SELEUKOS II KALLINIKOS

(246-225 BC)

Seleukos II, the eldest son of Antiochos II Theos and Laodike was about nineteen years old when the death of his father placed him on the throne and directly in the path of an attacking army led by Ptolemy III Euergetes. The young king was entirely unprepared to stand up to the full might of the Ptolemaic forces and suffered a humiliating series of defeats. Much of Thrace and coastal Asia Minor was lost to Ptolemy and Egyptian troops were able to range as far east as the Euphrates River. Perhaps most shameful of all, the Seleukid port city of Seleukeia-in-Piereia was occupied by a strong Ptolemaic garrison. Seleukos II only averted total disaster through hard fighting and with the fortuitous assistance of a native uprising in Egypt. After Ptolemy's withdrawal from the field Seleukos foolishly tired to press his luck by attacking Ptolemaic possessions in Koile-Syria. His army was soundly beaten for its trouble, thus at last bringing the Laodikean War to conclusion. However, the violence engendered by Laodike was not yet at an end.

While Seleukos II was away fighting in Syria his mother was promoting her younger son, Antiochos Hierax ('The Hawk'), in Asia Minor. Most of the Greek cities recognized a joint rule under both kings rather than the sole authority of Seleukos II, to whom the throne had come by right. Faced with this difficult position, in 242/1 BC Seleukos agreed to partition the empire between himself and his fourteen year old brother. Asia Minor west of the Tauros Mountains was to be the territory of Antiochos and Laodike while the east would belong to Seleukos II. Despite the extreme reasonableness of this agreement Antiochos Hierax, under the influence of his mother, quickly claimed authority over the entire Seleukid Empire. Unable to accept this turn of events Seleukos II raised an army and crossed the Tauros to confront Antiochos, thereby instigating the War of the Brothers (240/39-c. 237 BC). The king easily marched as far north as Sardeis, but he could not take the city by force and destroy his opponents. A great battle took place at Ankyra where the army of Seleukos II was crushed by an army of Galatian mercenaries led by Antiochos Hierax and his brother-in-law, Mithridates II of Pontos. The disaster was so complete that at first it was believed that Seleukos had been killed in the fighting. In reality he had disguised himself at the last minute and escaped into Kilikia.

For the rest of his reign, Seleukos II ruled the old Seleukid territory to the east of the Tauros and managed to hold it against attempts by his brother to reclaim it. Unfortunately, the upheaval caused by the War of the Brothers allowed disaffected areas, such as Parthia, to secede from the empire. Although Antiochos Hierax was killed by Galatians in 227 BC, Seleukos was never given the opportunity to reassert his power in Asia Minor. In the following year he died after a fall from his horse.

He was survived by his sons Seleukos III Soter and Antiochos III 'the Great'.


See the coins of Seleukos II Kallinikos in the Hoover Collection. All coins are shown actual size and are fully described. For an enlargement and a brief discussion of each coin's historical and iconographic importance please click on the appropriate coin picture.

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