Seleucus II Callinicus

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Seleucus II Callinicus Pogon
Seleucus II Callinicus.jpg
King of the Seleucid Empire
ReignJuly/August 246 – December 225 BC
PredecessorAntiochus II Theos
SuccessorSeleucus III Ceraunus
Bornc. 265 BC
DiedDecember 225 BC
(aged 39–40)
SpouseLaodice II
FatherAntiochus II

Seleucus II Callinicus Pogon (Greek: Σέλευκος Β΄ ὁ Καλλίνικος ὁ Πώγων; Kallinikos means "gloriously triumphant"; Pogon means "the Beard"; July/August 265 – December 225 BC[1]),[2] was a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, who reigned from 246 to 225 BC. Faced with multiple enemies on various fronts, and not always successful militarily, his reign was a time of great turmoil and fragmentation for the Seleucid empire, before its eventual restoration under his second son and eventual successor, Antiochus III.

Accession and invasion[edit]

After the death of his father, Antiochus II in July 246 BC, Seleucus was proclaimed king by his mother, Laodice in Ephesos, while his father's second wife Queen Berenice declared her son Antiochus king in Antioch. Berenice acted decisively at first, seizing control of most of Syria and Cilicia. However before her brother Ptolemy III, the king of Egypt was able to land and support to her son's claims she was murdered by partisans of Seleucus II and Queen Laodice.

This dynastic feud began the Third Syrian War. Ptolemy III, invaded the Seleucid Empire and landing at Seleucia Pieria, accepted the surrender of Syria and Cilicia and marched victoriously to the Tigris or beyond (though he did not reach as far as Babylon [3]. Ptolemy remained in Syria during the winter of 246-245, while Seleucus sent an expedition by sea to retake the area, only to have it wrecked by storms; not the last time he was to be defeated by bad luck.

Defeat in the Third Syrian war and Anatolia[edit]

Seleucus managed to maintain himself in the interior of Asia Minor and made arrangements to shore up his power there. One of his sisters married Mithridates II of Pontus, another married Ariarathes III of Cappadocia and he himself married his cousin Laodice II, by whom he had five children among them: Antiochis, Seleucus III Ceraunus and Antiochus III the Great. Seleucus then appointed his brother Antiochus Hierax as viceroy in Asia Minor and marched against the Ptolemies.

Ptolemy himself returned to Egypt in 245, reputedly taking with him 40,000 talents of gold and the statues of Egyptian gods which had been looted centuries before by the Persians. Seleucus crossed into Babylonia and Mesopotamia first, receiving the loyalty of the empire's Eastern regions and then marched into Syria where he recovered Antioch by 244. This was followed by the recapture of the other major cities of the area and by 242 the interior of Northern Syria had been regained and Seleucus was even able to launch raids into Ptolemaic controlled Syria around Damascus.

Elsewhere the Seleucid's were less successful, in the Aegean the Ptolemies were able to seize control of Ephesos, as well as Ainos and Maroneia in Thrace, and several cities on the Asian side of the Hellespont.

In 241 peace was finally signed, Ptolemy recognised Seleucus as king and the Eleutheros river was once again accepted as boundary between the two empires in Syria. Ptolemy did however retain his conquests in Thrace, Ephesos, and most importantly of all the vital port of Seleucia Pieria. This city contained the tomb of the dynasties founder Seleucus I and controlled much of the trade from Antioch, desire to recover it would prove to be one of the main causes of the outbreak of the Fourth Syrian war in 219 BC.

In the meantime, Antiochus Hierax, had set himself up as a rival in Asia Minor against Seleucus, supported by their domineering mother Laodice. Seleucus appears to have invaded, but was unable to take Sardis. After two years of stalemate the brothers met at the Battle of Ancyra in around 237 BC. With the support of his in-law Mithridates II of Pontus and the Galatians Antiochus Hierax was victorious and Seleucus was barely able to escape with his life. After this he left the country beyond the Taurus to his brother and the other powers of the peninsula and an uneasy peace between the two prevailed.

Coin of Seleucus II. Reverse shows Apollo leaning on a tripod. The Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ (of King Seleucus).

Fragmentation in the East[edit]

Seleucus then turned to the problems which had developed in the Eastern provinces of the empire over the last few decades and undertook an anabasis to regain Parthia, the results of which came to nothing.

The Parthian satrap Andragoras had taken the opportunity to establish de facto independence and had begun minting his own coins in 245. Before Seleucus was able to turn his attention Eastwards however Andragoras had been killed by Arsaces I, a chieftain of the nomadic Parni, operating out of the city of Nissa (modern day Nisa, Turkmenistan) by 238. This Arsakes had previously attacked Bactria and been driven off by the satrap Diodotus I. This Diodotus had also used the opportunity of Seleucid distraction in the West to gain de facto independence and set himself up as an independent ruler.

After the defeat at Ancyra the Seleucid garrisons of the region were further weakened and this allowed the Parthian's under Arsaces the opportunity to seize more territory, including the city of Hekatompylos, which became their new capital around 237. Around this time Diodotus was succeeded by his son Diodotus II who agreed to an alliance with Parthia, which now acted as a useful barrier to any Seleucid invasion to recover the East.

It was after this that Seleucus attempted to recover Parthia, but the sources indicate he was defeated, or perhaps withdrew in the face of Parthian strength. The recovery of the Seleucid position in the East would have to wait until the reign of his son Antiochus III. Following this defeat Diodotus II declared himself king of Bactria, officially severing any remaining links with the Seleucid court in 235 BC.

The death of Antiochus Hierax[edit]

Meanwhile in Asia Minor, Pergamon now rose to greatness under Attalus I. Attalus' ambition to replace Antiochus Hierax as king of Asia Minor led to a major war and several battles over the 230's. In short order Attalus defeated the Galatians, the Antiochus himself and finally an attempt by Seleucus to reclaim his position in Asia Minor. After being defeated by Attalus in 4 battles Antiochus fled to Armenia, whose king gave him refuge. Antiochus Hierax then attempted to invade Mesopotamia. Andromachos, his mothers brother, commanded the Seleucid forces on this occasion and defeated him. Fleeing again Antiochus finally perished as a fugitive in Thrace at the hands of the Galatians in 228 or 227 BC.

Seleucus by this time had his hands full dealing with rebellion in Antioch instigated by his aunt, Queen Stratonike, who had previously been married to King Demetrius II of Macedon. Upon returning to Syria after he took another wife she proposed marriage to her nephew, or possibly demanded he avenge the insult to her honour by attacking Demetrius. In either case she was refused and, infuriated, raised Antioch in rebellion. Seleucus had to besiege the city, which he eventually recaptured. Stratonike fled to Seleucia, hoping to take refuge with Ptolemy III, but was captured en route and executed.

In the years after the defeat at Ancyra (237) Seleucus focused on rebuilding his domains, expanding Antioch and suppressing rebellion in Babylon. By 227 he had stabilised the situation enough to begin contemplating a new offensive against Attalus to retake Asia Minor.

Death and succession[edit]

Before he could launch this invasion Seleucus died unexpectedly in 225/224 as the result of a fall from his horse. He was succeeded first by his eldest son Alexander who took the name Seleucus III and later by his younger son Antiochus III the Great in 222.


  1. ^ "Seleucus II Callinicus".
  2. ^ καλλίνικος, πώγων. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  3. ^ Grainger, "The Rise of the Seleucid Empire," Pages 186-194.


External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Seleucid Dynasty" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Seleucus II Callinicus
Born: ? Died: 225 BC
Preceded by
Antiochus II Theos
Seleucid ruler
246–225 BC
Succeeded by
Seleucus III Ceraunus