblem on most Ptolemaic coinage. 115 Suda s.v. Λάγος = Aelian F 283 ed. Domingo-Forasté; cf. Hoover 1996, 26; Ogden 2011a; for eagles on Ptolemaic reverses, see Mørkholm 1991, Ptolemy I: Figs. 97–100, 127 (cf. 485); Ptolemy II: Figs. 284–286, 291–293, 296, 300–304, 306; cf. also Fig. 494. Ptolemy III: Figs. 309f., 312, 314f. Ptolemy IV: Figs. 317f. Ptolemy V: Figs. 319, 321, 324–326, 328. Kleopatra Thea: Fig. 635. 116 Erickson 2019, 40–53. 117 The bibliography on the use of the Master of Animals motif across the Near East, India and further afield is vast; for a range of approaches see: Counts and Arnold 2010. For bulls in particular, see Rice 1998, 85–115. For Macedonia, see, for example, the hunting frieze from Vergina Tomb 2 (Drougou and Saatsoglou-Paliadeli 1999, Fig. 60). For parallels between Gilgamesh and Seleukos, see Hoover 2011, 203–208.

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It is perhaps telling that while bulls appear on coinage from a number of Seleukid mints (Sardeis, Magnesia-on-the-Meander, Tarsos, Antioch, Karrhai, Uncertain Mint 8, Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris, Susa, Ekbatana, and Aï Khanoum),118 the well-established glyptic image of a figure fighting a bull does not appear. This may be because seal imagery, where this motif was particularly common, does not appear to have been translated across into Seleukid coinage and further that the types of images used by Seleukos tended to be Greek in style.119 However, it continued as a seal type.120 It was not only Seleukos’ defeat of a bull that held significance in Mesopotamia, but also the bull horns attached to his helmet (or head) invoked a long standing divine and kingly tradition.121 The bull was not exclusively a Mesopotamian image either, but had significant iconographic importance within Persia as well. As Hoover points out: ‘Through the iconography of the bull, Seleukos connected himself to native Iranian religion and broader Zoroastrian concepts of holiness and legitimacy.’122 As with the other performances of Seleukid power we can glimpse through Appian’s narrative, the use of taurine symbolism could have spoken to a wide range of audiences by utilizing their own cultural inheritances. The evidence for the success of this dialogue is difficult to determine. I have argued elsewhere that the Medusa/Bull coinage produced by all Seleukid bronze mints was an attempt to foster an imperial image across the entirety of the empire. Furthermore, that this attempt was not continued suggests that this empire-wide approach was not successful.123 However, the image of the bull-horned king and the bull-horned horse appears to have been a success, as the image appeared throughout the dynasty in a variety of media from coins to Babylonian seals to statues. It was even received into the Alexander Romance tradition.124 VIII. CONCLUSIONS The ultimate test of efforts to legitimise power is the ability to pass it successfully on to a successor, an achievement that eluded Alexander and several of the other Diadochoi, including Lysimachos. For Seleukos, the creation of a series of new 118 Houghton and Lorber SC I nos. 6–8, 11, 21–24, 47, 113, 125–127, 148–153, 191–193, 224 f., 238A–288. 119 While traditional seal imagery does not seem to have transferred into Seleukid numismatic imagery, features such as the Seleukid anchor and horned horse did transfer into seal images. 120 Messina 2004. 121 Messina 2004; Erickson 2012, 122f. 122 Hoover 2011, 214. 123 Erickson 2019, 49–53. 124 Messina 2004; Hoover 2011; Erickson 2012, 122f. and 2019, 40–53. See also, for example, the odd description of the foundation of Alexandria appearing in the gamma recension of the Alexander Romance; ‘At the East gate, upon the loftiest tower of all he [Alexander] erected his own statue, and surrounded it with the others of Seleukos, Antiochos, and Philip the physician. He made the (statue) of Seleukos recognisable as it bore a horn for courage and invincibility’. Historia Alexandri Magni 2.28. See also Lib. Or. 11.92 for the assertion that Seleukos had a horned statue at Antioch; a Roman statue is in the Antakya Müzesi.


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legitimating mythologies repeated through a variety of media, including coins, seals and new civic foundations, moved him first from officer to satrap, then to a successor to Alexander, and finally to his equal. This last step allowed Seleukos to present himself as an all-powerful king with the ability to create royal status for his son, which he first tested by sharing power.125 Finally, with his succession secured, he could take the final step of his separation from Alexander and have himself declared the son of a god. His son could then take this process one step further and make his father a god and attempt to create an image to supersede Alexander within the empire.126 As we have seen, Seleukos’ attempts to legitimate his rule did not take place within a vacuum but in a never-ending dialogue. This included Alexander’s memory, the developing traditions of the other Diadochoi as well as the inherited legacy of Near Eastern kingship as transmitted by local elites.127 Not all attempts by Seleukos and his court to craft this image were successful and some were abandoned, but Seleukid kingship ideology established itself regardless within the framework of Near Eastern and Iranian kingship, with some elements adopted by its successors.128 Bibliography Agre, P.E. 2001: ‘Legitimacy and Reason in the Florida Election Controversy’, Social Studies of Science 31, 419–422. Almagor, E. 2016: ‘Seleukid Love and Power: Stratonike I’ in A. Coşkun and A. McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women, Stuttgart, 67–86. Aperghis, G.G. 2010: ‘Recipients and End-Users on Seleukid Coins’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 53(2), 55–84. Austin, M. 1986: ‘Hellenistic Kings, War, and the Economy’, The Classical Quarterly, New Series 36(2), 450–466. Babelon, E. 1890: Les Rois de Syrie d'Armenie et de Commagene, Paris. Badian, E. 1965: ‘The Administration of the Empire’, Greece & Rome 12(2), 166–182. Balakhvantsev, A.S. 2015: ‘The Seleucid Anchor in Old Nisa’, Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology 6, 81–87. Bieber, M. 1964: Alexander the Great in Greek and Roman art, Chicago. Billows, R.A. 1995: Kings and Colonists: Aspects of Macedonian Imperialism, Leiden. Bohm, C. 1989: Imitatio Alexandri im Hellenismus: Untersuchungen zum politischen Nachwirken Alexanders des Grossen in hoch- und späthellenistischen Monarchien, Munich. Boiy, T. 2004: Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon, Leuven. 125 Here too Seleukos was not alone. In fact, the first of the successors to do this was Antigonos Monophthalmos in both naming himself and his son Demetrios kings. For the marriage of Antiochos and Stratonike, see App. Syr. 61.319–327; Plut. Demetr. 38. Mesk 1913; Breebaart 1967; Hillgruber 2010; Almagor 2016. 126 See App. Syr. 63.336 for the establishment of the cult temple for Seleukos at Seleukeia-inPieria by Antiochos I. See Potts 1990, 116 and Wright 2018 for the possible identification of the temple. See Erickson 2019, 62–71 for Antiochos’ changes to the construction of Seleukid legitimacy and the final replacement of Alexander with Seleukos. 127 Erickson 2011 and 2018; Erickson and Wright 2011. 128 See Canepa 2014; Engels 2017; Kosmin 2018; Coşkun 2022.

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Abstract: The anchor has been one of the most puzzling Seleukid symbols, introduced by the dynasty’s founder, Seleukos I. Historical sources of the Roman era refer to it in connection with certain oracles and divine omens designed to confirm Seleukos’ Apolline ancestry and his preordained rise to the throne. A less mythological explanation refers to Seleukos’ time as Ptolemy’s admiral: according to this interpretation, Seleukos’ naval victories during this time inspired him to employ the anchor as symbol of his naval superiority. After reviewing the extant textual and numismatic evidence and summarizing the scholarly arguments on the issues arising from them, I explore an additional cultural paradigm regarding the Babylonian god Marduk and his safe mooring of the ship of state, celebrated during his New Year festival. Following Marduk’s divine example, earthly kings, including Nebuchadnezzar II whom the Seleukids admired, were able to halt the ships of their enemies and claim divinely sanctioned victories. In my view, this paradigm accords with Seleukos’ conciliatory cultural policies designed to appeal to both his Greek and non-Greek subjects, especially since the ship-of-state metaphor was ubiquitous in the Greek culture but also popular, as the evidence indicates, in Babylon and Kilikia, a region largely exposed to the cultural influence of Babylon during the Neoassyrian period. The concept of safe anchoring was amply promoted in Near Eastern royal inscriptions and advocated in the magnificent state boats which decorated the temples of Marduk and Nabû in Babylon and Borsippa. Seleukos and his son Antiochos I were known to have participated there in local cultic activities. Thus, Near Eastern lore about Marduk’s ship of state likely encouraged Seleukos’ choice of the anchor as a symbol of his royal legitimacy, a symbol employed more systematically after his final victory against Antigonos in 301 BCE.

I. INTRODUCTION: QUIZZING THE ANCHOR AS A SELEUKID SYMBOL Seleukos Nikator favoured the anchor as the symbol to be represented on two of his coin types: the SUSA WREATH coins that bear the name of Alexander and are now downdated to the period from 311/310 to 309/308 BCE;1 and on his Alexander *

I am deeply grateful to Catharine Lorber for her generous comments on an earlier draft of this paper and her bibliographical suggestions, and to Lloyd Taylor for sharing drafts of his then-


Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides

tetradrachm issues, which first appeared around 308/307 BCE until the time Seleukos assumed the royal title in 305 BCE,2 and then again after his decisive battle at Ipsos. His choice has puzzled and divided students of Hellenistic history for nearly half a century,3 during which, however, our understanding of the cultural milieu of the early Seleukids has changed considerably. As a result, we have increasingly moved away from a Hellenocentric reading of the dynasty and toward the view that the Seleukids, in line with the spirit of cultural interface advocated by Seleukos’ (refusal to repudiate his) marriage to the Baktrian Apama,4 were keen to appeal to both their Greco-Macedonian and eastern subjects everywhere in the empire, but notably so in Babylon, where Seleukos first rose to power.5 In revising our approach to the Seleukids, alongside a thorough review of the numismatic evidence,6 we have sought insights from cuneiform sources, including the Babylonian Chronicles from the Hellenistic Period,7 the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries,8 the Cylinder of Antiochos I, where he famously addresses a long prayer to the god Nabû in the traditional style of Babylonian kings,9 and from Berossos’ Babyloniaka.10 Nevertheless, we have not yet attempted to explain Seleukos’ choice of the anchor as his royal symbol in the context of his appreciation of Babylonian lore, especially in light of the temporary erasure of the symbol from coin dies from about 305 BCE, when Seleukos proclaimed himself king, until after the battle the Ipsos.

forthcoming papers and teaching me so much about Seleukid coinage. I’m also thankful to Andreas Parpas for sharing his work with me and to Panos Iossif for alerting me to an idea he is currently working on regarding the role of the anchor in the founding myth of the Delphic oracle and the arrival of Dionysos on the site. For further acknowledgments for assisting me with the transliteration and translation of Akkadian inscriptions, see ns. 98 and 117. 1 Taylor 2019, esp. 64 and 78–80; also see Taylor 2022, 15f. 2 The Babylonian King List, BM 35603, p. 53, obv. 6 refers to 305 BCE or SE 7 as the first year of Seleukos’ reign. See Sachs and Wiseman 1954, 203 and 205; also Boiy 2000, 116, citing (in his n. 19) Grzybek 1992, 191f.; Taylor 2015, 70f. notes that Seleukos was on campaign in the East and therefore absent from Babylonia when he was pronounced king. 3 Newell 1938, 109f. (nos. 290–297) with discussion on p. 112; also 171–173 (nos. 461–471) with discussion on pp. 175–181 (nos. 496–506) and 181f.; pls. XII.11–19, XXI.5–23, and XXV.4. 4 See Plut. Demetr. 31.3–4; Arr. Anab. 7.4.6 (on Seleukos’ marriage to Apama); Grainger 1990, 12; Wright 2010, 41–46 (on the mixed ethnic background of the Seleukids); Wright 2012, 17f. On Apama as an important Seleukid queen, see Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 127; SherwinWhite 1987, 7f.; Mehl 1999, 19f. For further references, but also for some caution against an ethnic interpretation, see Coşkun, ch. 4 (on Miletos) in this volume. 5 See Anagnostou-Laoutides 2013; 2017, 148–150; 2022a and 2022b; Beaulieu 2014; Kosmin 2013 and 2014a. 6 Wright 2005; Erickson 2019. 7 Finkel, van der Spek, and Pirngruber 2020. 8 van der Spek 1993; cf. Haubold, Steele, and Stevens 2019. 9 Erickson 2011; Strootman 2013; Stevens 2014; Kosmin 2014a; Anagnostou-Laoutides 2017, 160f. 10 Beaulieu 2006; van der Spek 2008; cf. Haubold, Lanfranchi, Rollinger, and Steele 2013.

The King-Ship of the Seleukids


In response to these gaps in our knowledge, I offer here a review of the ancient sources and modern scholarly interpretations of the anchor for the first Seleukid king before drawing attention to a different paradigm regarding the importance of cultic boats in the ancient Near East and their metaphorical meaning from the earliest times down to the Hellenistic period. In this context, I argue that the sacred boats which decorated the temples of Marduk and Nabû in Babylon, and are mentioned in a clay barrel of Nebuchadnezzar II, housed in the University of Pennsylvania Museum, advocated the role of the gods as helmsmen of the state. The king, who typically posed in Babylon as ‘the beloved of Marduk and Nabû’,11 was understood to emulate their role on earth, and was thus entrusted by the gods with the task of navigating the ship of state to safe mooring. The metaphor of the king as a helmsman at the wheel of the ship of state was fittingly re-employed as part of Seleukos’ royal ideology as it could readily resonate with his Greco-Macedonian subjects, who were familiar with its rich imagery in Archaic lyric and elegiac poetry,12 Athenian tragedy,13 and the works of Plato.14 In fact, as the ancient scholiast of Aristophanes notes, the metaphor was pervasive in ancient Greek literature.15 II. THE SCHOLARLY RECEPTION OF THE SELEUKID ANCHOR In his study of the western Seleukid mints, Newell16 argued that some of the earliest representations of anchors on Alexander type coins had been minted at Arados in Phoenicia in 316 BCE when Seleukos possibly raided the city and took control of its mint as Ptolemy’s admiral.17 He based his argument on the affinity of these coins with issues from Arados minted by Philip III Arrhidaios, who reigned from 323 BCE until his death in 317 BCE. Newell also argued that some other Alexander type coins with anchors were minted at Marathos.18 However, both suggestions have been challenged by Houghton who divided these coins into four groups. Of these, Groups III and IV are dated around 300–301 BCE.19 Group I of these coins consists of tetradrachms, drachms, and fractions and is dated from around 311– 11 See Cyrus Cylinder, ll. 22: LUGAL-ú-tu ša dEN u dAG ir-a-mu pa-la-a-šu a-na ṭu-ub lìb-bišú-nu iḫ-ši-ḫa L[UGA]L-ut-su (‘whose rule Bēl (= Marduk) and Nabû dearly love, whose k[in]gship they desired for their own delight’); trans. Schaudig 2019, 23; translit. Finkel 2013, 131. Cf. cylinder_complete.htm 12 Archil. F 105 and 106 (on the Homeric overtones of the simile, see Page 181f.); Alkaios fr. 6a (also in Herakl. Alleg. Hom. 5) and 208; Thgn. 667–682, 857–860. 13 Aisch. Ag. 1003–1006; Eum. 16; Sept. 1–3, 109–116, 208–210, 795f., 1072–1078; Soph. Ant. 175–191, 1096f., 1344f. 14 Plato Resp. 488a–489d; Euthyd. 291d; Pol. 302a–b; Leg. 641a, 758a–b and 945c. 15 Schol. Ar. Vesp. 29: ἀεὶ οἱ ποιηταὶ τὰς πόλεις πλοίοις παραβάλλουσι. 16 Newell 1941, 192f. with his n. 4. 17 Cf. Ogden 2011, 100f. claiming on the basis of this suggestion that perhaps Antigonos was the first to mint anchor coins, a view he later rejected; see Ogden 2017, 49 with n. 94. 18 Newell 1941, 194. 19 Houghton 1991, 116.


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306/305 BCE. Importantly, Houghton showed that these coins, being the earliest, were most probably minted in the East.20 He further associated Group II, consisting of staters, tetradrachms, drachms, and some fractions with the ‘anchor lion’ staters which were struck at Babylon after 305 BCE.21 In Houghton’s view, these coins disappeared when the mint was transferred from Babylon to Seleukeia on the Tigris ‘… perhaps because … Seleucia was established as a modern Greek city without Babylon’s oriental associations’. Seleukos, however, was keen on utilizing cultural associations that would be meaningful to both his Greek and non-Greek subjects, and the lion anchor staters presented an easy way of achieving this at the start of his struggle to (re)claim kingship since all it required was replacing an inscription in Aramaic with the anchor (see Figs. 3–5 and relevant discussion below). In Hadley’s view, the ANCHOR first appeared on the reverse of the Alexandertype coins, which Seleukos Nikator minted after 305 BCE at Ekbatana and Susa;22 since in some of the Susa coins the image of a Nike holding a wreath appears above an anchor or is replaced by an anchor (Fig. 1a and 1b), it was evidently designed to evoke notions of victory. This led Svoronos,23 echoed by Bosworth, to suggest that Seleukos likely wished to allude to his maritime victories, achieved between 315 and 312 BCE when he served as Ptolemy’s admiral against Antigonos.24 Hadley rejected Svoronos’ suggestion on the basis that the victories allegedly commemorated on the coins had occurred many years before the coins were struck. In addition,25 as Antela-Bernárdez noted, at that time Seleukos was subordinated to Ptolemy, hardly a role he would wish to remind his subjects of at the start of his rule.26 Recently Taylor confirmed the ‘Susa wreath’ coins, now dated to ca. 311–308 BCE (see n. 1 above), as the earliest Seleukid coins on which the anchor appears. He argues that they represent a stage of experimentation with coin iconography during the Babylonian war when it was especially critical for Seleukos to determine his propaganda symbols. At that time, the wreath appeared on Seleucid coins alongside

20 Houghton 1991, 114; cf. Duyrat 2005, 125–151. 21 Houghton 1991, 114f. discusses the views of Newell 1938, 100–106 regarding the affinities between coins with a LONG TORCH minted by Philip Arrhidaios, and an ANCHOR AND LONG TORCH ALEXANDER tetradrachm, found in Babylon. Houghton rejects the connection of this coin with Arados and Philip Arrhidaios and counter-suggests that this coin is probably associated with Babylon’s ANCHOR LION staters (see below). Houghton believes that all the ANCHOR LION issues were struck at Babylon after 305 BCE and not at Seleukia, as Waggoner 1969 suggested. Also see Houghton and Lorber SC I 34–37; cf. Iossif and Lorber 2007, 350f. and Monnerie 2018, 147f. On the Aradian Herakles bronze issues (SC I 72 and 73), see Hoover 2006, esp. 47–49. In email communication, Taylor dates these staters from 308– 303 BCE. 22 Hadley 1974, 52 with n. 8 and 60 with n. 63; Stewart 1993, 314–316; Dahmen 2006, 49. 23 Svoronos 1904, introduction (pp. ρ΄-ρά with n. 1) also in Hadley 1974, 60 with n. 64; cf. Bellinger 1962, 26f. and Babelon 1890, xxix–xxx. 24 Bosworth 2002, 214f. 25 Hadley 1974, 60f. 26 Antela-Bernárdez 2009, 605f.

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many other symbols, including the anchor, but also the horned horsehead and the Boeotian shield.27

Figure 1a: Alexander type tetradrachm, (311–305 BCE); printed with permission of Image Courtesy of Numismatik Naumann, Auction 102, Lot 345, May 2021; cf. SC I 67.1 = 5.7; Taylor 2015, 72.

Figure 1b: SC I 66 stater: Athena looking to the right on the observe in crested Corinthian helmet. On the reverse, the legend ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ alongside a Nike facing left and holding wreath in outstretched right hand, and mast (stylis) in her left hand. This coin is from the Uncertain Mint 6A and is dated between 311 and 305 BCE. Image courtesy of the Gallica Digital Library,

Hadley, however, was more interested in the final episode of Seleukos’ conflict against Antigonos and his use of coins to broadcast his victory after the battle of Ipsos in 301 BCE. The anchor reappears on the bronze coins and quadruples that Seleukos minted at that time. These coins, minted at Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris around 296/95 BCE,28 could hardly be linked to Seleukos’ earlier naval career. Hadley believed that the anchor had by now become part of Seleukos’ royal propaganda, taking his cues from Appian who wrote (Syr. 11.56):29 27 Taylor 2015, 78. 28 Hadley 1974, 60 with Antela–Bernárdez 2009, 605; for an example, see Note that this particular coin (SC 1.145) is not listed in Aperghis 2020, 15–16 listing all the horned horse coins minted by the Seleukids. 29 Hadley 1974, 61. The Greek text of App. Syr. 56.284–286 reads: καὶ ὄναρ αὐτοῦ τὴν μητέρα ἰδεῖν, ὃν ἂν εὕροι δακτύλιον, δοῦναι φόρημα Σελεύκῳ, τὸν δὲ βασιλεύσειν ἔνθα ἂν ὁ δακτύλιος ἐκπέσῃ. καὶ ἡ μὲν ηὗρεν ἄγκυραν ἐν σιδήρῳ κεχαραγμένην, ὁ δὲ τὴν σφραγῖδα τήνδε ἀπώλεσε


Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides (Another story related that) his mother saw in a dream that whatever ring she found she should give to Seleukos to carry, and that he would be king at the place where he would lose the ring. She did find an iron ring with an anchor engraved on it, and he lost it near the Euphrates. It is also said that as he was returning to Babylon later, he stumbled over a stone and, when the stone was dug up, it was seen to be an anchor. When the soothsayers were alarmed at this prodigy, thinking that it was a sign of delay, Ptolemy, the son of Lagos, who accompanied the expedition, said that an anchor was a sign of safety, not of delay. Thus, when he became king, Seleukos used an engraved anchor for his signet-ring.

At this point it is important to note that the anchors on Seleukid coins are variations of the fluked, stone-stocked wooden type anchors commonly found across the Mediterranean,30 though Seleukos seems to have used a lead-stocked anchor as his symbol.31 However, the aforementioned myth where the stone upon which he stumbles is discovered to actually be an anchor (καὶ τὸν λίθον ἀνασκαφέντα ἄγκυραν ὀφθῆναι) confirms that the representation of the anchor varies between coins and the textual tradition. Appian’s description rather points to the more common type of anchors made of stone and punctuated with a number of holes used to connect the anchor with a rope and/or to add wooden stakes to it.32 We know that marinetype anchors became indispensable even for riverine transport in the Nile during the Ptolemaic era, since for the Ptolemies ‘the river was perceived as an extension of the sea’.33 Furthermore, we have extensive evidence of the cultic significance of


31 32 33

κατὰ τὸν Εὐφράτην. λέγεται καὶ ἐς τὴν Βαβυλωνίαν ἀπιόντα ὕστερον προσκόψαι λίθῳ, καὶ τὸν λίθον ἀνασκαφέντα ἄγκυραν ὀφθῆναι. θορυβουμένων δὲ τῶν μάντεων ὡς ἐπὶ συμβόλῳ κατοχῆς, Πτολεμαῖον τὸν Λάγου παραπέμποντα εἰπεῖν ἀσφαλείας τὴν ἄγκυραν, οὐ κατοχῆς εἶναι σύμβολον. καὶ Σελεύκῳ μὲν διὰ τοῦτο ἄρα καὶ βασιλεύσαντι ἡ σφραγὶς ἄγκυρα ἦν. My translation having consulted McGing 2019, 114–117. On Appian’s account, see also Newell 1938, 44. See Haldane 1984, 14–16 on anchors featuring on coins from Apollonia Pontica, a colony of Miletos established already in the 7th century BCE; cf. Paunov 2017, 60–64 on Apollo, the city’s divine patron, who features on the observe of its tetradrachms. An upright anchor and a crayfish appear on the reverse of these coins; see, for example, https://www. Another characteristic motif on Apolloniate coins was that of the Gorgoneion / face of the Medusa with anchor, as for example, in the issue featuring at results=100&search=Apollonia+Pontika+. Medusa is associated with the cult of Apollo, popular throughout the Greek colonies of Asia Minor; for coins issued by Seleukos I with the Medusa head, see Hoover 2007, 1f., nos. 1 and 8. For a 2nd-century-CE Medusa-head freeze from Apollo’s temple at Didyma, see Didyma.jpg. Note that Strabo 7.3.9 credits Anacharsis as the inventor of the double-fluked anchor; cf. Pliny NH 7.209 and Armstrong 1948, 22. In private communication, Lloyd Taylor mentioned that they appear on early coins from Samos and coins from 5th century Cyprus (unattributed mint). For a stone anchor dedicated to Apollo in Etrutrian Gravisca around 500 BCE in connection with the famous sea-trader Sostratos, see Roebuck 1988, 456f.; cf. Krämer 2016, 83. Frost 1963, 44 notes that although lead-stocked anchors were more commonly used in the Roman period, they were certainly known at this time. Cf. Frost 1982a. Votruba 2019, esp. 213–219. Belov 2020, 97.

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stone anchors punctuated with a hole and set up in temples or sacred sites across the Levant already since the Bronze age.34 Dedicating parts of a ship to show gratitude for safe sailing was also widely known in the Greek world: in this context Kallimachos mentions Agamemnon’s dedication of the rudder of his ship to the goddess Imbrasia for allowing the Greeks to sail safely to Troy (Hymn 3.228–232), while Apollonios Rhodios refers to an anchor dedicated by the Argonauts to the spring Artake (Arg. 1.954–957).35 A dedication of a silver model ship in the name of king Seleukos is listed in the Delian inventory catalogues, and is dated only a few years after his death.36 Hence, it seems that Seleukos expected his subjects to recognize his technologically advanced anchor as a development of the traditional stone anchor and further, to invest it with the ideology of safety and divine favour that stone anchors typically carried. Still, one must wonder: does this also mean that Seleukos was confident his eastern subjects would recognize the anchor and its symbolism on the earlier anchor coins, minted at Susa and Babylon (beyond making the obvious association of the anchor with his person)? I will revisit this question later in the chapter. To explain the re-appearance of the anchor on the coins issued after the battle of Ipsos, Hadley suggested that probably Seleukos was ‘seeking to win the good will of Greek merchants who after 300 must have been reintegrating the commercial network stretching from the Mediterranean eastward through Mesopotamia and Babylonia to Iran and India’.37 Seleukos was certainly keen to fulfil Alexander’s naval plans, since he commissioned the periplous of the Caspian Sea,38 wishing to expand the Seleukid presence in the Persian Gulf.39 He had already sailed the Euphrates alongside Alexander, and when they reached the marshes near Babylon he received yet another omen predicting his future as king.40 34 Frost 1991, 397; also see Frost 1982b on a ship in distress protected by a god, perhaps Ba’al. Wachsmann 1998, 255–294 (on shfifonim, the typical ‘stone anchors with hole’). 35 The role of Herakles in this episode is important and recalls his special role as protector of sailors. See Kajava 1997, esp. 62–66. 36 See IG XI 2 (= ID), 161, B, l. 78–79, dated in 279 BCE (and therefore a few years after his death): τριήρης ἀργυρᾶ, βασιλέως Σελεύκου ἀνάθημα, ὁλκὴν δραχμαὶ (1544). Cf. Homolle 1882, 32 s.v. 31: τριήρης ἀργυρᾶ, Σέλευκου ἀνάθεμα, dated in 179 BCE. For the full catalogue of ships and ship parts dedicated at the temple of Apollo at Dephi, including anchors, see Fenet 2016, 557–561. 37 Hadley 1974, 61f. 38 Kosmin 2014b, 69–71; cf. Pliny NH 2.67.167f. Also see Aperghis 2020, 28f. arguing that the sailors on Seleukos’ ships in the Gulf were mainly paid with the international coin of the time, the ‘Alexanders’, additionally bearing Seleukos’ name; cf. Parpas 2016, 139–141. 39 Stavrou 2021 with Potts 2009, and Hannestad and Potts 1990; cf. Tito 2018. 40 According to Appian, Alexander and Seleukos were sailing the Euphrates in search of ways to irrigate the Assyrian cities. When a gust of wind blew off Alexander’s crown from his head, Seleukos threw himself in the water to recover it. To keep the crown safe while swimming, he put it on his head. This was perceived as an omen that Seleukos was destined to inherit the kingship after Alexander. The text (App. Syr. 56.288f.) reads as follows: Ἀλεξάνδρῳ γὰρ ἐξ Ἰνδῶν ἐς Βαβυλῶνα ἐπανελθόντι, καὶ τὰς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ Βαβυλωνίᾳ λίμνας ἐπὶ χρείᾳ τοῦ τὸν Εὐφράτην τὴν Ἀσσυρίδα γῆν ἀρδεύειν περιπλέοντι, […] εἰσὶ δὲ οἳ τάδε πάντα ὑπερελθόντες, οὐ ναύτην ὅλως φασὶν ἀλλὰ Σέλευκον ἐπὶ τὸ διάδημα τοῦ βασιλέως ἐκκολυμβῆσαι, καὶ


Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides

In addition, according to the Diadochoi Chronicle, Seleukos was successful in wresting Babylon from Antigonos via the Euphrates, possibly by damaging earthwork defences along the riverbanks.41 Thus, in the written tradition Seleukos’ naval skills are not associated with any trade policies but focus on his royal aptitude, also highlighted by Ptolemy who in Appian’s account intervenes to interpret the anchor as an omen of safety rather than delay. Seleukos’ effort to legitimize his rule seems to have begun as soon as he assumed the title of king at Babylon and was intensified after the battle of Ipsos. Notably, the ring engraved with an anchor that Seleukos’ mother found according to Appian (which Taylor understood in connection with Seleukos’ role as Ptolemy’s navarchos)42 also featured in Pompeius Trogus’ account, as excerpted by Justin. Here, the emphasis falls on Apollo as Seleukos’ divine father, which represents a later and complementary process of legitimization (Epit. 15.4.2–9):43 Seleukos was renowned for his valour, and the circumstances of his birth were astounding. His mother was Laodike, wife of Antiochos, who had been a distinguished general under Philip. She dreamed that she had conceived after sleeping with Apollo, that when she was pregnant she had received from the god, as a present for having slept with him, a ring with a stone on which an anchor was carved, with instructions to give this to the son she was to bear. Two things made this dream astounding. The first was a ring that was found in the bed the following day bearing that very motif, and the second a birthmark in the shape of an anchor on the infant Seleukos’ thigh. Laodike gave the ring to Seleukos when he went off with Alexander the Great on the Persian campaign, explaining to him how he had been born. After Alexander’s death Seleukos gained control of the East, and he founded a city in which he immortalized the memory of his double conception by naming the city Antioch after his human father and consecrating the adjacent fields to Apollo. The emblem of his birth persisted in the succeeding generations, since his sons and grandsons had an anchor on the thigh as a congenital mark of their ancestry.

An alternative explanation has been proposed by Antela-Bernárdez, who understood the symbol in connection with the victory of Ptolemy and his allies (including περιθέσθαι Σέλευκον αὐτὸ τῇ κεφαλῇ, ἵν᾿ ἄβροχον εἴη. Although the anchor does not feature in this tradition, this sailing expedition of the Euphrates indicates that both Alexander and Seleukos had hands-on knowledge of Near-Eastern sailing techniques; cf. n. 97 below. 41 Aperghis 2020, 7. 42 Taylor 2019, 78f. 43 See Babelon 1890, vii. Justin’s text reads as follows: Huius quoque et virtus clara et origo admirabilis fuit; siquidem mater eius Laodice, cum nupta esset Antiocho, claro inter Philippi duces viro, visa sibi est per quietem ex concubitu Apollinis concepisse, gravidamque factam munus concubitus a deo anulum accepisse, in cuius gemma anchora sculpta esset, iussaque donum id filio, quem peperisset, dare. Admirabilem fecit hunc visum et anulus, qui postera die eiusdem sculpturae in lecto inventus est, et figura anchorae, quae in femore Seleuci nata cum ipso parvulo fuit. Quamobrem Laodice anulum Seleuco eunti cum Alexandro Magno ad Persicam militiam, edocto de origine sua, dedit. Ubi post mortem Alexandri occupato regno Orientis urbem condidit, ibi quoque geminae originis memoriam consecravit. Nam et urbem ex Antiochi patris nomine Antiochiam vocavit et campos vicinos urbi Apollini dicavit. Originis eius argumentum etiam in posteris mansit, si quidem filii nepotesque eius anchoram in femore veluti notam generis naturalem habuere. Latin text from Seel 1971; trans. adapted from Yardley 1994, 141.

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Seleukos) against Demetrios in the battle of Rhodes in 305 BCE: ‘[O]ne thing we can be sure of is that the battle of Rhodes between the allies and the Antigonids in 305 BCE was a maritime one.’44 According to Antela-Bernárdez, confirmation that Seleukos’ symbol was related to this victory can be found in Demetrios’ decision to strike coins bearing a Nike alighting on a ship’s prow around 300 BCE (Fig. 2) by way of reminding the other Successors of his victory over Ptolemy in Salamis in Cyprus in 306 BCE. He was thus making a statement about his legitimate claim of royalty as Antigonos’ son.45 Yet, it seems unlikely that Seleukos chose his symbol of authority on the basis of a multiparty alliance under Ptolemy, let alone in the context of responding to a potential rival. At this point, Seleukos needed a message of conclusive victory.

Figure 2: ANS 1944.100.13639. © The American Numismatic Society.

From a numismatic perspective, Lorber and Iossif, also keen on Ptolemy’s role in inspiring the Seleukid anchor, observed that the gold and double darics with the image of Alexander in elephant headdress and anchors were issued at Babylon, Susa, and Ekbatana in 311 BCE after Seleukos won control of each of these cities with the help of the cavalry provided to him by Ptolemy.46 However, in my view, engraving coins with the anchor as a mark of honour for his valuable ally would not be useful or a priority for Seleukos at that time, when he would likely be more preoccupied with affirming his own authority as the new king in his own region. The longstanding support and even mentorship that Ptolemy provided to Seleukos, suitably reflected in Ptolemy’s role in forecasting Seleukos’ royal future in the written sources, may be undeniable; yet the scholarly discussion on Seleukos’ coin symbols tends to overlook the fact that Seleukos envisaged the anchor as a meaningful symbol of his royal authority for as many of his subjects as possible – again, especially given the fact that the early anchor coins were minted in the East.

44 Antela-Bernárdez 2009, 606f. Cf. Le Rider and de Callataÿ 2006, 114–116 discussing Seyrig 1958 and his view that the anchor is a royal countermark rather than a dynastic symbol (cf. Antela-Bernárdez 2009, 605, n. 4). 45 See Antela-Bernárdez 2009, 607 drawing on Hadley 1974, 55 with ns. 28–29. 46 Diod. 19.86.5; cf. Winnicki 1989, 76–83 cited by Lorber and Iossif 2022 forthcoming, n. 17.


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In his recent revision of the debate, Taylor concurred that the anchor was meant to function as a symbol of Seleukos’ earlier naval success,47 that is, as a precursor to his military success in wresting Babylonia from Antigonos in the Babylonian war of 311–308. The anchor insignia is a reference to Seleukos as the issuing authority and its presence on the coinage of both Uncertain Mint 6A and Babylon II attests to a coherent monetary system in the province during his second satrapy

In his view, Series II of the Alexander coins minted at the ‘Uncertain Mint 6A’ (cf. Fig. 1b above), probably a satrapal mint located at Opis, 70 km north of Babylon,48 were struck ‘after Seleukos had expelled Antigonos from Babylonia in 308 BCE’, though probably rather between 306 and 304 BCE, ‘in preparation for the return of Seleukos’s army from its eastern campaign’.49 However, it was precisely Seleukos’ awareness that the anchor still propagated the memory of himself as Ptolemy’s admiral, rather than an independent king, that prompted him to abandon the symbol from his coins between 304/3–302/1 BCE. His decision appears to have been conscious because anchors were erased from Seleukid coin dies across his mints operating in Babylon (Babylon II and Uncertain Mint 6A) and Susiana.50 According to Taylor,51 Two reasons can be posited for the temporary removal of the anchor symbol from the coinage at the time Seleukos took the royal title. Firstly, a new legend, BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY established unambiguously the issuing authority, making the anchor, a symbol of Seleukos, redundant. Secondly, the anchor symbol could have been perceived as implying subservience to Ptolemy, his ally at the time.

Taylor further argues that the reintroduction of the anchor on Seleukos’ coins after the battle of Ipsos52 was part of a process of carefully reworking the symbol into the myth of the dynasty’s founder. At this point, the anchor was elevated from Seleukos’ personal seal to a dynastic symbol53 in an attempt ‘to further secure the loyalty of the predominantly non-Macedonian population in his realm’ by 47 Taylor 2015, 49; see also n. 42 above. 48 On the location of Uncertain Mint 6A, SC I, p. 34. The mint operated alongside the main Babylonian mint; cf. Iossif and Lorber 2007, 347 with Taylor 2015, 66 n. 31. 49 Taylor 2015, 47f. 50 Taylor 2020, 31, 34f.; cf. Houghton 1991, 110. 51 See Taylor 2019, 73, 77–80; also see Taylor 2020, 35 and 39 (with images of coins bearing erased anchors such as Houghton and Lorber SC I 94.5, 67.6, 67.5(c), 69.7, 69.4; cf. Taylor 2015, 49 with ns. 16 and 17, citing Houghton and Lorber SC I p. 34. The latter explained the erasure of the anchor from issues of the two Babylonian mints as an act of Antigonid hostility in the context of the Babylonian war. Furthermore, as Monnerie 2018, 129–144 argues, citing the Babylonian Diadochoi Chronicle (BCHP 3, r. 23’–31’), Antigonos had undertaken extensive pillaging in northern Babylonia during the war with Seleukos, while it seems that the whole region had suffered economically; cf. Aperghis 2020, 7. Kritt 1997, 88 explained the erasure in connection with Seleukos’ assumption of the kingship. Taylor 2020, 31, 35, 126 corroborates Kritt by claiming that a similar erasure of the anchor is observed at the Susa mint, which was never under Antigonid control. See also Taylor 2022, 16f. and 19f. 52 Taylor 2015, 60–62 and 2019, 78f. 53 Taylor 2019; also, Taylor 2022, 6–9 and esp. 12f.; cf. Taylor 2021/22, 96f.

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presenting it ‘as an inevitable outcome of the will of the gods’.54 The anchor, therefore, reappears on the Athena/elephant chariot coins minted at Seleukeia-on-theTigris, probably at the city’s second workshop, around 296/295 BCE, some years after the transfer of the mint from Babylon around 304 BCE.55 At any rate, the interruption in minting anchor coins, albeit brief, seems to mark a definitive break from Seleukos’ earlier naval career under Ptolemy. However, although Taylor believes these later coins to be of civic character, Aperghis interprets them as military, meant to be used after the battle of Ipsos ‘as pay to the returning soldiers and to those who continued to serve in peace time’.56 The anchor also features anew on the victory coinage from the Susa mint when it resumed its operation around 300 BCE, again according to Aperghis as ‘one-off payments to the Baktrian soldiers returning from the Ipsos campaign and regular pay for those who remained in Seleukid service’.57 In my view, Taylor is right in suspecting that Seleukos’ decisions were guided by an attempt to legitimize his rule, an attempt which included his non-Macedonian subjects, both in the years before and after the battle of Ipsos, and therefore, increasingly in a civic context. Regarding this point, Aperghis argued that the Alexander anchor coins that Seleukos issued at the Babylon II mint in the early stages of the Babylonian war, and then supplemented with coins minted in Ekbatana no later than 305 BCE, were used to pay his infantry and cavalry. Seleukos used the horned horse symbol on coins destined for his mainly Median cavalry and his anchor symbol for the infantry in the main army. When both symbols appear on the coins, they are meant as payment for both the infantry and the cavalry.58 He also claims that the silver Ba’al/Lion coins with anchors of the same period were used to pay the native troops that had served in the army from 311 to 309 BCE.59 In his view, the anchor erasure can be explained thus: when the army left for the eastern campaign, having been paid with the coins bearing the anchor, some issues found their way back to Babylon. The erasure happened in the process of reissuing them from 308 as generalpurpose coins for local use. However, this interpretation does not consider the fact that anchor erasures happened at the same time in Susa and Babylon, which points to a more centrally guided policy. At any rate, Seleukos evidently chose his coin symbols in full awareness of the cultural tastes of his soldiers and in accordance with his tendency to openly engage with local religious traditions,60 as he did in Babylon from the beginning and as

54 55 56 57 58 59 60

Taylor 2019, 79. For an example of this coin type, see Aperghis 2020, 21. Again, Aperghis 2020, 21. Aperghis 2020, 10f. Aperghis 2020, 9. BCHP 3, obv. i.25 mentions that when Seleukos entered Babylon in 320 BCE, the local priests petitioned him for funds so that the ‘dust of Esagila could be removed’, that is, to have the temple of Bēl-Marduk cleaned. Although we are not certain about Seleukos’ response to this petition, he is also probably mentioned in BCHP 9, obv. 2’ where a procession road to Bēl is


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Antiochos would do with even higher intensity later on.61 In addition, Seleukos was known to have issued civic coins, such as the famous trophy type coins, for circulation exclusively or predominantly in the eastern satrapies. He thus followed the syncretistic style that Mazaios had introduced, which proved very popular with the multi-ethnic locals. As already pointed out in scholarship,62 one type of Seleukos’ early coins, where he first introduced the anchor (Fig. 3), seems to otherwise continue the civic coins that Mazaios had already struck as satrap of Babylon from 331 to 328 BCE. ‘Lion-staters’ featured a walking lion facing left on the reverse and the Ba’al of Tarsos on the obverse (Fig. 4). As Marest-Caffey reminds us,63 Mazaios, a satrap under the Achaemenids and reinstated in Babylonia by Alexander, was granted the right to mint between 331 and 328 a silver coinage of Attic weight, featuring a Persian iconography and Aramaic legend. Local populations readily adopted this syncretic type as demonstrated by the popularity of imitations. Alexander, too, minted coinages of Persian weight and mixed iconography.

Figure 3: Silver Coin of Seleukos I, Babylon, 311–304 BCE; SC I 88.8b (312–281 BCE). ©The American Numismatic Society

Notably, the phenomenon of anchor erasure from coin dies is not observed in Seleukos’ western satrapies, since the most important Seleukid cities (and accompanying mints) in this region were established around 300 BCE. Here, the legend of the king is commonly engraved alongside the anchor on coins intended for civic consumption. Hence, Seleukos issued coins with the anchor symbol on the reverse at his Antioch mint: the coins, dated between 300 and 281 BCE, depict Apollo on the observe and Athena Promachos holding a shield on her left arm and brandishing a mentioned. See discussion in Anagnostou-Laoutides 2017, 153f. For the text and translation of the Chronicles, see 61 Stevens 2014 on Antiochos’ restoration of Esagila and Ezida in ca. 268 BCE; cf. AnagnostouLaoutides 2017, 157–161. 62 Newell 1938, 99f.; cf. Svoronos 1904, who appears to suggest that Mazaios had struck coins engraved with anchors; given the early date of the publication, I suspect that these issues have been since identified as Seleukid. 63 Marest-Caffey 2016, 15.

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spear in her right. The anchor features in the inner right, under Athena’s shield.64 Moreover, we have a rare coin from the Antioch mint that features all the above symbols alongside the legend ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ on the reverse.65 Similarly, the legend of the king appears in combination with the anchor on the reverse of coins from the mint in Apameia on the Orontes. The reverse of these coins, dated between 300 and 280 BCE, also features a horse’s head facing left, while the anchor is depicted below on the left. On the observe of these coins, an elephant standing to the right is represented.66 In addition, coins from the Pergamon mint, dated closer to 281 BCE (and so likely designed to allude to his mounting conflict with Lysimachos), also feature on the reverse the legend of the king alongside the anchor (below) and a bee (above), while in the middle an elephant is portrayed walking right (as depicted on the cover of this book). The obverse of these coins features a bridled head of a horned horse with open mouth to the right.67

Figure. 4: Mazaios’ coin with lion and Ba’al. Sear 6148, Newell Plate XXI 3–5, BMC 1838.1231.1 = BMC GC Arabia, vol. 2, p. 180. Image courtesy of Marti Classical Numismatics.

Thus, it seems that Seleukos continued to negotiate the meaning of the anchor, first introduced on his coins in the context of the Babylonian war, and then on his military coins during his anabasis to the Upper Satrapies and India, where the anchor erasures occur for the first time. Given that the erasures are on the military issues from Babylon and Susa, the phenomenon likely indicates that after the battle of Ipsos Seleukos no longer had to remind his soldiers of the need to secure the empire under his authority – the army’s objective had been achieved by then. However, after 301 BCE Seleukos was increasingly concerned with legitimizing his rule among the civilians of his empire, both Greek and non-Greek.

64 65 66 67

E.g. SC I 15.1,[email protected]. See E.g., SC I 35, E.g., SC I 1.1,[email protected].


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III. SAILING EAST: SELEUKOS AND MARDUK’S STATE-BOAT As argued so far, Seleukos seems to have employed the anchor after the battle of Ipsos in an increasingly civic environment in an attempt to promote himself as a paragon of stability, a patron of peace and prosperity. This concept agrees with widespread Babylonian royal ideology according to which the king was expected to restore order on earth in emulation of the god Marduk. The latter had established cosmic order by achieving a decisive victory against the sea-monster Tiamat, thus claiming the role of king of the Gods. The episode was related in the Enuma Eliš, the Babylonian Epic of Creation, and commemorated during the Babylonian New Year festival.68 Following this line of argument, it seems possible that Seleukos adopted the anchor to utilize and propagate the Babylonian concept of divinely sanctioned kingship by posing as the favourite of Marduk. By the Hellenistic period the festival had evolved considerably, bearing evidence of its popularity among the Assyrians, especially under Sargon II and later under Esarhaddon, who used it to ‘to reconcile Assyrian and Babylonia not only politically but also cultically’.69 Furthermore, the Babylonian priesthood actively tried to revive the festival in the Hellenistic period. This resulted in a number of Hellenistic copies of New Year festival texts that emphasize the role of the priests as ‘guardians of cuneiform culture’.70 Nevertheless, despite their innovations, these texts still ‘draw on traditional Babylonian conceptions’,71 bearing witness to the dynamic revival and negotiation of local traditions under the Seleukids. Furthermore, as Iossif and Lorber suggested,72 at Babylon, Ba’al of Tarsos, the Kilikian god of Mazaios’ coins, was likely identified with Marduk,73 whose protection Seleukos was now claiming in his guise as Zeus-Marduk.74 Tarsos had important cultural connections with Babylon, having been (re-)built by the Neoassyrian king Sennacherib, according to one tradition that survives in Eusebios, ‘in the

68 Annus 2002, 26, 90–108. Ninurta’s return in Angim involves the triumphal akītu of Assyrian kings after a military campaign; also see Zgoll 2006, 54–61, 71; cf. Zgoll 2007, 171, 174, 182 and Anagnostou-Laoutides 2022, 256 with n. 96. More recently, see Debourse 2022, 30–32. 69 Debourse 2022, 38–48, quotation from p. 47. 70 Debourse 2022, 426f. 71 Debourse 2022, 426. 72 Iossif and Lorber 2007, 351f.; also see van Alfen 2008, 201–203, 205–207. 73 Iossif and Lorber 2007 note that Mazaios’ lion-staters are modelled upon the Myriandros type staters with Baaltars (= a combination of Ba’al and Tarsos) and lions (e.g. SNG Levante 185– 188), going back to his time as satrap of Kilikia; for Seleukos’ lion-anchor coins, see Houghton and Lorber SC I nos. 88–91, 102–104, 144, 184, 187, 220–221; also Erickson 2009, 81, with n. 205. Cf. Smirnov 2018, 32 claiming that, apart from Babylon, Seleukid lion-staters were issued ‘by mints of Ecbatana, Seleukeia on-the-Tigris and Susa’; cf. Houghton 1991, 114f. 74 For Marduk’s identification with Zeus already at the time of Herodotos (1.181–183; 3.158), see Anagnostou-Laoutides 2017, 151f. with n. 28 citing Oshima 2008, 355 and van der Spek 2009, 110f. (arguing that for the Greeks the temple of Marduk at Babylon probably served as the temple for worshipping Zeus).

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image of Babylon’.75 Equally, Tarsos’ native god Sanda(s), whose origins go back to the Hittite Empire, had been long worshipped as Sanda(s)-Marduk.76 From a Greek perspective, the identification was also encouraged by the fact that both the Ba’al of Tarsos (most likely a version of the Luwian/Hittite weather god Tarḫunz/Tarḫunna) and Marduk had been identified with Zeus but also with Herakles. In the Babylonian context the Greeks saw the father-son relationship of Zeus and Apollo as an equivalent of that of Marduk and Nabû but also as that of Zeus and Herakles.77 The Greeks had identified a number of other local Ba’als, typically portrayed in art as standing on lions, with Herakles: for example, the Ba’al of Tyre, Melqart, had been identified with Herakles soon after Alexander’s conquest of the city.78 When Megasthenes compared Nebuchadnezzar II to Herakles, thus offering the Seleukids an influential and lasting model of kingship,79 he was likely inspired by the tradition that Nebuchadnezzar too had laid siege to Tyre, the city (imagined as that) of Herakles/Melquart/Marduk.80 Tyre, like Tarsos, was an important centre of maritime trade, on whose coins Melqart appears already in the late-fifth or earlyfourth century BCE as riding a hippocamp.81 Yet, despite the appearance of sea75 Dalley 1999, esp. 73f. drew attention to two fragments from Berossos which relate the deeds of Sennacherib in Kilikia and mention that Tarsos was built in the image of Babylon. The fragments were transmitted by Eusebios of Caesaria in his Chronicon (completed in 311 and revised in 325 CE) and attributed to Polyhistor and Abydenos as intermediaries. Eusebios’ work does not survive in Greek but only in an Armenian version and in a Latin adaptation by Jerome. See FGrH / BNJ 685 F 5 (Abydenos) and 680 F 7 (Berossos) = Aucher 1818, 43 and 53 for Jerome’s Latin rendition of the Armenian: Et Tarsum urbem, inquit, ipse ad similitudinem Babylonis condidit, quam appellavit Tharsi (Polyhistor) and et Tarsum ad figuram et similitudinem Babylonis aedificavit (Abydenos). Also discussed in Rutherford 2017, 83 with ns. 29–30. 76 Anagnostou–Laoutides 2022a, 248–250; Oshima 2011, 47; Mastrocinque 2008, 201f., 206, 209–212; Millington 2013, 549 refers to the identification of Sanda(s) with Marduk in one of the three scapegoat rituals of Zarpiya from Kilikia (Kizzuwatna; CTH 757); also see Haas 1994, 368f. Rutherford 2017, 82 with n. 16 pointing to the fact that Sanda(s) was often written as AMAR.UTU-aš, AMAR.UTU (‘calf of the sun’), this ‘being the conventional sumerogram for the Babylonian god Marduk’, with the ending -aš to indicate that the name is to be read as ‘Santa(s)’. Marduk had become known to the Hittites in the 14th century, and the writing AMAR.UTU without the suffix also occurs in Hittite texts. As Rutherford conjectures, Marduk might have become known when Mursili I sacked Babylon. 77 See Anagnostou-Laoutides 2022a, esp. 242f. with further bibliography discussing the importance of both Apollo and Herakles in early Seleukid propaganda and drawing attention to Herakles’ rising profile as protector of kings in the Hellenistic period, which corresponds to the profiles of his Near-Eastern prototypes such as Ninurta. The trend is aptly reflected in Kallimachos’ Hymn 3.143–148 where Zeus is portrayed as replacing Apollo with Herakles as gatekeeper of Heaven. 78 See Arr. Anab. 2.24.6. For Herakles’ identification with the Phoenician Melqart, see, among others, Bonnet 1988, esp. 47–53, 346–352 and 1992, 174–179; cf. Lipiński 1995, 226–234 and Teixidor 1983, 247–252. 79 Beaulieu 1993, 242f.; Beaulieu 2006, 126; Waerzeggers 2011, 739f.; Kosmin 2014b, 190f.; Rollinger 2016, 136. 80 BNJ 715 F 1a and 1b (= Jos. AJ 10.227; Eus. PE 9.41.1); also see Haubold 2013, 131f. 81 Once the Tyrian mint was taken over by the Ptolemies and then the Seleukids, coins tended to represent ship prows and sterns on the obverse. The iconography was introduced under


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symbols such as hippocamps, dolphins and waves, and even of ship prows on later Hellenistic coinage from Tyre and Tarsos, the anchor is absent from the coinage of both cities. Seleukos, however, did not need to get the inspiration for his coins from other coins already in circulation. Generally, as the issues from Apollonia Pontica indicate (cf. n. 30 above), anchors were used sparingly on coins before the time of Seleukos, and then only as a sign of maritime power and affluence, not as a symbol of claiming or legitimizing kingship.82 As we shall see, naval victories were important for Near Eastern kings from very early on, including Sargon I, the founder of the Akkadian dynasty (he reigned from 2334 to 2279 BCE). This indicates that, even if the Babylonians and generally the Mesopotamians were more familiar with river sailing, their knowledge of naval campaigns was long established. Furthermore, alongside the widespread commemoration of naval victories on royal inscriptions, the concept of ‘anchoring the state in safety’ features notably in prominent Near Eastern literary texts that continued to be copied down to the first millennium BC. They influenced the Babylonian celebration of the New Year festival when Marduk would sail triumphantly to his city.83 Seleukos’ interest in the ruler ideologies that appealed to his subjects, especially in the context of Babylon and its wider sphere of influence, is a sensible tactic for a military commander who roamed the empire for 55 (!) years. He began in 336 BCE when he joined the campaign of Alexander as a 22-year-old officer and did not cease until his death in 281 BCE. His son Antiochos I never even set foot on mainland Greece or Macedon. Of course, the nature of the New Year festival that was re-established at Babylon from the reign of Seleukos and Antiochos I onwards differs to the akῑtu festival as celebrated before Babylon’s conquest by the Persians. The festival was now adapted under the careful supervision of the Babylonian priests who sought to promote their role in preserving Babylonian traditions, especially given the long absences of the kings from the city.84 Still, the involvement of the early Seleukids in Antiochos III from 199/8–189/8 BCE as a break away from the traditional Seleukid anchor; however, his intention may have been to restore privileges (vis-à-vis using local images on coinage) first extended under Ptolemy V. See Hoover 2004, 486f.; cf. Hoover 2006. For coins after 126 BCE, representing on the obverse Melqart in Greek style and on the reverse an eagle with right claw on a ship’s prow, see Nitschke 2013, 270. 82 Parpas 2016, 33 suggested that the choice of the anchor ‘…might even have been an effort to emulate Alexander’s and the Makedonian kings’ use of the anchor on their coinage;’ however, the coin printed on his p. 34 is similar to the coins issued later (245–225 BCE) by Seleukos II Kallinikos with the head of Athena on the observe, while the reverse features a Nike holding a wreath, and an anchor. See, for example: numismatic_art/193/product/seleukid_kings_seleukos_ii_kallinikos_ae_b_athena__nike__anchor/637790/Default.aspx. 83 Debourse 2022, 23, 48. 84 See Debourse 2022, 19 on the interruption of celebrating the New Year festival from 484 BCE to the middle of the 3rd century BCE, following the revolt of the Northern Babylonian priestly elites against Persian rule. See Debourse 2022, 378 where she notes that the word akῑtu does not appear in the Diaries, pointing to the changed nature of the festival. For her re-reading of the Diaries and the Chronicles from Babylon, see pp. 378–388; also note the different reading

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Babylonian ritual, including their appeals to the authority of Marduk and Nabû, cannot be underestimated. In the very least, the Seleukids appear to have been keen to secure the support of the Babylonian priesthood and did not object to being represented in the traditional way of Babylonian kings, who enjoyed the favour of Marduk.85 Furthermore, as I have argued elsewhere, the Seleukids had a good grasp of Marduk’s role in establishing cosmic order.86 This episode is prominently associated with the New Year festival, but also widely represented in art down to the Roman period,87 as reflected in the surviving evidence from Antioch-on-the-Orontes, the new Seleukid capital with access to the Mediterranean.

Figure 5: Phoenician ship on gypsum wall-panel relief from Senacherib’s South-West Palace, Nineveh, 705–681 BCE. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Image via the British Museum.

Let us begin by noting the knowledge of seafaring across the ancient Near East and especially of Mediterranean ships and their components, including their anchors. Cities like Uruk and Ur on the banks of the Euphrates were key to riverine transport of goods and, crucially, had connected the Persian Gulf with Mesopotamia for centuries, given that the Gulf waters extended significantly further inland compared to nowadays.88 It is also worth noting that the Assyrians were long engaged in ‘sea battles’ against rebellious groups in the marshes of Babylonia which they referred to as the ‘sea land’ (Māt-tâmti), although the boats used for such battles are the typical reed boats we come across in Mesopotamia.89 Still, we have a number of representations from Assyrian palaces including Nineveh where Phoenician war ships are represented – in all probability, ships built and manned by Phoenicians for

85 86 87 88 89

of indaqut (‘fell down’) in BCHP 6 in Debourse 2022, 381. Cf. Anagnostou-Laoutides 2017, 157f. where I read it in connection with the Middle Assyrian maqātu, ‘to do obeisance’, leading to different interpretations of Antiochos’ involvement in Babylonian cult; also Debourse 2022, 358–361 who cursorily dismisses Antiochos’ Cylinder containing his long prayer to Nabû. Debourse 2022, 392–395. Anagnostou-Laoutides 2022, 235–244. Dirven 1997 and 1999. Kuhrt 1995, 19; for Near-Eastern types of boats and their construction, see Hasson Hnaihen 2020. For Ur’s ancient harbour, see Bagg 2020. On boat-making and sailing in Mesopotamia, see Tapani Mäkelä 2002.


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the Neoassyrian king Sennacherib who boasted to have captured sailors from Tyre, Sidon, and Cyprus, whom he resettled in the Tigris (Fig. 5).90 Following the example of Mesopotamian kings such as Naram-Sin, who claimed to have ‘washed his weapons in the Lower Sea’ (i.e. the Persian Gulf)91 and the king of Mari, who boasted that he made ‘a great offering (befitting) his kingship to the sea. His troops bathed themselves in the sea’,92 Neoassyrian kings were apparently very interested both in sailing the Mediterranean – mainly as a means of protecting their interests along the coastal cities which were prone to revolt and vulnerable to attacks by sea, and making their presence felt in the Gulf.93 In fact, when Eusebios, citing the authority of Abydenos, reports the foundation of Tarsos in emulation of Babylon, he does so in the context of discussing Sennacherib’s naval exploits against the Greeks.94 Eusebios, always through Abydenos, also reports the naval ambitions of Nebuchadnezzar II,95 who actively pursued ways to initiate and maintain trade routes with South Arabia via the sea-route of the Persian Gulf, by building the harbour city of Teredon at the mouth of the Euphrates as well as the colony of Gerrha, opposite the islands of Bahrain.96 Even Alexander himself was said to have built a number of ships in Phoenicia, which he then ordered to be disassembled and transported to the city of Thapsakos in the Euphrates; there they were reassembled to allow him to sail down to Babylon.97 Thus, even if maritime 90

91 92 93 94

95 96 97

A Phoenician ship probably also features on a wall-panel from the palace of Tiglath-Pileser III (reigned from 745–727 BCE) in Nimrud, see object/W_1908-1010-1. Also see Parpas 2018, esp. 113 with n. 163 citing Luckenbill 1924, 73 (ll. 59–61) and Frahm 1997, 117 (T29). For correspondence between Sargon II and his officials discussing the construction of boats at Aššur, see S. Parpola 2015, 52 and 73. Also see a reference to a trade ship anchored at Bab-bitqi, in S. Parpola 2015, 80f. All these examples are also cited in Parpas 2018, 109f. ù GIŠ.TUKUL-kí-šu4, i[n] ti-a-am-tim ša-píl-tim Ì.LUḪ in RIME II.1.4.3, iv 28–32 (Frayne 1993, 97) with Parpas 2018, 96. Also, see Töyräänvuori 2021, 300 with n. 8. …a-na ki-ša-ad ti-a-am-tim il-li-ik-ma a-na a-a-ab-ba ni-qí šar-ru-ti-šu ra-bi-a-am iq-qí ù ṣabu-šu i-na qé-re-eb a-a-ab-ba me-e ir-mu-uk in RIME IV 6.8.2, 45–51 (transliterated and translated by Frayne 1990, 606) with Parpas 2018, 96. Parpas 2018, 96–154. See Aucher 1818, 53: eodem tempore vicesimus quintus utique Sinecherib ipse ex regibus vix demum inventus est, qui Babylonem sub ditionem redigens subegit, et ad litus maris Ciliciae Graecorum classem profligatam depressit. (‘that time, Sennacherib himself was finally (and barely) found to be the 25th in a row of kings, who subjected Babylon and held it under his sway. He sank down a fleet of the Greeks which was defeated off the coast of Cilicia’). Also, see Rollinger 2016, 138 on Neoassyrian inscriptions claiming to have fought the Greeks ‘in the midst of the sea’; cf. Rollinger 2007. For Nebuchadnezzar’s interest in the Persian Gulf, see Potts 1990, vol. 1, 348f. Abydenos reported by Euseb. Praep. Evang. 9.41.8 = FGrH/BNJ 685 F 6b (καὶ Τερηδόνα πόλιν ἔκτισε κατὰ τὰς ᾽Αράβων εἰσβολάς). On Gerrha, see Strabo 16.3.3, who adds that Gerrha’s citizens were ‘Chaldaians’; see Agius 2008, 46f. with n. 32, also citing Potts 1990, vol. 2, 85f. Arr. Ind. 7.19.3: κατέλαβε δὲ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι, ὡς λέγει Ἀριστόβουλος, καὶ τὸ ναυτικόν, τὸ μὲν κατὰ τὸν Εὐφράτην ποταμὸν ἀναπεπλευκὸς ἀπὸ θαλάσσης τῆς Περσικῆς, ὅ τι περ σὺν Νεάρχῳ ἦν, τὸ δὲ ἐκ Φοινίκης ἀνακεκομισμένον, πεντήρεις μὲν δύο τῶν ἐκ Φοινίκων, τετρήρεις δὲ τρεῖς, τριήρεις δὲ δώδεκα, τριακοντόρους δὲ ἐς τριάκοντα: ταύτας ξυντμηθείσας κομισθῆναι ἐπὶ τὸν Εὐφράτην ποταμὸν ἐκ Φοινίκης ἐς Θάψακον πόλιν, ἐκεῖ δὲ ξυμπηχθείσας αὖθις

The King-Ship of the Seleukids


anchors were not part of everyday life in Mesopotamia, knowledge of them appears to have been widespread and could be readily associated with the Near-Eastern concept of ‘anchoring’ the ship of state. The trope was not employed only in the context of the akῑtu festival but also in royal inscriptions and popular literature. As mentioned, the association of powerful kings and their naval abilities was palpable in the cognitive horizon of the ancient Babylonians already at the time of Sargon I and the inception of the Akkadian Empire. Thus, ships were part of Sargon I’s claim to world dominion. Nearly two centuries later, a royal inscription of Gudea of Lagash, MS2814 in the Schøyen collection, commemorates the defeat of Gudea’s enemies and the establishment of regular offerings to his statue, making extensive reference to his naval successes. The inscription, however, is copied from a Sargonic statue inscription dated in the Ur III or early Old Babylonian period and includes references to ships from Meluḫḫa, Magan, and Dilmun that Sargon ‘moored at the quay of Akkad’.98 The inscription offers testament to the involvement of Near Eastern rulers in naval campaigns, two καταπλεῦσαι ἐς Βαβυλῶνα. λέγει δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἄλλος αὐτῷ ἐναυπηγεῖτο στόλος τέμνοντι τὰς κυπαρίσσους τὰς ἐν τῇ Βαβυλωνίᾳ (Aristobulos says that Alexander also found the fleet at Babylon; the part which was with Nearchos had sailed up the Euphrates from the Persian Sea, but the rest had been brought up from Phoenicia, two Phoenician quinqueremes, three quadriremes, twelve triremes and some thirty triacontoroi, which had been broken up and carried across from Phoenicia to the Euphrates, to the city of Thapsakos, put together again there, and sailed down to Babylon); text and trans. (adapted from) Brunt 1983, 268f.; cf. Strabo 16.1.11; also discussed in Parpas 2018, 114, n. 165. 98 RIME E2.1.1.11 (translit. and trans. Frayne 1993, 28, ll. 9–13, Sumerian version: má-me-luḫḫa.KI / má-má-gan.KI / má-timun.KI / kar-ag-ge-dè.KI-ka / bí-kéš / ll. 10–16, Akkadian version: MÁ me-luḫ-ḫa / MÁ má-gan.KI / MÁ tilmum.KI in kà-rí-m / ši a-kà-dè.KI / ìr-ku-us); cf. MS2814 iv.5a in Wilcke 2011, 40 (˹má˺ ḫu-mu-ú[s) and 46 (for commentary ad loc.). Also see a Sargon inscription from Nippur (CBS 13972) published by Legrain (1923a, 210, cols. 5 and 6, here I copy col. 6): MÁ me-luḫ-ḫa / MÁ má-gan.KI / MÁ tilmun.KI / in kà-rí-im / ši a-kàdè.KI ìr-ku-us (‘The ships of Meluhha, the ships of Magan, the ships of Dilmun he collected unto the quay in front of Agade’). Cf. RIME II 1.3.1 (Frayne 1993, 75f., 1–46) for a similar inscription of Maništūsu, Sargon’s son, which reads: Ma-an-íś-tu-śu / LUGAL / KIŠ / ì-nu / an-ša-an.KI / ù / ši4-rí-ḫu-um.KI / SAG.GIŠ.RA-ni / ti-a-am-tàm / śa-pil-tàm / MÁ.MÁ GIŠ.LA-e / u-śa-bì-ir / URU.KI-URU.KI / a-bar-ti / ti-a-am-tim / 32 a-na / REC 169 / ip-ḫuru-nim-ma / iš11-ar / ù / URU.KI.URU.KI-śu-nu / SAG.GIŠ.RA / EN.EN-śu-nu / [u-ś]a-am[qí]-it / ù / íś-tu[m-ma] / i[d-ké-aś-śu-nu-ni-ma] / a-dì-˹ma˺ / ḫu-rí KÙ / íl-qù-ut / ŚA.DÚ-e / a-bar-ti / ti-a-am-tim / śa-pil-tim / NA4.NA4-˹śu˺-nu GI6 / i-pu-˹lam-ma˺ / in MÁ.MÁ / i-ṣa[nama] / in kar-rí- / ši a-kà-dè.KI / ìr-ku8-us / DÙL-śu / ib-ni / a-na / [den-líl] / A.MU.RU (‘Maništūsu, the king of the universe – after conquering Anšan and Šerihum, left the gišla-e ships sail the Lower Sea? The cities on the far bank of the sea, 32 (in number), have gathered to fight, but he has conquered (them) and conquered their cities. He struck down their princes and (the area) of that [...] flow to the mines of (precious) metals per se. The mountains on that on the other side of the Lower Sea, it has its black-colored stones broke out and loaded onto ships and anchored (the ships) on the quay of Akkad. He made his statue and donated it to Enlil’). For the naval activity of the Sumerians and the Babylonians in the Gulf, see A.P. Parpola 2015, 211–215. N.B. I am very grateful to Dr Sam Mirelman (SOAS), one of my very patient teachers in cuneiform languages, and to Elynn Gorris, my colleague at MQ, for checking the Akkadian transliterations in this article. Any remaining mistakes are, of course, my own responsibility.


Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides

millennia before the appearance of the Seleukids in the region, and of the way these campaigns had informed Near Eastern royal ideologies for centuries broadcasting their key tropes on public monuments across the Empire. Importantly, myths about Sargon, including his naval achievements, became very popular in later periods, especially during the Neoassyrian period.99 Here I copy both the Sumerian and Akkadian text of this bilingual inscription. The Sumerian reads:100 When Ningirsu, the master of the weapon, ordered me to build his house (and) defeated the (enemy) troops, (so that) the land of Elam, which was evil (and) wrong, its booty was ruined, I brought stones down from the Magan Mountains from above. Ebony came in from the hill country of Meluhha (and) from the hill country of Tilmun, from the cities of the Amurrites, ... I let the ships anchor (and) the i-si (= esi) stone was sculpted into statues by me. Those statues, ..., (all) 537, I brought in the Eninnu, the temple of Ningirsu, inside.

The Akkadian text reads:101 When Ningirsu, the master of the weapon, ordered me to build his house and destroyed the (enemy) troops and plundered their false land, their booty, I brought down from the Mountains of Makkan stones. I brought ebony from the Meluhha mountains down. I brought down from the mountains of Tilmun, the land of the Amurrite and the iši’um (= ušû) stone I formed into statues of myself. Those statues (all of them) 480+, ...

In the Sumerian text Gudea states that he ‘let the ships anchor’ and ordered the esi stone to be sculpted into a statue of himself, encouraging the association between the concept of anchoring ships and rewarding divinely favoured kings with royal cult. Notably, Gudea presents himself as the one má-gíd m]á? dEn-líl-lá / ša-di-id elep dIllili (‘who tows Enlil’s boat’: i.9’ and 10’),102 reminding us of his special relationship with Enlil but also of the fact that Near Eastern deities would typically 99 Töyräänvuori 2021, 301f. with Rollinger 2012 on the importance of Sargon for Neoassyrian kings. 100 MS2814 iii.2’a-iv.9b in Wilcke 2011, 39–41: u4 ˹d˺[Nin.gí] / lugal g[ištukul.ke4] / a-a-ni dúdì / á-bi mu- da-ni-á[ĝ] / e-˹la˺-˹at˺ AGA3 kà-˹ar˺ AG-š[è] / ḫa-bá-ni-ĝar / kur E-lam / ḪU:LU:ÚḪ-lam / ˹nam˺-rix (ÉRIM)-éš / ḫu-˹la˺-a / kur Má-gan-na ˹an˺-ta / za! ḫi-in-ta-A.A / kur Me-luḫ-ḫa-t[a?] / i-si im-ku4-ku4 / kur / Mar!-du10 du-t[a] / GU.PIRIĜ.˹ŠU?˺ zà i[m-mi-D]ÍB? / ˹má˺ ḫu-mu-ú[s i-s]i?/ alan-ĝu10-šè a[l?-t]u? / alan-bi ˹x x˺ [x x] / 8 šu-ši ni[nnu imin] / ˹É˺-[ninnu (??)] / é dNi[n-ĝír-su-šè mu-ku4 (??)]. Laursen and Steinkeller 2017, 33, 84. 101 MS2814 iii.3’a-iv.8b in Wilcke 2011, 39–41: a-nu-[mi] / dNin-ĝ[ír-su] / be-el ka-ki-i[m] / bisú e-pe-ša-a[m] / ú-wa-WA-ra-ni-m[a] / e-la-ta-am /is-pu-nu-ma / ˹ma˺-as-sú-˹nu˺ / sa-artám! / ša-la-sú-nu / iš-lu-lam / i-na ša-du Ma-ka-an / NA4 l[u] ú-še-ri-d[am] / i-na ša-du Meluḫ-ḫa / i-ši-˹a-am˺ ú-še-rida[m] / i-˹na˺ ša-du-ú Til[mun [(-x)k]i / ma-at A-mu-ri-im [(x)]/ maar-gi-a-am ú-š[e-ri-da]m-ma / i-ši-a-am [(x x) x a-na] / ṣa-al-mi-y[a ab-ni] / ṣa-˹al˺- [mu šunu] / ˹8 šu-ši˺ [x x (x x) ] /… 102 Translit. Wilcke 2011, 38 and 42 for comments. Trans. from RIME III 1.1.7.StD (i.5–10, Edzard 1997, 41) where the phrase appears on another statue inscription of Gudea. This inscription continues as follows (iii.1–12): nin-a-na-ke4 / si ba-ni-sá-sá / ma-gur8-ki-ág̃-g̃a-ni / kar-nunta-è-a / mu-na-dím / kar-za-gìn-ká-sur-ra-ke4 / mu-na-ús / lú-má-gur8-bi / nu-bànda-bi / KA mu-na-kéš / é-lugal-na-ke4 / sag̃-šè im-mi-rig7. (‘His lady, he arranged therein / He constructed for (Ningirsu) his/ beloved boat (named) “Having set sail from / the Lofty Quay,” and he moored it for him at / the “Lapis Lazuli Quay” of Kasurra. / He enrolled for (Ningirsu) the sailors / and their captain, donating them for the House / of his master’; again, translit. and trans. copied from Edzard 1997, 41).

The King-Ship of the Seleukids


travel by boat either to fight against their enemies or to travel to their festivals. Thus, the naval successes of Gudea are cast as a symptom of his closeness to Enlil who actively supports his kingship. The notion appears widespread in Sumerian literary works which are copied down to the first millennium BCE. For example, Ninurta, a hugely popular hero widely acknowledged as the prototype of Greek Herakles,103 is described in the Sumerian Lugale Epic as riding his barge Makamuntaea, meaning ‘boat issuing out of the princely quay’.104 The myth also acquired significant political connotations: upon returning from his adventures, Ninurta is entrusted with the kingship of the gods (ll. 9–15), thus becoming the dispenser of kingship for earthly kings.105 Notably, when Ninurta returns victorious to his father, it is his boatmen who address Enlil on Ninurta’s behalf (662–668), asking his permission so that Ninurta may become king. The Lugale Epic originates in the third millennium BCE, yet it continues to inform political ideologies in the first millennium BCE, and its vocabulary even influences the royal inscriptions of Esarhaddon and Sennacherib.106 In the Anzu Epic, again, another work which continued to be copied down to the first millennium, exercising notable influence on the Babylonian akῑtu festival,107 Ninurta’s royal profile is also stressed, with the god addressed as ‘guardian of the throne of kingship’. Ninurta’s royal qualities were later transferred to the Assyrian Aššur and eventually to the Babylonian Marduk,108 who is said to travel (in the form of his statue) to his New Year festival by boat.109 In fact, Marduk’s boat is perceived as the defeated Tiamat (see En. El. 8.78)110 and hence Marduk typically rode on it during the New Year festivities.111 As Annus argued, by turning his vanquished enemy into his vehicle, Marduk establishes a permanent reminder of his conclusive victory over the powers of chaos that Tiamat represents and of his kingship’s establishment.112 Notably, he adds that ‘Marduk’s boat in the Babylonian (New Year) ritual corresponds to the more ancient boat of Ninurta’.113

103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111

112 113

Anagnostou-Laoutides 2022a, 242f., 255 with Brenk 1991 and Annus 2002. Jacobsen 1997, 241 (Lugale Epic, 90). Annus 2002, 27–33. See Simkó 2012; also, Mirelman 2017 identifying a late Babylonian copy of the Epic, possibly from Borsippa; cf. Michalowski 2017 for second millennium BCE copies of the Epic. Annus 2001, xvi. Beaulieu 1993, 70. See n. 83 above. On the importance of river-gods in connection with the cult of Šamaš who travels in his boat by night, see Woods 2004, 69–82. For the association of Tiamat with the Hydra of Herakles’ mythology, see AnagnostouLaoutides 2022a, 255f. See Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 75 in Annus 2002, 69; cf. Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 24 suggesting that perhaps parts of the procession spaces that Marduk was expected to cross during the akītu festival were flooded to allude to Tiamat’s watery substance and thus make the celebration more realistic. Annus 2002, 26. Annus 2002, 69.


Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides

Ninurta’s battles against his enemies in the mountains and Marduk’s fight against the primordial forces of Tiamat accord with the ancient Babylonian perception of the world map. In it, Babylon stands in the centre of the world which is surrounded by a river (marratu), which in the first millennium becomes synonymous with ‘sea’ (tâmtu) (Fig. 6).114 Thus, by celebrating Marduk’s cosmogonic battle against Tiamat during the New Year festival, the kings of Babylon came to participate in the act. Numerous miniature boats were produced every year for the event,115 meaning that Marduk’s cultic boat could be seen throughout the year and not just on the festival days.116

Fig. 6: Babylonian world map. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Image courtesy of the British Museum.

In this context, it is worth paying attention to a clay barrel of Nebuchadnezzar II, bought in London in 1888 and currently housed at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. The text carved into it describes the restoration of the temples of Marduk and Nabû at Babylon and Borsippa, referring to their magnificent state-boat (Fig. 7). The text reads:117 114 See Horrowitz 1988, 156; Beaulieu 2008, 10 on Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon; cf. Delnero 2017. 115 Koldewey 1914, 257f.; cf. VA Bab 1651 (Ill. 11.26) 4 in Jakob-Rost and Gerlach 1997, no. 260; also, in Finkel 2008, 94, Fig. 76. 116 Also, see Lambert 1957, 385–387 for an inscription dated to the early reign of Aššurbanipal (CBS 733+1757) and celebrating a rare item sourced for the boat of Nabû in connection with the ruler’s annual pilgrimage to Babylon for the New Year festival. 117 CBS 9 II:20–31 = Nebuchadnezzar II C38 ii.20–31, Akkadian transliteration by Jamie Novotny and Frauke Weiershäuser who generously shared their work with me before publication (Weiershäuser and Novotny forthcoming) and to whom I am deeply grateful. Special thanks also to Giulia Lentini, editorial assistant of the Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (RINBE) project: GIŠ.má-u₅-umuš-a e-lep ru-ku-bu be-lí DINGIR.DINGIR dAMAR.UTU/ ita-tu-šu pa-ni u ár-ku bi-na-tu-šu GIŠ.ka-ru-šu/ šid-da-a-tu-šu e-ri u MUŠ.ḪUŠ 14 GUN 12 MA.NA/ KÙ.GI ru-uš-šá-a 7 ME 40 di-ig-lu NA₄.NÍR-BABBAR.DILI ù/ NA₄.ZA.GÌN.DURU₅ eb-bi ú-za-ʾi-in-šu-ma i-na a-ge-e/ ÍD.BURANUN.KI KÙ-tim ki-ma MUL bu-ru-mu šá-ru-⸢ru⸣-šu/ ú-še-piš-ma a-na tab-rat kiš-šat UN.MEŠ lu-le-e uš-ma-al-lu/

The King-Ship of the Seleukids


I adorned the boat Udura on which rides the lord of the gods Marduk, its front and rear, its upper structure, its sides, its deck post and dragon with 14 talents, 12 minas of shining gold, 750 pieces(?) of marble(?) and bright lapis lazuli and on the surface of the clear Euphrates I let him shine splendid like the stars in heaven and I filled it with jewels for the admiration of all the people. I covered the cabin of the boat of the Ganul canal, the boat of Nabû and also both sides, with 13 talents, 30 minas of shining gold and costly precious stones and for the going and coming of the illustrious son, Nabû, who at Zagmuk the beginning of the year rides in procession into Babylon, I let it shine like the day.

Figure 7: Clay cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, 604–561 BCE. Museum Object no. B9. URL: Image courtesy of the Penn Museum.

Nebuchadnezzar’s inscription from Wadi Brisa similarly echoes the king’s preoccupation with decorating the god’s cultic ship.118 Langdon importantly noted that GIŠ.za-ra-at GIŠ.má-íd-ḫé-du₇ e-lep dAG 13 GUN/ 30 MA.NA KÙ.GI ḫu-uš-šá-a ni-siq-tum NA₄.NA₄ šu-qú-ru/ u GIŠ.ka-re-e ki-lal-la-an ú-lab-biš-ma a-na a-la-ku u ta-a-ri/ šá DUMU ru-bé-e dAG ša i-na ZAG.MUK re-eš ša-at-tim/ i-šad-di-ḫa a-na qé-reb TIN.TIR.KI ú-nammir ki-ma u₄-um (the open access link to the project is not stable yet, thus not cited here). Trans. from Legrain 1923b, 277. 118 See WBA v.19–42 (on Marduk’s boat). Text and translit. of Akkadian again by Jamie Novotny and Frauke Weiershäuser based on Da Riva 2012: GIŠ.má-u₅-umuš-a M[Á.GUR] ru-ku-bi-[šú KÙ-t]i / i-ta-⸢tu-šú⸣ pa-nu ⸢ù ar-ki⸣ / ú-na-tu-šú GIŠ.qa-[ru]-⸢šú⸣ / ši-⸢id-da-tu-šú⸣ / ⸢e⸣-rum ù MUŠ.[ḪUŠ.ME]Š / [ṣa]-ri-ri ú-šal-[bi]š / [NA₄ n]i-siq-ti ú-[za-in]-ma / i-n[a a-ge]-e ÍD.BURANUN.[KI el]-lu-ti / ⸢ki⸣-[ma ka]-ka-ba bu-[ru]-mu / šá-[ru-ru]-šu ⸢ú⸣-še-[pi]š-ma / a-⸢na⸣ tab-ra-a-t[i] KIŠ ⸢ni-ši⸣ / lu-le-e u[š-ma-a]l-le-⸢e⸣ / i-⸢na⸣ [zag-mu-kam] SAG MU.[AN.NA] / d[AMAR.UT]U ⸢d⸣[EN.LÍL] ⸢DINGIR⸣.[DINGIR] / [qé-er-b]a-⸢šu ú-še-šiim⸣-[ma] / [a-na] i-si-nu ⸢tar-ba-a-ti⸣ / ⸢á⸣-ki-ta-šu ṣi-i[r-ti] / ⸢ú⸣-ša-aš-di-iḫ-ma / ina [GIŠ].má-[u₅-umuš-a KÙ-ti]m dAMAR.UTU / [ú-še-em]-⸢ma⸣ ka-ar / [ú-re]-iš a-raaḫ-⸢ti⸣ / [i-ra-ab-b]i-iṣ é-sís[kur]/ [a-na e-re-bi] ⸢EN⸣ DINGIR.MEŠ šá-qú-um EN ⸢EN⸣.EN


Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides

the inscription was written on the representation of the king fighting a lion,119 alluding to the Babylonian conquest of Lebanon in 605/4 BCE. Given Nebuchadnezzar’s influence on the Seleukid model of kingship,120 his inscriptions suggest another possible pathway through which Seleukos and Antiochos I may have come across the notion of ‘sailing the ship of state’ in its Near Eastern context, that is, as the latest beloved of Marduk. Furthermore, as our sources indicate, in ancient Near Eastern traditions, the earthly king was imagined as the ‘boat’ of his people. Hence, upon his death, UrNamma is lamented by his soldiers because ‘their boat (that is the king) was sunk in a land as foreign to them as Dilmun’.121 A dead king was imagined as boarding the Heavenly Boat of Inana and sailing through the Underworld to the Upper Heaven where his divinized soul would reside.122 Furthermore, the metaphor of the human body as a sailing vessel (and accordingly of cities as sailing vessels containing many individuals) was pervasive in the ancient Near East with a Babylonian birth ritual referring to the ‘mooring rope of the boat of the quay of well-being’,123 the mooring rope that Marduk commands at cosmic level. Hence, as Rochberg reminds us, ‘[T]he name of the temple of Marduk in Babylon was explained … as the ‘house of the great mooring rope of heaven’.124

119 120 121 122

123 124

/[iš-tu ma-ka]-⸢al⸣-le-⸢e⸣ [GIŠ].⸢má⸣-u₅-⸢umuš⸣-[a]; cf. WBA vii.21–42 on Nabû’s boat. (temporary link available on from where I also copy the translation: ‘The Maumuš(a), his (Marduk’s) makurru-boat, his pure rukūbu-boat, its sides, the prow and the stern, its equipment, its hold, I coated with eagles and musḫuššudragons of, ṣāriru-gold, I decorated it with precious stones, and in the current of the pure Euphrates I had its brilliance made like stars in the firmament, and I filled it with splendour for the amazement of all the people, and at the festivities of the beginning of the year I installed Marduk, the Enlil of the gods inside it, and I had him go in procession to the magnificent festival of his august akītu. In the pure Maumuš(a), Marduk sits; on the embankment he makes the Araḫtu rejoice; he comes to rest at Esiskur. For the coming of the lord of the gods, the preeminent lord of lords, from the anchorage of the Maumuš(a) to Esiskur, (the endpoint of) the processional street of the great lord Marduk, the lord(?) who increases abundance, I placed tall firs right and left’). The inscription is repeated in WBC iii.1–21 (on Marduk’s boat; cf. WBC iv.26–33 for Nabu’s boat; (temporary link available on Langdon and Zehnpfund 1912, 33. Rollinger 2016, passim but esp. 142–155; cf. Del Monte 1997, 68. Ur-Nammu A62–65, esp. 65 in ETCSL (in Sumerian): ur-dnamma … / kur ki nu-zu-na g̃iš.má-bi ba-da-ab-su; see Annus 2016, 41; also, cf. RIME E3.2.1.1 in Frayne 1997, 12f. Annus 2016, 31–38 and 42–47 on Inana’s Heavenly Boat, and also 55–60 on the correspondences between the myth of Adapa, who experiences an underworld journey when he gets drown into the Persian Gulf and Marduk’s Ordeal; this is a text in which Marduk’s battle with Tiamat is signified by the fall of Bel’s statue from his processional boat into water. Annus discusses extensively the metaphor of travelling by boat, which signifies both being born or giving birth and dying in the Ancient Near East. Foster 2005, 1009; Reiner 1985, 91. Rochberg 2020, 312.

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IV. CONCLUDING REMARKS The anchor had been in Seleukos’ mind since the early days of reclaiming Babylon from Antigonos. Thus, he minted coins bearing anchors at both Babylon and Susa as payment for his soldiers during the Babylonian war and his subsequent anabasis eastwards. As anchor erasures in both mints indicate, he stopped using the anchor on his coins around 304 BCE and for a few years until after the battle of Ipsos. Then, the anchor reappears in a number of coins distributed across the Empire, increasingly so in a civic context. Therefore, the reintroduction of the anchor on Seleukid coins appears to have little to do with Ptolemy and Seleukos’ early naval career and is most probably part of Seleukos’ attempt to legitimize his rule. However, in building his propaganda in a more systematic way and especially given their respect for the local cultures under their control, Seleukos and his son could not ignore the widespread Babylonian traditions which previous rulers, especially Nebuchadnezzar II, had already proliferated in southern Syria and the Levant.125 Posing as the next favourite of Herakles-Marduk,126 Seleukos dynamically employed the metaphor of guiding the ship of state to safe mooring, thus creating a common ideological reference for both his Greco-Macedonian and Near Eastern subjects. The longstanding involvement of Near Eastern kings with naval campaigns, which was renewed and widely broadcasted during the Neoassyrian times to include their encounter with the Greeks, but also the use of boats in the cults of Marduk and Nabû, especially during the New Year festival, makes it likely that the anchor was a symbol that could unite Seleukos’ subjects in celebrating his godinspired ability to forge a new Empire. The Seleukids were not concerned about future judgments that they ‘have failed to subscribe fully to the notions of Babylonian kingship’;127 and obviously they had their own political agenda to look after, in which Babylon and its priestly authorities had a special, albeit designated, place. The Babylonian priests did not stop the Seleukids from founding new royal residences – nor did they stop them from utilizing Babylonian traditions that had become popular across Syria and the Levant, including the core ideology of the New Year festival, according to which Marduk reaffirms the order of the cosmos under his favourite king. In this context, the anchor symbolizes the successful mooring of Seleukos’ rule under the auspices of the god Marduk, presented as a cosmic event, analogous to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat. 125 Of course, Seleukos could have witnessed customs associated with cultic boats, both in funerary context and as part of celebrating the arrival of a god/goddess at his/her festival in Egypt. Although the papyriform boats used in Egypt for cultic purposes are typically not equipped with anchors, they used mooring ropes and were closely associated with the king. Furthermore, the Egyptians built royal ships in emulation of the boat of the Sun god. See Jenkins 1980, 127– 131 and 157–168. For the important tradition of using boat omens in Egyptian divination, see for example, Noegel 2010, 151f. For a Roman example of a cultic ship of Isis and its mooring ropes (strophiis ancoralibus), see Apul. Met. 11.16. 126 Anagnostou-Laoutides 2022b. 127 Debourse 2022, 361.


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Interaction of Greek and Non-Greek Civilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexander, London, 1–31. Sherwin-White, S.M. and Kuhrt, A. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire, London. Simkó, K. 2012. ‘The Neo-Assyrian Royal Inscriptions and the Epic Lugale’, Oxford Postgraduate Conference (Wolfson College). URL: Assyrian_Royal_Inscriptions_and_the_Epic_Lugale. Smirnov, S.V. 2018: ‘A Note on Three Hellenistic Coins from the Collections of Russian Museums’, Historia I Świat 7, 25–34. Stavrou, D. 2021: ‘Insularity and Religious Life: The Case of Hellenistic Ikaros/Failaka Island’, Religions 12, 11. Stevens, K. 2014: ‘The Antiochus Cylinder, Babylonian Scholarship and Seleucid Imperial Ideology’, JHS 134, 66–88. Stevens, K. 2019: Between Greece and Babylonia: Hellenistic Intellectual History in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Cambridge. Stewart, A. 1993: Faces of Power: Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics, Berkeley. Strootman, R. 2013: ‘Babylonian, Macedonian, King of the World: The Antiochos Cylinder from Borsippa and Seleukid Imperial Integration’, in E. Stavrianopoulou (ed.), Shifting Social Imaginaries in the Hellenistic Period: Narrations, Practices, and Images, Leiden, 67–98. Svoronos, J. 1904: Τά νομίσματα τοῦ Κράτους τῶν Πτολεμαίων, Athens. Taylor, L.W.H. 2015: ‘From Triparadeisos to Ipsos: Seleukos I Nikator’s Uncertain Mint 6A in Babylonia’, AJN 27, 41–97. Taylor, L.W.H. 2019: ‘The Susa Wreath Group Alexanders: The First Step in the Transformation of an Anchor Seal to a Dynastic Emblem’, Koinon 2, 63–82. Taylor, L.W.H. 2020: ‘Susa mint: 311–301 BC’, Koinon 3, 18–42. Taylor, L.W.H. 2021/22: ‘The Enigmatic Philip III Issue of Seleukeia on Tigris’, Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia 31, 86–106. Taylor, L.W.H. 2022: ‘The Anchor Alexanders of Babylon II’, AJN 34, 1–38. Teixidor, J. 1983: ‘L’interprétation phénicienne d’Héraclès et d’Apollon’, Revue de l’histoire des religions 200, 243–255. Tapani Mäkelä, T. 2002: Ships and Ship Building in Mesopotamia, MA thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station. Tito, V. 2018: Votive Anchors, Sacred Stones and Navigation: Ancient Aniconic Cults between Archaeology and Religious Anthropology, Copenhagen. Töyräänvuori, J. 2021: ‘The Sea and Monarchic Legitimation in the Ancient Near East’, in K. de Graef and A. Goddeeris (eds.), Law and (Dis)Order in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the 59th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale Held at Ghent, Belgium, 15–19 July 2013, University Park, PA, 297–307. van Alfen, P.G. 2008: ‘The Later Fourth Century BCE Coinage of Issos’, AJN 20, 199–208. van der Spek, R.J. 1993: ‘The Astronomical Diaries as a Source for Achaemenid and Seleucid History’, Bibliotheca Orientalis 50, 91–101. van der Spek, R.J. 2008: ‘Berossos as a Babylonian Chronicler and Greek Historian’, in R.J. van der Spek, G. Haayer, F.A.M. Wiggermann, M. Prins, and J. Bilbija (eds.), Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Worldview and Society Presented to Marten Stol on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, Bethesda, MD, 277–318. van der Spek, R.J. 2009: ‘Multi-Ethnicity and Ethnic Segregation in Hellenistic Babylon’, in T. Derks and N. Roymans (eds.), Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity: The Role of Power and Tradition, Amsterdam, 101–116. Votruba, G.F. 2019: ‘Building upon Honor Frost’s Anchor-Stone Foundations’, in L. Blue (ed.), In the Footsteps of Honor Frost. The Life and Legacy of a Pioneer in Maritime Archaeology, Leiden, 213–244. Wachsmann, Sh. 1998: Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant, College Station.


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Waerzeggers, C. 2011: ‘The Pious King: Royal Patronage of Temples in the Neo-Babylonian Period’, in E. Robson and K. Radner (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Cultures, Oxford, 725–751. Waggoner, N.M. 1969: ‘The Early Alexander Coinage at Seleucia on the Tigris’, American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 15, 21–30. Weiershäuser, F. and Novotny, J. forthcoming: The Royal Inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar II (604– 562 BC), King of Babylon, Part 2 (Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire 1/2), Philadelphia, PA, ca. 2024. URL: Winnicki, J.K. 1989: ‘Militäroperationen von Ptolemaios I. und Seleukos I. in Syrien in den Jahren 312–311 v.Chr.’, AncSoc 20, 55–92. Woods, C.E. 2004: ‘The Sun-God Tablet of Nabû-apla-iddina Revisited’, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 56, 23–103. Wright, N.L. 2005: ‘Seleucid Royal Cult, Indigenous Religious Traditions, and Radiate Crowns: The Numismatic Evidence’, Mediterranean Archaeology 18, 67–82. Wright, N. 2010: Religion in Seleukid Syria: Gods at the Crossroads (301–64 BC), PhD Thesis, Macquarie University. Wright, N. 2012: Divine Kings and Sacred Spaces: Power and Religion in Hellenistic Syria (301– 64 BC), Oxford. Zgoll, A. 2006: ‘Königslauf und Götterrat: Struktur und Deutung des babylonischen Neujahrsfestes’, in E. Blum and R. Lux (eds.), Festtraditionen in Israel und im Alten Orient, Gütersloh, 11–80. Zgoll, A. 2007: ‘Schauseite, verborgene Seite und geheime Deutung des babylonischen Neujahrsfestes. Entwurf einer Handlungstheorie von “Zeigen und Verbergen”’, in B. Streck (ed.), Die gezeigte und die verborgene Kultur, Wiesbaden, 165–189.



Abstract: Apollo held a central position in the ideology of the Seleukids, as the legendary father of the dynasty’s founder and as its main protector divinity. Traditionally, scholars have regarded the military leader and geographical author Demodamas of Miletos as the driving force behind this development at the early court of Seleukos. However, the present paper amplifies those recent voices that date the arrival of Demodamas at the Seleukid court to after 301 BCE and identify Antiochos I as the king who shifted the court’s concentration on Zeus towards Apollo. A closer reading of the Milesian honorific decrees for Antiochos and his mother Apama (I.Didyma 479–480 from 300/299) allows for several nuances. With the support of his new ally and father-in-law Demetrios, Seleukos drew on Miletos to advertise the prosperity of his kingship, including the prospect of its continuation through his oldest son, born from a basileus and basilissa. As a result of this initiative, Demodamas gained access to the court and began fostering Antiochos’ predilection for Apollo Soter. The investigation of MilesianSeleukid relations also invites a reassessment of the history of Miletos and its political institutions (boule, demos, epistatai, synhedrion). The epigraphic evidence reveals a fully functioning democracy under Antigonid hegemony both before and after Ipsos, when diplomatic relations with the Seleukid court were first established. The honours for the royal family were thus not simply induced by some oligarchs, but had profound democratic legitimacy.

I. INTRODUCTION: THE SELEUKIDS, MILETOS, AND APOLLO As an economic hub and as the host of the Didymeion, the most important Apollo sanctuary outside of the Greek motherland, Miletos played an important role in the rival claims for royal rule and dynastic legitimacy in and beyond Asia Minor since the campaigns of Alexander the Great. After his death, various Diadochs gained


I would like to thank Deirdre Klokow, Ben Scolnic and Richard Wenghofer for helpful and encouraging feedback, and Alex McAuley and Rolf Strootman for sharing yet unpublished mss. with me.


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control of the city, until Antigonos I Monophthalmos granted freedom and re-established democracy. In the subsequent course of the conflicts among the Successors, the city was once more ‘liberated’ by Demetrios I Poliorketes in 302. Its fate in the generation after the Battle of Ipsos (301) is controversial. Most probably, however, the Milesians stayed loyal to Demetrios I Poliorketes, who granted them a high level of independence. The city’s fate between the years 294 and 285 is less certain. By the latter year, Lysimachos established a firm rule, before Seleukos replaced him briefly through his victory at Korupedion (281), only to yield to Ptolemy II Philadelphos as the leading force in 280 or 279.1 The recognition of Demetrios did not exclude friendly contacts with other Diadochs, as long as they themselves were on good terms with the son of Antigonos. Seleukos I Nikator reconciled with him soon after Ipsos and married his daughter in 300, which must have facilitated the inception of cordial relations with the Milesians.2 The benefactions of Seleukos and his family stand out in our records for early-Hellenistic Miletos. The Seleukids paid keen attention to the most distinguished Apolline oracle and were happy to draw on Milesian support for the construction of their public image throughout the Graeco-Roman world. The literary, epigraphic and numismatic evidence for close Seleukid-Milesian relations is rich and diverse, although its analysis is complicated in several regards. The present study does not aim at a comprehensive revision of all the sources, many of which have been the object of recent investigations, in particular by Kyle Erickson, Krzysztof Nawotka, and Daniel Ogden.3 My intention is rather to elucidate the context and procedure of the first interactions between the Seleukid court and the civic institutions of the Milesians, to shed light on the mechanisms of the ideological communication they entertained. For this purpose, we can leave aside the largely fictional literary tradition on the early oracles in favour of Seleukos, whether these were said to have been issued soon after Alexander’s Battle at the Granikos (334) or shortly before Seleukos’ campaign to reconquer Babylon (312/11). Most likely, 1



For a general description of Miletos and its cultic-political role in the Hellenistic world, though with partly differing reconstructions, see Günther 1971 and 2017; Müller 1976; Orth 1977, 23– 32; de la Nuez Pérez 2008; Carlsson 2010, 244–253; also Grieb 2008, 202, 218, 242–256; Meijering 2014/15; Capdetrey 2022, 29–147 (though he surmises that Demetrios lost Miletos in 301 and only potentially regained control in 287/86). I argue in more detail as outlined above in Coşkun 2022d. Some of the main sources are referenced in ns. 22 and 33 below. On Alexander and Didyma, see n. 4 below. The main source for Seleukos’ polygamous wedding is Plut. Demetr. 30–32. The view that Apama had to be divorced (Macurdy 1932, 78) is barely held anymore. Hämmerling 2019, 35f., 121–124 and Olbrycht 2021, 173 still follow John Malalas 8.10 (= ed. Niebuhr p. 198), who surmises Apama’s death. This is also unlikely: Ogden 1999, 119; cf. Reda 2014, 14; Harders 2016, 34f.; Ramsey 2016, 98; Widmer 2016, 20; Ager 2018, 58; Kunst 2021, 124–126 (although she maintains 298 as the year of Seleukos’ wedding with Stratonike); Romm 2022, 118f.; Coşkun 2022e (with further chronological arguments and epigraphic evidence). Undecided is Müller 2013, 208f. The date of the wedding is argued for in Coşkun 2022d. Ogden 2017, 56–58, 64, 138–140, 271–280; also de la Nuez Pérez 2008, 334–337; Erickson 2011 and in this volume (with further references); Widmer 2016, 29f.; Meeus 2020, 297f. For a different view, see Nawotka 2019. More in the next note.

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they developed only after Seleukos, his wife, and his oldest son had become benefactors of the Milesians as documented in the inscriptions from Didyma.4 The promotion of Apollo as the main protector of the dynasty is even later, as revealed by the coin imagery introduced by Antiochos I Soter.5 I shall concentrate instead on the earliest inscriptions from Miletos that attest to benefactions of the Seleukid family and the honours awarded them in response. By following up on these documents, we can build a good case to show that diplomatic relations with the city and a systematic instrumentalization of its famous sanctuary began only after the Battle of Ipsos, as initiated and designed at the king’s court in Syria. The choice of the Milesian sanctuary was not yet due to a strong preference for Apollo as the patron divinity of the dynasty, but driven by a desire to herald the legitimacy and stability of Seleukos’ kingdom, with Antiochos, the son of Apama, as his designated successor. No pressure was needed for the Milesians to cooperate willingly: the only ‘coercive’ means at Seleukos’ disposal were substantial financial gifts and the promise of a long-term pre-eminence of the Milesian sanctuary in an otherwise most volatile world. II. HONORIFIC DECREES OF THE MILESIANS FOR THEIR SELEUKID BENEFACTORS The euergetic engagement of Seleukos I and his family with Miletos is well-attested epigraphically. The decree for Antiochos, the ‘oldest son’ of Seleukos, is normally dated to 300/2996 and that for his mother Apama soon thereafter to 299/298, although I have recently tried to show that both were passed before spring 299.7 A


5 6


App. Syr. 56.283 (on 334, an apparent posthumous fiction) and Diod. 19.90 (on 313/12); cf. Lib. Or. 11.99. These traditions are closely connected with the establishment of the dynastic sanctuary of Apollo at Daphne, see Justin 15.4.7f. and Lib. Or. 11.94–100. The Seleukid tradition has also been influenced by the Didymaean oracle for Alexander: Strabo 17.1.43 = Kallisthenes F 14a. See the references in the previous note. The allegation of John Malalas that Seleukos had a sister named Didymeia (herself the mother of Nikanor and Nikomedes) is a late and transparent development of the legend, also influenced by Seleukos’ dynastic epithet Nikator; it deserves a firm rebuke, not hesitation as in Heckel 2006, 111 and Olbrycht 2021, 173. Nawotka 2019 argues for the creation of the myth around 300, see n. 45 below. On the epigraphic dossier and the continued relation between Miletos and the Seleukids, see n. 12 below. On the roles of Seleukos and Antiochos, see n. 45 below. OGIS 213 = I.Didyma 479 ed. Rehm (and Harder) = Didyma 7 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH246998 = Bringmann and Steuben 1995, 338–341, no. 281 [E1] = IK Estremo Oriente 393 = Kunst 2021, II 144f., no. 136; cf. Haussoullier 1902, 34–49; Nawotka 2019, 265 (transl.); Strootman 2021, 150f. On the date, see below, with ns. 8, 27, and 28. Decree: I.Didyma 480 ed. Rehm (and Harder) = Didyma 8 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH247146 = Bringmann and Steuben 1995, 341–343, no. 281 [E2] = Austin2 51 (transl.) = IK Estremo Oriente 394 = Widmer 2016, 21–23 = Engels 2017, 196f. = Kunst 2021, II 142f., no. 135; cf. Nawotka 2019, 265f. (transl.). The honours for Apama are explained in ll. 4–14 as follows: ἐπειδὴ Ἀπά[μη ἡ βα]- | (5) σίλισσα πρότερόν τε πολλὴν εὔνοιαν καὶ προ[θυμίαν] | παρείχετο


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slightly earlier move had been made to honour Seleukos, since he had taken it on himself to rebuild the main sanctuary of Didyma. This effort by the king, as we can read in the two aforesaid decrees, served as the model for Antiochos’ benefaction,8 the sponsorship of a portico,9 whose future financial returns would be directed towards the Didymeion. The sizeable statue base for ‘king Seleukos’ found in Miletos opposite the bouleuterion may thus result from Seleukos’ earlier or main initiative.10 Most likely, the decision on the father’s honours had come first, and they would have included thanks for the statue of Apollo allegedly stolen by Xerxes, rediscovered in Ekbatana and sent back to Miletos, as we know from Pausanias.11 But the earliest decree (or decrees?) for Seleukos has (or have) not survived. The next

περὶ Μιλησίων τοὺς στρατευομένου[ς σὺν] | [τ]ῶι βασιλεῖ Σελεύκωι καὶ νῦν παραγενομέν[ων τῶμ] | [π]ρεσβευτῶν, οὓς μετεπέμψατο Σέλευκος [διαλεξόμενος] | [π]ερὶ τῆς οἰκοδομίας τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ ἐν Διδύμ[οις, οὐ τὴν] | (10) τυχοῦσαν σπουδὴν ἐποιε[ῖ]το, Ἀντίοχ[ος δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτῆς] | συμφιλοτιμῶν τῆι τοῦ πατρὸς Σ[ε]λεύ[κου περὶ τὸ ἱε]- | ρὸν [π]ροαιρέ[σ]ει οἰκοδομήσειν ἐπηγγ[είλατο στοὰν στα]- | δίαιαν τῶι θεῶι, ἵνα προσό[δων ἀπ’ αὐτῆς γινομένων ἐπι]- | κοσμῆται τὸ ἱερόν. A statue base with the following inscription can be added to the dossier: OGIS 745 = I.Didyma 113 ed. Rehm (and Harder) = Didyma 182 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH247176 = Bringmann and Steuben 1995, 342, n. 20f.: [βασίλισσαν Ἀ]π̣άμην βα̣[σιλέως Σελεύκου γυναῖκα] [ὁ δῆμος] ὁ̣ Μιλησίων Ἀρ̣[τέμιδι τῆι ἐν Διδύμοις]. It is widely accepted that the Antiochos decree preceded the one for Apama; see, e.g., Widmer 2016, 23f., pace Günther 1971, 34 for a reverse sequence. What has not been seen clearly enough is that both decrees must date from the year before the stephanephorate of Apollo, which began in spring 299; see Coşkun 2022d. On the chronology, see also below, with ns. 8, 27, and 28. 8 Thus in I.Didyma 479, with ll. 2–14 explaining his (or his fathers: ll. 5–10) merits: ἐπειδὴ Ἀντίοχος ὁ πρεσβύτατο[ς] | τοῦ βασιλέως Σελεύκου πρότερόν τε πολ[λὴν] | [ε]ὔνοιαν καὶ προθυμίαν παρεχόμενος δι[ετέλει] | (5) [πε]ρὶ τὸν δῆμον τὸν Μ[ι]λησίων καὶ νῦν ὁρ[ῶν τὸν] | [π]ατέρα τὸν αὑτο[ῦ τ]ὴν πᾶσαν σπουδὴ[ν ποιούμε]- | [νο]ν περὶ τὸ ἱερὸν [τὸ ἐ]ν Διδύμοις καλῶς ἔχν ε[ἶναι] | [ὑπ]ολαμβάν[ων ἐπ]ακολουθεῖν τῆι τοῦ πατ[ρὸς προ]- | [αιρ]έσε[ι ἐ]π[αγγ]έλ[λε]ται στοὰν οἰκοδο[μήσειν στα]- | (10) [διαίαν τῶι θε]ῶι κατὰ πόλιν, ἀφ’ ἧς ἔσονται κα[θ’ ἔτος?] | [πρόσοδοι, ἃς] οἴεται δεῖν δαπανᾶσθαι εἰς τὰ κατα- | [σκευαζόμε]να ἐν τῶι ἱερῶι τῶι ἐν Διδύμοις, τὰ δὲ ἀ- | [πὸ τούτων] συντελούμενα γίνεσθαι αὑτοῦ ἀν[α]- | [θήματα· … Cf. I.Didyma 480 honouring Apama, though specifying the benefactions of Seleukos and Antiochos in ll. 8f. and 11–14 (as quoted in the previous note). 9 Some scholars believe that it was finished before Antiochos became co-ruling king, but, pace Nawotka 2019, 271, with n. 55, the dedicatory inscription is too fragmentary to press it for such a conclusion (Milet I 7.193a = Miletos 76 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH252180): [Ἀντίοχος βασιλέως Σελ]εύκου [ὁ πρεσβύτατος υἱὸς] | [Ἀπόλλωνι] τῶι ἐν [Διδύμοις]. 10 Milet III 158 = OGIS 744, with Orth 1977, 19f. It is possible that either Milet VI 3.1026 = PH351817 or I.Didyma 481 ed. Rehm (and Harder) (quoted in n. 30 below) belong to the first honorific decree for Seleukos; see Coşkun 2022e. 11 Paus. 1.16.3 and 8.46.3. Returning cult statues robbed by Xerxes was a popular commonplace since the days of Alexander, so that it is difficult to assess how reliable the information on the sculpture’s origin was. For optimistic views, see Günther 1971, 70; Orth 1977, 19; Ramsey 2016, 89. Errington 2008, 134 points out that the statue might have been discovered under Alexander. Nawotka 2019, 267 is right to suggest that the gift could have been sent any time after Seleukos’ capture of Ekbatana in 311, though he does lean towards 300 for all measures related to Apollo (pp. 270f.). I concur.

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document for the dynasty is a Milesian decree honouring the co-ruling kings Seleukos and Antiochos in 288/87.12 III. THE (LIMITED) ROLES OF DEMODAMAS AND APAMA IN THE NEGOTIATION OF THE BENEFACTIONS The honours for Antiochos and Apama had been proposed by the Milesian Demodamas, as the inscriptions reveal.13 The same man is also known to have campaigned in the eastern satrapies and written a geographical account supporting the dynastic ideology of the Seleukid kingdom. Traditionally, scholars thought that he had been campaigning with Seleukos prior to the Battle of Ipsos, but evidence from Pliny the Elder points in a different direction. Pliny dates Demodamas’ dedication of an altar of Didymaean Apollo on the Jaxartes River (Syr Darya) under the ‘kings Seleukos and Antiochos’, which seems to refer to the time of their co-rule beginning in 296 or 294.14 And yet, Louis Robert surmised multiple eastern campaigns of Demodamas and ascribed to Apama a strong influence on connecting the court with the elites of the east-Iranian territories and of the prestigious city of Miletos long before the Battle of Ipsos.15 An Italian scholarly tradition further specifies that Seleukos’ naval

12 Decree for kings Seleukos I and Antiochos I, encapsulating a letter by king Seleukos: OGIS 214 = Welles RC 5 = I.Didyma 424 ed. Rehm (and Harder) = Didyma 19 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH247010 = Bringmann and Steuben 1995, 334–338, no. 280 [E]; cf. Nawotka 2019, 266; Strootman 2021, 137f. In addition, Antiochos is attested as stephanephoros in 280/79, which implies substantial financial support. There is also a letter of a king Seleukos from a later generation, normally attributed to Seleukos II in 246: OGIS 227 = Welles RC 22 = I.Didyma 493 ed. Rehm (and Harder) = Didyma 22 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH247013 = Bringmann and Steuben 1995, 344–346, no. 282 [E]; cf. Errington 2008, 133; Strootman 2021, 140, 162. On the longer-term relations, see the references in ns. 1 and 3 above; also Capdetrey 2007, 385; Carlsson 2010, 249. 13 I.Didyma 479, l. 1 and 480, l. 2, quoted below in section IV. 14 Pliny NH 6.18.49 refers to his dedication of an altar of Apollo of Didyma on the Jaxartes: transcendit eum amnem Demodamas, Seleuci et Antiochi regum dux, quem maxime sequimur in his, arasque Apollini Didymaeo statuit. See n. 23 below for the date. 15 The fact that Demodamas proposed the two extant decrees and further was one of the procurators (epistatai) for the honours of Apama (I.Didyma 479, l. 1 and 480, ll. 2, 27, quoted below in section IV) spurred speculations about his previous involvement. Traditionally, scholars took for granted that he had been among the Milesian soldiers who had benefitted from Apama’s benefactions while campaigning with Seleukos (I.Didyma 480, ll. 5–7, quoted above in n. 7). For the campaign that Pliny NH 6.18.49 (quoted in the previous note) refers to, Robert 1984, 467f. first thinks of the time immediately preceding the honours of Miletos (299), but later prefers a date when Seleukos and Apama were likely campaigning in Baktria (ca. 306). He refers to Rehm ad locum, p. 282, who suggests before 306. Most scholars opt for a year between 306 and 303: e.g., Günther 1971, 35 and 2017, 176; Orth 1977, 19; Grieb 2008, 230; Coloru 2009, 147f. (combining Pliny and I.Didyma 480, ll. 6f.; while dating the mission of Patrokles later, since he was trusted by ‘kings’ according to Strabo 2.1.6); Olbrycht 2013, 170–172;


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operations in the Aegean with a Ptolemaic fleet provided the ideal opportunity to establish links with the prestigious city.16 Such a connection must have been particularly obvious for everyone believing in Demodamas as the driving force behind Seleukid benefactions in Miletos and the choice of Apollo as the dynasty’s protector divinity.17 This early chronology is possible in theory, but not the most intuitive reading of Pliny. Similarly unconvincing is the claim that the two Milesian decrees attest to or at least imply close relations between Demodamas and the court prior to the Battle of Ipsos. No previous contacts of Demodamas with the king, his wife, or son are stated explicitly in the decrees, although such a reference would be the typical thing to expect. This observation aligns well with the recent trend to regard Demodamas as more closely affiliated with Antiochos.18 Moreover, the agency of the queen is shrouded in vagueness, to a degree that the specifics of her own praises pertain only to her husband and her son rather than herself. And the ‘merits’ of Antiochos are limited to the sponsoring of the portico, that is the ongoing project, without implying any previous involvement.19 Scholars, nonetheless, have been inclined to make much of Apama’s role in the court’s

16 17



Plischke 2014, 46 (and later satrap of Sogdia and Baktria under Antiochos I, or rather during the co-rule: p. 117; cf. 161); Ramsey 2016, 89; Nawotka 2019, 271–273; Visscher 2020, 41– 48; cf. Strootman 2021, 157f. Canepa 2020, 66 and Kunst 2021, vol. 1, 126 do not show chronological concerns. Bearzot 1984, 67f.; cf. Primo 2009, 79; Landucci Gattinoni 2013, 34–36 and esp. 42, n. 37. For more on Seleukos’ naval campaigns before 312/11, see Anagnostou-Laoutides, ch. 3 in this volume. E.g., Robert 1984, 471, quoting Haussoullier 1902, 34–49: ‘Démodamas fut la force motrice pour la nouvelle construction du temple d’Apollon par les Séleucides’; cf. Errington 2008, 134; Landucci Gattinoni 2013, 35; Nawotka 2019, 271–273. See also Günther 1971, 35, who regards Demodamas as the philos of Seleukos; cf. Capdetrey 2007, 384f. Another interesting, though speculative variation has most recently been proposed by Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 293: Ptolemy conquered Miletos in 299/98, but Demodamas negotiated its return to Demetrios. See ns. 15, 18, and 29 for further references. Further support might come from Strabo 11.10.2, who names Antiochos as the founder of Antioch in Margiane, information perhaps drawn from the same account by Demodamas. This general is related with Antiochos (as co-ruler of Seleukos) by Kosmin 2014, 61–67; Widmer 2016, 23–27; Engels 2017, 195, all with additional source references and bibliography. Grainger 2014, 105–108 is undecided: while he ascribes a stronger influence of Antiochos on the literary works of Demodamas and Patrokles, he does not seem to limit their geographical explorations to after 296/94; likewise vague is Egetenmeier 2021, 99f. At any rate, it is inadmissible to postulate an interpolation into the Apama decree, as Bringmann and Steuben 1995, 342 do: ‘Oben ist aber darauf hingewiesen worden, daß die baktrische Expedition in die Zeit nach unseren Inschriften gehört, als Seleukos und Antiochos als Samtherrscher amtierten. Der Passus hier muß sich also auf eine andere Gelegenheit beziehen.’ See the quotations from the decrees in ns. 7 and 8 above. One may well speculate about the nature of Apama’s benefactions (I.Didyma 480, ll. 5–7), as Widmer 2016, 28 does, albeit with a negative result, see below. And for Antiochos, one could refer to a likewise elusive wording in I.Didyma 479, ll. 3–5 for the ‘goodwill’ shown previously; cf. Grieb 2008, 202, n. 17; also Orth 1977, 19f. and 21f., who ponders the possibility that this is just flattery.

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relations with Milesian mercenaries or ambassadors. But it would be circular to say that such vagueness is normal in honorific decrees. The opposite is much more plausible: vagueness was the standard when there was nothing concrete to praise. The two Milesian decrees under scrutiny show a clear preference for spelling out benefactions with specific detail, at least for the male members of the royal family.20 I also doubt that Seleukos would have invited the Milesians to send him ambassadors, had Demodamas already been among his trusted courtiers. In this case, the king could have sent him to Miletos as his own envoy in the first place. Alternatively, Demodamas may have been one of the ambassadors summoned to his court by Seleukos to discuss the construction project at Didyma. However, such a role is not even hinted at in the inscriptions, so that his engagement with the royal project might date to the next stage of the negotiations.21 There is a good possibility that we know the name of the first envoy sent to Miletos by Seleukos. An honorific decree for a certain Nikagoras of Rhodes presents him as the diplomat whom Demetrios and Seleukos had dispatched together ‘to the people of the Ephesians and all other Greeks’, a mission generally dated to 300, when the two kings made a separate peace after the Battle of Ipsos and sealed their new agreement over Seleukos’ wedding with Demetrios’ daughter Stratonike at Rhosos.22 Nikagoras would have been the ideal candidate to encourage the Milesians to accept the invitation to Antioch. Whether or not these representatives included Demodamas remains uncertain. At the latest, he gained the goodwill of the royal family for his intervention in Miletos. Having proved his leadership skills this way, he was offered a strategia (Pliny calls him dux) under the young king

20 See the references in ns. 7, 8 and 18 above for Apama and Antiochos, and ns. 15–17 for her assumed connection with Demodamas. 21 See I.Didyma 480, ll. 7–9 (quoted in n. 7 above) on the invitation of Milesian ambassadors to the court. Cf. Grieb 2008, 230, who slightly downplays Demodamas’ role: while he was one of the delegates, he still needed the consent of the people. 22 I.Ephesos V 1453 ed. Börker and Merkelbach (suggesting 300 based on the political context) = OGIS 10 ed. Dittenberger (by 299) = Ephesos 60 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH247746 (dating to 300), esp. ll. 1–7: ἔδοξεν τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι· Φιλαίνετος Φιλόφρονος εἶπεν· ἐπειδὴ | Νικαγόρας Ἀριστάρχου Ῥόδιος ἀποσταλεὶς παρὰ τῶμ βασιλέων Δημητρίου | καὶ Σελεύκου πρός τε τὸν δῆμον τὸν Ἐφεσίων καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους Ἕλληνας | κατασταθεὶς εἰς τὸν δῆμον περί τε τῆς [ο]ἰκείοτητος τῆς γεγενημένης | (5) αὐτοῖς διελέχθη καὶ περὶ τῆς εὐν[οία]ς ἣν ἔχοντες διατελοῦσιν εἰς | τοὺς Ἕλληνας καὶ τὴμ φιλίαν τὴμ πρότερον ὑπάρχουσαν αὐτῶι (?) | πρὸς τὴμ πόλιν ἀνενεώσατ[ο. Plut. Demetr. 30.1f. attests that Ephesos was still loyal to Demetrios soon after Ipsos, and this is how it seems to have remained until ca. 294, when Lysimachos took over the city and Ptolemy conquered Cyprus (Plut. Demetr. 35.3). See Capdetrey 2022, esp. 130 for Nikagoras; Coşkun 2022d, 30–35; also Walser 2008, 61 and 343, although he dates both the wedding and the decree for Nikagoras to 299; cf. pp. 64–87, 99f. for context; also Egetenmeier 2021, 110f. Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 290 only make a passing mention of the mission in the context of Demetrios’ wedding diplomacy (likewise Romm 2022, 119, without date), which, however, they date to 298.


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Antiochos. The prince’s elevation to kingship and deployment in the Iranian satrapies are traditionally dated to ca. 294, but Johannes Hackl has recently suggested 296.23 As far as Apama is concerned, Robert certainly cannot be faulted for yielding to the modern fashion of exaggerating the agency of a Seleukid queen, but he does seem to have been quick to make assumptions about the political use of her Iranian descent, which has become a popular approach in recent years as well. If revisited without bias, the evidence for her taking on an active political role in either the east or the west is as flimsy as the claim that she or the court represented her with a marked Iranian ethnic identity.24 Although Marie Widmer is sympathetic with both trends, she admits that it is hard to specify what Apama’s praiseworthy actions consisted of. Widmer thinks that the Milesians thanked her for suggesting that Antiochos also grant benefactions to their city. But not even this little service is expressed in the documentary evidence. In both decrees, the inspiring model for the prince’s euergetism is his father alone. Widmer suggests that it was difficult for Demodamas to explain what services the queen had delivered to his fellow citizens, so that the honours for her were delayed into a new calendar year.25 But this would imply that the assembly of the people rejected the proposal to honour the queen in the first place, which would

23 Grainger 1997, 9–13 and Monerie 2014, 120f. (with BM 109941 for a terminus ante quem of 18 November 294, misunderstood by Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 295f., 450) for the traditional date and Hackl 2020 for 296; cf. Coşkun 2022d, 34, n. 42. A date as late as 293 (Bielman Sánchez 2003, 46, 48) or 292 (thus Mehl 1986, 266–268) is firmly contradicted by the Babylonian evidence. 24 Her queenly agency versus queenly representation: Bielman 2002; Reda 2014, 13–15; Engels and Erickson 2016; Harders 2016; Ramsey 2016; Widmer 2016; Ramsey 2016; Hämmerling 2019, 35–40. Political impact of the Iranian identity of the princess from Sogdia: Robert 1984, 471; Coloru 2009, 146; Müller 2013; Plischke 2014, 30; 196f.; Engels 2017, 213–244; Olbrycht 2021, 173f.; also 2013, 170–172, though with the interesting concession (p. 170) that Seleukos’ diplomatic success was poorest in the eastern Iranian territories Apama hailed from; also Kunst 2021, vol. 1, 124–126, though she emphasizes her representation by the king more strongly than her own agency; Strootman 2021 and forthcoming. Generally critical is van der Spek 2018, 388. See also Coşkun 2022e. This is, of course, not to deny that Apama’s factual or alleged Achaemenid descent (Arr. Anab. 7.4.6; Strabo 12.8.15; cf. Heckel 2006, 39; Müller 2013, 206) had a potential for ideological or diplomatic exploitation (cf. Müller 2013, 206) or that the blood connections through Apama might have opened some further doors, as R. Strootman now suggests to me (via email, 6 Sep. 2021), stating that ‘it rather were the kinship ties created by the marriage that likely enabled Seleukos I and Antiochos I to tap into elite networks in Baktria and Sogdia’. There is, however, little evidence that Seleukos pursued such paths vigorously, let alone that Apama took an active role in such endeavours. 25 Widmer 2016, 28 on Antiochos, 29 on Apama’s services (contrast this with the – unspecified – emphasis on their importance, e.g., by Robert 1984, 471; likewise, Kunst 2021, vol. 1, 124– 126); further pp. 23f., 30f. on the chronology. Other scholars (such as Orth 1977, 20f., with discussion) based their belief in Apama supporting the construction project on a different reading of the inscription in ll. 8–10, but this is not reflected in Widmer’s Greek text. Barely any scholar accounts for the assumption that Apama joined the effort of her husband and son (e.g., Müller 2013, 208), although this should have been stated explicitly in the inscription.

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have been an embarrassment and put at a risk the generosity of the royal family. We cannot fully assess this line of argument without addressing further procedural and chronological problems. IV. MILESIAN DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AT WORK The procedure of the decree for Antiochos is laid out at the beginning of the inscription (I.Didyma 479, ll. 1f.): It has pleased the people: the assessment of the synhedroi: Demodamas, son of Aristeides said: «Since Antiochos …» (ἔδοξε τῶι δήμωι· γνώμη συνέδρων· Δημοδάμας Ἀριστείδου ἐ͂ιπεν· ἐπειδὴ Ἀντίοχος ...)

There is a bit more detail in the case of Apama (I.Didyma 480, ll. 1–5): It has pleased the council and the people: Lykos, son of Apollodot[os said:] About the things that Demodamas, son of Aristeides earlier wrote (or: applied) to the council, that Apama, the wife of king Seleukos, be honoured, it may please the council and the people: «Since Apama the Queen …» ἔδοξε τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι· Λύκος Ἀπολλοδότ[ου εἶπεν·] | περὶ ὧν προεγράψατο εἰς τὴμ βουλὴν Δημοδάμας Ἀρ[ιστείδου,] | ὅπως Ἀπάμη ἡ Σελεύκου τοῦ βασιλέως γυνὴ τ[ιμηθῆι,] | δεδόχθαι τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι· ἐπειδὴ Ἀπά[μη ἡ βα]- | (5) σίλισσα ...

The editor of the inscription Albert Rehm thought that Demodamas proposed the honours for Antiochos as a member of the synhedrion (‘commission’) and deferred the proposal for Apama to the boule (‘council’), which led to a brief delay of her case. Marie Widmer nuanced this view by explaining that Demodamas had ceased to be a synhedros when the honours for Apama were decreed. This seemed to indicate that a new calendar year had started in the meantime, so that the former psephisma likely dates from winter (300/) 299, the latter from spring 299 (/298). Both scholars further drew on the (very fragmentary) reference to the stephanephoros, the ‘crown bearer’ of Apollo, since only the Apama decree seems to have named the god Apollo himself as incumbent, which Rehm equated with the year 299/98 according to the well-established list of the officials.26 But our evidence does not support such a reconstruction. The document for Antiochos only presents Demodamas as the author of the proposal, not as a synhedros, and the stephenphoria of Apollo rather appears to be a terminus ante quem for payments to be made in the next year, whereas instructions to present officials

26 Rehm on I.Didyma 480, ll. 15–19, followed by Müller 1976, 20–26, esp. 22; Robert 1984, 470; Carlsson (see n. 29 below); and Widmer 2016, 23–28. On the stephanephoroi list in general, see (Kawerau and) Rehm, Milet I 3.122–128 = Miletos 103–110 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH252207–252213; cf. Bickerman 1980, 138f.; Sherk 1992, 229–232; Carlsson 2010, 256– 259. The appendix to the Milesian prosopography (Günther 2017, 659–663) only covers later years. ‘Apollo (son) of Zeus’ is named as stephanephoros for the years 312/11, 299/98, 276/75, 275/74, 266/65–263/62 and 260/59; cf. Günther 2017, 664. More references in the next note.


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never connect their title with the eponymic magistracy. Spring 299 thus turns out to be the terminus ante quem for both decrees, with the mild distinction that the drafter of the proposal for Antiochos did not yet know that Apollo would be the successor of Athenaios, who served as stephanephoros in 300/299. The impression that the Apama decree postdates that for Antiochos is also confirmed by the fact that her document shows specific knowledge of Antiochos’ benefaction, whereas she is unmentioned in the Antiochos decree.27 The evidence appears relatively clear for the role of Demodamas. As an influential citizen, he submitted a formal application28 to the boule requesting to honour the benefactress Apama. Since he did not have a seat in this body, his concern was taken up by the councillor Lykos, son of Apollodotos. Whether this Lykos had put forward Demodamas’ request in the council we cannot say, but it was approved there and proposed in the assembly of the people by this man. It seems that the text of Demodamas’ original application remained unchanged, because the formulation ‘may please the council and the people’ (l. 4: δεδόχθαι τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι) remained unaltered. The effective acceptance by the people is not only expressed in the first line (ἔδοξε τῆι βουλῆι καὶ τῶι δήμωι), but is also manifest from the fact that the decree was carved into a stele located in the sanctuary of Artemis at Didyma (cf. ll. 19–21). For a reason that escapes us, the procedure was different in the case of Antiochos in that the boule was not approached for him. Or, at least, the council made no decision in his favour based on which the ekklesia passed the extant decree. We can only speculate about the reason. Perhaps the honour for Antiochos was planned at a time after the last scheduled council meeting and before the next public assembly. Somewhat later, the Milesians understood that Seleukos would be very pleased about an additional recognition of Apama as well. For her, there would have been enough time to have the boule deliberate the proposal before presenting it to the demos. If correct, this would also explain why the synhedrion was involved with the proposal of Antiochos before it went into the assembly, whereas its approval was not needed for the decree of Apama after passing the boule.

27 On the stephanephoria, see I.Didyma 480, ll. 15–19: ὅτι ὁ δῆμ[ος ὁ Μιλησίων τὴν προσήκουσαν ἐπιμέ]- | λειαν ἔχ[ων διατελεῖ περὶ τοὺς εὐεργετοῦντας τὸν δῆμον] | [— τοὺς δὲ ἀνατάκτας τοὺς ἐπὶ στεφα]- | νηφόρου τοῦ Ἀπόλλω[νος τοῦ μετ’ Ἀθήναιον ἐξελεῖν εἰς τὴν εἰ]| κόνα … On the list of Milesian stephanephoroi, see the previous note; for a full discussion, see Coşkun 2022d. And on the benefactions of Antiochos, see I.Didyma 480, ll. 10–14, quoted in n. 7 above. 28 Rehm ad I.Didyma 479–480, p. 281 offers a confused interpretation of προγράφεσθαι as ‘putting on the agenda’; contra Nawotka 1999/2014, 95: ‘submitting a written application’; cf. LSJ s.v. I 1 ‘to write first/earlier’ (typically active, so that medium could emphasize one’s own initiative) and II 1 ‘giving public notice’ (also medium; LSJ quotes the identical formulation of I.Didyma 479, though referencing “Milet 6.43”). It is uncertain whether the explanation of Robert 1984, 470 with n. 22 (“Démodamas avait rédigé pour le Conseil le projet de décret”) was strictly confined to the drafting of the text or was meant to imply his membership on the council.

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In order to fully appreciate the sovereignty of the Milesian citizens behind those decisions, it is worthwhile emphasizing that they could make proposals to the assembly on relatively short notice, although direct democracy had been mitigated in the later classical period. Prior to bringing concerns up before the demos, they had to be scrutinized by trusted fellow citizens. Unless the proposal came from the boule, screening would be by the probouleutai in Athens or the synhedroi in Miletos respectively. The inscription of the Antiochos decree tells us that precisely this body was invoked for a proposal that had not been vetted by the boule.29 However, neither document specifies whether Demodamas was a synhedros himself or not. But the decree for Apama does include him in the team of epistatai. Whether he had a similar role in the more substantial honours for Antiochos is hard to say, since the end of the inscription is lost. If Rehm’s supplement to the Apama decree is correct, then these officials were to see to the implementation of what had been decided on, i.e. to the production and erection of the queen’s statue (I.Didyma 480, ll. 26–28): ἐπιστάται τῆς [εἰκόνος] Δημοδάμας Ἀριστείδου, Λύκος Ἀπολλοδότου, Ἀριστ[οφὼμ] Μιννίωνος.30 The role of the epistatai is admittedly controversial. Volker Grieb has largely restated the traditional view which regards them as men trusted and appointed by the king holding sway over Miletos; their function is described as to preside and control the boule, synhedrion, and assembly.31 Krzysztof Nawotka agrees on regarding the epistatai as controlling the boule and the assembly, albeit without explicitly making them royal appointees; their authority remains effectively open in his account. Susanne Carlsson presents a useful scholarly survey, but her conclusion does no more than seek the lowest common denominator, namely that ‘this board, like all the others, had a probouleutic function’. She thus admits partial overlap of the epistatai with the synhedrion, without explaining how this should have worked in practice.32 29 My reconstruction agrees with Nawotka 1999/2014, 94–96 on the probouleutic function of the synhedroi in that it was independent from the boule (though not with his understanding of the epistatai); similar Egetenmeier 2021, 99. Müller 1976, 20–28 and Carlsson 2010, 261f. are less determined to separate the synhedrion from the boule; they accept Rehm’s view that Demodamas acted as a synhedros for Antiochos and as a normal citizen for Apama. This is firmly rejected by Nawotka, and yet he holds on to Rehm’s dates. Egetenmeier, in turn, is not interested in chronology and simply surmises that Demodamas was one of the synhedroi. I only mention in passing that Mann and Scholz 2012, esp. 7f. and 26f., consider the formal continuity of institutions as less relevant than the increasing economic inequality since the 4th century; this is why they regard democratic freedom as much diminished in the 3rd century BCE. 30 The supplement [εἰκόνος] is by Robert 1984, 470, n. 21 (cf. Egetenmeier 2021, 99, n. 109) and is supported by I.Didyma 481 ed. Rehm (and Harder) = Didyma 3 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH246994, ll. 3–10: τόδε ἀ[ναγράψαι τοὺς ἐπιμελητὰς? εἰς στήλην] | λιθίνην κ[αὶ θεῖναι εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ․․․c.11․․․․,] | (5) τοὺς δὲ τ̣[ειχοποιοὺς ἀπομισθῶσαι ὡς τάχιστα τὴν] | στήλην [καὶ τὴν ἀναγραφὴν τοῦ ψηφίσματος,] | τὸν δὲ ταμ[ίαν ὑπηρετῆσαι ἐκ τῶν εἰς τὰ κατὰ] | ψηφίσματα [ἐξηιρημένων. v2 ἐπιμεληταὶ τῆς] | εἰκόνος v Δημ̣[οδάμας Ἀριστείδου ․․c.8․․․] | (10) Λύκος Ἀπολλ[οδότου, Ἀριστείδης Μιννίωνος.]. Rehm reads [ἐργασίας]. 31 Grieb 2008, 218f.; cf. Rehm 1904, 197f.; Müller 1976, 61, 69f., 85. 32 Nawotka 2014, 106–108 and Carlsson 2010, 262–264.


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I remain unconvinced of such descriptions, and not only for the inconsistencies that they involve. In addition, they draw most of the evidence from the time of or after the oppressive regime of Lysimachos in the later 280s. We should be hesitant to purport a similar level of control by the Antigonid court in the preceding decades. After all, Antigonos maintained his status as liberator in Miletos even after the Ptolemies took the lead around 279. And it is likely that Demetrios’ title as ‘hegemon of the Greeks’, which he assumed shortly before 302 in Corinth following the model of Philip II and Alexander III, also described his official role in Ephesos and Miletos. These two at least, if not also other Ionian cities, honoured their good treatment by showing continued loyalty to Demetrios after the Battle of Ipsos. The status of Miletos begins to be less certain only in 294, a time that lies outside the scope of the present examination.33 The prime sources for the constitutional framework of Miletos under Demetrios are therefore the two honorific decrees under discussion. In no way had the decision-making involved the authority of one or more epistatai. On the contrary, both decrees show different but likewise orderly processes in which the demos made a sovereign decision. The epistatai did not oversee the procedure leading up to the people casting their vote, but they were rather tasked with the implementation of the decree. In fact, their selection formed part of this democratic process. In other words, these epistatai had the role of epimeletai or procurators. Although some later examples show that the function and nomination of epistatai changed under Lysimachos and Ptolemy II, officials with this title continue being attested as part of the democratic system after Miletos regained full independence.34 The honorific decrees for Antiochos and Apama therefore provide strong evidence for the functioning of Milesian democracy under the hegemony of Demetrios shortly after the Battle of Ipsos. They provide crystal-clear documentation for autonomous decisions by the demos to honour the Seleukid royal family. Obviously, 33 Under the stephanephoria of Hippomachos (313/12), Antigonos supported the Milesians in their efforts to expel Asandros. This was commemorated as the beginning of a new era of freedom (Milet I 3, no. 123 = Miletos 104, ed. McCabe for PHI = PH252208, ll. 2–4): ἐπὶ τούτου ἡ πόλις ἐλευθέρα καὶ ἀυτόνομος ἐγένετο ὑπὸ Ἀντιγόνου καὶ ἡ δημοκρατία ἀπεδόθη. For Demetrios’ proclamation as hegemon in Corinth, see Plut. Demetr. 25.3f., with Walser 2008, 99f., who suggests extending this role also to Ionia. A confirmation of his continued positive relations with Miletos after Ipsos is his stephenphoria of 295/94 (same inscription, l. 22). We have no reason to assume that Miletos had slipped from his authority in the meantime. Ephesos, for instance, is attested as loyal to him in 301 and 300, with major losses in Ionia dating only to ca. 294; see n. 22 above for references. 34 At least this latter part of the argument is acknowledged also by Grieb 2008, 219 and Carlsson 2010, 259, 262f., n. 655, who provide positive evidence for the democratic election of epistatai as of 206/5. For epistatai as epimeletai, see also Ma 2013, 244f., although without noticing a scholarly controversy. Responsibility of the epistatai for carving the honorific decree on a stele and for having the queen’s statue produced is also implied in I.Didyma 481, quoted in n. 30 above. Contrast this with the function of the epistatai in a decree from 262/61 under Ptolemy II, Milet I 3.139 = Miletos 34 ed. McCabe (for PHI) = PH252138, l. 22: ἔδοξε τῶι δήμωι· γνώμη ἐπιστατῶν· Πειθένους Θαρσαγ̣όρ̣ ο̣ υ εἶπεν· … In the political process reflected here, the epistatai had taken on probouleutic function.

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the granting of secular honours was a very low price to pay in return for the substantial gifts and goodwill that the Seleukids were promising to give. V. CONCLUSIONS AND OUTLOOK: ROYAL AGENCY, DYNASTIC POLICY, AND LATER DEVELOPMENTS The Milesian dossier is not the earliest attestation of Antiochos, if we admit Plutarch’s information that he commanded Seleukos’ cavalry in the Battle of Ipsos. This would have implied that he, the oldest son of the king, as the decrees from Miletos emphatically repeat, had been singled out as designated successor of his father beforehand, just as Alexander III had been chosen to lead the cavalry at Chaironeia in 338. That this was an even more widespread practice is further shown by the role of Antiochos, the co-ruling son of Antiochos III, at the Battle of Panion (198/97), as Ben Scolnic unfolds in this volume.35 Perhaps more interestingly, the Apama decree is the first and most complete epigraphic attestation of her. It provides unique testimony for her status as basilissa.36 Although disputed in scholarship, this title was not randomly used by the wives or daughters of Hellenistic queens, but generally employed quite sparingly even after the Year of the Kings (306/5), in which the Diadochs assumed the basileus title. Phila, the wife of Demetrios and mother of Antigonos II Gonatas, is regarded as the first attested Hellenistic basilissa, distinguished by her title not long after her husband had become basileus. Apama is largely considered to have followed this example, but she may well have had priority. At all events, the status of the mother of the designated Seleukid successor was marked out with her.37 Stacy

35 Plut. Demetr. 29.3, with Lozano 2005, 82, who also points to Demetrios I as the immediate opponent of Antiochos (I) at Ipsos – with the only exception that Demetrios was already basileus since 306/5; cf. Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 159–163, 246–251. Also note that Polyb. 5.84.8 names Polykrates as the cavalry leader opposing Antiochos (I). For the historical role of Antiochos, the son of Antiochos III, and the fictitious role of Mithradates / Antiochos (IV) at the Battle of Panion, see Scolnic, ch. 8 in this volume, discussing Polyb. 16.18.1–19.11. 36 I.Didyma 480 ascribes her the title in ll. 4f., but not in l. 3. But add the mention of her name on the statue base which may well have been preceded by the title as well: I.Didyma 113 (quoted in n. 7 above). Ramsey 2016, 88f. has considered the title to be an honorary addition by the Milesians, a view that has not found much support. Somewhat more cautiously, Ramsey 2021, 189 leaves open the question whether cities had the freedom to introduce the basilissa title flatteringly. Some scholars claim that queen Apama is also attested on Delos. For this, Olbrycht 2021, 181, n. 17 refers to Müller 2013, 208, who in turn cites Macurdy 1932, 78f., but the only inscription Macurdy adduces for Apama is OGIS 213 from Didyma. There has probably been a confusion with the sources for Stratonike (Macurdy 1932, 80). 37 Carney 1991, 155f. rightly cautions us against the anachronistic assumption of Macurdy 1932 that royal women could be called basilissa from the time of Alexander, but still surmises a very broad and undistinguished use by women of a royal household after the Year of the Kings (306/5); cf., e.g., Dittenberger ad OGIS 14, p. 44, n. 1; Carney 2000, 226f.; Müller 2009, 77f.; Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 291; Kunst 2021, vol. 1, 4. Contra Coşkun and McAuley 2016, 19


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Reda plausibly suggests that a desire for this status upgrade was felt specifically after Seleukos’ polygamous wedding with Stratonike.38 In a similar vein, Marie Widmer argues: Cette mise en scène de la reine, du roi et de leur fils aîné construit l’autorité séleucide sur le long terme, en fixant l’image de la succession royale au moment même où celle-ci pourrait être ébranlée par le second mariage du roi avec la jeune Stratonice.39

It is indeed obvious that the collaborative benefaction of king father, queen mother, and oldest son had been a deliberate move to promote the Seleukid family as a dynasty under the protection of Apollo (and Artemis) and with an explicit commitment towards the future continuation of the kingdom under Antiochos.40 The reconciliation with Demetrios in 300 opened the door to the economic and cultural hub of the Milesians with the famous sanctuary of Didyma. Since it had previously played an important role on Alexander’s path to divinisation, it seemed to be an ideal location to advertise Seleukos’ dynastic arrangements to the Graeco-Macedonian world.41 In a certain way, the choice of Miletos may be seen as an emulation of Alexander, albeit without evoking the authority of Alexander directly. As Erickson (in this volume) has shown, Seleukos had already moved away from gaining legitimacy through his links with Alexander in the years before. Now that he was preparing his son for dynastic succession, he was going beyond Alexander. A few years later, Seleukos stepped up his plan to consolidate dynastic rule by acclaiming Antiochos as his co-ruler. He enhanced the effect of his son’s promotion by handing over his young wife Stratonike for a semi-levirate marriage (296 or 294).42 Relations with the Milesians henceforth were continuous and quite positive,

38 39


41 42

and Harders 2016, 30. More specifically, Coşkun (2022e, 82f.; forthcoming; in preparation), limits the use of the title to the main wife of a king and the mother of the expected or designated successor; cf. Coşkun 2022a for further variation under the Ptolemies. On Demetrios, Phila and Antigonos Gonatas, see Carney 1991, 161; Müller 2009, 78f.; Strootman 2014, 107–110; Harders 2016, 30, 34; D’Agostini 2020; Wheatley and Dunn 2020, 291. The priority of Apama over Phila is argued for by Coşkun in preparation. Reda 2014, 14, though she probably goes too far by ascribing to Apama interim regency in the West while Seleukos was campaigning in the East. On the polygamous wedding, see n. 2 above. Widmer 2016, 31. Cf. Widmer 2019, 33f., who is more concerned about how the Milesian inscription reflects on the strategy of the Seleukid court: the royal couple does not appear as ‘a unified sum of distinct voices but a single political entity acting in accordance with the political line defined by the Seleucid king.’ No longer tenable is the explanation by (Kawerau and) Rehm (Milet I 3, p. 262 [138], n. 2) that the Milesians hurried to also honour Apama, after just having honoured Stratonike; this view is incompatible with the sequence of events. Cf. McAuley 2022, who points to the Apama decree as the first tangible document for the model of the ‘Reigning Triad’ designed to solidify dynastic succession in the polygamous family of Seleukos. The only extant visual representation of this royal triad – though possibly together with a younger brother of Antiochos – is the Apameia Foundation Mosaic, with Coşkun 2022b, suggesting some modifications to the interpretations of Olszewski and Saad 2018. There may have been other venues for similar benefactions or declarations, but positive evidence for Seleukid engagement with them is yet to be uncovered. On this marriage, see Ramsey 2016; Almagor 2016; Engels and Erickson 2016. Further references in n. 23 above.

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since the construction projects would need a constant influx of resources. As the renewed correspondence with Seleukos in 288/87 makes no specific reference to ongoing works, we may assume that they had been finished beforehand, irrespective of (potentially changing) relations that the Milesians had entertained with Demetrios, Ptolemy, or Lysimachos.43 From the extant inscription, then, we learn that Seleukos stayed in touch and on friendly terms with the Milesians, while Antiochos was operating in the Iranian satrapies. The father thus ensured that the name of his son was also mentioned in his capacity as co-ruling basileus. For Apama, who was most likely still alive at the time, there was no need to show up as benefactress, again.44 None of the documents discussed in the present study addresses Seleukos as the son of Apollo, yet we see, especially when considering the abovementioned testimony of Pliny, that relations with the Milesians in general and with Demodamas in particular were ongoing, constructive, and quite cordial. As such, they had the potential to deepen. This closer entanglement may even have inspired the foundation of the sanctuary of Daphne by Antioch. The establishment of divine honours for Seleukos and Antiochos in Aigai in 281 shows a further step in the development of a dynastic cult and legend construed around Apolline Soter ideology. But the shift from Zeus to Apollo as the main patron of the dynasty culminating in his legendary fatherhood of Seleukos only occurred after the death of the founder king.45 BIBLIOGRAPHY Ager, S. 2018: ‘Building a Dynasty: The Families of Ptolemy I Soter’, in T. Howe (ed.), Ptolemy Soter. A Self-Made Man, Oxford, 38–59. Almagor, E. 2016: ‘Seleukid Love and Power: Stratonike I’, in Coşkun and McAuley 2016, 67–86. Alonso Troncoso, V. and Anson, E.M. (eds.) 2013: After Alexander: The Time of the Diadochi, Oxford. Austin, M.M. 2006 (Austin2): The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest. A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation. Second Edition, Cambridge. Bearzot, C. 1984: ‘Lo santuario di Apollo Didimeo e la spedizione di Seleuco I a Babilonia’, in M. Sordi (ed.), I santuari e la guerra, Milan, 51–81. Bencivenni, A. 2015: ‘Come accettare regalmente un culto’, Simblos 6, 95–110.

43 See ns. 1 and 22 above. 44 OGIS 214 (as in n. 12 above), with Holton 2018, 112 on 288/87. Julien Monerie kindly brought to my attention that YOS 20, 087 (a sale contract from 28 SEB = 284/83 BCE) still shows her alive; see Coşkun 2022d, 34, n. 45 for references. 45 Pace Nawotka 2019, who argues for the design of the Apollo ideology by 300. For more, see n. 3 above. On the decisive role of Antiochos and a date close to Seleukos’ death, see Erickson 2011; 2013; 2014; 2019; and ch. 2 in this volume; also Ogden 2017; Wright 2018. On the cult of Aigai and the Soter ideology, see Malay and Ricl 2009; Coşkun 2012; Bencivenni 2015; Caneva 2020.


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Robert, L. 1984: ‘Documents d’Asie Mineure: Pline, VI, 49, Démodamas de Milet et la reine Apamè’, BCH 108, 467–472. Romm, J. 2022: Demetrius. Sacker of Cities, New Haven. Strootman, R. 2014: Courts and Elites in the Hellenistic Empires. The Near East after the Achaemenids, c. 330 to 30 BCE, Edinburgh. Strootman, R. 2021: ‘To be Magnanimous and Grateful’. The Entanglement of Cities and Empires in the Hellenistic Aegean’, in M. Domingo-Gygax and G. Zuiderhoek (eds.), Benefactors and the Polis: Origins and Development of the Public Gift in the Greek Cities. From the Homeric World to Late Antiquity, Cambridge, 137–178. Strootman, R. forthcoming: ‘How Iranian Was the Seleukid Empire?’. van der Spek, R.J. 2018: ‘The Latest on Seleucid Empire Building’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 138.2, 385–394. Visscher, M. 2020: Beyond Alexandria. Literature and Empire in the Seleucid World, Oxford. Walser, A.V. 2008: Bauern und Zinsnehmer. Politik, Recht und Wirtschaft im frühhellenistischen Ephesos, Munich. Welles, C.B. RC: Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic World. A Study in Greek Epigraphy, London 1934, repr. Chicago 1974. Wheatley, P. and Dunn, C. 2020: Demetrius the Besieger, Oxford. Widmer, M. 2016: ‘Apamè. Une reine au cœur de la construction d’un royaume’, in A. Bielman Sánchez, I. Cogitore and A. Kolb (eds.), Femmes influentes dans le monde hellénistique et à Rome: IIIe siècle avant J.C. – Ier siècle après J.C., Grenoble, 17–33. Widmer, M. 2019: ‘Looking for the Seleucid Couple’, in Bielman Sánchez 2019, 32–41. Wright, N.L. 2018: Seleukos, Zeus and the Dynastic Cult at Seleukeia in Pieria’, in Erickson 2018, 83–99.





Abstract: While the procession at Daphne has been studied from multiple perspectives over the last decades, the scholarly discussion has been largely dominated by Polybios’ perception of the event, which can be summarised as follows: the eccentric Antiochos wanted to surpass the pompe that the Roman general Aemilius Paullus had organized in Macedonia in 167 BCE on the occasion of his triumph over Perseus. According to this interpretation, the background of the festival in 166 BCE has been deemed an ideological confrontation between Rome and the Seleukid Empire against the backdrop of Rome’s rise to power in the eastern Mediterranean. The article offers an alternative interpretation by studying religious objects displayed in the pompe as described by Polybios and attested by Athenaios. The role of religious objects in the context of people’s ritual performance should be read as a communication process between the king and the different parts of the Seleukid realm. Although the pompe cannot be understood without reference to Rome, its main focus was on the self-construction of Seleukid rule and the ruler’s self-image. Furthermore, the objects described by Polybios will also be discussed in terms of the reaction thereto by those subjected to Seleukid rule. This approach allows us to understand better the singular ritual of 166 BCE as the materialisation of a distinct Seleukid claim to power and of forms of acceptance of this suzerainty within different local cultures.

I. INTRODUCTION The present volume deals with the question of how Seleukid claims to political legitimacy were received and responded to by those over whom they claimed suzerainty. At the same time, the analysis of the royal centre’s reactions to those responses aims to hone our understanding of the character of Seleukid rule, since these responses from the capital also played a role in whether or not Seleukid *

I would like to thank the volume editors, Altay Coşkun and Richard Wenghofer, for their helpful comments. I would also like to thank Peter Herz for the numerous productive conversations we had about the topic. Special thanks are also due to Mary Frazer for the very helpful information on Babylonian sources.


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suzerainty prevailed in these local settings. In the following, I would like to approach this question by examining a concrete political and religious ritual which reflected the Seleukid notion of power: namely, the great procession arranged by Antiochos IV at Daphne near Antioch in the year 166 BCE. Why do I focus on the Hellenistic ritual of pompe in general? And why do I emphasise this pompe in particular? Regarding the first question, there is a plausible and reasonable answer: Compared with orchestrated pompai, hardly any other ritual of the Hellenistic period reflects royal self-image so explicitly. The ruler presents himself as the guarantor of prosperity and wealth, as the conqueror of the oikoumene and as a victorious war hero, as the protector of the Greek poleis, as a divine offspring and charismatic leader – sometimes even as a divine manifestation himself. All these facets of the Hellenistic strategies of legitimation can be observed in the specific cultural characteristics of royal processions. In this regard, the great Ptolemaia at Alexandria in 274 (?) BCE1 can be seen as an illustrative example of the Ptolemaic version of these rites, with the festival at Daphne in 166 BCE being a Seleukid equivalent. After Alexander the Great, the self-conception of Hellenistic rulers was basically of threefold derivation, consisting of dynastic legitimation, self-effectiveness manifested in victory, and recommendation by a divinity.2 All three categories are in fact part of a concept of religious legitimation. In every pompe, this overall concept of Hellenistic legitimation is basically transformed into a performative act, in which not only the visualization but also the materialization of the typical Hellenistic claim to power comes about. The procession may thus be interpreted as a performative claim to legitimacy – especially in a political situation where the ruler lacked some of the vital elements of such legitimacy. This point now leads us to the second question concerning the specific characteristics of the Daphne procession: In the year 167/166 BCE, the issue of the legitimacy of Antiochos IV’s rule clearly came to the fore politically. The Seleukid withdrawal from Egypt, forced by the Romans, as well as the latter’s victories over King Perseus from Macedonia called into question Antiochos IV’s self-image. II. ANTIOCHUS IV, THE DAPHNE PROCESSION, AND PROBLEMS IN THE SOURCES Antiochos IV Epiphanes, the Seleukid king from 175–164 BCE, appears as a problematic figure in ancient historical discourse. In deliberate manner and with ironic 1


The pompe of Ptolemy II Philadelphos at Alexandria, as described by Kallixeinos (FGrH 627 F 2), is recounted by Athenaios of Naukratis (Athen. 5.196a–203b). See Dunand 1981; Rice 1983; Walbank 1996; cf. also Hazzard 2000; Thompson 2000; Iossif and Lorber 2012; Erskine 2013; Mittag 2015. The year of the procession is highly debated among historians. Today, most scholars agree that Kallixeinos’ description refers to the second festival of the Ptolemaia (established in 279/278 BCE by Ptolemy I), which took place in February 274 BCE. See Caneva 2016, 87–92. See Edelmann 2007.

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allusion to his self-designation as Epiphanes, ʻ[God] made manifest’, Polybios gives Antiochos the epithet Epimanes, ʻthe Madʼ.3 This judgment on the part of the Greek author is representative and indicates the difficulties the ancient sources pose concerning the king’s short reign. Greek and Roman literature, in addition to late antique Jewish and Christian texts dealing with Antiochos, are negatively biased against the ruler and thus of little help for our endeavour to interpret his political intentions.4 This picture began to change only in the 19th century,5 with historians in the 20th century then speaking of him as an enigmatic and puzzling figure. More recent research has sought to unveil the ʻrationalʼ Antiochos who launched a series of reforms. Thus, the ʻmadʼ Antiochos IV was explained away to a large extent – although some of his actions remain cryptic.6 Among others, these actions include the great procession at Daphne near Antioch in the year 166 BCE,7 which is described by Polybios8 and Diodoros.9 Polybios’ account is one of the most famous reports on ancient processions. The great pompe was the prelude for a series of agōnes or festivals lasting a full month and consisted of a large-scale review of the different branches of the army, a parade displaying the material wealth of the king and his court, as well as a solemn religious procession including a great number of sacred embassies from all parts of the Greek world, carrying portable images of deities and mythological scenes, painted or written on banners. Polybios’ interpretation of the event, which correlates it closely with Rome, has been decisive for modern reception.10 According to Polybios, the eccentric


Polyb. 26.1a = Athen. 10.439a: Πολύβιος δ᾽ ἐν τῇ ἕκτῃ καὶ εἰκοστῇ τῶν Ἱστοριῶν καλεῖ αὐτὸν Ἐπιμανῆ καὶ οὐκ Ἐπιφανῆ διὰ τὰς πράξεις. 4 See Mittag 2006, 18–31. 5 Cf. Hoffmann 1873. 6 Cf. Mørkholm 1966; Will 1982; Habicht 1989; Mittag 2006; Iossif 2011; Feyel and GraslinThomé 2014. 7 Cf. Mørkholm 1963 and 1966; Bunge 1976; Walbank 1996; Mittag 2006, 282–295 and 2015; Köhler 1991; Strootman 2019. The year the procession took place is controversial; cf. Mittag 2006, 282f., n. 1. 8 A shortened version of Polybios’ text was handed down by the later excerptor Athenaios of Naukratis in his Deipnosophistai (Polyb. 30.25.1–26.4 = Athen. 5.24.194c–195d). Other sources are only available as small fragments, for example Protagorides of Kyzikos On the Games at Daphne and On the Festive Assemblies at Daphne (Athen. 4.33.150c–d; Athen. 4.78.176a–b and 4.82.183f = FGrH 853 F 1–2). Cf. the historical commentary on Polybios by Walbank 1979, 448–453. 9 Diod. 31.16.1. See also Rathman 2016. 10 Cf. Edmondson 1999, Strootman 2007. Strootman 2019 has once again taken up the ‘answer theory’, according to which the festival at Daphne was seen as a response to Aemilius Paullus and Roman intervention in the East. In accordance with the assumption of Polybios’ propositions, there are three aspects in favour of this theory: the temporal proximity to the parade of Aemilius Paullus in 167 BCE; the 5,000 soldiers wearing Roman uniforms; and the elephants, which were interpreted as war elephants in a military context. The central thesis thereby is that under Antiochos IV’s rule, the Seleukid realm was still an empire oriented towards expansion and an imperialist policy. Cf. also Bernhardt 2017, 241: ‘Man hat die prächtige Heeresschau


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Antiochos IV wanted to surpass the triumphal games held by the Roman general Aemilius Paullus at Amphipolis in Macedonia after the latter’s victory over king Perseus.11 This seems to be proven by the oversized dimension and the explicit Roman allusions – the display of 5,000 soldiers in Roman uniforms and the typical Roman gladiators, for example.12 According to most interpretations, it was fundamentally a matter of the ideological confrontation of Rome and the Seleukid Empire against the political background of Rome’s rise as a ruling power in the Eastern Mediterranean and Antiochos’ withdrawal from Egypt at the order of the Romans. The non-military elements of the pompe have traditionally been seen as a mere display of splendour, or rather as an exposition of the material wealth and economic prosperity of the Seleukid Empire. Countering this view, one can offer an alternative interpretation by studying the procession as an intra-Seleukid discourse on claims of legitimacy and responses to such claims by the Seleukid subjects. The discourse was mainly conducted through the display of religious objects in the pompe. Considering the problematic situation of the sources as described above, such a material-oriented approach might offer insights that reach beyond the limits set by the interpretations of ancient authors.13 The analysis of objects displayed and employed in the procession, as well as the ability of the objects to generate symbolic meaning through transcultural interdependence on the one hand and ‘personal agency’ on the other hand, introduces a new focus on the conception of Antiochos IV’s rule.14 To the same extent, this procession echoes local responses to the official representation of his rule.15 III. MATERIAL CULTURE STUDIES, PERFORMANCE, AND PROCESSION The theoretical framework of this article is based on results achieved in the field of material culture studies. For several years, research on objects and material culture has been established as an important field for anthropological, ethnological, archaeological, and sociological disciplines.16 Studies devoted to material culture focus on the influence of objects on any kind of human performance: objects can put an individual in a position to establish a social, political, and/or cultural order, and to maintain or challenge this. Specific objects are thus used to create distinctive

11 12 13 14 15 16

daher zu Recht als ein Stück counter-propaganda gegen die Folgen des Tages von Eleusis bezeichnet.’ Plut. Aem. 28.7. Cf. Polyb. 30.25.1 = Athen. 5.194c, quoted below with n. 21. Cf. Günther 1989. She sees the text as serving as an implementation of Athenaios and doubts the historicity of the passage. On the other hand, Mittag 2006, 285f. with n. 10 and Carter 2001, 48f. believe that mentioning gladiators refers to special forces in the Seleukid army. Cf. Iossif 2011; Ristvet 2014. Ristvet has also questioned the traditional interpretation via a performative and ritualistic approach. Cf. Caneva 2020a and 2020b for studies on materiality. Concerning the differences of Hellenistic processions as compared to their predecessors in the Classical era, see Chaniotis 1995; cf. also Chaniotis 2013. He traces the changes in festival culture, especially with regard to the arrangement of the procession in the Hellenistic era. See, e.g., Woodward 2007; Hicks 2010; Tilley, Keane, Küchler, and Spyer 2006.

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features during the formative process of social or political communities. Certain objects can serve as signs of identity for certain cultural affiliations, but they can also express cultural difference. Occasionally, they are even granted an individual biography, which in the end assigns significance to their destruction.17 The French sociologist Bruno Latour actually labelled objects as actors in order to highlight the great importance they obtain in respect to human performance. By doing so, he wished to push the boundaries that are commonly drawn between acting persons and objects mainly used in human actions. He ascribes objects, artefacts – in general, things – not only symbolic meaning but agency.18 This theoretical framework, then, posits a certain view of the object, according to which the world of things and the world of sociocultural themes cannot be separated from one each other.19 Based on this, it seems reasonable to pursue an approach that focuses on the specific role of objects in the dynamic process of constructing, maintaining, and transforming a conception of rule which showed (perhaps necessarily so) a certain degree of ‘trans-culturalism’, especially in the Hellenistic kingdoms. Like a magnifying glass, procession rituals offer us the opportunity to examine these processes. On the one hand, a dialogue on power and domination takes place during ancient processions, while on the other hand such processions turn out to be rituals in which objects play a key role.20 With regard to the specific case of the pompe at Daphne, this means that the integration and involvement of specific objects must be interpreted as a political programme on the part of the ruler and as a response thereto by those subject to Seleukid rule. The ruler’s programme also broached the issue of the conflict with Rome, but for the most part (and via specific objects) placed new emphasis on the self-construction of Seleukid rule and the reign of king Antiochos IV. IV. SACRED EMBASSIES AND THE STATUES OF THE GODS AT THE DAPHNE PROCESSION In his well-known description of the pompe at Daphne Polybios states: (1) This same king (Antiochos IV) heard about the games that had been celebrated in Macedon by the Roman general Aemilius Paulus; and because he wanted to outdo Paulus in munificence, he sent off ambassadors and sacred delegates to the cities to announce the games he was going to hold at Daphne. As a result, the Greeks were eager to visit him. (2) He began the festival with a parade that proceeded in the following way: (3) 5,000 young men in the prime of life dressed in Roman chain-mail armor led the way, (4) and behind them were 5,000 Mysians. Immediately after them were 3,000 Cilicians equipped like light-armed troops and wearing gold garlands. (5) After them were 3,000 Thracians and 5,000 Galatians; after them came 2,0000 Macedonians, 5,000 carrying bronze shields and the rest carrying silver shields. 240 pairs of gladiators followed them; (6) and behind them were 1,000 Nisaean cavalry and 3,000 citizen 17 18 19 20

See Appadurai 1986, Kopytoff 1986. Cf. Latour 2005. Cf. Bielfeldt 2014. Cf. Edelmann-Singer 2021.


Babett Edelmann-Singer cavalry, most of whom had gold cheek-pieces and wore gold garlands, while the others had silver cheek-pieces. (7) After them were the so-called companion cavalry; there were about 1,000 of them, all with gold cheek-pieces. (8) Immediately after them was the contingent of Friends; there was the same number of them and they were outfitted in the same way. After them were 1,000 picked men, who were followed by the so-called agēma (‘guard’), which has a reputation for being the best cavalry unit; there were about 1,000 of them. (9) Last was the armored cavalry, with both horses and men covered with armor, as the name suggests; there were 1,500 of them. (10) All the individuals mentioned above wore purple military cloaks, often with gold threads running through them of embroidered figures. (11) After them were 100 six-horse chariots and 40 four-horse chariots, and then a cart drawn by a team of elephants; 36 elephants fitted with ornamented trappings followed in single file. (12) A complete description of the rest of the parade would be difficult to achieve, and a summary account is thus called for. About 800 ephebes marched in procession, wearing gold garlands, as well as about 1,000 large bulls, slightly less than 300 sacred embassies, and 800 elephant tusks. (13) It is impossible to give an account of all the statues; for images of every god or divinity mentioned or believed in by human beings, as well as of heroes, were carried along. Some were gilded, others dressed in robes that had gold threads running through them; (14) and the stories that went with all of them lay next to them in expensive editions that followed the traditional accounts. (15) Images of Night and Day, Earth and Sky, and Dawn and Noon followed them. (16) One might arrive at a sense of the number of gold and silver vessels in the following way: 1,000 slaves belonging to one of the king’s friends, Dionysius the royal secretary, marched in the procession carrying silver vessels, none of which weighed less than 1,000 drachmas; (17) and 600 slaves belonging to the king passed by carrying gold vessels. Then came about 200 women who sprinkled the spectators with perfume from gold pitchers. (18) Immediately after them in the procession came 80 women seated on litters with gold feet, and 500 on litters with silver feet, all expensively dressed. (19) These were the most ostentatious parts of the parade.21

21 Polyb. 30.25.1–19 = Athen. 5.194: (1) ὁ δ᾽ αὐτὸς οὗτος βασιλεὺς ἀκούσας τοὺς ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ συντετελεσμένους ἀγῶνας ὑπὸ Αἰμιλίου Παύλου τοῦ Ῥωμαίων στρατηγοῦ, βουλόμενος τῇ μεγαλοδωρίᾳ ὑπερᾶραι τὸν Παῦλον ἐξέπεμψε πρέσβεις καὶ θεωροὺς εἰς τὰς πόλεις καταγγελοῦντας τοὺς ἐσομένους ἀγῶνας ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ Δάφνης, ὡς πολλὴν γενέσθαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων σπουδὴν εἰς τὴν ὡς αὐτὸν ἄφιξιν. (2) ἀρχὴν δ᾽ ἐποιήσατο τῆς πανηγύρεως τὴν πομπείαν οὕτως ἐπιτελεσθεῖσαν. (3) καθηγοῦντό τινες Ῥωμαϊκὸν ἔχοντες καθοπλισμὸν ἐν θώραξιν ἁλυσιδωτοῖς, ἄνδρες ἀκμάζοντες ταῖς ἡλικίαις πεντακισχίλιοι: (4) μεθ᾽ οὓς Μυσοὶ πεντακισχίλιοι. συνεχεῖς δ᾽ἦσαν Κίλικες εἰς τὸν τῶν εὐζώνων τρόπον καθωπλισμένοι τρισχίλιοι, χρυσοῦς ἔχοντες στεφάνους. (5) ἐπὶ δὲ τούτοις Θρᾷκες τρισχίλιοι καὶ Γαλάται πεντακισχίλιοι. τούτοις ἐπέβαλλον Μακεδόνες δισμύριοι καὶ χαλκάσπιδες πεντακισχίλιοι, ἄλλοι δὲ ἀργυράσπιδες, οἷς ἐπηκολούθει μονομάχων ζεύγη διακόσια τετταράκοντα. (6) τούτων κατόπιν ἦσαν ἱππεῖς Νισαῖοι μὲν χίλιοι πολιτικοὶ δὲ τρισχίλιοι, ὧν οἱ μὲν πλείους ἦσαν χρυσοφάλαροι καὶ χρυσοστέφανοι, οἱ δ᾽ ἄλλοι ἀργυροφάλαροι. (7) μετὰ δὲ τούτους ἦσαν οἱ λεγόμενοι Ἑταῖροι ἱππεῖς: οὗτοι δὲ ἦσαν εἰς χιλίους, πάντες χρυσοφάλαροι. (8) τούτοις συνεχὲς ἦν τὸ τῶν φίλων σύνταγμα, ἴσον καὶ κατὰ τὸ πλῆθος καὶ κατὰ τὸν κόσμον. ἐπὶ δὲ τούτοις ἐπίλεκτοι χίλιοι, οἷς ἐπηκολούθει τὸ καλούμενον ἄγημα, κράτιστον εἶναι δοκοῦν σύστημα τῶν ἱππέων, περὶ χιλίους. (9) τελευταία δ᾽ ἦν ἡ κατάφρακτος ἵππος, οἰκείως τῇ προσηγορίᾳ τῶν ἵππων καὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἐσκεπασμένων τοῖς ὅπλοις: ἦσαν δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ χίλιοι καὶ πεντακόσιοι. (10) πάντες δ᾽ οἱ προειρημένοι εἶχον πορφυρᾶς ἐφαπτίδας, πολλοὶ δὲ καὶ διαχρύσους καὶ ζῳωτάς. (11) ἐπὶ δὲ τούτοις ἕξιππα μὲν ἦν ἑκατόν, τέθριππα δὲ τετταράκοντα, ἔπειτα ἐλεφάντων ἅρμα καὶ συνωρίς. καθ᾽ ἕνα δὲ εἵποντο ἐλέφαντες διεσκευασμένοι τριάκοντα καὶ ἕξ. (12) τὴν δ᾽ ἄλλην πομπὴν λέγειν ἐστὶ δυσέφικτον, ὡς ἐν κεφαλαίῳ δὲ λεκτέον. ἔφηβοι μὲν γὰρ ἐπόμπευσαν εἰς ὀκτακοσίους, χρυσοῦς ἔχοντες στεφάνους, βόες δ᾽εὐτραφεῖς περὶ χιλίους, θεωρίαι δὲ βραχὺ λείπουσαι τριακοσίων, ἐλεφάντων δὲ ὀδόντες ὀκτακόσιοι. (13) τὸ δὲ τῶν ἀγαλμάτων πλῆθος οὐ δυνατὸν ἐξηγήσασθαι: πάντων γὰρ τῶν παρ᾽ ἀνθρώποις λεγομένων ἢ

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As already mentioned, Polybios’ description of the famous procession of Antiochos IV at Daphne in 166 BCE was included in Athenaios’ Deipnosophistai. This tradition plays an important role in the analysis of the text. While Polybios was obviously interested in devaluating both Antiochos22 as a person and the festival as a whole,23 the focus of Athenaios’ fragmentary report, however, was on the display of splendour during the pompe, not on the latter’s political background.24 Consequently, the two authors’ respective interpretations should not be taken as definitive. A focus on the performative processes and objects will offer a more adequate interpretati, since it is closer to the contemporary contexts and intentions of the organizers and participants of the procession. At the beginning of the Daphne episode, Polybios reports that Antiochos sent out envoys and sacred embassies to the cities, in order to announce the games: […] ἐξέπεμψε πρέσβεις καὶ θεωροὺς εἰς τὰς πόλεις καταγγελοῦντας τοὺς ἐσομένους ἀγῶνας ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ Δάφνης […] […] he sent off ambassadors and sacred delegates to the cities to announce the games he was going to hold at Daphne.25

This very first phrase, which includes the almost pleonastic expression ‘ambassadors and sacred delegates’ (πρέσβεις καὶ θεωροὺς), can only be understood correctly if the term πρεσβεία/πρέσβεις is seen as meaning some kind of diplomatic delegation officially dispatched in the name of the Seleukid ruler, Antiochos IV.26 In spite of this, religious delegates (θεωρία/θεωρός27) were sent out in order to issue an invitation in the name of the gods of Daphne,28 Apollo and Artemis. By doing so, one also emphasized that the procession was a prelude to an agōn in honour of Apollo. Confirmed by numismatic evidence, this is in fact a key aspect for understanding the festival and the procession. The role of the second host – besides

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

νομιζομένων θεῶν ἢ δαιμόνων, προσέτι δὲ ἡρώων εἴδωλα διήγετο, τὰ μὲν κεχρυσωμένα, τὰ δ᾽ ἠμφιεσμένα στολαῖς διαχρύσοις. (14) καὶ πᾶσι τούτοις οἱ προσήκοντες μῦθοι κατὰ τὰς παραδεδομένας ἱστορίας ἐν διασκευαῖς πολυτελέσι παρέκειντο. (15) εἵπετο δ᾽ αὐτοῖς καὶ Νυκτὸς εἴδωλον καὶ Ἡμέρας, Γῆς τε καὶ Οὐρανοῦ, καὶ Ἠοῦς καὶ Μεσημβρίας. (16) τὸ δὲ τῶν χρυσωμάτων καὶ ἀργυρωμάτων πλῆθος οὕτως ἄν τις ὑπονοήσειεν ὅσον ἦν: ἑνὸς γὰρ τῶν φίλων, Διονυσίου τοῦ ἐπιστολιαγράφου, χίλιοι παῖδες ἐπόμπευσαν ἀργυρώματα ἔχοντες, ὧν οὐδὲν ἐλάττον᾽ ὁλκὴν εἶχεν δραχμῶν χιλίων. (17) βασιλικοὶ δὲ παῖδες παρῆλθον ἑξακόσιοι χρυσώματα ἔχοντες. ἔπειτα γυναῖκες ἐκ χρυσῶν καλπίδων μύροις ἔρραινον, εἰς διακοσίας. (18) ταύταις δ᾽ ἑξῆς ἐπόμπευον ἐν χρυσόποσι μὲν φορείοις ὀγδοήκοντα γυναῖκες, ἐν ἀργυρόποσι δὲ πεντακόσιαι καθήμεναι, πολυτελῶς διεσκευασμέναι. (19) καὶ τῆς μὲν πομπῆς τὰ ἐπιφανέστατα ταῦτα ἦν. Text and translation Olson 2006. Cf. Polyb. 26.1a = Athen. 10.439a (quoted in n. 3 above). See also Dreyer 2013. Cf. Mittag 2006, 292. This view is supported by the fact that the descriptions of both the pompe of 274 BCE at Alexandria (Ptolemy II Philadelphos) and that of 166 BCE at Daphne (Antiochos IV) are closely linked to each other. Polyb. 30.25.1 = Athen. 5.194c (Text and translation Olson 2006). See Adcock and Mosley 1975; Kienast 1973; Mosley 1974. See Walbank 1979; 452; Boesch 1908; Perlman 2000; Rutherford 2013, esp. 261. See Wiemer 2017, for Hellenistic times esp. 176–181.


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Antiochos IV – offers an answer to the question posed by researchers: Why did Apollo, the main god of the sanctuary of Daphne and central deity of the Seleukids,29 not appear during the procession, although he was featured so prominently in other media such as coins (Fig. 1)?30

Figure 1: Tetradrachm of Antiochos IV. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo r. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΕΡΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΣ; Apollo robed, standing r., holding kithara and phiale. Antioch on the Orontes. SC 1401; Hoover 2009, 622.31 Many thanks to Roma Numismatics for providing this image.

According to Polybios, more than 300 sacred embassies (θεωρίαι) accepted the invitation. Interestingly, these envoys were not only invited guests or spectators – they also formed part of the procession.32 This seems to be a very unusual feature of the Daphne procession of 166 BCE. As Hans-Ulrich Wiemer has pointed out in an essay on Hellenistic festivals, there is an important difference between Hellenistic royal festivals and civic festivals, i.e., those festivals hosted by a polis. Royal festivals were characterized by a strict separation of the actors from the spectators.33 According to Wiemer, this illustrated the power gap between the royal host and his subjects.34 In contrast, there was typically no such dividing line in festivals 29 Cf. Iossif 2011b and Erickson 2019 for the development of Apollo as a Seleukid deity. See also Coşkun, ch. 4 in this volume. 30 Cf. Mittag, 288 n. 20. 31 Tetradrachm of Antiochos IV showing the cult statue of Apollo at Daphne, struck on the occasion of the Daphne festival in 166 BCE. Cf. Mørkholm 1963, 34; Fleischer 1991, 50f.; Le Rider 1999, 228; Houghton and Lorber 2008, 65; Erickson 2019, 162–166. 32 Cf. also Iossif 2011, 143. 33 Wiemer 2009, 123: ‘Wenn königliche Feste der Selbstdarstellung von Königen dienten und durch eine strikte Trennung von Akteuren und Zuschauern gekennzeichnet waren, so liegen die Dinge bei Festen, die von der Bürgerschaft einer Polis ausgerichtet wurden, prinzipiell anders.’ 34 Wiemer 2009, 131.

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organized by a polis community:35 participants of a procession represented the citizenry with all its different groups. The procession was the ‘ideal reflection’36 of the polis. That Antiochos IV incorporated the delegations into the procession thus implies that the Seleukid realm and the oikoumene were identical.37 This becomes more manifest when one takes into account that not only the envoys took part in the procession but also the main gods of the different poleis and cities. In addition to sacrificial animals, the envoys carried statues of divinities during the procession. These images were presumably portable versions of the original cult statues, normally located in the temples of their respective hometowns. Polybios initially uses the term ἀγάλματα, but later speaks of εἴδωλα representing gods, divinities, and heroes. They could be protomes of a particular divine power, made from terracotta or from gold or silver leaf, or full-sized statues especially designed for processions. The images thus stood at the head of the individual envoys’ retinues. Regarding the claims of political legitimacy, Polybios’ listing of gods, divinities (δαίμονες) and heroes is a phrase that needs further consideration. It is impossible to give an account of all the statues; for images of every god or divinity mentioned or believed in by human beings, as well as of heroes, were carried along. Some were gilded, others dressed in robes that had gold threads running through them; and the stories that went with all of them lay next to them in expensive editions that followed the traditional accounts.38

Obviously, the Greek author tried to distinguish between different categories of deities revered within the Seleukid realm and beyond that were taking part in the procession. The deities of the Mediterranean world with which he was familiar are obviously subsumed under the category of ‘gods’ (θεοί). But Polybios mentions two other categories of deities carried along by the sacred embassies during the procession: δαίμονες and ἥρωες.39 Which deities were designated by these terms and which embassies carried them? The category of δαίμονες is not entirely clear, and therefore has hardly been addressed in research on the Daphne procession up to now.40 The use of the term δαίμων, attested since the time of Homer in the meaning of an unspecified divine power of an individual protecting spirit41 or even of an 35 Wiemer 2009, 123. Wiemer illustrates the contrast by comparing the Ptolemaia of Alexandria as a typical royal Hellenistic festival with the polis festival for Zeus Sosipolis at Magnesia-onthe-Maeander. 36 Wiemer 2009, 125f. 37 Iossif 2011, 143: ‘La participation active des théores dans cette procession revêt une signification symbolique: elle positionne les cités – sans doute, un grand nombre de théores venait des cités sujettes ou alliées des Séleucides – dans le fonctionnement de l’Empire, dans un des cercles concentriques de ce système dont le centre est occupé par le roi.’ 38 Polyb. 30.25.13f. Greek text quoted in n. 21 above; translation Olson 2006. 39 Olson’s translation reflects this distinction only poorly. 40 Walbank, in his very useful commentary on Polybios, makes no mention of δαίμονες whatsoever. 41 It should be noted that the parallel concepts of Greek τύχη and Roman fortuna come into play.


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equivalent to the human soul can be ruled out here.42 Polybios’ use of the term can instead be reconstructed from parallel ancient texts. Thus, the xvaranah,43 the divine fortune of the Achaemenid king, before which proskynēsis was performed, was described as a δαίμων among the Greeks.44 We may conclude that Polybios, within his triad of divine beings, calls the non-Greek deities of the more Mesopotamianinfluenced parts of the Seleukid empire45 δαίμονες.46 Both categories of deities – gods and ‘daemons’ – are thus incorporated into the Daphne procession as participants. The third category, ἥρωες, might denote the founding heroes of individual cities, with their images representing in turn their respective hometowns. It can be assumed that the heroes came mainly from those poleis founded by Alexander the Great or Seleukid kings and queens (i.e., the predecessors of Antiochos IV). Taking into account the sheer number of Seleukid foundations – at least 80 leading up to 166 BCE47 – numerous images of Alexander the Great, the first generations of Seleukid kings, and of the immediate predecessors of Antiochos IV must have been carried among the group of heroes. This would include Seleukos I Nikator48 and Antiochos I Soter as the founders of the many cities named Seleukeia or Antioch, but also of queens like Laodike and Apame, who served as eponyms for several Laodikeiai or Apameiai.49 The term ἥρωες might have been used for those divinized Seleukids with a meaning similar to that used by Cassius Dio for the divinized Julius Caesar.50 This entire array of famous Seleukid ancestors came to the fore not only by means of these images, but also in even more pointed fashion by the foundation narratives that were depicted and visualized. Some of these narratives have been preserved at least in fragments in later sources – for example, the foundation of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris by Seleukos I in Appian’s Syrian Book or that of Antioch near Daphne by Libanios.51 The foundation narratives were highly influenced by 42 Cf. Sfameni-Gasparro 1997, 67–109. 43 Cf. Edelmann 2007, 38–47, esp. n. 90 with further references. 44 Plut. Art. 15.7: τὸν βασιλέως δαίμονα προσκυνοῦντες (‘revering the good genius of the king’). In addition to δαίμων, the Greeks also used the term τύχη. Latin sources refer to fortuna (Curt. 4.16.10; Tac. Ann. 12.18). 45 For a geographical or spatial approach to Seleukid rule, cf. Kosmin 2014a. For the question of Babylon as a polis, cf. Clancier 2017. 46 For the cultural framing of eastern rituals in Greek texts, see Huber 2005. 47 With respect to numbers, cf. Kosmin 2014a, 183–186. Kosmin speaks of 132 foundations overall. He underscores that ‘the dynasty’s most transformative and historically significant undertaking was its establishment of new urban foundations across the Hellenistic Near East’. (p. 183). 48 Seleukos in particular was remembered as the founder of numerous cities. Appian mentions 59 foundations: App. Syr. 57.295–298. Cf. Ogden 2017, 99–173. 49 Cf. Kosmin 2014a, 208–211. Cf. also Iossif and Lorber 2007 for western and eastern cults of Seleukid queens. 50 Cass. Dio 51.20.6–9: ἥρωα αὐτὸν Ἰούλιον ὀνομάσας. 51 App. Syr. 54–64. Cf. Lib. Or. 11.91f.; Kosmin 2014a, 211–214; Ogden 2017. For the Apameia Foundation Mosaic, see Coşkun, ch. 4 in this volume, n. 40.

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court propaganda and echoed the prototypical behaviour of their founding heroes.52 The founding of cities was per se a religious act and was completed by establishing a cult for the founder. These cults cemented the religious role of the Seleukid dynasty at the local level.53 The sheer number of religious objects representing their respective Greek, Seleukid, or indigenous cities highlights the special character of the procession at Daphne. On the one hand, they materialized the Greek world in general by representing the gods of the Greek world; at the same time, a large part of the images showed the Seleukid ancestors, shining a spotlight on the first generation of the dynasty.54 On the other hand, the procession also included the native gods of the Empire. The distinctive feature of the Daphne procession was the incorporation of a great number and variety of deities. In doing so, it differed substantially from other well-known processions in the Greek world,55 which did not involve such a diverse and numerous pantheon.56 In some cases, the twelve Olympian gods were carried along. For example, in the procession at Aigai in 336 BCE when the Macedonian princess Kleopatra married the Molossian king Alexander, Philipp II of Macedonia placed his own image among those of the gods.57 The Olympian deities also appeared during the procession of the festival for Zeus Sosipolis at Magnesia-on-the-Maeander.58 The famous procession at Alexandria (274 BCE ?) included numerous images of the gods as well, albeit fewer than the previously cited cases. At Daphne, a festive procession of 300 sacred embassies made its way to the temple of Apollo – assuming that each embassy brought only one image, they carried at least 300 divine images in their cortège. Polybios himself characterizes this part of the procession as being of such enormous dimension that it can hardly be described. He thus speaks deliberately of all the gods, daemons, and heroes known and believed in by humans. In fact, the claim to comprehensiveness and the inclusion of all familiar gods seemed to be present in the organization of the procession. With respect to this particular point, the concept 52 For the characteristics of Seleukid foundation narratives, see Ogden 2017, 99–173. 53 Cf. Debord 2003; Caneva and Lorenzon 2020. 54 By contrast, Mittag 2006, 287f. wants to exclude that the portraits of the gods depicted Seleukid ancestors. On the contrary: ‘[D]er König und auch seine Familie [traten] weitgehend in den Hintergrund. Gezeigt wurden lediglich seine militärische Potenz sowie sein Reichtum ohne allerdings auf konkrete Ereignisse Bezug zu nehmen. Selbst eine besondere Hervorhebung Apollos, des Stammvaters der Seleukiden und Herr des Hauptheiligtums von Daphne, oder des Zeus (Olympios) fehlte. Alle von Menschen verehrten Götter, Dämonen und Heroen waren gleichberechtigt auf der Parade vertreten. Eine solch demonstrative Zurücknahme der eigenen Person und Familie sowie der mit dem König besonders eng verbundenen Gottheiten überrascht angesichts der einzigen bekannten, vergleichbaren Parade, der Ptolemaia des Jahres 275/4.’ 55 Vgl. Wiemer 2009, 118. Wiemer rightly emphasizes the conceptualizations of meaning that were put into practice by communities through the ritual of procession. 56 As to the nature of the ritual movement of the gods, Scheer 2000, 60 writes: ‘Im Allgemeinen gehen die Menschen zum Götterbild, nicht das Götterbild zu den Menschen.’ 57 Diod. 16.91–93; cf. Edelmann 2007, 153f. 58 I.Magnesia 98 = Syll.3 589 = LSAM 32. Cf. Nilsson 1906/95; Wiemer 2009, 123–127.


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of the festival at Daphne seems to have been atypical for Greek or even Hellenistic festive culture and comparable more than anything else with religious processions outside the Greek world, where similar cases have been reported, especially for Mesopotamia.59 One of the best such documented examples hails from Babylonia. On the occasion of the New Year’s festival in Babylon which took place during the first twelve days of the first month of the Babylonian year, a number of deities set out from the neighbouring cities in order to pay the god Marduk a courtesy visit in the capital of Babylon. A Babylonian text reads: All the gods, the gods […] Of Borsippa, Kuthah, and Kish, And the gods of all the cult centres, Come to Babylon To take the hand of the great lord, Marduk, And they go with him to the Akītu-house. The king Offers a libation before them, He recites a prayer. Anu and Enlil From Uruk and Nippur to Babylon To take the hand of Bēl, and Come They go in procession with him to Esiskur. With (?) them all the great gods Come to Babylon.60

The text, which may be Old Babylonian61 and which was adapted and perhaps changed in later times, gives one of the best impressions of the Akitu festival as it was celebrated in Babylonia. Originally, the New Year’s Festival served to visualise and commemorate the victory of the chief god Marduk over the forces of chaos. Marduk’s victory had resulted in the creation of the cosmos and his rise as the undisputed chief god in the Babylonian pantheon. Later it became one of the most important state rituals in which the king played a prominent role. The tradition of the Akitu festival and its cultic performance represented a timeless continuity between the mythical past and the present62 and it occupied a central place in ritual practice up to the Seleucid period (and far beyond), as is shown by the existence of Hellenistic manuscripts of the ritual text.63

59 Concerning Hellenistic festive culture, cf. Chaniotis 1995, Chaniotis 2013, Wiemer 2009. Regarding changes in the function and form of Hellenistic cult images, cf. Cain 1995; see also Kunze 2002, Hölscher 2017. 60 BM 32654+ quoted from Lambert 2013, 297, cf. also Pongratz-Leisten 1994, 133. 61 Cf. Lambert 2013, 289. 62 Cf. Pongratz Leisten 2017, 419. 63 Cf. Bidmead 2014; Ristvet 2014, 262−264; Debourse 2021.

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A similar ceremonial is documented for the Akitu festival in its Assyrian version.64 In this, the divine world is likewise arranged hierarchically. It subjects itself to the gods Marduk and Aššur, just as the earthly kingdoms submit themselves to the Babylonian and Assyrian king. Presumably, this peculiar idea of the materialization of rule deriving from within religious conceptions can be applied to the Hellenistic procession at Daphne.65 According to the arrangement and form of the procession, the central deity of Daphne, Apollo, claimed a leading role to which the gods of the Seleukid Empire had to submit themselves. The deities that accepted the invitation were present in the procession in the form of their images.66 In this context, some details underlining the importance of the sanctuary at Daphne in Hellenistic times play an essential role; unfortunately, scarcely any such details have come down to us.67 Nevertheless, they support the interpretation of the events of 166 BCE as suggested in the present chapter: the cult at Daphne was under the direct control of the Seleukid dynasty. This is clearly shown by the administrative supervision of an archiereus appointed by the king.68 Furthermore, the late antique rhetorician Libanios recorded that even in the 4th century AD, statues of the founders of the sanctuary could be found in the cella of the temple – among them probably Seleukos I as well as Antiochos IV.69 The fact that non-Greek, Babylonian ideas influenced Antiochos IV’s festival – or actually provided the background thereto70 – is not surprising for several reasons. Ever since Amelie Kuhrt’s and Susan Sherwin-White’s books on the Near Eastern and Achaemenid antecedents of the Seleukid Empire were published 30 years ago,71 the issues of the relationship between the Greeks and other local cultures have been the subject of controversial debate that continues to this day.72 Babylonia in particular still stands at the heart of the discussion. There can be no doubt that the ritual role of Babylonian kings was completely taken over by Seleukid 64 Cf. Pongratz-Leisten 2017, 416–426. 65 Similarities between the Daphne procession and the Akitu in Babylon and Uruk are mentioned by Strootman 2007 and especially by Ristvet 2014. Ristvet 2014, 266 stresses the hybridity of performative rituals in the Seleukid Empire: ‘In the complex, colonial society of Seleucid Babylonia, performance became one way for Seleucid kings, the Babylonian priesthood and perhaps ordinary citizens to negotiate politics.’ For the Akitu Festival, cf. also Bidmead 2014. 66 Cf. Scheer 2000; Hölscher 2017. 67 Cf. Wiemer 2017, esp. 176–181. 68 Welles 1934, no. 44: Letter of Antiochos III from 189 BCE. 69 Lib. Or. 60.12; Amm. 22.13.1f. Cf. Wiemer 2017, 178 n. 21. Wiemer summarizes the ambivalent role of the sanctuary as follows: ‘Das Apollon-Heiligtum von Daphne spielte in seleukidischer Zeit […] zwar gewiss eine erhebliche Rolle für den Festkalender und das Selbstverständnis Antiocheias, war aber kein städtisches Heiligtum. Es unterstand königlicher Kontrolle und wurde von Agonotheten ausgerichtet, die keineswegs immer, vielleicht nicht einmal überwiegend, Bürger Antiocheias waren. Auch in den Gründungslegenden, die wohl aus hellenistischer Zeit stammen, auch wenn sie erst bei Libanios und Malalas überliefert sind, erscheint Daphne als königliche Gründung.’ (Wiemer 2017, 181). 70 Cf. also Iossif 2011, 144f. 71 Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1987; cf. Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1993. 72 Cf. Chrubasik and King 2017; Feyel et al. 2012; Engels 2017; Erickson and Ramsey 2011.


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rulers in the eastern part of their empire.73 Antiochos III, father of Antiochos IV, personally attended the Akitu festival at Babylon74 – and he did so at a moment of crisis for the Seleukid Empire.75 The visit of Antiochos III to Babylon in 188/187 BCE took place after the peace agreement of Apameia, a disaster for the Seleukids. It was accompanied by remarkable ritual practices and ceremonies described in the Astronomical Diaries.76 There, religious objects also played important roles. In the course of his visit to Babylon, Antiochos III was presented with a golden crown by the governing assembly of Esagila; this was a symbol of victory, an expression of the continued allegiance of the Babylonians, and moreover of considerable material value.77 In the context of the events of 188/187 BCE, the crown was meant to strengthen the weak position of the Seleukid king. An even stronger legitimizing effect was had by another object presented to Antiochos III by the Babylonian elite: the cloak of Nebuchadnezzar, which had been kept in the storehouses of Esagila. In a recently published article, Haubold has interpreted this gesture as a powerful reaction on the part of the local Babylonian elite to the crisis of rulership: [T]he king accepts his place in the tradition of universal kingship […], and he also accepts the peculiar role of the Chaldeans at the heart of his empire: these men were not close to him personally or culturally, and he is not likely to have encountered them on a regular basis. But when the king’s fortunes were at their lowest ebb, they had something to offer that not even the king’s most loyal courtiers could provide: a war had been lost, but the kingdom had been maintained.78

This gesture of Antiochos III provides a first answer to the question what it meant to include Greek and non-Greek deities in the Daphne procession. Furthermore, one has to take into account the celestial imagery on coins struck by Antiochos IV. Panos Iossif has convincingly shown how syncretic this imagery was and how multivalent its function was intended to be within the communicatory processes of the Seleukid empire.79 The divine aspirations of Antiochos IV, proclaimed by his epithet Theos Epiphanes, and of Apollo as the central deity of the Seleukids were connected to various eastern divinities within the coinage’s ideological programme: Babylonian gods such as Shamash, Nabu, or Nanaia, for example; or Iranian deities such as Anahita, Mithras, or even Ahura Mazda.80 Finally, one must bear in mind that the festival at Daphne was the prelude to a great expedition that would take Antiochos IV eastward in order to strengthen his position as ruler in those parts of his realm – and thus cause him to walk in the footsteps of his father. The following background of the Daphne procession thus seems to be conceivable: Antiochos IV sent his envoys – and especially the sacred embassies – to the 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

Sherwin-White 1983; Kuhrt 1996; Erickson and Ramsey 2011; Kosmin 2014b. Cf. Mittag 2006, 198–208. Cf. Haubold 2016 and Haubold 2017. Sachs and Hunger 1989, no. 187. Ma 1999, 204. Haubold 2016, 19; cf. Haubold 2017, 121–130. Cf. Iossif 2009; cf. also Erickson 2019, 164−166. Cf. Iossif 2009, 139−142.

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poleis and gods of the Greek world as well as to the cities founded by the Seleukids. Furthermore, he dispatched them to the non-Greek cities of the Seleukid Empire, so as to invite the main gods of these locales to a joint festival. This festival was celebrated within the ritual framework of a Greek agōn to honour Apollo – but ritual elements of other cultural groups within the Seleukid Empire were also appropriated. The community of all the gods and their appearance honouring the most important god of the Seleukid dynasty, Apollo, may be understood as a subordination of the Greek and non-Greek subjects under Seleukid rule. It was a message of loyalty to ‘the mightiest ruler of his time.’81 This is underlined by the Tetradrachm of Antiochos IV showing the cult statue of Apollo at Daphne, struck on the occasion of the Daphne festival in 166 BCE.82 V. CONCLUSIONS: RECEPTION AND OBJECTS How, in the end, can we characterize the objects included in this procession with regard to the rule of Antiochos IV Epiphanes and the objects’ transcultural aspirations? Hellenistic processions have always been a locus for self-assertion, yet at the same time they offered a ritualistic and performative space in which new impulses and ideas could be included. In the case of the pompe at Daphne, military, religious, and profane objects served as cultural identification markers in addition to functioning as distinctive criteria for the reorientation of Seleukid rule in the aftermath of Apameia. The images of the gods brought along by the sacred embassies and displayed in connection with their concomitant myths clearly signify a turn towards the Greek, Hellenistic, and eastern populations of the Seleukid Empire. The objects bear this message. The images of the deities carried by the sacred envoys formed a rich reflection of the Seleukid Empire’s array of divinities. Antiochos IV stood as a teleological benchmark of the Seleukid family atop this hierarchically structured world of gods, a successor to Alexander and in symbiosis with Apollo. The study of material culture is thus not only able to answer the question of how different meanings were constructed in their ancient contexts, but can also show in which way(s) power and rule were likewise subject to a process of construction in their correlation to material objects.

81 Coşkun 2021, 270. 82 Cf. Fig. 1.


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Debord, P. 2003: ‘Le culte royal chez les Séleucides’, in F. Prost (ed.), L’Orient hellénistique de la mort d’Alexandre aux campagnes de Pompée. Cités et royaumes à l’époque hellénistique. Actes du colloque international de la SOPHAU. Rennes, Avril 2003, Rennes, 281–308. Debourse C. 2021: ‘A New Hope: The New Year’s Festival Texts as a Cultural Reaction to Defeat’, in K. Streit and M. Grohmann (eds.), Culture of Defeat. Submission on Written Sources and the Archaeological Record. Proceedings of a Joint Seminar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Vienna, October 2017 (Gorgias Studies in the Ancient Near East 16), Piscataway, NJ. Debourse, C. 2022: Of Priests and Kings. The Babylonian New Year Festival in the Last Age of Cuneiform Culture, Leiden. Dreyer, B. 2013: ʽPolybios und die hellenistischen Monarchienʼ, in V. Grieb and C. Koehn (eds.), Polybios und seine Historien, Stuttgart, 233–249. Douglas Olson, S. 2007: Athenaios: The Learned Banqueteers. Vol. 2: Books 3.106e–5, Cambridge, MA. Dunand, F. 1981: ‘Fête et propagande à Alexandrie sous les Lagides’, in F. Dunand (ed.), La fête, pratique et discours. D’Alexandrie hellénistique à la mission de Besançon, Paris, 13–40. Edelmann, B. 2007: Religiöse Herrschaftslegitimation in der Antike. Die religiöse Legitimation orientalisch-ägyptischer und griechisch-hellenistischer Herrscher im Vergleich, St. Katharinen. Edelmann, B. 2008: ʽPompa und Bild im Kaiserkult des römischen Ostensʼ, in J. Rüpke (ed.), Festrituale in der römischen Kaiserzeit, Tübingen, 153–167. Edelmann-Singer, B. 2021: ʽProkops Vandalenkriege, der Triumph des Jahres 534 und die jüdischen Tempelschätze: Text, Ritual und materielle Kultur in der Spätantikeʼ, in B. Edelmann-Singer and S. Ehrich (eds.), Sprechende Objekte. Materielle Kultur und Stadt zwischen Antike und Früher Neuzeit, Regensburg, 174−195. Edmondson, J.C. 1999: ‘The Cultural Politics of Public Spectacle in Rome and the Greek East, 167-166 BCE’, in B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon (eds.), The Art of Ancient Spectacle, New Haven, 77–95 Engels, D. 2017: Benefactors, Kings, Rulers: Studies of the Seleukid Empire between East and West, Leuven. Erickson, K. and Ramsey, G. (eds.), 2011: Seleucid Dissolution: The Sinking of the Anchor, Wiesbaden. Erickson, K. 2019: The Early Seleukids, Their Gods and Their Coins, London. Erskine, A. 2013: ‘Hellenistic Parades and Roman Triumphs’, in A. Spalinger and J. Armstrong (eds.), Ritual of Triumph in the Mediterranean World, Leiden, 37–55. Feyel, C., Fournier, J., Graslin-Thomé, L., and Kirbihler, F. (eds.) 2012: Communautés locales et pouvoir central dans l’Orient hellénistique et romain, Paris. Feyel, C. and Graslin-Thomé, L. (eds.) 2014: Le projet politique d’Antiochos IV, Paris. Feyel, C. and Graslin-Thomé, L. (eds.) 2017: Antiochos III et l’Orient, Paris. Fleischer, R. 1991: Studien zur seleukidischen Kunst. Vol. 1: Herrscherbildnisse, Mainz. Gera, D. and Horowitz, W. 1997: ‘Antiochus IV in Life and Death: Evidence from the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries’, JAOS 117, 240−252. Graf, F. 1996: ‘Pompai in Greece: Some Considerations about Space and Ritual in the Greek Polis’, in R. Hägg (ed.), The Role of Religion in the Early Greek Polis. Proceedings of the Third International Seminar on Ancient Greek Cult, Organized by the Swedish Institute at Athens, 16– 18 October 1992, Stockholm, 55–65. Günther, L.-M. 1989: ʻGladiatoren beim Fest Antiochosʼ IV. zu Daphne (166 v. Chr.)?ʼ, Hermes 117, 250–252. Habicht, Ch. 1989: ‘The Seleukids and Their Rivals’, in, CAH VIII2, 324–387. Haubold, J. 2016: ‘Hellenism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Role of Babylonian Elites in the Seleukid Empire’, in M. Lavan, R.E. Payne, and J. Weisweiler (eds.), Cosmopolitanism and Empire: Universal Rulers, Local Elites, and Cultural Integration in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean, Oxford, 89–102.


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Haubold, J. 2017: ‘Converging Perspectives on Antiochos III’, in B. Chrubasik and D. King (eds.), Hellenism and Local Communities of the Eastern Mediterranean 400 BCE – 250 CE, Oxford, 111–130. Hazzard, R.A. 2000: Imagination of a Monarchy: Studies in Ptolemaic Propaganda, Toronto. Hesberg, H. von 1999: ‘The King on Stage’, in B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon (eds.), The Art of Ancient Spectacle, New Haven, 64–75. Hicks, D. 2010: ‘The Material-Cultural Turn. Event and Effect’, in D. Hicks and M.C. Beaudry (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies, Oxford, 25–98. Hölscher, T. 2014: ʻIm Bild noch lebendiger als in Wirklichkeit: Bildwerke, Lebewesen und Dinge im antiken Griechenlandʼ, in R. Bielfeldt (ed.), Ding und Mensch in der Antike. Gegenwart und Vergegenwärtigung, Heidelberg, 163–194. Hölscher, T. 2017: Die Geschöpfe des Daidalos. Vom sozialen Leben der griechischen Bildwerke, Heidelberg. Hofmann, J.F. 1873: Antiochos IV. Epiphanes. König von Syrien. Ein Beitrag zur allgemeinen und insbesondere israelitischen Geschichte, Leipzig. Hoover, O.D. 2009: Handbook of Syrian Coins. Royal and Civic Issues, Lancaster. Houghton, A., Lorber, C.C., and Hoover, O. 2008: Seleukid Coins: Seleucus IV through Antiochos XIII, 2 Vol., Lancaster. Huber, I. 2005: ʻErsatzkönige in griechischem Gewand: Die Umformung der šhar pūhi-Rituale bei Herodot, Berossos, Agathias und den Alexander-Historikernʼ, in R. Rollinger (ed.), Von Sumer bis Homer. Festschrift für Manfred Schretter zur Vollendung des 60. Lebensjahres, Münster, 339–398. Iossif, P.P. and Lorber, C.C. 2007: ‘Laodikai and the Goddess Nikephoros’, LʼAntiquité Classique, 63–88. Iossif, P.P. and Lorber, C.C. 2009: ‘Celestial Imagery on the Eastern Coinage of Antiochus IV’, Mesopotamia, 129–146. Iossif, P.P. 2011a: ‘Imago Mundi: Expression et représentation de l’idéologie royale Séleucide. La procession de Daphné’, New Studies on the Seleucids. Electrum 18, 125−157. Iossif, P.P. 2011b: ‘Apollo Toxotes and the Seleukids: Comme un air de famille’, in P.P. Iossif, A.S. Chankowski, and C.C. Lorber (eds.), More than Men, Less than Gods. Studies on Royal Cult and Imperial Worship: Proceedings of the International Colloquium Organized by the Belgian School at Athens (November 1-2, 2007), Leuven, 229–292. Iossif, P.P. and Lorber, C.C. 2012: ‘The Rays of the Ptolemies’, Revue Numismatique 169, 197−224. Kienast, D. 1973: ‘Presbeia’, RE Suppl. 13, 499–628. Köhler, J. 1991: Pompai. Untersuchungen zur hellenistischen Festkultur, Frankfurt/Main. Kopytoff, I.: ‘The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process’, in A. Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge, 64−91. Kosmin, P.J. 2014a: The Land of the Elephant Kings. Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleukid Empire, Cambridge. Kosmin, P.J. 2014b: ‘Seeing Double in Seleucid Babylonia: Rereading the Borsippa Cylinder of Antiochus I’, in A. Moreno and R. Thomas (eds.), Patterns of the Past. Epitēdeumata in the Greek Tradition, Oxford, 173–198. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S.M. 1987: Hellenism in the East: The Interaction of Greek and NonGreek Civilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexander, Berkeley. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S.M. 1993: From Samarkand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleukid Empire, London. Kuhrt, A. 1996: ‘The Seleucid Kings and Babylonia’, in P. Bilde et al. (eds.), Aspects of Hellenistic Kingship, Aarhus, 41−54. Kunze C. 2002: Zum Greifen nah: Stilphänomene in der hellenistischen Skulptur und ihre inhaltliche Interpretation, Munich. Kuttner, A. 1999: ‘Hellenistic Images of Spectacle – from Alexander to Augustus’, in B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon (eds.), The Art of Ancient Spectacle, New Haven, 97–123.

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Abstract: This paper takes as its point of departure two processions, Xerxes’ exit from Sardeis en route to Greece in 480 and Antiochos IV’s parade at Daphne in the 160s. The latter has often been compared with the Grand Procession of Ptolemy Philadelphos, but only rarely viewed through an Achaemenid lens. Here, I use these two episodes as a window into the broader relationship between Achaemenid and Seleukid kingship. Thus, I draw in wider material regarding the representation of empire to demonstrate how these two events brought to life wider imperial conceptions. Two principal observations emerge from this discussion. First, I suggest that we need not think of the Seleukid or Achaemenid Empires as either ‘universal’ or ‘bounded’, as some recent scholarship has implied. Instead, I argue that these two conceptions of empire are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and that the acknowledgement of apparent borders can actually be used as part of the construction of a claim to universal rule. Secondly, I show that the Achaemenids and Seleukids took a contrasting approach to integrating the disparate territories that constituted their realms, meaning that their overall conceptualisation of empire was actually fundamentally different. This plays into ongoing scholarly consideration of continuity and change from the Achaemenid period to the Hellenistic. It also draws attention to the important issue of how identity was understood at both the imperial and local levels, and thus to the internal cohesion of the Seleukid Empire.

In the mid-160s BCE, Antiochos IV organised a festival at Daphne, outside Antioch-on-the-Orontes.1 This was a pivotal moment for Antiochos, coming shortly *


I am very grateful to Altay Coşkun and Ben Scolnic for organising the online seminar series at which the original version of this paper was given. Feedback from both, as well as David Engels, Christopher Tuplin, Richard Wenghofer, and the anonymous reviewers, have enhanced the finished product and I am thankful for their contributions, while naturally retaining full responsibility for any errors. Traditionally, the festival is dated to 166, see e.g. Walbank 1996, 125; Erskine 2013, 47; Coşkun 2019, 448; Coşkun 2021, 270. See Mittag 2006, 282f. with n. 1 for the merits of this date rather than earlier in the 160s. Iossif 2010, 126–134 proposes 165, situating the event closer to the beginning of Antiochos’ eastern anabasis. The precise date has no bearing on the discussion here since the relative chronology is clear.


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after he had been forced to retreat from Egypt by a Roman ultimatum, at a time when his authority was being challenged in Jerusalem by the Maccabees, and before he departed on a military expedition in the east. The festival was inaugurated with a parade, which has attracted significant scholarly commentary and has often been treated through a comparative lens, with parallels drawn particularly with the Grand Procession of Ptolemy Philadelphos.2 By highlighting the militaristic nature of Antiochos’ procession, scholars have commonly interpreted the whole event as a reassertion of Seleukid military power and, therefore, as a challenge to Rome; some have even argued that the format was influenced by Roman triumphs.3 This position imagines that the festival was aimed at a Mediterranean audience. Walbank, for example, argued that the ‘Greek environment’ at Daphne was a way to reiterate the importance of Greeks and Macedonians within the empire.4 We will see that the contemporary context certainly appears to have affected the messages communicated by the procession, but the view that this was targeted exclusively at Rome, Greece, and Macedonia is largely unpersuasive, not least because similar events may have been held elsewhere. Indeed, as discussed below, ceremonial entrances and exits from key cities were an important feature of the Achaemenid monarchy and had been practiced by Alexander too. Consequently, it seems unlikely that the procession at Daphne was a unique event, even if it is the only example clearly attested in the extant sources. Indeed, it is also possible that the festival at Daphne was a regular occurrence.5 If this is true, neither the ‘Day of Eleusis’ in 168 BCE nor the recent games staged at Amphipolis by Aemilius Paullus could have been Antiochos’ principal motivation for orchestrating the event. More recent interpretations have begun to escape the Roman lens for exploring the festival. Iossif, for instance, stressed that the procession offers insight into Seleukid geographical-ideological conceptions and Strootman argues that it provides evidence of Seleukid claims to universal hegemony.6 This paper also focuses on the connections between geography and ideology as they were expressed at Daphne, but I offer a new interpretation of the procession by comparing it with Xerxes’ departure from Sardeis at the beginning of his invasion of Greece. This comparison enables a broader examination of the relationship between the Achaemenid and Seleukid Empires. This is often evaluated in terms of continuity and change, which is a particularly important analytical framework as a

2 3

4 5 6

See e.g., Walbank 1996; Mittag 2006, esp. 287–289; Erskine 2013. Military character, e.g., Walbank 1996, 125–127; Mittag 2006, esp. 284, 290f.; Strootman 2019, 177f. Roman influence, e.g., Gruen 1976, 76; Habicht 1989, 345; Préaux 1978, 503. Erskine 2013 refutes this view, with 48f., n. 38 offering further examples of proponents of this position. Mittag 2006, 284f. highlights the Hellenistic influence on Aemilius’ celebrations at Amphipolis, which is sometimes heralded as the prompt for Antiochos’ festival but was far from being a Roman triumph. Walbank 1996, 129. See Iossif 2010, 129–134 for the argument that this was a regular event. Iossif 2010, 143; Strootman 2019, 175f. with n. 7, discussed further at 199–204. See also Edelmann-Singer, ch. 5 in this volume.

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


result of characterisations of the Seleukids as ‘heirs’ to the Achaemenids.7 While continuity is certainly apparent, Tuplin and others have offered a more sceptical interpretation of any Achaemenid inheritance.8 One of the challenges of investigating this topic is that the evidence – fragmentary in both periods – rarely enables direct comparison between entirely equivalent occasions. As we will see, the evidence for the processions at Sardeis and Daphne remains problematic. However, we have the advantage here of being able to compare accounts of similar occasions, which were both produced by authors who offer what we might interpret as an external perspective on the empires, though Herodotos’ roots in Halikarnassos bely neat definition. We can imagine three broad audiences for these events: the participants themselves, those watching the procession, and those hearing reports of it. Participants might have a limited perspective on the occasion as a whole, with their experience confined to what they could perceive themselves or learn from others, which would be affected by considerations such as language barriers. Nevertheless, they would form an impression of what the procession implied for them, including issues such as their place in the imperial hierarchy, and carry that conception back to their communities. Onlookers fall into two camps, those who lived in, or close to, Sardeis and Antioch, and those who had been invited to attend the celebrations. Antiochos, in particular, seems to have been keen to attract representatives from cities within and beyond his empire.9 These external observers would also have acted as conduits, reporting what they saw to their communities. Finally, it is possible that the imperial authorities subsequently circulated written reports of festivities.10 These were, therefore, not just internal affairs. We cannot know precisely whence our reports originate, but our sources represent that external viewpoint. Consequently, at the very least, this evidence can reveal how one important part of the target audience responded to these processions. I will suggest that it offers broader insights too. The comparative approach is particularly useful for illuminating Seleukid conceptualisations of the geography of their empire. As Sinopoli has argued, empires can only endure if ‘conquered territories are incorporated into the empire’s political, economic, and ideological domain’ which means that ‘individual personal relations 7

See especially Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 38f.; Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1994, 453. See also Briant 1982, 291–330; Briant 1990. The impact of this is seen methodologically in the application of Achaemenid evidence to the Seleukid era on the assumption that continuity is likely, see e.g., Aperghis 2004, 2, 7, 263. The continuity-change framework is perhaps seen most explicitly in Sancisi-Weerdenburg et al. 1994, though it is applied more widely therein as a means of examining the impact of the Achaemenid Empire on local traditions. The contributions to that volume by Briant, Kuhrt and Sherwin-White, Stolper, Invernizzi, Machinist, Burstein, and Wiesehöfer deal most explicitly with the post-Achaemenid period. As a means of assessing the long-term impact of the Achaemenid Empire, the importance of these questions to the aims of the Achaemenid Workshop is obvious. 8 Tuplin 2009. See also Martinez-Sève 2003, 240, which highlights a break in royal ideology and the management of the empire, and Chrubasik 2016, 240–243 who emphasises the fundamentally different relationship between king and elite in the Achaemenid and Seleukid Empires. 9 Athen. 5.194c. 10 Strootman 2019, 174f., n. 4.


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between rulers and the ruled must be transcended to create an imperial system of structural connections and dependencies among diverse regions and cultural traditions.’11 Thus, empires require a rationale which explains their existence and binds regions together. This might be accomplished through administrative frameworks, but it also includes an imperial vision which explains how conquered territories are understood to relate to the imperial power and to one another. An ideological structure, however that is envisaged, offers subject nations a sense of place. Consequently, the way in which the geography of empire was envisioned by rulers and subjects is integral to understanding how and why the Achaemenid and Seleukid Empires were able to survive for centuries. The geographic ideology of the Seleukid Empire has often been explored through questioning whether the kings prioritised the western or eastern parts of their empire, though this perhaps reflects the concerns and approaches of modern scholars more than those of the Seleukids themselves.12 This is a relatively simplistic way of tackling the importance of place within imperial hierarchies. Another discussion concerns where, if anywhere, should be considered the spatial-ideological centre of the realm.13 This approach is guided by notions of centre and periphery as a common way of envisaging imperial territorial organisation.14 An alternative way of imagining empire – though one that often complements rather than contradicts centre-periphery models – involves the assertion of universal control. Incorporating conquered territory into a natural world order provides a powerful rationale for imperialism, so it is little wonder that a rhetoric of universalism has been a feature of empire in a variety of historical settings.15 Seleukid universalism, however, has been the focus of recent debate. Kosmin argues that the treaty between Seleukos and Chandragupta at the end of fourth century meant the acknowledgement of a boundary and thus created a significant break from the precedent of the 11 Sinopoli 1994, 162f. 12 The traditional notion that the Seleukids prioritised the west of their empire, and particularly Asia Minor, is well-known and need not be elaborated upon here. See the critique offered by Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993 both in general and regarding specific issues, e.g. 24, where Will’s interpretation (1979, 267) of Seleukos I’s apparent focus on the west is disputed, though on this point see Will’s response 1994, 433f. as well as Kuhrt and Sherwin-White’s further rebuttal 1994, 452f. They stressed instead that Syria, Mesopotamia, and western Iran constituted the core of the Empire, a position summarised succinctly in Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1994, 450. The profound influence of their work is seen, for instance, in Plischke 2014, which explores the structures of the Seleukid Empire in Iran. 13 For instance, Kosmin 2014, 93–119 argues that northern Syria was promoted as a new homeland for the dynasty and thus served as a symbolic centre for the realm. Conversely, MartinezSève 2003, 231–242, most bluntly at 234 and 242, rejects the privileging of any one region of the empire, arguing that the Seleukid realm was an empire without any one ‘centre’. Plischke 2014, 322 argues for a plurality of centres. 14 Martinez-Séve 2003, 232–234 rejects the applicability of this model to the Seleukid Empire. Further discussion in an ancient or Seleukid-specific context, e.g., Rowlands et al. 1987; Bilde et al. 1993; Mehl 2012. 15 Bang and Kolodziejczyk 2012 for discussion of universal empire in a plethora of societies. Pagden 1995 on early modern Europe.

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Achaemenids who, he suggests, had not recognised any equals in the east.16 Conversely, Strootman argues that universalism was an integral aspect of Seleukid spatial ideology.17 One limitation of the existing discussion is the assumption – often underlying rather than voiced explicitly – that there was a single model of empire. The parallel with the Achaemenids, about whose conception of empire we have more evidence, suggests that a more flexible approach is required. Rather than searching for a specific spatial model, which implies a particular way of envisioning empire, we are better served by examining the different factors which influenced the expression and communication of ideas about empire. In other words, the Seleukid Empire (and the Achaemenid too) could be simultaneously bounded and universal, monocentric and polycentric, as circumstance and purpose demanded. It is important to stress, therefore, that what I offer here is a commentary on two specific moments in the imperial display of the Seleukids and the Achaemenids. It is possible, and perhaps even probable, that features which I identify as being intrinsic to the processions at Daphne and Sardeis were downplayed or omitted entirely from similar occasions in other places and at other times. Nevertheless, these displays were influenced by certain key principles. To highlight this, I range beyond the two processions, reflecting on representations and conceptions of empire from elsewhere. For the Achaemenids, the way in which particular factors were adapted and stressed to varying degrees on different occasions is especially apparent, but this is harder to demonstrate for the Seleukids about whom we have less evidence. Generalising from the procession at Daphne is difficult, therefore, though I do offer some broad observations along these lines. Nevertheless, even if events at Daphne and Sardeis were unique, as important moments of imperial representation and self-articulation, they offer a crucial insight into Achaemenid and Seleukid ideology. Here, I demonstrate that while the processions at Sardeis and Daphne reveal a similar approach to communicating imperial messages to local audiences, the underlying conception of empire displayed on these two occasions was significantly different. This, I tentatively suggest, reflects a broader disconnect in the way that the Achaemenids and the Seleukids conceived of, and presented, their empires. In particular, I propose that whereas the Achaemenids embraced the diversity of the peoples of their empire, creating, at least under Xerxes, the image of a harmoniously integrated world order arrayed around a Persian centre, the Seleukids somewhat downplayed pre-existing regional identities in favour of an all-encompassing ‘Seleukid’ identifier which privileged a connection to the imperial dynasty. Considering potential local reactions to these displays offers a means to scrutinize the possible strengths and weaknesses of these two approaches.

16 Kosmin 2014, 33f. 17 Strootman 2016, 216 and 2013, 87. Strootman 2014 argues that universalism was a key feature of Hellenistic monarchy in general.


Stephen Harrison

I. XERXES AT SARDEIS: THE ACHAEMENID VISION OF EMPIRE The early part of Herodotos’ account of Xerxes’ invasion of Greece details the movement of the Persian army through Asia Minor, from Kritalla in Kappadokia through Phrygia and into Lydia.18 While focused on a practical objective, the march of the army also gave Xerxes the opportunity to display himself and his empire to his subjects. In particular, entering and exiting cities has taken on crucial ceremonial significance for many monarchies because these occasions afford rulers the opportunity to exhibit their power.19 The descriptions Curtius gives of Darius III’s departure from, and Alexander’s subsequent entrance into, Babylon offer immediate parallels for Xerxes’ behaviour in Asia Minor.20 We should remember that Xerxes had acceded to the Persian throne relatively recently and was perhaps visiting Asia Minor for the first time as king. So, alongside its military purpose, the Greek campaign enabled Xerxes to acquaint himself with his subjects in the northwest of the empire, renew ties between centre and periphery as well as local and imperial administration, while also setting out key imperial messages in person.21 Herodotos refers to a military parade at Abydos, though offering few details, and gives fuller descriptions of similar processions in Thrace and at Sardeis.22 This emphasises that manifesting power and imperial ideology was an important feature of Xerxes’ campaign. While I do discuss the parade in Thrace below, I focus here on the ceremonial exit from Sardeis, a key regional capital, whose status reiterates the importance of the messages communicated as markers of royal ideology. Herodotos’ source for this passage is unknown, but we will see that the central claims implied by the procession as he describes it reflect those expressed in Achaemenid inscriptions and reliefs. It is possible that Herodotos may have been drawing on an account produced by somebody with knowledge of this Achaemenid material, rather than genuine testimony regarding Xerxes’ behaviour at Sardeis. However, no surviving relief can represent the basis of the account, while official Achaemenid monumental art and epigraphy tended to eschew representations of specific events. On the balance of probabilities, it seems more likely, therefore, that this represents a genuine account of the procession, originating either with an unknown eyewitness or the imperial authorities themselves, rather than an entirely invented image. It is uncertain when this account was produced, in what form it circulated, or what motivated its creation, all of which will have affected the representation of events. 18 Hdt. 7.26–7.32. 19 See e.g.,: Kuhrt 1990 on Alexander and Babylon; Briant 2009 on Alexander and the Achaemenids; Kosmin 2014, 129–180 and esp. 148–157 on the Seleukids; Murphy 2014 and 2016 on late-medieval France; Thøfner 2014 on the Habsburg Netherlands; Chang 2014 on Qing China; Magdalino 2011 on Byzantium. 20 Darius III: Curt. 3.2.1–9, though note the way that the ensuing passage 3.2.10–19 gives the whole chapter a moralising character. Alexander: Curt. 5.1.19–23. 21 Herodotos’ description 7.27–7.29 of the way in which Xerxes was entertained by Pythios, who used this opportunity to re-pledge his loyalty, captures something of how this process might work. 22 Abydos: Hdt. 7.44; Thrace: Hdt. 7.59–101; Sardeis: Hdt. 7.40f.

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Furthermore, Herodotos may not have accessed this account directly, and he will certainly have shaped what he found in his sources, whatever, or whoever, they were. The description remains problematic, therefore, but it does appear to capture something of how Xerxes presented his empire. According to Herodotos, the parade was led by the baggage train and the pack animals, which were followed by a force of soldiers from across the empire. A gap was left once more than half of these had passed, and then came a contingent of 1,000 Persian cavalry and another of 1,000 infantry, before ten Nisaian horses from Media. Next came an empty chariot dedicated to Ahuramazda and then Xerxes himself, also in a chariot drawn by Nisaian horses. The second half of the procession mirrored the first, with contingents of Persian cavalry and infantry followed by the rest of the army. Xerxes’ central importance to the empire is revealed by his placement within the procession, which also accentuates his close relationship with Ahuramazda. His separation from the Persians marks Xerxes out as the focal point of the parade and, by extension, the empire as a whole, but the gap between the Persian and non-Persian soldiers highlights in turn the status of the Persians. This is reinforced by their positioning closest to Xerxes, and also by the way that only they appear to have formed ethnic contingents. The Nisaian horses might indicate some special status for Media, as is sometimes alluded to in the Achaemenid material from the centre of the empire, but Herodotos is otherwise clear that non-Persians were integrated alongside one another.23 Thus, he stress that the army marched σύμμικτος (‘mingled together’) and ἀναμίξ οὐ διακεκριμένοι (‘mixed up, without being divided’).24 This gives the impression that previously distinct peoples have been integrated seamlessly into a cohesive whole. One might question the practicalities of this and wonder whether the tens of thousands of men in Xerxes’ army could genuinely have been arranged in this fashion. It is perhaps possible therefore that delegations were selected to represent their communities, as we see, for example, in the tribute relief from the Apadana at Persepolis. In any case, Herodotos is clear about how the procession was perceived by his source. From this, one gets the impression of a unified empire, built around a Persian centre, but encompassing people from all over the world, with the king as the ultimate epicentre. 23 DPg refers twice to ‘Persia, Media, and the other lands of other tongues’; and the way that Media is explicitly named creates a distinction between it and the other subject nations. In DB §10, the Lie is said to have circulated in ‘Persia and Media and among the other peoples’; DB §14 also separates Persia and Media from the other countries. When not headed by Persia, empire lists begin with Media and Elam, which represent other central points of the empire, see DPe, DSe and DNa. The overarching primacy of Persia is clear, of course, see e.g., DPd where Darius prays for the security of Persia alone. NB: Achaemenid inscriptions are labelled according to the following convention: the first letter refers to the king in whose name it is written (D = Darius I, D2 = Darius II, X = Xerxes, etc.); the second letter indicates the place of discovery (B = Bisitun, N = Naqs-i-Rustam, P = Persepolis, S = Susa, etc.); the final letter identifies the specific inscription. In addition to the original publications, useful critical editions/translations are Kent 1953 and Lecoq 1997, with recent English versions in Kuhrt 2007. 24 Hdt. 7.40.1; the sentiment is repeated at 7.41.2.


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This corresponds closely with the evidence from the centre of the empire, though it can be discussed only briefly here.25 There are two principal sources of information: visual representations of empire at Persepolis and Naqs-i-Rustam, and royal inscriptions set up at imperial centres. The most relevant pieces of artistic evidence are several reliefs depicting subject peoples as personifications of their countries of origin either holding the king aloft or delivering tribute.26 Key among the written testimonies are the so-called ‘tribute’ or ‘empire’ lists, which are sections of inscriptions that name the countries over which the king claimed to rule. In displaying, or enumerating, several peoples, this material highlights the extent of the Persian Empire through sheer weight-of-numbers. This was reiterated visually through the diversity of the dress sported by people in the reliefs, who wear clothes associated with their homeland.27 While perhaps primarily merely a way to highlight the spatial reach of the king’s control, the empire lists do have an underlying geographic logic, though this has been interpreted by scholars in different ways. Briant, for instance, shows that the relevant part of the Bisitun inscription can be broken down into four axes running south-southeast, west-east, centre-east, and southeast-west.28 This example is illustrative and usefully demonstrates that the lists have a geographic structure, but, since these axes do not apply to the other examples, I prefer to see four loose geographic groups, based around the notion of an empire with four corners. This reflects earlier, universalising, notions seen, for example, in Babylonian royal titulature.29 In an Achaemenid context, this concept is expressed most explicitly in an inscription buried in several copies as a foundation deposit beneath at least two of the corners of the Apadana at Persepolis, with Darius stating: ‘this (is) the kingdom which I hold, from the Saka who are beyond Sogdiana, from there as far as Kush, from India as far as Sardeis, which Ahuramazda, the greatest of the gods, bestowed 25 See Harrison forthcoming for detailed discussion. 26 Tribute-bearers are found at Persepolis on the Apadana staircase (Schmidt 1953, 82–90), the western staircase of the Palace of Darius (Schmidt 1953, 228), and Palace H (Schmidt 1953, 280f.); note Schmidt's suggestion at 279 that this may be a post-Achaemenid structure built from reused material. For important discussion of the motif, see Root 1979, 227–284. Depictions of subjects raising the king aloft are found on the royal tombs at Naqs-i-Rustam (Schmidt 1970, 80–118, esp. 108–111), and at Persepolis on the door jambs of the Central Building (Schmidt 1953, 116–120) and the Hall of 100 Columns (Schmidt 1953, 134–137); again, see Root 1979, 131–161. 27 Identifying each personification or tribute-bearing delegation with certainty is often impossible unless the figures are labelled, not least since neighboring or closely related peoples are often depicted in similar clothing. Nevertheless the general intention is clear, and this is the relevant point for this discussion. See e.g., Briant 2002, 176; Root 1979, e.g., 62, 185, 232; Roaf 1974. 28 Briant 2002, 179f. For alternative interpretations, see Herrenschmidt 1976 as well as Calmeyer 1982 and 1983. See Harrison forthcoming for detailed discussion. 29 See, e.g., Frame 1995 B.6.32.1, 3–9 for an example of universalising titulature from Ashurbanipal. Cyrus is described as ‘King of the Four Quarters of the World’ on his Babylonian cylinder (Cyrus Cylinder, 20–21), but the terminology is never used by the later Achaemenids. Jamzadeh 1993 for discussion of the concept of the four corners and its potential relevance for the Achaemenids.

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upon me’.30 Unlike the earlier Babylonian evidence, where the four corners retain a nebulous quality, here they are tied to specific locations. This creates axes connecting the north-east of the empire to the south-west, and the south-east to the north-west. With a degree of imagination, one can conceive of these axes intersecting over Persia, marking the centre of the empire. This inscription highlights, therefore, how material which emphasizes boundaries can simultaneously construct a claim to world rule. The special status of Persia is further highlighted by the absence of a Persian tribute-bearing delegation on the Apadana frieze, while none of the reliefs at Persepolis which depict subject peoples bearing aloft the king include a representation of a Persian. A Persian does appear on similar reliefs carved onto the kings’ tomb at Naqs-i-Rustam, but here the focus is on celebrating the king as the true focal point of the empire, which again parallels the messaging from Sardeis. Thus, the notion that Persia held special status within the empire is communicated at Sardeis and also in material produced in the centre of the empire. This is also true of the second key message communicated by the procession at Sardeis – that the king’s non-Persian subjects were integrated into a cohesive whole. Here, however, we need to focus specifically on the material from Persepolis produced in Xerxes’ name. As noted above, the empire lists generally follow a geographical structure and all of the examples produced under Darius follow the same basic pattern of distinguishing between countries to the east of Persia and those to the west.31 They always begin with two central countries (either Persia and Elam, or Elam and Media), which are sometimes followed by the eastern countries and sometimes by the western, and there are some minor changes in the ordering of the countries from list to list.32 However, in the sole surviving example from the reign of Xerxes, this geographic enumeration of the countries was apparently abandoned in favour of an order which jumped around the compass points.33 This was also reflected in the visual material. Whereas the subject peoples on the tomb of Darius I at Naqs-iRustam appear in a geographic order, this is not the case with material such as the Apadana tribute frieze which was completed under Xerxes.34 One effect of this, particularly since the dress of the figures highlighted their diverse origins, was to stress the integration of geographically disconnected regions.35 In this regard, the portrayal of the subject peoples on the royal tombs at Naqs-i-Rustam and on similar

30 DPh/DH: Schmidt 1953, 70, 79; trans. Kuhrt 2007, 476. 31 The relevant lists are DB § 6, DPe § 2, DSe § 3, DNa § 3. The incomplete DSm appears to follow DB. 32 For example, DB runs Aria, Chorasmia, Bactria, Sogdiana, whereas DSe reads Aria, Bactria, Sogdiana, Chorasmia. See Harrison forthcoming for further analysis, where I explain how these lists relate to geographical groups based around the concept of the four corners and how, in turn, these groups relate to the centre of the empire. 33 XPh §3. 34 NB: the tomb reliefs continued to follow the model established by Darius I. 35 See Root 1979, 236.


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reliefs from Persepolis is particularly telling.36 Personifications of the conquered nations, again made distinctive through their dress, are depicted carrying, or raising aloft, a platform upon which the king either stands or sits enthroned. The arms of these figures are interlocked, giving the impression of an empire whose strength rests on the seamless integration and cooperation of distinct peoples.37 This vision of empire was brought to life by the organisation of the procession at Sardeis. Herodotos does not describe the clothing of the non-Persian participants in the procession at Sardeis, but he offers more details about the parade in Thrace. Here, the army did march in ethnic contingents, and it is clear that they were armed and clothed distinctively.38 His broader interest in ethnography notwithstanding, Herodotos’ stressing the visual diversity of the dress worn by the different contingents likely reveals something of the impact of the presentation on observers, even if we cannot know the ultimate origin of his report. Indeed, as Briant has stressed, the vast majority of these ethnic units do not appear to have participated in the fighting, which emphasises the representational value of these troops and the ideologically driven nature of these processions.39 All of this suggests that the troops at Sardeis would also have been armed and dressed distinctively. Of course, we can only conjecture as to how a watching Lydian would have interpreted Xerxes’ procession. However, seeing the colourful procession leave Sardeis, onlookers may have been given to understand that Xerxes really did rule lands of other tongues, mountain-dwellers, and those of the plains, people of the sea and those of the desert, as one inscription claimed.40 They may well also have seen these visibly diverse peoples marching together seamlessly, step-by-step, a moving image of integration and harmony. The potential to perceive this image was apparent in Thrace too, but it was particularly emphasised in Sardeis by the amalgamation of national contingents. This also gave greater significance to the spatial positioning of the Persians and Xerxes: our Lydian observer could have recognised an image of the whole world arranged around a Persian centre, just as the reliefs and inscriptions implied. The close relationship between these different representations of the Achaemenid Empire offers an important corroboration of Herodotos’ account of Xerxes’ procession at Sardeis. While the problems outlined above remain evident, and though Herodotos may have combined different versions of events and shaped the text in any number of ways, it is highly unlikely that he or his source could have created an image of empire which reflects so clearly the material created in Xerxes’ name at Persepolis without Achaemenid influence. Furthermore, the clear correspondence between an account of a ceremonial exit on the fringes of the empire and the official material from imperial centres emphasises that the reliefs and inscriptions which survive primarily only in the heartland of the empire reflect an ideology 36 The relevant scenes at Persepolis are found on door jambs in the Central Building and Hall of 100 Columns. 37 See Root 1979, 153. 38 Hdt. 7.60–100. 39 Briant 2002, 195–198. 40 DPg §1–2.

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that was communicated more widely. Finally, the distinctions between the parades at Sardeis and in Thrace reiterate the point that we need not search for one single model of empire. Instead, different influences and factors were stressed to varying degrees in particular representations. Much like the empire lists, Xerxes accentuated the extent of his empire through sheer weight of numbers in Thrace, whereas at Sardeis greater emphasis was placed on the spatiality and hierarchy of the empire, particularly the centrality of Persia and Xerxes himself. The superior status of the Persians was also highlighted in Thrace, but here this was achieved through their leadership of the parade. As we turn to Antiochos’ procession at Daphne, the key thing to emphasise is that, despite the evident stress on integration and cohesion, the various peoples of the Achaemenid Empire remained recognisably distinct in all of this material: the Achaemenid image of empire was built on the recognition and continued promotion of pre-conquest local identities. II. ANTIOCHOS IV AT DAPHNE: THE SELEUKID VISION OF EMPIRE Descriptions of events at Daphne are offered by Athenaios and Diodoros, with both sourcing their information from Polybios.41 There are a number of problems with these accounts. As we will see, his characterisation of Antiochos’ behaviour during the festival reveals Polybios’ hostility to the Seleukid king, while his own sources for the occasion are unknown.42 Furthermore, while Athenaios and Diodoros are both critical of Antiochos, which might suggest that this overarching tone originates from Polybios, their different emphases demonstrate that the surviving sources were selective in their use of material and had their own agendas which shaped their accounts. Diodoros, for example, deals with the procession that began the festival briefly, focusing instead on the revelry associated with the festival as a whole and on those episodes which paint Antiochos in the most negative light as a ruler. Conversely, Athenaios offers a much more detailed account of the procession. This selectivity creates interpretative challenges. For example, when Athenaios, having described the military part of the procession, notes that only a summary of the most notable parts of the rest of the parade can be given, we must question whether this is inherited from Polybios or whether it his own insertion.43 Whose priorities are reflected here and in the arrangement of the material that is included? Thus, we do not know how faithfully the surviving accounts represent the original source nor 41 Athenaios 5.194c–196a; Diod. 31.16; Polyb. 30.25.1–26.4. 42 On Polybios’ hostility to Antiochos IV, see Walbank 1996, 128f.; Mittag 2006, 292–294; Strootman 2019, 178–183. Erskine 2013, 50 rightly wonders how Polybios could know so precisely what Antiochos’ motivations were, and this reminds us that ancient authors actively shaped their accounts. Strootman 2019, 174f., n. 4 argues that, for his treatment of the Grand Procession of Ptolemy II, Kallixeinos had access to an official account produced by the royal court and distributed widely; he suggests that Polybios may have had something similar. 43 Mittag 2006, 287 suggests that this remark originates from Polybios, though without discussion.


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how far the original source had selected, omitted, and shaped the evidence at their disposal. Evidently, these concerns limit the extent to which we can claim a full understanding of the procession, but the surviving material nevertheless offers an important insight into how the Seleukid Empire was presented at Daphne, and how this representation was interpreted. The procession described by Athenaios can be divided into two parts, first a military parade and then a civic display featuring sacred ambassadors (theoroi) from various cities, youths (ephebes) and women, as well as representations of deities, sacrificial animals and other offerings. The stress throughout the description on the display of gold and silver suggests that the procession was characterised by luxury in an effort to impress the king’s wealth upon spectators and participants. With regard to geographical-ideological conceptualisations, universalising claims are certainly in evidence in the procession. For example, Athenaios describes ‘images of every god or divinity mentioned or believed in by human beings’ being carried in the parade, along with representations of the heroes.44 The implication that the whole divine world supported Antiochos suggested that his empire stretched to even the furthest corners of the world. This universal reach was reiterated by the inclusion of images of Night and Day, Earth and Sky, and Dawn and Noon, which added a chronological dimension to the spatial, creating the impression of an empire claiming mastery of space and time, and implying that the Seleukid realm would endure in perpetuity, much as did the Seleukid Era.45 Ptolemy’s Grand Procession had been bookended by the Morning and Evening Stars, so this was evidently part of the traditions of Hellenistic display.46 There are also signs of universalism in the military contingents on show. The procession was purportedly headed by soldiers in the garb of Romans. While, as we will see, this made a specific political point, Rome might legitimately have been understood as representing the western limits of the inhabited world. Since the procession concluded with war elephants, which were representative of Seleukid military power in general but nevertheless still evocative of India in the extreme east, spectators encountered the whole world from west to east, with all of it, the parade implied, under Antiochos’ control.47 This impression was heightened by the diversity of the types of military units on show – Roman legionaries were followed by Macedonian phalangists, and there were lightly-armed Kilikians, cavalry units, including heavily-armoured cataphracts, chariots, elephants, and others too. This mix of troops suggested that Antiochos was the master of all forms of warfare and, 44 Athen. 5.195a, trans. Douglas Olson 2007: πάντων γὰρ τῶν παρ᾿ ἀνθρώποις λεγομένων ἢ νομιζομένων θεῶν ἢ δαιμόνων, προσέτι δὲ ἡρώων εἴδωλα διήγετο, τὰ μὲν κεχρυσωμένα, τὰ δ᾿ ἠμφιεσμένα στολαῖς διαχρύσοις. 45 Athen. 5.195b. For the ideological implications of the Seleukid Era, see Kosmin 2018. 46 Athen. 5.197d = Kallixeinos FGrH 627 F 2. 47 Athen. 5.194c–194f. Iossif 2010, 136 suggests that the arrangement of the procession seems to correspond to a series of concentric circles whose nucleus was represented by the king, and with those troops later in the procession understood to be closer to the king. This would be reminiscent of the spatial arrangement implied by Xerxes’ procession at Sardeis, but the absence of the king problematises this interpretation.

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


beyond reiterating his military power, this variety had a spatial component: as the master of all types of warfare, Antiochos was also the master of all types of people, and thus a universal ruler. This was highlighted by the participation of ethnic military units: Romans, Mysians, Kilikians, Thracians, Galatians, Macedonians, and the Nisaian cavalry (i.e. Medians).48 The continuity with Achaemenid practice is apparent here, while the participation of the Nisaian cavalry in the parades at Sardeis and Daphne establishes a clear connection between the two and attests to the enduring prestige of Media. However, a second way in which a claim to universal rule was expressed by the procession at Daphne highlights significant differences between the Achaemenid and Seleukid spectacles. While the elephants were evocative of India, and the heavy cavalry and Nisaian horses linked to the Iranian satrapies, it is noticeable that, barring the Macedonians who are discussed below, all of the troops explicitly identified by an ethnic designation came from regions in Asia Minor and Europe. These regions had been part of the territories conquered by Seleukos I, so could be considered part of Antiochos’ ancestral kingdom, but the Seleukids had theoretically been excluded from them by the terms of the Treaty of Apamea. Thus, the inclusion of troops from here was either a challenge to the treaty, or, in the event that the agreement was understood to have expired upon the death of Antiochos III, a reminder that its terms no longer applied.49 In either case, this was a statement of renewed, or perhaps continued, Seleukid military power in the region. The way in which Athenaios stresses this aspect of the procession by specifically mentioning the ethnicity of these troops suggests that the significance of this point was appreciated by international audiences. That soldiers dressed as Romans led the way made this point even more emphatically, alongside the addition of the geographic element discussed above.50 This is also indicative of the dynamic interplay between universalism and the recognition of boundaries. On the one hand, the inclusion of troops from Asia Minor and Europe represented a false claim to rule those regions as part of a universal empire. On the other hand, however, the dress of these contingents contrasted with the ‘Macedonian’ core of the army, and thus the kingdom, which followed. In that sense, the externality of these regions was acknowledged. One perhaps, therefore, gets the impression of hitherto unrealised ambitions, potentially harking back to the campaigns of Seleukos I and Antiochos III. Thus, the way that these units were 48 Athen. 5.194d–e. 49 Treaty of Apamea: Livy 38.38.1–17; Polyb. 21.17.1–8. There is some debate about whether Antiochos IV would have been bound by the Treaty of Apameia, or whether the terms would have expired with the death of Antiochos III, cf., e.g., Strootman 2019, 183–187 and Mittag 2006, 289f. Regardless of the specific legality of his actions, drawing attention to these territories remains a key political assertion by Antiochos. See Iossif 2010, 137–142 for discussion of the peoples named in the account. 50 Strootman 2019, 177 reminds us of the potential military value of these troops in addition to their symbolic purpose, and Erskine 2013, 52 notes that they also fulfilled the need for novelty in Hellenistic processions. These are important caveats, but the principal motivation for including Roman troops was evidently political.


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represented within the context of the procession was both a recognition of a potential boundary and simultaneously also a rejection of it. In that sense, the awareness and contestation of territorial limitations, which reflected contemporary political discourse, could co-exist with a universalising ideology and can even be seen to be part of the construction of this claim to universal rule: Antiochos rejected the territorial limitations of the Treaty of Apamea precisely because he was a universal ruler. The only infantry contingents from within the empire that Athenaios explicitly describes with an ethnic designation were the Macedonians, though even here this could be perceived as a territorial claim to the dynasty’s ancestral homeland which remained beyond Antiochos’ control.51 Consequently, there is something of a contrast drawn between the variegated ethnic infantry units from outside the empire, and the homogenous Macedonian troops from within. But who were these ‘Macedonian’ troops and how did they relate to Seleukid armies? Among Antiochos III’s army at the Battle of Raphia in 217 BCE, Polybios lists units of Dahai, Karmanians, Kilikians, Agrianians, Persians and Thracians, a mixed force of Medes, Kissians, and Kadusians, as well as Arabs, Greek mercenaries, Cretans, Neo-Cretans, Lydians, and Kardakes.52 The Seleukid ability to recruit troops from some of these regions may have changed in the intervening fifty years, but the general contrast in approach, both in the organisation of the Seleukid forces and in how this was reported by the extant sources, is clear. This begs the question as to why infantry troops from Central Asia do not appear to have been part of the procession at Daphne. One possibility is that this information is simply omitted by our sources, though it is unclear why the origin of some infantry units would be recorded and not others. If we do accept this as an accurate record, one might posit a logistical explanation. However, if Antiochos wanted to include a small force of troops from the Asian satrapies for representative reasons, this could surely have been arranged, just as it had been during Xerxes’ campaign against Greece. After all, the procession apparently included the cataphract cavalry, which was certainly evocative of the east of the empire.53 This must have been a deliberate decision, therefore, and this invites a re-examination of the ‘Macedonian’ phalanx. Engels was puzzled by the absence of Babylonians within reports of Seleukid armies, given the potential manpower of the region. He thus posited two mutually exclusive suggestions: either the Seleukids deliberately avoided recruiting significant numbers of Babylonian soldiers for fear that this could lead to instability and ultimately revolt in this key province, or the 51 The cavalry, as noted above, had clear links to Iran but it is striking that this is not stressed in the account. The reference to the Nisaian cavalry evidently refers to the origins of these troops, but the focus is perhaps more on the prestigious breed of horse than anything else. The cataphracts (Athen. 194f.) are not explicitly tied to Iran. Athenaios (194d) also mentions some 240 pairs of gladiators (μονόμαχοι), which are not given an ethnic marker. 52 Polyb. 5.79.3–13; 5.82.8–13. Livy’s (37.40) account of Magnesia also refers to a diverse array of Seleukid forces, namely: Galatians, Medes, Dahai, Cretans, Trallians, Mysians, Krytians, Elymaians, Kappadokians, Arabs, Karians, Kilikians, Pisidians, Pamphylians, and Lykians. 53 Athen. 194f.

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


Babylonians were integrated into other military units, particularly the ‘Macedonian’ phalanx.54 The latter view seems the most likely for several reasons.55 There are, for instance, several references to Hellenistic rulers arming soldiers ‘in the Macedonian style’, while Polybios suggests that the Silver Shields who fought at the Battle of Raphia were recruited from across the empire.56 This practice originates, of course, with Alexander who had apparently trained young Iranians in Macedonian warfare and integrated Persians into the phalanx.57 Consequently, the ‘Macedonians’ who participated in the military parade at Daphne need not have been only ethnic Macedonians (however this was construed in the second-century Seleukid Empire). Given the importance of the phalanx in Hellenistic warfare, and the challenges of recruiting Macedonian soldiers, the motivation for this may well have been practical, but it has important implications for the Seleukid image of empire. If the view here is correct, the ‘Macedonians’ mentioned at Daphne may have included soldiers from across the heartlands of the Seleukid Empire, including Babylonians and Syrians, but perhaps also people from elsewhere too, who are otherwise conspicuous only by their absence. In that sense, the Seleukids’ Asian subjects were unified under Macedonian arms, with symbols of pre-conquest identities elided. The only other possibility, if the reporting is complete, is that infantry troops from places like Babylonia did not participate in the procession at Daphne. Either way, this represents a significant departure from Achaemenid precedent, where the celebration of pre-conquest identities was integral. As discussed above, it is important to recognise that multiple models of empire can exist concurrently, and troops from these regions may well have participated in similar events closer to home. However, as I have explained, their absence cannot have been only the result of logistics. In particular, Xerxes had faced similar problems and chose to ensure that a broad spectrum of the peoples of his empire were represented in his army, even though not all of them were expected to fight.58 Again, this suggests that the distinction between the processions at Sardeis and Daphne was significant and ideologically driven, rather than merely a result of practicalities. This interpretation of Antiochos’ parade can be located within the broader vision of empire created by the Seleukids. One of the most striking features of 54 Engels 2019, 424–429; at 423f. he persuasively dismisses two further possibilities, namely that Babylonians were deemed unfit for military service or that Babylonians could pay an indemnity for hiring mercenaries in place of active service. 55 Though Engels 2019, 428 does recognise issues with this view, such as why Babylonians would be recruited into the phalanx in this manner but not, apparently, other ethnic groups, and why, if Babylonian soldiers were as numerous as this interpretation implies, there is scant evidence of this in the cuneiform sources. 56 Polyb. 5.79.4; 5.82.1: καὶ τὰς μὲν φάλαγγας ἀμφότεροι καὶ τοὺς ἐπιλέκτους τοὺς εἰς τὸν Μακεδονικὸν τρόπον καθωπλισμένους κατὰ πρόσωπον ἀλλήλων ἔταξαν…. See also Diod. 19.14.5; 19.27.6; 19.40.3. Livy (37.40.11f.) describes Syrians, Phrygians and Lydians as a mixed force of auxiliary troops at Magnesia. 57 Iranians armed in the Macedonian fashion: Arr. Anab. 7.6.1; Diod. 17.108.1–3; Curt. 8.5.1; Plut. Alex. 47.3; 71.1. Persians integrated in Macedonian contingents: Arr. Anab. 7.23.3f. 58 Briant 2002, 195–198, see above.


Stephen Harrison

Seleukid colonisation policy was the systematic renaming of prior settlements after members of the Seleukid dynasty.59 Thus, Susa became Seleukeia-on-the-Eulaios and Alexandria-in-Margiana became an Antioch; new cities bearing dynastic names were also founded, most famously in Syria and Mesopotamia.60 This systematic programme of foundation and refoundation was evidently not limited to the preMacedonian landscape, but to the pre-Seleukid, which demonstrates that the Seleukids sought to brand their territory clearly.61 This was a way of showing their ownership of the land that they had conquered, but it was also a way of creating a defined spatial unit and distinguishing Seleukid territory from the realms of their rivals. In branding territory, however, the Seleukids were also labelling people. While one can question how far indigenous inhabitants were granted citizenship in these new or re-founded cities, they were certainly part of the population.62 This emerges, for instance, in the writings of Josephus who argued that those joining a colony took on the names of the founders, stating bluntly: ‘Jewish residents in Antioch are called Antiochenes’.63 Elsewhere, he argues that Seleukos I gave citizenship to Jews in his new cities in Asia and Syria, awarding them privileges equal to those given to Macedonians and Greeks.64 Josephus is hardly impartial in these two passages, the first coming as part of his rebuttal of Apion’s attacks on Judaism, the second created in the aftermath of conflict between Rome and Judaea, and he was obviously writing centuries after the foundation of the Seleukid Empire. Nevertheless, he offers a valuable 59 This originated with Seleukos I, who named cities after his father or son Antiochos the, his mother Laodike, his first wife Apama and Stratonike his second wife, later the wife of Antiochos I. These were the only names used for royal cities until Antiochos IV named some cities after his epithet Epiphanes, see Kosmin 2014, 209. See Cohen 2006 and 2013 for how widely these dynastic names were used across the dynasty. 60 Cohen 2013, 194–199 on Susa, 245–50 on Alexandria/Antioch-in-Margiana. Kosmin 2014, 210 suggests that only Babylon and Lysimacheia escaped rebranding, though Cohen 2013 156–7 collects evidence for a Seleukeia-on-the-Euphrates in Babylonia, so the royal presence was near at hand even in Babylon. 61 See Kosmin 2014, 108f. on the refoundation of a Macedonian settlement in Syria (Pella) as Apameia. 62 An inscription from Smyrna dating to the period of the Third Syrian War shows Persian soldiers in the Seleukid army being granted citizenship of the city, so indigenous Asians could certainly become part of the citizenry of Seleukid cities, OGIS 229 = Austin 2006, no.174, with discussion in Engels 2019, 428. See also Feissel 1985 for an indication of non-Greeks playing a significant role in the spatial configuration of Antioch-on-the-Orontes, with discussion in Harrison forthcoming. 63 Jos. Apion. 2.38f. (262–276), trans. Thackeray 1926: πάντες γὰρ οἱ εἰς ἀποικίαν τινὰ κατακληθέντες, κἂν πλεῖστον ἀλλήλων τοῖς γένεσι διαφέρωσιν, ἀπὸ τῶν οἰκιστῶν τὴν προσηγορίαν λαμβάνουσιν. καὶ τί δεῖ περὶ τῶν ἄλλων λέγειν; αὐτῶν γὰρ ἡμῶν οἱ τὴν Ἀντιόχειαν κατοικοῦντες Ἀντιοχεῖς ὀνομάζονται· τὴν γὰρ πολιτείαν αὐτοῖς ἔδωκεν ὁ κτίστης Σέλευκος. 64 Jos. AJ 12.119: Σέλευκος ὁ Νικάτωρ ἐν αἷς ἔκτισε πόλεσιν ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ καὶ τῇ κάτω Συρίᾳ καὶ ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ μητροπόλει Ἀντιοχείᾳ πολιτείας αὐτοὺς ἠξίωσε καὶ τοῖς ἐνοικισθεῖσιν ἰσοτίμους ἀπέφηνε Μακεδόσιν καὶ Ἕλλησιν, ὡς τὴν πολιτείαν ταύτην ἔτι καὶ νῦν διαμένειν.

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


perspective in demonstrating that some people living in lands once ruled by the Seleukids saw it as advantageous to claim to have participated in Seleukid colonies. While inscriptions which refer to Seleukeians and Antiochenes may well describe only the citizen body, Josephus demonstrates that others could claim to share this descriptor. Not everybody within the Seleukid Empire will have shared this sentiment – the Maccabean revolt is clear evidence for that – but Josephus indicates that this all-encompassing Seleukid label could be a way for subjects from all backgrounds to consider themselves part of the Seleukid imperial project. In doing so, however, these Seleukeians and Antiochenes were choosing a new marker which overlay previous identities. This should not be interpreted through the old lens of Hellenization – this did not mean that old identities were abandoned, though some people undoubtedly were affected by the possibilities that new cultural practices brought.65 Instead, we should see this dynastic marker as a means of uniting culturally and ethnically distinct peoples with one another and creating bonds between rulers and subjects. More work evidently needs to be done to establish how far local communities genuinely saw this as an opportunity to take up a new identity. However, the focus here is on the top-down, imperial view, and how that corresponds with the parallel Achaemenid vision. What matters, therefore, is that these examples begin to reveal what was possible within the Seleukid Empire. A good illustration of this is found in a decree from Antioch-in-Persis, passed in response to a request from the citizens of Magnesia-on-the-Maeander, who sought international recognition for their festival in honour of Artemis Leukophryene. Appended to the decree are the names of other cities to have passed a similar resolution.66 The list is incomplete, but the identifiable names are: Σελε[υ]κεῦσιν τοῖς πρὸς [τ]ῶι Τίγρει, Ἀπαμε(ῦ)σιν τοῖς [π]ρὸς τῶι Σελείαι, Σελευκεῦσιν τοῖς πρὸς (τ)ῆι Ἐρυθρᾶι θαλάσσηι, Σ[ε]λευκ[εῦσι]ν τ[οῖς] π[ρὸ]ς τῶ[ι.......], Ἀν[τι](ο)[χεῦσιν τοῖς] πρὸς [----------------], and Ἀλ[εξανδρεῦσιν τοῖς]. Aside from one surviving Alexandria, the other cities bear a Seleukid dynastic name and similarly named cities are distinguishable from one another only by a geographic suffix. While we can certainly question how far these official designations replaced traditional names in everyday usage, what we see here is a snapshot of the Seleukid Empire. This may come from civic epigraphy rather than royal discourse, but it nonetheless captures the effects of Seleukid policy: all territory is in some sense ‘Seleukid’. A precise ‘Seleukid’ identity is elusive, and certainly should not be conflated with concepts of citizenship and the like. However, what this shows is that in certain civic contexts, a Seleukid moniker could overlay, though not necessarily override, pre-existing ways in which communities were described. From an official standpoint, everybody in the empire was intrinsically attached to the dynasty, and one another, through their inhabitation of dynastically branded territory, even if communities or individuals rejected or ignored this.

65 Strootman 2014, 56 similarly pitches this as individuals ‘becoming “Seleucid”’. 66 OGIS 233 lines 101–111 = Austin 2006, no.190. Further discussion in Harrison forthcoming.


Stephen Harrison

We may see something similar at Daphne with the core of the army, where ‘Macedonian’ military markers may have been superimposed onto, and therefore concealed, pre-existing identifiers. Since this involved removing cultural markers like dress and weaponry which might highlight differences in favour of a homogenising image, this can be interpreted as an attempt to create internal unity and cohesion, based on integration and cooperation. As we have seen, the Achaemenids sought something similar but continued to distinguish sharply between people from different backgrounds. This contrast begins to illustrate a potential shortcoming of the Seleukid approach to empire-building. In a civic context, a dynastic name had the potential to act as a unifier for inhabitants of the Seleukid Empire because it created a territorial unit, which was delineated from the surrounding kingdoms. Subjects could conceivably describe themselves as an Antiochene and from this see an obvious connection with others within their city or across the empire, and also with the royal family. They could imagine themselves as ‘Seleukid’ but also as Jewish or Babylonian. Though these remarks are hypothetical, Josephus gives some indication of how this might have worked. However, in the military context at Daphne, this was more difficult. Rather than a distinctively Seleukid uniform, soldiers apparently took up Macedonian arms and fashion. Whereas dynastic toponyms may have offered the potential for the creation of a unifying Seleukid label, it is not clear that other possible markers of this were sufficiently distinct from signs of Macedonian culture. While distinguishing between Macedonians and non-Macedonians is probably a futile task by the reign of Antiochos IV, this was also important for those participants in the parade at Daphne who did think of themselves primarily as Macedonian, however they interpreted that label. For them, the dress alone did not create a connection with the Seleukid king, just one of many ‘Macedonian’ rulers. Consequently, whereas the inscription from Antioch-in-Persis presents the image of an empire populated by Seleukians and Antiochenes, this was not realised at Daphne in the same way that Xerxes’ procession at Sardeis brought to life core aspects of Achaemenid imperial ideology. This variation appears to be the product of an underlying contrast in the notions of empire communicated by the parades at Daphne and Sardeis, but the nature of the two events created further differences. The explicitly military context of the procession at Sardeis meant an unsurprising focus on demonstrating Xerxes’ military power, but Antiochos’ parade at Daphne included a civic component. For instance, Athenaios describes some 300 theoroi (sacred ambassadors) walking in the parade.67 We do not know whence these ambassadors came, but the sources stress that the festival was widely advertised and that Antiochos had actively encouraged Greeks from abroad to attend. 68 We can imagine that cities within the Seleukid Empire also sent delegates. Ptolemy II had also invited representatives from across the Mediterranean to attend his Grand Procession, but, crucially, only as spectators;

67 Athen. 5.195a. 68 Athen. 5.194c.

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


Antiochos opted to demonstrate the participation of disparate civic polities in his imperial project.69 The king’s philoi, youths, and women also processed, creating a holistic image of empire, while this stress on the active participation of different peoples in the Seleukid imperial programme is reminiscent of the message expressed in Achaemenid reliefs.70 This creates a clear distinction between the processions at Sardeis and Daphne, but Curtius describes the inhabitants of Babylon participating in Alexander’s ceremonial entrance into the city after Gaugamela. Since Alexander surely based this at least loosely on Achaemenid precedents, this apparent difference between Sardeis and Daphne is likely the product of context rather than a reflection of deeper ideological differences.71 Another notable difference was the role of the king himself. Xerxes had been central to events at Sardeis, both literally and metaphorically, but Antiochos is presented as scuttling along the margins of the procession, attending to minor details.72 This portrayal of his behaviour, together with a negative connotation, appears in both Athenaios and Diodoros, so likely derives from Polybios. But interpreting Antiochos’ role in the procession remains challenging. Mittag suggested, through comparison with the Ptolemaic Grand Procession, that the king and the royal family rather recede into the background at Daphne, enabling a focus on the wealth and power of the empire.73 However, it is not clear that we can distinguish so neatly between the power of the empire and that of the king and the royal family. Conversely, Iossif argues that the king’s ability to transgress boundaries and move around the procession gave him a ubiquity befitting of his epithet epihanes (GodManifest), while removing the king from the parade reinforced his special status.74 In this interpretation, one might see aspects of Antiochos’ personal ( rather than dynastic) ideology shaping the event. Antiochos’ behaviour does mean, however, that procession lacks the focal point seen at Sardeis. This might have heightened the spectacle for observers who might wonder when, and indeed if, they would catch a glimpse of the king; conversely, the audience at Sardeis may have felt less compelled to watch the rest of the parade after Xerxes had passed by. On a deeper level, though, this is also reflective of the broader structure of the Seleukid Empire: since everything was, in a sense, Seleukeia, the king was omnipresent, and his presence felt everywhere. However, while his Persian compatriots were clearly marked out as more important than his non-Persian subjects, Xerxes remained representative of the ultimate spatial centre of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia. 69 Athenaios. 5.196a–b explains how visitors were entertained in a grand pavilion (5.197d) and how the procession was staged in the stadium in Alexandreia. On civic participation, see, e.g., Walbank 1996, 128; Iossif 2010, 143; Erskine 2013, 52f.; Strootman 2019, 198. 70 King’s friends: Athen. 5.194e. Youths ἔφηβοι: Athen. 5.195a. Women: Athen. 5.195c. 71 Curt. 5.1.17–23. 72 Athen. 5.195c; Diod. 31.16. 73 Mittag 2006, 287–289. 74 Iossif 2010, 145–151. Iossif also suggests that Polybios’ description of Antiochos is reminiscent of a ritual of reversal and humiliation, which would be appropriate for a New Year Festival and in keeping with Near-Eastern traditions.


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III. CONCLUSION The role of the two kings offers a telling insight into the underlying differences in the images of empire which were communicated at Sardeis and Daphne. Xerxes presented an emphatically hierarchal vision, with the conquered nations arranged around a Persian spatial centre, with himself as the absolute focal point. However, as Antiochos’ behaviour indicates, the Seleukid concept of empire was more diffuse. Most importantly, the two processions appear to have treated the identity of the subject peoples differently. The Achaemenids embraced, and outwardly celebrated, the pre-conquest identities of their subjects. This was part of emphasising the extent of the land under their control and was thus integral to a claim to world rule. The later parade in Thrace stressed this point by having the army process in ethnic contingents, but, at Sardeis, these units appear to have been more integrated with one another, implying a desire to underscore the cohesiveness of the empire. The procession at Daphne retained an element of this through the participation of some ethnic contingents. While some of the cavalry units and the elephants were inextricably connected to their place of origin, it is striking that the extant evidence reports only the ethnicity of infantry units whose homelands lay beyond the supposed borders of the Seleukid Empire in the 160s; this appears to be a deliberate contestation of these limitations. This might, indeed, simply reflect the perspective of the source tradition, preoccupied, as it was, with Seleukid relations with Rome. However, the wider evidence suggests that this is reflective of broader practice within the empire. Of course, there are also many similarities. Both processions stress the participation of subject peoples in the imperial project, both offer insight into the interplay of universalism and the acknowledgement of territorial limits, and both highlight the importance of making ideological claims visible in ways beyond reliefs and inscriptions. As I have stressed, these were but two occasions across several centuries of royal display. Different images will have been presented in other places and at other times; sometimes Seleukid self-representation may have been closer to the Achaemenid than seems to have been the case here. However, the parades at Sardeis and Daphne indicate a profound difference in the way that the Achaemenids and Seleukids envisaged, characterised, and presented their empire. The Achaemenids acknowledged that their empire was composed of Medes, Babylonians, Baktrians, and a host of other subject nations, but the procession at Daphne suggested that there was less space in the Seleukid Empire for the old-world order. Xerxes’ procession offered subjects from different backgrounds a clear sense of how their place in the world was envisaged by the imperial authorities, of how that position was understood to relate to their Persian overlords, and of how it related to other conquered peoples. Of course, subjects may have been dissatisfied with this vision or felt that it did not reflect their experience of living under Achaemenid rule, and it is futile to speculate as to the effects of these two processions since individuals will have reacted to their experiences differently and we have insufficient evidence to substantiate any claims that we might make. What we can say, however, is that the

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


procession at Sardeis reflected and communicated a clear ideological model of empire. To echo Sinopoli’s phrasing, quoted above, this idealising image transcended individual relationships and created connections between and among the ruling power and the subject nations. Conversely, at Daphne, onlookers may not have seen their communities, or what they understood to be their communities, represented. What bound those people to the king? What connected them to the royal family or to the other inhabitants of the Seleukid realm? BIBLIOGRAPHY

Classical Sources Austin, M.M. 2006: The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation, 2nd ed. Cambridge. Bradford Welles, C. 1963: Diodorus Siculus: Library of History. Vol. 8: Books 16.66–17, Cambridge, MA. Brunt, P. 1976–1983: Arrian: Anabasis of Alexander, 2 vols., Cambridge, MA. Douglas Olson, S. 2007: Athenaios: The Learned Banqueteers. Vol. 2: Books 3.106e–5, Cambridge, MA. Geer, R.M. 1947: Diodorus Siculus: Library of History. Vol. 9: Books 18–19.65, Cambridge, MA. Godley, A.D. 1920–1925: Herodotus: The Persian Wars, 4 vols., Cambridge, MA. Marcus, R. 1943: Josephus: Jewish Antiquities. Vol. 5: Books 12–13, Cambridge, MA. Paton, W.R., Walbank, F.W., and Habicht, C. 2011: Polybius: The Histories. Vol. 3: Books 5–8, Cambridge, MA. Paton, W.R., Walbank, F.W., and Habicht, C. 2012: Polybius: The Histories. Vol. 5: Books 16–27, Cambridge, MA. Perrin, B. 1919: Plutarch: Lives. Vol. 7: Demosthenes and Cicero. Alexander and Caesar, Cambridge, MA. Rolfe, J.C. 1946: Quintus Curtius: History of Alexander, 2 vols., Cambridge, MA. Thackeray, H.S.J. 1926: Josephus: The Life. Against Apion, Cambridge, MA. Walton, F.R. 1957: Diodorus Siculus: Library of History. Vol. 11: Fragments of Books 21–32, Cambridge, MA. Yardley, J.C. 2018: Livy: History of Rome. Vol. 10: Books 35–37, Cambridge, MA. Yardley, J.C. 2018: Livy: History of Rome. Vol. 11: Books 38–40, Cambridge, MA.

Near-Eastern Evidence NB: The system of referencing Achaemenid inscriptions is explained in n. 23 above. Frame, G. 1995: Rulers of Babylonia: From the Second Dynasty of Isin to the End of Assyrian Domination (1157–612 BC), Toronto. Kent, R.G. 1953: Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, 2nd rev. ed., New Haven, CT. Kuhrt, A. 2007: The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period, London. Lecoq, P. 1997: Les inscriptions de la Perse achéménide, Paris.


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Modern Scholarship Aperghis, G.G. 2004: The Seleukid Royal Economy: The Finances and Financial Administration of the Seleukid Empire, Cambridge. Austin, M.M. 2006: The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation, 2nd ed. Cambridge. Bang, P. and Kolodziejczyk, D. (eds.) 2012: Universal Empire: A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, Cambridge. Bilde, P., Engberg-Pedersen, T., Hannestad, L., Zahle, J., and Randsborg, K. (eds.) 1993: Centre and Periphery in the Hellenistic World, Aarhus. Briant, P. 1982: Rois, tributs et paysans. Etudes sur les formations tributaires du Moyen-Orient ancien, Paris. Briant, P. 1990: ‘The Seleucid Kingdom, the Achaemenid Empire and the History of the Near East in the First Millennium B.C.’, in P. Bilde, T. Engberg-Pederson, L. Hannestad, and J. Zahle (eds.), Religion and Religious Practice in the Seleucid Kingdom, Aarhus 40–90. Briant, P. 2002: From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Winona Lake. Briant, P. 2009: ‘Entrées royales et mises en scène du pouvoir dans l’empire achéménide et les royaumes hellénistiques’, in A. Béregner and É. Perrin-Saminadayar (eds.), Organisation des pouvoirs et contacts culturels dans les pays de l’empire achéménide, Paris, 47–64. Calmeyer, P. 1982: ‘Zur Genese altiranischer Motive VIII. Die “Statistische Landcharte des Perserreiches” – I’, Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, 105–188. Calmeyer, P. 1983: ‘Zur Rechtfertigung einiger grossköniglicher Inschriften und Darstellungen: Die Yaunā’, in H. Koch and D.N. Mackenzie (eds.), Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte der Achämenidenzeit und ihr Fortleben, Berlin, 153–167. Chang, M.G. 2014: ‘Historical Narratives of the Kangxi Emperor’s Inaugural Visit to Suzhou, 1684’, in J. Duindam and S. Dabringhaus (eds.), The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces: Agents and Interactions, Leiden, 203–224. Chrubasik, B. 2016: Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men Who Would Be King, Oxford. Cohen, G.M. 2006: The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, Berkeley. Cohen, G.M. 2013: The Hellenistic Settlements in the East from Armenia and Mesopotamia to Bactria and India, Berkeley. Coşkun, A. 2019: ‘The Chronology of the Desecration of the Temple and the Prophecies of Daniel 7–12 Reconsidered’, Historia, 436–462. Coşkun, A. 2021: ‘Seleucid Throne Wars: Resilience and Disintegration of the Greatest Successor Kingdom from Demetrius I to Antiochus VII’, in A.M. Berlin and P. Kosmin (eds.), The Middle Maccabees: Archaeology, History, and the Rise of the Hasmonean Kingdom, Atlanta, 269–291. Engels, D. 2019: ‘Mais où sont donc passés les soldats babyloniens? La place des contingents «indigènes» dans l’armée séleucide’, in A. Coşkun and D. Engels (eds.), Rome and the Seleukid East: Select Papers from Seleukid Study Day V, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 21–23 Aug. 2015, Brussels, 403–434. Erskine, A. 2013: ‘Hellenistic Parades and Roman Triumphs’, in J. Armstrong and A. Spalinger (eds.), Rituals of Triumph in the Mediterranean World, Leiden, 37–55. Feissel, D. 1985: ‘Deux listes de quartiers d’Antioche astreints au creusement d’un canal (73–74 après J.-C.)’, Syria, 77–103. Gruen, E. 1976: ‘Rome and the Seleucids in the aftermath of Pydna’, Chiron, 73–96. Habicht, C. 1989: ‘The Seleucids and Their Rivals’, in A.E. Astin, F.W. Walbank, M.W. Fredericksen, and R.M. Ogilvie (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History. Vol. 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC, 2nd ed. Cambridge, 324–387. Harrison, S. forthcoming: Achaemenid Kingship, Alexander the Great and the Early Seleucids, Edinburgh.

Antiochos at Daphne and Xerxes at Sardeis


Herrenschmidt, C. 1976: ‘Désignation de l’empire et concepts politiques de Darius Ier d’après ses inscriptions en vieux-perse’, Studia Iranica, 33–65. Iossif, P. 2010: ‘Imago Mundi: Expression et représentation de l’idéologie royal séleucide. La procession de Daphné’, in E. Dabrowa (ed.), New Studies on the Seleucids, Krakow, 125–158. Jamzadeh, P. 1993: ‘Few Remarks on the Significance of the Idea of Four Corners to the Achaemenids’, Iranica Antiqua, 137–140. Kosmin, P. 2014: The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleukid Empire, Cambridge, MA. Kosmin, P. 2018: Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire, Cambridge, MA. Kuhrt, A. 1990: ‘Alexander and Babylon’, in J.W. Drijvers and H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg (eds.), Achaemenid History V: The Roots of the European Tradition, Leiden, 121–130. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S. 1994: ‘General Observations by the Authors of From Samarkhand to Sardis’, Topoi 4 449–454. Magdalino, P. 2011: ‘Court and Capital in Byzantium’, in J. Duindam, T. Artan, and M. Kunt (eds.), Royal Courts in Dynastic States and Empires, Leiden, 131–144. Martinez-Sève, L. 2003: ‘Quoi de neuf sur le royaume séleucide’ in F. Prost (ed.), L’Orient méditerranéen de la mort d’Alexandre aux campagnes de Pompée: Cités et royaumes à l’époque hellénistique, Rennes, 221–242. Mehl, A. 2012: ‘Zentrum und Peripherie im Hellenismus – Das Seleukidenreich und seine Randzonen’, in R. Rollinger, G. Schwinghammer, B. Truschnegg, and K. Schnegg (eds.), Altertum und Gegenwart. 125 Jahre Alte Geschichte in Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 131–158. Mittag, P.F. 2006: Antiochos IV Epiphanes. Eine politische Biographie, Berlin. Murphy, N. 2014: ‘Ceremonial Entries and the Confirmation of Urban Privileges in France, c.1350– 1550’, in J. Duindam and S. Dabringhaus (eds.), The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces: Agents and Interactions, Leiden, 160–184. Murphy, N. 2016: Ceremonial Entries, Municipal Liberties and the Negotiation of Power in Valois France, 1328–1589, Leiden. Pagden, A. 1995: Lords of all the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c.1500– c.1800, New Haven. Plischke, S. 2014: Die Seleukiden und Iran: Die seleukidische Herrschaftspolitik in den östlichen Satrapien, Wiesbaden. Préaux, C. 1978: Le monde hellénistique, Paris. Roaf, M. 1974: ‘The Subject Peoples on the Base of the Statue of Darius’, Cahiers de la Délégation Archéologique Française en Iran, 4, 73–160. Root, M.C. 1979: The King and Kingship in Achaemenid Art, Leiden. Rowlands, M., Larsen, M., and Kristiansen, K. 1987: Centre and Periphery in the Ancient World, Cambridge. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, H., Kuhrt, A. and Root, M.C. (eds.), 1994: Achaemenid History. Vol. 8: Continuity and Change, Leiden. Schmidt, E. 1953: Persepolis I: Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions, Chicago. Schmidt, E. 1970: Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments, Chicago. Sherwin-White, S. and Kuhrt, A. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire, London. Sinopoli, C.M. 1994: ‘Archaeology of Empire’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 159–180. Strootman, R. 2013: ‘Babylonian, Macedonian, King of the World: The Antiochus Cylinder from Borsippa and Seleucid Imperial Integration’, in E. Stavrianopoulou (ed.), Shifting Social Imaginaries in the Hellenistic Period: Narrations, Practices, and Images, Leiden, 67–97. Strootman, R. 2014: ‘Hellenistic Imperialism and the Ideal of World Unity’, in C. Rapp, C. and H.A. Drake (eds.), The City in the Classical and Post-Classical World: Changing Contexts of Power and Identity, Cambridge, 38–61. Strootman, R. 2016: ‘“The Heroic Company of my Forebears”: The Ancestor Galleries of Antiochos I of Kommagene at Nemrut Daği and the Role of Royal Women in the Transmission of


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Hellenistic Kingship’, in A. Coşkun and A. McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire, Stuttgart, 209– 229. Strootman, R. 2019: ‘Antiochos IV and Rome: The Festival at Daphne (Syria), the Treaty of Apameia and the Revival of Seleukid Expansionism in the West’, in A. Coşkun and D. Engels (eds.), Rome and the Seleukid East: Select Papers from Seleukid Study Day V, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 21–23 Aug. 2015, Brussels, 173–215. Thøfner, M. 2014: ‘“Willingly We Follow a Gentle Leader…”: Joyous Entries into Antwerp’, in J. Duindam and S. Dabringhaus (eds.), The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces: Agents and Interactions, Leiden, 185–202. Tuplin, C. 2009: ‘The Seleucids and Their Achaemenid Predecessors. A Persian Inheritance?’, in S.M.R. Darbandi and A. Zournatzi (eds.), Ancient Greece and Ancient Iran: Cross-Cultural Encounters, Athens, 109–136. Walbank, F.W.1996: ‘Two Hellenistic Processions: A Matter of Self-Definition’, Scripta Classica Israelica, 119–130. Will, E. 1979: Histoire Politique du Monde Héllenistique, vol. 1, 2nd ed., Nancy. Will, E 1994: ‘Notes de lecture’, Topoi 4, 433–447.



τοῦτον πόλει τῇδ᾽ ἐκκεκήρυκται τάφῳ μήτε κτερίζειν μήτε κωκῦσαί τινα, ἐᾶν δ᾽ ἄθαπτον καὶ πρὸς οἰωνῶν δέμας καὶ πρὸς κυνῶν ἐδεστὸν αἰκισθέν τ᾽ ἰδεῖν. Sophokles, Antigone 203–206.1 ‘Je vous demande la tête de cet homme’, a-til dit, ‘et c’est le cœur léger que je vous la demande. Car s’il m’est arrivé au cours de ma déjà longue carrière de réclamer des peines capitales, jamais autant qu’aujourd’hui, je n’ai senti ce pénible devoir compense, balance, éclairé par la conscience d’un commandement impérieux et sacré et par l’horreur que je ressens devant un visage d’homme où je ne lis rien que de monstrueux.’ Albert Camus.2 ‘The reason is treason.’ Kasabian.3


2 3

‘Kreon: “[…] He is to have no grave, no burial, / No mourning from anyone; it is forbidden. / He is to be left unburied, left to be eaten / By dogs and vultures, a horror for all to see.”’ Translation E.F. Watling, Sophocles: The Theban Plays (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1947; 2nd ed. 1974), 131. Cf. Verg. Aen. 10.550–560. Albert Camus, L’étranger (Paris: Gallimard, 1942; ed. 1993), 157. From ‘The Reason is Treason’, written by S. Pizzorno and C. Karloff and originally released as a 10” vinyl and promo CD single in February 2004; the song also features on the band’s debut album, Kasabian (RCA Records, September 2004).


Rolf Strootman

Abstract: In ancient Near Eastern monarchies, captured opponents were often ritually ‘dehumanized’ by the mutilation of their bodies, which were then usually ‘hung up’ (impaled or crucified) in public, especially liminal places. The Seleukid Empire was no exception. Two notorious cases have been recorded by Polybios for the reign of Antiochos III: the executions of Molon and Achaios in 221 and 214/13 BC, whose noses and ears were cut off, among other things. In this article, I argue that through such acts of severe cruelty, Antiochos’ political rivals were constructed as rebels, and thus traitors, while he himself was presented as a legitimate sovereign precisely because he was the one who inflicted the punishment upon his defeated opponents. Molon and Achaios, however, likely were considered legitimate by their supporters. A similar argument will be made in the case of Alexander’s dehumanization of the captured Achaemenid king, Artaxerxes V (Bessos), in 329 BC – the link between Achaemenid and Seleukid practices. Mutilation and the denial of burial should thus not be seen as punishment for treason, but as ritual acts by which treason is constructed as a category of social conduct: a means to remove legitimacy from an executed rival ruler and underline the legitimacy of the victorious king.

In ancient monarchies, rebel leaders were not merely executed after they had been caught; they were also often ‘dehumanized’ by the mutilation of their bodies and the denial of proper burial. The Seleukid Empire was no exception. When the rebel king Achaios was delivered into the hands of the imperial sovereign, Antiochos III, the Royal Council after ample discussion decided, in Polybios’ words, ‘that his extremities should be cut off, his head severed from his body and sewn up in the skin of an ass, and his body impaled’.4 From the reign of Antiochos III, and from Polybios, also comes the account of the impalement or crucifixion of Molon’s corpse in 221 BC.5 What these two acts of cruelty have in common, is that they are performed publicly and in a highly theatrical manner. In both cases, the victim is punished for treason or rebellion. Public execution in principle should suffice to terminate the threat posed by a rebel or usurper. Why also disfigure and display the body in an often-appalling way? What was the purpose of inflicting such severe retribution, particularly on (alleged) traitors? Various interpretations of (post mortem) mutilation rituals have been suggested by ancient historians and classicists for the several cases that have come down to us. They have been explained as maschalismos, that is, intended to render the murdered soul incapable of returning to take revenge, or as an appeasement sacrifice.6 This may be helpful to explain some literary acts of mutilation – the mutilation of the corpse of Apsyrtos by Jason in Apollonios’ Argonautica is a 4 5


Polyb. 8.21.3. Polyb. 5.54.3. In addition to these two historical cases, the aristocratic sophistication of Ptolemaic court poetry has given us a detailed account of Jason’s nasty maltreatment of the corpse of Apsyrtos (Apoll. Arg. 4.477–479), while the best-known example from Hellenistic literature is the execution and public exposure of the villain Haman in the Book of Esther (7.10). Byre 1996; Ceulemans 2007. On µασχαλισµός as a theme in Greek literature, see Muller 2011. In the Greek world view, an unburied corpse became a generator of miasma that had to be cleansed (Garland 1985, 46f.; Parker 1983, 32–48).

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case in point – but not the historical cases under scrutiny: ‘normal’ executions seem not to have required drastic post mortem measures to keep the victims’ ghosts at bay. Moreover, as any horror movie buff knows, denial of proper burial is often not a good way to prevent vengeful spirits from coming after you.7 Standard explanations also include the notion that mutilation was meant to humiliate defeated enemies, to punish them post mortem, and to destroy their identity and erase them from memory.8 To some, this type of cruelty is a typically imperial form of violence.9 An elaboration of that idea is the assumption that the ‘high visibility punishment’ of enemies was intended to discourage others from resisting.10 I agree, but I also think there was more to it; after all, punishment only has a limited deterrent effect in actuality. Finally, some have maintained that the cruelty of (‘eastern’) kings was above all a literary trope, viz. a form of orientalist stereotyping.11 But the wide attestation of the theatrical disfigurement of significant enemies by Assyrian and Persian rulers, as revealed by their own propaganda, suggests that these, and comparable Macedonian cases, are based – at least to a high degree – on historical fact.12 My hypothesis is that by these ritualized acts of cruelty, political rivals were constructed as rebels (or usurpers) – and that by extension their victorious adversaries became legitimate sovereigns. Following the accounts in Polybios, Molon and Achaios are usually seen by modern historians as rebels against the king, Antiochos III. Rebels however are rarely rebels in the eyes of their supporters; they are constructed as such by their opponents.13 The political scientist Murray Edelman wrote: Opponents in politics are not necessarily enemies, for some opponents are respected and accepted as legitimate. The distinction between unacceptable and acceptable opponents, or



9 10 11 12 13

For the evil dead of ancient Greece, see Johnston 1999 and Ogden 2008; in Greek vernacular, the word ἀλάστωρ denoted the restless ghost of either a person who had suffered a violent death or of a person guilty of murder; Marino 2010. In Mesopotamia, very generally speaking, the unburied victims of lethal violence became roving ghosts, though not to seek revenge but because they did not receive nourishment through regular sacrifices; however, lack of nourishment could turn any dead person into a malevolent, even murderous spirit; Scurlock 1999. A proper burial, with all the appropriate honors, in all cases averted trouble with the dead – or with Death himself, who would try to compensate his loss if deprived of a soul; see Mendoza forthcoming. Hope 2000, 114f.; cf. Nylander 1980, 330, who notes with regard to the mutilation of statues that ‘one should make a distinction […] between a complete destruction of an image aiming at an annihilation of essence and identity, a damnatio memoriae, and, on the other hand, a selective disfiguration intended to demonstrate the defeat and humiliation of a known and still identifiable character, real or symbolical’. Lincoln 2007; Fuchs 2009. Radner 2015, 103. Colburn 2011; Zimmermann 2013, 56–86. For (the historicity of) Assyrian and Persian mutilation of enemies, see below. A point recently stressed by Chrubasik 2016, who argues that rebellion and usurpation formed a structural weakness of the Seleukid Empire, in opposition to the view of the Seleukid Empire as a ‘strong’, state-like polity as expressed notably by Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993 and Capdetrey 2007.


Rolf Strootman between enemies and adversaries, lies in whether the focus of attention is upon the inherent nature of the antagonist, or, instead, upon the tactics an opponent employs.14

I argue that, in the Seleukid context, ritual mutilation signified the inherently treacherous nature of alleged rebels. In other words, there is not just a political but also a moral dimension to it. Ritual mutilation of the corpse quite obviously was connected with the concept of treason: rebels against the king could be seen as having violated critical laws of friendship and loyalty.15 By betraying their king, they had attempted to upset the divinely ordained world order that the king championed, and thereby placed themselves outside of civilization. The alleged sub-human nature of these evil-doers was literally substantiated by the public exposure of their mutilated, rotting corpses – ‘a horror for all to see’.16 THE DOWNFALL OF MOLON AND ACHAIOS The first case of corporal defamation that Polybios has recorded for the reign of Antiochos III is that of Molon. The Macedonian Molon was satrap of Media and, by extension, ‘viceroy’ of the Upper Satrapies.17 In alliance with Achaios, he led a coalition of eastern satraps against the new king, Antiochos III. In 222 BCE, the year of Antiochos III’s accession,18 Molon invaded and conquered Babylonia. He assumed the diadem and struck coins at the mints of Susa, Ekbatana and Seleukeia with the legend BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ MOΛΩNOΣ.19 After having defeated two armies that were successively sent against him, Molon was finally beaten in 220 by the main Seleukid army led by Antiochos himself. Molon took his own life, ‘seeing before his eyes the treatment he would receive if he were taken alive’.20 The treatment (αἰκία) that Polybios hints at probably was the cutting off of nose and ears, the customary punishment of usurpers in the Achaemenid Empire; this probably was also the fate of Achaios, as we will see below. It is unlikely that Molon was spared defacement because he was already dead, as he still received the last part of the customary treatment: public exposure of his body and denial of burial: The king […] ordered Molon’s body (σῶμα) to be suspended (ἀνασταυρῶσαι) in the most conspicuous place in Media. This sentence was at once executed by the men charged with it, who

14 Edelman 1988, 67. 15 Strootman 2014, 148f. The focus on ritual here builds upon my 2007 PhD dissertation The Hellenistic Royal Court, which studied (among other things) Hellenistic royal ritual as a means to obtain and redistribute power, and to create elite allegiance to the dynasty. Central to this paper, too, is the construction of elite allegiance in the context of the imperial court. 16 Above, n. 1. 17 See below, n. 29. 18 For the date of Antiochos’ succession, see Del Monte 1997, 200–202; cf. Hunger 2006, 162f. 19 Houghton and Lorber, SC I.2, 949–951. 20 Polyb. 5.54.3: ὁ δὲ Μόλων συννοήσας τὸ γεγονὸς καὶ πανταχόθεν ἤδη κυκλούμενος, λαβὼν πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν τὰς ἐσομένας περὶ αὑτὸν αἰκίας.

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took the body to the Kallonitis and suspended it (ἀνεσταύρωσαν) at the ascent of Mount Zagros.21

Molon’s corpse was to be hung up at a conspicuous site along a well-travelled road: near the western entrance of the mountain passes along the Upper Diyālā that connected Mesopotamia to Media.22 It was a liminal and symbolic location: lying between the eastern highlands and central lowlands, this was the site where Molon’s army had first emerged from the Upper Satrapies to attack Mesopotamia. As in the case of Achaios, Polybios is not clear about the way that Molon’s body was suspended (see below). He does underline, however, that Molon receives this punishment because of his betrayal of the king, especially in the famous passage where Hermeias tells Antiochos that ‘to fight against rebels (ἀποστάται) was the business of generals (stratēgoi), but that the king himself should plan the operations and command in the decisive battles against other kings (sc. Ptolemy IV).’23 Polybios contrasts the harsh treatment of Molon with Antiochos’ mildness towards Molon’s army,24 but also says that his ‘first-minister’ Hermeias put many (prominent) citizens of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris who had supported Molon ‘to death with various tortures, by mutilation (ἀκρωτηριάζων), the sword, and the rack’.25 Polybios’ account of the downfall and death of Achaios in many ways resembles that of Molon.26 The two leaders not only were allies, they were also among the most powerful men serving the former king, Seleukos III.27 Fear of losing their positions of power under the new king may have prompted their revolts in the first place:28 Molon apparently was the highest-ranking satrap in western Iran.29 Achaios was ‘viceroy’ of Asia Minor.30 He was at the head of the most influential family in

21 Polyb. 5.54.6f.: ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς διαρπάσας τὴν παρεμβολὴν τῶν πολεμίων, τὸ μὲν σῶμα τοῦ Μόλωνος ἀνασταυρῶσαι προσέταξε κατὰ τὸν ἐπιφανέστατον τόπον τῆς Μηδίας. ὃ καὶ παραχρῆμα συνετέλεσαν οἱ πρὸς τούτοις τεταγμένοι: διακομίσαντες γὰρ εἰς τὴν Καλλωνῖτιν πρὸς αὐταῖς ἀνεσταύρωσαν ταῖς εἰς τὸν Ζάγρον ἀναβολαῖς. 22 Wiesehöfer 1999; cf. Walbank, HCP I 583. 23 Polyb. 5.45.6: Ἑρμείας δέ, τηρῶν τὴν ἐξ ἀρχῆς πρόθεσιν ἐπὶ μὲν τὸν Μόλωνα Ξενοίταν τὸν Ἀχαιὸν ἐξέπεμψε στρατηγὸν αὐτοκράτορα μετὰ δυνάμεως, φήσας δεῖν πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἀποστάτας στρατηγοῖς πολεμεῖν, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς βασιλεῖς αὐτὸν ποιεῖσθαι τὸν βασιλέα καὶ τὰς ἐπιβολὰς καὶ τοὺς ὑπὲρ τῶν ὅλων ἀγῶνας; cf. Polyb. 5.57.4 on the Kyrrhestai ‘who were in revolt against the king’ (Κυρρησταῖς τοῖς ἀποστάταις γεγονόσι τοῦ βασιλέως). 24 Polyb. 5.54.8. 25 Polyb. 5.54.10: Ἑρμείας δὲ τηρῶν τὴν αὑτοῦ προαίρεσιν ἐπέφερε μὲν αἰτίας τοῖς ἐν τῇ Σελευκείᾳ καὶ χιλίοις ἐζημίου ταλάντοις τὴν πόλιν, ἐφυγάδευε δὲ τοὺς καλουμένους Ἀδειγάνας, ἀκρωτηριάζων δὲ καὶ φονεύων καὶ στρεβλῶν πολλοὺς διέφθειρε τῶν Σελευκέων. Note that by ἀκρωτηριάζειν Greek authors normally understood the cutting off of the ears and nose, cf. n. 34 below. Hermeias generally receives bad press from Polybios, who presents him as a typical ‘evil favourite’ who controlled the king; see Strootman 2017, 122–124. 26 In books 5 and 8. 27 Polyb. 5.41.1. 28 Strootman 2011, 72–74. 29 Polyb. 5.43.6. 30 Polyb. 5.40.7; cf. 4.48.10–13.


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Asia Minor and he was the brother of Laodike, the mother of both Seleukos III and Antiochos III.31 Like Molon, Achaios did not accept Antiochos as king, or else he objected to the influence at court of his rival, Hermeias. He entered into an alliance with Molon and assumed the diadem in Phrygia in 220, backed by Ptolemy IV and legitimated by his military successes in Asia Minor after the death of Seleukos III.32 Although his invasion of Syria failed, he became the ruler of his own Anatolian empire. In 216, Antiochos III attacked him in Asia Minor, and assisted by his ally, Attalos I, defeated him. Achaios was thereupon besieged in the citadel of Sardeis. In 214/13, he was lured out of the citadel and captured. He was tried and convicted by the royal synedrion, that is, by his peers: At the subsequent meeting of the council (συνεδρίον), there were many proposals as to the proper punishment to inflict on him, and it was decided to cut off in the first place the extremities (ἀκρωτηριάσαι) of the unhappy one, and then, after cutting off his head and sewing it up in an ass’ skin, to suspend (ἀνασταυρῶσαι) his body.33

The verb ἀκρωτηριάζειν normally indicates the removal of nose and ears,34 though it also sometimes refers to the removal of the tongue.35 The only parallel, more or less, to the sewing up of Achaios’ head in a sack made of an ass’ skin is in Herodotos, where Tomyris puts Cyrus’ head in a leather sack filled with human blood.36 In the pre-Hellenistic Near East, decapitation was a common form of mutilation of defeated enemies in war-related figurative sources, and like the disfigurement of the face served to deconstruct the victims’ identities as human beings (see below).37 Moreover, beheading is the best proof of death because the face remains recognizable after decapitation.38 But separating the head from the body can also be a means to prevent the victim from having a normal, quiet afterlife. Polybios seems to imply that Achaios’ mutilated corpse was suspended in view of the occupants of the citadel (including his wife, Laodike). This makes sense. 31 Polyb. 4.51.4; 8.20.11. On this powerful family, see McAuley 2018. 32 Polyb. 5.41.1; 5.57.2; 5.66.3. On Achaios’ revolt and six-year reign in Asia Minor, see Ma 2002, 54–63; Chrubasik 2016, 66–120. I was not yet able to consult D’Agostini 2018. 33 Polyb. 8.21.2f.: καθίσαντος δὲ τοῦ συνεδρίου, πολλοὶ μὲν ἐγίνοντο λόγοι περὶ τοῦ τίσι δεῖ κατ᾽ αὐτοῦ χρήσασθαι τιμωρίαις: ἔδοξε δ᾽ οὖν πρῶτον μὲν ἀκρωτηριάσαι τὸν ταλαίπωρον, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποτεμόντας αὐτοῦ καὶ καταρράψαντας εἰς ὄνειον ἀσκὸν ἀνασταυρῶσαι τὸ σῶμα. On the synedrion, see Strootman 2014, 172–174. 34 Walbank HCP II 97. 35 See, e.g., 2Macc 7.4. 36 Hdt. 1.214.4; cf. Walbank HCP II 97, discussing (and rejecting) several far-fetched interpretations of the ass’ skin sack. It is usually assumed that Polybios owed little or nothing to Herodotos; see, however, McGing 2001, arguing that Herodotos had a profound effect on Polybios. 37 Minunno 2008; Dolce 2017, 7–10. Also see Muller 2016, arguing that decapitation was part of a victory ritual in the Achaemenid Empire (as suggested by Greek sources). Alexander later received the cut-off heads of Parmenion (Curt. 7.2.32) and Spitamenes (Arr. Anab. 4.17.7); shortly before the Battle of Gaugamela he received the head of Ariston, commander of his Paionian cavalry, who had been decapitated by the Persian Satropates (Curt. 4.9.24f.; Plut. Alex. 39.2); cf. Mendoza forthcoming, n. 50. 38 Tracy and Massey 2012, 4.

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News of Achaios’ death was used by Antiochos’ negotiators to discourage the defenders and persuade them to surrender. The historicity of Polybios’ elaborate account of the ensuing commotion and sorrow in the citadel however is problematic, as its composition reflects rather directly the end of Book XXII of the Iliad.39 Polybios insinuates that Achaios’ rule was legitimate in the eyes of some – including the Ptolemaic court – but that he was a ‘traitor’ (ἀποστάτης) in the eyes of Antiochos and his entourage and that this was the reason for the extreme punishment he received. During the negotiations after the Battle of Raphia (217 BC), Ptolemy IV had suggested including Achaios in the treaty as if he was Antiochos’ equal; Antiochos, however, ‘refused to listen to this, thinking it a scandalous thing that Ptolemy should venture to take rebels (ἀποστάται) under his protection or even allude to such persons’.40 Polybios describes the treatment of both Molon’s and Achaios’ corpse with the word ἀνασταυρο ῦν, which is commonly used by Greek historians to denote post mortem suspension (as opposed to ἀνασκολοπίξειν: ante mortem suspension).41 With ἀνασταυρο ῦν sometimes impalement is meant.42 This is the translation modern historians favour on the basis of Assyrian and Achaemenid precedent.43 However, it is not at all certain that Polybios refers specifically to impalement (or crucifixion, for that matter).44 He more likely means ‘suspension’ of the body in a general sense, regardless of the precise method. Not that the details matter much. What does matter is that both Molon and Achaios were denied burial and that their mutilated corpses were displayed in public. THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO SELEUKID MUTILATION RITUAL The ritual mutilation and exposure of the bodies of people who violated important rules of conduct is a phenomenon of all times. It can be understood as an attempt to dehumanize the perpetrator and punish him in a manner appropriate to his crime. Relevant for understanding the two Seleukid cases is the fact that, in Classical Greece, this form of stereotyping was connected to the violation of philia.45 Denial 39 Polyb. 8.21.4–11. The intertextual parallels with the commotion in Troy after the death and despoilment of Hektor, and especially the simile of Laodike and Andromache, have been pointed out by D’Agostini 2014; cf., e.g., Iliad 22.337 (Achilles to Hektor): ‘dogs and vultures shall work their will upon yourself’ (transl. Butler). Fleischer 1973–1975 has argued that the Hellenistic sculpture Apollo and Marsyas reflected the death of Achaios, but I am not convinced. 40 Polyb. 5.67.13: Ἀντίοχος δὲ καθάπαξ οὐδὲ λόγον ἠνείχετο περὶ τούτων, δεινὸν ἡγούμενος τὸ καὶ τολμᾶν τὸν Πτολεμαῖον περιστέλλειν τοὺς ἀποστάτας καὶ μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι περί τινος τῶν τοιούτων. On the silence cast over usurpers or enemies, see also Ramsey, ch. 10 in this volume. 41 Samuelson 2011, 41–64; cf., e.g., Hdt. 3.125.2; 6.30.1; 7.194.1; 9.78.3–79. 42 Cf., e.g., Ktesias, FGrH 3c, 688 F 14.39; Xen. An. 3.1.17. 43 E.g., Walbank HCP II 97. 44 Samuelsson 2011, 75f. 45 Belfiore 2000. In Classical literature, denial of burial in particular seems to have been a standard punishment for treason, as expressed most famously in Sophokles’ Antigone; see above,


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of burial was also a punishment for the culprit’s family, who were refused the right to mourn. In the Hellenistic empires, philia was the glue that held together imperial networks, and violating one’s philia with the king was considered the highest form of treason.46 An early-Hellenistic case is Kleitos the Black; seen as a traitor of the king, Kleitos initially was denied burial after Alexander had killed him.47 The conceptualization of hostile kings as ‘traitors’, of war as ‘rebellion’, and of rebellion as a form of ‘impiety’ has a long tradition in the Near East. On Neo-Assyrian imperial inscriptions, enemy kings are routinely marginalized as the ‘evil enemy’ or ‘traitor brother’, and they were treated accordingly.48 The amputation of nose and ears in the case of Achaios makes pre-Hellenistic ‘eastern’ precedent likely.49 Greek authors sometimes present such violence as typically barbarian, especially Persian cruelty.50 This does not mean, however, that these images were not rooted in reality. The accounts in Herodotos in particular have been shown to be close to what the Achaemenid imperial sources say (in contrast to the more stereotyped images in Ktesias).51 Extreme violence against rebels and usurpers was of course never rendered in a negative light in Assyrian or Achaemenid imperial self-presentation.52 From an emic point of view, these atrocities were all very much justified. The brutal acts of violence inflicted upon prisoners on Neo-Assyrian palace reliefs and in the royal inscriptions – flaying, blinding, impalement – were connected with kingship, and especially the king’s pivotal role as guardian of law and order (and as such the only one who could rightfully make others suffer).53 In an account of his victories against the supporters of a ‘rebel’ king in the Assyrian homeland, Ashurbanipal II claimed that after the fall of the city of Tēla, I felled 3,000 of their fighting men with the sword. I carried off prisoners, possessions, oxen, (and) cattle from them. I burnt many captives from them. I captured many troops alive: from some I cut off their arms (and) hands; from others I cut off their noses, ears, (and) extremities.

46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53

n. 1. More references from Classical literature and historiography have been collected by Mendoza 2018. Above, n. 15. Curt. 8.2.12. Liverani 1981, 52. This is generally accepted by modern historians: already Van Proosdij 1934, and more recently Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 189; Ma 2002, 61; Ehling 2007, 498; Kosmin 2014, 326, n. 84; Chrubasik 2016, 120. Jacobs 2009; Rollinger 2010; but cf. Bardel 2002, showing that in Greek literature the cutting off of one’s bodily extremities is a custom not at all limited to non-Greeks. See also n. 57 below. Rollinger 2010; cf. Strid 2006. Classical authors also projected their views of Persian cruelty retrospectively on the Assyrians (Lanfranchi 2010). Zimmermann 2013, 56–86. Minunno 2008; Fuchs 2009; cf. Radner 2015. In Babylon, death penalties are rare before the Hellenistic period, but when they do occur, it is the prerogative of the king to impose them; Kleber 2012, 224. Under the Seleukids, public execution and torture became more common, aiming especially at the ritual restoration of divine order and cultic purity in response to crimes committed against temples; Kleber 2012, 225f.

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I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the bodies (and) one of the heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city.54

The conceptualization of oath breaking as a crime against the gods is emphatically expressed in the oath that concludes the treaty imposed by Esarhaddon upon king Ba’al of Tyre in 675/4 BC, in which a plethora of Assyrian and Tyrian deities are invoked to intimidate Ba’al. If Ba’al breaks his oath (i.e., rebels against Esarhaddon), May the Seven Gods, the Warrior Gods, cause your [downfall] with their [fierce] weapons. May Bethel and Anath-Bethel deliver you to a man-eating lion. May the Great Gods of Heaven and Earth, the gods of Assyria, the gods of Akkad, and the gods of Eber-nari (sc. the Levant/Syria) curse you with an indissoluble curse. May Baal-sameme, Baal-malage and Baalsaphon raise an evil wind against your ships […]. May Melqart and Ešmun deliver your land to destruction, your people to be deported. […] May Astarte break your bow in the thick of battle and have you crouch at the feet of your enemy, [and] may a foreign enemy divide your belongings.55

In the Achaemenid imperial inscriptions, too, alleged rebels are characterized as ‘oath breakers’, and the preferred punishment is defacement followed by impalement.56 In the Bīsotūn Inscription, Darius I explicates how he punished an especially dangerous opponent, Fravartiš of Media: Fravartiš, who called himself king in Media, came with his army against me to join battle. Then we joined battle. Ahuramazda helped me; by the favour of Ahuramazda, I utterly defeated the army of Fravartiš. […] Fravartiš was seized; he was brought before me. I cut off his nose, ears, and tongue, and tore out one eye. He was held in fetters at my palace entrance; all the people saw him. After that, I impaled him at Ekbatana; and the men who were his foremost followers, those I hung up in Ekbatana in the fortress.57

Another rival of Darius, Ciçataxma, received a similar treatment: A man called Ciçataxma, a Sagartian, rebelled against me; he said to the people: “I am king in Sagartia, of the family of Uvaxštra.” Then I sent a Persian and Median army (against him). […] By the favour of Ahuramazda, my army defeated the rebel army and they took Ciçataxma prisoner and brought him to me. After that I cut off his nose and ears and tore out one eye. He was

54 Annals of Ashurnasirpal I, ll. 115–118; transl. Grayson 1996, 189–223, esp. 201. 55 Pritchard ANET 534. 56 See most recently Waters 2016. The conspicuous absence of pictorial representations of cruelty in Achaemenid self-presentation is discussed by Jacobs 2009. The complex relationship between violence and the establishment of order in the Achaemenid Empire is discussed by Lincoln 2007, whose views, however, are challenged by Colburn 2011. 57 Inscription of Darius I at Bīsotūn (DB) II § 31–32; transl. Kuhrt 2007, 145f. (Old Persian version), with minor adjustments. In the pre-Hellenistic Near East, blindness was regarded as the lowest type of degradation that could be inflicted upon a warrior, and the gouging out of one or two eyes was typically a punishment for treason; cf. Llewellyn-Jones 2013, 174f., who furthermore argues that the Great King’s control over the sight of others was a demonstration of his great power.


Rolf Strootman held in fetters at my palace entrance; all the people saw him. After that, I hung him up at Arbela.58

Darius was a usurper himself. In § 52 of the Bīsotūn Inscription, he presents his rivals as ‘liar-kings’, thus denying them legitimacy in spite of their own assumption of regal names that suggested membership of ruling dynasties terminated by Cyrus.59 Thus, the leader of a revolt in Pārsa, the Persian heartland, claimed to be Bardiya, the son of Cyrus and a brother of the previous king, Kambyses; he was supported by the nobility of Anšan, Cyrus’ original kingdom.60 Both Ciçataxma and Fravartiš claimed to be scions of the royal house of Media.61 Darius presents them as liars, but these notorious rebels likely had more legitimacy (and thus support) than Darius’ account claims they had.62 But the association of Darius’ opponents with the ‘Lie’ (drauga-) places them on the wrong side of a cosmic battle between order and chaos, while their very downfall demonstrates that Ahuramazda has rejected them and supports Darius.63 In the previous section, we saw how the head of Achaios was lopped off and put in a sack. In the Achaemenid Empire, decapitation was a punishment inflicted especially on defeated rebels and usurpers.64 Herodotos records how Darius and his co-conspirators cut off the heads of the magi who had supported Smerdis and showed these to the other Persians.65 After the Battle of Thermopylai, the body of Leonidas – a rebel leader in the eyes of the Persians – was decapitated and suspended;66 and after the Battle of Kunaxa, the head and right hand were cut off of the corpse of Cyrus the Younger.67

58 DB) II § 33. Uvaxštra, Herodotos’ Kyaxares, was the last reigning king of Media. The Sagartians are called a Persian tribe (γένος) in Hdt. 1.125 and 7.85, but the impalement of Ciçataxma at the Median centre Arbela suggests that like Fravartiš he was a Mede (the location of Sagartia, however, is unknown). The Elamite and Babylonian versions of the Bīsotūn Inscription add that Fravartiš’ close associates were also beheaded and their corpses displayed at Ekbatana (Kuhrt 2007, 155). 59 Briant 2002, 120. 60 DB II § 40. 61 Cf. DB II § 52. 62 This is also cautiously suggested by Briant 2002, 212. 63 The Old Persian term drauga- (‘lie’ or ‘falsehood’) is often used in Achaemenid imperial inscriptions to designate chaos or rebellion (also as draujana-, ‘liar’, sc. ‘evildoer’, rebel’; or as durujiya, ‘to lie’); cf. Lecoq 1997, 163f.; Kuhrt 2007, 471f. Its opposite, arta, ‘truth’, to be associated with the order, peace and harmony that the king protects in the name of Ahuramazda, only occurs on the so-called Daivā Inscriptions of Xerxes from Persepolis and Pasargadai; Abdi 2007, 59. Apparently the order that the king protected was implicit in the destruction of the Lie that Darius achieved through his victories over the Liar Kings. 64 Muller 2016. 65 Hdt. 3.79. 66 Hdt. 7.238. 67 Xen. An. 1.10.1.

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THE EXECUTION OF ARTAXERXES V (BESSOS) The link between the Achaemenids and Seleukids is obviously Alexander’s execution of Artaxerxes V (Bessos) in 329 BC.68 In 330 BC, Darius III, en route to Baktria, had been deposed and then killed by a group of high-ranking Persian nobles under the leadership of Bessos and Nabarzanes.69 Shortly thereafter, Bessos assumed the imperial τιάρα ὀρθὴ and the throne name Artaxerxes (V).70 Artaxerxes V had more legitimacy than our Greco-Roman sources suggest. Because he had been defeated in battle twice, Darius must have appeared an unworthy king in the eyes of many of his nobles. Bessos was an acceptable alternative because he was a kinsman of Darius, and perhaps a member of the Achaemenid house.71 He, moreover, was the satrap of the important province of (Greater) Baktria.72 Bessos initially was accepted as Great King by the satraps of eastern Iran.73 But after his own capture by a group of disaffected nobles in the spring of 329 BC,74 Bessos-Artaxerxes was brought in fetters before Alexander, stripped of his regalia and royal attire.75 Arrian, following Ptolemy, writes: Alexander had Bessos brought before a full assembly and accused him of treachery to Darius. He then gave orders that his nose and the tips of his ears should be cut off, and that thus mutilated he should be taken to Ekbatana to suffer public execution before his own countrymen, the Medes and the Persians.76

Arrian does not say whether Bessos’ dead body was impaled at Ekbatana, but he does say that, before his execution, he was made to stand by the side of the road along which the Macedonian army would march, naked and held up by a chain around his neck (attached to a pole?).77 Bessos’ nakedness, i.e. the removal of the external signs of his status, denoted not only his role reversal from king to the opposite of king, but also his exclusion from the community of his peers.78 Arrian emphasizes that the crime for which Bessos is punished, is his betrayal (προδοσία) of Darius. Arrian also emphasizes that this type of punishment is a ‘barbaric’, Persian custom, to be associated with Alexander’s alleged Persianization.79 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76

77 78 79

Curt. 7.5.36–43. Diod. 17.73.2; Arr. Anab. 3.21.10; Curt. 5.13.24–25. On the episode, see Bosworth 2008, 96. Arr. Anab. 3.25.3; van der Spek and Finkel BCHP 1. Arr. Anab. 3.21.5; cf. Jacobs 1992, 182. Arr. Anab. 3.8.3 and 3.21.4; Curt. 4.6.2; Diod. 17.73.2. As Darius’ chiliarch (i.e., his hazarpat, or major-domo; cf. Sancisi-Weerdenburg 1980, 176), Nabarzanes likewise was a man of very high rank and status; see Arr. Anab. 3.21.1, 23.4; cf. Curt. 3.7.12–15. See Bosworth 2008, 99f. Arr. Anab. 3.30.5; 4.7.3f. Curt. 7.5.36. Arr. Anab. 4.7.3: ἔνθα δὴ ξύλλογον ἐκ τῶν παρόντων ξυναγαγὼν Ἀλέξανδρος παρήγαγεν ἐς αὐτοὺς Βῆσσον: καὶ κατηγορήσας τὴν Δαρείου προδοσίαν τήν τε ῥῖνα Βήσσου ἀποτμηθῆναι καὶ τὰ ὦτα ἄκρα ἐκέλευσεν, αὐτὸν δὲ ἐς Ἐκβάτανα ἄγεσθαι, ὡς ἐκεῖ ἐν τῷ Μήδων τε καὶ Περσῶν ξυλλόγῳ ἀποθανούμενον. Transl. De Sélincourt, with corrections. Arr. Anab. 3.30.3. Cf. Westerhof 2007, 106. Arr. Anab. 4.7.4.


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That this is therefore a Roman-era invention is nevertheless improbable.80 As we have seen, the cutting off of ears and nose, and often also an eye, is a well-attested Achaemenid punishment for (alleged) traitors, particularly usurpers. Curtius, who gives the most extensive account of the disfigurement of Bessos, adds several details that confirm the impression that Bessos’ punishment was in accordance with Persian customs. Most of all, he underlines that Bessos was convicted and punished by his peers: Alexander advanced from there to the river Tanais, where Bessos was brought to him, not only in fetters but entirely stripped of his clothes. Spitamenes held him with a chain around his neck, a sight that afforded as much pleasure to the barbarians as to the Macedonians. […] Alexander told Darius’ brother Oxathres (who was one of his Bodyguards) to approach him, and had Bessos put in his charge. Bessos was to be hung on a cross, his ears and nose cut off, and the barbarians were to shoot arrows into him and also protect his body from the carrion birds. Oxathres promised to take care of everything but added that the birds could be kept off only by Katanes, whose superb marksmanship Oxathres wished to put on display. Katanes, in fact, was so accurate in hitting what he aimed at that he could even pick off birds. […] Gifts were then awarded by Alexander to all responsible for bringing in Bessos, but his execution he postponed so that he could be killed in the very spot where he had himself murdered Darius.81

The way that Bessos is brought before Alexander – stripped of his regalia and led by a cord or chain around his neck – is reminiscent of the pictorial representation of the captured rebel leaders who are led before Darius I on the Bīsotūn Relief.82 That, too, points to a Persian type of punishment in the case of Bessos. Indeed, the shooting of arrows to keep carrion birds away has been interpreted as an attempt to deny Bessos’ body proper proto-Zoroastrian inhumation.83 The execution of Bessos can thus be safely associated with Alexander’s attempt to be accepted as a 80 However, the fanciful execution method described in Plut. Alex. 43.6 can be rejected. 81 Curt. 7.5.40–43; transl. Yardley 1984. Inde processit ad Tanain amnem. Quo perductus est Bessus non vinctus modo, sed etiam omni velamento corporis spoliatus. Spitamenes eum tenebat collo inserta catena, tam barbaris quam Macedonibus gratum spectaculum. […] Et Alexander Oxathren, fratrem Darei, quem inter corporis custodes habebat, propius iussit accedere tradique Bessum ei, ut cruci adfixum mutilatis auribus naribusque sagittis configerent barbari adservarentque corpus, ut ne aves quidem contingerent. Oxathres cetera sibi curae fore pollicetur: aves non ab alio quam a Catane posse prohiberi adicit eximiam eius artem cupiens ostendere: namque adeo certo ictu destinata feriebat, ut aves quoque exciperet. […] Dona deinde omnibus, qui Bessum adduxerant, data sunt. Ceterum supplicium eius distulit, ut eo loco, in quo Dareum occiderat, ipse necaretur. Cf. 7.10.10: ‘[Alexander] gave orders for Bessos to be transferred from [Baktra] to Ekbatana, where he would pay for the murder of Darius with his life.’ Yardley 1984, 291, n. 60, suggests that ‘Curtius (or his source) attempted to reconcile two versions, one of which has Bessos executed on the spot (7.5.40), the other sending him to Ecbatana for punishment’. On the history of specifically (Roman) crucifixion, see the overview in Cook 2015. 82 Jacobs 1992, 182. 83 Jacobs 1992. The Achaemenids, as is well-known, were not Zoroastrians and the Persian nobility in Alexander’s time still preferred burial, perhaps with wax embalming; see De Jong 1997, 437. In Central Asia, however, inhumation may have already been the norm; see now the extensive discussion of the various Iranian burial practices encountered by Alexander in Mendoza forthcoming (I am grateful for an advance copy).

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legitimate king by the Persian nobility.84 Like Arrian, Curtius, too, emphasizes the treacherous nature (perfidia, parricidium) of Bessos,85 and apparently thinks of him as a ‘false king’.86 That likely was the image Alexander wanted to convey, precisely because Bessos was acceptable as Great King in the eyes of many powerful Iranian leaders in the east, and therefore he posed a huge threat to Alexander.87 By having Bessos executed as a ‘liar king’, Alexander presented himself as the legitimate king who had restored peace and harmony to the world by putting an end to the chaos and violence of rebellion. CONCLUSION What is a rebel? Ambrose Bierce accurately defined ‘insurrection’ as ‘an unsuccessful revolution’ (or: ‘failure to substitute misrule for bad government’).88 Usurpers are usurpers because they lack legitimacy. But that lack of legitimacy usually is constructed by a ruler’s adversaries, and often only after a failure to seize power. Without some basic legitimacy, usurpers will not be able to find sufficient support. A successful usurper like Darius I could afterwards become legitimate by presenting his opponents as illegitimate. Conversely, revolt can be legitimized by ‘framing’ the reigning monarch as a ‘false king’, like the Cyrus Cylinder does with Nabopolassar or 1 Maccabees with Antiochos IV. Antiochos III may not have been a usurper, but his legitimacy apparently could be disputed, for that is what Molon and Achaios did. Antiochos made a great effort to ‘dehumanize’, and thereby frame as rebels, Molon and Achaios, who both had been very successful as the creators of their own charismatic monarchies. If the ritual mutilation and public suspension of Molon and Achaios was based on Achaemenid precedent, a similar function may be assumed for these rituals as was current in the pre-Hellenistic Near East. This, first of all, implies that by mutilating their bodies and denying them burial, the usurper’s identity and humanity were deconstructed. They stopped being kings and became rebels, placed outside of the civilized order. We do not know the aims of Molon’s and Achaios’ revolts; it is tempting to hypothesize that Achaios championed the line of Seleukos III, but no wife or children of Seleukos III are known. Perhaps Achaios wanted to usurp the 84 But compare the execution of the ‘traitor’ Philotas, who (according to Arr. Anab. 3.26.3) was ‘shot to death by the Macedonians’ (κατακοντισθῆναι πρὸς τῶν Μακεδόνων). Curt. 6.11.10 however claims that Philotas was first tortured and then stoned to death ‘according to Macedonian custom’ (Macedonum more obrui saxis); cf. 6.11.38; also Diod. 17.80.2: κατὰ τὸ τῶν Μακεδόνων ἔθος … ἐθανατώθη. Alexandros the Lynkestian was executed at the same time, perhaps in a similar manner, as Diod. 17.80.2 seems to suggest, or by being ‘run through with lances’ by his peers (Curt. 7.1.9; cf. Just. 11.7.1f.). On Alexandros’ ‘disloyalty’, see Carney 1980. 85 E.g., Curt. 7.5.19; 7.6.15. 86 Curt. 7.5.39: Sed huius parricidii mercedem falso regis nomine persolvisti tibi. 87 A point emphasized especially by Bosworth 2008, 99f. and 108. 88 Bierce 1911, s.v. ‘Insurrection’.


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Seleukid diadem for himself; but Polybios suggests that when Achaios ‘assumed the diadem and styled himself king’, his royal pretensions initially did not extend to the whole of the empire but were limited to Anatolia.89 Molon (who did not himself belong to the imperial family), with his attempted conquest of Mesopotamia, may have aimed at creating an empire of his own. Achaios and Molon both had reason to fear that their powerful position was at risk because of the accession of Antiochos III and the rise to power of his minster-favourite, Hermeias.90 Both Molon and Achaios had gained military victories to legitimize their assumption of the diadem. Indeed, they both may have aimed at challenging Antiochos to do battle and let the verdict of battle decide who was most favoured by the gods and by Fate, just as Alexander did with Darius III.91 Imperial and royal ideology should not be analyzed for its ‘meaning’ as if it were a literary text; it is rather an instrument of power that can be studied for its practical effects. The specific rituals discussed in this paper have the function of bestowing legitimacy upon a ruler, winning acceptance with the imperial elite, and enhancing a sense of community among the members of that elite. After all, the alleged rebels that were executed were not leaders of local uprisings but member of the king’s own peer group, the royal philoi. Alleged violation of philia is precisely what made them traitors. G. Geltner has shown that, through the ages, corporal punishment is rarely devoid of meaning; it often is a means to imprint social norms upon the spectators.92 Forms of corporal punishment could be dependent on social status, ethnicity, or gender, and thereby ‘indexes the varieties of social otherness in a given society at a certain date’.93 Two further conclusions of Geltner’s study can help us clarify the cases discussed in this paper. First, there usually is an element of mimesis in corporal punishment: the form of punishment reflects the crime, as when the thief loses his hand, and the murderer is himself killed. Second, there is an element of proportionality: the severity of the punishment indicates a social group’s estimation of the severity of the crime relative to that of other crimes. In the case of Molon and Achaios, their bodies certainly were made to signify the graveness of their crime. Achaios, like Bessos before him (not to mention Philotas), was condemned by a jury of his peers. This is relevant, too. Danielle Westerhof has emphasized the normative aspects of the eradication of a traitor from the circle of his peers; it is no surprise, she writes, ‘to find in the public executions for treason an emphasis on degrading, humiliating and even destroying the body of the corrupted aristocrat, as a warning for his ex-peers but also as a means to redraw and strengthen the normative boundaries of elite identity’.94

89 90 91 92 93 94

Polyb. 4.48.10–12. On faction struggles at the court of Antiochos III, see Strootman 2011, 74–81. On military victory as legitimization of kingship, see Gehrke 2013; cf. Chaniotis 2005. Geltner 2015. Geltner 2015, 26. Westerhof 2007, 106 (phrased in the context of Medieval England, but fitting the examples presented here, too).

Ritual Mutilation and the Construction of Treason


I have argued that ritual mutilation and the denial of burial was not a punishment for treason or rebellion, but a ritual act by which treason or rebellion was constructed as a category of social conduct: a means to present the elimination of internal opponents as legitimate while at the same time removing legitimacy from the executed rival. The public display of the mutilated body of the alleged traitor thus also served to underline the legitimacy of his victorious opponent. BIBLIOGRAPHY Abdi, K. 2007: ‘The “Daivā” Inscription Revisited’, Nāme-ye Irān-e Bāstān: International Journal of Ancient Iranian Studies 6, 45–74. Bang, P.F. 2012: ‘Between Aśoka and Antiochos: An Essay in World History on Universal Kingship and Cosmopolitan Culture in the Hellenistic Ecumene’, in P.F. Bang and D. Kołodziejczyk (eds.), Universal Empire: A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, Cambridge, 60–75. Bardel, R. 2002: ‘Eunuchizing Agamemnon: Clytemnestra, Agamemnon and Maschalismos’, in S. Tougher (ed.), Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond, Swansea, 51–70. Belfiore, E.S. 2000: Murder Among Friends: Violation of Philia in Greek Tragedy, Oxford. Bierce, A. 1911: The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce. Vol. 7: The Devil’s Dictionary, New York. Bosworth, A.B. 2008: Conquest and Empire. The Reign of Alexander the Great, 10th ed., Cambridge. Briant, P. 2002: From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Translated by P.T. Daniels, Winona Lake. Byre, C.S. 1996: ‘The Killing of Apsyrtus in Apollonius Rhodius’ “Argonautica”’, Phoenix 50, 3– 16. Capdetrey, L. 2007: Le pouvoir séleucide. Territoire, administration, finances d’un royaume hellénistique (312–129 avant J.-C.), Rennes. Carney, E.D. 1980: ‘Alexander the Lyncestian: The Disloyal Opposition’, GRBS 20, 23–33. Ceulemans, R. 2007: ‘Ritual Mutilation in Apollonius Rhodius’ “Argonautica”: A Contextual Analysis of IV, 477–479 in Search of the Motive of the μασχαλισμός’, Kernos 20, 97–112. Chaniotis, A. 2005: ‘Victory Verdict: The Violent Occupation of Territory in Hellenistic Interstate Relations’, in J.-M. Bertrand (ed.), La violence dans les mondes grec et romain, Paris, 455– 464. Chrubasik, B. 2016: Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire: The Men Who Would Be King, Oxford. Colburn, H.P. 2011: ‘Orientalism, Postcolonialism, and the Achaemenid Empire: Meditations on Bruce Lincoln’s Religion, Empire, and Torture’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 54, 87–103. Cook, J.G. 2015: Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, Tübingen. D’Agostini, M. 2014: ‘The Shade of Andromache: Laodike of Sardis between Homer and Polybios’, Ancient History Bulletin 28, 37–60. D’Agostini, M. 2018: ‘Asia Minor and the Many Shades of a Civil War: Observations on Achaios the Younger and His Claim on the Kingdom of Anatolia’, in K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire, 281–222 BC: War Within the Family, Swansea, 59–81. De Jong, A. 1997: Traditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin Literature, Leiden. Del Monte, G.F. 1997: Testi dalla Babilonia Ellenistica. Vol. I: Testi Cronografici, Pisa. Dolce, R. 2017: Losing One’s Head in the Ancient Near East: Interpretation and Meaning of Decapitation, New York. Edelman, M.J. 2007: Constructing the Political Spectacle, Chicago. Ehling, K. 2007: ‘Der Tod des Usurpators Achaios’, Historia 56, 497–501.


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Fleischer, R. 1972–1975: ‘Marsyas und Achaios’, Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes 50, 103–122. Fuchs, F. 2009: ‘Waren die Assyrer grausam?’, in M. Zimmermann (ed.), Extreme Formen von Gewalt in Bild und Text des Altertums, Munich, 65–119. Gehrke, H.-J. 2013: ‘The Victorious King: Reflections on the Hellenistic Monarchy’, in N. Luraghi (ed.), The Splendors and Miseries of Ruling Alone: Encounters with Monarchy from Archaic Greece to the Hellenistic Mediterranean, Stuttgart, 73–98. Golan, D. 1988: ‘The Fate of a Court Historian, Callisthenes’, Athenaeum 66, 99–120. Hope, V.M. 2000: ‘Contempt and Respect: The Treatment of the Corpse in Ancient Rome’, in V.M. Hope and E. Marshall (eds.), Death and Disease in the Ancient City, London, 104–127. Houghton, A. and Lorber, C.C. 2002: Seleukid Coins: A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part I: Seleukos I through Antiochos III, 2 vols., New York. Hunger, H. 2006: Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. Vol. 6: Goal-Year Texts, Vienna. Garland, R. 1985: The Greek Way of Death, Ithaca, NY. Geltner, G. 2015: Flogging Others: Corporeal Punishment and Cultural Identity from Antiquity to the Present, Amsterdam. Grayson, A.K. 1996: Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC. Vol. 1: 1114–859 BC., Toronto. Jacobs, B. 1992: ‘Der Tod des Bessos. Ein Beitrag zur Frage des Verhältnisses der Achämeniden zur Lehre des Zoroastres’, Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica 24, 177–186. Jacobs, B. 2009: ‘Grausame Hinrichtungen -–friedliche Bilder. Zum Verhältnis der politischen Realität zu den Darstellungsszenarien der achämenidischen Kunst’, in M. Zimmermann (ed.), Extreme Formen von Gewalt in Bild und Text des Altertums, Munich, 121–153. Johnston, S.I. 1999: Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece, Berkeley. Kleber, K. 2012: ‘Staatlich sanktionierte Gewalt: Peinliche Befragung, Körper- und Todesstrafen in Babylonien (6.–2. Jh. v.Chr.)’, in H. Barta, M. Lang, and R. Rollinger (eds.), Strafe und Strafrecht in den antiken Welten. Unter Berücksichtigung von Todesstrafe, Hinrichtung und peinlicher Befragung, Wiesbaden, 215–232. Kuhrt, A. 2007: The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period, London. Lanfranchi, G.B. 2010: ‘Greek Historians and the Memory of the Assyrian Court’, in B. Jacobs and R. Rollinger (eds.), Der Achämenidenhof. Akten des 2. Internationalen Kolloquiums zum Thema „Vorderasien im Spannungsfeld klassischer und altorientalischer Überlieferungen“, Landgut Castelen bei Basel, 23.–25. Mai 2007, Wiesbaden, 39–66. Lecoq, P. 1997: Les inscriptions de la Perse achéménide, Paris. Lincoln, B. 2007: Religion, Empire, and Torture: The Case of Achaemenian Persia. With a Postscript on Abu Ghraib, Chicago. Liverani, M. 1981: ‘Kitru, kataru’, Mesopotamia 17, 43–66. Llewellyn-Jones, L. 2013: ‘“Empire of the Gaze”: Despotism and Seraglio Fantasies à la grecque in Chariton’s Callirhoe’, in S. Blundell, D. Cairns, and N. Rabinowitz (eds.), Vision and Viewing in Ancient Greece, 167–191. Ma, J. 2002: Antiochos III and the Cities of Western Asia Minor, 2nd ed., Oxford. Marino, B.A. 2010: ‘Violenza e memoria oltre l’umano’, in V. Andò and N. Cusumano (eds.), Come bestie? Forme e paradossi della violenza tra mondo antico e disagio contemporaneo, Caltanissetta, 63–76. Muller, Y. 2011: ‘Le “maschalismos”, une mutilation rituelle en Grèce ancienne?’, Ktèma 36, 269– 296. Muller, Y. 2016: ‘Religion, Empire and Mutilation: A Cross-Religious Perspective on Achaemenid Mutilation Practices’, in D. Edelman, A. Fitzpatrick-McKinley, and Ph. Guillaume (eds.), Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire: Emerging Judaism and Trends, Tübingen, 197–227.

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McAuley, A. 2018: ‘The House of Achaeus: The Missing Piece of the Anatolian Puzzle’, in K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire, 281–222 BC: War Within the Family, Swansea, 37–58. McGing, B. 2012: ‘Polybios and Herodotos’, in C. Smith and L.N. Yarrow (eds.), Imperialism, Cultural Politics, and Polybius, Oxford, 33–49. Mendoza, M. forthcoming: Alexander the Undertaker: Persians, Bactrians and ataphoi. The Persian Dead in the Classical Greek Authors, Anabasis. Minunno, G. 2008: ‘La mutilation du corps de l’ennemi’, in P. Abraham and L. Battini (eds.), Les armées du Proche-Orient ancien (IIIe–Ier mill. av. J.-C.). Actes du Colloque international organisé à Lyon les 1er et 2 décembre 2006, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Oxford, 247–255. Nylander, C. 1980: ‘Earless in Nineveh: Who Mutilated “Sargon’s” Head?’, AJArch 84, 329–333. Ogden, D. 2008: Night’s Black Agents: Witches, Wizards and the Dead in the Ancient World, London. Parker, R. 1983: Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion, Oxford. Petit, T. 2004: ‘Xénophon et la vassalité achéménide’, in C. Tuplin (ed.), Xenophon and His World. Papers from a Conference Held in Liverpool in July 1999, Stuttgart, 175–199. Pritchard, J.B. ANET: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ, 1969. Radner, K. 2015: ‘High Visibility Punishment and Deterrent: Impalement in Assyrian Warfare and Legal Practice’, Zeitschrift für altorientalische und biblische Rechtsgeschichte 21, 103–128. Radner, K. 2016: ‘Revolts in the Assyrian Empire: Succession Wars, Rebellions against a False King, and Independence Movements’, in J.J. Collins and J.G. Manning (eds.), Revolt and Resistance in the Ancient Classical World and the Near East: In the Crucible of Empire, Leiden, 41–54. Rollinger, R. 2010: ‘Extreme Gewalt und Strafgericht. Ktesias und Herodot als Zeugnisse’, in B. Jacobs and R. Rollinger (eds.), Der Achämenidenhof. Akten des 2. Internationalen Kolloquiums zum Thema „Vorderasien im Spannungsfeld klassischer und altorientalischer Überlieferungen“, Landgut Castelen bei Basel, 23.–25. Mai 2007, Wiesbaden, 559–666. Samuelsson, G. 2011: Crucifixion in Antiquity: An Inquiry into the Background and Significance of the New Testament Terminology of Crucifixion, Tübingen. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, H.W.A.M. 1980: Yaunā en Persai. Grieken en Perzen in een ander perspectief, PhD thesis, Leiden University. Scurlock, J. 1997: ‘Ghosts in the Ancient Near East: Weak or Powerful?’, Hebrew Union College Annual, 77–96. Sherwin-White, S. and Kuhrt, A. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire, London. Strid, O. 2006: ‘Voiceless Victims: Memorable Deaths in Herodotus’, CQ, 393–403. Strootman, R. 2011: ‘Hellenistic Court Society: The Seleukid Imperial Court under Antiochos the Great, 223–187 BCE’, in J. Duindam, M. Kunt, and T. Artan (eds.), Royal Courts in Dynastic States and Empires: A Global Perspective, Leiden, 63–89. Strootman, R. 2014: Courts and Elites in the Hellenistic Empires: The Near East After the Achaemenids, 330–30 BCE, Edinburgh. Strootman, R. 2017: ‘Eunuchs, Renegades and Concubines: The “Paradox of Power” and the Promotion of Favorites in the Hellenistic Empires’, in A. Erskine, L. Llewellyn-Jones, and S. Wallace (eds.), The Hellenistic Court: Monarchic Power and Elite Society from Alexander to Cleopatra, Swansea, 121–142. Tracy, L. and Massey, J. 2012: ‘Introduction’ in L. Tracy and J. Massey (eds.), Heads Will Roll: Decapitation in the Medieval and Early Modern Imagination, Leiden, 1–13. van der Spek, R.J. and Finkel, I. BCHP 1: ‘Alexander Chronicle’, on the Livius website. First published in 2004, last updated 2020: Van Proosdij, B.A. 1934: ‘De morte Achaei’, Hermes 69, 347–350.


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Walbank, F.W. HCP I–III: A Historical Commentary on Polybius, 3 vols., Oxford 1957, 1967, 1979. Waters, M.W. 2016: ‘Xerxes and the Oathbreakers: Empire and Rebellion on the Northwestern Front’, in J.J. Collins and J.G. Manning (eds.), Revolt and Resistance in the Ancient Classical World and the Near East: In the Crucible of Empire, Leiden, 93–102. Westerhof, D. 2007: ‘Deconstructing Identities on the Scaffold: The Execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger, 1326’, Journal of Medieval History 33.1, 87–106. Wiesehöfer, J. 1999: s.v. ‘Kallonitis’, in Der Neue Pauly VI, Stuttgart, online. Zimmermann, M. 2013: Gewalt. Die dunkle Seite der Antike, Munich.



Abstract: Polybios castigates Zeno of Rhodes for his account of the Battle of Panion, fought between Antiochos III and Ptolemy V’s Aitolian commander Skopas in 200 BCE, claiming that this is an example of how historians go wrong. Zeno’s battle account does indeed contain mistakes, but not only for those reasons Polybios gives or that modern scholars have hypothesized. Instead, the description of this important battle should be seen as the transmission of propaganda, as one element in the legitimization of Antiochos IV as ruler of the Seleukid kingdom. In this context, it appears that Polybios does not realize the full significance of his observation that there was only one Antiochos at the Battle of Panion. He thus misses the context behind the many errors of Zeno’s account. Zeno may in fact have conflated two different narrative, one relatively accurate and the other ideologically distorted by Antiochos IV’s re-writing of history. A reconstruction of the main commanders at the Battle of Panion will show how Zeno’s conflated account emphasizes the role of a figure who, if he was there at all, did not play a major part. The revised version that Zeno transmitted reflects the Seleukid ideology of the king as military commander and hero.

In a well-known passage, Polybios castigates Zeno of Rhodes for his account of the Battle of Panion between Antiochos III and Ptolemy V’s Aitolian commander Skopas in 200 BCE, claiming it as an example of how historians go wrong.1 Modern evaluations include Walbank’s suggestion that Polybios’s reading of Zeno was careless,2 Lenfant’s charge that Polybios intentionally presented Zeno’s account as confused,3 Meister’s agnostic statement that we have no way to judge the criticisms


2 3

Polyb. 16.18.1–19.11. Elsewhere I have maintained that the traditional date of 200 BCE for the battle is correct, though the effect of the battle’s results may have been overstated and that further campaigning was required to complete the Seleukid conquest of Koile-Syria by 198/97 BCE; Scolnic in preparation. Walbank 1967, 517f. Lenfant 2005, 183–204.


Benjamin E. Scolnic

without some parallel account of the battle,4 and Bar-Kochva’s claim that the Rhodian historian’s mistakes were a result of his unfamiliarity with the terrain of Panion.5 I will maintain that while Zeno’s account of the Battle of Panion does indeed contain mistakes, it is not only for the reasons that Polybios gives or that modern scholars have hypothesized. Instead, my contention is that Zeno erred not only due to his exercise of literary license but because it suited his political agenda as a Rhodian to follow a pro-Seleukid narrative. The description of this important battle in Hellenistic history should be seen rather as the deliberate transmission of propaganda, representing one element in the legitimization of Antiochos IV as ruler of the Seleukid kingdom and the assertion of Seleukid power over Koile-Syria and Judaea. I will attempt to isolate the following layers of history and historiography: 1. The Battle of Panion. 2. An earlier account of the Battle of Panion that featured Antiochos III, his oldest son Antiochos, and a third commander, perhaps Antipatros. 3. A re-written Seleukid account of the battle that emphasizes the role of the future Antiochos IV. 4. Zeno’s account based on the re-written Seleukid account. 5. Polybios’ summary and criticism of Zeno’s account, which does not realize the full significance of his observation that there was only one Antiochos at Panion, thus missing one of the reasons why Zeno’s version is so full of errors. I will work backwards from the account we have (5) to what I will theorize lies beneath it. I. POLYBIOS ON ZENO OF RHODES Polybios (c. 200–c. 118 BCE) and Zeno were contemporaries; Polybios says that he corresponded with Zeno when composing his own history.6 We do not know how many passages in Polybios are dependent on Zeno’s work or to what historical point that study extended, but it does seem that Polybios used his Rhodian contemporary’s work in dealing with events in the eastern Mediterranean.7 Polybios notes that Zeno and Antisthenes of Rhodes were contemporary with the events they described and that they participated in politics; he mentions that one of their purposes in writing was to do ‘their duty as statesmen’.8 Polybios does agree that historians have a right to be subjective and patriotic about their countries, but 4 5 6 7 8

The notion that Polybios is capable of distorting another historian’s work is not unfounded, as Meister shows in studying how Polybios distorts Kallisthenes’ account of the Battle of Issos by studying the parallel tradition of Arrian; Meister 1975, 81–91, 177. Bar-Kochva 1976, 146–157. Popular representations follow Bar-Kochva, as in Taylor 2013, 89–93 and Wilson 2004, 4–6. Polyb. 16.20.5–7. Wiemer 2013, 282. Polyb. 6.14.

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this does not mean they should change the facts, for example, turning a Rhodian defeat at the Battle of Lade, as Polybios accurately reports it, into a victory, despite archival evidence that could be seen at Rhodes.9 Everyone makes mistakes, Polybios writes, but if historians make deliberate misstatements in the interest of our country or of friends or for favour, what difference is there between us and those who gain their living by their pens?10

Historians should not make intentional mistakes due to their patriotic sentiment. Polybios also criticizes Zeno’s ignorance in describing the topography involved in other important events and claims that he is guilty of placing pride in the elegance of his style over proper inquiry into the facts.11 Polybios launches into a lengthy and detailed review and analysis of Zeno’s treatment of the Battle at the Panion, claiming that Zeno is so concerned with extravagant language that the result is sensationalistic, paying ‘so little attention to facts that his recklessness and lack of experience are again unsurpassed’.12 I suggest that Zeno erred not only because of literary license but because it suited his Rhodian political agenda to follow a Seleukid account. While it is Polybios’ purpose to criticize Zeno, he does present the latter’s narrative of Panion, so I will now turn to Zeno’s account. II. ZENO ON THE BATTLE OF PANION After a Seleukid attempt to seize Palestine and Gaza in 201 BCE was rebuffed by the Ptolemaic army, Antiochos III waged a successful campaign the following year that marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Koile-Syria, including Judaea. The Battle of Panion, generally understood as the crucial conflict in this war, was fought between the Seleukid army led personally by Antiochos III and the Ptolemaic forces led by Skopas of Aitolia.13 We have only meagre sources concerning the Fifth Syrian War and even less about the Battle of Panion.14 In fact, the only account of this important battle that we have is the second-hand review by Polybios of Zeno’s description of the battle.15 Unfortunately, the names of any geographical or 9 10 11 12 13

14 15

The Battle of Lade, fought between the navies of Rhodes and Macedon in 201 BCE during the Cretan War, was a crushing victory for the Macedonians that caused the Romans to intervene in order to save Rhodes. All translations of Polybios here are from Paton 2009. Polyb. 16.16. Polyb. 16.18. Skopas served his native Aitolian League in the Social War (220–217) but did not gain office in Aitolia and left for Alexandria; Polyb. Within three years he was the general of Ptolemy V’s army at Panion and, judging from Josephus’ AJ 12.3.3 (132–136), functioned as such in the wider campaign as well; cf. Walbank 1992, 77f. Gruen 1984, vol. 1, 615, n. 16 calls the war ‘notoriously ill-documented’; so also Walbank 1967, 523 and Holleaux 1952, 320. We also have this summary of Polybios in Josephus: ‘Yet it was not long afterward when Antiochos overcame Skopas in a battle fought at the fountains of Jordan, and destroyed a great part of his army’; AJ 12.3.3 (132–133).


Benjamin E. Scolnic

topographical elements such as those of the river or the mountains involved are missing and leave us at a distinct disadvantage in attempting to reconstruct the battle. Still, his review provides quite a detailed account of this major engagement. Elsewhere, Polybios discusses that the phalanx, as effective as it was as a military unit, needed to be deployed on level ground.16 Polybios also understands that to find an area like this can be difficult. This is why, one may suggest, Skopas was anxious to fight on the level ground of the Banyas Plateau, near the source of the Jordan River, at the foot of Mt. Hermon. Zeno states that Skopas placed his phalanx with only a few horsemen on the right flank on the hills and his left wing and all of his cavalry on the level ground. At dawn, Antiochos III directed his elder son Antiochos to lead a portion of the forces to a position on the hills, that is, looking down at and facing Skopas’s phalanx. When daylight came, Antiochos III led the main army across a river that separated the two camps, placing his phalanx against the centre of Skopas’s force. Some cavalry were to his left, between him and the hills, and some mailed horsemen were to his right, led by his ‘younger son, Antiochos.’ In front of his main force, Antiochos III put elephants, with archers and slingers in between the animals, and Tarantines17 commanded by Antipatros.18 Antiochos III’s battle order consisted of three forces: the first led by the elder Antiochos that moved at dawn to occupy a commanding position against the enemy phalanx on the hills, on the eastern side of the river near their camp; the second led by the king on the plateau on the other side of the river, and the third, to the king’s right, or (facing south) to the west, led by the younger Antiochos. Since the elder Antiochos had an important strategic position, and the king led the main force including the elephants, it is thus surprising that it is the young prince to whom Zeno chooses to pay attention. ‘Antiochos the Younger,’ to Antiochos III’s right on the plain against the enemy’s left, charged ‘from the hill’ and pursued the cavalry. Zeno says that the two phalanxes met and fought a huge battle, but Polybios points out that this is impossible because the ‘elephants, cavalry, and light-armed troops were stationed in front of them.’ While Zeno says that Antiochos’ phalanx, hard-pressed by Skopas’s phalanx, was ‘helped by the elephants who were of great service in receiving them in their retreat and engaging the enemy,’ Polybios reminds us that the elephants were in front of the phalanx, and that if they were behind the soldiers, would not have known the difference between friends and enemies as they moved forward. On the one hand, Zeno says that the Aitolian cavalry were thrown off by their fear of the elephants, but he adds that ‘the cavalry posted on the right remained unbroken from the beginning’. Zeno must have been right in the first place in saying that the elephants were ahead of Antiochos’ phalanx, and that it was at the centre that the battle was won. The younger Antiochos, in command of the mailed cavalry on the plain opposite the enemy’s left, charged from the hill, routed, and pursued the cavalry under 16 Polyb. 16.29–31. 17 For cavalrymen with javelins, cf. Tarn 1930, 72. 18 Polyb. 16.18.7. For more on Antipatros, see below.

Second-Hand Propaganda


Ptolemy son of Airopos. But, Polybios asks, if the centre of the Aitolian cavalry feared the elephants, and Antiochos the Younger defeated the left wing, what parts did Antiochos III and Antiochos the Elder play in the battle? Polybios himself asks: Where was the king all this time and what service did he render in the action with the horse and foot he had about him, the finest in the army? We are not told a single word about this.19

It is passing strange to Polybios, as it should be to the modern reader, that the king seems to play no role at all in Zeno’s account. It also is strange that the elder son Antiochos, who had been sent at dawn to occupy a commanding position over the enemy, is not referred to again, as Polybios emphasizes: According to Zeno this young man did not even take part in the return to the camp after the battle; naturally not, for he supposes there were two Antiochoi there, sons of the king, whereas there was only one with him in this campaign.20

This point is central for our considerations here, and I will return to it below.21 There also is a logical contradiction concerning Skopas himself: And can he explain how Skopas was both the first and the last to leave the field? For he tells us that when he saw the younger Antiochos returning from the pursuit and threatening the phalanx from the rear he despaired of victory and retreated; but after this the hottest part of the battle began, upon the phalanx being surrounded by the elephants and cavalry, and now Skopas was the last to leave the field.22

It is interesting that Polybios would dwell on this passage and be so critical. Perhaps it is just one historian telling another how to do his work, or displaying his superiority and his impatience with the inaccuracy created by a historian who indulges in ‘extravagance of … language’ and pays ‘little attention to facts.’ Polybios sees some of Zeno’s mistakes as the result of carelessness: Writers it seems to me should be thoroughly ashamed of nonsensical errors like the above. … As for Zeno’s errors about the topography of Lakonia, the faults were so glaring that I had no hesitation in writing to him personally also …. Zeno received my letter, and knowing that it was impossible to make the change, as he had already published the work, was very much troubled, but could do nothing, while most courteously accepting my own criticism. And I too will beg both my contemporaries and future generations in pronouncing on my work, if they ever find me making misstatements or neglecting the truth intentionally (my italics) to censure me relentlessly.23

There is a scholarly discussion about whether Polybios is railing against factual errors or excessive emotion in writing history. Mohm suggests that Polybios criticizes those who employ terateia (sensationalism) because they make factual errors

19 20 21 22 23

Polyb. 16.19.6. Polyb. 16.19.9. See Walbank 1967, 524. Polyb. 16.19.11. Polyb.16.20.6–9.


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in the process.24 Sacks considers the criticism as based on Zeno’s apeiria (unlimitedness).25 I do not discount the idea that Polybios means to criticize the sensationalistic style and defend his own rather dry and pedantic style.26 But whether Zeno was being sensationalistic or unlimited, why did he write in such a manner about this particular battle? If this was Zeno’s usual way of writing history, why does Polybios make such an example of this particular passage? Why is Polybios so indignant about this particular set of mistakes?27 It may very well be that what Zeno did, by ‘neglecting the truth intentionally’, was exactly what Polybios says others should censure him for if he should do it. As someone involved in the politics of his day, Polybios knows that he might do what Zeno did. If this Rhodian politician disguised his nation’s defeats as victories, it is not difficult to know why. One does not know, however, why Zeno would intentionally neglect the truth about Panion and create or transmit a sensational aggrandizement of Antiochos IV, the ‘younger Antiochos’ of the narrative. III. BAR-KOCHVA’S DEFENSE OF ZENO’S ACCOUNT28 Bar Kochva’s detailed and spirited defence of Zeno’s account states that while it may not be the best battle report, it certainly is acceptable as ancient historiography goes. Bar-Kochva studied the battle closely and claims to understand the area of the battlefield at Panion better than Polybios and even Zeno. He states that Polybios does not understand the report’s veracity because of Zeno’s failures of description. The Banyas River flows along the eastern edge and then to the south of a 1.5 km platform that juts out from Panion to the west to descend down to the Huleh Valley. This platform, the Banyas Plateau, ‘is dominated on its northern side by Tel Hamra, a foothill of Mt. Hermon.’ South of the plateau, on the other side of the river, moving from west to east is the hill Tel-Azziziyat, a rough plateau, and then the hill TelFakhr. The El-Banyas River becomes impassable as it moves south and is a barrier between the Banyas Plateau and the hilly area to the south. According to Zeno, the left part of the battlefield, from the Ptolemaic army’s point of view, was flat while the right part was up on the hills. Bar-Kochva claims that the Seleukid army ‘was posted in the east and the Ptolemies in the west’ presumably on the plateau. He places the Ptolemaic phalanx on the plateau and the right on the slopes of Tel Azziziyat. This scheme, however, places the right on the other side of an impassable river and thereby splits the Ptolemaic forces. The Ptolemies may have come from the south (Judaea) and the Seleukids from the north 24 25 26 27

Mohm 1977, 117. Sacks 1981, 163, n. 98. Cf. Polyb. 16.18.3. As emphasized by Lenfant 2005, 187 and Wiemer 2013, 282 and 304. Polybios tells us that Zeno accepted his criticism about the topography of Laconia; did he also accept what Polybios says about his report on Panion? 28 Bar-Kochva’s analysis has become the standard for both popular and scholarly accounts of the battle; see, e.g., Wilson, 2004; Johnstono 2018, 162–187.

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(Syria) and so when the order of battle is set up from Panion in the northeast corner of the area, the Seleukids face south and the Ptolemies north.

Figure 1: Map of the Battle of Panion following the account of Zeno.

According to Bar-Kochva, the main force, including the cavalry led by Antiochos the Younger, crosses the river to the ‘level ground’.29 We are thus confused ‘that the younger Antiochos … charged from the hill’. It is possible that after they crossed the river, both the main force and the cavalry on the right flank took their positions on the Tel Hamra foothills, but if so, this is to the north of the plateau, not the east as Bar-Kochva would have it. 29 Polyb. 18.6.


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Bar-Kochva claims that the main force crossed back across the river to occupy Tel Fakhr, but Zeno does not say anything about this, and the further south they were, the more impassable the river would have become. Bar-Kochva needs to say this in order to fit his reconstruction, but it does not make much sense – why would the main force cross the river in one place only to cross it again lower down? If the Seleukid army was to the east and the Ptolemaic army to the west, as Bar-Kochva says, how could Antiochos the Elder, on the eastern side of the river according to Zeno, be involved in the fight at all? Bar-Kochva needs to posit two battles on the two sides of the river, though we get no indication of two battles in Polybios’ account. Bar-Kochva is right in saying that the topography of the area is so complicated that both Zeno and Polybios had every right to be confused. I would go further and say that as a result, we simply cannot be certain about how the battle should be reconstruct. Bar-Kochva’s reconstruction, as even Wilson, who follows him, admits, is ‘not entirely definitive’.30 Bar-Kochva has made us focus on the actual topography of the area, but his description of the battle significantly contradicts the only ancient account we have. It would seem to be better to follow Zeno as much as we can and attempt to understand why his narrative is so problematic that it cannot be understood logically or topographically. THE REASON FOR THE CONTRADICTIONS IN ZENO’S ACCOUNT There is another way to approach Zeno’s account of the Battle of Panion. Every narrative has its intention; even if the original context is lost, we can learn what that intention was by seeing where the account swerves away from what is true or to be expected. We can review the problems in Zeno’s account and suggest a reason for them: 1. After placing the elephants in the centre of the battle order, Zeno states that the elephants were in the back of the phalanx and that the king’s force retreated into their safety net. As we have said above, Zeno must have been right in the first place in saying that the elephants were ahead of Antiochos’ phalanx, and that it was at the centre that the battle was won. Why would Zeno say that Antiochos III retreated unless to show that it was not the king but his younger heir who won the victory? 2. On the one hand, Zeno says that the Aitolian cavalry were thrown off by their fear of the elephants, but then he says that ‘the cavalry posted on the right remained unbroken from the beginning’. Why would Zeno contradict himself, if not to show that Antiochos the Elder on the Seleukid left did not accomplish anything? 3. Why does Zeno give us two reports of Skopas’ retreat, if not to point out that in the actual battle, he did not retreat until the very end, while in the tendentious 30 Wilson 2004, 5.

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version, he retreated before Antiochos the Younger? I suggest that in an original account, Skopas was the last to leave the field, and that the contradiction here is the result of a later account in which Skopas retreats as soon as he sees the mighty younger Antiochos. 4. Zeno seems to be confused about where Antiochos the Younger is, first placing him on the plain, then saying that he charges down from the hills. Since the hills are to the east and the north, it is at least possible that it was really Antiochos the Elder, and not Antiochos the Younger, who led the most important charge. 5. We may suggest that Zeno was confused because he had two sources, one report that was closer to the event, the other that invented the changes or used a proAntiochos IV source that had those changes implemented. Zeno apparently lacked much critical acumen, and left such disturbing doublets in the account.31 Polybios, to the contrary, takes great pains to reject most of the details of the battle that Zeno presents and then says that Antiochos IV was not even there. IV. HOW OLD WAS THE FUTURE ANTIOCHOS IV IN 200 BCE? Following Polybios who does not think that Antiochos IV was at Panion, Mittag states: ‘Aus der Tatsache, dass die Brüder Antiochos’ IV. in literarischen und epigraphischen Zeugnissen bereits zuvor erwähnt werden, könnte geschlossen werden, dass Antiochos IV. vor 189/8 v. Chr. noch nicht ein Alter erreicht hatte, in dem er an der politischen und militarischen Verwaltung des Reiches hätte beteiligt werden können.’32 Yet Bar-Kochva thinks that ‘it is not impossible’ that Antiochos the Younger, ‘about 15 years old’ at the time of the battle, was at the Battle of Panion. Bar-Kochva brings parallels from this period of young royal generals such as Alexander at the age of 16 in a campaign against the Thracian rebels: While Philip was making an expedition against Byzantium, Alexander, though only sixteen years of age, was left behind as regent in Macedonia and keeper of the royal seal, and during this time he subdued the rebellious Maidoi, and after taking their city, drove out the Barbarians, settled there a mixed population, and named the city Alexandropolis. He was also present at Chaironeia and took part in the battle against the Greeks, and he is said to have been the first to break the ranks of the Sacred Band of the Thebans.33

I would suggest that rather than compare Antiochos the Younger’s military precociousness to that of the legendary Alexander the Great, the parallel works in the other direction, that it is just such a tradition about Alexander that influences the artificial creation of this role at Panion for the future Antiochos IV. Indeed, the young Alexander, aged eighteen, played an instrumental role at the famous and important Battle of Chaironeia where he led the left-flank composed of the heavy cavalry, ‘an extraordinarily responsible appointment for a boy of eighteen, since it was 31 This is the astute conclusion of Altay Coşkun, in a written communication. 32 Mittag 2006, 33. Walbank 1967, 524 points out that since the younger Antiochos was at most fifteen years old, Polybios is probably right to exclude him from this episode. 33 Plut. Alex. 9.1.


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he who had to deliver the knock-out blow that would, if successful, clinch Philip’s victory’.34 Even the prodigy Alexander the Great was considered young at eighteen, six years older (as I shall attempt to show) than the future Antiochos IV would have been at Panion in 200 BCE. The young Antiochos ‘out-Alexanders’ Alexander himself by leading the heavy cavalry to victory at a younger age than the greatest hero of all.35 Bar-Kochva gives the example of Demetrios II who, according to Justin, was involved in the dethronement of his father’s rival Alexander Balas. Justin tells us that he had ‘passed the age of boyhood’ but that he also was involved with ‘troops of concubines’; this would not seem to be the behaviour of a twelve-year-old.36 At any rate, we are looking for examples of boy-generals of troops of cavalry, not princes with concubines. Bar-Kochva seems to know that his evidence is not strong and hedges by saying that ‘it may well be that even if Antiochos the Younger did not actually lead the contingent like Alexander, he at least played a token role, as his son did later in Judaea’. He then draws on the fact that Hellenistic kings commanded their troops even in their old age in order to say that ‘command by Antiochos IV at Panion does not appear too strange’, although leading troops after a lifetime of experience is very different from leading them without any experience at all.37 In order to fully respond to Bar-Kochva’s discussion of Antiochos the Younger at Panion, we need to establish, to the extent possible, the future Antiochos IV’s age in 200 BCE, the date of the battle. This is a highly complicated matter, but we know enough to hypothesize that the future Antiochos IV was born around 212, making him twelve years old in 200 BCE. Seleukos III died in 222 BCE,38 assassinated while trying to re-conquer Asia Minor from Attalos I of Pergamon.39 Antiochos III seems to have been in Babylon when he heard that his brother had been assassinated.40 Since Antiochos III was considered very young and inexperienced at this point, Hermeias made decisions,41 including marrying the new king to Laodike III, daughter of Mithradates II, king of Pontos, in 221 BCE, at Seleukeia-Zeugma.42 If Antiochos III was born c. 241 BCE, 34 Green 1991, 74. 35 Bar-Kochva states that another parallel of a young royal warrior is Antiochos V Eupator. But his reference to Eusebios 167 does not prove the point: ‘While Antiochos Epiphanes was still alive, his son Antiochos called Eupator was made king, when he was only twelve years old, after which his father lived for a further one year and six months.’ This example does not serve as an analogy to a boy commander leading a corps of cavalry in fierce battle. 36 Just. 35.2.2. 37 Bar-Kochva 1976, 148. 38 Graslin-Thomé 2017, 216. 39 Polyb. 5.41.1; 42.6; App. Syr. 66a; Justin 29.1.3. 40 Polyb. 2.71.4. 41 Hermeias, in total control, appointed viceroys, Achaios for Asia Minor and Molon over Media and the East. But everything came apart when the two viceroys, doubting the new king’s power because of his young age, took control of their regions, with Molon invading Babylonia in 222. 42 Polyb. 5.43.1–4. Laodike and her groom were also first cousins since her mother, Laodike II, was his aunt, sister of Seleukos II, Antiochos III’s father.

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he was considered young and inexperienced at the age of nineteen or twenty. Antiochos III is defined by Polybios as neaniskos, referring to the events of 222 BCE.43 This is interesting for our considerations about youthful kings and princes and their responsibilities in the Seleukid empire of that era, suggesting that if a young man of nineteen or twenty could not handle things, a younger teenager certainly would not be trusted with major wartime responsibilities. As I will try to demonstrate in the Appendix, Antiochos IV/Mithradates seems to have been born between summer 213 and spring/summer 212 BCE, making him twelve or thirteen in 200 BCE. V. THE SELEUKID COMMANDERS AT PANION Coşkun has shown that the naval campaign of 197 was the first nominal command of Seleukos and Mithradates, who would become known to history as Seleukos IV and Antiochos IV, respectively. Seleukos, the second-born son of Antiochos III, is not mentioned at the Battle of Panion. He is reported to have an active role at the Battle of Magnesia, ten years later.44 According to Livy, The king commanded the right in person, the left he placed in charge of his son Seleukos and his nephew Antipatros. The centre was entrusted to three commanders, Minnio, Zeuxis and Philip; the latter was the master of the elephants.45

The future Antiochos IV, whether he was known at this time as Antiochos or Mithradates, does not play a role in the important Battle of Magnesia; in fact, he is not even mentioned as being present. It is unlikely that the youngest of the three sons had an effective leadership role even ten years earlier. On the other hand, we do know of the presence at the battle of Antipatros, commander of the Tarantines at Panion, according to Polybios. He had commanded the cavalry at Raphia in 217 and was an ambassador to Ptolemy IV in the aftermath of that conflict.46 What is important for our considerations is that he has a command in that battle as he would later at Magnesia; he acted as an envoy to the Scipios following that battle as well.47 In conflating two different accounts concerning the identity of the commander of the Seleukid forces, Zeno presents two Antiochoi at this battle. The younger Antiochos becomes the hero of the tale, at the expense of his father and older brother, when the young prince cannot have been present at all. Mørkholm’s note is germane here:

43 Polyb. 5.42.6. 44 This is a fact that Bar-Kochva does not mention in his account of that battle; Seleukos IV’s name is not even found in the index to his book. 45 Livy 37.41. 46 Polyb. 5.79.12; 82.9; 87.1 and 4. 47 Cf. Polyb. 21.16.4–17.10; Livy 37.45.5.


Benjamin E. Scolnic From Polybios XVI.18–19, we know that the Rhodian historiographer Zeno mentioned our Antiochos as a participant in the Battle of Panion in 200, but this was due to confusion with his older homonymous brother.48

It is very plausible that Antiochos the Elder stayed on the eastern side of the river as Zeno says but that he crossed at the top, perhaps north of the river, to cover the movement of the main army as it moved across the river to meet the enemy force, already stationed on the plateau. If, as Polybios states, only one royal son called Antiochos participated in his father’s expedition, then the hero of the battle was not the younger but the older Antiochos, first son of Antiochos III. Antiochos IV may not only have taken his older brother Antiochos’ name; he also may have appropriated his deeds at Panion. To accentuate the role of a younger Antiochos at the expense of a now-dead Antiochos is a simple matter. To accentuate the younger Antiochos’ role over that of his father is more interesting. Seleukid kings and princes took leading and active roles in major battles. Antiochos (I) commanded the cavalry at Ipsos.49 While Seleukos IV had a major role at Magnesia, ten years later we notice Antiochos IV’s absence in that battle. If the latter had been a major hero at Panion as a youngster, would he not have had a role at Magnesia? Their very identities were inextricably connected with their military prowess.50 As Bar-Kochva states, Like most Hellenistic commanders … Antiochos involved himself personally in the battle at the front of the spearhead cavalry, which prevented him from playing his proper role of commander in chief by observing general developments and directing and controlling the entire force. By charging at the head of the picked cavalry he was doing as Alexander had done, but Alexander always chose the right moment, and never charged with the Companions unless he was sure that this would have a decisive effect and that he was not needed in another part of the arena …51

Antiochos III’s role in his other great battles may make us wonder about the Seleukid battle order at Panion as presented by Zeno. We can look quickly at the battles that Antiochos III fought to further question that presentation. In his victory over Molon in 220 BCE, Antiochos III led the right flank.52 Molon led his right and his brother Naolaos the left.53 Antiochos not only fought but also led the main charge. As we saw above, Hermeias was against Antiochos appearing in the battle at all, as opposed to another counsellor, Epigenes; that this discussion became known only emphasizes Antiochos’ bravery all the more. The evil counsellor, who wanted to keep control of the empire, did not want Antiochos to become known as a warrior-king; the good counsellor wanted him to establish himself in this way.

48 49 50 51 52 53

Mørkholm 1966, 38, n. 1. Austin 2005, 125; Lozano 2005, 82; see also Coşkun, ch. 4 in this volume. Chaniotis 2005, 62. Bar-Kochva 1976, 205f. Polyb. 5.53. Bar-Kochva 1976, 121.

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In the storming of the Porphyreon Pass in 218 BCE,54 Antiochos III stayed in the rear, Bar-Kochva says, ‘because he could not fight among the cavalry as he was accustomed to’.55 At Raphia in 217 BCE, according to Polybios, Antiochos III led the cavalry on the right wing that was twice as strong as the left-wing horse.56 Antiochos III was in command of the 2,000-man advance cavalry, including the 1,000 Companions.57 We see Antiochos routing the Ptolemaic cavalry on the left and beginning a headlong pursuit.58 In the defence of Thermopylai in 191 BCE, it is well attested that Antiochos led the cavalry on the right wing himself.59 At Magnesia in 190 BCE, according to our sources, Antiochos III led the right flank, consisting at least partly of the cataphract (heavy cavalry), routing the Roman legion on the Roman left with a head-on charge.60 At Elasa in 160 BCE, as Bar-Kochva shows, the general ‘Bacchides himself led the stronger right wing … which was traditionally the position of the cream of the cavalry’.61 Zeno’s account of Panion, which places Antiochos III at the centre of the battle formation and his youngest son on the right flank, seems dubious at best. While I disagree with Bar-Kochva’s reconstruction of the battle order, I disagree more with his insistence that topography leads to the mistakes in Zeno’s account. The issue that divides the two historians is not so much topography and battle order as it is the way the story of the battle is told, in a sensationalistic narrative that creates a hero, a young prince who leads the heavy cavalry and wins a major victory that will have great historical implications. Zeno transmits a conflation of two accounts, one of which is a Seleukid account that he, a Rhodian historian at a time of Rhodian alliance with the Seleukids, was bound or at least happy to include in his history of the period. VI. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT PANION62 What really did happen at Panion? When Skopas marched north to block the Seleukid route at the head of the Jordan valley, Antiochos III already had reached the high ground at Mt. Hermon and made his camp there to await the Ptolemaic approach. I posit an original account that had Antiochos the Son, Antipatros or another experienced commander, and Antiochos III commanding the left wing, centre, and right wings, respectively. Skopas moved north onto the plateau with the Banyas 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62

Polyb. 5.68. Polyb. 5.69.7; Bar-Kochva 1976, 127. Polyb. 5.79–82; 5.84.1; 8.12. Bar-Kochva 1976, 134. Polyb. 5.84.8–10; 5.85.11f. Livy 36.18.3; 5.19.4; App. Syr. 18f.; Plut. Cat. Mai. 14.1. App. Syr. 33; Livy 37.41.1; Just. 36.8.6. Bar-Kochva 1976, 193; cf. 1Macc 9.12a. Given the caveats as expressed in Whatley 1964, 119–139.


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River on the right flank, phalanxes in the centre and cavalry on the left. The Seleukids advanced aggressively to meet them, crossing the river with their pikes in the lead and elephants in support. As the armies approached, the Seleukid cavalry charged down from the slopes of Tel el-Hamra to attack Skopas’ left flank, driving away the Ptolemaic cavalry. The cataphract attacked the enemy flanks and drove their cavalry off, leaving the backs of the enemy infantry exposed. The Seleukid cataphract then attacked their infantry in the rear, leading to a rout of the Ptolemaic army. In the centre, Skopas’s phalanxes were first greeted by the oncoming Seleukid elephants and then attacked by the king and his cavalry who charged the phalanxes from behind and destroyed them. With his left and centre gone, Skopas led his 10,000 survivors west to Sidon, where they were pinned and eventually forced to surrender. Ptolemy V lost control of Koile-Syria and Judaea and later married Kleopatra, daughter of Antiochos, to seal the peace. The major factor in the victory was that the Seleukid army used the cataphract in such a decisive manner. As Bar-Kochva explains in a different section of his book, heavy cavalry developed over the course of Seleukid history. Beginning with Alexander, regular cavalry wore a coat of mail and carried a long thrusting lance called a xyston, later beginning to carry a shield as well.63 We see the Seleukid cavalry armoured in this way during the battle against Molon.64 ‘From the Battle of Panion onwards’, Bar-Kochva states, ‘Seleukid cavalry seems to have been heavily armoured’.65 If so, this kind of military unit was an innovation for the Seleukid army. Indeed, Tarn suggests, with Bar-Kochva’s approval, that Antiochos III learned about the cataphract during his invasion of Parthia in 210–206 and turned part of his cavalry into a force that seems to have had a dramatic, immediate impact.66 The important challenge here is: would a boy have led this unit? It makes more sense to say rather that the Syrians won a major victory because of either Antiochos’ father’s or his older brother’s military prowess, particularly the use of the cataphract and the employment of elephants, and not because of the future Antiochos IV. In the famous parade at Daphne, the procession of Antiochos IV’s forces followed an interesting order. After twenty thousand Macedonians with shields, two hundred and fifty pairs of gladiators, a thousand horsemen from Nisa and three thousand from Antioch itself, the ‘companion cavalry’ of about a thousand, the regiment of ‘royal friends’, a thousand picked horse, and the agema or crack cavalry corps, Polybios recounts, ‘last of all marched the “cataphract” or mailed horse, the horses and men being armed in complete mail, as the name indicated. All the above wore purple surcoats in many cases embroidered with gold and heraldic designs’.67 The pride of place here shows the importance of the cataphract. The picture of a boy leading this prestigious, heavily armoured corps into battle 63 64 65 66 67

Bar-Kochva 1976, 74f. Polyb. 5.53.2. Polyb. 16.17.6; 30.26.6; Livy 37.40.4, 11; Bar-Kochva 1976, 74. Tarn 1930, 23. Polyb. 30.25.

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certainly is sensationalistic. Why did Zeno write a narrative that magnified Antiochos IV in this way?

Figure 2: Map of the Battle of Panion according to B.E. Scolnic.


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VII. RHODIAN ATTITUDES TO ANTIOCHOS III AND ANTIOCHOS IV68 If, as Polybios says, Zeno’s account reflects the political prejudices of his country, what can we learn about Rhodes and its attitudes towards Antiochos IV that may have informed his transmission of accounts of the Battle of Panion? Zeno may have been a patriotic Rhodian who was anxious to please Antiochos IV, the current Seleukid king. We know of the interesting relationship between Antiochos IV and Rhodes: In the case of the Rhodians he did not make them any single gift of surpassing value, but he gave them all sorts of things to suit their various requirements.69

Zeno must have written post-175. Before this date, he would have had no reason to aggrandize Antiochos IV, who in any case did not even bear the name Antiochos before late 175, the time of his accession as co-king with his nephew Antiochos (at the very earliest).70 This timing makes sense, for if Polybios read Zeno’s work and corresponded with him about it, it may have been published during the time that Polybios was working on his history and may have been a new factor in current historical discussion. Polybios says he visited Rhodes and consulted Rhodian archives.71 While some question this,72 ‘there can be little doubt that he transmitted attitudes prevalent in post-war Rhodes’.73 What is interesting for us here is why Polybios would part company with Zeno on the analysis of the Battle of Panion. The answer is that Polybios was explicitly antagonistic to Antiochos IV. Polybios not only knew his nephew Demetrius I but also was a mentor and adviser who claimed that he was a central figure in the prince’s escape in 162.74 Mørkholm states, ‘Polybios was thus hardly capable of arriving at an equitable opinion of Antiochos IV even if he wanted to’.75 Polybios was insistent in refusing to let Zeno spread propaganda about the early military exploits of the future Antiochos IV, whom he considered to be eccentric bordering on mad.76 A key theme in Polybios is that the good statesman is one who 68 Gruen 1984, 540; Rawlings 1967, 2–28, esp. 13f.; Berthold 1984; Ager 1992, 10–41; Gruen 1975, 58–81; Brown 1964, 124–136. 69 Livy 41.10. 70 Liv. 33.19.9, with Coşkun 2016. 71 Polyb. 16.15.8. 72 Walbank 1957 1, 31f.; 1967 2, 520. 73 Gruen 1975, 60, n. 2. 74 Polyb. 31.11 and 13–15. See Walbank 1982, 478. But McGing makes the point that it would have been ‘uncharacteristically foolhardy’ for Polybios to be in ‘direct defiance of the senate’s express policy entirely at his own discretion’; McGing 2010, 141. Paltiel 1979, 42–47 tries to make the case that Antiochos IV and Demetrios did not have a bad relationship and that Demetrios was never considered a potential heir until he saw himself as such after the death of his uncle. For my purpose here, this would mean that by extension Demetrios’s friend Polybios should not have had anything against Antiochos IV. But Paltiel’s proofs are weak and indirect. 75 Mørkholm 1966, 184. 76 Polyb. 26.1.1–14.1a; 30.25f.; 31.9.

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is virtuous and can control his emotions. For him, an archetype of a good statesman was Philip II. This leads him to reject the historian Theopompos’s description of Philip’s wild and drunken private life. For Polybios it is inconceivable that such an able and effective statesman could have such an immoral and unrestrained private life.77 If Zeno was part of Antiochos IV’s propaganda machine, Polybios was against it. VIII. CONCLUSION Hellenistic kings regarded territories as theirs, Davies writes, ‘by right of conquest and inheritance in an interpretation far-reaching enough to allow inheritance by will’.78 The pertinent example is found in Polybios where the historian describes how Antiochos IV claimed Koile-Syria and Judaea after Panion: After the war concerning Koile-Syria between Antiochos and Ptolemy had already begun, envoys arrived at Rome, Meleagros, Sosiphanes, and Herakleides on the part of Antiochos, and Timotheos and Damon on that of Ptolemy. At this time Antiochos was in possession of KoileSyria and Phoenicia. For ever since the father of this King Antiochos had defeated Ptolemy’s generals in the Battle at the Panion, all the above districts yielded obedience to the kings of Syria. Therefore Antiochos, thinking that possession by force of arms was the surest and best, was struggling to defend the country as one belonging to him, while Ptolemy, conceiving that the former Antiochos had unjustly profited by the orphanhood of his father to deprive him of the cities of Koile-Syria, was not disposed to abandon these places to Antiochos.79

Notice what Polybios does not say here that Antiochos IV played a role in the Battle of Panion that would give him a direct stake in the victory. Antiochos IV, however, insisted that the territory won at Panion (and the campaign of 200) was his. It is quite logical to see that in a propaganda war between Antiochos IV and the Ptolemies, a re-writing of this battle narrative might have been of great value. If Ptolemy VI said, in effect, ‘you only won the region because my father Ptolemy V Epiphanes was so young’, Antiochos IV could respond: ‘But I won the battle when I was young myself.’ This account would have been for external use in international verbal conflict. Zeno transmitted an account of the Battle of Panion based on a version told by the advocates of the legitimacy of Antiochos IV. It also may have been intended for internal use within the empire against those who were wary of a man who had killed his own nephew, Antiochos.80

77 78 79 80

Eckstein 1989, 3f. Davies 1984/2006, 296 and n. 239. Polyb. 28.1–4. One is reminded of the Biblical story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), written to demonstrate David’s prowess at a very young age, thus demonstrating his charismatic gifts. David’s legitimacy over Saul and his heirs must have created problems, and the story that God favoured David and sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him at a young age (1 Samuel 16) was designed to respond to any such challenges. Just as a victory over the Philistines represented by Goliath


Benjamin E. Scolnic

Antiochos IV had a great deal to prove to what may have been a sceptical or resentful populace. At the point when he assassinated the legitimate king and became sole ruler, he had no military achievements whatsoever. If Antiochos IV could develop a legend that he had already demonstrated greatness as a boy, when he was still third in line to the throne and before he had been sent as a hostage to Rome, this would have given him some impressive credentials that he otherwise would not have. He therefore reached back to a battle three decades earlier and claimed that the Syrians won a major victory because of his early military prowess. Seleukid ideology was centred around the glorification of the Seleukids. These kings, from Seleukos I on, were vitally concerned with developing stories to demonstrate their greatness. Thus Antiochos IV created a myth for himself that would give him a proper place in the annals of this dynasty. When Polybios says that he wrote Zeno about his errors, his criticism may have been restricted to the latter’s mistakes on the topography of Lakonia.81 If so, these mistakes were minor; Walbank describes pointing out such errors as petty and demonstrates that Polybios seems to have been inaccurate in the process.82 It would have been more worthy of a letter to include criticism of how Zeno presents a patriotic Rhodian account of the battle, claiming a victory instead of a defeat and/or the glorified account of Antiochus IV at the Battle of Panion.83 Zeno may have been mortified when he received a letter from Polybios pointing out his errors; his innocence also may be revealed in his frank response to Polybios that he erred. Or he may have simply smiled, knowing that his writing was for a political purpose more important to him than the objective facts. Either way, Zeno had become part of Antiochos IV’s propaganda machine. This would explain a presentation of the Battle of Panion that emphasizes the role of a figure who probably was not there at all, and if he had been, was too young to play a major role. The argument against Zeno over the Battle of Panion may be about more than topography or style; it may be about whether history should be malleable for political purposes. Polybios criticizes other historians and gives himself a role in the process. What I am doing here, what we are all doing here, in a way, is the same thing. I am criticizing both Zeno and Polybios and in the process giving myself a role in discussing a famous ancient battle. They both had axes to grind, one for Antiochos IV, one against, but I hope my only agenda is to see the revision of the Battle of Panion as a piece of the puzzle that we call Antiochos IV.

would help secure the future of the Israelite kingdom, so the land of Judaea would become Seleukid because of the Battle of Panion. 81 Polyb. 16.16. 82 Walbank 1979, vol. 3, 522. 83 Polyb. 16.15, 18f.

Second-Hand Propaganda


APPENDIX: WHEN WAS THE FUTURE ANTIOCHOS IV BORN? In Autumn 221, Laodike III gave birth to a son: When, however, the news came that a son had been born to Antiochos (III), thinking that possibly in the interior Antiochos might meet with some misfortune at the hands of the barbarians and give him the opportunity of compassing his death, he (Hermeias) gave his consent to the expedition, feeling sure that if he could put Antiochos out of the way he would be himself the child’s guardian and master of the kingdom.84

If, as Coşkun has argued, heirs to the throne were born from the king and the wife bearing the basilissa title,85 we may attempt a chronology of Antiochos III’s potential unions of Laodike III. Antiochos went to the east to fight the rebel Molon from late autumn 221 to winter 220/19 BCE. If Antiochos (the future co-regent) was born in autumn 221, and since Antiochos was in his capital from winter 220 until spring 219 BCE, Laodike IVa (following Coşkun’s formulation) would have been born in 219 or 218 BCE. We suppose that she was the eldest daughter because she was joined in marriage to her brother Antiochos, in a royal incestuous sibling marriage, the first such marriage in the history of the dynasty, though it had been known in Egyptian and Persian royal houses. I can only understand this marriage to mean that Antiochos was to be the next king, for such (what we would call incestuous) marriages seem to have been restricted to ruling couples. Antiochos III was in Koile-Syria fighting against Ptolemy IV of Egypt from spring 219 to late autumn 219 BCE. Antiochos was in Seleukeia at Pieria while there was a truce of four months from Nov./Dec. 219 – Mar./Apr. 218 BCE. Then Antiochos was in Palestine from spring until autumn 218 BCE. In winter 218/217 BCE, he wintered in Ptolemais. Antiochos was in Antioch from spring 217 until spring 216 BCE, preparing his expedition against Achaios in Asia Minor. We may assume that Kleopatra and Antiochis were born in these years. Allowing around three years for those two births, the next son, the future Seleukos IV, was probably born in 215 BCE or later. He had to be older than Antiochos IV/Mithradates since he was the next in line for the succession to the throne.86 Antiochos III’s expedition against Achaios lasted from spring 216 until autumn 214 or spring 213 BCE. We learn from Appian that Antiochos III gave his daughters in marriage to some of the kings of the region in 194/3 BCE.87 Kleopatra, already engaged to Ptolemy V, king of Egypt, married him in that year.88 Justin 34.2.7 tells us that Kleopatra was older than Antiochos IV: ‘During these transactions, Antiochos, king of Syria, made war upon Ptolemy, king of Egypt, his elder sister’s son (maiori

84 Polyb. 5.55.4f. 85 Coşkun 2022. 86 We must allow for the possibility that even a very fertile Laodike III could have had miscarriages and children who died in childbirth. 87 App. Syr. 5. 88 Polyb. 18.51.10; Livy 33.40. Ptolemy Philometor, the son and successor of Ptolemy Epiphanes, who reigned from 180 to 145 BCE (cf. Diod. 30.15).


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sororis suae filio) …’. The future Antiochos IV, likely named Mithradates and not Antiochos at the time, as his older brother bore that dynastic name, had therefore: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

an older brother Antiochos, an older sister Laodike (IVa) who was married to his older brother Antiochos, an older brother Seleukos (IV), a (probably older) sister named Antiochis, an older sister Kleopatra.

Antiochos IV/Mithradates seems to have been born between summer 213 and spring/summer 212, making him twelve or thirteen at the time of the Battle at Panion in 200 BCE. Antiochos IV was not the hero of that battle.


Ancient Sources: Dittenberger W. 1903/5: Orientis Graeci Inscriptionem Selectae, Leipzig. Shuckburgh, E.S. 1962: Polybius’s Histories, 1962, Bloomington. Paton, W.R. 2009: The Complete Histories of Polybios, Breinigsville, Pa.

Modern Scholarship: Ager, S.L. 1992: ‘Rhodes, the Rise and Fall of a Neutral Diplomat’, Historia 40, 10–41. Austin, M.M. 2005: ‘The Seleukids and Asia’, in A. Erskine (ed.), A Companion to the Hellenistic World, Malden, MA. Bar-Kochva, B. 1976: The Seleukid Army: Organization and Tactics in the Great Campaigns, Cambridge. Berthold, R.M. 1984: Rhodes in the Hellenistic Age, Ithaca. Brown, T.S. 1964: ‘Polybios’ Account of Antiochus III’, Phoenix 18, 124–136. Chaniotis, A. 2005: War in the Hellenistic World: A Social and Cultural History, Malden, MA. Coşkun, A. 2016: ‘Philologische, genealogische und politische Überlegungen zu Ardys und Mithradates, zwei Söhnen des Antiochos Megas (Liv. 33,19,9)’, Latomus 75, 849–861. Coşkun, A. 2022: ‘A New Book and Further Recent Scholarship on Seleukid Royal Women’, Karanos 5, 2022, 75–92. Davies, J. K. 1984/2006: ‘Cultural, Social, and Economic Features’, The Cambridge Ancient History. Vol. 7, Part 1: The Hellenistic World, Cambridge 2nd ed. 1984, repr. 2006, 257–320. Eckstein, A.M. 1989: ‘Hannibal at New Carthage: Polybius 3.15 and the Power of Irrationality’, CPh 84, 1–15. Grainger, J.D. 2015: The Seleukid Empire of Antiochus III, South Yorkshire. Grainger, J.D. 1997: A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, Leiden. Graslin-Thomé, L. 2017: ‘Le règne dʼAntiochos III vu depuis Babylone: Antiochos III dans les sources cunéiformes’, in C. Feyel and L. Graslin-Thomé (eds.), Antiochos III et l’Orient. Actes de la rencontre franco-allemande tenue à Nancy du 6 au 8 juin 2016, Nancy, 211–240.

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Green, P. 1991: Alexander of Macedon 356–323 B.C.: A Historical Biography, Berkeley. Gruen, E.S. 1975: ‘Rome and Rhodes in the Second Century B.C.: A Historiographical Inquiry’, CQ 25, 58–81. Gruen, E.S. 1984: The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome, 2 vols., Berkeley. Holleaux, M. 1952: Études d’épigraphie et d’histoire grecques, vol. 3, Paris. Johnstono, P. 2018: ‘No Strength to Stand: Defeat at Panium, the Macedonian Class, and Ptolemaic Decline’, in J.H. Clark and B. Turner (eds.), Brill’s Companion to Military Defeat in Ancient Mediterranean Society, Leiden, 162–187. Lenfant, D. 2005: ‘Polybe et les “fragments” des historiens de Rhodes Zénon et Antisthène (XVI 14–20)’, in G. Schapens and J. Bollansée (eds.), The Shadow of Polybios: Intertextuality as a Research Tool in Greek Historiography, Leuven, 183–204. Lozano, A. 2005: ‘La figura del heredero del trono en la dinastia seléucida’, in V. Alonso Troncoso (ed.), ΔΙΑΔΟΧΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑΣ. La figura del sucesor en las realeza helenística, Madrid 2005, 71–89. McGing, B. 2010: Polybius’ Histories, Oxford. Meister, K. 1975: Historische Kritik bei Polybios, Wiesbaden. Mittag, P.F. 2006: Antiochos IV Epiphanes. Eine politische Biographie, Berlin. Mohm, S. 1977: Untersuchungen zu den historiographischen Anschauungen des Polybios, Diss, Universität des Saarlandes. Mørkholm, O. 1966: Antiochus IV of Syria, Copenhagen. Rawlings, H.R. 1967: ‘Antiochus the Great and Rhodes 197–191 B.C.’, AJAH 1, 2–28. Sachs, A. and Wiseman, J. 1954: ‘Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period’, Iraq 16, 202– 212. Sacks, K. 1981: Polybios on the Writing of History, Berkeley. Scolnic, B. in preparation: ‘Panion and Jerusalem: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Chronology of the Fifth Seleukid-Ptolemaic War’. Tarn, W.W. 1930: Hellenistic Military and Naval Developments, Cambridge. Taylor, M. 2013: Antiochus the Great, South Yorkshire. Walbank, F.W. 1957, 1967, 1982: A Historical Commentary on Polybios, 3 vols., Oxford. Walbank, F.W. 1992: The Hellenistic World, Cambridge, MA. Whatley, N. 1964: ‘On the Possibility of Reconstructing Marathon and Other Ancient Battles’, JHS 84, 119–139. Wiemer, H.-U. 2013: ‘Zeno of Rhodes and the Rhodian View of the Past 1’, in B. Gibson and T. Harrison (eds.), Polybius and His World: Essays in Memory of F.W. Walbank, New York, 279– 306. Wilson, J.F. 2004: Caesarea Philippi: Banias, The Lost City of Pan, London.





Abstract: The territoriality of Seleukid ideology presents a fertile area of study; less often considered in this vein are the impact and reception of Seleukid power in local, rural spaces, where the use, ownership, and development of productive land remained a primary zone of interaction between Seleukid power and the peoples of the empire. By examining two texts on land use and ownership from the life of the Seleukid queen Laodike I, namely the sale of a royal estate in Asia Minor and the Lehmann text from Babylonia, I aim to reconstruct the manner in which Seleukid imperial interventions shaped the rural spaces and experiences of the empire. The focus of this examination is on the responses of local, pre-conquest communities to the imposition of Seleukid space and their engagement with Seleukid authority. I argue that Seleukid imperial hegemony was imprinted on rural spaces through changes to pre-existing settlement patterns and systems of land use, demographic changes, and long-term investment in the infrastructure of connectivity such as roads and waterways. In so doing, the structures of the empire were brought into closer contact with the rural peoples spread throughout its territory, creating opportunities for dialogue and exchange. This paper suggests that the ideological implications of territorial transactions reflect a nuanced, performative negotiation of power and control between local communities and the many levels of the Seleukid imperial presence, extending beyond the well-studied world of kings and elites.

The Seleukid conceptualization of space was the result not just of conquest but of mobility, of the creation, perpetuation, and in some cases even the deliberate destruction of networks of communication linking political, religious, and administrative nodes throughout the imperial space. The definition of the Seleukid space was not, however, one-sided but rather a dialectical process of exchange and response mediated at each level of the social hierarchy. As the Seleukid landscape was reordered and formalized, the local, often indigenous populations were drawn into the Seleukid imperial project and through this contact shaped and redefined it in their own turn. By considering two different texts on land use and ownership from the *

My thanks are due to Paul Kosmin, Altay Coşkun, and Richard Wenghofer for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Feedback from the anonymous reviewers have likewise enhanced this paper, and I am grateful for their contributions while still retaining full responsibility for any remaining errors.


Deirdre Klokow

life of Laodike I, this paper explores how the Seleukid conceptualization of space was implemented on the ground, as well as the role of infrastructure such as roads and waterways in linking the disparate territories into something like a cohesive whole. Tantalizingly, the texts hint at local responses to Seleukid colonization and suggest a more nuanced, reflective relationship between imperial power and nonurban spaces and peoples than the generally elite-focused scholarship would suggest. Separated in time by several decades and spanning much of the empire from west to east, the two texts offer a glimpse not simply at Seleukid negotiations of wealth and power but at the manner in which Seleukid interventions shaped the rural spaces and lived experiences of the empire. On the 5th of Dios, year 59 SE (October 2, 254 BCE), Laodike I purchased from her husband Antiochos II the village of Pannoukome in Hellespontine Phrygia together with its lands, settlements (topoi), tower or fortified house (baris), and inhabitants (laoi), including those who had been resident in Pannoukome but had since relocated.1 Laodike was to receive the income from these properties for the year in which the sale was concluded, was to pay no royal taxes, and was given permission to attach her new estate to the city of her choice. The dossier recording the sale includes a letter of Antiochos II to Metrophanes, governor of Hellespontine Phrygia, a covering letter from Metrophanes to the oikonomikos Nikomachos, and a report by the hyparch charged with the administrative details relating to the sale. Taken together, the texts contain hints at local dissatisfaction with the Seleukid presence; Metrophanes was ordered to see that the borders of Laodike’s new property were freshly surveyed as local farmers had ploughed up one of the boundaries along the old royal road in what was, perhaps, an attempt to expand their own holdings.2 This action might, however, also be read as a form of active protest against, and deliberate engagement with, the Seleukid reordering of the region. Records of the sale were ordered to be published throughout Asia Minor at multiple sites of religious significance, suggesting a relevance beyond the mere record of a land transaction. On the 8 Addar, 75 SE (= March 21, 236 BCE), the Babylonians reinscribed an earlier text recording that Laodike I and her sons Seleukos II and Antiochos (Hierax) had granted to the citizens of Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha a stretch of royal lands along the banks of the Euphrates river.3 This land grant, set out in a small cuneiform tablet commonly known as the Lehmann tablet, records the history and conditions of the gift in the form of a declaration by the šatammu (chief temple administrator), Nergal-tēši-ēṭer, and the kiništu (council) of the Esagil temple. In brief, Antiochos II had given lands to his wife Laodike and to her sons, who in turn 1 2 3

I.Didyma 492A–C = RC 18–20 = OGIS 225. On the date of the sale, Coşkun 2016a, 117 with n. 47. I.Didyma 492C, ll. 65. The standard edition, based on a recently discovered copy of the text housed at the British Museum, is now Wallenfels and van der Spek 2014, CTMMA IV, text 148A and B. Editio princeps by Lehmann 1892, 330–332, n. 2; Sarkisian 1969, 321–323; van der Spek 1986 n. 11; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1983, 128f. See also Ramsey 2020; Monerie 2018; Pirngruber 2017; Coşkun 2016a and forthcoming.

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gave the lands to the cities for attachment to civic land.4 This land had been part of the royal possessions in northern Babylonia, having been passed to Antiochos II from his own father and grandfather, and included arable land given in exchange for plots previously confiscated by the royal authority.5 The proceeds of the land’s harvests were left at the disposal of the owners of the land, while tithes from the harvest were granted to the patron temples of each city, namely Esagil, Ezida, and Emeslam.6 Notably, provision was made for the inhabitants of the newly gifted lands to keep their fields and garden plots ‘in perpetuity’.7 Finally, the boundaries of the grant were to be publicly marked and recorded and the whole gift made public in an inscription protected by both blessing and curse; the text is recorded on a monument in the Ekisalbanda, the courtyard of the Esagil temple. The text itself seems to be a copy made in the reign of Antiochos IV of a naru, a stele or other commemorative monument, recording the original land donation. Both texts have often been read as further evidence for the now well-understood Seleukid policy of making use of royal lands to build connections and buy loyalty in the cities of the empire or with powerful individuals: land as currency. Certainly, the primacy of cities in the Seleukid political and economic project cannot be overlooked, whether one considers newly created settlements, the many ancient cities scattered across the plains of Mesopotamia, the Levant, and the Upper Satrapies, the Greek poleis of the western empire and the creation of Greek politeumata in pre-conquest settlements, or the widespread creation of garrison settlements. In this respect the Seleukids are the true heirs of that prolific city-founder, Alexander III. The rapid colonization of key regions of the empire and the absolute centrality of urban settlements to the Seleukid conceptualization of empire and control are thus scrawled across the map in very deliberate ink. Thanks to the work of a coterie of recent scholars, the geographical and ideological impact of Seleukid urbanization is well understood. Indeed, the cultural and symbolic significance of Seleukid cities has come to define our conception of the Seleukids as a power with ideological rather than administrative strength.8 We might, however, question to what extent the former can exist without the latter. Much of the focus on Seleukid cities stems, of course, from the nature of the surviving evidence, but the emphasis does tend to obscure the relationship of the Seleukids with the rural lands of the empire, both in its physical sense as arable, productive territory forming the economic and nutritive 4 5

6 7 8

CTMMA IV 148, ll. 3–12. CTMMA IV 148, ll. 5–7. The land is taken from Antiochos’ own estates on the Euphrates river near Babylon (ša bīt ramānišu, his own house). These lands are therefore understood as the private property of the king, which the text clearly categorizes as separate from royal land; see Monerie 2018, 197–202. Pirngruber 2017, 67f. regards this as clear evidence both for the existence of crown property as a legal category, and for the possibility of its alienation as civic property. CTMMA IV 148, ll. 8–11. CTMMA IV 148, ll. 37. On Seleukid cities, Cohen 1978, 1995, and 2006; Ma 2000; Capdetrey 2007, 51–81, 191–218 and passim; Boehm 2018. On the ideological importance of Seleukid cities, Kosmin 2014. For an emphasis on rural settlements in the Seleukid empire, Schuler 1998; Capdetrey 2007, 135– 158; Mileta 2008.


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foundation of the imperial space, and with regard to the large swathes of the population who inhabited these non-urban spaces. The two texts are linked both as evidence for the Seleukid disposition of land rights and economic privileges throughout their far-flung territories, and by the role played by Laodike I as landowner and benefactress. In the generally androcentric literary tradition Laodike has been memorialized as the archetypal warmongering, bloodthirsty, treacherous queen, notorious for vicious retribution against her supposed rival Berenike Phernophoros and the murder of her handmaiden Danae, the lover of the commander of Ephesos.9 Laodike’s reputation is further shadowed by the long-held scholarly assumption of her repudiation and divorce by Antiochos II.10 But it is the account of her meddling in the succession that earns her the greatest opprobrium; she is accused of poisoning her own husband and inciting her sons to contend against one another for the Seleukid throne (actions which, it must be pointed out, would have fallen squarely within the expected purview of any male ruler).11 In contrast, both the sale of the Pannoukome estate and the Lehmann text present Laodike not simply as a woman with her own powerful economic agency, but one capable of using her territorial authority and the ties it gave her with local and regional communities in the larger context of Seleukid strategies for sovereignty and control. In both Asia Minor and Babylonia Laodike acts as a stabilizing force, encouraging direct ties between the dynasty and the peoples of the empire; the publicity attendant on both texts suggest that she was deliberately promoted by her husband as such. The management of royal lands and concomitant engagement with local populations – urban and rural – seems to form a central component of Seleukid dynasteia and, to judge from Laodike’s actions, of Seleukid queenship as well.12 I. THE PANNOUKOME DOSSIER The details of Laodike’s land purchase of 254 BCE have often been subsumed within the more dramatic context of the ending of the Second Syrian War and her alleged struggles to remain near the throne. However, the assumption that Antiochos’ sale of the estate was in any way related to a repudiation or divorce of Laodike on the occasion of his marriage to Berenike Phernophoros can safely be set aside. Seleukid polygamy makes no such repudiation necessary, while the favorable position of the Seleukids at the end of the war make any such action highly


On Berenike Phernophoros, Polyainos Strat. 8.50; Coşkun 2016a, 2018 and 2022. On Danae, Athenaios 13.64. 10 On the presumption of divorce, see n. 13 below. On Laodike herself, see Coşkun 2016a; D’Agostini 2018; McAuley 2018a; 2018b; Coşkun 2022 and in preparation; Erickson 2019, 145f; Ramsey 2020. 11 Porphyry FGrH 260 F 43 = Jerome In Danielem 11.6–8; Ogden 1999, 128. 12 On Seleukid queens more generally, see Macurdy 1932; Bielman Sánchez 2003; Coşkun and McAuley 2016; Ramsey 2016, 2020, and 2021.

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implausible.13 The explicit, public transfer of this royal estate by Antiochos to Laodike – record of which is ordered to be published in the main temples of Ilion, Samothrake, Ephesos, Didyma, and Sardeis, with an account of the sale deposited in the royal archives of Sardeis – draws deliberate attention to the area and its new owner.14 The attention suggests a concern to fully and publicly integrate the region into the Seleukid space while at the same time emphasizing Laodike’s role as a benefactor and a politically stabilizing force in an unstable region.15 That none of the five locations in which Antiochos chose to publicize the sale were in any way related to the transfer of the Pannoukome estate speaks to the significance of the sale in the public presentation of the Seleukid dynasty and to the value of Laodike as euergetis and as a key agent in the negotiation of relationships between the Seleukids and the chora of Asia Minor. Laodike’s identity and background remains uncertain. If, as has been posited, she was indeed the daughter of the Anatolian dynast Achaios, Laodike would likely retain social and familial ties in Asia Minor which would leave her uniquely placed to act as the public face of the empire in the region. Should she rather be identified as the daughter of Alexander, son of Lysimachos, and therefore as a Seleukid princess, this dynastic authority would only increase her value as a public representative of the dynasty.16 However Laodike is identified, it is clear that the sale of the Pannoukome estate represents an attempt to publicly enrich her and to openly emphasize her authority and control. As for what made this sale especially significant, the estate Laodike purchased from her husband at Pannoukome was likely based in an Achaemenid-period estate or land parcel, taken into Seleukid hands after the conquest. The Pannoukome estate had been a part of the chora basilike, inherited by Antiochos II as part of the royal holdings near Zeleia (modern Sarıköy in Turkey).17 The boundary lines of the estate would therefore have been generated in an earlier record of the estate, created at the time of Achaemenid possession.18 The region of the estate, close to the Persian and former Lydian satrapal capital of Daskyleion, was thick with Achaemenid presence; the plain was scattered with tumuli, the burial mounds of the aristocratic families who had served the Persian king.19 Laodike was purchasing not simply a parcel of land but a territorial entity with a political identity that pre-dated the Seleukid presence, in a region where Seleukid authority was frequently contested. It would seem 13 On polygamy, Ogden 1999, 129; Carney 2011, 198, 202f. On the alleged repudiation, Del Monte 1997, 44f.; Kuhrt 2001, 85; Aperghis 2004, 103; cf. Martinez-Sève 2003, Coşkun 2016a and forthcoming. 14 I.Didyma 492B, ll. 44–49; I.Didyma 492A, ll. 15-16. 15 I.Didyma 492B, ll. 44–50; on the political instability in Asia Minor and Hellespontine Phrygia in particular during this period, Coşkun 2016b and 2018. 16 As the daughter of Achaios, D’Agostini 2014 and 2018; McAuley 2018a and 2018b. As a Seleukid princess, Coşkun 2022, n. 2, and in preparation. 17 Sekunda 1988, 185f.; see Ramsey 2019, 246f. for a full discussion of the location and nature of the estate. 18 Welles 1934, 93; Ramsey 2019, 246. 19 Rose et al. 2007, 72–75; Boehm 2018, 57. On the significance and use of the tumuli, see Arr. Anab. 1.13f.; Diod. 17.18–21; Plut. Alex. 16; Xen. Hell. 3.2.15.


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that over time, the region of the Pannoukome estate had become destabilized, farmers and inhabitants had begun to move away, and land had been left unattended. This lack of care and management on the part of the Seleukid overlords appears to have been a source of frustration to the inhabitants who remained and thus to have represented a danger in a region pressed by alternate claims to power. In response, the multiple, prominent records of the sale effectively Seleukid-ized the estate and its inhabitants, pulling them into the network of Seleukid authority and allowing Laodike to step into the role of beneficent regional authority. Notable in this dossier is the need to resurvey the Pannoukome estate after the boundary line along the old road, τῆι ὁδῶι τῆι ἀρχαίαι, had been dug or ploughed up by neighboring farmers in an attempt to secure more land for themselves.20 This rare record of the actions of local inhabitants provides us with frustratingly little detail. There is a sense, however, that by their actions these residents were deliberately inserting themselves into the Seleukid negotiation of power and authority in the region; by physically transgressing the borders of the basilike chora they intimated the tenuous nature of Seleukid territorial claims. In the dossier’s final report, it was the estate’s local inhabitants who provided the hyparch in charge of conducting the land survey with the course the boundary and old road had followed. Of the three men who provided the details of the original land boundaries and thus of the old royal road, one bears the Iranian name Daos the son of Azaretos, and the other the more ethnic Medios the son of Metrodoros of Pannoukomē. Names are of course not to be understood as clear indicators of ethnicity, but the predominance of non-Greek and only slightly Hellenized names in this small group is striking.21 The appearance of these men, and the peasants (γεωργούντων) responsible for the destruction of the boundary, in a text dealing with royal land and destined for publication in five significant Seleukid sites, comes as rather a surprise. It suggests both a startlingly amicable relationship between king and subjects, as well as an evident willingness on the part of the Seleukids to engage publicly with the minutia of local territorial claims – a kind of performative royal omniscience. Recording the names of the local population in this bureaucratic dossier not only inserts the Seleukids into the region as local power-holders themselves, it also works to entangle the men as members of the royal bureaucracy in turn. It is the local, perhaps even pre-conquest populations in this case who engage in the act of shaping and transcribing the land according to its pre-Seleukid configuration and defining the new, Seleukid Pannoukome. The (Seleukid) estate of Pannoukome, Antiochos’ letter notes, came into existence after and indeed in response to these events: τ̣ὴμ ̣ ̣ μ̣ὲν̣ ̣ Π̣άν̣ ̣[νου κώμην ὐπ]ά̣ρχουσαν συμβα[ί]νει ὕστερον γεγενῆσθαι.22 The imposition of the Seleukid bureaucracy into every level of local life – interviewing the local inhabitants, 20 I.Didyma 492B, ll. 20–23. 21 I.Didyma 492C, ll. 63–65. The third man named in the inscription is Menekrates the son of Bakchios of Pythokomē; the theophoric nature of these names may also be an indication of their epichoric nature, as with the also mentioned Metrodoros. On the significance of Persian names in Hellenistic Asia Minor, Mitchell 2007. 22 I.Didyma 492B, ll. 22f.

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recording the landmarks according to which the inhabitants had collectively shaped the land, placing new boundary stones – redefined what had once been marginal land as governed space, newly reified by the performative reality of the published dossier. That the local, perhaps pre-conquest population had a role to play in Seleukid spatial politics is not to suggest that the process of colonization was in any sense tamed or democratized; the Seleukids retained an imperial ruthlessness. Antiochos’ sale of the land to Laodike had the effect of strengthening the experience of Seleukid control and authority by deepening the bureaucratic presence in the area; Laodike’s new ownership was heralded by the arrival in Pannoukome of a host of Seleukid officials. Not only were the results of the land survey to be published on two of the stelae, but the landmarks by which the Pannoukomite peasants recognized the boundaries of road and estate were re-appropriated to Seleukid purposes, rewriting the deep historical memory embedded in the landscape. The presence of Seleukid officials represented domination in a way the rather nominal conquest of the region itself had not. It was the old Achaemenid royal road system, the ancient ὁδὸς βασιλική, that delimited the Pannoukome estate both to the east (‘the ancient royal road that leads to Pannoukome’) and to the north (‘the royal road leading to the river Asepos’).23 The Seleukids had invested in selectively maintaining much of the Persian network of royal roads throughout their empire, as can be discerned by the evidence of Seleukid stadia-markers; two have been found in Iran, one at Pasargadai and one near Persepolis in Marvdast, both dated to between 330–280 BCE.24 One of these milestones was made using a piece of the destroyed parapet of Persepolis, a vicious reminder of the Achaemenid downfall as well as a clear statement of the political importance of these ancient roadways. An inscription from third-century Asia Minor recording supplies for a conscript labor force used by the Seleukids, likely for work on the roads in the region, demonstrates both the Seleukid use of local labor and their investment in the construction and maintenance of infrastructure.25 A final, contested milestone from western Asia Minor, recording the distance in stades between Sardeis and Ephesos, may also be Seleukid.26 Roads represent the lifeblood of empires, the arteries along which armies, money, and communication moved. Their disruption or decay implies a loss of economic and political connection, a deprivileging of place. The Seleukid era road network had a long precedent. The Achaemenid royal roads, with their network of guarded stations, were themselves an extension of an earlier neo-Assyrian system of roads in Mesopotamia.27 Herodotos mentions the respect in which the Achae23 24 25 26

I.Didyma 492C, ll. 61–62, 68–69. IEOG 247 = SEG XLV 1879; also SEG XLV 1880; SEG XLVII 1624. Malay 1983. SEG XLVII 1624. The abbreviation ‘Β ΑΑ’ at the top corner of each side of this milestone has been variously interpreted; Thonemann 2003, 96 reads ‘β(ασιλεύοντος) Ἀ(ττάλου) α’, referring to the first year of Attalus II or III. Kosmin 2014, 259 notes that the inscription might also be understood to refer to a king Antiochos son of Antiochos, and thus to refer to Antiochos II. 27 On the Persian royal roads, see Hdt. 5.52–54; Briant 2002, 359. On the Neo-Assyrian road and courier system, see Graf 1993, 171f.


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menid roads had once been held, describing how the entire length of the road along which king Xerxes had once led his army was neither dug up nor planted by the people but held in great reverence.28 The road bordering the Pannoukome estate, likely the old Persian route to Daskylion, would seem to have been allowed to fall into ruin under the Seleukids, whether deliberately or as a further symptom of the region’s neglect under the empire.29 It is this neglect which the Seleukids attempted to address with Laodike’s highly public land purchase, integrating by the rhetoric of imperial bureaucracy what had formerly been connected by the presence of the ὁδὸς βασιλική. The Pannoukome estate comes to Laodike with the provision that she could attach it to any city she chose, making the land a permanent part of the chora of the city receiving it. Should she not exercise it, any later recipient of the land would also inherit this right of attachment.30 This transformation of the land of Pannoukome into civic territory carries both economic and social implications, as the position of the estate’s inhabitants would be altered by the change from royal to civic land. Without wishing to enter into the fraught discussion of the status of the laoi in Asia Minor, the nature of their connection to the land and the implication of its sale remain significant. That the sale of the Pannoukome estate includes the inhabitants, both those living on the land at the time of the sale and those who had drifted away over time, certainly suggests that for the laoi of Asia Minor, mobility was restricted and the economic obligations of place could not be evaded.31 It is not the individual inhabitants in themselves who are sold, but the income of their labor which is included in the valuation of the estate and which would necessitate their residence.32 Among the honorific decrees from Zeleia, one of the cities on the boundary of the Pannokoume estate is offering the gift of a slave from among the local laoi.33 A further inscription from Zeleia, dated to the time of the conquest of Asia Minor in the mid-330’s BCE, records the activity of inspectors of the land of the demos (ἀνευρετὰς τῶν χωρίων τῶν δημοσίων). Considering the date, it is probable that they were surveying the land to determine the boundary between city and royal land.34 It is likely that this Zeleian survey would also have included the registration of the inhabitants of the region to help determine the value of the land due in rents and taxes. Given the proximity of Zeleia to the Pannoukome estate, it was a natural 28 Hdt. 7.115.3: τὴν δὲ ὁδὸν ταύτην, τῇ βασιλεὺς Ξέρξης τὸν στρατὸν ἤλασε, οὔτε συγχέουσι Θρήικες οὔτ᾽ ἐπισπείρουσι σέβονταί τε μεγάλως τὸ μέχρι ἐμεῦ. 29 Hasluck 1910, 127; Wiegard 1904, 274–280. 30 On attaching the land to a city, Aperghis 2004, 102f., although contextualized as a divorce settlement; he estimates the size of the estate, valued at 30 talents, at as many as 20,000 hectares, with between 6,000–7,000 hectares being cultivable land. 31 On the reading of the lines concerning the status of the laoi, Flinterman 2012. See also Aperghis 2004, 111f., 145; Papazoglou 1997, 113–140. 32 Monerie 2018, 202, with Briant 1973, 104: ‘ce que donne ou vend le roi, ce ne sont ni les terres ni les personnes, ce sont les revenus: encore ne permet-il pas au concessionaire de lever ni de fixer lui-même les impôts. L’administration royale reste souveraine. Il s’agit d’une rente.’ 33 Cohen 1978, 49. 34 SGDI 5532 = Syll3 279.

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candidate to receive some or all of the land whenever it should be attached to a city. With the detailed survey of the estate, and the public attention to the minutiae of the sale, the Seleukids demonstrated their ability to interact with the city as an (apparent) equal, as closely aware of the land and its inhabitants as were the surrounding cities, using the Pannoukome estate as a common language between the dynasty and local power holders.35 II. THE LEHMANN TEXT Where the sale of the Pannoukome estate represents the beginning of the process of land disposition, the Lehmann text demonstrates the end, the granting of land to a city or cities. Most notable in this land grant is the careful designation of the land in question; the lands are distinguished as ‘arable lands in perpetuity’, couched in the idiom of Seleukid eternity and in the language of what van der Spek refers to as a ‘perpetuity clause’, a guarantee of perpetual, continuous ownership by means of the repeated phrase ana umu ṣatu.36 The text refers to the land in question as zēru / ŠE.NUMUN, which refers to productive land that is considered within a city’s district despite being beyond the city walls, as opposed to arable land located within the walls themselves.37 Zēru is measured according to the amount of seed grain the land in question requires and is thus explicitly defined and valued according to its productive capabilities. The land of the Euphrates estate, therefore, is carefully singled out by the Babylonians as being both productive and heritable. Prominent within the text are guarantees of legal ownership and protection against confiscation; the repeated inclusion of the perpetuity clause suggests an anxiety to encode within the language of the grant the idea of inalienable ownership as opposed to simply rights of possession or use.38 The use of this phrase is typically understood as acting to protect the recipient of the grant, strengthening the rights of the new owners, who here receive the right of alienation or disposal of the plots.39 We can understand the gift of the Euphrates estate as related to the confiscation of an estate mentioned in the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries for the Seleukid year 38 (274/73 BCE), in which something (the text is unfortunately unclear) is done to lands given previously by Antiochos I to Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha for their 35 As noted by Ramsey 2019, 249, the estate’s other neighbor, Kyzikos, was more closely aligned with the Attalids than the Seleukids, although I would suggest that Kyzikos’ relative wealth compared to Zeleia contributes to making the latter a more likely candidate to receive the Pannoukome land. Zeleia needed it more and could be counted on therefore to be suitably grateful. On Kyzikos, Strabo 13.4.2; Polyb. 22.20; Cohen 1995, 39. 36 See van der Spek 1995, 189. The phrase is repeated at lines 18, 37, 39, 42, 43, and 46, CTMMA IV 148. 37 See van der Spek 1995, 173. 38 See Pirngruber 2017, 67. 39 Monerie 2018, 201. The phrasing used is šalatu nadānu, meaning to give the authority or the right of disposal; CTMMA IV 148, ll. 11. It is perhaps taking too much from this text to read it as evidence for an increased emphasis on privatization of land in the Seleukid as opposed to the Achaemenid period, as does Pirngruber 2017, 68.


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sustenance.40 While lacunae in the texts make it impossible to know precisely what Antiochos had done to the land, the context of the First Syrian War supports van der Spek’s supplement, according to which a war tax of some kind had been introduced: that month, the satrap of Babylonia made the fields which had been given in year 32 at the command of the king for the sustenance of the Babylonians, Borsippaeans and Kuthaeans, (and) the bulls, the sheep, and everything which [had been given] [to the citie]s and cult centers at the command of the king at the disposal of the citizens, [taxable to/confiscated property of] the royal treasury’.41

Should that be the case, with the gift of the Euphrates estate Laodike was effectively righting a wrong done by the previous king and restoring territorial control in the region to the cities. The emphasis placed on the land as productive land, used for sustenance, and as held in perpetuity makes sense in light of such a previous royal transgression against the cities’ property. It is surely worth emphasizing here that it is Laodike, rather than the king himself, who returns the land to the Babylonian cities. As with the Pannoukome estate, Laodike acts as benefactor on behalf of the dynasty, not only contributing to the stability of Seleukid dynasteia in the region but ensuring the long-term prosperity of the cities and their inhabitants by protecting the status of their rural lands through a negotiated process of appropriation and return.42 It has recently been suggested that the land in question in the Lehmann text may reflect attempts by the Seleukids to increase the amount of arable, productive land in the region of Babylon and Borsippa.43 According to land surveys, despite the urban conglomerations of Babylon and Borsippa, the areas surrounding these cities were less intensively settled than the floodplains of the north-central Euphrates.44 Both Babylon and Borsippa were surrounded by marshlands; around Borsippa the wetlands were difficult enough to interfere with the return of Alexander to the region in 323.45 In Babylonia, the presence or absence of water was inextricably linked to economic and political survival, with cities and populations rising and falling according to the fluctuations of the water levels in the rivers and canals. The Seleukids had not neglected to pay close attention to the power vested in controlling the flow of water, intensifying the irrigation works around Babylon and Borsippa 40 AD -273 B rev. 36’–38’. Sarkisian 1969, 315–319; van der Spek 1993, 98f.; Del Monte 1997, 34, n. 70; Aperghis 2004, 109f.; Ramsey 2019, 249f. Note that where Sachs and Hunger’s edition of the Astronomical Diaries reads NIBRUki (Nippur), while all other editions read BAR.SIPki (Borsippa); although the signs themselves are difficult to read clearly, Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha are associated with one another dating back to the Neo-Babylonian period, while a grouping of Babylon, Nippur, and Kutha would be quite anomalous. 41 See van der Spek 1993, 99. 42 Monerie 2018, 201f.: ‘le rattachement des domaines au territoire des communautés locales ait entrainé à chaque fois une appropriation effective des terres concédées par les membres de ces communautés.’ 43 Ramsey 2019, 250f. 44 Adams 1981, 191, fig. 40, and 197f. 45 Arr. Anab. 7.21.

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as well as in heavily canalized regions such as those around Uruk. That Laodike and her sons were able to grant to the cities of Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha so substantial an estate along the banks of the Euphrates, and that such careful attention should be given to defining this estate as arable, productive land, suggests a desire to draw attention to the Seleukid investment in, and control over, agriculture in the region. Ancient sources are all but silent on Seleukid canalization, but by the 2nd century BCE Polybios could claim that the Euphrates no longer emptied into the Persian Gulf; its water had been drawn away by the canals woven across its flood plain long before the river could reach the sea, no doubt a result of Seleukid investment in the region.46 Alexander, in a highly political, public emulation of the Achaemenid kings, had employed some 10,000 men for three months to clean and improve a long southward-flowing canal on the west side of the Euphrates,47 but the Seleukids had restored and enhanced the waterways of nearly all of Babylonia and in so doing had connected the region’s profitability to the guarantee of Seleukid eternity. The new Seleukid economic core in the region, Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris, was closely linked to its location in the rich alluvial plain of the Tigris river. Massive irrigation systems were necessary to support this new royal foundation, and their construction, as well as a reorganization of patterns of land tenure to accommodate the new city and its population, impacted the regions of both Seleukeia and Babylon. Seleukeia was a key commercial hub for the region; on the route from Zeugma to the west, it was located at the most northern point of navigability for the Tigris river, at the mouth of the ‘Royal Canal’ that connected the Euphrates to the Tigris. Seleukeia was thus linked to Indian and Arabian maritime trade routes to the east and west to Syria and the Mediterranean sea. The city’s full Akkadian name, ‘Seleukeia which is on the Tigris and the Royal Canal’, emphasizes the centrality of the two waterways to the identity and prosperity of the city.48 It has been posited that both Babylon and Seleukeia were largely self-supporting, relying on the increased agricultural productivity made possible by the development of the canals in their hinterlands and likely prioritizing local trade among their rural holdings.49 Laodike’s benefaction, by transforming a large swathe of royal land into productive city land, would help to balance the economic independence of the cities while reinforcing a hierarchical euergetic relationship. The Euphrates estate would remain in the hands of the cities of Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha. It would, presumably, remain productive as long as the Seleukids retained their authority in the region, which is to say, in perpetuity, ana umu ṣatu. Prosperity existed as a gift of Seleukid continuity. Intensive canalization is of course found throughout the empire, a necessary component of the Seleukid colonization project. From the lower Diyāla plain near 46 Polyb. 9.4: καὶ δοκεῖ μὲν εἰς τὴν Ἐρυθρὰν ἐμβάλλειν θάλατταν, οὐ μὴν ἔστι γε τοῦτο: ταῖς γὰρ διώρυξι ταῖς ἐπὶ τὴν χώραν ἀγομέναις προεκδαπανᾶται πρὶν ἐκβολὴν εἰς θάλατταν πεποιῆσθαι. 47 Arr. Anab. 7.21.7; Strabo 16.1.10. 48 uruSe-lu-ke-‘a-a šá a-na muh-hi ídidigna u íd lugal. See, for example, AD -181, rev. 9–11. 49 See van der Speck 2008.


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Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris,50 to the irrigation channels off the Kokcha river above Aï Khanoum,51 to the canals around the former Achaemenid city of Susa, renamed Seleukeia-on-the-Eulaios,52 to the Amuq valley near Antioch-by-Daphne,53 and the canalization of the Margos river near Antioch-in-Margiane,54 all are generally connected with significant Seleukid urban sites. In northern Babylonia, the construction of the royal city of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris marked a significant colonial intrusion into the established patterns of land and water use. Immense irrigation systems were created to support the new royal foundation, similar to the increased canalization and productivity of the Amuq valley after the foundation at the nearby Tetrapolis city of Antioch-by-Daphne. A new urban culture developed as a result of the foundation of Seleukeia, encompassing perhaps 8,000 hectares of newly settled lands, all most likely linked to the settlement of veteran colonies in the region.55 But the notable changes are not all urban; archaeological data from northern Mesopotamia indicates the abandonment of the large-scale network of Assyrianperiod canals in the Erbil plain.56 What had once been intensely exploited land was partially abandoned in the Seleukid era, with settlement increasing in the south and south-east of the plain instead. This suggests an increased exploitation of what had been marginal lands, and a deliberate ruralization of what had once been the political and economic core of the region. While ecological factors such as increasing salinization of the soil may have played a role in this shift in settlement, the move to marginal lands may in fact reflect changing demographics due to Seleukid colonization and the influx of new settlers, pushing the local populations to increasingly peripheral regions. Hydrological changes in Babylonia as a result of Seleukid colonialism and infrastructure had an impact beyond simply increasing the productivity of the land. The canals would have served to connect communities and encourage organization to manage and maintain water resources. It is noteworthy that the Euphrates estate is gifted to the three cities Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha together as one entity; these three cities are commonly linked together dating back to the Neo-Babylonian period, and their association by the Seleukids hearkens back to a deliberately conservative affiliation. This grouping of the cities in the context of the land donation can be taken to imply a kind of rural synoecism, an administrative blending of a large agricultural territory under the combined governance of the three separate polities. We cannot be certain whether this implies that the three cities were administratively linked under the Seleukids, as Tom Boiy has suggested,57 or if the grouping relates more simply to the location of the lands within the grant. Nevertheless, choosing to reinforce the pre-Seleukid administrative unity of the cities in this case 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57

Briant 1978, 68f. Gardin 1976. Wenke 1976, 95–112. Casana 2003; SEG XXXV 1483; Feissel 1985. Pliny NH 6.46f. Adams 1965, 63; Aperghis 2004, 36f. Palermo 2022 Boiy 2004, 217.

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suggests a desire to increase connectivity and generate cooperation for the purposes of resource control, pulling a pre-existing relationship into the performance of Seleukid administration. It is, in fact, just as likely to have the effect of increasing competition between the three cities. The deliberate emphasis on Babylon throughout the text – the Babylonians are distinctly named in the list of privileges recorded in the grant – suggests that the Seleukids were invested in retaining the established hierarchy between the cities. The citizens of Borsippa and Kutha are never named independently of the grouping of ‘the Babylonians, Borsippaeans, and Kuthaeans’, while the political hierarchy is further reinforced through the listing of each city’s temple.58 The Babylonian Esagil, the temple of Bel-Marduk, was the most ideologically significant for the Seleukids in the region; it is the only temple to be mentioned independently and is also the location in which the text was originally read before the kiništu. City land in Babylonia remained under the control of the temples, although by the Seleukid period there was no real separation between the affairs of the temple and the affairs of the city.59 Laodike’s gift highlights the Seleukid privileging of the cities’ religious bastions. Careful provision is made to ensure that the Babylonians currently or previously occupying house plots (bit-kanni) on the Euphrates estate should retain them in perpetuity. Likewise protected are plots given by members of the kiništu and by troops (klerouchoi?) to presumably their own family members or supporters, ensuring continuity for the privileged elites of Babylon while allowing for the granting of kleroi to Seleukid supporters.60 Demographic and economic anxieties may lie behind this pointed protection of existing land claims. Certainly, Seleukid colonization had resulted in an astonishing demographic explosion leading to and fed by a rapid intensification of agriculture and irrigation, effectively reshaping previous Achaemenid and Bronze-age patterns of living and creating a ripple effect throughout the inhabited landscape. The forceful transfer of populations to benefit new colonial urban structures, the redistribution of rural lands, and the construction of major irrigation channels using regional labor and resources, are all marks of what Paul Kosmin has referred to as the ‘deliberate interventions of willful sovereignty’,61 a brutal break with the patterns of the past. In the region of Babylon this had been keenly felt with the construction of Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris and more particularly when, in the reign of Antiochos III or IV, a politeuma (polis?) was established within the city of Babylon and effectively absorbed the economic and political rights and privileges of the temple elites.62 The guarantee of the economic benefits from the Euphrates estate remained significant enough to the Babylonians for the text to have been re-inscribed by the temple scribes of Esagil in 173/2 BCE, during the reign of Antiochos IV, perhaps 58 The emphasis on Babylon of course also reflects the Babylonian perspective of the text’s reinscription, undertaken by the priests of the Esagil temple. 59 See van de Spek 2018, 388. 60 CTMMA IV 148, ll. 38–41. 61 Kosmin 2014, 197. 62 BCPH 14; Clancier and Monerie 2015; Pirngruber 2017, 39, 48.


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in an attempt to reassert the claims of the Babylonian elites to both land ownership and rights of redistribution. The text was re-inscribed at the request of one Belipus, who refers to himself as a descendant of Bēliyau. The specific reference to an ancestor here, without any mention of an official role in the civic or temple administration, suggests a personal involvement with the land grant. Bēliyau may have been a recipient of one of the original land allotments, giving his descendent a reason to emphasize these privileges.63 While this personal involvement would certainly be sufficient to explain the reinscription of the text, it also aligns neatly with Antiochus IV’s attempts to emphasize the historical role of the Seleukids as benefactors to the elites of Babylon. The re-inscription of the text may in fact constitute a response to this political re-organization of Babylon, a reminder of the long-standing political significance of the Babylonian elites and of the Seleukid dynasty’s historical willingness to engage in a relationship of mutually beneficial euergetism. It is worth remembering that when, in the winter of 246/5, Ptolemy III attempted an invasion of Babylon in the course of the Third Syrian War, even occupying the temple of Bel-Marduk, the Babylonians retained their loyalty to the Seleukids.64 This loyalty (while undoubtedly selfserving) stood testament to the effectiveness of the Seleukid relationship with the people of Babylon. The Euphrates estate, gifted to Babylon, Borsippa, and Kutha some ten years after Ptolemy’s invasion, encouraged the Babylonians to engage further with the Seleukids by renegotiating the status of their rural territory and its economic control by the three cities. Like the Pannoukome estate, the text of the Euphrates estate singles out by name local inhabitants involved in the transaction, in this case the recipients of specific benefactions confirmed by Seleukos II: Theogenēs, Kalli[…], and Aga’a, sons of the treasurer Mār-bīt-Nanāya, and Susamrus with his sons.65 The Greek personal names of two of the three sons of the Babylonian-named treasurer are likely indicative of a family of local elites with ties to the Seleukid administration and again imply a close relationship between the Seleukid ruling elite, personified here by Laodike, and the local population.66 III. CONCLUSIONS The interactions between the Seleukids and local populations, be they the farmers of the Pannoukome estate or the recipients of benefactions in northern Babylonia, suggest a careful attention on the part of the Seleukids to the minutia of local 63 Coşkun forthcoming. The copies of the text are dated between 8 Addar SE (March 21, 236 BCE, and 139 SE (13/2 BCE); see Wallenfels and van der Spek 2014, 224; Ramsey 2020, 245, although with some problems of dating throughout. 64 BCHP 11 ed. Finkel and van der Spek; Coşkun 2018 and ch. 15 in this volume 65 CTMMA IV 148, ll. 20–24. 66 Monerie 2018, 191f. considers the text as an example of dôréa, a revocable gift of land and/or its revenues, usually to a significant figure of the royal circle or administration, despite the lack of information concerning its recipients.

Connectivity and Rural Spaces in the Seleukid Empire


territorial and economic concerns. The details of these two land dispositions also bring to light the role played by Laodike in political and economic negotiations, and her ability to act as a link between the dynasty and the people. Through Laodike’s participation in these interactions the dynasty is positioned not only as an imperial power but also as a regional and indeed local power, involved in local concerns. Seleukid power is articulated as omnipresent. The Seleukid empire remained in a constant state of self-actualization, reified by continual, repeated mobility on roads and waterways, by the co-option and often the deliberate public destruction of the marks of previous imperial structures, whether Achaemenid roads or Neo-Assyrian canals. For an empire with porous, ambiguous borders defined by conflict, internal cohesion relied on strengthening the ties that bound people and places closer to one another and to the Seleukid house. Relationships with cities remained at the heart of this ruling strategy, but just as no man is an island, no city exists in a vacuum. It is only to be expected that the growth and emphasis of cities across the empire would have a ripple effect on their environs, transforming once marginal areas, intensifying contact between far-flung communities, and creating an imperative for a more localized form of rule. BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, R. 1981: Heartland of Cities: Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land Use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates, Chicago. Aperghis, G.G. 2004: The Seleukid Royal Economy: The Finances and Financial Administration of the Seleukid Empire, Cambridge. Bielman Sánchez, A. 2003: ‘Régner au feminin. Réflexions sur les reines attalides et séleucides’, in F. Prost (ed.), L’Orient méditerranéen de la mort d’Alexandre aux campagnes de Pompée, Rennes, 41–64. Boehm, R. 2018: City and Empire in the Age of the Successors: Urbanization and Social Response in the Making of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, Berkeley. Boiy, T. 2004: Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon, Leuven. Briant, P. 1973: ‘Remarques sur laoi et esclaves ruraux en Asie Mineure hellénistique’, Actes du colloque 1971 sur l’esclavage, 93–133. Briant, P. 1978: ‘Colonisation hellénistique et populations indigènes. La phase d’installation’, Klio 60, 57–92. Briant, P. and Daniels, P.T. 2002: From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Eisenbraun. Capdetrey, L. 2007: Le pouvoir séleucide. Territoire, administration, finances d’un royaume hellénistique, 312–129 avant J.-C., Rennes. Casana, J. 2003: From Alalakh to Antioch: Settlement, Land Use, and Environmental Change in the Amuq Valley of Southern Turkey, Chicago. Carney, E. 2000: ‘The Initiation of Cult for Royal Macedonian Women’, CPh 95, 21–43. Carney, E. 2011: ‘Being Royal and Female in the Early Hellenistic Period’, in A. Erskine and L. Llewellyn-Jones (eds.), Creating a Hellenistic World, Swansea, 195–220. Clancier, P. and Monerie, J. 2015: ‘Les sanctuaires babyloniens à l’époque hellénistique. Évolution d’un relais de pouvoir’, Topoi 19, 181–237. Cohen, G. 1978: The Seleucid Colonies: Studies in Founding, Administration and Organisation, Wiesbaden. Cohen, G. 1995: The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands, and Asia Minor, Berkeley.


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Cohen, G. 2006: The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, Berkeley. Coşkun, A. 2016a: ‘Laodike I, Berenike Phernophoros, Dynastic Murders, and the Outbreak of the Third Syrian War (253–246)’, in A. Coşkun and A. McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire, Stuttgart, 107–134. Coşkun, A. 2016b: ‘Ptolemaioi as Commanders in 3rd-Century Asia Minor and Some Glimpses on Ephesos and Mylasa during the Second and Third Syrian Wars’, in B. Takmer, E.N. Akdoğu Arca, and N. Gökalp Özdil (eds.), Vir Doctus Anatolicus: Studies in Memory of Sencer Şahin, Istanbul, 211–233. Coşkun, A. 2018: ‘The War of Brothers, the Third Syrian War, and the Battle of Ankyra (246–241): a Re-Appraisal’, in K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire 281–222: War Within the Family, Swansea. Coşkun, A. 2022: ‘Berenike Phernophoros and Other Virgin Queens in Early-Ptolemaic Egypt’, Klio 104, 191–233. Coşkun, A. forthcoming: ‘Polygamy and Queenship under Antiochos II. – The King’s Wife Laodike I and the Basilissa Title (or the Lack Thereof)’, in E. Almagor, B. Antela Bernardes, and M. Mendoza (eds.), Cherchez la femme. Women in Hellenistic History, Historiography and Reception. Coşkun, A. in preparation: ‘Achaioi and Alexandroi: Disentangling Two Dynastic Sidelines of the House of Seleukos’. CTMMA: see Wallenfels and van der Spek 2014. D’Agostini, M. 2018: ‘Asia Minor and the Many Shades of a Civil War: Observations on Achaios the Younger and His Claim to the Kingdom of Anatolia’, in K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire, 281–222 BC: War within the Family, Swansea, 59–81. Del Monte, G. 1997: Testi dalla Babilonia ellenistica, Pisa. Feissel, D. 1985: ‘Deux listes de quartiers d’Antioche astreints au creusement d’un canal (73–74 après J.-C.)’, Syria 62, 77–103. Flinterman, J.-J. 2012: ‘Pannucome Revisited: Lines 11–13 of the Laodice Inscription Again’, ZPE 181, 79–87. Gardin, J.-C. 1976: ‘Irrigation et peuplement dans la plaine d’Aï Khanoum, de l’époque achéménide à l’époque musulmane’, Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême Orient 63, 59–110. Graf, D. 1993: ‘The Persian Royal Road System in Syria-Palestine’, Transeuphratène 6, 149–168. Hasluck, F.W. 1910: Cyzicus: Being Some Account of the History and Antiquities of that City, and of the District Adjacent to it, with the Towns of Apollonia Ad Rhyndacum, Miletupolis, Hadrianutherae, Priapus, Zeleia, etc., Cambridge. Kennedy, D.A. 1968: CT: Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, Part XLIX: Late-Babylonian Economic Texts, London. Kosmin, P.J. 2014: The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire, Cambridge. Kosmin, P.J. 2018. Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire, Harvard. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S. 1991: ‘Aspects of Seleukid Royal Ideology: The Cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa’, JHS 111, 71–86. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S. 2001: ‘The Palace(s) of Babylon’, in I. Nielsen (ed.), The Royal Palace Institution in the First Millennium BC: Regional Development and Cultural Interchange between East and West, Athens, 77–93. Lehmann, C.F. 1892: ‘Noch einmal Kassû: Κίσσιοι, nicht Κοσσαĩοι’, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 7, 328–334. Ma, J. 1999: Antiochos III and the Cities of Western Asia Minor, Oxford. Malay, H. 1983: ‘A Royal Document from Aigai in Aiolis’, GRBS 24, 349–353. Martinez-Sève, L. 2002/3: ‘Laodice, femme d’Antiochos II: du roman à la reconstruction historique’, REG 116, 690–706.

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McAuley, A. 2018a: ‘The House of Achaios: Reconstructing an Early Client Dynasty of Seleukid Anatolian’, in K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire, 281–222 BC: War Within the Family, Swansea, 37–58. McAuley, A. 2018b: ‘The Tradition and Ideology of Naming Seleukid Queens,’ Historia 67, 472– 494. Mileta, C. 2008: Der König und sein Land: Untersuchungen zur Herrschaft der hellenistischen Monarchen über das königliche Gebiet Kleinasiens und seine Bevölkerung, Berlin. Mitchell, S. 2007: ‘Iranian Names and the Presence of Persians in the Religious Sanctuaries of Asia Minor’, in E. Matthews (ed.), Old and New Worlds in Greek Onomastics, London. Monerie, J. 2018: L’économie de la Babylonie à l’époque hellénistique, Berlin. Ogden, D. 1999: Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death: The Hellenistic Dynasties, London. Palermo, R. 2022: ‘Revisiting the Post-Imperial Dark Age in the Assyrian Heartland: Change and Transformation in Northern Mesopotamia’, in R. Pierobon Benoit, C. Coppini, R. Palermo, and R. Pappalardo (eds.), Exploring ‘Dark Ages’. Archaeological Markers of Transition in the Near East from the Bronze Age to the Early Islamic Period, Wiesbaden, 79–108. Papazoglou, F. 1997: Laoi et paroikoi. Recherches sur la structure de la société hellénistique, Belgrade. Pirngruber, R. 2017: The Economy of Late Achaemenid and Seleucid Babylonia, Cambridge. Ramsey, G. 2020: ‘Seleukid Land and Native Populations: Laodike II and the Competition for Power in Asia Minor and Babylonia’, in R. Oetjen (ed.), New Perspectives in Seleucid History, Archaeology and Numismatics: Studies in Honor of Getzel M. Cohen, Berlin, 243–263. Ramsey, G. 2021: ‘Apama and Stratonice’, in E.D. Carney and S. Müller (eds.), Routledge Companion to Women and Monarchy in the Ancient Mediterranean, London, 186–197. Rose, C.B., Tekkök, B., and Körpe, R. 2007: ‘Granicus River Valley Survey Project, 2004–2005’, Studia Troica 17, 65–150. Rossi, C. IEOG: Iscrizioni dello Estremo Oriente Greco: Un Repertorio, Bonn 2004. Sachs, A.J. and Hunger, H. 1988: AD: Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. Vol. I: Diaries from 652 B.C. to 262 B.C., Vienna. Sarkisian, G.K. 1969: ‘City Land in Seleukid Babylonia’, in I.M. Diakonoff (ed.), Ancient Mesopotamia: Socio-Economic History, Moscow, 312–331. Sekunda, N. 1988: ‘Persian Settlement in Hellespontine Phrygia’, in A. Kuhrt and H. Sanchisi-Weerdenburg (eds.), Achaemenid History 3: Method and Theory. Proceedings of the London 1985 Achaemenid History Workshop, Leiden, 175–196. Sherwin-White, S. and Kuhrt, A. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleukid Empire, London. Schuler, C. 1998: Ländliche Siedlungen und Gemeinden im hellenistischen und römischen Kleinasien, Munich. Thonemann, P. 2003: ‘Hellenistic Inscriptions from Lydia’, EA 36, 95–108. van der Spek, R.J. 2018: ‘The Latest on Seleucid Empire Building in the East’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 138, 385–394. van der Spek, R.J. 2008: ‘Feeding Hellenistic Seleucia on the Tigris and Babylon’, in R. Alston and O.M. van Nijf (eds.), Feeding the Ancient Greek City, Leuven, 33–45. van der Spek, R.J. 1998: ‘Land Tenure in Hellenistic Anatolia and Mesopotamia’, in XXXIVème Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Istanbul, 137–147. van der Spek, R.J. 1995: ‘Land Ownership in Babylonian Cuneiform Documents’, in M.J. Geller and H. Maehler (eds.), Legal Documents of the Hellenistic World, London, 173–245. van der Spek, R.J. 1993a: ‘The Astronomical Diaries as a Source for Achaemenid and Seleukid History’, Bibliotheca Orientalis 50, 91–101. van der Spek, R.J. 1993b: ‘New Evidence on Seleukid Land Policy’, in H. Sancisi-Weerdenberg, R.J. van der Spek, H.C. Teitler, and H.T. Wallinga (eds.), De Agricultura. In Memoriam Pieter Willem de Neeve, Amsterdam, 61–79.


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van der Spek, R.J. and Finkel, I. BCHP: ‘Babylonian Chronographical Texts of the Hellenistic Period’, published 2004, updated 2020: URL: . Wallenfels, R. and van der Spek, R.J. 2014: ‘Text No. 148, Part III: Late Babylonian Archival and Administrative Texts’, in I. Spar and M. Jursa (eds.), Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. IV: The Ebabbar Temple Archive and Other Texts from the Fourth to the First Millennium B.C., New York, 213–227. Welles, C.B. 1934: Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period: A Study in Greek Epigraphy, Yale. Wenke, R. 1975–1976: ‘Imperial Investments and Agricultural Developments in Parthian and Sasanian Khuzestan: 150 BC to AD 640’, Mesopotamia 10–11, 31–217. Wiegand, T. 1904: ‘Reisen in Mysien’, Athenische Mittheilungen 39, 254–339.


Abstract: Polities within the Seleukid Empire were a conglomeration of colonial ventures, reconstituted city-states, and myriad villages controlled by adherents to the royal court, all of them shaped by experiences of multicultural encounters, warfare driven by high politics of the empire, and shifting economic fortunes. The evidence for violent resistance to Seleukid authority spans all these groups and the motives for it stemmed from economic, geopolitical, and cultural concerns. Most episodes of resistance, although folded into the histories of great men’s quests for usurpation and personal glory, were rooted in, and extended only so far as, local concerns. The old Greek polis model of autonomy and self-governance retained its force through the centuries of Seleukid colonial occupation. Many resistance movements had at their core a collective desire for local self-determination. The majority of documented encounters between the Seleukids and their subjects demonstrate how the dynasty leveraged this polis desire for its own gain, receiving acquiescence to Seleukid domination and performances of loyalty in exchange for promised freedoms. But this exchange tended to break down given the right combination of latent grievances and concatenating circumstances. For many cities and towns, euergetic exchanges with the dynasty were agreements to defer dealing with serious problems to a later date. The outbreaks of anti-Seleukid violence show a consistent concern with economics and local character, two areas of community life which also lay at the heart of Greek polis civilization. The same transplanted vibrancy of city life, which nourished a power base for the Seleukids, also posed a serious hindrance to their ongoing domination.

In the autumn of 145 BCE Antioch near Daphne was in a state of heightened tension. A war had just ended with the deaths of two kings and the imposition of a third, and the citizens already hated the new king, as they had his father.1 While he settled in for the winter at the palace, news arrived that he was bringing into the city 3,000 Judaean mercenaries, a clear sign that he did not trust the citizens—sensible, but also a provocation. Then, he started giving out punishments for the war to city leaders known for siding with his enemies. Rude slogans and insults about him circulated the streets and gained volume at civic gatherings. Meanwhile rumours now


A letter of the newly diademed Demetrios II reached Babylon Sept. 8, 145 BCE, having been dispatched some weeks earlier, (AD -144 obv. 14’), and over the next month the king proceeded to chase the Egyptian army back into Egypt (obv. 35’–36’) before returning to his capital.


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filtered into the city about an insurrection growing rapidly along the border with Arabia.2 Then two things happened: the citizens brought out their weapons and began to barricade the streets and alleys leading out of the palace, and the king sent out his new mercenaries and ordered the citizens disarmed. Bloody chaos ensued. It seems that after the initial violent encounter at the barricades, the citizens had the upper hand, but the mercenaries went back into the palace and began firing arrows from high vantage points down into the crowds. After this fusillade, they took to the streets again, cutting down civilians indiscriminately. They killed women and children who were hiding inside buildings and set fire to a large portion of the city. Many of the survivors fled the city as refugees, watching for opportunities to revenge themselves on the king. The rest were beaten into submission, and the king confiscated property and presented the spoils to his hired soldiers.3 Such is the account of the uprising of the Antiochenes against Demetrios II given by Diodorus Siculus and Josephus. It is one episode in a long sequence of violent conflicts during the internecine wars of the late Seleukid dynasty. The brewing insurrection away to the southeast near Arabia was Diodotos Tryphon’s. Overshadowed by Diodotos’ more famous and successful insurrection, the Antioch uprising appears like a sad episode, perhaps at best evidence for Demetrios’ poor choices as king. Antioch figures as merely a pawn in the great game between kings and generals; after all, the same Diodotos Tryphon had only a few years earlier incited these same Antiochenes to unrest while he tried to negotiate with Ptolemy VI in favour of Alexander Balas. This backfired, and Ptolemy ushered Demetrios into the city instead, while the citizens ended up frustrated and facing punishments from the winning side. The 145 revolt, however, began on the impetus of the citizens themselves and their own collective decision to move against the king, not at the behest of another royal rival. It was city against king, and the city acted for its own interests. The anatomy of this anti-Seleukid rebellion lines up with the other episodes summarized in the following table: Insurgents in: the Seleukis

Against whom & why: Antiochos I


Antiochos III drawn into Molon’s campaign; perceived as still loyal Antiochos III 222–220 supported Molon’s campaign; punished unjustly?


2 3

Date: 280s– 270s 222–220

Ehling 2003, 324f.; Ehling 2008; Grainger 2015; Coşkun 2021, 283f. Diod. 33.4; Jos. AJ 13.5.3 (135); Martinez-Sève 2004, 35–37.

Reference: I.Ilion 32; OGIS 219 Polyb. 5.43.8; 5.51.8 Polyb. 5.54.10

Rebel Poleis

Antioch-on-theKydnos / Tarsos & Mallos Antioch-nearDaphne

Antiochos IV 171 rebel after being gifted to Antiochis Demetrios II 145 besiege him in his palace for abuses


supported Diodotos Tryphon’s 141–138 regime towns Larissa, Casiana, Megara, Apollonia, et al. feed resources to Apameia Tryphon’s rebellion started at Chalkis, with local support Kleopatra Thea 138 *she fears they might rebel Seleukos VI 94 kill him, burn down his palace

*Seleukeia-inPieria Seleukeia-on-thePyramos / Mopsuestia

221 2Macc 4.30f. Diod. 33.4; Jos. ΑJ 13.5.3 (135); 1Macc 11.38–52 Strabo 16.2.10; Diod. 33.4a

Jos. AJ 13.7.1 (222) Jos. AJ 13.13.4 (368); App. Syr. 69.365

Table 1: Episodes of anti-Seleukid rebellion.

Several of these cities were involved with usurpers, such as Molon and Diodotos Tryphon. The reason for including these and not Sardeis with Achaios (for example) is that these cities were not the original headquarters of royal enemies or usurpers. In general, the cities listed in the table acted on their own local concerns, and in so doing joined with usurpers, and, crucially, the king treated each city as rebellious, regardless of how they got involved in the wider violent insurrections. This combination of circumstances and the availability of the evidence make these examples useful comparanda for the cases of cities who clearly rebelled on their own. In all the cases there was a breakdown of constructive communication between the city and the ruler. Like any movement against a king, the city rebellions were challenges to Seleukid legitimacy, but the motives emerged from polis identity and function, making them rather different from conflicts arising out of court politics. The severity of the violence in civic rebellions is quite stark, and most of the revolts considered here were dire situations, both in the causes for rebellion and in the consequences.


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I. AMNESIA NARRATIVES Diodoros provides one clue as to what stoked the animosity between Antioch and Demetrios: ‘Scorning, therefore, to ingratiate himself with the populace as was customary, and waxing ever more burdensome in his demands upon them, he sank into ways of despotic brutality and extravagantly lawless behaviour of every sort.’4 This ‘habitual obsequiousness to the crowd’ (τῆς συνήθους τοῖς ὄχλοις ἀρεσκείας) which Demetrios so despised is precisely the royal euergetism used by his forefathers to maintain the acquiescence of cities.5 The neglect of euergetism opened the door to unfair prostagmata, cruelty, and ‘excesses of diverse injustices’ (ποικίλων ἀνομημάτων ὑπερβολάς). This sequence of decline implies that, in addition to keeping cities well-disposed toward kings and vice versa, the energy expended in euergetic overtures served to check the worse tendencies of authoritarian leadership. Failure of euergetic communication and its replacement by arbitrary and cruel prostagmata prevented the smoothing over of grievances. Euergetic inscriptions, the hallmark documents of Seleukid king-city relations, do address instances of violence, grievances, and poor communication at other times and places.6 Or rather, they deliberately do not speak to such issues, but instead adopt a language of dissimulation referencing mishaps and anonymous agitators when referring to episodes of insurrection or royal brutality. The inscriptions detailing restoration of peace and prosperity are amnesty narratives, eliding the grievances that caused rebellion, ignoring the severe violence of the royal army, and shifting the blame to anonymous agitators or the winds of fate, so as to provide a way forward in relations with the crown. The Ilion Decree of ca. 276 BCE is an example of this.7 At lines 4 to 8, the authors of the decree refer to an insurrection in the Seleukis: [the king] has sought to bring back into peace and their former prosperity the cities of the Seleukis which were suffering from difficult times because of the rebels from his affairs. After proceeding against those who attacked his affairs, as was just, (he sought) to recover his ancestral rule.8

This statement about a civic rebellion in the capital region of Syria, in fact the only extant testimony of that rebellion, comes from another polis, Ilion, which seems to view itself at that moment as next in line for the king’s ‘restoration to peace’. The logic in the remainder of the decree’s prologue runs thus: A) that the king has recently demonstrated in Syria how he deals with enemies, B) the king has now crossed the Taurus ‘with all zeal and ambition and at once furnished peace to the 4 5 6 7 8

Diod. 33.4.1, trans. Walton (Loeb). Ma 2000. Ma 2000 and 2003; Bringmann and von Steuben 1995. I.Ilion 32. I.Ilion 32.4–8: ἐζήτησε τὰς μὲν πόλεις τὰς κατὰ τὴν Σελευκίδα, περιεχομένας ὑπὸ καιρῶν δυσχερῶν διὰ τοὺς ἀποστάντας τῶμ πραγμάτων, εἰς εἰρήνην καὶ τὴν ἀρχαίαν εὐδαιμονίαν καταστῆσαι, τοὺς δ’ ἐπιθεμένους τοῖς πράμασι ἐπεξελθών, καθάπερ ἦν δίκαιον, ἀνακτήσασθαι τὴμ πατρώιαν ἀρχήν.

Rebel Poleis


cities’,9 C) the king comes with his philoi and dynameis and will use them to improve his dominion. Therefore, D) the demos of the Ilians know they should ‘appear to be friendly to the king and having the same purpose’, lest recalcitrance be labelled rebelliousness.10 Thus the authors, when describing what had happened in the Seleukis, avoid blaming any one city, since that would set a precedent against their own polis. Nor do they criticize the king for wreaking violent havoc upon his subjects. Instead, they euphemistically describe the Seleukis cities as ‘beleaguered by unpleasant accidents’ (περιεχομένας ὑπὸ καιρῶν δυσχερῶν). These troublesome mishaps were of course the quite purposeful actions and retaliations of insurgents and the king’s friends and soldiers. They describe the insurgents as ‘those who revolted from the state affairs’ (τοὺς ἀποστάντας τῶμ πραγμάτων). There are no names, no indication of numbers, no sense of whether the unrest was grassroots or limited to wealthy adherents at the royal court, whom we might label would-be usurpers. They avoid mentioning why anyone rebelled, and the king’s cause is just on patrimonial grounds. This amnesia narrative presents the cities of the Seleukis as set upon by accidents of fate, with no causal connection to the insurgents’ reasons for rebelling. All of this makes a way for Ilion to gloss over any troublesome elements in its own recent history, which might offend the king. It does not matter whether they actually ever were less than friendly: they will play it safe and say they were.11 So the decree lists previous and new prayers and sacrifices for the king’s health, his queen, his friends, his forces and the prosperity of the kingdom. Veneration of the dynastic cult will be revived on a grander scale than before. The crucial element in all this is that everything should be as conspicuous as possible. The king’s statue and the inscription go in the most prominent spot at the Athena temple on top of Ilion’s hill, and the citizens are very conscious of any observers who might report their behaviour. One question is where Ilion got its information about the Seleukis situation. It is highly likely that it came from a royal communication announcing the king’s arrival in the west, and that the men who moved the decree recycled some of the phrasing for their preamble. They thus preserved the royal court’s distinction in language which some scholars observe: internal enemies who rebelled (τοὺς ἀποστάντας) versus external enemies who attacked (τοὺς ἐπιθεμένους).12 Whether kings hinted at ways for cities to forget previous woes or cities phrased the forgetfulness themselves, the significance of euergetism is the mutual acceptance of altered narratives about what had happened.


I.Ilion 32.12–14: νῦν τε παραγενόμενος ἐπὶ τοὺς τόπους τοὺς ἐπὶ τάδε τοῦ Ταύρου μετὰ πάσης σπουδῆς καὶ φιλοτιμίας ἅμα καὶ ταῖς πόλεσιν τὴν εἰρήνην κατεσκεύασεν. 10 I.Ilion 32.16–19: ὅπως οὖν ὁ δῆμος, ... καὶ νῦν εὔνους ὢν καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν αἵρεσιν ἔχων φανερὸς ἦι τῶι βασιλεῖ. 11 An inscription from the city detailing ritual activities for a cult of king Seleukos suggests that the Ilians had already taken steps to be friendly, I.Ilion 31. 12 Jones 1993, 77f., 90; see the treatment by Ehling 2003, 300–304. See also remarks by MartinezSève 2004, 28f.


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The Iasians faced a similar situation with Antiochos III around 196 BCE, when Laodike wrote them of how their city ‘had fallen into unexpected mishaps’ (συμπτώμασιν περιπεσοῦσαν ἀπροσδοκήτοις), by which she meant that her husband’s army had fallen on them. As Ma puts it, the queen ‘marginalized the question of reconquest’. In their own decree, the Iasians did mention the king’s violence, but re-remembered it as liberation.13 Each side in the euergetic process formulates its own version of events, suiting either royal or civic ideology. The two ideologies are essentially incompatible, but the forgetfulness inherent in their preferred narratives defers war and creates a temporary space for peaceful coexistence. Ma has made some crucial statements about the variance between royal and civic views, which are useful to quote here: The selective narratives of civic decrees moved in a different world, of their own making: they viewed the king from local perspectives; they acknowledged his might, but related it to polis interests; they restated civic ideology: a sense of the dignity of the local community, its autonomy or autarky, its existence outside the king’s pragmata, its status as a genuine interlocutor of the king. To a certain extent these features are self-fulfilling: the implicit message about the independence, real or symbolical, from the kingdom, is confirmed by the very production of such narratives.14

II. A QUESTION OF LEGITIMACY The reasons for a polis within Seleukid dominions to launch a rebellion were twofold: on the one hand, a belief that violence is the only way to get justice which was being denied, all other problem-solving options having been exhausted; on the other hand, a certainty that the kings were behaving illegitimately or were even themselves illegitimate and must be either removed or brought back to a right path. Take, for example, the violence at Mopsuestia (Seleukeia-on-the-Pyramos) against Seleukos VI in 94 BCE. He had recently succeeded his father, Antiochos VIII, who had been using Kilikia as his base of operations in the dynastic war. Seleukos followed suit, but erred in trying to increase the war levy upon the Kilikians. The Mopsuestians thus burned him to death inside the city gymnasium, which he was using as his temporary palace. Insofar as Appian and Josephus explain it, the Mopsuestians had no wider political motive related to the ongoing war – they only reacted to injustices against their own town. In Appian’s words, the king was ‘violent and very tyrannical.’15 Josephus mentions that this was not the first time Seleukos had tried to take their money for his war.16 The rising levy would have rankled, especially if the king had already been siphoning off city money. Additionally, he was occupying a key city institution, one essential to the training of citizens. It is worth asking who was paying the bills. 13 Ma 2000, 21f., with no. 26A, 7 and B, 13. 14 Ma 2000, 218f; see also Strootman 2011; Wenghofer, ch. 14 and Coşkun, ch. 15 both in this volume. 15 App. Syr. 69.365: βίαιος δὲ καὶ τυραννικώτατος. 16 Jos. AJ 13.13.4 (368): γενόμενος ἐν τῇ Μόψου ἑστίᾳ πάλιν αὐτοὺς εἰσέπραττε χρήματα.

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Was the king presuming upon Mopsuestian hospitality? Even if he had brought his own servants to run his household, the royal court was using up water, fuel, food, space, time, and daily attention which belonged to the citizens. Archaeological findings at Mopsuestia relate more to the Roman period, but if coinage issues can serve as a proxy for city prosperity, then the local economy had begun improving only in the second century BCE.17 This was not a large city on the order of Sardeis or Antioch which could support the royal apparatus long-term. Another possible motive concerns the Mopsuestians’ opinion of Seleukos VI’s legitimacy as king. In Bevan’s interpretation, they took a dim view of ‘unlimited demands ... made upon their property by a king who had sunk to be a mere captain of bandits’.18 The slaying of the king is rather exceptional. Elamite temple protectors indeed killed Antiochos III because of his temple despoliation.19 His predatory behaviour was characteristically Seleukid, and kings throughout the dynasty did it, whenever the short-term gains outweighed any immediate or long-term hazards.20 The Elamite episode is not known in much detail, but the temple representatives responded to royal abuse much like poleis did when pushed to the limit. In the same way, the Mopsuestian rebellion was an expression of extreme dissatisfaction with the king, refusal to abide by his illegitimate actions, and protection of the community’s dignity. If one approaches rebel cities from the starting point of dynastic high politics, then it could seem like any rebel city was simply joining the ranks of disgruntled generals and erstwhile usurpers in an effort to erode Seleukid dominance.21 Considering things from the grassroots viewpoint yields a quite different result. Although civic rebellions had serious ramifications for internal dynastic politics – for example, Kleopatra Thea invited Antiochos VII to marry her, partially out of fear that the people of Seleukeia in Pieria would expel her – they were a different species of anti-Seleukid hostility.22 Rebel poleis had sufficient grounds for questioning a monarch’s legitimacy without resorting to taking sides in courtly games and intrigues over the throne. For a city to challenge the king’s legitimacy and justify its own rebellion, all it had to do was look to its foundational purpose and mission as a polis. Two key issues lay at the heart of anti-Seleukid civic rebellions: economic security and political self-determination. These were also the traditional values of a Greek citystate: autarky and autonomy. A king’s legitimacy was spear-won through the oppression of existing polities and subsuming new polis foundations under royal control and propaganda, making it directly contradict the traditional self-determination of a Greek polis. Therefore the amnesia narrative within Seleukid euergetism

17 Cohen 1995, 371f.; Rigsby 1996, 465–471. 18 Bevan 1902/85, ii, 260. 19 Diod. 28.3; 29.15; Strabo 16.1.18; Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period (BM 35603, ed. by van der Spek and Finkel) rev. 6–7. 20 Taylor 2015. 21 See Chrubasik 2016; Honigman and Veïsse 2021. 22 Jos. AJ 13.7.1 (222); see Coşkun 2021, 286.


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helped cities set aside the deeper reason for their conflicts with the royal centre: ideological incompatibility with imperialist monarchy.23 One point should be noted here: the autarky and autonomy of each rebel city existed as ideals for city life and were not necessarily historical realities. As mentioned above in Ma’s quote, these were desired attributes for a Greek polis, and the creation of inscriptional narratives seemed to bring them to a sort of realization, or at least to hold out the possibility of it. Strictly autarkic economic self-sufficiency cannot have been the experience of the Antiochenes or other cities discussed here. One need simply to consider the archaeological context, with the widespread network of farmsteads and villages surrounding Antioch, plus the road and riverine trade routes across this hinterland and extending to cities beyond, to recognize that Antioch was part of a highly integrated regional economy.24 The same applies to other regions like Cilicia. Likewise, the cities of the Seleukid domain did not all share the same experience of political culture leading to assertions of autonomy, and they too existed within networks of communities on different scales, including very ancient and newly-founded poleis, each growing on its own trajectory.25 Therefore the cities under discussion should be understood as desiring autarky and autonomy as shared polis values, and interpreting them at times as the ideological basis for resistance to Seleukid domination. An earlier Kilikian revolt provides an example of cities that managed to set the king back in his place through the defense of their traditional value of self-determination. According to 2 Maccabees, in 171 BCE Tarsos (Antioch-on-the-Kydnos) and Mallos rebelled (στασιάζειν) when Antiochos IV gave them as a gift (ἐν δωρεᾷ) to his pallakē Antiochis.26 The wrongness of this could have been that the king deigned to give away any city to anybody, or the inappropriateness of the recipient. The latter concern relates to the courtly milieu, assessing a certain lady’s fitness for territorial authority (and betrays some perhaps outdated assumptions about the status of different women at polygamous royal courts).27 The former – that the king erred in gifting an autonomous city – is valid as an aggravation for the cities, particularly as it relates to their economic and geographical situation. Considered at the local level, we can see that the rebellions stemmed from Tarsos and Mallos’ reaction to Antiochos’ mismanagement in Kilikia. Neither Tarsos nor Mallos was an apt candidate for a gift estate. Tarsos was an ancient polis with affinities to Argos, and it had a history of regional power under the Kilikian Syennesis rulers.28 Like Susa of Elam (Seleukeia-on-the-Eulaios) or Kelainai of Greater Phrygia (Apameia), it had been re-founded as Seleukid at least a century before the rebellion. So far as we know, neither of those other ancient capitals was 23 24 25 26 27

See Strootman 2011; Martinez-Sève 2004, 38. De Giorgi 2016. Leriche 2000; 2003, 133–135; Martinez-Sève 2004; Savalli-Lestrade 2005. 2Macc 4.30. For some recent assessments of the statuses and legitimacy of the royal women called ‘concubines’, see Madreiter and Hartmann 2021, 235–237; Strootman 2021, 339f.; Ramsey 2016, 90; Coşkun 2016, 115f.; Carney 2000, 17. 28 Xen. Anab. 1.2.23; Diod. 14.40.2.

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gifted away.29 Likewise, Mallos was an ancient city, claiming Argive ancestry and Amphilochos and Mopsos as founders, a fact celebrated by Alexander the Great.30 During the second century BCE the Mallotai had the wherewithal to honour several individuals for their services and protection of the city.31 Mallos (mod. Kızıltahta) lies in the Pyramos river valley, in the economic zone linking Mopsuestia with the harbour Magarsos (Antioch-on-the-Pyramos, mod. Karataş). Interchange among the cities appears in the epigraphic record. A fatherson pair of the mid-2nd century from Magarsos-Antioch, Hermokrates son of Demeas and Demeas son of Hermokrates, were honoured by Magarsos and Mallos respectively.32 Mallos had belonged to the Ptolemies and was retaken by Antiochos III in 197 BCE. Along with it likely came the lower sections of both the Pyramos and Kydnos valleys, since the Ptolemies controlled the entire Kilikian coast.33 Some years after the 171 rebellion, around 160 BCE, Magarsos-Antioch and Tarsos agreed to a reconciliation, celebrated with a great festival to Athena Magarsia.34 We are missing the prologue explaining the rationale for the decree except for part of the last sentence, which states that the decision is for ‘our city [Magarsos] and the Antiochenes by the Kydnos and those who will join in increasing the right observances of philanthropia, philia, and homonoia.’35 Homonoia herself, together with Athena, will also receive sacrifice of a golden-horned heifer (l.9). At the close, we read that the Magarsian demiourgos Demetrios and elected ambassadors Dionysos and Mousaios went to Tarsos. They received a warm welcome and were engaged in conversation about their scheme’s advantages to both cities.36 It is a supposition, but not a stretch, to think that the two cities and their spheres of influence had not been cooperating before this decree. The purpose for mentioning the Tarsos and Mallos insurrection in 2 Maccabees is simply to explain why Antiochos IV was absent from events in Syria, since he had gone away to deal with the Kilikians personally. The word choices imply that being gifted to a concubine was the specific reason for rebellion, although the king’s villainy (and illegitimacy) has already been established in the general Maccabean narrative.37 The reconciliation decree above shows that Mallos and Tarsos were not natural allies at this period, each belonging to a different river, and a different political and economic zone. The Saros river valley, and Adana-on-the-Saros lay between them. Mallos lay halfway up the Pyramos valley between the harbour at 29 Cohen 1995, 358–360: early epigraphic evidence of Antiochenes from the Kydnos contradicts Stephanos s.v. ‘Tarsos’, who gives Antiochos Epiphanes as founder. For Seleukid Susa, see Martinez-Sève 2014. 30 Arr. Anab. 2.5.9; Strabo 14.5.16f. 31 I.Cilicie 69, 70a, 70b. 32 I.Cilicie 68, 69; Mouterde 1921, 211. 33 Bagnall 1976, 115, citing Hieronymus / Porphyry FGrH 260 F 43. 34 SEG XII 511; Robert 1951, 259. 35 Ll. 1–3: τοῦ τε ἡμετέρου δήμου καὶ τ[ῶν Ἀντιοχέων τῶν πρὸς τῶι] Κύδνωι καὶ τῶν συναυξησόντων τὰ τῆ[ς φιλανθρω]πίας καὶ φιλίας καὶ ὁμονοίας δίκαια. 36 Ll. 37–39: ἀσπάσασθαί τε αὐτοὺς παρὰ τοῦ πλήθους καὶ ἐμφαν[ί]σαντας τὴν τῶν πολιτῶν εὔνοιαν διαλεχθῆναι περὶ τῶν σ[υ]μφερόντων ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς πόλεσιν. 37 See, most recently, Kosmin 2016.


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Magarsos and Mopsuestia. The subsequent concord between the two valleys suggests that Antiochos actually had a good notion in encouraging a link between them, but he went about it the wrong way.38 Forcing the connection ignored logistics and disrupted local patterns of movement and trade, and directly infringed upon the cities’ economic self-management. Had he paid for a road or canal for the region, things might have gone differently. There were also serious implications raised by the king gifting two autonomous cities (which, it must be acknowledged, might also be an argument for the imprecision of the account in 2 Maccabees). Previous Seleukid donations were estates in the countryside, which could be attached to the territory of a willing city. This seems to mean that the estate-holder might enjoy the privileges of citizenship in that city. Such was the case for Aristodikides of Assos, for whom royal agents recommended attachment to Ilion.39 Queen Laodike also had the option of joining her estate near Zeleia to a city, and that attachment or the right to attach unattached land would pass on to the next estate-holder.40 Giving away the cities themselves ignored royal precedents for both land management and the methods of convincing cities to take on an attached estate, making it an undeniable threat to polis status. If now treated as royal estates, the cities would lose all self-determination, and in essence cease to function as true poleis. The honours for Hermokrates son of Demeas praised him for serving as ambassador for Magarsos during ‘constraining circumstances’ (ἐγ καιροῖς ἀναγκαίοις), perhaps a reference to anxieties around the rebellion.41 The Antiochenes in 145 BCE clearly disputed Demetrios II’s legitimacy as king. Factors in their discontent were the lack of positive communication, recent tyrannical abuses, and long-standing grievances accumulated during the war with Alexander Balas. Another aggravating factor seems to have been the king’s disarming of his Syrian dynameis, a group that perhaps included the same Antiochenes who pulled weapons out of storage to go join the barricades.42 Antioch differs from Mopsuestia, Tarsos, and Mallos because it was not an ancient polis, but a new foundation by the first Seleukid king, using settlers taken from the nearby recent foundation Antigoneia, plus Seleukid army veterans and other assorted Hellenic immigrants.43 This raises a question: how long did it take for a Hellenistic polis to develop the sense of autonomy sufficient to fuel a rebellion?

38 See the discussion of the relationships between these cities and river valleys by Arnaud 2020; also Savalli-Lestrade 2005, 25f. 39 Welles RC 10–13. 40 Welles RC 18. 41 I.Cilicie 68, l. 4. 42 Martinez-Sève 2004, 37; Downey 1963, 64. 1Macc 11.38 (ἀπέλυσεν πάσας τὰς δυνάμεις αὐτοῦ, ἕκαστον εἰς τὸν ἴδιον τόπον) indicates that it was the tipping point for the rebellion, but Josephus AJ 13.5.1 (133–135) lists the dismissal of the phrouroi as a precursor to the rebellion and part of the things they had suffered at the king’s doing (ὑπὲρ ὧν πεπόνθεισαν ὐπ᾽ αὐτοῦ κακῶς). See also Coşkun 2021, 283. 43 Cohen 2006, 81.

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A comparable example is found in Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris, whose citizens are notable for their assertiveness and run-ins with both Seleukid and Parthian kings.44 The Seleukeian rebellion for which Polybius provides a more detailed account occurred in the spring or summer of 220 BCE at the close of Antiochos III’s war of reconquest in Mesopotamia against Molon and Alexander. Royal leadership, in the person of Diomedon the epistates, had abandoned the city in the spring of 221, in the face of Molon’s wintering army at Ktesiphon. A swift defeat of the remaining Seleukid force followed, and Seleukeia was easily taken. Unfortunately, the known surviving Akkadian documents do not cover this period. The Astronomical Diary for Tebetu 90 SE simply indicates that the scribes in Babylon still considered Antiochos III the king as of January 28, 221.45 About eighteen months later, Seleukid forces reoccupied Seleukeia, and Hermeias, the head of royal government, began meting out punishments to the citizens for their part in opposing the king. By the time Hermeias had imposed an indemnity of 1000 talents, exiled the chief magistrates, and tortured and killed many of the citizens, the city was in uproar. The king had to personally intervene, and ‘only just’ (μόλις) and ‘at last’ (τέλος) managed to calm the populace by reducing the penalty to 150 talents.46 The punishments of death, torture, confiscations, and exile resemble the massacre and expulsion of the Antiochenes in 145 BCE. Inspiring terror via physical violence and attacking the means for survival was a standard part of the imperialistic state’s toolkit.47 Clearly, the Seleukeians reacted with hostility because they were being unfairly treated. Polybius presents Hermeias’ motives as rooted in high politics, not reality, and the desire to destabilize things for his own benefit as the quintessential malicious grand vizier, rather than pursue any sort of just cause against traitors. Likewise, 1000 talents was extremely high for an indemnity paid by a single city. Even the Peace of Apameia required the Seleukids, using the full resources of their kingdom, to pay 1,000 talents per year to the Romans and just 70 per year to Eumenes II.48 The 150 talents Antiochos III charged the Seleukeians as his concession is still a large sum. Were it not for that detail, we might suppose that any collusion with Molon’s forces was entirely a figment of Hermeias’ imagination. Seleukeia itself was one of the preeminent Seleukid cities, created by the founder, a capital, described in Babylonian documents as ‘the city of kingship’ (URU LUGAL-ú-tu).49 But this did not preclude the Seleukeians from fully enacting their collective identity as members and stewards of a polis. It took the city about three generations to reach this point of self-assertion and rebelliousness. Their attitude came in spite of a relatively close relationship to Antiochos III. If the interpretation of the Akkadian chronicle dated 224/23 BCE holds, then the prince, Lu MU-šú, who sojourned in Seleukeia until being called up to inherit the kingship 44 45 46 47 48 49

Ramsey 2019, 448–450. AD -221 rev. 13’. Polyb. 5.54.10f. Howe and Brice 2015, 16; Ma 2000, 109–111; Kosmin 2014, 245. Polyb. 21.42.19f. BCHP 12 rev. 13’.


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was none other than Antiochos III himself.50 The king in 220, then, was no stranger to be resisted, even if his generals had abandoned the city to occupation and plunder by Molon. Interestingly, Polybios says the Seleukeians were penalized not for rebelling but for their ‘mistake’ (ἀγνοία). The king saves face in the history books by blaming the city for erring somehow, either by welcoming Molon, or getting angry at Hermeias, or otherwise objecting to royal dictate. III. CITIES IN EXTREMIS Looking at the ancient descriptions of city rebellions, their causes, and the royal responses brings into focus the violence inherent in an imperialistic system such as the Seleukids’ kingdom. In dynastic ideology, conquest meant kingliness, success, glory, and legitimacy. In civic experience, conquest portended death, trauma, and destruction. Cities did not embark on insurrection lightly, given its possible consequences.51 A commonality in all of the rebellions listed in the table above is the limit on a city’s commitment to rebellion: concerns have to be very immediate and grievous for violence to break out. As already discussed, the Kilikian rebellions erupted from direct threats by the king upon the cities’ economic well-being and sense of self-determination. The Antioch rebellion of 145 BCE reacted to the degradation of the citizens’ standing with the king and his refusal to engage in a productive political discourse. The Seleukeians objected to extreme and unjust penalties. Royal parties were fully aware of the cities’ focus on their local interests and how essential it was for cities to protect them. Before he got to Seleukeia-on-theTigris, Antiochos III and his dynameis passed through the verdant and populous Apolloniatis region, which Molon had also taken over. Strategy discussions among the philoi had encouraged getting control of Apolloniatis, since the people there were subject to fear and necessity. Whoever occupied their land and natural resources had their submission.52 The same is evident in Diodotos Tryphon’s occupation of Apameia-on-the-Axios and its hinterland, including surrounding tributary towns Larisa, Casiana, Megara, Apollonia, and others. According to Strabo, Casiana was Tryphon’s hometown, and according to Josephus it was Apameia, in either case giving him an edge when it came to garnering local support.53 Recent archaeology of the Orontes river valley and Amuq plain shows that the economies of both Antioch and Apamea were far more integrated with the satellite towns and villages than previously credited. Strabo refers to this, but the physical evidence is bringing a vast network of farmland, wetlands, roads, and river routes into sharper focus.54 The economic picture 50 51 52 53 54

BCHP 12 rev. 11’–13’. See Wenghofer, ch. 14 in this volume. Polyb. 5.51.8; for the campaign’s itinerary, see Pedech 1958, 67–73. Strabo 16.2.10; Jos. AJ 13.5.1 (131). De Giorgi 2016, 70–80.

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of Antioch and its environs still needs clarifying, but there is sufficient evidence to state that the Antiochenes’ sense of their own autarky and autonomy drew upon a much wider ecology than just their urbanized city-scape. Having the king import foreign mercenaries to replace his Syrian dynameis might have raised questions about whether they were to be billeted among satellite villages, or even settled permanently like the king’s predecessors had done with phrouroi in other areas.55 Such moves would pose serious concerns for local land rights. Some inscriptions refer to the scale of violence. After one campaign to restore the Seleukid king’s position, the people of Smyrna averred that they ‘gave no thought to the destruction of property’. Mentioning it, though, highlights how little they have forgotten the disaster brought upon their homes. They put forth property destruction as the measure of their willingness to go along with the Seleukid regime, saying that it comes second to the king’s friendship.56 This kind of traffic in destruction turns up during Antiochos III’s Asia Minor campaign as well, when a royal letter writer speaks of the inhabitants of an anonymous city: ‘their city having been burnt ... most of the citizens had lost their property and been killed.’ The royal agents then deem that this extreme level of devastation merits a bit of euergesia.57 IV. CONCLUSIONS It was imperative for civic ideology to maintain the integrity of the polis, whether in terms of economic survival or protecting the distinct political identity of the community. A return to Ilion illustrates this point. Sometime in the early Hellenistic period, prior to the amnesiac decree for king Antiochos, the citizens of Ilion issued a law against tyrants. Specifically, they outlined in great detail all rewards to be given to persons of different status (citizen, foreign, slave) if they killed a tyrant, oligarchic leader, or destroyer of the democracy. There follow further penalties for those who support tyrannical or oligarchic regimes or abuse magisterial power during such regimes.58 Considered in the context where the Seleukids and other dynasties claimed suzerainty over the Troad, this is a law against collaborators who would undermine the polis or use the destabilization caused by outside powers (including the Celtic invasion)59 to further their own interests. Leaving behind their history of tyrannical and oligarchic rule under the Persians and then Lysimachos, the Ilians had agreed that democracy was central to their civic ideology, and that protecting it was paramount. They also recognized that the city’s money and other resources were the access point for controlling the city, and that things like bringing 55 The notable example is Antiochos III’s settlement of 2,000 Babylonian Jewish military families in Phrygia, who were to be supported with local resources until they established their own farmsteads, Jos. AJ 12.3.4 (149–152). 56 OGIS 229, ll. 4f.; see Coşkun 2018, 228 for alignments of convenience between cities and kings during the wars of the mid-3rd century BCE. 57 Ma 2000, no. 36. 58 OGIS 218. 59 Coşkun 2012.


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in mercenaries spelled doom.60 This is the same pattern of concerns evidenced by the other rebel poleis discussed above. By entering into a euergesia exchange with the king, a city had either already paid dearly in blood and property for favour from the crown, or fervently hoped it could avoid doing so. The mutual forgetfulness ensured that the same city that maintained a vigilant stance of self-protection could also kowtow to royal sensibilities, at least in writing. By the same token, a royal enterprise dedicated to the acquisition and control of territory could dispense honours like asylia and still depart victorious with undiluted authority.61 Each party had a means to accommodate its own essential narrative of successful autonomy or supremacy. From the city’s perspective, the exchange merely deferred the potential for unrest, and grievances over royal interference with economic and political processes lingered, ready to re-emerge at the right provocation. BIBLIOGRAPHY Arnaud, P. 2020: ‘Mallos, Antioche du Pyrame, Magarsus: toponymie historique et aléas politiques d’un «hellenistique settlement»’, in R. Oetjen (ed.), New Perspectives in Seleucid History, Archaeology and Numismatics: Studies in Honor of Getzel M. Cohen, Berlin, 574–602. Bagnall, R.S. 1976: The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside Egypt, Leiden. Bevan, E.R. 1902/85: The House of Seleucus, 2 vols., London 1902, repr. Chicago 1985. Bringmann, K. and von Steuben, H. (eds.) 1995: Schenkungen hellenistischer Herrscher an griechische Städte und Heiligtümer, vol. 1, Berlin. Carney, E. 2000: Women and Monarchy in Macedonia, Norman, OK. Chrubasik, B. 2016: Kings and Usurpers in the Seleukid Empire, Oxford. Cohen, G.M. 1995: The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands, and Asia Minor, Berkeley. Cohen, G.M. 2006: The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, Berkeley. Coşkun, A. 2012: ‘Deconstructing a Myth of Seleucid History: The So-Called “Elephant Victory” Revisited’, Phoenix 66, 57–73. Coşkun, A. 2016: ‘Laodike I, Berenike Phernophoros, Dynastic Murders, and the Outbreak of the Third Syrian War (253–246 BC)’, in A. Coşkun and A. McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire, Stuttgart, 107–134. Coşkun, A. 2018: ‘The War of Brothers, the Third Syrian War, and the Battle of Ankyra (246–241 BC): a Re-Appraisal’, in K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire, 281–222 BC: War within the Family, Swansea, 197–152. Coşkun, A. 2021: ‘Seleukid Throne Wars’, in A. Berlin and P. Kosmin (eds.), The Middle Maccabees from the Death of Judas through the Reign of John Hyrcanus (161–104 BC): New Archaeological and Historical Perspectives, Atlanta, GA, 269–291. De Giorgi, A.U. 2016: Ancient Antioch: From the Seleucid Era to the Islamic Conquest, Cambridge. Dittenberger, W. OGIS: Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae, Leipzig 1903, repr. Hildesheim 1960. Downey, G. 1963: Ancient Antioch, Princeton.

60 I.Ilion 25; Teergarden 2014, 199–207. 61 Rigsby 1996, 28.

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Ehling, K. 2003: ‘Unruhen, Aufstände und Abfallbewegungen der Bevölkerung in Phönikien, Syrien und Kilikien unter den Seleukiden’, Historia 52, 300–336. Ehling, K. 2008: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der späten Seleukiden (164–63 v. Chr.), Berlin. Finkel, I.L., van der Spek, R.J., and Pirngruber, R. 2020: Babylonian Chronographic Texts from the Hellenistic Period, published 2004, updated 2020: URL: Frisch, P. 1975: Die Inschriften von Ilion, Bonn. Grainger, J.D. 2015: The Fall of the Seleukid Empire 187–75 BC, Barnsley. Honigman, S. and Veïsse, A.-E. 2021: ‘Regional Revolts in the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires’, in C. Fischer-Bovet and S. von Reden (eds.), Comparing the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires: Integration, Communication, and Resistance, Cambridge, 301–328. Howe, T. and Brice, L.L. 2015: Brill’s Companion to Insurgency and Terrorism in the Ancient Mediterranean, Leiden. Jones, C.P. 1993: ‘The Decree of Ilion in Honor of a King Antiochus’, GRBS 34, 73–92. Kosmin, P. 2014: The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire, Cambridge. Kosmin, P. 2016: ‘Indigenous Revolts in 2 Maccabees: The Persian Version’, CPh 111/1, 32–53. Leriche, P. 2000: ‘Le phénomène urbain dans la Syrie hellénistique’, Bulletin d’Études Orientales 52, 99–125. Leriche, P. 2003: ‘Peut-on étudier la Syrie séleucide?’, Pallas 62, 117–146. Ma, J. 2000: Antiochos III and the Cities of Western Asia Minor, Oxford. Ma, J. 2003: ‘Peer Polity Interaction in the Hellenistic Age’, Past & Present 180, 9–39. Madreiter, I. and Hartmann, U. 2021: ‘Women at the Arsakid Court’, in E.D. Carney and S. Müller (eds.), Women and Monarchy in the Ancient Mediterranean World, London, 234–245. Martinez-Sève, L. 2004: ‘Peuple d’Antioche et dynastie séleucide’, Topoi Supplément 5, 21–41. Martinez-Sève, L. 2014: ‘Antiochos IV en Susiane, dans le Golfe persique et en Élymaïde’, in C. Feyel and L. Graslin-Thomé (eds.), Le project politique d’Antiochos IV, Paris, 363–393. Mouterde, R. 1921: ‘Inscriptions grecques et latines du Musée d’Adana’, Syria 2/3, 207–220. Pedech, P. 1958: ‘Deux campagnes d’Antiochus III chez Polybe’, REA 60, 67–81. Ramsey, G. 2016: ‘The Diplomacy of Seleukid Women: Apama and Stratonike,’ in A. Coşkun and A. McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women, Stuttgart, 87–104. Ramsey, G. 2019: ‘Generals and Cities in Late-Seleukid and Early-Parthian Babylonia’, in A. Coşkun and D. Engels (eds.), Rome and the Seleukid East: Selected Papers from Seleukid Study Day V, Brussels, 21–23 August 2015, Leuven, 435–456. Rigsby, K.J. 1996: Asylia: Territorial Inviolability in the Hellenistic World, Berkeley. Robert, L. 1951: ‘Contribution à la topographie de villes de l’Asie Mineure méridionale’, Comptes Rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 95, 254–259. Savalli-Lestrade, I. 2005: ‘Devenir une cité. Poleis nouvelles et aspirations civiques en Asie Mineure à la basse époque hellénistique’, in P. Fröhlich and C. Müller (eds.), Citoyenneté et participation à la basse époque hellénistique, Geneva, 9–37. Strootman, R. 2011: ‘Kings and Cities in the Hellenistic Age’, in R. Alston, O. van Nijf, and C. Williamson (eds.), Political Culture in the Greek City After the Classical Age, Leuven, 141– 153. Strootman, R. 2021: ‘Women and Dynasty at the Hellenistic Imperial Courts’, in E.D. Carney and S. Müller (eds.), Women and Monarchy in the Ancient Mediterranean World, London, 333– 345. Taylor, M.J. 2014: ‘Sacred Plunder and the Seleucid Near East’, Greece & Rome 61/2, 222–241. Teergarden, D. 2014: Death to Tyrants! Ancient Greek Democracy and the Struggle against Tyranny, Princeton. van der Spek, R.J. and Finkel, I. CM 4: ‘CM 4 (Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period)’, on the Livius website. First published in 2004, last updated 2020:


Gillian Ramsey Walton, F.R. 1967: Diodorus Siculus: Library of History. Vol. 12: Fragments of Books 33–40, Cambridge. Welles, C.B. RC: Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period, London 1934, repr. Chicago 1974. Wenghofer, R. 2022: ‘Popular Resistance to Seleukid Claims of Hegemony’, in E. AnagnostouLaoutides and S. Pfeiffer (eds.), Culture and Ideology under the Seleukids: Unframing a Dynasty, Berlin.





Abstract: After the Seleukid king Antiochos III had been defeated by the Roman legions at Magnesia (190 BCE), Armenia became an independent region divided between two kingdoms, Artaxiad Greater Armenia and Orontid Sophene. In the subsequent decades, relations between the Artaxiad kings and the Seleukid throne fluctuated between dormant hostility and ruler-toruled domination. The reign of Antiochos IV saw a brief return of Greater Armenia under Seleukid control, immediately followed by an open conflict under Artaxias, king of Greater Armenia, as well as by the creation of a new autonomous power in Armenia, the kingdom of Kommagene, which resulted in an even more complex political situation. The Artaxiad state took a rather unclear place in the Asian geopolitical order in the periphery of the Seleukid Empire, but was partly integrated into the Anatolian landscape. This situation was reflected in the cultural background and ideological choices of the kingdom, as well as in other policies pursued by its rulers. In the second half of the 2nd century BCE, as Seleukid influence declined further, the status of the king of Greater Armenia evolved in the context of the Roman Empire as well as the Parthian and Pontic kingdoms. After a sudden political unification of Armenia, Tigranes II of Greater Armenia managed to completely turn the tides by taking control of Antioch. This political shift saw the transfer of a Near-Eastern political centre from Antioch to Tigranokerta. Although only for a brief period, this shift impacted the Mediterranean balance of powers and resulted in the division of the former Seleukid territories between the Romans and the Parthians, while a now united but reduced Armenia fell back to a peripheral status between those two greater powers.

I. INTRODUCTION L’histoire hellénistique de la dynastie régnante de l’Arménie Majeure, la dynastie artaxiade, est marquée par l’opposition entre deux phases bien distinctes, aussi bien dans la distribution des sources que dans les interprétations historiques. La première débute à la suite de la défaite d’Antiochos III contre les Romains (190 a.C.), lorsque Rome proclama l’indépendance de deux royaumes arméniens jusqu’alors dominés par les Séleucides. À partir de ce moment, l’Arménie Majeure a pu apparaître comme redevable de la désagrégation de l’empire séleucide, ne devant son


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existence qu’au déclin de son ancien maître et aux divisions entre puissances régionales, en bref, aux hasards du temps. La seconde phase correspond au règne de Tigrane le Grand (95–55 a.C.), roi qui fut appelé par la capitale séleucide, Antioche, pour régner sur les restes des domaines séleucides et déposer le représentant de cette dynastie. La transfiguration de la dynastie artaxiade, de famille royale iranisée à l’influence uniquement locale à ultime représentante de la puissance politique des rois hellénisés d’Orient face aux puissances parthe et romaine, sera le sujet de ce développement. Plus encore, ce sont les dynamiques marquantes des rapports entre Séleucides et Artaxiades, du règne d’Artaxias à celui de Tigrane, qui seront questionnées, dans l’ordre chronologique et avec une concentration particulière sur les épisodes les plus marquants et significatifs de l’histoire arménienne. Dans cette optique, il convient de présenter l’état de la documentation et de proposer un court portrait de l’Arménie au début de la période à l’étude. L’Arménie se distinguait avant même l’épopée d’Alexandre comme une région spécifique, sur les plans culturel et linguistique. Dès l’avènement de Séleucos Ier, Orontès Ier prit une certaine autonomie par rapport au pouvoir central séleucide malgré une reconnaissance formelle de sujétion, confirmant un statut marginal dans l’espace impérial que la région possédait déjà sous la domination achéménide.1 Les successeurs d’Orontès formèrent la dynastie des Orontides, qui conserva une mainmise sur l’Arménie pendant tout le IIIe siècle.2 Selon Polybe, le roi d’Arménie Xerxès, avant 212, avait arrêté de payer tribut au souverain séleucide.3 Il portait le titre de roi, ce qui n’était pas rare dans le cadre des marges de l’empire séleucide.4 Si les sources classiques sont presque muettes en ce qui concerne l’Arménie avant la fin du IIIe siècle, un dossier épigraphique intéressant et complexe y souligne la pénétration de l’hellénisme à une date plus haute que ne le laissaient penser les sources classiques. Il s’agit des inscriptions grecques d’Armawir, datées approximativement de la seconde moitié du IIIe siècle, mais qui pourraient avoir été gravées en plusieurs fois, de la fin du IIIe aux premières décennies du IIe siècle.5 Ces sept textes courts et mal conservés restent néanmoins difficiles à dater et à caractériser.6 Les auteurs grecs et romains, pour leur part, ne se sont que très peu intéressé à l’Arménie aux IIe et Ier siècles, sauf en ce qui concerne les épisodes en rapport avec l’avancée de l’impérialisme romain en Orient.7 En ce qui concerne les auteurs non classiques, l’historien arménien Moïse de Khorène abordait, à une date 1 2 3 4 5

6 7

Schottky 1989, 76–85; Briant 1996, 415–417. Sur les rapports entre les Séleucides et l’Arménie au IIIe siècle, voir Schottky 1989, 96–108; Facella 2006, 164–184. Polyb. 8.23. Capdetrey 2007, 130–132. Le dossier, connu depuis longtemps mais difficile d’accès, a été récemment réédité par Mahé 1994, 578–581; Canali de Rossi 2004, 9–15. Sur la datation controversée des inscriptions, voir Manandian 1946, 5–25; BE 1952, 176, 181–185; Mahé 1994, 567–571. Voir aussi Merkelbach 1995; Peek 1997; Merkelbach et Stauber 2001, 18–22. Habicht 1953, 254–256 concluait qu’il pourrait s’agir d’un recueil lié à l’enseignement scolaire, mais avouait lui-même qu’un texte si court aurait difficilement pu servir à cette fin. Voir Traina 2016 (112s. pour la période allant de la paix d’Apamée aux guerres mithridatiques).

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située entre le Ve et le IXe siècle de notre ère, l’histoire de la dynastie arménienne des Artaxiades.8 Les sources numismatiques, pour leur part, n’existent que pour le Ier siècle, puisque Tigrane fut le premier roi arménien à frapper monnaie. Ce tableau des sources explique en grande partie les difficultés d’interprétation de l’histoire de la dynastie artaxiade et de ses rapports à l’autorité séleucide: peu de données renseignent la période précédant l’entrée de Tigrane dans le réseau des rois alliés de Rome, et celles-ci reproduisent en général une vision passée au prisme de la culture hellénique ou romaine. II. CAUSES ET CIRCONSTANCES DE LA PRISE D’INDÉPENDANCE DE L’ARMÉNIE MAJEURE L’année 189/188 revêt une importance historique considérable dans l’histoire du peuple arménien, puisque ce fut le moment de leur première affirmation d’indépendance, selon la plupart des historiens.9 Artaxias et Zariadris, stratèges séleucides placés à la tête de l’Arménie Majeure et de la Sophène après l’Anabase d’Antiochos et la possible destitution des souverains orontides,10 profitèrent de la défaite séleucide pour prendre le titre royal et se faire reconnaître comme souverains légitimes, d’après Strabon.11 Le récit de Strabon laisse de grandes zones d’ombre sur cet épisode. À commencer par l’identité du ou des dirigeants de l’Arménie avant la nomination de ces stratèges par Antiochos III. Polybe mentionnait un roi nommé Xerxès, qu’Antiochos laissa en charge de son royaume et à qui il pardonna l’insubordination en échange de trois cents talents, mille chevaux et mille mulets, en préparation de son Anabase, avant de lui accorder une de ses sœurs en mariage afin de le rattacher au pouvoir royal, vers 212.12 Strabon évoquait, pour sa part, un certain Orontès, qui aurait régné sur l’Arménie occidentale au moment de la conquête séleucide.13 Puisque, par la suite, la région fut organisée en deux stratégies, il est possible de concilier les deux versions en considérant que la séparation en deux entités



10 11 12 13

Mahé et Mahé 1993, 18–20 au sujet du débat historiographique sur la date d’écriture de cette œuvre. La plus grande prudence doit être observée à l’égard de cette œuvre, en raison d’une méthode d’écriture originale laissant une place importante à des sources orales faisant cohabiter récits légendaires et informations historiques; ibid., 60–85. Les ouvrages de synthèse historique sur l’Arménie font toujours grand cas de cette déclaration d’autonomie. Voir Grousset 1995, 79–104; Dédéyan 2007, 114–116; Mahé et Mahé 2012, 41– 64. Plus en détails, voir Traina 1999–2000, 59–63; Patterson 2001, 154–160; Traina 2017, 379s.; Kosmin 2018, 213; Roller 2020, 63s. Voir Engels 2014a, 37–41 et Engels 2017, 311–315, au sujet du statut des territoires périphériques de l’empire séleucides sous le règne d’Antiochos III, sur l’Arménie en particulier. Strab. Geogr. 11.14.15 (532C). Le même épisode est également évoqué par Strab. Geogr. 11.14.5 (528C). Polyb. 8.25. Au sujet des stratégies matrimoniales utilisées par Antiochos III dans la construction de l’espace royal, voir Capdetrey 2007, 130. Strab. Geogr. 11.14.15 (532C).


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politiques avait précédé l’envoi de stratèges, Xerxès en Arménie occidentale ou Sophène, Orontès en Arménie orientale, future Arménie Majeure. Une autre incertitude concerne le traitement réservé à la dynastie orontide, supposément déposée au profit des deux stratèges séleucides. Néanmoins, la revendication d’une ascendance orontide est attestée pour Artaxias, de même que le lien de parenté entre celui-ci et Zariadris.14 Ceci laisse entendre que ces deux personnages faisaient partie de la famille régnante, même s’ils n’étaient pas les successeurs désignés. Le cas de Mithridate, satrape d’Arménie, mentionné par Polybe comme participant à un important traité de paix en 179, pourrait aussi aller dans ce sens.15 En effet, il est possible d’identifier ce dernier à un membre de la famille de Xerxès d’Arménie évoqué par Polybe, bien que le sens de ce passage ne soit pas sans difficulté d’interprétation.16 Dans ce cas, en supposant aussi que ce satrape était le successeur de Zariadris à la tête de la Sophène, ce qui n’est pas assuré, les nominations de Zariadris et d’Artaxias apparaitraient comme un changement de branche familiale légitime, dans la continuité dynastique. Enfin, la dernière mais non la moindre zone d’ombre laissée par les auteurs anciens concerne la séquence chronologique de ces événements, en particulier la date à laquelle Rome reconnut officiellement l’indépendance et le titre royal des deux souverains arméniens. Si Strabon établit un lien de cause à effet entre la défaite d’Antiochos contre Rome (190) et la prise du titre royal, il ne spécifie pas clairement de proximité chronologique entre les deux. De fait, il n’est pas impossible que les négociations de paix menées en 179, ayant abouti à un traité dans lequel Artaxias n’est mentionné qu’en tant que dynaste, aient été l’occasion de la sécession des deux États arméniens hors de l’empire séleucide.17 Néanmoins, cela n’est pas sans poser problème: s’il n’était encore qu’un dynaste assujetti aux Séleucides en 179, on voit mal pourquoi Eumène et ses alliés l’auraient inclus dans les négociations et dans le traité. De plus, si le satrape Mithridate avait succédé à Zariadris en Sophène avant 179, Zariadris n’aurait pas été vivant lors de la reconnaissance romaine des royaumes arméniens, ce qui va à l’encontre du passage correspondant de l’œuvre de Strabon, qui mentionne bien Artaxias et Zariadris. En définitive, la date de 179 peut être considérée comme le terminus ante quem de la reconnaissance de l’indépendance des souverains arméniens, étant donné le degré d’autonomie dont devait profiter Artaxias (et Mithridate, s’il était bien le 14 Perikhanian 1966, 18; Perikhanian 1971, 174; Khatchadourian 2007, 52; Traina 2017, 382. Voir aussi n. 20. 15 Polyb. 25.2.11. Voir Patterson 2001, 156; Payen 2019, 286s.; Payen 2020, 163s. et 170s. 16 Polyb. 8.25. L’identification traditionnelle de ce Mithridate le désigne comme neveu d’Antiochos III, non de Xerxès d’Arménie: en dernier lieu, Coşkun 2016; Payen 2019, 287. Le cas de Mithridate, satrape d’Arménie, est un sujet épineux, mais il semble hors de doute qu’il n’était pas un membre de la dynastie artaxiade d’Arménie Majeure, sujet du présent article. Son domaine se situait sans doute en Sophène ou plus vaguement en Arménie occidentale, ou encore en Arménie Mineure. 17 Polyb. 25.2. Cette datation tardive a été proposée par A. Coşkun, de même que l’identification de Mithridate comme neveu de Xerxès, et non d’Antiochos III (voir la note précédente), mais n’a pas encore fait l’objet d’une publication. Elle ne sera donc pas discutée de manière systématique ici, mais mérite tout de même de s’y attarder quelques instants.

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souverain de Sophène) pour participer au traité de paix cette année-là. De plus, s’il y eut bien un décalage entre la paix d’Apamée et les premiers contacts entre Rome et les rois arméniens, il n’est pas impossible que la reconnaissance de leur titre royal ne soit venue que dans un deuxième temps, même si, là encore, le passage de Strabon nommant Zariadris nous oblige à laisser la question ouverte. L’absence de mention du titre royal dans ce passage de Polybe pourrait aussi bien être attribué à un refus de reconnaissance officiel des souverains anatoliens, ou bien de Polybe luimême, voire d’une reprise du langage normé utilisé dans le traité – les rois attalide, bithynien, cappadocien et pontique ne sont pas non plus affublés de leur titre dans ce texte, tandis qu’Artaxias est évoqué au passage, parmi les dynastes asiatiques prenant part au traité en tant qu’adscripti.18 Un passage de Moïse de Khorène peut ouvrir d’autres perspectives sur la question des débuts de la dynastie artaxiade. Ce dernier évoquait un certain Yerwand, qui se serait emparé du trône après la mort du roi Sanatrouk, mais fut ensuite vaincu par un fils de Sanatrouk, Artachês, dans lequel il faut reconnaître le stratège d’Arménie Majeure Artaxias.19 Si le récit de Moïse de Khorène dans son ensemble comporte des éléments légendaires et est peut-être contaminé par une tradition issue de la propagande artaxiade, l’existence d’un roi arménien nommé Yerwand (ou Eruand) se trouve confirmée par le nom des villes Yerwandachat/Eruandašat et Yerwandakert/Eruandakert. L’origine arménienne d’Artaxias ne fait pas de doute, et son appartenance à la dynastie des Orontides était prétendue par le roi de son vivant, comme l’attestent des bornes territoriales inscrites en araméen où Artaxias apparaissait comme le fils de Zariadris et se revendiquait Orontide (Arwandakan).20 Certains éléments restent inconciliables, notamment les noms Xerxès d’un côté, Sanatrouk de l’autre, mais le Yerwand de Moïse de Khorène pourrait être l’Orontès de Strabon, tandis que la revendication d’ascendance orontide pourrait être aussi bien réelle qu’un produit de la propagande d’Artaxias servant à conforter son autorité par la référence à une dynastie reconnue et respectée. Le nom de Sanatrouk correspond à un roi arménien de l’époque de Moïse de Khorène, mais il pourrait aussi être un prédécesseur d’Orontès et, selon certaines traditions artaxiades prolongées par Moïse, le père d’Artaxias. Le récit de l’historien arménien va dans le sens d’une légitimation de la prise de pouvoir d’Artaxias, en opposition à son prédécesseur orontide direct, là où 18 Strab. Geogr. 11.14.15 (532C). Le même épisode est également évoqué par Strab. Geogr. 11.14.5 (528C). 19 Movsēs Xorenacʽi, 2.37. 20 Perikhanian 1966, 18: ‘[Partagea la terre entre les] villages [de ?] Artašēs, roi, Orontide, le Bon, fils de Zareh, Vainqueur de ce qui engendre le Mal(?), Porteur de couronne, l’Allié de Xšaθra’ ([qḥ]ǀ qry[’]ǀ [’]rtḥš[sy]ǀ mlk ’rwnd [kn]ǀ ṭb brǀ zryhrǀ wnqprǀ qṭrbrǀ ’ḥštrsrt). Le nom Zareh est une forme araméenne de Zariadris, mais une autre forme plus commune, Zariadrès, apparaît dans d’autres inscriptions du même type, voir Perikhanian 1971, 174; Khatchadourian 2007, 52; Traina 2017, 382, qui fait d’Artaxias le frère de Zariadris, plutôt que son fils (tous deux fils d’un autre Zariadris, d’autre part inconnu?), à l’instar de Patterson 2001, 155, n. 5; Kosmin 2018, 213 et 216. Sur les rapports entre Artaxiades et Orontides, voir Schottky 1989, 76–138 et 243; Facella 2006, 192–195.


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Artaxias lui-même justifiait sa légitimité par l’inclusion dans la lignée orontide. Il reste que ces sources fournissent un faisceau d’indices au sujet des circonstances de la nomination de Zariadris et d’Artaxias. Il semble qu’après la confirmation des dynastes arméniens par le pouvoir séleucide, un complot de palais ait mis aux prises des prétendants au trône d’Arménie Majeure, dont Artaxias sortit vainqueur. Environ au même moment, Zariadris, un Orontide également d’après les bornes inscrites d’Arménie Majeure et sans doute le père ou le frère d’Artaxias, succéda au souverain de Sophène. Leur nomination au rang de stratège aurait donc été de la part du roi séleucide un moyen de confirmer le fait établi en assurant le respect formel de son autorité supérieure.21 Cette dernière dépendait néanmoins de la capacité de coercition du pouvoir central, et la défaite de Magnésie pouvait apparaître comme un moment de fragilité de la construction impériale d’Antiochos III. Il n’est pas certain que Strabon, lorsqu’il faisait de la reconnaissance romaine la base de la légitimité arménienne, n’interprétait pas ses sources dans le sens de l’histoire au temps d’Auguste. Artaxias et Zariadris disposaient des arguments dynastiques pour être reconnus par leurs sujets, tandis que leur acceptation parmi les puissances hellénistiques devait encore être construite à cette date. Une affirmation de leur indépendance de la part de Rome ne pouvait cependant que les aider dans un premier temps. II. PROPAGANDE ET POLITIQUE INTÉRIEURE: L’ETABLISSEMENT D’UNE IDENTITÉ DYNASTIQUE Lors des premières phases de l’élaboration d’un pouvoir royal autonome, Artaxias dut s’approprier ses nouveaux domaines et assurer sa légitimité autrement que par la seule reconnaissance romaine. Il semble que les programmes suivis par ce roi dénotent d’une certaine ambiguïté identitaire: ils s’inspiraient de différents modèles politiques et culturels.22 Ainsi, plutôt que de rester dans le giron idéologique de la dynastie séleucide, source de son autorité première sur la région, le roi nouvellement reconnu se prétendait d’ascendance orontide, s’inscrivant dans la continuité du lignage localement reconnu depuis le siècle précédent. La titulature utilisée sur les bornes inscrites montre d’ailleurs une réelle influence de la culture iranienne, notamment par l’expression ‘Allié de Xšaθra’, terme que l’on pourrait traduire par ‘pouvoir’, ‘puissance’ ou ‘fonction royale’, transcrivant un concept qui était au centre de l’éducation des nobles et des rois achéménides. Comme ces mêmes bornes ainsi qu’un ostrakon l’indiquent, Artaxias et les membres de la noblesse arménienne gravèrent des inscriptions en araméen.23 Les stèles d’Artaxias dénotent ainsi d’une identité dynastique particulière, dont les liens avec un passé achéménide se trouvaient également marqués par l’aspect physique des stèles, rappelant 21 Capdetrey 2007, 131s. 22 Sur le règne d’Artaxias, voir Traina 1999–2000, 59–64; Mahé et Mahé 2012, 41–49. 23 Sur ces sources araméennes d’Arménie, voir Perikhanian 1971, 170–174; Perikhanian 1997, 269–275; Khatchadourian 2007, 48–55.

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l’iconographie perse.24 De même, Moïse de Khorène attribuait à ce souverain l’institution d’un calendrier, aspect important de la réforme artistique qu’il aurait menée à bien.25 D’après certains chercheurs, le dynaste aurait abandonné le calendrier macédonien peut-être adopté par la dynastie orontide au IIIe siècle, ainsi que l’ère séleucide, et créa un calendrier local proprement arménien.26 Néanmoins, il convient de rester prudent, en raison de la chronologie approximative du récit de Moïse, qui situait le règne d’Artaxias à l’époque de Justinien, mais aussi du fait du manque de clarté de ce passage. Quand bien même une réforme du calendrier aurait bien été menée par le roi artaxiade, le passage d’un système gréco-macédonien à un équivalent arménien reste hypothétique et dépend de la datation des inscriptions d’Armawir, en particulier celle du calendrier macédonien.27 Il apparaît pourtant que ce roi, tout en intégrant le cercle des royautés hellénistiques reconnues, conserva des usages politiques locaux caractéristiques, et peut-être les renforça. Ainsi, sur le plan linguistique, Strabon évoquait un phénomène d’unification linguistique de la région arménienne opérée entre cette prise d’indépendance et la fin du Ier siècle avant notre ère.28 Dans le même temps, d’autres indices vont dans le sens d’une adaptation aux usages du temps. Les stèles déjà évoquées présentaient une forme d’ambivalence dans le rapport entre image du souverain et influences culturelles: le nom du roi, malgré la conformité des inscriptions sans doute commanditées par Artaxias, a été découvert dans trois versions différentes. Bien que toutes inscrites en araméen, ces versions transcrivaient soit le nom perse, soit son équivalent grec, soit ce qui devait se rapprocher d’une version arménienne. Que ces variations aient été commandées par le pouvoir central, ou bien que ce dernier n’ait pas vu l’intérêt de cacher l’aspect multiculturel de son territoire souverain demeure impossible à juger, et en définitive de peu d’importance: dans tous les cas, l’identité du roi n’était pas fixe.29 À la suite de la reconnaissance de sa souveraineté royale par Rome, Artaxias engagea un mouvement de centralisation politique et administrative, s’approchant ainsi des royautés hellénistiques.30 La mise en place de bornes royales en est un aspect, la création de la cité d’Artaxata (Artašat an arménien) entre dans cette même logique centralisatrice.31 Moïse de Khorène évoquait la création de la cité d’Eruandašat par le prédécesseur d’Artaxias, cité qui aurait supplanté Armawir dans le rôle de capitale politique de l’Arménie.32 Après son accession au trône, Artaxias se distingua de son précurseur en déplaçant à nouveau le centre politique, non à Armawir 24 Khatchadourian 2007, 48s. 25 Movsēs Xorenacʽi 2.59. 26 Voir Bănăţeanu 1980, 34; Mahé et Mahé 2012, 45s. Voir en dernier lieu Kosmin 2018, 211– 219, qui concède l’absence de source témoignant de l’usage de l’ère séleucide dans la région auparavant. 27 Mahé 1994, 1–7, 578–585; Canali de Rossi 2004, 9–15. 28 Strab. Geogr. 11.14.5 (528C). 29 Khatchadourian 2007, 51. 30 Voir Adontz et Garsoïan 1970, 315–326; Mahé et Mahé 2012, 45. 31 Invernizzi 1998, XIX–XXIX; Traina 1999–2000, 63s. 32 Movsēs Xorenacʽi 2.39.


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car le cours de la rivière Araxe s’était déplacé et rendait l’ancien sanctuaire moins accessible et mal alimenté, mais dans une nouvelle fondation au nom du dynaste.33 S’il s’agissait d’un usage dynastique courant en Orient, comme le prouve la fondation de Yerwandachat, ce sont les caractéristiques architecturales, notamment le complexe de murailles, qui tranchent avec l’environnement arménien et marquent l’influence hellénistique.34 L’architecture militaire au diapason des normes en vigueur peut avoir été le fait de l’intervention d’Hannibal dans la fondation de la cité.35 La participation de ce personnage, et sa présence même à la cour d’Artaxias, attestées par deux auteurs grecs de l’époque impériale, a parfois été mise en doute, sous prétexte qu’un roi reconnu par Rome n’aurait pas accueilli un ennemi public du Sénat.36 Le séjour ultérieur du Carthaginois à la cour de Prusias de Bithynie prouve la faiblesse de cet argument. De plus, comme évoqué précédemment, il n’est pas impossible que l’amicitia romaine n’ait pas été accordée aux souverains arméniens dès les lendemains de la paix d’Apamée, mais jusqu’à une dizaine d’années plus tard. Entre temps, l’Arménie Majeure et la Sophène ont pu rester dans une situation de soumission à la souveraineté séleucide, avec, sans doute, un certain degré d’autonomie, ce qui était la norme dans cette région. D’autres chercheurs ont accepté l’authenticité de ce récit en le considérant comme une marque de l’indépendance artaxiade à l’égard de Rome.37 Il faut pourtant rappeler que, si l’on retient une datation haute pour le don d’amicitia par Rome, l’accueil d’Hannibal intervenait dans le contexte d’une très récente revendication d’indépendance et de la prise du titre royal. C’était donc peutêtre d’abord contre le souverain séleucide qu’il s’agissait de s’affirmer. En comptant parmi ses conseillers le célèbre Carthaginois, tout juste éloigné de la cour d’Antiochos, Artaxias s’accaparait aussi un peu de la renommée toute hellénique qu’il manquait à sa maisonnée à la marge du monde des royaumes hellénistiques. Les légions romaines n’avaient jamais approché les montagnes arméniennes et avaient d’ailleurs quitté l’Asie Mineure pour la lointaine Italie, ne laissant pas craindre de représailles du côté de l’Araxe à cette date. IV. POLITIQUE MILITAIRE ET DIPLOMATIQUE: LES MOYENS DE L’INDÉPENDANCE Outre les aspects en rapport à l’image et aux mises en place internes, le roi artaxiade construisit son autorité par rapport aux Séleucides par l’entremise de ses armées et de sa diplomatie. Les aspects politiques et militaires de l’élaboration du royaume artaxiade sont assez difficiles à évaluer en l’absence de sources littéraires plus 33 Les informations fournies par Moïse de Khorène sur le déplacement du lit de l’Araxe sont confirmées par les observations sur le terrain d’après Tiratsian 1980, 25. 34 Invernizzi 1998, 15s., 26–30 et 97–115; Traina 1999–2000, 63; Khatchadourian 2007, 60–62. 35 Sur la fondation de la ville et le rôle d’Hannibal: Plut. Luc. 31.5; Strab. Geogr. 11.14.6 (529C). Sur l’architecture militaire d’Artaxata, voir Invernizzi 1998, 15s. et 104–109. 36 Brizzi 1983, 250. 37 Par exemple, Traina 1999–2000, 63.

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suggestives. Strabon décrivit cependant les deux dynastes comme très actifs sur la scène locale, conquérant les régions voisines de leurs domaines après s’être entendus pour ne pas empiéter sur les intérêts l’un de l’autre.38 La participation d’Artaxias parmi les adscripti du traité de paix de 179 après une guerre anatolienne peut également être mentionnée.39 Le roi d’Arménie Majeure y apparaissait pour la première fois dans le récit de Polybe. Il intervenait comme garant des termes d’une paix à l’avantage du roi attalide et de ses alliés, en opposition au roi du Pont, allié du roi séleucide. En définitive, cette simple présence parmi les adscripti du traité marquait à la fois la reconnaissance par les souverains anatoliens de la légitimité d’Artaxias, mais aussi son positionnement à l’égard des ambitions séleucides encore bien réelles dans la région, malgré la proximité du traité d’Apamée. Après quelques années, Artaxias reparut dans la grande histoire hellénistique, lorsqu’en 165/164 Antiochos IV voulut imiter son père Antiochos III: après l’échec d’Éleusis, il entreprit une expédition vers l’Orient, où l’autorité séleucide affirmée par Antiochos III s’était fortement étiolée.40 Comme son précurseur en 212, Antiochos IV commença sa campagne en l’Arménie, où il réintégra Artaxias dans l’autorité royale, au moins de manière nominale.41 Si sa mort en Perside l’année suivante empêcha le Séleucide de confirmer cette reprise en main, cela montre que l’autonomie arménienne n’en était pas à un point de non-retour dans la vision politique séleucide. Il est d’autre part assuré que la région était restée dans l’horizon politique séleucide entre le traité d’Apamée et la campagne de 165/64: ainsi des colonies furent-elles fondées en Arménie méridionale, dont une Epiphaneia du Tigre sous le règne d’Antiochos IV.42 Il est possible que les inscriptions d’Armawir confirment également des relations entre Artaxiades et Séleucides, puisqu’un dénommé Nouménios apparaît dans les deux derniers textes, évoquant des contacts avec un roi et une reine (d’Arménie Majeure?).43 L’identification de ce personnage avec un agent royal séleucide rattaché à la Babylonie méridionale (Mésène), peut-être sous le règne d’Antiochos IV, reste incertaine, mais assurerait de l’existence de rapports plus étroits entre pouvoir séleucide et royaume d’Arménie Majeure que ce que les sources suggèrent.44 Cette entrevue pourrait avoir suivi la reconquête d’Antiochos et établi les nouvelles relations entre les deux maisonnées royales, en préservant l’image d’une autonomie artaxiade, mais cela reste de l’ordre de l’hypothèse: le texte conservé est très

38 Strab. Geogr. 11.14.5 (528C). 39 Polyb. 25.2.11–13. 40 Sur l’anabase d’Antiochos IV: Diod. 31 F 25 et 18; App. Syr. 46.236 et 66.349; Tac. Hist. 5.8.4s. Voir Will 2003, 2.352–355; Mittag 2006, 296–327. 41 Diod. 31 F 25; App. Syr. 46.236; App. Mithr. 66.349. Une tablette babylonienne évoque aussi cet épisode: Sachs et Hunger 1989, -164. Voir Patterson 2001, 159s.; Mittag 2006, 296; Geller et Traina 2013, 449. 42 Chaumont 1993, 434–436. 43 Mahé 1994, 6s., 583–585; Canali de Rossi 2004, 14s. 44 Pliny. NH 6.152. Cette identification a été proposée par Canali de Rossi 2004, 14s.


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lacunaire et son contexte d’écriture, notamment chronologique, bien mystérieux.45 L’échec de l’expédition confirma néanmoins la situation: Artaxias reprit rapidement son indépendance, et les Parthes purent profiter de la situation pour reprendre leur expansion, autrefois stoppée par Antiochos III, puis relancée après Apamée.46 L’avènement de Démétrios Ier fut l’occasion d’une nouvelle intervention d’Artaxias, dans une situation bien différente. Après la mort d’Antiochos en 164/163, son agent Lysias s’empara du pouvoir, au nom du fils du roi défunt, encore mineur. Mais Démétrios, fils de Séleucos IV et potentiel successeur au trône, se trouvait toujours retenu en otage à Rome. Le Sénat refusa de le libérer, mais il parvint à s’enfuir à la faveur des désaccords entre sénateurs, certains d’entre eux étant favorables à son accession au trône.47 En Asie, après la mise à mort de Lysias et du roi mineur, le gouverneur des Hautes Satrapies Timarchos se souleva contre Démétrios et put trouver un allié: Artaxias.48 Ce dernier tenta d’attirer dans leur camp le roi de Cappadoce Ariarathe V, mettant à profit ses relations diplomatiques en Anatolie, mais se vit opposer un refus. La victoire rapide de Démétrios, finalement reconnu par Rome, n’empêcha pas une certaine fragilisation du pouvoir séleucide sur les marges du royaume: non seulement Artaxias ne semble pas être resté fidèle à l’autorité centrale, mais Ptolémaios, le gouverneur séleucide de Commagène, au SudOuest de l’Arménie, se révolta également contre le trône.49 Le sort de cette région dans les années suivantes n’est pas clair, mais cet épisode est caractéristique de la continuation des processus de désintégration du territoire royal séleucide, des forces centrifuges poussant les régions aux marges à s’éloigner de l’autorité centrale pour s’accorder avec leur contexte géopolitique local, ce qui donna l’occasion à Artaxias et à ses successeurs d’affirmer leurs revendications et de renforcer leur position respective. Au court de son règne, Artaxias a donc su capitaliser sur une reconnaissance de sa légitimité par Rome en s’appuyant sur l’élaboration d’une identité dynastique en 45 Ainsi, Manandian 1946, 30 et Mahé 1994, 577, identifiaient le roi à Orontès IV, mort avant l’avènement d’Artaxias. 46 Voir Wolski 1993, 79s. Il faut noter que les premières conquêtes arsacides du temps de Mithridate Ier (171–138/137) vers l’Occident ne se firent qu’après 148, en Médie, comme le prouve une inscription de Behistun mentionnant un gouverneur séleucide des satrapies iraniennes en 148: Robert 1967, 291. 47 Polyb. 31.2.1–8 et 11–15; Livy Periochae 46; App. Syr. 46.238 et 47.241s.; Just. 34.3.6–9; Zonaras 9.25. Cf. Walbank 1979, 3.465s. et 478–483; Gruen 1984, 664s., qui soulignait le manque de réaction de la part du Sénat. Sur Démétrios Ier et la révolte de Timarchos, voir en dernier lieu Ehling 2008, 122–130; Grainger 2015, 46–49. 48 Diod. 31 F 41; App. Syr. 47.242; Just. 34. Voir Le Rider 1965, 332–334; Gruen 1976, 85–87; Patterson 2001, 160s.; Will 2003, 2.367–369. 49 Diod. 31 F 34. Sur Ptolémaios de Commagène, voir Hewsen 1985, 347s., qui attribuait une grande proximité dynastique entre les souverains de Commagène, d’Arménie Majeure et de Sophène; Facella 2006, 199–205, qui est plus prudente et juge que le manque de source ne permet ni de confirmer ni d’infirmer cette théorie. Voir aussi Capdetrey 2007, 245s., qui supposait un retour dans le giron séleucide après l’assaut contre Ariarathe V. Pourtant, le fils de Ptolémaios, Samos, prit le titre royal tandis que l’ère dynastique choisie plus tard devait démarrer en 163: Wagner et Petzl 1976, l. 7; cf. Facella 2006, 205–208.

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interne et en intégrant le concert des royaumes hellénistiques. Les relations entre l’Arménie Majeure et le pouvoir séleucide restaient difficiles du fait de l’acceptation toute relative de l’autonomie arménienne par les rois d’Antioche, mais les circonstances ne leur laissèrent pas l’occasion de réaffirmer durablement leur souveraineté dans la région. Malgré tout, Artaxias restait à la marge du monde des royaumes hellénisés et sous la menace d’un retour séleucide, en l’absence de ressources militaires et d’un réseau diplomatique conséquents. V. D’ARTAXIAS À TIGRANE: L’ARMÉNIE MAJEURE DANS UN MONDE EN TRANSFORMATION De la mort d’Artaxias à la prise de pouvoir de Tigrane, ca. 160–95, l’histoire de la dynastie artaxiade est obscurcie par le manque de sources. Un passage des histoires de Lucius Ampélius sur la Troisième guerre Punique pose un problème dans la séquence des souverains d’Arménie Majeure. En effet, celui-ci y évoquait la participation d’un certain Tigrane au côté des Romains.50 Plus loin dans son œuvre, l’auteur réitérait cette information.51 L’existence d’un roi d’Arménie nommé Tigrane, avant 95, a été remise en cause, de même que toute l’affirmation de Lucius Ampélius.52 Pourtant, d’autres sources, en particulier un passage d’Appien, tendent à confirmer que le roi connu sous ce nom était le fils d’un homonyme.53 Un extrait de Moïse de Khorène pourrait découler d’une source commune à Appien et Lucius Ampélius, ou tout au moins confirmer leur version, puisqu’il évoquait un certain Tiran, successeur d’Artawazd et prédécesseur de Tigrane.54 Si la séquence proposée par l’auteur arménien ne correspond pas à celle qui découle du passage d’Ampélius, ce peut être dû à la mauvaise interprétation de Moïse qui aurait fait du fils le successeur du père, car il n’avait pas l’information sur le règne intermédiaire d’Artawazd, frère de Tigrane Ier et oncle de Tigrane II. Il faut rester prudent, mais la participation d’un roi d’Arménie nommé Tigrane à la troisième Guerre punique ne peut être rejetée, ce qui indiquerait des relations renouvelées entre l’Arménie Majeure et le Sénat romain.55 On n’oubliera pas de préciser que la situation du royaume séleucide à ce moment pouvait encourager un tel rapprochement, étant donné la fragilisation du pouvoir centrale provoquée par le renversement de Démétrios Ier au profit d’Alexandre Balas. Ce possible lien avec Rome put être un moyen de renforcer l’autonomie arménienne contre les ambitions séleucides, mais la baisse d’influence de ces derniers en Orient fut avant tout synonyme pour les Artaxiades de confrontation politique avec leurs conquérants et héritiers politiques, les Parthes.

50 51 52 53 54 55

Lucius Ampélius 32.1. Lucius Ampélius 46.7. Chaumont 1985–1988, 18. App. Syr. 48.247: Βασιλεὺς Ἀρμενίας Τιγράνης ὁ Τιγράνους. Movsēs Xorenacʽi 2.61. Payen 2018. Voir les remarques prudentes de Geller et Traina 2013, 448.


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Le dernier tiers du IIe siècle vit le royaume parthe arsacide s’ériger en puissance hégémonique en Asie trans-taurique.56 Après les échecs subis dans les années 140 et 130 par les successeurs de Séleucos dans leurs tentatives de reconquête, les rois parthes s’emparèrent de la Babylonie et des anciennes possessions séleucides orientales jusqu’à l’Euphrate. Monté sur le trône entre 124 et 121, Mithridate II Arsace VIII fit de la conquête de la région transcaucasienne un objectif politique majeur après plusieurs années de campagnes en Orient.57 Les deux royaumes arméniens de Sophène et d’Arménie Majeure réapparaissent dans les sources à l’occasion des premières échauffourées avec le roi parthe Mithridate II. Les sources littéraires sont malheureusement difficiles à interpréter, et les tablettes astronomiques babyloniennes ne peuvent que partiellement éclairer la question. Justin évoquait une attaque parthe contre Artavasde d’Arménie sous le règne de Mithridate II Arsace, mais aussi une guerre arménienne menée par le même roi parthe à la fin de son règne, et précisait que Tigrane (95–55) était monté sur le trône arménien après avoir été captif pendant longtemps.58 Mithridate II ayant régné entre 124/23 et 91/87, certains historiens ont avancé la date de 97, ce que la note de Justin sur la longue captivité de Tigrane rend improbable.59 La thèse d’une conquête à la fin du règne du souverain parthe précédent, Mithridate Ier, a été également mise à défaut.60 Une reconstruction historique plus plausible est celle proposée par J. Wolski, qui plaçait une première conquête parthe au début du règne de Mithridate II entre 115 et 105, et proposait une deuxième attaque en fin de règne, vers 90.61 En revanche, cette seconde occasion ne pourrait dans ce cas être confondue comme le proposait cet historien avec l’établissement de Tigrane sur le trône d’Arménie,62 puisque Plutarque datait cet événement de 25 ans en arrière au moment de la légation de Claudius Pulcher en 70.63 P. Arnaud a proposé de dater cette ultime attaque de la dernière année de règne de Mithridate II Arsace, en 87, dans le cadre d’une 56 Sur l’histoire des Parthes, Debevoise 1938, est désormais dépassé sur de nombreux points; Schippmann 1986, très général et synthétique sur la société parthe arsacide; Wolski 1993 (88– 96 sur Mithridate II); Wolski 2003, 67–77 en particulier au sujet de l’avancée parthe sur la scène géopolitique anatolienne; Olbrycht 1998b, 25–36; Olbrycht 1998a, (96–105 sur Mithridate II). Cet auteur surestimait les marques d’un héritage nomade que les sources ne confirment pas, d’après Lerouge-Cohen 2010, 167. Sur la Parthie et son intégration dans l’empire séleucide jusqu’aux années 140, voir dernièrement Luther 1999; Mittag 2006, 320–323; Assar 2006; Engels 2017, 315–317. 57 Just. 42.2.5 évoquait la revanche prise sur des Scythes responsables des maux de ses ancêtres. Sachs et Hunger 1996, -118A et B mentionnait explicitement le triomphe remporté par Mithridate II sur les Gutis, responsables de la mort de son frère, non sans souligner la longueur de cette lutte qui couvrit au moins l’essentiel des années 119 et 118. Dernièrement, voir Shayegan 2011, 242s. 58 Just. 42.2.6; 42.4.1; 38.3.1. Voir Ballesteros Pastor 2013, 204. 59 Schippmann 1980, 97; Will 2003, 2.452. Sur la chronologie des rois parthes, voir aussi Luther 2018, 163s. 60 Voir notamment Schottky 1989, 204–219. 61 Wolski 1980, 256–259. Voir déjà Simonetta 1957, 115. 62 Wolski 1980, 259. 63 Plut. Luc. 21.6.

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reconstruction historique s’appuyant sur de nombreuses sources littéraires, astronomiques et numismatiques, mais néanmoins sujette à débats sur différents points.64 Cette hypothétique seconde guerre arménienne entre Mithridate II et Tigrane pose des problèmes historiques quant aux relations que Tigrane entretint avec son suzerain dans les premières années de son règne. Une autre interprétation a été formulée par M.-L. Chaumont et suivie par M.R. Shayegan, marquant la seconde offensive parthe en Arménie au moment de la prise de pouvoir de Tigrane soutenue par des troupes arsacides, en 96/95.65 En revanche, la date de l’incorporation du royaume d’Arménie Majeure dans l’empire parthe semble confirmée et précisée par une tablette astronomique babylonienne datée de 111/10 et décrivant la ruine du pays d’Habigalbat, mot akkadien qui pouvait désigner l’Arménie ou une partie de l’Arménie à l’époque hellénistique.66 Le royaume d’Artavasde fut donc soumis à l’autorité parthe dès 111/10, mais le souverain artaxiade resta en place, envoyant à la cour du roi son neveu et futur successeur Tigrane.67 Trois tablettes babyloniennes datées de 95 évoquent la mort d’Artavasde et le retour de Tigrane, ‘prince héritier, à qui fut confiée [la protection] de l’Arménie pour le roi’ arsacide.68 Cette expression évoque clairement la situation de vassalité de la dynastie artaxiade à l’égard du Roi des Rois. Des sources littéraires mentionnent la prise de pouvoir de Tigrane, qui dut abandonner quelques parties du territoire arménien méridional au roi parthe pour accéder au trône d’Artaxata.69 En définitive, le déclin politique du pouvoir dominant en Asie eut des conséquences majeures et immédiates sur le statut du royaume artaxiade, dont l’autonomie était mise à mal par le nouveau représentant de l’idéal impérial en Asie. VI. L’APPEL D’ANTIOCHE ET SES ENSEIGNEMENTS En 95, Tigrane accédait au pouvoir dans un royaume patronné et bordé par le puissant empire parthe au Sud et à l’Est, au contact du royaume de Sophène à l’Ouest 64 Arnaud 1987, 137–139. Voir l’interprétation très différente proposée par Olbrycht 2009, 168– 170. 65 Chaumont 1985–1988, 17 et 20s.; Shayegan 2011, 241–244. Ce dernier datait l’accession au trône de Tigrane en 96. 66 Sachs et Hunger 1996, -110, 346–349. Voir Del Monte 1997, 81; Geller et Traina 2013, 448– 450; Clancier 2014, 361–365. Clancier réévalue le terme ‘Habigalbat’ (ou ‘Hanigalbat’), concluant qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un équivalent exact du mot ‘Arménie’, mais plutôt d’une partie de ce pays, probablement au sud de l’Arménie ancienne. 67 Sachs et Hunger 1996, -110, rev. 1. 68 Sachs et Hunger 1996, -95C, l. 5s. (lecture et interprétation d’après Geller et Traina 2013, 447s.): [mTi-ig-ra-nu … lú.dum]u.nita2 pi-qid ana mu-a-tì3 ana lu[gal…]. Les deux autres passages concernés sont Sachs et Hunger 1996 -95A et la suite de -95C, présentés par Geller et Traina 2013, 447s. La lecture traditionnelle est plutôt : ‘[Tigrane qui avait] été confié [...partit] pour ladite Arménie comme roi...’ ([lú.dum[2]] UŠ pi-qid ana uru Ar-mi-ni-i MU-atì ana LU[GAL .... ]). 69 Strab. Geogr. 11.14.15 (532C); Just. 43.3.1.


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et du royaume pontique récemment augmenté de l’Arménie Mineure au Nord-Ouest de son domaine. Mithridate II Arsace et Mithridate VI Eupatôr étaient les voisins les plus puissants du souverain artaxiade, qui choisit dès 95 de s’allier avec Eupatôr, par le truchement d’un mariage diplomatique faisant de Mithridate du Pont son beau-père.70 Cette occasion venait d’Eupatôr, qui à ce moment avait été mis à mal dans ses opérations par l’intervention romaine, et semble avoir voulu s’assurer un soutien oriental. Ainsi, la dynastie artaxiade remplaçait la dynastie séleucide dans la tradition pontique d’alliance matrimoniale. Cette alliance fut accompagnée de la conquête de la Sophène, vers 95, ce qui fit de l’Arménie un royaume voisin de la Cappadoce.71 Enfin, alors que les troubles dans cette région s’étaient soldés la même année, à l’initiative de Rome, par l’établissement du roi Ariobarzane, étranger à la dynastie régnante, sur le trône ariarathide, Tigrane s’entendit avec Mithridate pour chasser ce souverain.72 L’intérêt de Tigrane pour la Cappadoce peut aussi être compris comme un remplacement du souverain séleucide qui n’avait plus les moyens de peser sur les destinées de ce royaume voisin, gardien de la principale route terrestre entre la Syrie et l’Anatolie. Néanmoins, Tigrane restait dans le giron du souverain arsacide, lui-même allié d’Eupatôr. Un parchemin daté de 88 confirme explicitement cette situation, puisque Tigrane y est affublé du titre de βασιλεὺς μέγας et Arsace de celui de βασιλεὺς βασιλέων, marquant la supériorité du second à cette date.73 En 87/86 ou en 83, voire plusieurs années plus tard, la capitale séleucide d’Antioche, suivie par une partie de la Syrie, se sépara des derniers représentants de la dynastie de Séleucos et chercha un nouveau protecteur. Justin présente cet épisode en ces termes: Alors que les rois et le royaume de Syrie avaient été épuisés par les haines mutuelles des deux frères, puis de leurs fils qui avaient pris le relais des inimitiés de leurs parents, le peuple recourut à des secours extérieurs et se mit à regarder du côté des souverains étrangers des alentours. De fait, alors qu’une partie était d’avis de faire appel à Mithridate du Pont, une autre à Ptolémée, depuis l’Égypte, et qu’il se trouvait que Mithridate était embarrassé par la guerre romaine et que Ptolémée, pour sa part, avait toujours été un ennemi, tous s’accordèrent sur Tigrane, roi d’Arménie, compte tenu de ses propres forces et eu égard à son alliance avec les Parthes et aux liens familiaux qu’il partageait avec Mithridate. Ainsi appelé au trône de Syrie, il régna très paisiblement pendant dix-sept ans, et il n’eut pas à provoquer une guerre contre autrui, ni à faire la guerre à autrui après avoir été provoqué.74 70 Just. 38.3.2 et 5. 71 Strab. Geogr. 11.14.15 (532C). 72 Just. 38.3.3; App. Mithr. 2.10. Sur ces épisodes, voir McGing 1986, 78; de Callataÿ 1997, 274; Ballesteros Pastor 2013, 196–212, en particulier 208 sur l’invasion de la Cappadoce. 73 Minns 1915, 22–65, Avroman I (A), l. 1–5. La hiérarchie suggérée est discutée par Shayegan 2011, 195s. et 317s. Voir aussi Luther 2018, 163s. Sur les titulatures en question, voir en dernier lieu Muccioli 2013, 395–417; Engels 2014b; Engels 2017, 41–71 (56 et 67 sur le parchemin d’Avroman). 74 Just. 40.1: Mutuis fratrum odiis et mox filiis inimicitiis parentum succedentibus cum inexpiabili bello et reges et regnum Syriae consumptum esset, ad externa populus auxilia concurrit peregrinosque sibi reges circumspicere coepit. Itaque cum pars Mithridatem Ponticum, pars

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La datation de l’appel d’Antioche à Tigrane dépend du choix fait entre deux passages procurant des durées différentes de domination de la Syrie par le roi d’Arménie.75 Parmi les souverains pressentis, Mithridate du Pont avait perdu de son charisme depuis sa défaite, et Ptolémée IX appartenait à une dynastie ennemie et en crise depuis plusieurs décennies. Le choix fut porté sur Tigrane. Les motifs de ce choix ont été explicitement avancées dans le récit de Justin: Tigrane l’emporta à la fois du fait de sa propre puissance et en raison de sa solide situation diplomatique. Le simple fait qu’il ait été parmi les prétendants prouve que son influence sur la région était forte et qu’il était au rang des souverains considérés dignes de gouverner cette région hellénisée et marquée par les héritages séleucides, à l’inverse du roi parthe. De même, l’absence de mention à l’égard de Rome laisse supposer que les liens établis entre les cités syriennes et la République étaient peu développés à cette époque. La Cilicie plane fut également prise par le roi artaxiade, qui devenait le souverain d’un empire allant de la Médie à la Méditerranée et de la Phénicie au Taurus.76 Avec la prise d’Antioche et d’autres cités du centre politique séleucide, Tigrane s’assurait une fenêtre maritime en direction de la Méditerranée et une intégration de ses domaines dans les réseaux commerciaux reliant l’Orient parthe au monde gréco-romain. Il faut cependant noter que parmi les cités qui ne tombèrent pas aux mains de Tigrane figuraient Séleucie de Piérie et Ptolémaïs-Akkè, les deux principaux ports de Syrie et de Phénicie séleucides, ce qui limitait son potentiel maritime et pourrait expliquer en partie la campagne ultérieure menée contre les Ciliciens. En général, la confusion politique marquant alors l’ensemble de la région syrienne limitait la portée effective de l’appel d’Antioche.77 Tigrane prenait aussi une place importante dans le monde hellénisé, là où l’Arménie semble être restée relativement marginale après 190. Les conséquences de ce nouveau statut sont perceptibles par

Ptolomeum ab Aegypto arcessendum censeret, occurreretque quod et Mithridates inplicitus bello Romano esset, Ptolomeus quoque hostis semper fuisset Syriae, omnes in Tigranen, regem Armeniae, consensere, instructum, praeter domesticas vires et Parthica societate, et Mithridatis adfinitate. Igitur accitus in regnum Syriae per X et VII annos tranquillissimo regno potitus est ; neque bello alium lacessere neque lacessitus inferre alii bellum necesse habuit. Voir Salomone 1973, 112–116. 75 Just. 40.1.4 évoquait 17 ou 18 ans, tandis qu’App. Syr. 48.245–248, ne parlait que de 14 ans. Koehler 1978, 10–30 et Brodersen 1989, 76s. penchaient pour 87/86, à l’inverse d’Ehling 2008, 250–252, tandis que Shayegan 2011, 316, ne tranchait pas. Salomone 1973, 115s., défendait la thèse la plus souvent acceptée, celle d’un règne syrien débuté en 83 et soutenue par la version d’Appien, et ne tranchait pas entre une erreur de Trogue-Pompée, de Justin ou de la tradition manuscrite. Il n’est pas impossible que Justin ait situé la fin de la domination syrienne de Tigrane en 66, lors de la seconde invasion romaine conduite par Pompée, puisque le souverain artaxiade ne perdit sans doute pas toute ses possessions après le départ de Lucullus. Un tel choix mettrait les deux textes en accord sur la date de 83. Pour une thèse différente, voir Hoover 2007, 291s. et 296–298, qui se prononce pour une conquête d’Antioche seulement en 74/73. 76 App. Syr. 48.247s.; Plut. Luc. 21.4. Sur l’expansion de Tigrane en Syrie, voir en particulier Bellinger 1949, 80; Ehling 2008, 246–256. 77 Sartre 2003, 431; Traina 2012, 79.


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divers biais, en particulier dans la production monétaire arménienne.78 Aucun prédécesseur de Tigrane n’avait frappé monnaie, en l’absence d’une telle tradition dans les villes arméniennes comme d’un besoin d’argent monnayé puisque les armées royales n’étaient pas constituées de mercenaires mais de sujets. En effet, la structure du pouvoir royal en Arménie Majeure s’articulait autour des liens entre le roi et les nakharar, ou grands nobles, qui avaient sous leurs ordres des troupes sujettes.79 Cette particularité put être en partie effacée par la reprise des structures et des hommes laissés par les Séleucides, dans le contexte de la montée de l’impérialisme arménien qui laissa des influences multiculturelles, hellènes entre autres, se mêler davantage au substrat culturel local teinté d’iranisme. VII. TIGRANE LE GRAND, HÉRITIER DE L’IMPÉRIALISME SÉLEUCIDE? Suite à la prise d’Antioche, Tigrane put reprendre un certain nombre de pratiques et d’ambitions propres aux Séleucides, entre autres ses volontés impérialistes. Néanmoins, il est nécessaire de distinguer entre réalités et hypothèses, en particulier en ce qui concerne les problèmes de datation. À la suite de la prise de la capitale séleucide, le souverain d’Arménie put composer avec des ateliers monétaires productifs.80 Ce nouvel outil permit à Tigrane de développer sa propagande en modelant l’image de son pouvoir. Toutes les monnaies d’argent au nom de Tigrane présentent une forte homogénéité. En effet, le portrait du roi apparaît toujours au droit, ceint de la tiare et du diadème, cumulant ainsi des symboles de pouvoir propres aux royaumes hellénisés d’une part, aux dynasties perses ou iranisées de l’autre.81 Il existe deux types de revers connus: la représentation de la tychè d’Antioche, voilée et coiffée d’une couronne murale, tenant une palme et assise au-dessus du fleuve Oronte anthropomorphique, et un autre, bien plus rare, représentant la tychè de Damas assise portant une corne d’abondance avec à ses pieds la rivière Chrysaoras anthropomorphique.82 Le second type fut frappé à Damas, tandis que le premier le fut à Antioche en particulier, mais aussi pour certaines pièces peut-être à Tigranocerte ou ailleurs.83 La conservation de types établis n’a rien pour surprendre: les monnaies devaient être acceptées dans les réseaux commerciaux existant. La figure de la tychè permettait au souverain de s’associer à une représentation reconnue de 78 Sur le sujet, voir de Callataÿ 1997, 215–233, qui a catalogué et commenté les monnaies connues de Tigrane, en donnant les références majeures valables en 1997. 79 Movsēs Xorenacʽi 2.53; sur l’armée d’Artaxias et les réformes du système administratif d’Arménie Majeure, voir Adontz et Garsoïan 1970, 315–326. 80 De Callataÿ 1997, 332s. 81 De Callataÿ 1997, 225; Invernizzi 1998, XIX–XXIX; Duyrat 2012, avec un catalogue des monnaies de Tigrane sous la forme de trois annexes, 183–208. 82 De Callataÿ 1997, 225s.; Duyrat 2012, 168–173. 83 L’identification du deuxième type de revers est due à Newell 1939, 95–100. 174 exemplaires au type de la tychè d’Antioche ont probablement été frappés à Antioche, sur un total de 241. Les autres monnaies ont été attribuées aux ateliers de Tigranocerte, d’Artaxata, ou à des villes indéterminées de Commagène, de Mésopotamie et d’Arménie, sur la base d’arguments de vraisemblance: de Callataÿ 1997, 226–230.

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la victoire et du prestige militaire, ce qui peut d’ailleurs expliquer en partie la conservation du type de la tychè d’Antioche après la perte de la cité en 69.84 L’élaboration d’un portrait royal plus proche du modèle cappadocien que du modèle séleucide détenait en revanche une signification quant aux ambitions royales de Tigrane. L’utilisation de l’épithète philhellène apparut sur certaines des monnaies arméniennes.85 Celui-ci semble avoir voulu se présenter comme un souverain faisant l’union entre différents modèles royaux, capable de régner sur des peuples hellénisés et iranisés comme sur ses propres sujets arméniens.86 La fondation d’une capitale nouvelle nommée Tigranocerte, vers 75, s’inscrit dans le modèle hellénistique de fondations dynastiques: la nouvelle cité fut peuplée de Grecs d’Asie déportés, un théâtre et sa troupe d’acteurs grecs en firent une cité de culture en partie hellénique.87 Plutarque a même écrit, non sans exagération, que Tigrane emplissait de colons toute la Mésopotamie.88 Le désir d’acquérir ainsi la renommée attachée à cette culture grecque a pu être un facteur important de la politique de déportation du roi, mais d’autres aspects entraient en jeu. Ainsi, la plupart des cités vidées de leurs habitants étaient des ports ou des villes servant de base arrière aux pirates ciliciens.89 La reprise des domaines séleucides poussait Tigrane à s’occuper du problème de la piraterie, et par ces déportations il pouvait espérer à la fois enrayer le phénomène et affaiblir les noyaux de résistance à son autorité, dans les régions aux mains des derniers représentants de la dynastie de Séleucos.90 Néanmoins, par d’autres aspects, en particulier par le site du palais royal extérieur à la ville dans un paradis (domaine de chasse), cette fondation se rattachait 84 Le maintien de la tychè d’Antioche au revers des monnaies de Tigrane après la perte de cette cité est obscure. Haji Toros 1970, 29–31, et Bedoukian 1978, 14, y ont vu une représentation de la déesse iranienne d’Artaxata Anahit et du dieu-fleuve Araxes, sans qu’aucun parallèle numismatique ne vienne confirmer cette idée. Foss 1986, 34s., a proposé d’y lire une translation de la signification de la tychè, devenue après 69 un symbole de la fondation majeure de Tigranocerte. Néanmoins, celle-ci était également tombée en 69. Des raisons plus pragmatiques de conservation d’un type reconnu et accepté sont plus vraisemblables: de Callataÿ 1997, 232. 85 Bregia Pulci Doria 1973/74; Michels 2009, 318 et 341; Traina 2016, 114. Sur ce titre royal, voir Muccioli 2013, 257–261 (surtout 259). 86 Traina 2016, 114s. 87 App. Mithr. 10.67 a situé l’attaque de Tigrane en Cappadoce, qui précéda la fondation de la cité, entre 78 et 76, ce qui correspond à l’époque de tension entre Arméniens et Parthes (80– 75) d’après Arnaud 1987, 140–142. Shayegan 2011, ne relevait pas la datation tirée d’Appien et préférait situer cette fondation durant le règne de Sinatroecès, entre 76/75 et 69. Sur la fondation de Tigranocerte, voir Manandian 1963, 49–63; Traina 1999–2000, 68–72. Sur le théâtre et ses résonances culturelles en Arménie, voir Traina 2010, 95–102, avec Plut. Luc. 29.4. 88 Plut. Luc. 21.4. 89 App. Mithr. 67.285 et Syr. 48.245-248 a parlé de 300 000 personnes déportées. Le sac de Soli, en Cilicie, est évoqué par Cass. Dio 36.37.6 et Plut. Pomp. 28.9, et peut être rapproché des passages de Strab. Geogr. 11.12.4 (522C), 11.14.15 (532C), 12.2.9 (539C) et 16.1.23 (747C), précisant que 12 villes de Cappadoce et de Cilicie furent dépeuplées pour permettre la fondation de Tigranocerte. Voir Magie 2010, 295s. et 1177s.; Manandian 1963, 56; Glew 1981, 124; Sherwin-White 1984, 178; McGing 1986, 137; Kallet-Marx 1995, 295; Siewert 1995, 230– 233; Traina 2010, 98; Arrayás Morales 2013, 185–187. 90 Cet aspect des déportations anciennes a été développé par Arrayás Morales 2013, 185–189.


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également au modèle achéménide.91 La date et le contexte de cette fondation peuvent être avancés, bien que les sources ne soient pas claires. Si l’emplacement précis de cette cité n’a pas été déterminé avec assurance, il semble qu’il faille le placer en Mésopotamie, dans une région sans doute conquise entre 80 et 75, voire après 76.92 Après la mort d’Orode Arsace en 76/75, et face à l’hostilité du nouveau roi Sinatroecès, le roi d’Arménie put mener une campagne contre la Mésopotamie de manière préventive ou défensive. La fondation de cette capitale dynastique était interprétée par plusieurs auteurs comme une injure et une provocation à l’égard des Parthes, encore récente lors de l’attaque de Lucullus contre la cité en construction en 69, ce qui va dans le sens d’une fondation tardive (c. 75–70).93 On parle souvent d’impérialisme arménien au sujet de Tigrane, en référence à sa politique conquérante mais aussi en rapport avec la prise du titre de Roi des Rois.94 Celui-ci, repris à la tradition achéménide par le roi parthe Mithridate II, fut ensuite revendiqué par le roi d’Arménie.95 La signification politique de ce titre dépassait la remise au goût du jour d’une formule ancienne et avait de fortes répercussions en termes de revendications intérieures et extérieures. En effet, il s’agissait d’afficher ses prétentions à l’élaboration d’une hégémonie personnelle sur l’Asie, justifiant les conquêtes territoriales comme la domination sur les souverains régionaux, sans pour autant les destituer de leur titre royal. Dans le contexte du Ier siècle avant notre ère, il s’agissait surtout de riposter aux prétentions parthes qui inquiétaient fortement les différents rois de l’Asie occidentale, en particulier les Arméniens, en l’absence d’une protection séleucide efficace ou d’une hégémonie 91 La description qu’en a fait App. Mithr. 86.389–391 souligne ces aspects orientaux de la capitale arménienne, ainsi que la robustesse apparente de ses remparts. 92 App. Mithr. 67.281–285. Arnaud 1987, 140–142, penchait pour 80–75; Shayegan 2011, 245, considérait une date postérieure à 75 comme plus probable, en fonction de sa datation du règne de Sinatroecès (76/75–69). Sur l’emplacement discuté de Tigranocerte, voir Reinach 1890, 359–363; Holmes 1917, 123–130 et 137s., qui se prononçait pour Tel Ermen; Dillemann 1962, 247–249 et 272; Manandian 1963, 93; Liebmann-Frankfort 1969, 234; Will 2003, 2.385; Chaumont 1982, 94–107; 1988–1989, 241–246; Keaveney 1992, 106; Syme 1995, 58–65; de Callataÿ 1997, 363, n. 206; Arrayás Morales 2013, 183. En dernier lieu, Traina 2010, 99, a proposé d’identifier le site de Tigranocerte avec la ville d’Arzan, à la frontière Sud-Ouest de l’Arménie, en s’appuyant sur les restes de son théâtre antique. 93 Plut. Luc. 21.4 a fait de la conquête de la Mésopotamie une insulte à l’égard du roi parthe, et Memn. Frag. 38.8 a fait part des revendications arsacides en 69, comprenant la Mésopotamie. La lettre de Mithridate Eupatôr à Phraate III telle que l’a proposé Salluste Lettres et Discours, 4.69.3, mentionne la colère du roi parthe à l’égard de Tigrane en raison d’une guerre récente (ira in Tigranem recentis belli). Si ce document est apocryphe, il reste probable que Salluste se soit basé sur des renseignements historiques précis concernant une guerre entre Arméniens et Parthes peu avant l’année 69. 94 Cet aspect de l’histoire arménienne a fait l’objet d’études sur le poids du nationalisme dans l’éducation scolaire de cette région: Ferro 1992, 183–209, à l’analyse incomplète et biaisée, cf. Hobsbawm 1990, 76; Traina 2004, 172–176. 95 Sur la signification du titre de Grand Roi des Rois, voir Arnaud 1987, 144s.; Muccioli 2013, 395–417. Voir aussi, sur ce titre dans l’empire parthe des Arsacides, à la même époque, la synthèse commode de Wiesehöfer 1996, 59s., et le long développement sur l’évolution de ce titre des Achéménides aux Arsacides dans Shayegan 2011, 45–292.

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romaine encore inexistante au-delà du Taurus. La thèse de la reprise de ce titre après que Tigrane ait supplanté la dynastie séleucide suppose ainsi une reprise des visées impérialistes propres à cette même dynastie. La principale entrave dans l’évaluation des implications du titre pris par Tigrane réside dans sa datation incertaine. Il semble hors de doute que celle-ci intervint après la mort de Mithridate II en 91, ne serait-ce que par logique historique: Tigrane n’avait pas le territoire ni la renommée pour prétendre concurrencer le roi parthe.96 Les seuls exemplaires de monnaie comprenant la légende ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ ΤΙΓΡΑΝΟΥ sont datés des années de règne 37 et 38, soit les années 59/58 et 58/57, alors que Tigrane avait perdu l’essentiel de ses conquêtes après ses défaites contre Lucullus et Pompée.97 Une datation tardive peut paraître étonnante de prime abord, mais n’est pas incohérente puisque Dion Cassius et Plutarque évoquent un épisode de la campagne de Pompée au cours duquel le général romain aurait retiré au roi parthe ce titre avant de rendre à Tigrane ses territoires ancestraux.98 Pompée aurait-il poussé le roi d’Arménie à s’élever contre les ambitions impérialistes des Arsacides? L’absence de sources de première main attestant d’une date plus ancienne en laisse la possibilité. En revanche, les auteurs anciens ont mis cette revendication en rapport avec le pic de puissance atteint par Tigrane dans les années 80 et 70: pour Appien, elle serait la conséquence des victoires artaxiades sur de nombreux rois, tandis que Plutarque a noté que Lucullus lui avait retiré ce titre lorsqu’il lui avait déclaré la guerre, suggérant ainsi une date plus ancienne que 69.99 Cependant, dans les deux cas, il n’est pas impossible que ces auteurs aient pris leurs informations dans des sources proromaines ayant intérêt à justifier les revendications arméniennes eu égard au statut d’empire rival qu’avait atteint le royaume parthe au moment de la rédaction de ces œuvres. Si le caractère expansionniste et indépendant de la politique extérieure tardive de Tigrane est indiscutable, il n’est donc pas certain qu’elle se soit 96 Sur la date de la prise du titre de Roi des Rois par Tigrane, Arnaud 1987, 139, considérait que si Orode ne reprit pas ce titre après sa montée sur le trône parthe en 86, c’était pour faire acte d’obédience envers son allié Tigrane, qui le revendiquait déjà avant la mort de Mithridate II et désormais seul à en porter la dignité. Cette interprétation est forcée, et ne prend pas en compte l’absence totale de sources numismatiques ou de tablettes astronomiques prêtant au roi arsacide un tel honneur au début des années 80. 97 Plusieurs de ces exemplaires datés proviennent vraisemblablement d’un même atelier monétaire, généralement attribué à Artaxata, redevenue capitale royale après la chute de l’empire de Tigrane: Bedoukian 1978, 12–25 et 47s. Un unicum non daté présentant cette légende a parfois été attribué à Tigranocerte sur des bases fragiles: Foss 1986, 33–38 et 61–66. Ces deux auteurs pensaient que le titre de Roi des Rois était utilisé par Tigrane en Arménie dès 85, mais pas en Syrie. Cependant, la classification des monnaies de Tigrane a été revue par Mousheghian et Depeyrot 1999, 34–44 et 134–159. Selon cette révision, complémentée par Hoover 2008, 210– 213, tous les exemplaires d’argent et de bronze attribuant le titre impérial à Tigrane semblent provenir d’ateliers arméniens et, surtout, dater des années 66–57, après le règlement pompéien. Les sources numismatiques ne soutiennent donc pas une prise du titre de Roi des Rois en conjonction avec une conquête réalisée contre les Parthes. Voir de Callataÿ 1997, 228–232; Shayegan 2011, 241, n. 768; Muccioli 2013, 408–411. 98 Cass. Dio 37.6.1; Plut. Pomp. 38. 99 App. Syr. 48.245–248; Plut. Luc. 21.7.


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accompagnée d’un message idéologique aussi clair que la prise du titre achéménide avant que l’empire arménien ait disparu en grande partie, même si la plus grande prudence reste de mise sur ce sujet. Il faut aussi noter qu’à une date proche, Pharnace II, roi du Bosphore et fils de Mithridate VI du Pont, prit également ce titre de Roi des Rois à la faveur de ses succès militaires et, selon certains chercheurs, de la mort de Tigrane.100 Cette décision a souvent été considérée comme un signe d’hostilité envers Rome, ce qui peut paraître contradictoire avec la prise du même titre par Tigrane en accord avec Pompée.101 Néanmoins, il faut prendre en compte le contexte très différent dans ce cas. Pharnace n’était pas en concurrence avec le royaume parthe, tandis que Rome venait de subir son premier revers majeur en Orient lors de la bataille de Carrhès et commençait à ressentir les effets de l’inimitié entre Pompée et César. VIII. CONCLUSION ET PERSPECTIVES Le tournant prit par le royaume artaxiade sous le règne de Tigrane apparaît comme un fulgurant pic de puissance et d’ambition, mais aussi comme la concrétisation d’un renversement du rapport de force entre le pouvoir central séleucide et ses États satellites. À la suite de la prise d’Antioche, Tigrane put associer des ressources matérielles et des thèmes idéologiques jusqu’alors liés aux héritiers de Séleucos, tout en établissant une nouvelle rivalité avec l’empire parthe en pleine ascension et cherchant lui aussi à se substituer à l’empire séleucide. En définitive, s’il reste impossible de trancher définitivement la question de la datation de la prise du titre de Roi des Rois, cette décision rapprocherait davantage la politique de Tigrane du modèle arsacide que séleucide, et il semble que ce titre ne fut pris qu’après la réduction de l’empire de Tigrane à la portion congrue, avec la bénédiction de Pompée. En effet, les Romains, en retrait pendant l’essentiel de l’expansion du royaume artaxiade, revinrent sur le devant de la scène lorsque Lucullus puis Pompée défirent Tigrane, rétablissant pour un temps la dynastie séleucide comme dans un miroir inversé de l’épisode de 190/189. BIBLIOGRAPHIE Adontz, N. et Garsoïan, N. 1970: Armenia in the Period of Justinian. The Political Conditions Based on the Naxarar System, Lisbon. Arnaud, P. 1987: ‘Les guerres des Parthes et de l’Arménie dans la première moitié du premier siècle av. n.è.: Problèmes de chronologie et d’extension territoriale (95 BC–70 BC)’, Mesopotamia 22, 129–145. Arrayás Morales, I. 2013: ‘Piratería, deportaciόn y repoblamiento. La Anatolia meridional en el marco de las guerras mitridáticas’, Klio 95.1, 180–210. 100 Leschhorn 1993, 45; MacDonald 2005, 45s., qui fait le lien avec la mort de Tigrane; Coşkun 2019, 93. 101 Sullivan 1990, 156; Ballesteros Pastor 2021, 187–189.

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MacDonald, D. 2005: An Introduction to the History and Coinage of the Kingdom of the Bosporus: Including the Coinage of Panticapaeum (with “Apollonia” and “Myrmecium”), Phanagoria, Gorgippia, Sindicus Limen or the Sindoi, Nymphaeum, Theodosia, and the Kings of the Cimmerian Bosporus, Lancaster. Magie, D. 1950: Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century After Christ, 2 vols., Princeton. Mahé, J.-P. 1994: ‘Moïse de Khorène et les inscriptions grecques d’Armawir’, Topoi, 4, 567–586. Mahé, A. et Mahé, J.-P. 1993: Movsēs Xorenacʽi. Histoire de l’Arménie, Paris. Mahé, A. et Mahé, J.-P. 2012: Histoire de l’Arménie des origines à nos jours, Paris. Manandian, H. 1946: Nouvel éclairage sur les inscriptions grecques d’Armawir, Erevan. Manandian, H. 1963: Tigrane II et Rome: nouveaux éclaircissements à la lumière des sources originales, Lisbon. McGing, B. C. 1986: The Foreign Policy of Mithridates VI Eupator King of Pontos, Leiden. Merkelbach, R. 1995: ‘Die Trimeter von Armavir. Inschrift eines armenischen Königs’, EA 25, 71s. Merkelbach, R. et Stauber, J. 2001: Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten. Vol. 3: Der „Ferne Osten“ und das Landesinnere bis zum Tauros, Munich. Michels, C. 2009: Kulturtransfer und monarchischer „Philhellenismus“. Bithynien, Pontos und Kappadokien in hellenistischer Zeit, Göttingen. Minns, E.-H. 1915: ‘Parthian Parchments of the Parthian Period from Avroman in Kurdistan’, JHS 35, 22–65. Mittag, P.F. 2006: Antiochos IV. Epiphanes. Eine politische Biographie, Berlin. Mousheghian, A. et Depeyrot, G. 1999: Hellenistic and Roman Armenian Coinage (Ist c. BC–Ist c. AD), Wetteren. Muccioli, F. 2013: Gli epiteti ufficiali dei re ellenistici, Stuttgart. Newell, E.T. 1939: Late Seleucid Mints in Ake-Ptolemais and Damascus, New York. Olbrycht, M.J. 1998a: Parthia et ulteriores gentes. Die politischen Beziehungen zwischen dem arsakidischen Iran und den Nomaden der eurasischen Steppen, Munich. Olbrycht, M.J. 1998b: ‘Die Kultur der Steppengebiete und die Beziehungen zwischen Nomaden und der seßhaften Bevölkerung. Der Arsakidische Iran und die Nomadenvölker’, in J. Wiesehöfer (éd.), Das Partherreich und seine Zeugnisse. Beiträge des Internationlen Colloquiums, Eutin (27.–30. Juni 1996), Stuttgart, 11–43. Olbrycht, M.J. 2009: ‘Mithridates VI Eupator and Iran’, in J.M. Højte, (éd.), Mithridates VI and the Pontic Kingdom, Aarhus, 163–190. Patterson, L. 2001: ‘Rome’s Relationship with Artaxias I of Armenia’, AHB 15, 2001, 154–162. Payen, G. 2018: ‘Tigranes, King of Armenia and Father of Tigranes the Great King [Var.: Tigranes I, Tiran]’, in A. Coşkun (éd.), Amici Populi Romani. Payen G. 2019: ‘L’influence séleucide sur les dynasties anatoliennes après le traité d’Apamée’, in A. Coşkun et D. Engels (éds.), Rome and the Seleukid East. Selected Papers from Seleukid Study Day V, Brussels, 21–23 August 2015, Brussels, 279–307. Payen G. 2020: Dans l’ombre des empires. Les suites géopolitiques du traité d’Apamée en Anatolie, Québec. Peek, W. 1997: ‘Die metrischen Felsinschriften von Armavir’, Hyperboreus 3, 1–8. Perikhanian, A. 1966: ‘L’inscription araméenne du roi Artašēs trouvée à Zanguézour (Siwnikʽ)’, Revue des Études Arméniennes 3, 17–29. Perikhanian, A. 1971: ‘Les inscriptions araméennes du roi Artachès’, Revue des Études Arméniennes 8, 169–174. Perikhanian, A. 1997: ‘Deux notes: sur l’inscription araméenne d’Artaxata et sur l’arménien tʽarmatar’, in J.-P. Mahé et R.W. Thomson (éds.), From Byzantium to Iran. Armenian Studies in Honor of Nina Garsoïan, Atlanta, 269–279. Reinach, Th. 1890: Mithridate Eupator, Roi du Pont, Paris. Robert, L. 1967: ‘Encore une inscription grecque d’Iran’, CRAI 1967, 281–297. Roller, D.W. 2020: Empire of the Black Sea. The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World, Oxford.


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Sachs, A.J. et Hunger, H. 1989: Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. Vol. 2: Diaries from 261 B.C. to 165 B.C., Vienna. Sachs, A.J. et Hunger, H. 1996: Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. Vol. 3: Diaries from 164 B.C. to 61 B.C., Vienna. Salomone, E. 1973: Fonti e valore storico di Pompeo Trogo (Iustin. XXXVIII 8,2–XL), Genova. Sartre, M. 2003: D’Alexandre à Zénobie. Histoire du Levant antique, IVe s. av. J.-C.–IIIe s. apr. J.C., Paris. Schippmann, K. 1980: Grundzüge der parthischen Geschichte, Darmstadt. Schippmann, K. 1986: ‘Arsacids II. The Arsacid Dynasty’, Encyclopedia Iranica s.v. Schottky, M. 1989: Media Atropatene and Gross-Armenien in hellenistischer Zeit, Bonn. Shayegan, R. 2011: Arsacids and Sasanians. Political Ideology in Post-Hellenistic and Late Antique Persia, Cambridge. Sherwin-White, A.-N. 1977: ‘Ariobarzanes, Mithridates and Sulla’, CQ 27, 173–183. Sherwin-White, A.-N. 1984: Roman Foreign Policy in the East, 168 BC to AD 1, London. Siewert, P. 1995: ‘Le deportazioni di Tigrane e Pompeo in Cilicia’, in M. Sordi (éd.), Coercizione e mobilitá umana nel mondo antico, Milan, 225–233. Simonetta, A. 1957: ‘Notes on the Parthian and Indo-Parthian Issues of the First Century B.C.’, Actes du Congrès international de Numismatique, Paris, 111–121. Sullivan, R.D. 1990: Near Eastern Royalty and Rome, 100–30 B.C., Toronto. Syme, R. 1995: Anatolica: Studies in Strabo, Oxford. Tiratsian, G. 1980: ‘Pour le centenaire des fouilles d’Armawir’, Patma-Banasirakan Handes 2, 23– 38. Traina, G. 1999–2000: ‘Épisodes de la rencontre avec Rome (IIe siècle av. J.-C. – IIIe siècle ap. J.C.)’, Iran & Caucasus 3/4, 59–78. Traina, G. 2004: ‘Mythes fondateurs et lieux de mémoire de l’Arménie pré-chrétienne (I)’, Iran & the Caucasus 8, 169–181. Traina, G. 2010: ‘Teatro greco nell’Armenia antica’, in E. Migliario, L. Troiani, G. Zecchini (éds.), Società indigene e cultura greco-romana, Rome, 95–103. Traina, G. 2012: ‘Tigran il Grande d’Armenia e la Giudea’, in G. Urso (éd.), Iudaea Socia – Iudaea Capta: atti del convegno internazionale, Cividale del Friuli, 22–24 settembre 2011, Pisa, 79– 88. Traina, G. 2016: ‘Traditions on Armenia in Submerged Greek Literature: Preliminary Considerations’, in G. Colesanti et L. Lulli (éds.), Submerged Literature in Ancient Greek Culture. Vol. 2: Case Studies, Berlin, 111–123. Traina, G. 2017: ‘Rois ou dynastes? Les territoires arméniens à l’époque d’Antiochos III’, in C. Feyel et L. Graslin-Thomé (éds.), Antiochos III et l’Orient. Actes de la rencontre franco-allemande tenue à Nancy du 6 au 8 juin 2016, Paris, 377–388. Wagner, J. et Petzl, G. 1976: ‘Eine neue Temenos-Stele des Königs Antiochos I. von Kommagene’, ZPE 20, 201–223. Walbank, F.W. 1957–1979: A Historical Commentary on Polybius, 3 vols., Oxford. Wiesehöfer, J. 1996: ‘“King of Kings” and “Philhellên”: Kingship in Arsacid Iran’, in P. Bilde, T. Engberg-Pedersen, L. Hannestad, et J. Zahle (éds.), Aspects of Hellenistic Kingship, Aarhus, 55–66. Will, É. 2003: Histoire politique du monde hellénistique, Nancy. Wolski, J. 1980: ‘L’Arménie dans la politique du Haut empire parthe (env. 175–77 av. J.-C.)’, Iranica Antiqua 15, 251–267. Wolski, J. 1993: L’Empire des Arsacides, Leuven. Wolski, J. 2003: Seleucid and Arsacid Studies: A Progress Report on Developments in Source Research, Krakow.



Abstract: While historians see the conflicts between the Seleukid and Ptolemaic kingdoms as the result of clashing imperial ambitions, the Judaean writer of Daniel 10–12, living in the wake of the sixth of those wars, portrays an ongoing conflict between celestial powers, śarim. When the śar of one kingdom wins in heaven, his earthly counterpart wins as well. Writing in a world that thought of heaven and earth as a continuum of power and identity, he attempts to solve the theological problem of the Judaean God’s apparent powerlessness during the centuries of Judaean exile and then lack of self-rule by claiming that everything is happening according to the Divine plan revealed to the sage Daniel in 6th-century Babylonia. The author of Dan 11 takes the Ptolemaic, anti-Seleukid narrative of the chequered relationship between the two kingdoms and superimposes a celestial plane, causing complicated problems of understanding. The vision emphasizes a final chapter when the conflicts in heaven and earth will end, ushering in an eternal future of peace.

Modern critical scholarship sees the historical account of Dan 11 as a vaticinium ex eventu, a prophecy written c. 166 BCE, as if it were foretold in the sixth century BCE by Daniel, a probably legendary Jewish sage in the Babylonian exile.1 The cosmic forces in Dan 10 reflect a theological introduction to the detailed history found in Dan 11 and the apocalyptic prophecies of Dan 11–12, all to explain why the Jews have been ruled for centuries by foreign powers. Everything that has happened and will happen is presented as God’s Will. Since these centuries of foreign domination are part of God’s plan, once the next stage of God’s plan is reached, everything will change. Therefore, there is hope. In chapter 10, Daniel laments the persecution of his religion and mourns for those who have been killed in the early stages of the Antiochene persecution. The situation is outlined in Dan 11.31–35, where the forces of Antiochos attack and the


This consensus has held steady for over a century, since Driver 1900; cf. Childs 1979, 612. For a more specific chronological analysis, see Coşkun 2019.


Benjamin E. Scolnic

persecution of Judaism begins.2 Finally, after three weeks and three days of mourning and supplication, Daniel sees a mysterious divine being with astonishing things to say. The speaker explains that he would have come as soon as Daniel started praying, but the śar of the kingdom of the Persians had opposed him for twentyone days. Now, Michael, ‘a śar of the first rank,’ has come to help, so the Speaker has a little time to tell Daniel what is recorded in the Book of Truth. At the end of chapter 10 and the beginning of chapter 11, the speaker states, in a very confusing and ambiguous manner (see below), that he soon will have ‘to go back to fight the śar of Persia. When I go off, the śar of Greece will come in. No one is helping me against them except your (pl.) śar, Michael … And I, in the first year of Darius the Mede, my standing (will be) (la-mā‘ōwz) to be a Strengthener and a Protector for him.’ The idea that the Jewish people, like every other nation, has its own heavenly prince, is a departure from other Biblical and Jewish texts where God Himself is the protector of the Jewish people.3 This may be a kind of levelling born from centuries of foreign rule; it reflects an admission that these other kingdoms have heavenly protectors, too. This idea that each nation has its heavenly śar was a response to the cognitive dissonance between the belief that God ruled the world and the reality that foreign nations ruled the world. The conflict between celestial princes is an attempt to soften the dissonance and visualize reality on a different plane. Divine beings are fighting to prevent each other from gaining eternal dominance. These śarim are generals of celestial armies or singular titanic fighters who control or fight alongside their earthly patrons. The power of the kingdoms is envisioned in a concrete way. The monotheism here is flexible enough to create a paradigm that fits the historical reality. Jewish people have always believed in both an allpowerful God and reality, and sometimes it takes a great deal of imagination to bring these things together. In Dan 10–12, the Hebrew word śar may mean either celestial or earthly power and the very ambiguous word mā‘ōwz can mean ‘a protecting national Power’ but also a place or moment of intersection of heaven and earth where/when the śar takes his stand and fights. So the speaker is a mā‘ōwz for Michael; he is a force of power capable of contending with or supporting a terrestrial power in the interest of God’s overarching plan. While the śarim are avatars for their respective nations, the speaker seems to have a more general role in fulfilling God’s plan, which seems to include the preservation of the Jewish people during this time of great kingdoms. The speaker expresses a kind of loneliness in fighting against these powers; the heavenly resistance against him is strong because God has a plan that allows these other śarim to stay strong. At a prescribed time in the future, the speaker and Michael will prevail over the present enemy. The supernatural dimension of reality 2


‘Forces will be levied by him; they will desecrate the temple, the fortress; they will abolish the regular offering and set up the appalling abomination.… The knowledgeable among the people will make the many understand; and for a while they shall fall by sword and flame, suffer captivity and spoliation.’ All translations are from NJV unless otherwise noted. As in the contemporary Ben Sira: ‘He appointed a ruler over every nation, but Israel is the Lord’s own portion’ See Sirach 17.17; cf. Deut 3.8f.; Collins 1993, 374f.

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will be the scene of a divine battle that eventually will be won, as we can see in the apocalyptic climax in Dan 12. Once Antiochos IV conquers Egypt only to die in a foreign land, Michael will appear and miraculous things will ensue, including final judgment and resurrection of the dead. It will be the end of history as such. The power of the kingdoms, embodied in their heavenly śarim, will come to an end.4 What the Jews are going through under Antiochos IV is so horrible that, paradoxically, it is the beginning of the end for the kingdoms, as predicted in Dan 2. The author of Dan 11 talks about the rise and fall of the kingdoms in a fascinating way, subsuming a Ptolemaic perspective on the historical past onto the theological grid of the cosmic battle. The framework is supernatural, but the content will be the historical relationship between the Seleukid and Ptolemaic kingdoms, and the geographical focus is Syria and Palestine. Dan 11 is one of most complex texts in the Bible because it tries to do so much at the same time: 1st

2nd 3rd

To interpret historical data through a theological grid, so that wars between the two kingdoms are seen as intersections of the historical and mythical planes; the respective kings are often strengthened or weakened by divine forces, which are sometimes referred to as a śar (singular) or śarim (plural).5 To apply, alternatively, the term ma’oz, a divine protector who fights for his kingdom, with the result that the divine beings keep each other at bay and thereby keep the balance of power.6 To predict that Antiochos IV will disregard his dynasty’s gods and instead worship eloha ham’auzzim, the god of these divine powers, and thus bring about the apocalypse.

In this study, I will discuss the first two topics in this sequence, leaving the latter topic for another occasion. I. THE PTOLEMAIC BIAS OF DAN 11 The author of Dan 11 speaks to an audience that knows enough about recent Hellenistic history, and specifically about the interaction of the Ptolemaic and the Seleukid kingdoms in that period, to understand the thinly veiled ‘vision’ allegedly revealed to a 6th-century figure named Daniel that correctly ‘predicted’ later events, thereby substantiating the rest of the vision that prophesied things to come in the 4

5 6

Baldwin 1978, 163; Bevan 1892, 156–158; Charles 1929, 392; Collins 1993, 354f.; Driver 1900, 138–140; Goldingay 1989, 262; Gowan 2001, 135; Hartman and Di Lella 1977, 251f.; Montgomery 1927, 96–99; Miller 1994, 253; Newsom 2014, 307; Porteous 1965, 141f.; Redditt 1999, 160–162; Seow 2003, 148f. The Seleukid and Ptolemaic kings are presented in an individualized and undifferentiated manner at the same time. Each king is an individual with distinct actions but also is presented as a kind of mythical ‘king of the north’ or ‘king of the south.’ The author uses the term inconsistently and the text becomes confusing and, in a sense, deconstructed in the details, as in the examples of vv. 10 and 17 (see below).


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author’s own era. Since the facts in Dan 11 would have been common knowledge for an educated audience, one might have thought that no outside source need be postulated if it were not for the very careful selection and presentation of the facts. We see that this presentation reflects the bias of a Ptolemaic text or the general Ptolemaic ‘narrative’ concerning the relationship between the Seleukid and Ptolemaic kingdoms from the death of Alexander to the accession of Antiochos IV. It includes a slanted view of the origin of the Seleukid dynasty, the succession of two or more of its kings, an ongoing territorial dispute, six Seleukid-Ptolemaic wars, and two controversial dynastic marriages. The bias seems so clear that one cannot help but think that the author did use a Ptolemaic source, or at least was aware of the Ptolemaic version of the events described. This does not, however, make the author pro-Ptolemaic; in fact, he has disdain for the Ptolemaic kings of his time. He uses the Ptolemaic narrative to attack the Seleukid ancestors of the archenemy and persecutor Antiochos IV, who is seen as the evil culmination of an illegitimate, deceitful, power-mad, and violent dynasty. As an example, I will present Dan 11.4f. with its Ptolemaic bias.7 I will then place these verses back into their literary context to show how the author transformed a Ptolemaic view of a historical event into a demonstration of Jewish theology. II. DAN 11.4–5: TREACHEROUS FROM THE START: SELEUKOS I AS THE ŚAR OF PTOLEMY I ū·ḵə·‘ā·mə·ḏōw tiš·šā·ḇêr mal·ḵū·ṯōw, wə·ṯê·ḥāṣ lə·’ar·ba‘ rū·ḥō·wṯ haš·šā·mā·yim; wə·lō lə·’a·ḥă·rî·ṯōw, wə·lō ḵə·mā·šə·lōw ’ă·šer mā·šāl, kî ṯin·nā·ṯêš mal·ḵū·ṯōw, wə·la·’ă·ḥê·rîm mil·lə·ḇaḏ-’êl·leh. w’yechézaq melekh’-hanegev ûmin-säräyw w’yechézaq ʿäläyw ûmäshäl mim’shäl rav mim’shältô. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion wherewith he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those. And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.8

The other versions support this reading: καὶ ἐνισχύσει ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ νότου καὶ εἷς τῶν ἀρχόντων αὐτοῦ ἐνισχύσει ἐπ᾽αὐτὸν καὶ κυριεύσει κυριείαν πολλὴν ἐπ᾽ἐξουσίας αὐτοῦ.

7 8

Scolnic 2014. Dan 11.4f. The (somewhat garbled) translation is from the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, 1917.

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And the king of the south shall be strong; and one of their princes shall prevail against him, and shall obtain a great dominion.

The Douys-Rhem and Clementine versions of the Vulgate agree: et confortabitur rex austri et de principibus eius praevalebit super eum et dominabitur dicione multa enim dominatio eius And the king of the south shall be strengthened, and one of his princes shall prevail over him, and he shall rule with great power: for his dominions shall be great.

All modern critical commentators agree on the following: in Dan 11.4, a divine being states that Alexander the Great’s potential heirs, his half-brother Philip Arrhidaios and his posthumous son by Roxanne, Alexander IV, will not succeed him.9 These commentators present different opinions, however, about how the verse describes the division of Alexander’s great empire, either literally between four generals or between many different officers and marshals. In any case, they agree that Ptolemy I was one of Alexander’s men who emerged in control of a significant part of the empire. Most scholars agree that v. 5 describes the rise of Seleukos I Nikator after the division described in v. 4.10 We see that in Dan 9.6 and 8, a śar is clearly differentiated from a royal person. This raises an important set of questions: Who would want to make the point that, unlike Ptolemy, Seleukos was not involved in the original division of Alexander’s empire? Why emphasize that Seleukos I was at one point a śar – or an officer – of Ptolemy I? While Seleukos, one of Alexander’s lieutenants who became the satrap of Babylon in 320, did indeed seek refuge with Ptolemy in 316 and was his close ally and friend until he regained his satrapy in 311, it hardly does justice to his important role in those years to call him one of Ptolemy’s officers as v. 5 does.11 Is this a slanted polemic, and if so, why? III. THE AMBIGUITY AND EMPHASES OF DAN 11.4–5 One way to understand 11.4 is to say that the four winds here literally refer to four kingdoms; ‘the king of the south’ in 11.5 would therefore be the master of one of the four. Those who hold this view must then find a moment in history between the death of Alexander and the emergence of the three Hellenistic kingdoms, of the Ptolemies, the Seleukids and the Antigonids, a moment when Alexander’s empire was split into four areas or between four officers rather than the three so basic to this period. Charles, Driver, Redditt, and (with more nuances) Grabbe think that the four kingdoms are those that existed in the settlement after the Battle of Ipsos in 301, which gave Egypt in the south to Ptolemy, Thrace and Bithynia in the north to 9

The mentally disabled Philip III was killed in 317; Alexander IV was murdered in 310; see W. Greenwalt 1984, 69–77. It also is possible that there is a reference here to Herakles, Alexander’s illegitimate son by his mistress Barsine, murdered in 309; cf. Peters 1970, 76f. 10 See, for example, Newsom 2014, 338; Redditt 1999, 176. 11 Mn is a partitive: ‘one of his officers’; cf. Gen 28.11; Ex 6.25; Neh 13.28.


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Lysimachos, Macedonia and Greece in the west to Kassandros and Asia to Seleukos.12 The second possibility is that 11.4 refers to the historical reality that when Alexander died, the empire was split into many pieces, not just literally into four kingdoms but metaphorically speaking scattered ‘to the four winds.’ Jer 49.36 may be a good parallel: ‘And I shall bring four winds against Elam from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them to all those winds. There shall not be a nation to which the fugitives from Elam do not come.’ Dan 7.2 also seems to be germane: ‘The four winds of heaven caused the great sea to break forth.’ The four winds are from heaven and so are in the control of God, who causes the great sea to break forth.13 Here, God will cause Alexander’s kingdom to be divided into many satrapies.14 If verses 4 and 5 are sequential, and if the events of v. 5 follow the stage(s) or division(s) of Alexander’s empire discussed in v. 4, then v. 4 cannot refer to the settlement of Ipsos in 301 as the first set of commentators have maintained. It is true that after the Battle of Ipsos in that year, Antigonos’ domain was to be divided between four kings: Ptolemy, Kassandros, Lysimachos and Seleukos. But in v. 5, Seleukos is still described as Ptolemy’s śar, which can be translated as ‘prince’, ‘minister’, or ‘official’.15 Again, whether v. 4 speaks about the division of Alexander’s empire into many kingdoms or satrapies, or into four specific kingdoms, v. 5 states that it was only after the kings and satraps of the various territories were established that Seleukos, the officer of one of those rulers, emerged in his own right. The kingdoms referred to in v. 4 were set before the officer of one of those kingdoms rose to power in his own right. ‘The four winds’ in 11.4 may refer, therefore, to the twenty-four or twenty-eight satraps16 appointed after Perdikkas had assumed the supreme command in 323,17 or to the four main generals (Ptolemy, Antipatros and Krateros against Perdikkas) in the First War of the Successors in 320, or to the four generals in the Second War of the Successors (Antigonos and 12 Charles 1929, 86; Driver 1900, 115 and 164; Redditt 1999, 176. Grabbe 2002, 234, n. 13 states that the division into four ‘does not of course correspond to historical reality, where the final division was between the Seleukids, the Ptolemies, and the Antigonids.’ But then he does find this ‘four’ where the others do: ‘The treaty of 301 after the battle of Ipsus provided for a fourfold division, but this was soon overtaken by events.’ 13 Mosca 1986, 500, n. 19. 14 Goldingay 1989, 295 suggests that ‘the four winds’ is a figurative expression and that these divisions need not correspond to the compass points. Hartman and Di Lella 1977, 235 and 288 discuss both the division between Kassandros, Lysimachos, Antigonos and Ptolemy in 312 BCE and that of the settlement of Ipsos in 301 BCE, but then state that the four winds are more general in their indication. 15 Jerome, and in modern scholarship, McCrystall 1980, 323–324, have stated that Ptolemy II Philadelphos, the son of Ptolemy I, is the ‘prince’ referred to in 11.5. Dan 9.6 and 8, however, clearly differentiate a royal person from a śar. Moreover, Ptolemy II was the legitimate heir who did not ‘overpower’ his father but followed him in peaceful dynastic succession; 11.7 and 11.20 use very different terms to reflect such a normal process. See also Dines 2007, 212. 16 According to Diodoros 18.3 and Justin 13.4, respectively. 17 I doubt that it could refer to the initial agreement in 323 instituting four regents for Alexander’s sons: Krateros, Antipatros, Perdikkas and Leonnatos. See Romm 2012, 39.

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Kassandros against Polyperchon and Eumenes) in 318–316, or to the four generals in the Third War of the Successors (Ptolemy, Lysimachos and Kassandros against Antigonos) in 315–311, or to the ‘Peace of the Dynasts’ following that war, which included those four but never mentioned Seleukos.18 As long as we do not follow those who think that 11.4 refers to the Battle of Ipsos in 301, Dan 11.5 is in accordance with the historical fact that Seleukos was not a king in his own right until after all of these events. As most commentaries indicate, 11.5 relates to the historical fact that Seleukos sought refuge with Ptolemy, helped him defeat Demetrios the son of Antigonos at Gaza in 312, and then went on to carve a huge kingdom for himself in Asia. With hindsight, Arrian describes him as ‘the greatest king of those who succeeded Alexander, of the most royal mind, and ruling over the greatest extent of territory, next to Alexander himself’.19 The relationship between Seleukos and Ptolemy in these years, however, was much more complex and interesting than this. As I will show, Seleukos was much more than one of the commanders or ministers of Ptolemy as stated in 11.5. Lebram understands that Seleukos was ‘niemals der Unterfeldherr des Ptolemäus’ but does not seem to grasp the implications of the verse for his theory about Ptolemaic bias.20 A review of Seleukos’ path to kingship and his relationship with Ptolemy will help clarify the meaning of Dan 11.4f. and show how polemical it is to call Seleukos ‘one of Ptolemy’s officers’.21 IV. WAS SELEUKOS MERELY ONE OF PTOLEMY’S OFFICERS?22 After Alexander died on June 10, 323 BCE, the Partition of Babylon distributed the territories of his empire between his commanders. In the long lists of over twenty 18 19 20 21

Simpson 1954, 25–31. Arr. Anab. 7.22.5. Lebram 1984, 118. Consider Plut. Demetr. 25, where Demetrios I refers to his competitors as officials: ‘Whereas Demetrius used to rail and mock at those who gave the title of King to anyone except his father and himself, and was well pleased to hear revelers pledge Demetrios as King, but Seleukos as Master of the Elephants, Ptolemy as Admiral, Lysimachos as Treasurer, and Agathokles of Sicily as Lord of the Isles.’ Thanks due to the anonymous reviewer for pointing out this reference. In fact, Ptolemy and Seleukos both made themselves kings in the same year, 305. This is very different from one being the official of the man who already is the King of the South. 22 The biographers of Alexander only make passing mention of Seleukos, which shows that he was not yet of significant importance. For Seleukos’ rise and career after Alexander’s death in 323, our main source is Diodoros 18–21. Since Diodoros draws mainly on the historian Hieronymus, who was the court historian for Antigonos, the focus remains on those actions and events that involved both Antigonos and Seleukos and is not interested in other important features of Seleukos’ career. For the years after 312, we have the short narrative in Appian’s Syrian Wars 52f., Plutarch’s Lives of Demetrios and Eumenes, Justin’s Epitome of Pompeius Trogus, and Strabo. Babylonian chronicles sometimes mention Seleukos and his co-ruling king Antiochos; see Grayson 1975, esp. nos. 10, 11, and 12. For modern studies, see Bengtson 1975, 37– 62; Bosworth 2002, 29–63 and 210–245; Broderson 1985, 459–469; Funck 1994, 317–337;


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names enumerated by our extant sources, Ptolemy is mentioned first, as he is in the shorter list of Quintus Curtius Rufus.23 Justin states: ‘Egypt, with part of Africa and Arabia, fell by lot to Ptolemy, whom Alexander, for his merit, had raised from the condition of a common soldier.’24 Seleukos, on the other hand, is not given a territory in 323. The Seleukid kingdom would eventually become one of the three great Hellenistic domains, but the fact remains that Seleukos I was not really in the first tier of Alexander’s leadership at all. He was not one of Alexander’s Bodyguards, as were Perdikkas (Alexander’s second-in-command at the time of his death), Ptolemy, Aristonous, Leonnatos, Lysimachos, Peithon and Peukestas.25 But this is not to say that Seleukos was unimportant: he was appointed to the chiliarchy, commander of the Companion cavalry.26 Perdikkas ‘placed Seleukos in command of the cavalry of the Companions, a most distinguished office; for Hephaistion commanded them first, Perdikkas after him, and third the above-named Seleukos’.27 As Bevan understands, this means that Perdikkas held the position before Alexander’s death and when he became Regent, appointed Seleukos in his place.28 Perhaps Seleukos thought that his ambitions would be better served if he retained a high position in the central military force rather than seeking control over one geographical area. Nevertheless, if Dan 11.4 refers to the division of the empire in 323 BCE, Seleukos did not control a kingdom or satrapy, and so Seleukos would not be one of those referred to in the verse. After the assassination of Perdikkas, Antipatros was made Regent and re-distributed the satrapies at the conference of Triparadeisos in 320. Diodoros’ account states that ‘to Ptolemy he assigned what was already his, for it was impossible to displace him, since he seemed to be holding Egypt by virtue of his own prowess as if it were a prize of war’.29 Seleukos now takes his place as a ruler of the important satrapy of Babylon, perhaps because of his role in the assassination of Perdikkas30 and perhaps because he and Antigonos saved Antipatros from being killed by Perdikkas’ troops.31 Antigonos was the supreme commander of the Macedonian forces in Asia, and Seleukos, as the satrap of Babylon, was below him. If in 323 BCE Seleukos’ assumption had been that the empire would hold together with new leadership propping up Alexander’s heirs, he must have realized by 320 BCE that instead power was moving to those who had strong territorial bases, leading him to

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Grainger 1992; Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1993, 7–39; Landucci Gattinoni 2005, 155–181; Mehl 1986. Curt. 10.10. Just. 13.4.10. See Waterfield 2011, 16. Just. 13.4.17: Summus castrorum tribunatus Seleuco, Antiochi filio, cessit. Diod. 18.3.3 Bevan 1902, 322. Diod. 18.39.5. According to Just. 13.4.17, but note Diod. 18.36.4f., where the assassins are Peithon and Arrhidaios. Arrian FGrH 156 F 9.33.

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recognize the need for such a base himself. Bevan suggests that the death of Perdikkas and the strength of Ptolemy in Egypt may have taught Seleukos the lesson that he needed to have his own independent satrapy rather than to remain even an important army commander.32 Seleukos functioned as the satrap of Babylon for about four years until 316 BCE, when Antigonos returned from his defeat of Eumenes, Seleukos was forced to escape Antigonos’ wrath for his failure to comply with his superior’s demands for an accounting of revenues.33 He found refuge with Ptolemy in Egypt. This may be because Ptolemy welcomed such important refugees but also may indicate a previous relationship of some kind.34 Again, according to Justin, Seleukos had led the group that assassinated Perdikkas as he sought to invade Ptolemy’s Egypt; even if there was no conspiracy in which Ptolemy was involved, the satrap of Egypt must have been grateful. In a sense, Seleukos’ flight to Ptolemy was the beginning of the Third War of the Successors (315–311 BCE), which pitted Ptolemy, Lysimachos and Kassandros against Antigonos, Demetrios and Polyperchon. By his treatment of Seleukos, Antigonos had disrupted the agreement at Triparadeisos, ‘the last event which could be regarded as a legal enactment of a united Macedonian government’.35 Whatever the exact nature of the dispute between Antigonos and Seleukos, whether Antigonos deliberately caused a dispute in order to solidify his power or Seleukos was at fault for not consulting Antigonos before punishing a subordinate governor,36 the other leaders took notice and got the point: Antigonos must be stopped or they were all lost.37 As Grainger states: ‘The central figure in the coalition against Antigonos was in fact Seleukos, who, though overshadowed by the others in power and resources, was the one who held the others together.’38 Seleukos’ friends brought the news of Antigonos’ actions to Kassandros and Lysimachos. In the negotiations that attempted to prevent a war, the allies demanded that the Triparadeisos settlement should be re-established, Seleukos should be renewed as satrap of Babylon, and Ptolemy should be given the parts of Syria he did not already possess.39 From the very beginning of his rule in Egypt, Ptolemy had understood that Koile-Syria was ‘well situated for defending Egypt’.40 In 320 BCE, Diodoros states, ‘Seeing that Phoenicia and Koile Syria, as it was called, were conveniently situated for an offensive against Egypt, he set about in earnest to

32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

Bevan 1902, 34f. Diod. 19.55.2–4; Paus. 1.6.4. Diod. 18.14.1; 18.28.5; 18.33.3. Grainger 1990, 53. App. Syr. 53. Grainger 1990, 50f. Grainger 1990, 60. Diod. 19.56–62. For Diodoros, see Primo 2009; Goukowsky 2017; Hölbl 2001, 17; Grainger 1990, 55. 40 App. Syr. 9.52.


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become master of those regions’.41 Ptolemaic interests seemed to be focused on Egypt and the creation of a kind of extended buffer zone and so its foreign relations were concerned with protecting its home turf.42 Between rebellions and secessionist kings, protecting Egypt itself was already difficult enough. After refusing these demands, Antigonos invaded Syria to secure Phoenicia with its naval resources, which were necessary for an invasion of the Aegean world and/or Egypt. Grainger calls Seleukos Ptolemy’s admiral in the Aegean in 314 BCE,43 but Diodoros does not give him this title in recounting Seleukos’ movements. Seleukos was so much more than an admiral. Antigonos was preparing for great actions at sea, resulting in Seleukos bearing a sea command at that particular point. He was not merely an admiral, however; he was in command at sea during a naval crisis and thus at the focal point of the war. Furthermore, when one looks not at modern historians such as Grainger but directly at Diodoros, one finds an interesting pattern: When Kassandros had arrived in Macedonia and heard that war was being waged on all the cities in Karia that were allied to Ptolemy and Seleukos ... (19.68.2) In Asia, Asandros, the ruler of Karia, ... secretly removed his brother from custody and sent emissaries to Ptolemy and Seleukos, begging them to aid him as soon as possible (19.75.1) … Ptolemy, since his undertakings had turned out as he wished, now sailed away to Egypt; but after a little while, spurred on by Seleukos because of his hostility toward Antigonos, he decided to make a campaign into Koile Syria and take the field against the army of Demetrios (19.80.3) … Demetrios ... confidently prepared for the conflict even though he was very young and was about to engage in so great a battle apart from his father. ... he was about to fight a decisive battle not only against more numerous forces, but also against generals who were almost the greatest, Ptolemy and Seleukos. Indeed, these generals, who had taken part with Alexander in all his wars and had often led armies independently, were unconquered up to this time (19.81.1) … Ptolemy and Seleukos at first made strong the left part of their line, not knowing the intention of the enemy; but when they learned from scouts the formation he had adopted, they quickly reformed their army in such a way that their right wing should have the greatest strength and power and be matched against those arrayed with Demetrios on his left. ... But after a little, when Ptolemy and Seleukos had ridden around the wing and charged upon them more heavily with cavalry drawn up in depth, there was severe fighting because of the zeal of both sides. ... The very commanders, endangering themselves in front of all, encouraged those under their command to withstand the danger stoutly; and the horsemen upon the wings, all of whom had been selected for bravery, vied with each other since as witnesses of their valour they had their generals, who were sharing the struggle with them (19.83.1).44

The near equality of Ptolemy and Seleukos is consistently expressed. Ptolemy is clearly in charge, but Seleukos has great influence over what Ptolemy does and seems to be by his side at most times in a uniquely close position. One could say that Diodoros retroactively emphasizes Seleukos’ importance in the light of history but considering that the historian does not do so in the other examples we have already seen, such as the assassination of Perdikkas and the rescue of Antipater 41 Diod. 17.43.1. It seems clear that Diodoros used a Ptolemaic source in Book 18; see Heckel 2016, 230f. 42 Walbank 2002, 125. 43 Grainger 1990, 52f. 44 Translation adapted from Geer 2006.

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from Perdikkas’ troops, there is no reason to think that Diodoros elevated Seleukos beyond the reality of his importance. As stated above, since Diodoros draws mainly on the Antigonid historian Hieronymos there is hardly likely to be a bias toward Seleukos. After the Third War of the Successors, a peace treaty confirmed Ptolemy and Lysimachos in their territories; Kassandros and Antigonos remained supreme commanders of the Macedonian forces in Europe and Asia and the boy king Alexander, son of Alexander the Great and Roxanne, was to become sole ruler of the entire empire when he would come of age in 305. The absence of Seleukos from these negotiations is a matter of considerable modern discussion.45 Still, the point here is that Seleukos is hardly merely ‘one of the officers’ of Ptolemy as Dan 11.5 would have it, which begs the question as to why the verse says he was. V. SELEUKOS TO BABYLON The confusion about the importance of Seleukos may stem from the fact that he was quite unique in this period. Scholars have the tendency to either anachronistically make him one of the main generals when he was not yet of this status or to see him as less important than he was. It seems that both his friend Ptolemy and his enemy Antigonos understood his remarkable abilities and charisma and either used or feared him. Perhaps Ptolemy and Seleukos had a plan to split the empire between them from their bases in Egypt and Babylon. Ptolemy supported Seleukos in his expedition to regain Babylon: In Asia, after the defeat of Demetrios at Gaza in Syria, Seleukos, receiving from Ptolemy no more than eight hundred foot soldiers and about two hundred horse, set out for Babylon.46

Diodoros presents a seemingly legendary47 but in fact historical expedition that resulted in the re-taking of Babylon with a ‘ridiculously small’ force.48 Seleukos took

45 The conclusion of the modern debate about these negotiations seems to be that Kassandros and Lysimachos made their own deals with Antigonos and that Ptolemy may have tried to do well for his friend Seleukos but could not, albeit without selling out his friend. See Simpson 1954, 25–31; Billows 1990, 134, n. 67; Austin 1981, 57; Braund 2006, 26. 46 Diod. 19.90.1; App. Syr. 9.54 says 1,000 foot and 300 horse. The numbers and the campaign are discussed further by Coşkun, ch. 15 in this volume. 47 The account even includes divine portents. Compare also Diod. 19.55.7, where we are told that the Chaldaean astrologers warned Antigonos to expect danger from Seleukos. Other signs and omens of Seleukos’ future greatness are given in App. Syr. 9.56. Was Seleukos already of such importance that astrologers were making predictions about him, or did the Babylonians yearn for his return so much that they designed these omens, or were all of these items placed in these later narratives to predict Seleukos’ importance? I will return below to the topic of history that includes a divine dimension. While Diodoros or Appian may simply be transmitting what they have received from their sources, in this case, pro-Seleukid sources, how does a modern historian deal with this dimension of the narratives? 48 Quotation from Bevan 1902, 53. See Scolnic 2015, 91–114 for further discussion.


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Babylon either because of his strategic prowess, his popularity with the people of Babylon, or their antagonism towards Antigonos.49 It remains true that Ptolemy gave Seleukos troops with which to conquer his former satrapy.50 If Dan 11.5 emphasizes the fact that Seleukos was Ptolemy’s captain, it ignores a historical episode that shows how very remarkable Seleukos was. Diminishing Seleukos’ role would serve the purpose of a Ptolemaic narrative that might have begun in earnest during the negotiations after the Battle of Ipsos in 301 BCE. VI. PTOLEMAIC AND SELEUKID CLAIMS AFTER THE BATTLE OF IPSOS After Antigonos had been defeated in the Battle of Ipsos, two generals of the victorious alliance, Ptolemy and Seleukos, disputed who would then control Koile-Syria. Diodoros provides a fascinating account of the debate: As for Seleukos, after the partition of the kingdom of Antigonos, he took his army and went to Phoenicia, where, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, he endeavoured to appropriate Koile-Syria. But Ptolemy had already occupied the cities of that region, and was denouncing Seleukos because, although he and Ptolemy were friends, Seleukos had accepted the assignment to his own share of a district that was already subject to Ptolemy; in addition, he accused the kings of giving him no part of the conquered territory, even though he had been a partner in the war against Antigonos. To these charges Seleukos replied that it was only just that those who were victorious on the battlefield should dispose of the spoils; but in the matter of KoileSyria, for friendship’s sake he would not for the present interfere, but would consider later how best to deal with friends who chose to encroach.51

Both sides feel that they have the right to Koile-Syria, and their rival claims would be very much in play for many decades to come. Polybios writes how Ptolemy IV claimed that Ptolemy I ‘had aided Seleukos in the war under the stipulation, that while investing Seleukos with the sovereignty of the whole of Asia, he was to obtain Koile-Syria and Phoenicia for himself’.52 The Seleukids under Antiochos III stated that Ptolemy had waged war on Antigonos in order to establish the sovereignty of Seleukos over Koile-Syria and that Kassandros, Lysimachos, and Seleukos had decided that all of Syria should belong to Seleukos. The issue of the settlement after Ipsos was that Ptolemy had not joined the fight against Antigonos. He was not only a no-show, but had done something quite clever, in my view, marching into Koile49 Diod 19.91.1: ‘When he pushed into Babylonia, most of the inhabitants came to meet him, and, declaring themselves on his side, promised to aid him as he saw fit; for, when he had been for four years satrap of that country, he had shown himself generous to all, winning the goodwill of the common people and long in advance securing men who would assist him if an opportunity should ever be given to him to make a bid for supreme power.... In this way, then, Seleukos regained Babylonia.’ 50 The chronicle inscribed onto the Parian Marble agrees and states: 16. ἀφ’ οὗ ὁ ἥλιος ἐξέλιπεν, καὶ Πτολεμαῖος Δημήτριον ἐνίκα ἐν |20 Γάζει καὶ Σέλευκον ἀπέστειλεν εἰς Βαβυλῶνα. ‘Ptolemy prevailed over Demetrios in Gaza and dispatched Seleukos to Babylon.’ 51 Diod. 21.1. 52 Polyb. 5.67.

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Syria so that no matter who won at Ipsos, his allies or Antigonos, he would have that region for himself. Ptolemy did not actually take part in the battle and Seleukos did. Ptolemy’s envoys, on the other hand, said that Ptolemy had aided Seleukos in the war on the condition that Seleukos would have Asia, but Ptolemy was to gain Koile-Syria and Phoenicia for himself. We may not be able to settle the historical question of who was in the right, but it would seem that in its cryptic and clipped style, Dan 11.5 borrows from the Ptolemaic view. VII. DID SELEUKOS ‘OVERPOWER’ PTOLEMY? The syntax of Dan 11.5 in the Masoretic Text (MT) is strange and awkward. The literal translation of the Jewish Publication Society cited above reflects the difficulties: ‘And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.’53 W'yechézaq ʿäläyw in Dan 11.5 has been rendered either ‘became stronger/more powerful than him’ (so most English translations) or ‘overpowered him’, as in the more fluid translation of New Jerusalem Version (NJV): ‘The king of the south will grow powerful; however, one of the officers will overpower him and rule, having an extensive dominion.’ Just two verses later, even without ʿäl, the translation of hzq in Dan 11.7 is that the king ‘will act against them and he will conquer/prevail.’54 It is striking that we can find a close parallel to this usage of hzq in Antiochos IV’s usurpation of the throne in v. 21 using the form vyhzyq. Since condemnation of Antiochos IV is the main purpose of Dan 11, seeing that this similar verb is applied to that king’s illustrious ancestor is quite instructive. There are Biblical parallels: Ezek 3.14: ‘A spirit seized me and carried me away. I went in bitterness, in the fury of my spirit, while the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.’ 2Chr 8.3: ‘Solomon marched against Hamath-zobah and overpowered it.’

If we read a sentence with the Biblical Hebrew w'yechézaq ʿäläyw and we did not have any context, we would read: ‘He prevailed over him’. Does this not reflect the notion that one was in opposition to the other? Yet the commentaries say that the verse simply means that the Seleukid kingdom will be larger than the Ptolemaic kingdom. Could it be that commentators do not read the words themselves and (perhaps without realizing it) harmonize the words with what they know about the 53 Most commentators assume that some editorial error has damaged the syntax here. To say: ‘and one of his officers, and he will be stronger than him’, is certainly not fluid. While it may be unnecessary to remove the waw-consecutive from w'yechézaq ʿäläyw (see, for instance, the construction in Dan 7.20), that letter may be the result of dittography from the last letter of ûmin-säräyw; Collins 1993, 363. The versions, therefore, may have the original, less awkward reading. 54 So Portier-Young 2011, 237 who notes that hzq appears 292 times in the Hebrew Bible, thirteen times in Daniel.


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historical situation involved, that Seleukos eventually had a greater kingdom than Ptolemy? On the other hand, one is hard-pressed to apply the translation ‘he will overpower him’ to any point in the relationship of Seleukos and Ptolemy. Seleukos never ‘overpowered’ his patron, and despite what may have been resentment at Ptolemy for failing to show up at Ipsos, deferred to Ptolemy’s claims on lower Syria. The phrase also cannot refer to the First Syrian War (274–271 BCE), which Ptolemy II initiated and from which, after a setback, he eventually emerged victorious, at least as presented by Theokritos in a poem dedicated to his king in 271/270 BCE.55 A different suggestion is to read the verse for what it says rather than to ‘overpower’ the words with later historical connections. What if, in the Ptolemaic narrative that developed during the various Syrian wars, the expansion of the Seleukid kingdom into Asia Minor and Syria were viewed as acts of rebellion and ingratitude against Ptolemy and his successors? In a separate study, I will discuss the example of Dan 11.10: ‘And his son(s) will stir themselves up, and they will assemble a multitude of military forces, and he will surely come on, and overflow, as he passes through; and he will return and they (he) will stir themselves (himself) up as far as its (his) fortress.’ Commentators disagree on whether the father of these sons was Seleukos II, Seleukos III, or Antiochos III. Not much imagination is needed to regard any of them or their offspring as aggressors against the Ptolemaic kingdom. This notion would be essential to a Ptolemaic narrative, saying that ‘a great deal of your kingdom is part of what should be ours’. The narrative of Ptolemaic entitlement to these lands finds expression, for example, in Theokritos, who refers to Ptolemy II as follows: ‘He takes slices of Phoenicia and Arabia and Syria and Libya and the dark-skinned Ethiopians; all the Pamphylians and the warriors of Kilikia he commands, and the Lykians and the Karians, who delight in war.’56 As far as the Ptolemies were concerned, the centre of Seleukos’ realm was supposed to be Babylon, not Antioch and Syria.57 If the versions and NJV are correct and w'yechézaq ʿäläyw means that Seleukos overpowered Ptolemy and then created a larger kingdom for himself, the first part of which is not historically correct but the second is, one begins to wonder if the polemic reflected in vv. 4f. is as follows: Alexander’s empire was divided and Ptolemy was the king of the south. One of his captains rose up and overpowered him and established a huge kingdom for himself. VIII. THE RISE OF SELEUKOS IN PTOLEMAIC NARRATIVE Ptolemy was a writer and historian himself who seems to have skewed battle reports in his own favour and for his own aggrandizement, deliberately misrepresenting or 55 Theokr. Idyll 17; Bagnall 1976, 12. 56 Adapted from Hunter 2003, 85. 57 Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993.

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supressing the actions of his enemies.58 Modern historians discuss whether Ptolemy wrote his account in middle age, as current propaganda after the settlement at Triparadeisos in 321 BCE, or in his old age, out of the grudges of the past against figures such as Perdikkas and Antigonos. Either way, the salient point here is that Ptolemy himself wrote historical narrative. It is not only a proven fact but simple common sense to think that there was Ptolemaic propagandistic literature and that Ptolemy may have had a role in the development of the first stage of this narrative. Dan 11.5’s depiction of Seleukos as ‘one of Ptolemy’s officers’ may reflect an expression of anger at Seleukos, his friend and ally, in Ptolemy’s writings, for the events surrounding Ipsos and the dispensation of Koile-Syria. Ptolemy may have seen this region as his and found Seleukos’ power-move as gross ingratitude after he had provided him with refuge, alliance, and troops. If there had indeed been personal friendship, as Diodoros tells us, their falling-out only could have made Ptolemy’s anger worse. The negative attitude towards Seleukos would fit with the emphasis on Ptolemaic victories in the Fourth and Fifth Syrian Wars in Dan 11.7f. and Dan 11.12, respectively. Either the author of Daniel was pro-Ptolemaic, or he had an idea of Ptolemaic intentions that fit his more pacifistic view. A Seleukid narrative of the split into the kingdoms would be very different, elevating Seleukos to be one of the rival generals who fought for Alexander’s empire in the aftermath of his death. The Seleukid narrative is very concerned with restoring the dynasty or its dynast to its ‘rightful’ place as in kingship or possession of a city or area.59 Seleukid narratives promote the right to spear-won land.60 If we compare this narrative to Dan 11, we will see little to no similarity. 58 The Ptolemaic narrative(s) that the author of Dan 11 used may have reported events at least as far as the description of Kleopatra as the Ultimate Woman in vv. 11.13–18. She died in 176. Dan 11.17 calls Kleopatra I Syra bat-hanašym, ‘The Ultimate Woman’, based on the kind of reverence exemplified by the portrayal of the Egyptian queen as the incarnation of Isis. Despite the attempts of versions and commentators to obliterate the mythological nuances, Dan 11.13– 18 can be understood in its Hellenistic historical context, allowing us to see the Ptolemaic text that forms the basis of Dan 11. The passage proclaims that Kleopatra foiled her father Antiochos III’s deceitful plan to control Egypt. This Syrian princess and Egyptian queen navigated the conflict between the two kingdoms in a quite remarkable way. See Scolnic 2021; I hope to discuss this remarkable description in another study. 59 A Seleukid narrative might refer to legends about Seleukos, how he was descended from Apollo (OGIS 212; Walbank 1992, 211) and how he was born with a birthmark on his thigh in the form of Apollo’s symbol, the anchor (Justin 15.4.2). Appian Syr. 56.289–291 records a legend about how after he had returned from India to Babylon a wind carried off Alexander’s diadem and Seleukos swam after it and put it on his head so that it would not get wet. In the next section, Appian reports that Seleukos ‘was of such a large and powerful frame that once when a wild bull was brought for sacrifice to Alexander and broke loose from his ropes, Seleukos held him alone, with nothing but his hands, for which reason his statues are ornamented with horns’ (App. Syr. 57.294, trans. H. White). It is hard to know if these stories of origins reflect, or themselves are the origins of these well-known dynastic symbols. We may add claims of the support by Zeus (strong for Seleukos) and Apollo (strong for Antiochos I); see Erickson 2014; Ogden 2017; Engels 2017; also Erickson, ch. 2 and Coşkun, ch. 4, both in this volume. 60 On doriktetos chora, see Mehl 1980/81, 80f.; Barbantani 2007.


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Dan 11 presents the very foundation of the Seleukid dynasty as based on the disloyalty of one of Ptolemy’s captains who overpowered his master. This treachery, so the narrative continues, will be repeated by Seleukos I’s successors in various ways. Seleukid ideology was not nationalistic; it was dynastic. To wage a polemic against the fundamental narrative of the dynasty, starting with a demeaning and negative comment about its founder, blaming the various kings for the constant wars, accusing them of betrayals involving their women, was intended to undermine the very foundation of Seleukid ideology. IX. ŚAR IN DAN 1161 If we accept that Dan 11.4f. has been formulated on the basis of a Ptolemaic historical perspective, we can place these verses back in their literary context. In Dan 11, a mysterious divine speaker tells Daniel the plan of destiny. He refers to the other śarim of the different kingdoms and to Michael, the śar of the Jewish people. While the various śarim fight for their respective nations, the speaker is not an avatar of any of these kingdoms but seems to have a more general role in fulfilling God’s plan, which includes the preservation of the Jewish people during this time of great kingdoms. This śar explains that he can contend with or support a terrestrial power such as the Persians, Alexander, or either of the Hellenistic kingdoms, the Seleukids and the Ptolemies, in the interest of God’s overarching plan. In Dan 10.20f., the speaker states that he will contend with the celestial representative of the Persians until their time is done, at which point he will not be involved, leaving the field open for Alexander to win the day. No other heavenly force will protect Daniel’s people except the speaker and Michael. We should disregard the division between chapters 10 and 11 and move directly to 11.1 as the continuation of the passage.62 The Speaker continues: ‘In the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to strengthen and fortify him (la-mā‘ōwz).’ While I acknowledge that the versions and the commentators present a complicated picture for these verses, suggesting emendations and transposed clauses,63 I would translate literally, recognizing the use of nouns in the MT (and Theodotion): ‘And I, in the first year of Darius the Mede, my standing (will be) to be a strengthener and a protector for him.’ There are two possibilities for the identity of ‘him’, the one protected by the speaker. The first possibility is that the divine speaker will be a mā‘ōwz for the Persians at this point in history, a guardian for Darius the Mede during his time of power and fame. In the first year of Darius, the divine being will render powerful assistance to Media and Persia. This is why the Persians will be so strong for an era. Yet it seems strange that that the speaker is going off now (in 61 The ancient versions/translations rendered ‘strongholds’ as human fortresses. My thesis is that a mā‘ōwz can mean ‘a protecting national power’ but also a place or moment of intersection of heaven and earth where/when the divine being takes his stand and fights for his particular kingdom. 62 See Collins 1993, 376 and the confirmation of 4QDanc. 63 See, for instance, Bevan 1899, 170f.; Charles 1929, 117f.

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Daniel’s time) to fight against the prince of Persia in 10.20f. only to say that he will support him in 11.1.64 The second possibility is that ‘him’ could be Michael. The Śar may join with Michael to fight against the Śar of the Persians. And then when the Śar of the Greeks will ‘come in’ to his power, Michael and the speaker will have to fight him, too, all to protect the Judaeans from these powerful earthly forces: Then he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must go back to fight the prince of Persia. When I go off, the prince of Greece will come in. No one is helping me against them except your prince, Michael … And I, in the first year of Darius the Mede, my standing (will be) to be a Strengthener and a Protector for him.’65

My emphasis on the literary context of Dan 11 has a simple logical basis: If Dan 10 does not tell us something very important about the course of events recounted in Dan 11, why does this lengthy introductory passage exist at all? Why mention these Powers before and after 11, in 10 and 12? We now come again to 11.5, the focus of our inquiry: w’yechézaq melekh’-hanegev ûmin-säräyw w’yechézaq ʿäläyw ûmäshäl mim’shäl rav mim’shältô. And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his śarim; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.

I have emphasized the word śar and now focus even more closely on the use of this term. In Josh 5.13–15, Joshua encounters the śar of the host of the LORD, a power who will help the earthly leader conquer Jericho. This is how the walls of that city would come tumbling down. For the term śar/šār in different ancient Near Eastern kingdoms, we can go as far back as the Akkadian indirect pictogram of the Lion, standing for LUGAL = šarru, ‘king’. Sargon (Akk. Sharru-ukin) was the name of the first king of the Akkadian Empire, beginning in the 24th century BCE and of the 8th-century BCE Assyrian king Sargon II. Mār šārri(m) is the title for the crown prince or king’s son in Assyrian titulature. In the Creation Tablet, the heaven is personified by the term An-sar, ‘host of heaven’, in contradistinction to the earth, which was Ki-sar, ‘host of earth’. A Babylonian chronicle from this period seems to describe sacrifices made by Antiochos, son of Seleukos I Nikator, as mar šarri 64 As Driver 1900, 161 explains: ‘As soon as the conflict with Persia is ended, one with Greece will begin’; cf. Charles 1929, 266 and Collins 1993, 376. When the Prince of Persia goes out, the era of the Persian empire will be at an end, it will be the time of the Greeks as represented by the Prince of Greece coming into the realm of power; Ginsberg 1948, 90f.; Hartman and Di Lella 1977, 265. There is another possibility for the identity of ‘him’ with the one protected by the Speaker. In this interpretation, the Divine Speaker will be a mā‘ōwz for the Persians at this point in history, a Guardian for Darius the Mede during his time of power and fame. In the first year of Darius, the Divine Being will render powerful assistance to Media-Persia. This is why the Persians will be so strong for an era. If it seems strange that the Speaker is going off now (in Daniel’s time) to fight against the prince of Persia in 10.20f., only to say that he will support him in 11.1, Driver suggests that the Being defends Israel against the Persians in the first case but then supports them when they turn friendly to the Jews; Driver 1900, 162. 65 Mā‘ōwz in 11.1, then, may indicate the role that the Divine śar will play when he fights alongside Michael to protect the Judaeans against the śarim of the other terrestrial kingdoms.


Benjamin E. Scolnic

‘crown prince, to the moon god Sin’.66 The word śar is clearly rich in meaning, referring to either earthly or heavenly figures. So, while I have attempted to make the case at great length that Seleukos is called one of Ptolemy I’s ‘princes’ in Dan 11.5, reflecting a Ptolemaic perspective, perhaps these same words can yield a second meaning that events also happened on a higher plane. While no commentator has considered this possibility previously,67 I suggest that the author takes a historical text where one of Ptolemy I’s captains/princes overcame him to build his own huge empire and attempts to transform it, adding a second layer by using the śar meaning ‘captain’ and combining it with the śar of the celestial context. I thus take 11.5 to mean: Ptolemy I’s main Śar was strong, but one of that main Śar’s own śarim overpowered him and created his own huge kingdom. There is an intentional overlap here between heavenly and earthly domains. What happens in heaven happens on earth and vice versa. The historical and the theological elements are, in a sense, one. The confusion of the text is the unintended result of trying to produce a text about earthly history in a theological context. Newsom states: ‘In sum, there is no fully persuasive way to account for what seems to be a disturbed text.’68 We would all agree, and my question is, who or what disturbed it? In an attempt to explain the awkward and rough syntax, we may see how the text deconstructs as it proceeds, which adds to its ambiguity and complexity and makes it a difficult text indeed. Imagine our author, writing in 166 BCE, with the Seleukid persecution raging. The future of his people is in dire and immediate jeopardy. He needs to show his people that their God has been – and is – in control of the world and that everything that has happened was pre-ordained. He wants to explain why these centuries have witnessed a succession of empires and why the present terrible situation is what it is. There are other Danielic narratives that speak of this succession of kingdoms, as four parts of a giant statue (Dan 2) or four or two beasts (Dan 7 and 8, respectively). In one of these texts, the last beast has ten horns representing the succession of the Seleukid kings before Antiochos IV. In his new construct, the writer portrays an ongoing war between celestial powers, śarim; when the śar of one kingdom wins in heaven, his earthly counterpart wins as well. We remember that these kings claimed different aspects of divinity, so in a world that thought of heaven and earth as a continuum of power and identity, this all makes a certain sense. The author contemplates the wars and conflicts between the Ptolemaic and Seleukid kingdoms in the preceding centuries. Our writer sees the Seleukids as the enemy and so now takes a Ptolemaic historical narrative to use a different genre to speak to his beleaguered people, to say that this was all predicted. God told us that all of this was going to happen. And as certain as it is that these predictions came true in the last four hundred years, here is what is going to happen in the immediate future. 66 Grayson 1975, no. 11. 67 Bevan 1892, 174; Seow 2003, 170f.; Redditt 1999, 176; Goldingay 1989, 295f.; Collins 1993, 378. Even Driver 1900, 165, who is so concerned with the śarim in Dan 10, does not have this. 68 Newsom 2014, 335.

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In reading the Ptolemaic version of events, the author of Daniel sees how the Seleukid dynasty began with the treachery of one of Ptolemy I’s officers. He uses the word śar in two different ways: the first Seleukid king began as a śar of the first Ptolemaic king only to overpower him and create his own kingdom, reflecting what was happening on the higher plane where one of the śarim overpowered the Ptolemaic śar to create a huge dominion. In heaven as on earth, on earth as in heaven. Our writer tries to mix the language of history and the metaphysical sphere and roll them all into a divine prophecy, and like the iron and clay of Dan 2, they do not mix well. The syntax is not exactly cryptic, because it does not obscure its meaning, but it is awkward and choppy. In a passage about wars pitting one śar against another śar, the use of the word śar in 11.5 can be seen as both a description of Seleukos I’s break-away from Ptolemy I, to whom he owed so much, AND to how the śar of the Seleukids overpowered the śar of the Ptolemies. The author states that the śar wars described in Dan 11 will end in a final, apocalyptic śar war that will be provoked by the last of the Seleukid kings. He will go too far by attacking the God of the Mau’zzim, the author’s unique formulation of a god of the divine powers to which I will devote a separate study. While the two planes of wars between heavenly and earthly generals have been parallel, this earthly king will be so arrogant and blasphemous that he will try to break down the barrier between them. The review of Seleukid history in Dan 11 attempts to demonstrate that this dynasty was treacherous and warlike from the start. The glorious history of the Seleukids should be recast and its violence condemned; Seleukid ideology, culminating in the Antiochene persecution, must be utterly rejected. Just as Dan 11.5 comes apart because the writer overlays a theological grid onto a historical one about Seleukos I and Ptolemy I, so all of Dan 11 similarly fragments, folding in on itself, with a few cryptic words unable to bear all the weight and complexity. The apparently confident words of a prophecy supposedly given in the sixth century are actually the anxious effort of a writer in the 160’s to tell his people that God has allowed the śar wars to continue for centuries, but that a new era is coming in which there will be peace in earth and heaven. BIBLIOGRAPHY Classical Sources: Geer, R.M. 2004: Diodorus Siculus, Library of History Books XVIII–XIX.65 (LCL 377), Cambridge, MA. Geer, R.M. 2006: Diodorus Siculus, Library of History Books XIX.66–XX (LCL 390), Cambridge, MA. Goukowsky, P. 2017: Diodore de Sicile, Bibliothèque Historique, Fragments. Vol. 4: Livres XXXIII–XL, Paris. Watson, J.S. 2017: Justin’s Epitome of Philippic History, Las Vegas. Yardley, J. 2001: Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, London.


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Modern Scholarship: Archer, G.L. 1958: Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, Grand Rapids. Austin, M.M. 1981: The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, Cambridge. Bagnall, R.S. 1976: The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside Egypt, Leiden. Baldwin J.G. 1978: Daniel, Downers Grove, Ill. Barbantani, S. 2007: ‘The Glory of the Spear. A Powerful Symbol in Hellenistic Poetry and Art. The Case of Neoptolemus “of Tlos” (and other Ptolemaic Epigrams)’, Studi Classici e Orientali 53, 67–138. Bevan, A.A. 1892: A Short Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Cambridge. Bevan, E.R. 1902: The House of Seleukos, vol. 1, London. Billows, R.A. 1990: Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State, Berkeley. Bosworth, A.B. 2002: The Legacy of Alexander. Politics, Warfare, and Propaganda under the Successors, Oxford. Braund, D. 2006: ‘After Alexander: The Emergence of the Hellenistic World’, in A. Erskine (ed.), A Companion to the Hellenistic World, Malden, MA. Briant, P., Brun, P., and Varinlioğlu, E. 2001: ‘Une inscription inédite de Carie et la guerre d’Aristonicos’, in A. Bresson and R. Descat (eds.), Les cités d’Asie mineure occidentale au IIe siècle a.C., Bordeaux, 241–259. Brodersen, K. 1985: ‘Der Liebeskranke Königssohn und die Seleukidische Herrschaftsauffassung’, Athenaeum 63, 459–469. Charles, R.H. 1929: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Oxford. Childs, B.S. 1979: Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Philadelphia. Collins, J.J. 1992: ‘Book of Daniel’, Anchor Bible Dictionary 2, 34. Collins, J.J. 1993: Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Minneapolis. Coşkun, A. 2019: ‘The Chronology of the Desecration of the Temple and the Prophecies of Daniel 7–12 Reconsidered’, Historia 68, 436–462. Di Lella, A.A. 2002: ‘The Textual History of Septuagint-Daniel and Theodotion-Daniel’, in The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception. Vol. 2: Composition and Reception, Boston, 573– 585. Dines, J. 2007: ‘The King’s Good Servant: Loyalty, Subversion and Greek Daniel’, in T. Rajak, S. Pearce, J. Aitken, and J. Dines (eds.), Jewish Perspectives on Hellenistic Rulers, Berkeley. Driver, S.R. 1900: The Book of Daniel, Cambridge. Engels, D. 2017: Benefactors, Kings, Rulers: Studies on the Seleukid Empire between East and West, Leuven. Erickson, K. 2014: ‘Zeus to Apollo and back again: Shifts in Seleucid Policy and Iconography’, in S. Krmnicek and N. Baylor (eds.), Art in the Round, Tübingen, 97–108. Errington, R.M. 1969: ‘Bias in Ptolemy’s History of Alexander’, CQ 19, 233–242. Funck, B. 1994: ‘Seleukos Nikator und Ilion: Einige Beobachtungen zum Verhältnis von König und Staat im frühen Hellenismus’, Historia 258, 317–337. Ginsberg, H.L. 1948: Studies in Daniel, New York. Ginsberg, H.L. 1972: ‘Book of Daniel’, in Encyclopedia Judaica, New York. Goldingay, J.E. 1989: Daniel, Dallas. Goldstein, J.A. 1975: ‘The Tales of the Tobiads’, in Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty. Part Three: Judaism before 70, Leiden, 115–158. Gowan, D.E. 2001: Daniel, Nashville. Grabbe, L.L. 2002: ‘A Dan(iel) for All Seasons’, in J.J. Collins and P.W. Flint (eds.), The Book of Daniel. Vol. 2: Composition and Reception, Boston. Grainger, J.D. 1990: Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom, London. Grayson, A.K. 1975: Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Locust Valley, N.Y. Greenwalt, W. 1984: ‘The Search for Arrhidaeus’, Ancient World 10, 69–77.

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Hartman L.F. and Di Lella, A.A. 1977: The Book of Daniel: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, New York. Hazzard, R.A. 2000: Imagination of a Monarchy: Studies in Ptolemaic Propaganda, Toronto. Hunter, R. 2003: Theocritus: Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus: Text and Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Berkeley. Huss, W. 1977: ‘Eine ptolemäische Expedition nach Kleinasien’, AncSoc 8, 187–193. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis. A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire, London. Lacocque, A. 1979: The Book of Daniel, trans. David Pellauer, Atlanta. Landucci Gattinoni, F. 2005: ‘La tradizione su Seleuco in Diodoro XVIII–XX’, in C. Bearzot and F. Landucci (eds.), Diodoro e l’altra Grecia: Macedonia, Occidente, Ellenismo nella Biblioteca storica, Milan, 155–181. Lebram, J.-C.H. 1970. ‘Apokalyptik und Hellenismus im Buche Daniel: Bemerkungen und Gedanken zu Martin Hengels Buch über ‘Judentum und Hellenismus’, Vetus Testamentum 20, 503– 524. Lebram, J.-C.H. 1974: ‘Perspektiven der gegenwärtigen Danielforschung’, Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period 5, 1–33. Lebram, J.-C.H. 1975: ‘König Antiochos im Buch Daniel’, Vetus Testamentum 25, 737–772. Lebram, J.-C.H. 1983: ‘The Piety of the Jewish Apocalypticists’, in D. Hellholm (ed.), Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August 12–17, 1979, Tübingen, 171–210. Lebram, J.-C.H. 1984: Das Buch Daniel, Zurich. Ma, J. 2000: Antiochos III and the Cities of Western Asia Minor, Oxford. McCrystall, A. 1980: Studies in the Old Greek Translation of Daniel, unpublished thesis, Oxford. McLay, T. 1996: The OG and Th Versions of Daniel, Atlanta. McShane, R.B. 1964: The Foreign Policy of the Attalids of Pergamum, Urbana. Mehl, A. 1980/81: ‘ΔΟΡΙΚΤΗΤΟΣ ΧΩΡΑ. Kritische Bemerkungen zum „Speererwerb“ in Politik und Völkerrecht der hellenistischen Epoche’, AncSoc 11/12, 173–212. Mehl, A. 1986: Seleukos Nikator und sein Reich, Leuven. Miller, S.R. 1994: Daniel, Nashville. Montgomery, J.A. 1927: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, New York. Mørkholm O. 1969: ‘Some Seleucid Coins of the Mint of Sardes’, Nordisk Numismatisk Arsskrift, 14–15. Newsom, C.A. 2014: Daniel, Louisville. Orth, W. 1977: Königlicher Machtanspruch und städtische Freiheit, Munich. Porteous, N.W. 1965: Daniel. A Commentary, Philadelphia. Peters, F.E. 1970: The Harvest of Hellenism, New York. Portier-Young, A.E. 2011: Apocalypse against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism, Grand Rapids, MI. Primo, A. 2009: La storiografia sui Seleucidi da Megastene a Eusebio di Cesarea, Pisa. Redditt P. L. 1999: Daniel, Sheffield. Reid, S.B. 1989: Enoch and Daniel: A Form Critical and Sociological Study of the Historical Apocalypses, Berkeley. Roisman, J. 1984: ‘Ptolemy and his Rivals in His History of Alexander the Great’, CQ 34, 373–385. Romm, J. 2012: Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire, New York. Samuel, A.E. 1965: ‘Alexander’s Royal Journals’, Historia 14, 1–12. Schmitt, H. 1964: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Antiochos’ des Grossen und seiner Zeit, Stuttgart. Scolnic, B. 2014: ‘Is Dan 11:1–19 Based on a Ptolemaic Narrative?’ Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, 157–184. Scolnic, B. 2015: ‘The Villages of the Carians in Diodorus Siculus and Seleucus I’s Route to Babylon in the Winter of 312/311 B.C.E.’, Ancient History Bulletin 29, 91–114.


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Scolnic, B. 2021: ‘“The Ultimate Woman”: Cleopatra I Syra and the Ptolemaic Bias of Daniel 11:13–18’, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interactions 30, 27–40. Seow, C.L. 2003: Daniel, Louisville. Sherwin-White, S. and Kuhrt, A. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleukid Empire, London. Simpson, R.H. 1954: ‘The Historical Circumstances of the Peace of 311’, JHS 74, 25–31. Ulrich, E. 1990: ‘Orthography and Text in 4QDana and 4QDan and in the Received Masoretic Text’, in H.W. Attridge, J.J. Collins, and T.H. Tobin (eds.), Of Scribes and Scrolls: Studies on the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism, and Christian Origins, Lanham, MD, 29–42. Ulrich, E. 2002: ‘The Text of Daniel in the Qumran Scrolls’, in The Book of Daniel. Vol. 2: Composition and Reception, Boston, 586–607. van der Spek, R.J. 2014: ‘Seleukos, Self-Appointed General (strategos) of Asia (311–305 B.C.), and the Satrapy of Babylonia’, in H. Hauben and A. Meeus (eds.), The Age of the Successors and the Creation of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (323–276 B.C.), Leuven, 323–342. Walbank, F.W. 2002: Polybius, Rome and the Hellenistic World: Essays and Reflections, Cambridge. Walbank, F.W. 1992: The Hellenistic World, Cambridge, MA. Waterfield, R. 2011: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire, Oxford.



Abstract: The chapter argues that the Book of Esther was largely produced or edited, transmitted, and circulated in Hebrew in the east during the Seleukid age. The Book of Esther appears to reflect a response to a Greek background and was produced during the postAchaemenid period, despite its Persian/Iranian colour. It is thus not grounded in any specific historical-political context, notwithstanding its ostensible content. The book alludes at once to Achaemenid reality, as was known from Greek texts or from the remains of the palaces, and to the Hellenistic period in which it was composed or edited, either in a deliberate allegorical way or inadvertently, being influenced by its immediate surroundings. This chapter adds several notes to this view with regard to the book’s possible relation with realia current in the Seleukid period, or indeed with items in the royal Seleukid propaganda or selfpresentation. It also attempts to show that the Book of Esther is understandable only against the background of certain elements of Seleukid ideology, such as the nature of the king’s reign, the extent of the monarchy, and the changed emphasis in the role of the deity in establishing dynastic rule. The chapter will not address all the questions and debates concerning the textual development of the book but will focus mainly on its Hebrew variant (the Masoretic version).

The canonized Book of Esther is one of the ‘strangest’ biblical books by any standard.1 Its origins, date and provenance have long fascinated scholars and exegetes, with no clear or definite answers. There is no scholarly consensus, and the questions are far from being settled. One of the proposals suggested in research is that the book is Hellenistic, i.e. post-Achaemenid. This approach is adopted in the present chapter, asserting that this work was largely produced or edited, transmitted, and circulated in Hebrew in the era after Alexander. In other words, the Book of Esther appears to reflect a response to a Greek background. This chapter has two aims: the first is to portray the arguments introduced in research for a Hellenistic dating of the work. Given the constraints of space, the chapter does not attempt to be comprehensive in its survey. Its scope is limited as it only deals with 1

To quote the title of Bickerman’s 1967 work, Four Strange Books of the Bible; it is certainly the ‘strangest’ of the four books he deals with.


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arguments for dating the work in the Greek period (and Seleukid at that) as against a Persian-era origin. It does not resort to addressing the studies arguing for a specific Hasmonean (i.e., late Greek period) context of the work, which will be my concern in a future paper. The second aim is to add several novel arguments to this Hellenistic dating of the work, which concern the book’s possible relation with realia current in the Seleukid period, or indeed with items in the royal Seleukid self-presentation. Lastly, the chapter does not address all the questions and debates concerning the textual development of the book but focuses mainly on its Hebrew variant, thereby contributing to the ongoing debate on the Hellenistic reading of Esther. I. THE BOOK OF ESTHER: PERSIAN OR HELLENISTIC? The biblical Hebrew Masoretic Text (henceforth MT) of the Book of Esther has always been read and heard in the context of Jewish communal festivity as the text associated with the carnivalesque festival of Purim.2 Because of this fact, and the many hyperboles in the text, along with the comic effect of some of its depictions, it is easy to lose sight of the plot and the historical context(s) in which the Book of Esther was composed or edited.3 The book is a fictional story, or a court story.4 Yet, its form gives the impression of an actual story,5 and therefore some scholars have attempted to display and prove its historicity.6 Let us explore the scholarly debate in this regard. Essentially, the book narrates the plan of the courtier Haman in the court of the Persian king Ahasueros in Susa to destroy another courtier, Mordecai the Jew, and to annihilate all the Jews within the Persian kingdom. Yet, Mordecai is shown to be the king’s loyal benefactor and hence is honoured. Haman is killed and his plan to destroy the Jews is frustrated through the intervention of Esther, Mordecai’s cousin, and the king’s spouse as queen. In consequence, the deliverance of the Jews (which also includes acts of violence committed against their would-bekillers and the slaying of seventy-five thousand people in the empire) is ordered to be celebrated in the feast of Purim. 2 3

4 5 6

Babylonian Talmud Megillah Tractate 7b; See Harris 1977; Greenstein 1987, 226. Cf. Gaster 1950; Talmon 1963, 451; Greenstein 1987, 227f.; Goldman 1990, 21; Radday 1990; Bush 1998, 47; Berlin 2001a, xvi–xxii, xxvii, 4, 6, 13, 55, 81; O’Connor 2003; Wénin 2010. Jones 1977, 174: ‘The narrator is not praising the Persian court. He is laughing at it.’ Cf. Macchi 2007b, 79. See Moore 1971, lvi and Gruen 2002, 143, 146 on irony. Paton 1908, 73f.; 247; Torrey 1944, 21; Clines 1991, 131–136; Fox 1991a, 133f.; Wills 1995, 96; Berlin 2001a, 3f.; Johnson 2005. Cf. Paton 1908, 64; Moore 1971, 3; Berg 1979, 2; Fox 1991a, 138f.; 148–150; Berlin 2001a, xxvii–xxviii; Weiland 2002, 156–158. Middlemas 2019, 151 points out that Esther 10.2 purports to be based upon factual records. See Paton 1908, 64f., and cf. the references pp. 111–118; Hoschander 1923, 11f. and passim; Talmon 1963, 422; Wright 1970; Shea 1976; Yamauchi 1980; 1990, 226–239; Gordis 1981, 382–388. See recently Miller 2014, 5–24; also Moore 1975; Fox 1991a, 134–138.

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The Persian/Iranian colour of the book is undeniable.7 There are many names, words, and titles in the MT which go back to the Persian language (Old Persian or Old Iranian).8 Most probably, these words entered through imperial Aramaic, the administrative lingua franca of the Achaemenid Empire.9 Much more than Hebrew, Aramaic was the vernacular language among Jews.10 These loan-words, which were presumably included to add credence to the Persian court setting of the story,11 have been found to appear in sources contemporary with the Persian Empire.12 One notes that these foreign words are employed without any need of explanation, that is, they were assumed to be known to the readers.13 The main events of the story are said to take place in the 12th year of the reign of the Persian king Ahasueros (‫)אחשוורוש‬.14 The monarch in question is usually taken to be Xerxes (486–465 BCE).15 Yet, he is identified as Artaxerxes (I or II?) by the main Greek translation (so-called B-Text, part of the Septuagint, henceforth LXX) and consequently by Josephus.16 There is another Greek translation, the socalled Alpha Text or A-Text (henceforth AT), which is preserved in four manuscripts, and was previously thought to be a recension of the LXX by Lukianos of Antioch, 240–312 CE,17 but now seems to be a translation of a Semitic (Aramaic, or most probably, Hebrew) Vorlage, either different from or similar to the ancestor of the MT.18 This AT text has the literal form Ἀσσύηρος. At one point in the 7 8

9 10 11 12


14 15 16 17 18

Cf. Moore 1971, xli–xliv; Clines 1984a, 10f. See the studies of Scheftelowitz 1901; Tisdall 1911; Gehman 1924; Duchesne-Guillemin 1953; Mayer 1961; Ellenbogen 1962; Zadok 1976, 1986; Millard 1977; Seow 1996, 647f.; Wahl 1999, 24f.; Wright 2005, 113–120; Young and Rezetko 2008, 291–293; Hurvitz 2014, 82f., 102; Hutter 2015. See Paton 1908, 66–71. See Greenfield 1985. Cf. Seow 1996, 646–650. As Torrey 1944 demonstrated, the original text of Esther was most likely written in Aramaic. For Aramaisms in Esther, see Paton 1908, 62f. Cf. Rabin 1962, 1079. This is different from several Akkadian loanwords which entered the Aramaic earlier; cf. Dalley, 2007, 167–180. For instance, Persian ’ḥšdrpn (satrap) is a word known to appear only in the Aramaic of Daniel (3.2f.; 3.27; 6.1–5, 7–8) and 6th/5th BCE century documents. See Kitchen 1965, 42: ‘There is as yet no evidence that any of these 6 terms survived the Persian period (i.e. after c. 330 BC).’ Cf. Hasel 1981, 214; Eskhult 2003, 11. Cf. Kitchen 1965, 35–44, 77 on the Persian words in Daniel, and the conclusion that they made their impact before 300 BCE, especially 43 where it is noted that the verses containing them are ‘preferably within memory of the Persian rule – i.e. c. 539 (max.) to c. 280 BC (allowing about fifty years’ lapse from the fall of Persia to Macedon).’ Esther 3.7. Henceforth, all references to Esther are to the Masoretic version (MT), unless specified otherwise. Cf. Paton 1908, 51–54. Jos. AJ 11.6.1 (184)–11.6.13 (296). Cf. Hoschander 1923, 42–80, 118–138: Artaxerxes II. But this is contradicted by several considerations, like the mention of Persian control over Egypt in Esther 1.1. Pace Hoschander 1923, 52, n. 28. See Lagarde 1883; Jacob 1890. See Torrey 1944, 7; Moore 1967, 353–355; 1977: 164; Cook 1969, 370f.; Clines 1984a, 85– 114, 146–151; Fox 1990; 1991b, 30–34, 97; 1991c; Jobes 1996, 14–16, 49–85, 95–138, 219f., 223–225. Others assume, however, that the AT is a revision or a reworking of the LXX; see Paton 1908, 38; Bickerman 1951, 106–108; De Troyer 2000, 343; 2002, 203, 207; 2003, 32f.,


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MT (10.1), the name is given in a scribal variant as Ahashrsh (‫)אחשרש‬, which is close to the Aramaic version of Xerxes (ḤŠYRŠ).19 Indeed, Ezra 4.6 allots the reign between Darius and Artaxerxes to Ahasueros, which would imply Xerxes. If this is indeed Xerxes, then his 12th year would be 474 BCE. These considerations might lead readers to conclude that the Book of Esther, even in its MT form (or close to it, say, as proto- MT), was contemporaneous with the Achaemenid Empire.20 Yet, this inference is not borne out by the text or by the facts. The story is told from a retrospective view on the distant past, ‘this is what happened in the days of’, (‫)ויהי בימי‬, not a contemporary viewpoint.21 This would mean that the Book of Esther was composed, edited or circulated much later than the dramatic time described in it and that the author or editor of the text was removed in time from the Persian Empire at its heyday. Furthermore, there are many inaccuracies concerning the Achaemenid regime and system, compared to our Greek or Persian sources.22 One case in point is the number of regions ruled by the monarch. Esther 1.1, 8.9, and 9.30 has 127 provinces (‫)שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה‬, as opposed to Herodotos’ division of 20 satrapies for the purposes of taxation23 and the close figure of 23 regions (dahyāva) listed in the royal inscriptions.24 This inaccuracy allegedly could not have been made by an informed contemporary.25 Another example is the implication of the extension of the empire, whereas the real Xerxes lost territories in Asia Minor, Thrace and Cy-

19 20 21

22 23 24 25

46–49. Tov 1982, 10, 25 believes the AT is a revision of the LXX towards a non- MT Hebrew version. It is reasonable that the additions found in the AT, together with several other verses were derived from the LXX. See Torrey 1944, 14–16; Cook 1969, 373–376; Moore 1973, 388; 1977, 165; Fox 1991b, 34–38, 42–71; pace Dorothy 1997, 330–332, 350–354 or Jobes 1996, 127, 162–194, 224f., 227, who argues that the Additions were copied from the AT to the LXX, and that the AT redaction is earlier, ‘late in the Persian period or quite early in the Hellenistic period.’ *xšayāršā in Old Persian. Tavernier 2007, 66, n. 2.2.70; Hutter 2015, 30; See Justi 1895, 173f.; Scheftelowitz 1901, 39, n. 6. As some scholars believe: Gunkel 1916, 87; Talmon 1963, 422, 449; Moore 1971, liv; Gerleman 1973, 37–39; Yamauchi 1990, 228; Berlin 2001a, xli–xliii; Koller 2014, 37; Miller 2014, 24–40. Esther 1.1; also in Esther 10.2. Pace Dalley 2007, 214f., who sees this as implying events concurrent with the compositional time. Cf. Paton 1908, 61; Driver 1897, 454; Bechtel 2002, 3; Middlemas 2019, 152. See, however, Talmon 1963, 449, 453 and Yamauchi 1990, 226– 228. Mordecai’s authorship (Esther 9.20, 29, 32) is said to be limited to the letters issued to the Jews and cannot be applied to the book itself. Cf. Paton 1908, 66, 71f. Cf. Fox 1991a, 132f. See also Bardtke 1963, 248; Bickerman 1967, 206f.; Levenson 1997, 23–26. Cf. Moore 1971, xlv–xlvi. Hdt. 3.89–96; cf. Paton 1908, 123f. See, however, Shea 1976, 244f. DB § 1.12–17; cf. DPe § 5–18, DSm § 6–11; DNa § 15–30 has 29 divisions; cf. XPh § 19–28 (the time of Xerxes himself). Cf. Moore 1975, 70f.; Fox 1991a: ‘[t]he nature of the satrapies had become vague in historical memory’; Levenson 1997, 24. Cf. Fox 1991a, 139.

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prus.26 Moreover, neither Ahasueros’ wife Vashti, said to be banished in the third year (i.e. 484 BCE), nor Esther, reigning from the seventh year (i.e. 480 BCE), can be reconciled with Amestris, who is described in the Greek sources as the queen.27 While it is true that the editor/author might have been a contemporary who was simply not well versed about the Persian system or its geographical extent, it is more likely that the errors reveal a much later period. For instance, I would like to point out that there is one interesting link to the Seleukids in the number of satrapies mentioned. This number could be a typological number, based on arrangements of six and seven;28 perhaps even grounded on the number of 120 regions (satrapies) in Daniel 6.2, with an additional seven.29 One should note that Appian claims that Seleukos I divided his kingdom into 72 satrapies.30 Curiously, in both cases the numbers involved appear to be related to a symbolic longevity of life: 127 years are assigned to some mythic persons in the Bible, and Appian in the immediate section attributes 73 years to Seleukos.31 The inference that the text was late is especially true if indeed it was perceived by its ancient readers as fiction.32 Johnson argues that since the text of Esther was originally read as fiction, not history, and that since its readers would have recognized the improbability of the historical tale and would not have been disturbed by it, there is ‘no good reason to insist on a date after the conquests of Alexander.’33 But this is hardly convincing. She gives as a parallel the example of the Letter of Aristeas. Bearing in mind its historical errors,34 this example only demonstrates that Esther was written a considerable time after the events related in the book. 26 Esther 10.1 on the ‘islands’; cf. Hoschander 1923, 31f. Berlin 2001a, 94 indicates that this phrase is reminiscent of Hdt. 3.96 on Darius. For other inaccuracies, see Clines 1984b, 256– 261. 27 Esther 1.3 and 2.16–18; See Hdt. 7.114; 9.108–113; Ktesias, FGrH 688 F 14.46. See Hoschander 1923, 34; Moore 1971, xlvi; Littman 1975, 146; Clines 1984b, 258; Zadok 1984, 18f.; Fox 1991a, 132; Levenson 1997, 24f. and Hubbard 2007, 270f. See, however, Shea 1976, 235–245 and Wright 1970, 40f. 28 Cf. Hill 2003, 243: ‘In the sexagesimal system, 120 (60 x 2) meant a large number or a long time; 127 (120 + 7) meant an even greater number.’ It is a numerical ideal, not a numerical reality. For the Mesopotamian background of these long figures of time spans, see Young 1988, 1990, esp. 330, n. 42. 29 The same may apply to 1Esdras 3.2. Esther may echo the Aramaic Daniel elsewhere (or consciously allude to it: Grossman 2009, 398f.) in the image of sleepless Ahasueros (Esther 6.1) and the subsequent honour to Mordecai, paralleling Nebuchadnezzar II and Daniel (Daniel 2.1, 48). 30 See the explanation of Brodersen 1989, 175–177 that Appian does not use the term with technical precision; App. Syr. 62.328. One may wonder why Tuplin 2008, 126, n. 50 assumes this figure of seventy-two appears in Esther. 31 Genesis 23.1 and App. Syr. 63.331, respectively. Cf. Macchi 2005, 108, n. 54, and 2007a, 201, n. 4. Cf. Levenson 1997, 43. 32 Levenson 1997, 25f.; cf. Berlin 2001b, 7: ‘fake realia.’ 33 Johnson 2005, 582. 34 E.g., Wendland 1900, xxvi–xxvii; Hadas 1951, 6–9 on the Letter of Aristeas.


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I would like to add several facts that point at a later date of Esther than the reign of Xerxes. The first argument is to consider an analogy. Ahasueros appears in a specific Seleukid-era text, namely, in the second layer of Daniel 9.1,35 where he is the father of Darius the Mede, a person mentioned in Daniel 6.1 and again in 11.1.36 An association between Darius Hystaspis (I) and Darius the Mede, although completely garbled,37 may hint that Ahasueros is to be identified as Xerxes – here not as the son of Darius (I) but rather as his father.38 One may note that following Daniel 6.29 (Darius precedes Cyrus the Persian), the chronological sequence between the Persian kings is exactly reversed.39 All this betrays the flawed recollection of a later age, which similarly can explain the errors found in Esther. Another consideration is this: since Artaxerxes II in his inscription A2Sa asserts that the palace in Susa was burned during the time of Artaxerxes I and the apadana was only reconstructed by himself, this would imply that the place lay in ruins for a certain period.40 Since the author of Esther seems to know the structure of the palace,41 and given that the story was not created during Xerxes’ time, it would seem that it could only have evolved after this reconstruction.42 Therefore, even if we date some initial form of the Book of Esther to the Achaemenid era, this would have to be much later than Xerxes, and closer to the empire’s demise, c. mid-4th century BCE.43

35 That there are, pace Rowley 1950/51, two layers of Daniel, an earlier (3rd century BCE or earlier?), (eastern) Aramaic layer consisting mainly of court stories (chapters 2–6, 1–6, or 1– 7), and a second (western) one, containing apocalypses, and dated most probably to a time after Antiochos IV Epiphanes (chapters 7–12 or 8–12), seems reasonable; see recently Coşkun 2019, 446–458. See Dalman 1902, 13; Torrey 1909; Montgomery 1927, 89–99; Hölscher 1919; Welch 1922, 54; Ginsberg 1948; Heaton 1956, 17f., 28, 48–50; Davies 1976, 400 and 1980, 40; Collins 1977, 19. Cf. Driver 1897, 476 and 1926, 118f. 36 This ‘Darius’ cannot be identified with any Persian king as demonstrated by Rowley 1964, 59. Cf. Goldingay 1989, 111. Yet, see Wiseman 1965, 12–16 who identifies him with Cyrus. The LXX translator certainly did not know who this Darius was and once erroneously replaced him with Cyrus (LXX Daniel 11.1). 37 Cf. Rowley 1964, 54–59; Graf 1984, 22. 38 Cf. Colless 1992, 125, who also acknowledges that ‘the name Darius, as also his father’s name Ahasueros (9.1), may have merely been picked out of the biblical hat (perhaps from Ezra 4.5f.).’ This section in Daniel undoubtedly preceded the final edition of Nehemiah 12.22 where Darius II is referred to as ‘Darius the Persian’, presumably in order to avoid confusion with this earlier, fictional, ‘Darius’. 39 A misreading of Ezra 6.1–3, perhaps? See Goldingay 1989, 239. 40 According to Dieulafoy 1891, 279, the destruction occurred c. 440 BCE. 41 Barucq 1961; Perrot 1989, 20, 159; Yamauchi 1990, 300; cf. Oppenheim 1965, 328. Some believe Esther was composed in Susa: Altheim and Stiehl 1963, 207; Berg 1979, 10; Fox 1991a, 140; Levenson 1997, 26. Yet, cf. Moore 1971, lix. 42 See Gunkel 1916, 87; cf. Dieulafoy 1891, 388f.; Paton 1908, 65; Hoschander 1923, 73. 43 Cf. Moore 1971, lix–lx; 1992, 641: ‘a late Persian period [dating] for the “original” of the Esther story seems a reasonable estimate.’ Cf. Gordis 1974, 8; Berlin 2001a, xliii. See Johnson 2005, 584: 4th century BCE, ‘a date in the late Persian period being a distinct possibility.’

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It is more sensible to assume that the description was made after the Persian rule. In this we may follow the inference stated by Dalley, though not her strict characterization of Ahasueros: ‘The syllogism appeared to be logical. By the time the final Hebrew version of the story was made, the Achaemenid empire had come to an end, therefore its latter kings must have been decadent.’44

The scholarly arguments referred to in the previous pages, as well as several new points which I suggested, give us a rough upper limit for the beginning of the history of the text. Indeed, even if there are correspondences between the imagery visible in the Achaemenid remains and the Book of Esther, this does not necessarily prove that the author was contemporary with the Achaemenids. He could have responded to the physical reality he knew in the Seleukid period. As Salvesen notes, in Seleukid or Parthian times ‘the extensive remains of iconography of the Achaemenid period meant that there would be plenty of authentic detail to draw on.’45 Similarly, with regard to the numerous individuals mentioned in the book, Bickerman claims that ‘[t]he thirty-odd Persian personal names in the book [... the author] could find by looking around among his Iranian neighbours.’ Fox asserts the same: ‘Persian names and words and the basic geography of Susa would also be available to a Hellenistic writer.’46 Berg sums up this point: ‘The narrator’s knowledge of Persian matters [...] often seems forced, and I sometimes wonder if he knows too much. That is, is the story-teller trying to impress us with some local colour and thereby establish the authenticity of his account?’47

In a similar vein, the mention of ‘Susa’ in Esther could be a reference to a known Persian centre of old, written with hindsight. I would like to note that from a vantage point in the Hellenistic period, this fictional ‘Susa’ of the work is depicted as the royal residence for all seasons, in spite of the known fact of the Achaemenid court’s seasonal relocation, as ultimately described by contemporary Greek authors.48 Even the portrayal of Jews as ‘scattered’ in Esther 3.8 could well correspond to the reality known from the Hellenistic period and fits it perhaps better

44 Dalley 2007, 197. 45 Salvesen 1999, 38; see also Berg 1979, 2. See Martinez-Sève 2002, 50, 53 on Hellenistic Susa (from the 3rd century BCE (?), Seleukeia on the Eulaios), and at 36: ‘Ces bâtiments continuèrent à dominer l’espace pendant longtemps et ils en déterminèrent en partie l’occupation à l’époque hellénistique’ – at least till the beginning of the Parthian period. 46 Bickerman 1967, 209; Fox 1991a, 135. Cf. Paton 1908, 65f.: the names ‘might have been gathered in the Gr. period by an author who knew something about Persia.’ And: ‘All that these facts prove, is that the author had some knowledge of Persia and Persian life which he used to give local colour. They do not prove that his story is historical any more than the local colour of the Arabian Nights proves them to be historical.’ 47 Berg 1979, 190, n. 15. 48 Xen. Cyr. 8.6.22; Athen. 12.513f.; Tuplin 1998.


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than the situation during the Persian era.49 As Bickerman asserts, ‘[w]e are no longer in the Persian Empire but in the Hellenistic Age.’50 II. THE PORTRAYAL OF PERSIANS IN ESTHER FROM A HELLENISTIC/GREEK IDEOLOGICAL POSITION A firm but much later date for the terminus ad quem of the MT text was approximately derived by scholars from an extraordinary piece of evidence, in the form of the colophon to the LXX Greek version51 of Esther (part of Addition F, 11).52 This colophon reads thus: In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Kleopatra, Dositheos, who said that he was a priest, and Levitas,53 and Ptolemy his son, brought the foregoing letter concerning Phrourai, which they said is extant, and which Lysimachos, son of Ptolemy, one of the people of Jerusalem, had translated. (Hoschander trans., slightly amended). ἔτους τετάρτου βασιλεύοντος Πτολεμαίου καὶ Κλεοπάτρας εἰσήνεγκεν Δωσίθεος εἶναι ἱερεὺς καὶ Λευίτης καὶ Πτολεμαῖος ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν προκειμένην ἐπιστολὴν τῶν Φρουραὶ ἣν ἔφασαν εἶναι καὶ ἑρμηνευκέναι Λυσίμαχον Πτολεμαίου τῶν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

If the colophon is authentic,54 the transmission to Ptolemaic Egypt could be dated to one of the following years, in which a Ptolemy in his fourth year ruled with a Kleopatra: Ptolemy VI Philometor with his sister-wife Kleopatra II during his second reign (i.e. 159 BCE); Ptolemy VIII Physkon with his sister-wife Kleopatra II during his sole rule (i.e. 141 BCE); Ptolemy IX Soter II Lathyros (with his mother Kleopatra III) in 113 BCE; Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos Auletes with his sister and wife Kleopatra V in 78 BCE; Ptolemy XIII (with his sister Cleopatra VII) in 48 BCE. Scholars are divided with regard to the Ptolemaic monarch re-

49 See Neusner 1965, 15. Cf. Berg 1979, 171. 50 Bickerman 1967, 204. 51 As the colophon only appears in almost all of the MSS of the LXX, but only in one MS (the 12th century MS 19) of AT, it is reasonable to believe that it was originally part of the former; cf. Moore 1977, 252. On the colophon, see Bickerman 1944; Cavalier 2003a; 2003b. 52 The LXX version of Esther has six additions to the Hebrew MT version (henceforth ‘Add’): (A) Mordecai's dream and discovery of a plot against the king, before 1.1, Add A 1–17; (B) First letter of the king, after 3.13, Add B 1–7; (C) Prayers of Mordecai and Esther, after 4.17, Add C 1–30; (D) Appearance of Esther before the king unsummoned, before 5.3, Add D 1– 16; (E) Second letter of the king, after 8.12, Add E 1–24; (F) The interpretation of Mordecai's dream, after 10.3, Add F 1–11. The Additions most probably filled in perceived gaps in the Hebrew MT narrative. Cf. Fried 2000, 49. 53 According to Bickerman 1944, 362, this is in fact a third person, Levitas, and not to be translated as ‘a priest and a Levite’. 54 Cf. Paton 1908, 30f.; Cavalier 2003a, 174–177 and 2003b: a literary fiction.

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ferred to, and consequently the date of the colophon.55 Bickerman was influential in arguing for the option of Ptolemy XII and Kleopatra V, thus setting the date to 78 BCE.56 This question can be left open for our purposes here. Thus, if the Greek translation was of a version close to the MT,57 as seems reasonable, then the Book of Esther evolved between c. mid-4th century and the 2nd or 1st century BCE. This is true, even if one assumes that the canonical MT text was not yet finalized when the Greek translation was made. The bulk of the history in which the book evolved, therefore, would fall during a time contemporary with the Seleukid era. As succinctly phrased by Paton: ‘the book is a product of the Greek period. The only dispute is, whether it belongs to the earlier or the later part of that period.’58 Admittedly, if the dating to the Greek period is true, one would expect to find two features in the MT text: (1) traces of Greek words and (2) hints of Greek themes or motifs. The first might appear in the text, the second is hard to miss. Ostensibly, as some scholars have pointed out, there is no discernible Greek presence in the Hebrew Book of Esther.59 Yet, as others have argued, the author of the Hebrew version of Esther may have deliberately deleted Greek loanwords found in an earlier version.60 The form of the Hebrew used in the work is certainly contrived and mostly artificial,61 mimicking early biblical Hebrew and not the spoken language of the time in which it was composed.62 By analogy, I argue, even if the author knew Susa after Seleukos I only as Seleukeia-on-the-Eulaios63 (till the Par55 114/3 BCE: Jacob 1890, 279; Erbt 1900, 83; Paton 1908, 30; Torrey 1944, 12, 30; Moore 1971, 112; 1973, 383; 1977, 250. 113 BCE: Hacham 2012, 355, n. 91. 48 BCE: Willrich 1900, 4f. See Bardtke 1963, 252f.; Levenson 1997, 136. Cf. Miller 2014, 113–119. 56 Bickerman 1944, 346f.; Bar-Kochva 1997, 389 corrects this to 77/6 BCE. Fox 1991a, 139 has 73 BCE. 57 See Jobes 1996, 64–71 and De Troyer 2000, 275. To complicate matters, there are various recensions of the Greek text, which may signify independent translations. 58 Paton 1908, 60; cf. p. v. 59 See Moore 1971, liv, lvii. 60 See Berg 1979, 170f., who notes the absence of Greek from several of the Dead Sea scrolls, despite their Hellenistic date. Cf. Wills 1995, 100. See Young and Rezetko 2008, 289: ‘Neither the presence nor the absence of Greek loanwords has any chronological significance.’ 61 See Polzin 1976, 1–12, 74f.: ‘archaized’ Hebrew. For instance, the archaic numbering tradition of placing units before the tens and hundreds found in the Pentateuch is repeated in Esther (1.1; 8.9; 9.30). This language was probably intentional to associate it with the sacred books of scripture. Cf. Striedl 1937, 73f., 82 and Levenson 1997, 130f. In this respect, the effort eventually succeeded since Esther was canonized. That Esther was composed/edited in the post-Persian period could explain some similarities between its Hebrew and later Mishnaic Hebrew; cf. Rabin 1958, 152f., Bergey 1983; 1984; 1988. However, cf. Moore 1971, lvii– lviii. 62 This can be seen in the month formula in the text. In seven out of eleven times (Esther 2.16; 3.7 bis; 3.13; 8.9, 12; 9.1), a compound formula is used employing both the ordinal number of months and their Babylonian names. This practice could be construed as evidence for the existence of the two chronological layers of the text, and the attempt to merge different traditions: the postexilic one employing Babylonian names and the archaizing one, which reverts to the older tradition. See Talshir and Talshir, 2004, 553. Cf. Friedberg 2000. 63 First as a Seleukid military colony and then as a polis: cf. Cohen 1978, 76; Potts 1999, 357, 360–371. See LeRider 1965; Fraser 1996, 33; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 179. After An-


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thians gave it its former name back),64 he still employed the name Susa (‫ )שושן‬as it was found in other biblical texts.65 I would like to propose a new suggestion, that possible Greek influences may be detected in some of the words used, including various hapax legomena. For instance, in Esther 1.6 ‘Beds of gold and silver on a floor of Bahat and Shesh and Dr and Sḥrt’ ( ‫ ְוַדר‬--‫ָוֵשׁשׁ‬-‫ ַﬠל ִרְצַפת ַבַּהט‬,‫ִמטּוֹת ָזָהב ָוֶכֶסף‬ ‫) ְוֹסָחֶרת‬, the word Dr could mean skin or hide (~ δορά).66 A possible Greek influence may be detected even in the special use of the Semitic word keter (crown).67 More obvious is the influence of themes from Greek stories of the ancient Persian court (as told by Herodotos, Xenophon, and in the popular, but now lost, accounts of Ktesias and Deinon). It can be seen almost everywhere in Esther, as has been observed by several scholars.68 As Bickerman puts it, ‘[t]he reader was happy to find in a Hebrew book motifs familiar from the Greek school’.69 Hofmann and Vorbichler list nine general motifs common to the Book of Esther and Herodotos.70 Macchi, who dubs the Book of Esther ‘the Jewish Persica’, adds other parallels. Let us explore some of the main examples here.71 Esther’s manoeuvre to kill Haman in Esther 5.3–14 and 7.1–8 matches actions royal women take to influence kings and courtiers to get rid of their enemies in the Greek accounts.72 The group of seven high-ranking Persians in Esther 1.10 and 14 corresponds to other groups of seven in Greek literature in Herodotos 3.71

64 65 66 67


69 70 71 72

tiochos I: Tcherikover 1927, 168, 175. See also Martinez-Sève 2010, 53–56 on the new importance the place acquired during the second half of the 3rd century BCE. E.g., Rougemont 2012, no. 3.11f. [Artabanos II]. Most notably, Ezra 4.8 [~ Daniel 8.1]; Nehemiah 1.1. Cf. Lees 2017, 100. The last word (Sḥrt) could be close to the Greek σηρικόν (‘silk’), which is exactly the understanding of the Syriac Peshitta translation of Esther 1.6. See, however, Wahl 1999, 23. It is of Cypriot (Hesych. s.v. κίτταρις; cf. Grimme, 1925) origin (from the meaning ‘to surround’), and appears in the OT Bible only in Esther (1.11; 2.17; 6.8), always together with the word ‘royalty’ (‫)מלכות‬, and associated with the Persian court. This use is attested also in Greek in the word κίταρις (Ktesias FGrH 688 F 15.50) for a Persian headdress. According to Ritter 1965, 170–172, the Greeks named the Persian mural crown by the word employed for the Cypriot headband (Hesych. s.v. κίτταρις: διάδημα; cf. Hdt. 7.90). If this is true, then the inclusion of this word in Esther could have been influenced by the Greek usage in the erroneous meaning of ‘crown’. Interestingly, the Greek translations have διάδημα in 2.17 and 1.11 (AT). Jobes 1996, 118. See Pfeiffer 1958. Cf. Fox 1991a, 145. Pace Johnson 2005, 583: ‘In a third century world in which Hellenistic kings and royal officials rapidly took over the pomp and circumstance of their Persian forerunners, and in which Hellenism rapidly penetrated even older cities like Susa and Babylon, we would expect Greek influences upon this type of description to appear almost at once, perhaps even more quickly in Esther than in Daniel; yet in Esther they are absent.’ Bickerman 1967, 205f. Hofmann and Vorbichler 1982. Macchi 2005, 106–135; 2007a, 200–204; 2009, 112–128. For others, cf. Berlin 2001a, 11–13, 21f., 44, 56f., 59–61, 70f., 78–80. Cf. Bickerman 1967, 182f.; Berlin 2001a, 50f.

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and 5.17.73 The centrality of eunuchs in the Persian court and the plotting of eunuchs in Esther of course finds parallels in Greek literature.74 The conversation of Ahasueros with his seven advisors concerning what to do with Vashti in accordance with the law in Esther is similar to that of Kambyses and the royal judges concerning the question whether Persian law permits him to marry his sister in Herodotos’ narrative.75 Persian drinking and banquets in Esther also appear in Greek descriptions.76 Vashti’s refusal to come to the king's banquet is explained by the Persian practice of excluding wives and including only concubines in the banquet.77 Yet, this is more of a conjecture than a real parallel, unlike the king’s wish to display the beauty of his wife to his courtiers, which obviously echoes the Herodotean story of Kandaules.78 Against this background, the fact that Vashti is the one who is removed (after her refusal) rather than the king (as opposed to the Herodotean plot) adds weight to the impression that the royal power is not really defied in the Book of Esther. The description of the efficient postal service in Esther gives the impression that this system is taken for granted, as if the passage in Herodotos is already known.79 There is a parallel to the institutionalization of Purim in the public festival after the killing of Magi (the magophonia).80 The story of Haman using the signet ring to effectively supplant the king has some resemblance to the false Smerdis usurping power.81 Mordecai’s refusal to bow before Haman,82 for which 73 The correspondence with the seven conspirators is also suggested by Wills 1990, 184. Cf. Briant 2002, 129. But this numerical similarity is superficial. See Niskanen 2004a, 22. For the significance of the number in Zoroastrian religion, see Keaveney 2012, 34f. 74 Esther 1.10, 12, 15; 2.3, 8f., 14f., 21; 4.4f.; 6.2, 14; 7.9. Nevertheless, this echoes Ktesias more than Herodotos or Xenophon, who emphasize the trustworthiness of eunuchs: e.g., Hdt. 8.105; Xen. Cyr. 5.2.28; 7.5.24–32; 8.3.17; 8.4.2, and esp. 7.5.60–65. Ktesias: e.g., FGrH 688 F 13.13, 15, 16; 14.33; 15.48, 50, 54; for eunuchs in the court, see Hdt. 3.77f., 130 and Ktesias F 9.6; 13.9, 13, 15f., 24, 31, 33; 14.33, 42f.; 15.48, 51, 54; 16.66. See Guyot 1980, 80– 91; Briant 2002, 268–272. Cf. Macchi 2005, 114f. 75 Esther 1.13–15; Hdt. 3.31. Adding to Macchi, the number of advisors is relevant, since in Xen. Anab. 1.6.4 there are seven nobles who function as judges. 76 Esther 1.3, 5, 7–10; 2.18; 5.6, 8, 14; 6.14; 7.1f., 7f. Cf. Hdt. 3.34; 9.82; Xen. Cyr. 8.8.10–12, 18. Cf. Hdt. 1.133 on the decision taken by the Persians when inebriated and sober. Macchi 2005, 116 and 2007a, 204 finds this difference also in Esther 1.12–22 and 2.1. 77 Plut. Mor. 140b; cf. Hdt. 5.18. Cf. Fox 1991a, 164–170. 78 Hdt. 1.6–13; cf. Ringgren 1955, 21; Bickerman 1967, 185; Jones 1977, 174; Yamauchi 1980, 105; Wajdenbaum 2011, 289f. 79 Esther 1.22; 3.13, 15; 8.10 and Hdt. 8.98; Jones 1977, 179, n. 17. Cf. Xen. Cyr. 8.6.17f.; Macchi 2005, 109 and 2007a, 202. 80 Hdt. 3.79. See Haupt 1906, 8f.; Bickerman 1967, 200f., 206; Wajdenbaum 2011, 295f.; cf. Gunkel 1916, 115. Note the reappearance of motifs in a textual cluster found in Herodotos. See Niskanen 2004, 22. For instance, Esther evokes the figure of Phaidyme, who uncovers the real identity of the false Smerdis (Hdt. 3.68f.). See also Gunkel 1916; Ringgern 1955, 12– 15; Schwartz 1986, 274f.; Momigliano 1990, 15; Balcer 1993, 276–278; Berlin 2001a, 82; Wajdenbaum 2011, 290f. 81 Esther 3.10, 12. 82 Esther 3.2, 5.


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no reason is supplied in the MT, appears to match Greek sentiment against the Persian practice of proskynesis (obeisance) given to a man rather than to a deity (spelled out in the LXX Add C 7),83 and which is found in Greek stories from Herodotos onward.84 In addition, stylistically, there is no denying that there is resemblance between Esther and the Greek mode of descriptions. As Haupt puts it, ‘[e]xplanatory parentheses, which are characteristic of the style of Herodotus, are found more frequently in the Book of Esther than in any other book of the Old Testament.’ Some of these digressions are ethnographic, describing Persian habits and traditions (like Esther 2.12–14; 4.11).85 The similarities may rather indicate that some sections of the Book of Esther were indeed influenced by Greek civilization and literature, as some scholars have argued. Moore even goes so far as claiming: ‘one cannot discount the possibility that the author of Esther may have had access to these classical histories and used them to make his own story more authentic.’86 This is a much better explanation for the resemblances than postulating a shared oral folkloristic tradition,87 or simultaneous literary developments.88 Bearing in mind the possibility of Greek influence, it is no wonder that some depictions (e.g., the Persian king’s irrational temper in Esther 1.12; 2.1) correspond to what Herodotos wrote,89 and that the author appears to have an intimate knowledge of court protocol. The parallels to Greek literature were presumably meant to follow the conventions of stories on the Persian court, with the educated readers probably expecting these motifs to be

83 Cf. Berg 1979, 171f.; Fox 1991a, 42–44. The reason is not that Jewish law is being violated (unlike Jos. AJ 11.6.5 [210]; 11.6.8 [230], cf. Esther 3.4); cf. Bickerman 1967, 179. It appears to be rather Greek religious perception and ideal of freedom that are ostensibly transgressed; see Macchi 2007a, 209 and 2009, 118; Wajdenbaum 2011, 291f.; cf. Berlin 2001a, 34–36. 84 See Hdt. 1.134; Xen. Anab. 1.6.10; 1.8.21; Cyr. 8.3.14; Athen. 13.556b; Plut. Them. 27.4. For the implication that the Persian monarch is akin to the divine, see Almagor 2017. For Greek sentiment against the practice, see Isokr. Paneg. 151; Xen. Anab. 3.2.13; Arr. Anab. 4.10.5– 12.2 (cf. the parallel Curt. 8.5.5–22 and Plut. Alex. 54.2f.) and Arr. Anab. 4.12.3–5 (cf. the parallel Plut. Alex. 54.4–6). There is no need to postulate the Kallisthenes incident of 328 BCE as a potential source for Esther, pace Bickerman 1951, 117 and 1967, 220f.; Berg 1979, 172 and Ego 2010a, 290. Herodotos 7.136 is enough; cf. Ego 2010b, 20 and Feldman 1970, 148. 85 Haupt 1906, 9; cf. Macchi 2007a, 217 and 2009, 124. 86 Moore 1975, 70. Cf. Wills 1995, 109, n. 34 and 2011, 162; Macchi 2005, 131; 2007a, 220; 2009, 126. Cf. Berlin 2001a, xliii: ‘[t]he book does not evince any antagonism toward Hellenistic culture, as one would expect if it has been written in Hellenistic times.’ 87 Cf. Berlin 2001a, xxviii–xxxii, xlii–xliii and 2001b: a similar collection of narrative motifs. Talmon 1963, 450. 88 Cf. Johnson 2005, 589: ‘Esther and Ktesias may simply reflect differing responses to the same basic need.’ Cf. Wills 1995, 16, 28 and 2011, 142: ‘Jewish novelistic literature [...] evolved in a way parallel to Greek novels, but earlier, and thus not at first influenced by them’; cf. p. 153. 89 Barucq 1961, 3; Moore 1975, 69.

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found.90 In matters of genre, as has already been argued before, Esther displays some features close to the Hellenistic novel, romance or novella,91 even a historical novel.92 Accordingly, rather than being a Persian work, the Book of Esther may in fact be a book reflecting the Greek image of Persia, which was circulating during the early Hellenistic period. It was a Hellenistic work, as some scholars have already asserted.93 After presenting a brief survey of scholarly opinion on this particular issue, I would like now to advance new arguments that the work was edited specifically during the Seleukid period and within the Seleukid kingdom. III. THE BOOK OF ESTHER AS SELEUKID RATHER THAN PTOLEMAIC In terms of date, there is a correspondence between the conclusion reached above and ancient Jewish tradition. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Bava Batra 15a), Esther, together with Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets and Daniel, was written by the Great Assembly (Knesset HaGedola) in the Land of Israel (Palestine). This institution (if it ever existed) was traditionally set between the Persian period and Simon the Righteous (3rd or 2nd centuries BCE).94 In terms of location, however, the reality is different from that of the Jewish tradition. The Book of Esther reflects a diasporic Jewish existence, rather than one centered in Judaea or the Land of Israel (Palestine).95 This is evident from the 90 This is not a matter of intended appropriation, pace Macchi 2009, 117 and 2007a, 212. Wajdenbaum 2011, 288, who claims that Herodotos’ third book appears to be the ‘main source’ of Esther, even goes on to dub this section in his volume ‘Estherodotus’. 91 See Stiehl 1956, 6–9: Hellenistic novella; Hallo 1983, 25: ‘a diaspora-novella’; Wills 1995, 2, 7, 21 and 2011, 142; cf. Bickerman 1967, 209: ‘Greek love novels’. See Smith 1984, 243f.: ‘of the ancient genre of romantic-religious novellae that revived in the Hellenistic world’; Heltzer 2008, 145: ‘pseudohistoric novella’. But cf. Cazelles 1961, 20; Fox 1991a, 145; Johnson 2005, 575 and Zeitlin 2008, 107. 92 Cf. Gunkel 1916, 75f.; Moore 1971, lii, lv; 1975, 79; Bickerman 1967, 206; Levenson 1997, 25; Gruen 2002, 145: ‘a comic historical novel’. Cf. Gordis 1976, 43; Niskanen 2004, 21; cf. Talmon 1963, 426: ‘a historicized wisdom-tale’. But cf. Haupt 1906, 21. 93 Striedl 1937, 81: post 300 BCE; Bardtke 1963: 252–255: c. 200 BCE; Bickerman 1967, 202, 204–207: possibly as early 3rd century BCE to mid-2nd century BCE; Clines 1984b, 271f.: ‘perhaps also in the early Hellenistic period (late fourth to third centuries)’; Fox 1991a, 139f.: 3rd century BCE; Bush 1996, 296f.: late 4th to early 3rd century BCE; Levenson 1997, 26: 4th or 3rd century BCE; Macchi 2007a, 226 and 2007b, 90: not earlier than 250 BCE. Cf. Haag 2003, 118–133; Ego 2010a. 94 Cf. Mishnah, Avot Tractate 1.2. The reference could be to either of two Oniad high priests, Simon I, near the beginning of the Ptolemaic reign in Palestine (Jos. AJ 12.2.5 [43]; 12.4.1 [157]) or Simon II, at the start of the Seleukid rule (Jos. AJ 12.4.10 [224f.]; Sirach 50.1–7; cf. Tosephta Sotah 13.6–8; Yerushalmi Talmud Yoma 33b (6.3); Babylonian Talmud Yoma 39a, b; Menahot 109b). Marcus 1943, 732–736; Hengel 1974, 1.52, 73, 270–272; 2.180, n. 89. 95 Cf. Paton 1908, 63; Gunkel 1916, 84; Daube 1946, 140, 146; Talmon 1963, 431f.; Humphreys 1973; Levenson 1976, 444f.; Clines 1984a, 168; Fox 1991a, 145f.; Beal 1997, 33, 58f., 112, 119f.; Levenson 1997, 15–17; Berlin 2001a, xxxiv–xxxvi, 93–95; Gruen 2002,


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very venue of the story and from the fact that Jerusalem is hardly mentioned in it (only once, in 2.6).96 It is not that the book must have been written in the diaspora because it speaks about the diaspora. Rather, the ultimate goal of the Book of Esther seems to point at the possibility of religious autonomous existence of Jews outside of the Land of Israel (Palestine), in a separate physical presence among non-Jews.97 The milieu in which such a book was composed would thus have to be a Jewish centre outside the Land of Israel. This could be either in the Ptolemaic lands, most probably Alexandria, as suggested by some scholars,98 or in the Seleukid kingdom, as I argue here. There is a strong reason to prefer the second option. According to the colophon quoted above, Dositheos and the other transmitters of Lysimachos’ translation into Ptolemaic Alexandria vouch for the existence of the original text.99 This fact means that the book was completely unknown among the Jews of Ptolemaic lands,100 and thus Alexandria must be ruled out as its provenance. It is more likely that the book was composed and began circulating in the east, leaving aside for the moment whether it was in Babylon, Susa or some other location.101 I would like to add that this is also evident once we remember that in fact the Semitic Vorlage of the Greek Esther did not comprise at least two of the six Additions that were incorporated into the LXX version.102 The inclusion of the

96 97

98 99

100 101 102

145–148; Macchi 2007b, 77f.; Ego 2010, 300. Pace Grossman 2011, 242, Esther asserts that diasporic life is a fact to reckon with (Koller, 2014, 85, 128). Cf. Berg 1979, 10, 68, 170; Crawford 1996, 308; Bush 1998, 44. This is also evident from the designation of Mordecai as ‘a Jewish man’ (Esther 2.5), a foreigner in a foreign land; see Bush 1998, 43f. For Esther as echoing the diasporan narrative of Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 39–50), see Rosenthal 1895 and 1897; Gan 1962; Talmon 1963, 454f.; Gerleman 1966, 308–339; Meinhold 1975 and 1976; Levenson 1997, 60; Grossman 2009, 397f.; Koller 2014, 79–85. Cf. Loader 1978, 420: ‘The Book of Esther […] may […] be read as a new Joseph story as it can be read as a new exodus story.’ See also Berg 1979, 123–165; Macchi 2007b, 77f.; Esther 3.4 (~ Genesis 39.10); 3.10 and 8.2 (~ Genesis 41.42); 8.15 (~ Genesis 41.42). Cf. the LXX addition 6.13, that God is ‘with him [Mordecai]’ ~ Genesis 39.3). See Josephus AJ 11.254 who inserts a detail from Genesis 41.42 into his rendition of Esther 6.8, and Feldman 1970, 156f. Macchi 2005, 133f. and 2007a, 226. Cf. Macchi 2007b, 90. And see Jobes 1996, 136 on Ptolemaic Egypt ‘while it exercised hegemony over Jerusalem’ as the venue of the AT Greek variant. Cf. Willrich 1900, 1–28. The patronym of the Palestinian translator of Esther into Greek attests to the ties of the Palestinian population with the Ptolemies; cf. Moore 1973, 383: ‘an Egyptian name’; according to Bar-Kochva 1997, 390, he was an Alexandrian Jew residing in Jerusalem. Cf. Moore, 1977, 252; Torrey 1944, 26f. maintains that the names indicate the ‘high probability that the version was made with the express purpose of providing the Egyptian Jews with this important document.’ Cf. Bickerman 1944, 355; Hengel 1974, 1.101. Pace Jobes 1996, 228f., who believes that the Semitic Esther entered Egypt already during the Persian period. Bickerman 1967, 207 argues for Susa. Four of the so-called Greek Additions to the MT, namely, A, C, F and perhaps D were probably made from Semitic source(s), now lost; two Additions, that is B and E, were originally Greek. See Paton 1908, 41–47; Torrey 1944, 2, 7f., 25, 27; Moore 1971, lxiii–iv, 103–111; 1973, 387f., 390, 393; 1977, 154f.; Martin 1975; Tov 2008a, 508, 517–520 and 2008b, 379–

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colophon in the MSS, however, affirms that neither Lysimachos nor the transmitter were criticized later on by Alexandrian Jewry for any discrepancy they noticed between a Hebrew Vorlage and the Greek rendering. All this points to the conclusion that a Hebrew Esther in any form (a proto-MT or a rewritten one) was not known among Alexandrian Jewry. Moreover, as some scholars have noted, there are clear indications that the name of the feast itself was not yet fixed among the Greek speaking Jews of Alexandria:103 the name of the festival in the LXX translation (Φρουραί in Add F 11, also in LXX 9.29) is not the same as in the MT; it is a Greek word meaning ‘guards, garrisons’, probably hypercorrecting (the Aramaic) Φουραία.104 I believe this fact also points to the same conclusion. Yet, once translated, the text appears to have had a tremendous impact on Alexandrian Jewry. For instance, the written account of 3 Maccabees, narrating the deliverance of Jews from a persecution by Ptolemy IV Philopator, was probably influenced by the LXX text of Esther, which was already circulating.105 Furthermore, I would like to propose a new argument to that effect. The image of a king whose base is in Susa and is ruling Egypt, as Ahasueros is in Esther 1.1 and 8.9, would seem to be completely at odds with Ptolemaic ideology. The Ptolemies associated their antagonism with the Seleukids with that between pharaonic Egypt and the Achaemenids.106 This association is evidenced by several documents, for instance: a) A demotic ostrakon discovered at Karnak dated to 258 BCE refers to the victory of the king (Ptolemy II Philadelphos) over the ‘philo-Persian’ monarch (line 3), thus alluding to military activities in the First or Second Syrian Wars (Egitto e Vicino Oriente 6, Pisa 1983, 15f.). b)

103 104 105 106

The Adoulis Inscription (c. 245 BCE; OGIS 1.54.18–22) overstates Ptolemy III Euergetes’ successes during the Third Syrian War (246–241

383, who prefers to call them ‘narrative Expansions’, argues that Adds A, C, D and F were originally found in a Hebrew rewritten version of the MT (pace Bickerman 1951, 114). From the fact that B and E are integrated into the LXX text (cf. Bickerman 1951, 118, n. 48), one may conclude that they were made by the translator himself (Tov 2008a, 519 and 2008b, 382). Pace Bickerman 1944, 350. Josephus’ version in AJ 11.6.13 (295) is another variant (φρουρέαι). In its turn, this word is ‫( פּוַּריא‬Pûrayyā), the Aramaic plural of ‫( פּוּר‬pur) – as Purim may be seen as a (Hebrew) plural of pur. Cf. Lewy 1939, 127, n. 2; Torrey 1944, 6; pace Haupt 1906, 14. Koller 2014, 122f., 139–141; cf. Hadas 1953, 6–8; Moore 1977, 195–199; Wills 1995, 204f. Cf. the killing of Jewish apostates done by special permission from king Ptolemy IV (3Macc 7.10–15). Hölbl 2001, 49, 81, 107. See also Coşkun, ch. 15 in this volume.


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BCE) in conquering Mesopotamia,107 Persia, Media and land as far as Baktria108 and in retrieving items109 taken by the Persians. c) Similarly, the trilingual Kanopos Decree from 238 BCE110 marks the recovery of the sacred images, which were ‘robbed by Persia,’ in the campaigns of Ptolemy III into Asia.111 On the contrary, then, the Ptolemies’ territorial ambitions covered Syria and parts of Asia.112 The depiction of Egypt as ruled by Persia would thus be alien to the Ptolemaic self-image and would not sit well with the official picture. While this in itself is not a conclusive argument, taken together with the previous consideration, it indicates the likelihood that the text of the Book of Esther was composed or edited outside of Alexandria or other Ptolemaic areas. Therefore, it would seem that the Book of Esther evolved in one of the centres of the Seleukid kingdom, which provided the venue and context that influenced its depiction of court life. One may reasonably speculate that it originated in fact not far from the areas depicted in it.113 The most likely place for the first version of the story to emerge would be Mesopotamia, given its strong local Babylonian colour, although it is not necessary. For instance, it might appear that the Book of Esther vaguely alludes to a turbulent time for the native population in Achaemenid Babylon, as proposed once in research.114 As Herodotos notes, Persian reaction to a Babylonian insurrection was harsh, and included damage to the Esagila, the temple complex of Marduk, and the removal of a gold statue (presumably not of Marduk).115 Indeed, cuneiform sources suggest that two leading rebels revolted in Babylon during Xerxes’ reign (484 BCE).116 Kuhrt and Sherwin-White reject the claim that the Persians destroyed the Esagila temple, and claim this descrip107 108 109 110 111 112

113 114 115


Cf. App. Syr. 65.343–346. Cf. Just. [Pomp. Trog.] Prol. 27.1.9; Polyainos 8.50. Cf. Dan 11.8 and Jer. In Dan 11.7–9 = FGrH 260 F 43. OGIS 56.6, 10f.; see Pfeiffer 2004, 20, 85–89. Cf. Jer. In Dan 11.8 or the Satrap Stele of 311 BCE. See Bresciani 1978 and 1983; SherwinWhite and Kuhrt 1993, 39; Devauchelle 1995; Barbantani 2001, 162–176; 2002/3, 43f.; 2014, 24f.; Muccioli 2004, 129; Grainger 2010, 127, 261f. Cf. Meeus 2014, esp. 278f., 287f., 301f.; Strootman 2014, 314f., 320–322. Ptolemy VI Philometor occupied Syria and perhaps ruled Antioch as a king of Asia for a month or two in 145 BCE. See 1Macc 11.1–18; Jos. AJ 13.4.7 (113); Diod. 32.9c. Cf. Goldstein 1976, 247; Grainger 1990, 157, n. 91 and 2010, 346–348. Perhaps related to this issue is the adoption of the title ‘Great King’ by Ptolemy III (OGIS 1.54); cf. Letter of Aristeas 29 for Ptolemy II. Cf. Bush 1996, 295. Cf. Littman 1975, 153f. Hdt. 1.183. See MacGinnis 1986, 73f. For other memories of the destruction, see Diod. 17.112.1–3 and Arr. Anab. 3.16.4; 7.17.2; Strab. 16.1.5. See Kuhrt 1988, 68–71. On the suppression of the revolt, compare Ktesias FGrH 688 F 13.26 (Xerxes, Megabyzos) with Hdt. 3.150–159 (Darius, Zopyros). Cf. the Book of Tobit, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus MSS, 14.15 on Ahasueros as destroyer of Nineveh (with Nebuchadnezzar II); cf. Lewy 1939, 149. Cf. Cameron 1941, 319–324; Briant 1992. They may be alluded to in the inscription XPh § 28–32.

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tion was overly exaggerated. Yet, there was perhaps some loss of importance of Babylon during this period or some infringement of the privileges of the elite or priestly class,117 which created this memory of mayhem during the reign of Xerxes. If this is true, and the Book of Esther indeed contains a reference to the suppression of this event,118 this portrayal was only possible in a much later period, not under the Achaemenids (and certainly not immediately after Xerxes), but rather in the Hellenistic age. To this suggestion I would like to add that some scholars have argued in the past119 that the names Mordecai and Esther may reflect the Babylonian deities Marduk and Ishtar.120 There are other arguments I would like to advance to demonstrate the Babylonian connection: e.g., the genealogy of Mordecai, which goes back to the elite families exiled with Jehoiakim to Babylon (Esther 2.6). One may in particular note the ironic similarity between two biblical passages.121 In 2Kings 25.27f., the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach (Marduk) lifted (‫ )נשא‬the exiled Jehoiachin king of Judah and placed his chair (‫ )כסא‬above the chairs of the kings who were with him (‫ )אשר אתו‬in Babylon. In Esther 3.1, Ahasueros lifted up (‫ )נשא‬Haman and placed his chair (‫ )כסא‬above the ministers who were with him (‫)אשר אתו‬. This is surely no coincidence, and affects a subtle tension between Marduk and the Jews on the one hand, and the Persian king and Haman on the other. It may be that this allusion to Marduk in Esther is another reference to the tumultuous occurrences in Babylon during Xerxes’ time. Hence it should sensibly be seen as created during the Seleukid (i.e. post-Persian) period.

117 Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1987. Changes in political status, confiscation of lands, increased taxes over temples: Dandamayev 1992, 4f., 17, 19, 21. Of relevance here are the sudden disappearances of the archives in Babylon, Borsippa and Sippar in 484 BCE pertaining to the administration of northern Babylonian temples or to members of the aristocracy in cultic and administrative personnel, the likely supporters of the rebels. See Waerzeggers 2003/4, 156– 163. 118 Rather than Artaxerxes II’s attempt to introduce the cult and statues of Mithras and Anahita (Berossos FGrH 680 F 11), as Hoschander 1923, 119–138 and Lewy 1939, 147f. assume. 119 See Jensen 1892, 70, 209–212; Haupt 1906, 10, 22; 1907, 112f.; 1908, 100f., 114, and recently Hiepel 2014; cf. Lewy 1939, 128–130; Littman 1975, 149 on Esther’s other name, Hadassah, as a form derived from ḫadaššatu (Akk. ‘bride’), an epithet applied to Ishtar. See Paton 1908, 87–89; Dalley 2007, 169. Zadok 1986, 107 opposes this identification and supports the explanation of Scheftelowitz, 1901, 39, n. 9 that it derives from Old Iranian *star-, ‘star’. The 7th century CE Aramaic translation of Esther (Targum Sheni) 2.7 links her name with the bright star ‘Greek Astêra’ (‫)אסתירא‬. Cf. Babylonian Talmud Megillah Tractate 13a, where Esther is a star, yet it is the planet Venus (= Ishtar). Cf. Yahuda 1946; Moore 1975, 77. 120 The name Mordecai itself is non-Jewish in origin. See Bickerman 1967,181. Admittedly, one of the Jews returning with Zerubbabel was called by this name (Ezra 2.2; Nehemiah 7.7). Yet, this could be a late redaction of the text (note the nearby name ‘Nehemiah’ in Ezra 2.2); cf. Grabbe, 1998, 11f. along the lines suggested by Koller 2014, 124–128, 173, and at 128 (i.e., as if ‘the only solution to the problem of Diaspora is to return home’). 121 Pointed out by Frisch 1992, 26, but without the conclusion I draw from it.


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IV. THE BOOK OF ESTHER SET AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF SELEUKID MONARCHY A new approach to the Book of Esther is to view several analogies between the text and its imagery and Seleukid texts. The kingdom of the Persian monarch Ahasueros is an empire comprising 127 regions from India to Ethiopia (= Kush, ‫כוש‬: Esther 1.1; 8.9). This image is in accordance with the Achaemenid portrayal, as it appears in the royal inscriptions.122 The picture is also in tune with an imperialistic trend, which at some point is observable in Seleukid propaganda, namely, that the Seleukids inherit the Persian Empire, of course, intermediately through Alexander.123 It at least echoes Antiochos III’s grand ‘campaign up-country’ (anabasis) to reclaim territories once held under Seleukid suzerainty (212–205 BCE).124 The Seleukids’ rule in Asia (importantly in the eastern regions) definitely stressed a certain affiliation with the Achaemenid kingdom, its practices and administration. Strabo mentions the use of the same Achaemenid palaces in Ekbatana by the Seleukids.125 Achaemenid titles survived into the Seleukid period: for instance, the epithet ‘Great King’, Šarru rabû (LUGAL GAL), seen in the clay Cyrus Cylinder (l. 20), was also employed by the Seleukids.126 In making his territorial claims on Thrace, Antiochos III implicitly built, in some way, on the memory of the former Persian Empire and its territorial scope to strengthen his argument.127 It would even appear that Antiochos adopted the name ‘Great’ (megas) after c. 200 BCE precisely in order to present himself as the Great King, that is, as an overlord of regions within his power, even those not necessarily directly managed by Seleukid officials and agents.128 From this idea naturally 122 Ethiopia, Kûshiya, is the last country mentioned in Xerxes’ list: XPe § 19–28. See Xen. Cyr. 8.8.1. 123 See App. Syr. 55.278–282; cf. Plut. Demetr. 32.7. Cf. Briant 1990, 46f. 124 Polyb. 8.23; 10.27–31, 49; 11.34; Strabo 11.14.1–16 (527C–533C); Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 79–84, 190–200; Grainger 2015, 55–79. 125 Strab. 11.13.5. Cf. Sherwin-White 1987, 16f.; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 135; McKenzie 1994, 64, 68. For instances where the Seleukids really acted as heirs of the Achaemenids, see Sherwin-White 1987, 24f.; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 42–44, 56f., 62, 67, 70, 75, 78, 80, 90. 126 Taken from the Assyrian titulature. See Stevens 2014, 73, 75; See Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1991, 78, 83; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 38f.; Barbantani 2014, 33–37; Kosmin 2014, 181; Engels 2017, 55, n. 69, 73–100. 127 Almagor 2019, 94f. This was the way Antiochos’ legitimization of his expansionist policy by the claim to territories lost (Livy. 33.38.1: in antiquam imperii formulam; cf. Polyb. 18.51.3–6; Livy 33.40.4f., 35.16.6, 9f.; App. Syr. 1.3) was seen by ancient and modern commentators. Appian, for instance, claims (Syr. 1.2): ‘he would not release the Aiolians and the Ionians, since they had long been accustomed to obey the barbarian kings of Asia.’ Yet, cf. Tuplin 2008, 123. 128 On the title Great King see, e.g., SEG XXIX 1613; XXXIII 867; XLIII 707; OGIS 230; 237.12f.; 239; 240; 246.7; 746; on the personal designation see App. Syr. 1.1; Polyb. 4.2.7; SEG XLI 1003; OGIS 245, 246. See Bevan 1902b; Holleaux 1942, 159f., 180f.; Walbank 1957, 450f. and 1967, 638f.; Spranger 1958, 29f.; Schmitt 1964, 92–95; Jones 1993, 86f.; Ma 1999, 272–276. Cf. Tuplin 2008, 119 and 2014, 260, who points to the fact that Antiochos

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followed the Seleukid claim to rule over Egypt, which was certainly apparent in the reigns of Antiochos III and Antiochos IV,129 and is implied in the depiction of Ahasueros’ rule as reaching Ethiopia. Given these components in Seleukid ideology, it is no wonder that Ahasueros was viewed in research as implying for the texts’ readers the royal authority of the dynasty current in the days of the work’s composition or circulation.130 As Bickerman described it, ‘[t]he king [...] looked like a double of a Seleukid, a Ptolemy, or a Parthian ruler’.131 This connection between the ostensible (fictional) Persian court in Esther and the implied contemporary Seleukids is even explicitly pronounced in the LXX translation, indicating a certain milieu (in a broad sense) in which the MT version was also written. For instance, Haman bears the titles τοῦ τεταγμένου ἐπὶ τῶν πραγμάτων καὶ δευτέρου πατρὸς ἡμῶν (Add B 6) and τὸ δεύτερον τοῦ βασιλικοῦ θρόνου πρόσωπον διατελεῖν (Add E 11), which Bickerman dubs ‘title of the Seleucid grand vizier’;132 this can also be seen in the allusion to other technical terms used in the Seleukid administration.133 The Greek style used to depict Haman’s writing in ‘Persian’ is the official one employed by the Seleukids.134 I would like to suggest a new argument, which examines another element in the Book of Esther against Seleukid self-presentation. One of the well-known traits of the MT version, as opposed to the Greek translations of Esther, is the absence of any higher authority above the Great King. While the word ‘king’ (‫)מלך‬ is mentioned 190 times in 167 verses, God is not mentioned in the story at all,135 not by name or through manifestation, not even in prayer within the context of


130 131 132 133 134 135

followed Ptolemy III (OGIS 1.54, Hölbl 2001, 49, 111) in this. See Engels 2017, 307–347 for the Seleukid assumption of established Near Eastern traditions, especially with regard to nominal overlordship over territories. See, however, Muccioli 2013, 52–59; Mehl 2022. For instance, Paus. 1.7.3. Cf. the engagement (Polyb. 18.51.10; Livy. 33.40.3; Diod. 28.12; App. Syr. 3.13) and marriage (Livy. 35.13.4; App. Syr. 5.18; Zonar. 9.18.7) of Antiochos III’s daughter, Kleopatra, to Ptolemy V Epiphanes in 194/3 BCE, which is interpreted by Grainger 2010, 269f., 274 and Engels 2017, 337 as intended to incorporate Egypt into the Seleukid sphere of influence; cf. Daniel 11.42f. And cf. Grainger 2010, 134 on the marriage of Antiochos II and Ptolemy II’s daughter; Antiochos IV Epiphanes’ campaigns against Egypt in 169/8 BCE and his proclamation as new regent for his nephew Ptolemy VI, perhaps even king: Porphyr. FGrH 260 F 49a; Mittag 2006, 171–175; Grainger 2010, 306. See Hölbl 2001, 147: an attempt to establish a Seleukid protectorate over Egypt in the name of Ptolemy VI. In a variation of what Fox 1991a, 138 termed a ‘coded representation’ of events belonging to another time and place in Esther. Bickerman 1967, 205. Bickerman 1951, 114f., n. 41. Bickerman 1951, 115f., n. 42, e.g., γαζοφυλάκιον, διάταγμα, τοπάρχοι. Bickerman 1967, 219: ‘Haman not only bears the title of the Seleucid grand vizier; he also writes like one.’ Ahasueros is mentioned 29 times. See Paton 1908, 94–96; Moore 1971, xxxii–xxxiv. Consequently, the festival of Purim is not ordained by God, but rather by a document that is made to resemble a royal edict; cf. Berlin 2001a, xv–xvi.


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fasting.136 This fact was given theological significance by readers and commentators all throughout the history of interpretation of the text. By this feature, Esther is different from biblical books composed or edited during the Persian period, as can be seen from the description of Cyrus the Great as God’s anointed one (Messiah) in Deutero-Isaiah 45.1 (also 44.28) or as appointed by God to build the Temple in Jerusalem as in Ezra 1.2.137 The latter passages portray an approach, corresponding to Persian royal ideology,138 in which the monarch acknowledged he was elected and directed by god. This Achaemenid self-presentation persists through different variations necessitated by various subject peoples and their pantheons. The portrayal in the Achaemenid inscriptions139 is not in variance with the Cyrus Cylinder (BM 90920), in which the Persian king is said to be chosen and directed by the god Marduk (ll. 11–15, 17, 26, 33).140 Against this background, the absence of God from Esther is conspicuous.141 The environment in which the text of Esther was written was clearly dissimilar. One could compare this trait of the text with the features of the Akkadian foundation clay text known as the Borsippa Cylinder (BM 36277, 268 BCE).142 This cylinder commemorates the rebuilding of the Ezida temple of the god Nabû by Antiochos I. It ostensibly stands in the local tradition of Neo-Babylonian building inscriptions. Yet in the cylinder, there is a marked difference in that several mentions of deities are omitted: the proclamation that the gods, especially Marduk, selected this monarch to rule the country, and the assertion that the rebuilding of the temple was commanded by the local god, or by Marduk.143 According to Beaulieu,

136 Esther 4.16; cf. AT 4.16. See Moore 1971, 51; Clines 1984a, 152f.; Fox 1991a, 235–237. This also occurs where God’s presence is necessitated. The source of succor, so Mordecai claims (Esther 4.14), will arrive ‘from another quarter’, implying God: cf. the AT, Jos. AJ 11.6.7 (227); Paton 1908, 222f.; Talmon 1963, 428f.; Moore 1971, 50; Fox 1991a, 63. But not according to Bush 1996, 395–397, who sees this as a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer. Cf. the literal interpretation of Beal 1997, 73 as a reference to a location. 137 Cf. Ezra 7.23; Nehemiah 2.20. These passages were clearly written during the Persian period; see Fried 2002, 378f.; cf. Bickerman 2007, 71–107; Newsom 2011, 43–46; also Daniel 6.26f. 138 See Blenkinsopp 2002, 249 reflecting ‘pro-Persian propaganda circulating in the Near East’. Cf. Smith 1963 for a closer connection. 139 Ahura Mazda chooses the king to fulfill his will on earth. In one inscription from Susa, Darius states this explicitly (DSf § 15–18): ‘[Ahuramazda] chose me as (his) man in all the earth; he made me king in all the earth.’ In Behistun (DB 1.12), or Naqh-I Rustam (DNa § 30–36), Darius claims to have been chosen for the purpose of setting order in the world. In his inscriptions, Xerxes himself claims that his appointment by Darius was the desire of Ahura Mazda (from Persepolis, XPf § 4.33–35). 140 See Kuhrt 1983, 88f. on Cyrus following Assyrian policy in relation to the Babylonian cities. 141 For explanations for the absence of God in Esther, see Torrey 1944, 11; Talmon 1963, 433; Gordis 1981; Clines 1984a, 154; Greenstein 1987, 232f.; Fox 1991a, 237–247; Koller 2014, 96–106. 142 Strassmaier 1882, 139–142; Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1991; Strootman 2013; Kosmin 2014. 143 This particular break with Babylonian or Mesopotamian tradition is not mentioned in Kuhrt and Sherwin-White 1991, 78f.; 82.

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[t]he removal of the divine agents in the decision process is more consistent with the ideology of Hellenistic monarchies than with the Babylonian world. Antiochus rules by virtue of his Macedonian ancestry, not because Marduk called him to kingship. He himself made the decision to rebuild the Ezida temple; the gods did not order him to do so.144

In discussing the same Cylinder, Stevens also speaks of a tendency to deemphasize divine agency, conforming to the Seleukid monarchs’ self-presentation or the official projected image, and contrasts it with previous Near Eastern inscriptions, where gods are mentioned as choosing a ruler to conduct building projects: In all except the shortest inscriptions, rulers prefaced the description of their building activities, particularly those relating to temples, with clauses emphasizing their status as the chosen (and subordinate) agent of the gods [...] Nabopolassar’s work on the Babylon ziggurat receives an introduction which stresses both his divine support and the necessity of rebuilding [...] Similarly, his son, Nebuchadnezzar [...] persistently stresses that temple (re)building is part of his divinely-appointed mandate on earth [... he] presents Marduk as directly instigating Nebuchadnezzar’s building programme [...] [in the Antiochos Cylinder] it seems as if there has been a deliberate shift of focus from divine to human actor, explicable with regard to Greek cultural norms and Seleucid religious policy. From a Greek or Macedonian perspective, the construction or restoration of a temple could be unproblematically represented as the result of a human decision, and Hellenistic kings tended to emphasize, rather than downplay, their own agency ... Unlike earlier rulers of Babylonia, Antiochus lacks any epithets linking him directly to Mesopotamian deities ... it is striking that Antiochus has no such epithet, and it is tempting to read this together with the emphasis on human agency in the building section as evidence for specifically Seleucid input ... One might therefore suggest that we see in both the titulary and the building section a subtle but deliberate shift in the representation of ruler and gods, and the relationship between the two, in line with Seleucid royal ideology.145

It is not the aim of the present chapter to display a study of the role of deities in Seleucid royal representation, but rather to indicate a similarity between the Seleukid self-presentation as displayed in the Cylinder and the Book of Esther. However one chooses to interpret this similarity, it cannot be denied that these two texts display a comparable oddity which at least has to be explained. I believe part of the explanation could be found in postulating some influence of this particular characteristic of Seleukid royal ideology on the editor or author of the Book of Esther. If this is true, then the absence of God from the Book of Esther fits an official current contemporary with the author/editor and matches the work’s intentional attempt to display an apparent unbiased, almost authoritative

144 Beaulieu 2014, 126. 145 Stevens 2014, 78f. Moreover, the god Nabû is less present as an actor even in prayers, exactly like in Esther. Cf. Stevens 2014, 81f.


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view of the events.146 Perhaps this was also done in an ironic manner, since the contemporary outlook was not Persian, but rather Seleukid.147 Furthermore, it would seem that by carefully portraying the ultimate authority as that of the king, and not of any higher deity, the author/editor of the MT Esther was subtly hinting at the divine honours given to the Seleukid monarchs, whether spontaneously conducted by cities, officially imposed, or posthumously granted.148 This reality, reflected in Esther, is the same: the king as divine can claim absolute and unlimited authority over his kingdom and his subjects. The same attitude is portrayed as hubristic and arrogant in the example of the general Nikanor in 2 Maccabees 15.3–5. I would like to suggest that educated Jewish readers, sensitive also to the intertextual biblical references, could have picked up the interpretation that the Book of Esther subtly presents the king as divine or deified. To this end, one may compare Esther 2.14, in which the king calls by name his favourite concubine, with the text of Isaiah 43.1, in which God calls his people by name.149 Similarly, the king greatly ‘honours’ (‫ )גדל את‬Haman in an expression which is the same used to describe the ‘honour’ given to Joshua by God himself in Joshua 4.14.150 Surely, these similarities are not accidental. The transition from the Book of Esther in Hebrew to Lysimachos’ Greek LXX translation in Jerusalem reveals an interesting development: God’s overt involvement in the course of events. Clines believes that the function of the mention of God’s interventions in the LXX was to ‘recreate the book in the mould of postexilic Jewish history’ like ‘the Persian histories’ of Ezra and Nehemiah.151 Of importance here is that the sentiment, which the author of the MT Esther was unable or unwilling to express, is explicitly given in the Greek translation,152 when the Seleukid Empire has already declined from its zenith. Now it is said that the God

146 Bickerman 1967, 171: ‘a factual report’ (cf. also 195); Gordis 1981, 375: ‘[t]he author... writes ostensibly as a Persian and a non-Jew.’ Clines’ response in 1984b, 268 that ‘the author’s interest in things Persian seems more appropriate in an author who shares with his audience an outsider’s position vis-à-vis the Persian court’ only highlights the fact that Esther is later than the Persians; it does not eliminate the impression of an official account, which could be post- Achaemenid. 147 It is also ironic in the sense that ‘the king [...] while wielding overwhelming –nearly divine – power, is a comical image of a true monarch’, according to Koller 2014, 100. 148 Posthumous: cf. App. Syr. 1.65. Divine honours were promoted and organised by the living kings for previous monarchs of the ruling dynasty or for themselves, certainly on coinage from the reign of Antiochos IV. On views regarding the official Seleukid ruler cult and the municipal or civic cult see Bickerman 1938, 236–257; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 116– 118, 202–210; Ma 1999, 219–226. 149 Cf. Beal 1997, 37: ‘gives Ahasuerus an almost deified character’; cf. especially 118. Cf. Wetter 2012, 324. 150 Esther 3.1; cf. Grossman 2011, 225, without the conclusion I draw from the comparison. 151 Clines 1984a, 169; According to Tov 2008a, 521 and 2008b, 384, this addition was already in the Hebrew rewritten version, which was the basis for the LXX, paralleling exegetical expansions which were later included in the Talmud (cf. Megillah 13a). 152 Cf. Bickerman 1967, 229; Moore 1971b, 158f.

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of the Jews is the true ruler over all things (LXX Add E 4),153 that he directs the Persian king,154 and that at his will, earthly kingdoms and empires vanish155 – an idea whose subversive overtones were presumably not lost on contemporaries. V. CONCLUSION AND OUTLOOK This chapter has aimed at making a contribution to the ongoing debate on Hellenistic readings of the Book of Esther. In other words: contrary to its immediate impression, the Book of Esther was not written during the Achaemenid period. Following the opinions of some scholars, it is contended here that the book, in a form close to the canonized MT Hebrew version, was composed or edited during the Hellenistic era, and that it was influenced by Greek authors and the imagery and descriptions regarding the Persian monarchy found in Greek texts. In particular, it is argued that the version close to the MT book was most likely composed or edited in the Seleukid period and most probably in areas of the Seleukid monarchy, thereby effecting a slight dissonance in the text: while speaking of the Persians, the text actually alludes to the Seleukid monarchs. The exact date and circumstances of the creation of the text within the Seleukid era are left unaddressed in this chapter, and will be dealt with in another publication. What is important to show here is that the Book of Esther is understandable only against the background of certain elements of Seleukid ideology, such as the nature of the king’s reign, the extent of the monarchy, and the changed emphasis in the role of the deity in establishing the dynastic rule. It was the self-image of the Seleukids as overlords, indeed occasionally as successors of the Persian Great Kings, over many political and religious entities within the vast Empire that induced the editor of Esther to speak of the Persians but in reality to mean the Seleukids. The Book of Esther is thus not grounded in any specific historical-political context, despite its ostensible content. It alludes at once to Achaemenid reality, as was known from Greek texts or from the remains of the palaces, and to the Hellenistic period in which it was composed or edited, either in a deliberate allegorical way or inadvertently, being influenced by its immediate surroundings. The book comprises a neutral or even positive response to the rule of a foreign (nonJewish) king, which is not at all questioned, but rather accepted, and indirectly in line with contemporary Seleukid ideological parameters. This response is expressed in a way that is both acceptable to that foreign rule, and not offensive to Jewish monotheistic belief, as long as the reader recalls the contexts of humor, levity and irony embedded in the book.

153 Cf. Jos. AJ 11.6.12 (282). He apparently overrides other gods, who are also explicitly mentioned in the Greek translations: cf. AT 3.7. 154 Cf. AT and LXX 6.1 with MT 6.1. 155 Cf. also AT Add E 16: the king acknowledges that the God of the Jews is the sole and true God who directed the kingdom for him.


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One may compare attitudes towards the Esther story on the one hand and, on the other, the narrative of the Hasmonaean uprising in 167 BCE, aimed (at least initially) at the return to the traditional ancestral laws that were disrupted by Antiochos IV Epiphanes. Memories of the two stories were both popular at first, and survived the Seleukid Empire, judging by the comment of Clement of Alexandria (Strom. that the Book of Esther was widely read, ‘like the Maccabaean History’. Yet, remembrance of the revolt gradually diminished in importance, perhaps in proportion to its real historical significance,156 but surely also in an attempt to de-emphasize conflict within the Roman imperial context. The political, anti-Seleukid, dimension of the commemoration of the Hasmonaean revolt was intentionally suppressed during most of Jewish history and tradition, whereas the religious significance of the feast was enhanced.157 In the east, the feast of Hanukkah (the Feast of the Dedication of the Altar) was still marked in the Jewish calendar, but surprisingly the story of the revolt and an explanation for its celebration were completely eradicated in the Rabbinic oral tradition and in written texts in favour of a miracle aetiology.158 There are only a few references to Hanukkah in the tractates of the Mishnah,159 and its significance is not explained. It is probable that the editors of the Mishnah did not wish to describe the subversive circumstances of the feast. In the Babylonian Talmud, written under the Sassanian Persians, we find two brief and fleeting references: one to the divine miracle of the cruse of oil for the Temple’s Menorah (Shabbat 21b) and another to the Hanukkah’s candles (Sukka 21b).160 In contradiction to this problematic memory, the feast of Purim has been celebrated throughout the ages161 and the Book of Esther was canonized.162 It is not difficult to conclude that its preservation shows the extent to which the story of Esther was considered capable of adapting to various foreign authorities which had control over the Jews, from the Seleukids onwards – an impression that even the violent episodes towards the local population of its last chapters could not remove. 156 Cf. Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 226 on the Hasmonean rebellion: a ‘fairly small-scale upheaval’. 157 Goldstein 1976, 283f. 158 This is not entirely because of avoidance of the non-Jewish lore of associating religious festivals with commemoration of military achievements, as suggested by Burns 2006, 14, n. 30. 159 Bikkurim 1.6; Rosh HaShanah 1.3: Taanit 2.10: Megillah 3.4 and 3.6; Moed Katan 3.9; Bava Kama 6.6. 160 This caution almost resembles Plutarch’s warning (Praecepta gerendae reipublicae = Mor. 814bc) to a local politician not to use the stock examples of Greek victories over the Persians, because of the wrong impact they might have on the Greek audience, in inciting them to action in a Roman context. 161 Esther was also viewed unfavourably in the Jewish tradition. See Yerushalmi Talmud Megillah Tractate 1.4f.; Babylonian Talmud Megillah 14a. 162 It was the last book to be incorporated into the Jewish bible, during the Roman period. On the Rabbinic debates concerning the merits of this book and whether it was ‘inspired’ or respected at all, see Babylonian Talmud Megillah Tractate 7a–b; Sanhedrin Tractate 100a; cf. Bava Batra 14b–15a; Sanhedrin 100a; Yoma 29a; Beckwith 1988, 61–72; see also Moore 1971, xxi–xxv; Leiman 1976, 119f., 200f.

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De Troyer, K. 2003: ‘Esther in Text- and Literary-Critical Paradise’, in S.W. Crawford and L.J. Greenspoon (eds.), The Book of Esther in Modern Research, London, 31–49. Devauchelle, D. 1995: ‘Le sentiment anti-perse chez les anciens Égyptiens’, Transeuphratène 9, 67–81. Dieulafoy, M. 1891: L’acropole de Suse Ill: faiences et terre cuites, Paris. Dorothy, C.V. 1997: The Books of Esther. Structure, Genre and Textual Integrity, Sheffield. Driver, S.R. 1897: An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, New York. Driver, G.R. 1926: ‘The Aramaic of the Book of Daniel’, Journal of Biblical Literature 45, 110– 119. Duchesne-Guillemin, J. 1953: ‘Les noms des eunuques d’Assuérus’, Le Muséon 66, 105–108. Ego, B. 2010a: ‘The Book of Esther: A Hellenistic Book’, Journal of Ancient Judaism 1, 279–302. Ego, B. 2010b: ‘Mordecai’s Refusal of Proskynesis before Haman: According to the Septuagint, Traditio-Historical, and Literal Aspects’, in G.G. Xeravits and J. Szengeller (eds.), Deuterocanonical Additions of the Old Testament Books, Berlin, 16–29. Ellenbogen, M. 1962: ‘Foreign Words in the Old Testament: Their Origin and Etymology’, London. Engels, D. 2017: Benefactors, Kings, Rulers. Studies in the Seleukid Empire between East and West, Leuven. Erbt, W. 1900: Die Purimsage, Berlin. Eskhult, M. 2003: ‘The Importance of Loanwords for Dating Biblical Hebrew Texts’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology, London, 8–23. Feldman, L.H. 1970: ‘Hellenization in Josephus’ Version of Esther’, TAPA 101, 143–170. Fox, M.V. 1990: ‘The Alpha Text of the Greek Esther’, Textus 15, 27–54. Fox, M.V. 1991a: Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther, Grand Rapids, MI. Fox, M.V. 1991b: The Redaction of the Books of Esther: On Reading Composite Texts, Atlanta, GA. Fox, M.V. 1991c: ‘The Redaction of the Greek Alpha Text of Esther’, in M. Fishbane and E. Tov (eds.), Sha'arei Talmon (S. Talmon Jubilee Volume), Winona Lake, IN, 207–220. Fraser, P.M. 1996: Cities of Alexander the Great, Oxford. Fried, L.S. 2000: ‘Towards the Ur-Text of Esther’, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 88, 49–57. Fried, L.S. 2002: ‘Cyrus the Messiah? The Historical Background to Isaiah 45:1’, Harvard Theological Review 95, 373–393. Friedberg, A.D. 2000: ‘A New Clue in the Dating of the Composition of the Book of Esther’, Vetus Testamentum 50, 561–565. Frisch, A. 1992: ‘Between the Scroll of Esther and the Book of Kings’, Mechqerei Hag 3, 25–43. Gan, M. 1962: ‘The Book of Esther in the Light of Joseph’s Fate in Egypt’, Tarbiz 31, 144–149. Gaster, T.H. 1950: ‘Esther 1:22’, Journal of Biblical Literature 69, 381. Gehman, H.S. 1924: ‘Notes on the Persian Words in the Book of Esther’, Journal of Biblical Literature 43, 321–328. Gerleman, G. 1966: ‘Studien zu Esther: Stoff-Struktur-Stil-Sinn’, Biblische Studien 48, 1–48. Gerleman, G. 1973: Esther, Neukirchen-Vluyn. Ginsberg, H.L. 1948: Studies in Daniel, New York. Goldingay, J.E. 1989: Daniel, Waco, TX. Goldman, S. 1990: ‘Narrative and Ethical Ironies in Esther’, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 47, 15–31. Goldstein, J. 1976: I Maccabees. A New Translation with Commentary, Garden City, NY. Gordis, R. 1974: Megillat Esther, New York. Gordis, R. 1976: ‘Studies in the Esther Narrative’, Journal of Biblical Literature 95, 43–58. Gordis, R. 1981: ‘Religion, Wisdom and History in the Book of Esther’, Journal of Biblical Literature 100, 359–388. Grabbe, L.L. 1998: Ezra-Nehemiah, London.


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Hurvitz A. 2014: A Concise Lexicon of Late Biblical Hebrew: Linguistic Innovations in the Writings of the Second Temple Period, in collaboration with L. Gottlieb, A. Hornkohl and E. Mastéy, Leiden. Hutter, M. 2015: Iranische Personennamen in der Hebräischen Bibel, Vienna. Jacob, B. 1890: ‘Das Buch Esther bei den LXX’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 10, 241–298. Jensen, P. 1892: ‘Elamitische Eigennamen. Ein Beitrag zur Erklärung der elamitischen Inschriften’, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 6, 47–70, 209–226. Jobes, K.H. 1996: The Alpha-Text of Esther. Its Character and Relationship to the Masoretic Text, Atlanta, GA. Johnson, S.R. 2005: ‘Novelistic Elements in Esther: Persian or Hellenistic, Jewish or Greek?’, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 67, 571–589. Jones B.W. 1977: ‘Two Misconceptions about the Book of Esther’, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39, 171–181. Jones, B.W. 1978: ‘The So-Called Appendix to the Book of Esther’, Semitics 6, 36–43. Jones, C.P. 1993: ‘The Decree of Illion in Honor of a King Antiochus’, GRBS 34, 73–92. Justi, F. 1895: Iranisches Namenbuch, Marburg. Keaveney, A. 2012: ‘The Trial of Orontas: Xenophon, Anabasis I, 6’, L’Antiquité Classique 81, 31–41. Kitchen, K.A. 1965: ‘The Aramaic of Daniel’, in D.J. Wiseman (ed.), Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, London, 31–79. Koller, A. 2014: Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought, Cambridge. Kosmin, P.J. 2014: ‘Seeing Double in Seleucid Babylonia: Re-Reading the Borsippa Cylinder of Antiochus I’, in A. Moreno and R. Thomas (eds.), Patterns of the Past: Epitēdeumata in the Greek Tradition, Oxford, 173–198. Kuhrt, A. 1983: ‘The Cyrus Cylinder and Achaemenid Imperial Policy’, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 25, 83–97. Kuhrt, A. 1987: ‘Berossus’ Babyloniaca and Seleucid Rule in Babylonia’, in A. Kuhrt and S. Sherwin-White (eds.), Hellenism in the East: The Interaction of Greek and Non-Greek Civilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexander, London, 32–56. Kuhrt, A. and Sherwin-White, S. 1987: ‘Xerxes’ Destruction of Babylonian Temples’, Achaemenid History 2, 69–78. Kuhrt, A.and Sherwin-White, S.M. 1991: ‘Aspects of Seleucid Royal Ideology: The Cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa’, JHS 111, 71–86. Lagarde, P.A. 1883: Librorum Veteris Testamenti Canonicorum Pars Prior Graece, Göttingen. Leiman, S.Z. 1976: The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture, Hamden, CT. LeRider, G. 1965: Suse sous les Séleucides et les Parthes, Paris. Levenson, J.D. 1976: ‘The Scroll of Esther in Ecumenical Perspective’, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 13, 440–451. Levenson, J.D. 1997: Esther: A Commentary, Louisville, KY. Lewy, J. 1939: ‘The Feast of the 14th Day of Adar’, Hebrew Union College Annual 14, 127–151. Littman, R.J. 1975: ‘The Religious Policy of Xerxes and the “Book of Esther”’, The Jewish Quarterly Review 65, 145–155. Loader, J.A. 1978: ‘Esther as a Novel with Different Levels of Meaning’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 90, 417–421. Ma, J. 1999: Antiochos III and the Cities of Asia Minor, Oxford. Macchi, J.-D. 2005: ‘Le livre d’Esther: regard hellénistique sur le pouvoir et le monde perses’, Transeuphratène 30, 97–135. Macchi, J.-D. 2007a: ‘Le livre d'Esther: écrire une historie perse comme un Grec’, in D. Doré (ed.), Comment la Bible saisit-elle l’histoire?, Paris, 197–226.


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Macchi, J.-D. 2007b: ‘Les textes d’Esther et les tendances du Judaïsme entre les 3e et 1er siècles avant J.-Chr.’, in I. Himbaza and A. Schenker (eds.), Un carrefour dans l’histoire de la Bible. Du texte à la théologie au IIe siècle avant J.-C., Fribourg, 75–92. Macchi, J.-D. 2009: ‘The Book of Esther: A Persian Story in Greek Style’, in E. Ben Zvi, D.V. Edelman, and F. Polak (eds.) A Palimpsest: Rhetoric, Ideology, Stylistics and Language Relating to Persian Israel, Piscataway, NJ, 109–127. MacGinnis, J. 1986: ‘Herodotus’ Description of Babylon’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 33, 67–86. Marcus, R. 1943: Josephus. Jewish Antiquities, Books XII–XIV, Cambridge, MA. Martin, R.A. 1975: ‘Syntax Criticism of the LXX Additions to the Book of Esther’, Journal of Biblical Literature 94, 65–72. Martinez-Sève, L. 2002: ‘La ville de Suse à l’époque hellénistique’, Revue archéologique 33, 31– 53. Martinez-Sève, L. 2010: ‘Suse et les Séleucides au IIIe siècle avant J.-C.’, Electrum 18, 41–66. Mayer, R. 1961: ‘Iranischer Beitrag zu Problemen des Daniel- und Esther-Buches’, in H. Gross and F. Mussner (eds.), Lex Tua Veritas: Festschrift für Hubert Junker zur Vollendung des siebzigsten Lebensjahres am 8. August 1961, dargeboten von Kollegen, Freunden und Schülern, Trier, 127–135. McKenzie, L. 1994: ‘Patterns in Seleucid Administration: Macedonian or Near Eastern?’, Mediterranean Archaeology 7, 61–68. Meeus, A. 2014: ‘The Territorial Ambitions of Ptolemy I’, in H. Hauben and A. Meeus (eds.), The Age of the Successors and the Creation of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (323–276 BC), Leuven, 263–306. Mehl, A. 2022: ‘How to Understand Seleukids as Babylonian “Great Kings”’, in E. AnagnostouLaoutides and S. Pfeiffer (eds.), Culture and Ideology under the Seleukids: Unframing a Dynasty, Berlin, 187–202. Meinhold, A. 1975: ‘Die Gattung der Josephsgeschichte und des Estherbuches: Diasporanovelle I’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 87, 306–324. Meinhold, A. 1976: “Die Gattung der Josephsgeschichte und des Estherbuches: Diasporanovelle II”, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 88, 72–93. Middlemas, J. 2019: ‘Dating Esther: Evaluating the Criteria for a Persian or Hellenistic Provenance’ in R. Bautch and M Lackowski (eds.), On Dating Biblical Texts to the Persian Period, Tübingen, 149–168. Millard, A.R. 1977: ‘Persian Names in Esther and the Reliability of the Hebrew Text’, Journal of Biblical Literature 96, 481–488. Miller, T. 2014: Three Versions of Esther: Their Relationship to Anti-Semitic and Feminist Critique of the Story, Leuven. Mittag, P.F. 2006: Antiochos IV. Epiphanes. Eine Politische Biographie, Berlin. Momigliano, A. 1990: The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography, Berkeley, CA. Montgomery, J.A. 1927: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Edinburgh. Moore, C.A. 1967: ‘Greek Witness to a Different Hebrew Text of Esther’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 79, 351–358. Moore, C.A. 1971: Esther: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Garden City, NY. Moore, C.A. 1973: ‘On the Origins of the LXX Additions to the Book of Esther’, Journal of Biblical Literature 92, 382–393. Moore, C.A. 1975: ‘Archaeology and the Book of Esther’, Biblical Archaeologist 38, 62–79. Moore, C.A. 1977: Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah: The Additions, Garden City, NY. Moore, C.A. 1992: ‘Esther, Book of’, Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, Garden City, NY, 633–643. Muccioli, F. 2004: ‘“Il re dell’Asia”: ideologia e propaganda da Alessandro Magno a Mitridate VI’, Simblos 4, 105–158. Muccioli, F. 2013: Gli epiteti ufficiali dei re ellenistici, Stuttgart.

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Neusner, J. 1965: A History of the Jews in Babylonia. Vol. 1: The Parthian Period, Leiden. Newsom, C.A. 2011: ‘God’s Other: The Intractable Problem of the Gentile King in Judean and Early Jewish Literature’, in D.C. Harlow, K.M. Hogan, M. Goff, and J.S. Kaminsky (eds.), The “Other” in Second Temple Judaism: Essays in Honor of John J. Collins, Grand Rapids, MI, 31–48. Niskanen, P. 2004: The Human and the Divine in History: Herodotus and the Book of Daniel, London. O’Connor, K.M. 2003: ‘Humour, Turnabouts and Survival in the Book of Esther’, in A. Brenner (ed.), Are We Amused? Humour about Women in the Biblical Worlds, London, 52–64. Oppenheim, A.L. 1965: ‘On Royal Gardens in Mesopotamia’, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 24, 328–333. Paton, L.B. 1908: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, Edinburgh. Perrot, J. 1989: ‘Shoshan Ha-Bira’, Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies 20, 155–160. Pfeiffer, E. 1958: ‘Herodots Geschichten und das Buch Esther’, Deutsches Pfarrerblatt 62, 544– 545. Pfeiffer, S. 2004: Das Dekret von Kanopos (238 v.Chr.): Kommentar und historische Auswertung eines dreisprachigen Synodaldekretes der ägyptischen Priester zu Ehren Ptolemaios’ III. und seiner Familie, Munich. Polzin, R. 1976: Late Biblical Hebrew: Toward an Historical Typology of Biblical Hebrew Prose, Missoula, MT. Potts, D.T. 1999: The Archaeology of Elam, Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State, Cambridge. Rabin, C. 1958: ‘The Historical Background of Qumran Hebrew’, Scripta Hierosolymitana 4, 144–161. Rabin, C. 1962: ‘Foreign Words’, Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. 4, Jerusalem, 1070–1080. Radday, Y.T. 1990: ‘Esther with Humour’, in A. Brenner and Y.T. Radday (eds.), On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible, Sheffield, 295–313. Ringgern, H. 1955: ‘Esther and Purim’, Svensk exegetisk arsbok 20, 5–24. Ritter, H.W. 1965: Diadem und Königsherrschaft, Munich. Rosenthal, A. 1895: ‘Die Josephsgeschichte mit den Büchern Ester und Daniel verglichen’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 15, 278–284. Rosenthal, A. 1897: ‘Nochmals der Vergleich Ester-Joseph-Daniel’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 17, 126–128. Rougemont, G. 2012: Inscriptions grecques d’Iran et d’Asie centrale, London. Rowley, H.H. 1950/51: ‘The Unity of the Book of Daniel’, Hebrew Union College Annual 23, 233–273. Rowley, H.H. 1964: Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel, Cardiff 1935, repr. 1964. Salvesen, A.G. 1999: ‘‫( כתר‬Esther 1:11; 2:17; 6:8): Something to Do with a Camel?’, Journal of Semitic Studies 44, 35–46. Scheftelowitz, I. 1901: Arisches im Alten Testament: Eine sprachwissenschafliche und kulturhistorische Untersuchung 1, Königsberg. Schmitt, H. 1964: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Antiochos des Großen und seiner Zeit, Wiesbaden. Schwartz, J. 1986: ‘Récits bibliques et moeurs perses in Hellenica et Judaica’, in A. Caquot, M. Hadas- Lebel, J. Riaud (eds.), Hellenica et Judaica: Hommages à V. Nikiprowetzky, Louvain, 267–277. Seow, C.L. 1996: ‘Linguistic Evidence and the Dating of Qohelet’, Journal of Biblical Literature 115, 643–666. Shea, W.H. 1976: ‘Esther and History’, Andrews University Seminary Studies 14, 227–246.


Eran Almagor

Sherwin-White, S. 1987: ‘Hellenism in Seleucid Babylonia’, in A. Kuhrt and S. Sherwin-White (eds.), Hellenism in the East: The Interaction of Greek and Non-Greek Civilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexander, London, 1–31. Sherwin-White, S. and Kuhrt, A. 1993: From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire, Berkeley, CA. Smith, M. 1963: ‘II Isaiah and the Persians’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 83, 415– 421. Smith, M. 1984: ‘Jewish Religious Life in the Persian Period’, in W.D. Davies and L. Finkelstein (eds.), The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 1, Cambridge, 219–278. Spranger, P.P. 1958: ‘Der Große. Untersuchungen zur Entstehung des historischen Beinamens in der Antike’, Saeculum 9, 22–58. Stevens, K. 2014: ‘The Antiochus Cylinder, Babylonian Scholarship and Seleucid Imperial Ideology’, JHS 134, 66–88. Stiehl, R. 1956: ‘Das Buch Esther’, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 53, 4–22. Strassmaier, J.N. 1882: Verhandlungen des 5. Internationalen Orientalisten-congresses II.1, Berlin. Striedl, H. 1937: ‘Untersuchung zur Syntax und Stilistik des hebräischen Buches Esther’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 55, 73–108. Strootman, R. 2013: ‘Babylonian, Macedonian, King of the World: The Antiochos Cylinder from Borsippa and Seleukid Imperial Integration’, in E. Stavrianopoulou (ed.), Shifting Social Imaginaries in the Hellenistic Period: Narrations, Practices, and Images, Leiden, 67–97. Strootman, R. 2014: ‘“Men to Whose Rapacity Neither Sea nor Mountain Sets a Limit”: The Aims of the Diadochs’, in H. Hauben and A. Meeus (eds.), The Age of the Successors and the Creation of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (323–276 B.C), Leuven, 307–322. Talmon, S. 1963: ‘“Wisdom” in the Book of Esther’, Vetus Testamentum 13, 419–455. Talshir, D. and Talshir, Z. 2004: ‘The Double Month Naming in Late Biblical Books: A New Clue for Dating Esther?’, Vetus Testamentum 54, 549–555. Tavernier, J. 2007: Iranica in the Achaemenid Period (ca. 550–330 B.C.). Lexicon of Old Iranian Proper Names and Loanwords, Attested in Non-Iranian Texts, Leuven. Tcherikover (Tscherikower), V.A. 1927: Die hellenistischen Städtegründungen von Alexander dem Großen bis auf die Römerzeit, Leipzig. Tisdall, W. St. Clair 1911: ‘The Āryan Words in the Old Testament II’, Jewish Quarterly Review 2, 213–219. Torrey, C.C. 1909: ‘Notes on the Aramaic Part of Daniel’, in Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 15, 241–282. Torrey, C.C. 1944: ‘The Older Book of Esther’, Harvard Theological Review 37, 1–40. Tov, E. 1982: ‘The “Lucianic” Text of the Canonical and the Apocryphal Sections of Esther: A Rewritten Biblical Book’, Textus 10, 1–25. Tov, E. 2008a: ‘The LXX Translation of Esther. A Paraphrastic Translation of MT or a Free Translation of a Rewritten Source?’, in A. Houtman, A. de Jong, and M. Misset-van de Weg (eds.), Empsychoi Logoi – Religious Innovations in Antiquity: Studies in Honour of Pieter Willem van der Horst, Leiden, 507–526. Tov, E. 2008b: ‘Three Strange Books of the LXX: 1 Kings, Esther, and Daniel Compared with Similar Rewritten Compositions from Qumran and Elsewhere’, in M. Karrer and W. Kraus (eds.), Die Septuaginta: Texte, Kontexte, Lebenswelten. Internationale Fachtagung veranstaltet von Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D), Wuppertal 20.–23. Juli 2006, Tübingen, 369–393. Tuplin, C. 1998: ‘The Seasonal Migration of Achaemenid Kings: A Report on Old and New Evidence’, Achaemenid History 11, 63–114. Tuplin, C. 2008: ‘The Seleucids and Their Achaemenid Predecessors: A Persian Inheritance?’, in S. Mohammad Reza Darbandi and A. Zournatzi (eds.), Ancient Greece and Ancient Iran: Cross-Cultural Encounters. 1st International Conference (Athens, 11–13 November 2006), Athens, 109–136.

To All Parts of the Kingdom


Tuplin, C. 2014: ‘The Military Dimension of Hellenistic Kingship. An Achaemenid Inheritance?’, in F. Hoffmann and K.S. Schmidt (eds.), Orient und Okzident in hellenistischer Zeit. Beiträge zur Tagung „Orient und Okzident – Antagonismus oder Konstrukt? Machtstrukturen, Ideologien und Kulturtransfer in hellenistischer Zeit“, Würzburg, 10.–13. April 2008, Vaterstetten 2014, 245–276. Waerzeggers, C. 2003/4: ‘The Babylonian Revolts against Xerxes and the “End of Archives”’, Archiv für Orientforschung 50, 150–173. Wahl, H.M. 1999: ‘Die Sprache des hebräischen Esterbuches. Mit Anmerkungen zu seinem historischen und traditionsgeschichtlichen Referenzrahmen’, Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 12, 21– 47. Wajdenbaum, P. 2011: Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible, Sheffield. Walbank, F.W. 1957: A Historical Commentary on Polybius. Vol. 1: Commentary on Books I–VI, Oxford. Walbank, F.W. 1967: A Historical Commentary on Polybius. Vol. 2: Commentary on Books VII– XVIII, Oxford. Weiland, F.S. 2002: ‘Historicity, Genre and Narrative Design in the Book of Esther’, Bibliotheca Sacra 159, 151–165. Welch, C. 1922: Visions of the End: A Study of Daniel and Revelation, London. Wendland, P. 1900: Aristeae ad Philocratem Epistula cum ceteris de Origine Versionis LXX Interpretum Testimoniis, Leipzig. Wénin, A. 2010: ‘Pourquoi le lecteur rit-il d’Haman en Esther 6TM?’, Vetus Testamentum 60, 465– 473. Wetter, A.-M. 2012: ‘In Unexpected Places: Ritual and Religious Belonging in the Book of Esther’, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 36, 321–332. Willrich, H. 1900: Judaica, Forschungen zur hellenistisch-jüdischen Geschichte und Literatur, Göttingen. Wills, L.M. 1990: The Jew in the Court of the Foreign King. Ancient Jewish Court Legends, Minneapolis, MN. Wills, L.M. 1995: The Jewish Novel in the Ancient World, Ithaca, NY. Wiseman, D.J. 1965: ‘Some Historical Problems in the Book of Daniel’, in D.J. Wiseman (ed.), Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, London, 9–18. Wright, J.S. 1970: ‘The Historicity of the Book of Esther’, in J. Barton Payne (ed.), New Perspectives on the Old Testament, Waco, TX, 37–47. Wright, N.L. 2005: ‘Seleucid Royal Cult, Indigenous Religious Traditions, and Radiate Crowns: The Numismatic Evidence’, Mediterranean Archaeology 18, 67–82. Yahuda, A.S. 1946: ‘The Meaning of the Name Esther’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 8, 174–178. Yamauchi, E. 1980: ‘The Archaeological Background of Esther’, Bibliotheca Sacra 137, 99–117. Yamauchi, E. 1990: Persia and the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI. Young, D.W. 1988: ‘On the Application of Numbers from Babylonian Mathematics to Biblical Life Spans and Epochs’, Zeitchrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 100, 331–361. Young, D.W. 1990: ‘The Influence of Babylonian Algebra on Longevity Among the Antediluvians’, Zeitchrift für die Altestamentliche Wissenschaft 102, 321–335. Young, I. and Rezetko, R. 2008: Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts, with the assistance of Martin Ehrensvärd. Vol. 1: An Introduction to Approaches and Problems, London. Zadok, R. 1976: ‘On Five Iranian Names in the Old Testament’, Vetus Testamentum 26, 246f. Zadok, R. 1984: ‘On the Historical Background of the Book of Esther’, Bible Notes 24, 18–23. Zadok, R. 1986: ‘Notes on Esther’, Zeitchrift für die Altestamentliche Wissenschaft 98, 105–110. Zeitlin, F. 2008: ‘Religion’ in T. Whitmarsh (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Ancient Novel, Cambridge, 91–108.





Abstract: The peaceful capitulation of Greek city-states to the dictates of Hellenistic kings, together with the honorific decrees issued by citizens of those poleis in praise of those same kings, has long been seen as evidence for the acceptance of the legitimacy of royal claims to authority over the polis. However, in Plutarch’s Life of Demetrios, the biographer notes that the citizenry of many Greek poleis often erected statues and issued various decrees honouring Hellenistic kings not so much out of enthusiastic support, but from fear, and often loathed those kings for accepting them. Plutarch’s observation, echoed in other writers, such as Polybios, Pausanias, Appian, and Livy, must therefore compel us to reconsider how we read civic honours bestowed on Hellenistic kings. In this study, I undertake a reconsideration of three civic inscriptions that ostensibly honour Seleukid kings: OGIS 222, a decree from Klazomenai honouring Antiochos I, OGIS 229, a decree of sympoliteia between Smyrna and Magnesia ad Sipylum, which also expressed eunoia between the people of Smyrna and Seleukos II, and OGIS 223, a letter from Antiochos I or II to the people of Erythrai thanking them for bestowing gold and crowns to honour the dynasty. I argue that we must read such inscriptions in the context of the fear engendered by the vastly superior economic and military might of the Seleukid kings. Viewed in this light, I analyse these inscriptions as attempts to leverage the formulaic language of Hellenistic diplomacy and co-opt the carefully crafted public royal persona itself to resist the encroachment of royal authority into the polis, rather than as evidence for the acceptance of the legitimacy of royal claims to authority over the citizens of ‘Seleukid’ cities.

The body of scholarship on the extent and dynamics of Seleukid royal power is now quite large and continues to grow.1 More recently, the question of how Seleukid kings attempted to legitimize their rule in the minds of their myriad and disparate

* 1

I would like to acknowledge the invaluable efforts of a former student, Mr. Dylan Hall, in the gathering of some of the relevant bibliography for the epigraphic material addressed in this paper. The references here are far from exhaustive, representing a mere sampling. See Bevan 1902; Bouché-Leclercq 1913 and 1914; Bickerman 1938; Kreissig 1978; Cohen 1978; SherwinWhite and Kuhrt 1993; Ma 1999; Aperghis 2004; Capdetray 2007; Ramsey 2011; Grainger 2014; 2015a; 2015b; Pirngruber 2017; Engels 2017; Erickson 2018; Coşkun and Engels 2019; Oetjen 2020.


Richard Wenghofer

subjects has also garnered considerable interest from scholars.2 However, Seleukid scholars have paid less attention to the rejection of, and active resistance to, Seleukid claims to legitimate authority,3 and there is a tacit assumption across much Seleukid scholarship that Seleukid efforts to legitimize their rule in local contexts were more or less successful.4 Two factors that feature largely in this assumption are, first, that the acquiescence of local polities, such as Greek city-states, to Seleukid claims to royal authority connotes an acceptance of the legitimacy of those claims, and, second, that civic decrees honouring Seleukid kings likewise suggest acceptance of royal claims to legitimate royal authority. I would, however, contend that both of these assumptions are unwarranted. At times, Greek city-states, when confronted by the overwhelmingly superior military and economic might of Seleukid kings, might acquiesce in recognizing Seleukid royal authority out of strategic necessity, and not because they necessarily viewed Seleukid kingship as legitimate in any meaningful sense. Moreover, I will argue that sometimes city-states leveraged the carefully constructed public royal persona of Seleukid kings in order to resist the exercise of royal authority in the environs of the polis, creating the illusion of an acceptance of Seleukid claims to the legitimate exercise of royal authority in local contexts. Thus, assessing the reception of royal claims to legitimate political authority in Hellenistic Greek poleis presents scholars with certain methodological problems owing to the power differential between king and subject, and to the carefully constructed language of Hellenistic royal diplomacy itself. I. THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM The asymmetrical power relations between king and subject community shaped how both interacted with one another. Seleukid kings, like other Hellenistic monarchs, built their kingdoms principally, though not exclusively, on war and violence. A Hellenistic king was, first and foremost, a general whose power rested upon his ability to make war, ostensibly for the benefit of those he would claim as his subjects.5 The Hellenistic king was thus a warrior first, as is clearly pronounced in the Suda’s definition of ‘Basileia’ and in Theokritos’ encomium of Ptolemy II.6 2


4 5 6

Once again, the following list of references is far from exhaustive. See Tondriau 1948; Millward 1973; Sherwin-White 1991; Hoover 1996 and 2011; Erickson 2011; Stevens 2014; Strootman 2013 and 2014b; Kosmin 2014; Coşkun and McAuley 2016; Ogden 2017; Erickson 2019; See especially Fischer-Bovet and von Reden 2021; Anagnostou-Laoutides and Pfeiffer 2022. An exception to this is the vast body of scholarship on the Maccabaean revolt specifically; however, important recent contributions to this area beyond the Maccabaean sphere include Eddy 1961; Ramsey 2011; Chrubasik 2016; Kosmin 2016; Taylor 2014; Krikona 2017; Honigman and Veïsse 2021; Wenghofer 2022; see most recently Kosmin and Moyer 2022. Ehrenberg 1960, 176–178; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1993, 136–139; Shipley 2000, 294f. And see Coşkun, ch. 15 in this volume. Bickerman 1938, 15f.; Sherwin-White and Kuhrt 1999, 129; Chaniotis 2005, 57–62; Eckstein 2006, 82f.; Strootman 2014a, 51–53; Capdetray 2017, 24f. Suda s.v. ‘Basileia’ (2), cf. Austin2 no. 45. Theokr. 17.73–130.

Diplomatic Resistance to Seleukid Hegemony


However, while the ability to wield violence was a necessary prerequisite of Hellenistic kingship, this alone was insufficient. A king also had to display generosity, munificence, and piety.7 The purpose of such displays was largely instrumental, aimed at garnering popular local consensus, and thus acceptance, of kingly authority. Kings displayed this munificence and piety through public generosity in acts of euergetism, as well as through courtly public displays of filial loyalty to family, friends, and acts of religious piety, all of which, together with martial prowess, formed the sine qua non of the Hellenistic royal image.8 But assessing how effective royal propaganda really was in cementing widespread consensus on the legitimacy of royal rule in local contexts is rather problematic and must not, on that account, be taken for granted. It is important to note that the economic and military resources of the Seleukid kings so vastly dwarfed those of any individual polity that open defiance of royal authority was often futile.9 The Seleukid dynasty bore an essentially parasitic relationship to the communities they ruled, extracting capital resources in the form of taxes, tribute, reve