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SELEUCUS sĭ lōō’ kəs (Σέλευκος). The name of six kings of Syria, four of whom are of some significance.

Seleucus I Nicator,

“conqueror,” c. 358-280 b.c. The son of a Macedonian noble, he was a close associate of Alexander the Great in his campaigns in the E. He became the ruler of Syria and Babylonia after Alexander’s death. In the wars of the Diadochi “successors” he was Perdiccas’ chief supporter in the early struggle, but later was a party to his demise. In 316 he lost his domains and was forced to flee to Egypt. With the help of Ptolemy he regained Babylon, Media, and Susiana. This marked the beginning of the Seleucid dynasty which lasted until 65 b.c. Daniel (11:5) referred to him as a prince of the king of the S who became stronger than the king. He was a separatist with Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Cassander against Antigonus at Ipsus in 301. As a result of the victory, he gained control of Syria and Cilicia. In 281 he won Asia Minor from Lysimachus. He founded a number of famous cities, among them Antioch on the Orontes, Laodicea, Seleucia, Edessa, and Beroea. He settled many Jews in them and conferred upon them the rights of citizenship (Jos. Antiq. XII. iii. 1). He founded his new capital at Antioch and married the daughter of Demetrius, but he did not repudiate his Bactrian wife Apama. Although he was a king of the E, he was basically western in outlook. He aspired to gain the throne of Macedonia and re-establish a unified empire, but he was murdered in the attempt by Ptolemy II.

Seleucus II Callinius,

“glorious victor,” 265-226 b.c. The eldest son of Antiochus II and father of Antiochus III. Reference is made in Daniel 11:6-9 to the way in which he gained the throne and to subsequent events. His mother was Laodice, whom his father put aside to marry Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II and sister of Ptolemy III. After this marriage, Antiochus returned to Laodice, only to be poisoned by her. In 247 she named her son Seleucus II king. Berenice then asked her brother to come to her aid and support her infant son’s claim to the throne. The Third Syrian War followed, in which Syria and Babylonia were plundered. As a result of the weakness of the empire, Bactria and Parthia were also lost. Seleucus’ younger brother, Antiochus Hierax, supported by their mother, temporarily took command of Asia Minor. Seleucus then died as the result of a riding accident. It remained for his son Antiochus the Great to restore the kingdom.

Seleucus III Soter,

“savior,” c. 245-223. He and his brother and successor Antiochus the Great are referred to in Daniel 11:10 as the sons of Seleucus II. He reigned for only two years, and died mysteriously on a campaign against Attalus of Pergamum to regain Asia Minor.

Seleucus IV Philopator,

“father-loving,” c. 218-175 b.c. The son of Antiochus the Great and brother of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, he maintained a diminished empire by keeping scrupulously to the terms of the Peace of Apamea with Rome. This forbade further adventures in the W under penalty of heavy fine. He remained on friendly terms with the other two independent powers of the E, Egypt and Macedonia. He was assassinated by a plot of Heliodorus, his chief minister, and was succeeded by his brother.

He is mentioned in Daniel 11:20 as “one who shall send an exactor of tribute through the glory of the kingdom.” Although he undertook a large share of the expenses of the Temple early in his reign (187-175), he later attempted to carry off its treasury through Heliodorus and Simon, a Jewish officer, perhaps because he owed a great sum of money to Rome (2 Macc 3:4).


E. Bevan, The House of Seleucus (1902, rep. 1966); E. Bikerman, Institutions des Seleucides (1938).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) Seleucus I (Nicator, "The Conqueror"), the founder of the Seleucids or House of Seleucus, was an officer in the grand and thoroughly equipped army, which was perhaps the most important part of the inheritance that came to Alexander the Great from his father, Philip of Macedon. He took part in Alexander’s Asiatic conquests, and on the division of these on Alexander’s death he obtained the satrapy of Babylonia. By later conquests and under the name of king, which he assumed in the year 306, he became ruler of Syria and the greater part of Asia Minor. His rule extended from 312 to 280 BC, the year of his death; at least the Seleucid era which seems to be referred to in 1 Macc 1:16 is reckoned from Seleucus I, 312 BC to 65 BC, when Pompey reduced the kingdom of Syria to a Roman province. He followed generally the policy of Alexander in spreading Greek civilization. He founded Antioch and its port Seleucia, and is said by Josephus (Ant., XII, iii, 1) to have conferred civic privileges upon the Jews. The reference in Da 11:5 is usually understood to be to this ruler.

(2) Seleucus II (Callinicus, "The Gloriously Triumphant"), who reigned from 246 to 226 BC, was the son of Antiochus Soter and is "the king of the north" in Da 11:7-9, who was expelled from his kingdom by Ptolemy Euergetes.

(3) Seleucus III (Ceraunus, "Thunderbolt"), son of Seleucus II, was assassinated in a campaign which he undertook into Asia Minor. He had a short reign of rather more than 2 years (226-223 BC) and is referred to in Da 11:10.

(4) Seleucus IV (Philopator, "Fond of his Father") was the son and successor of Antiochus the Great and reigned from 187 to 175 BC. He is called "King of Asia" (2 Macc 3:3), a title claimed by the Seleucids even after their serious losses in Asia Minor (see 1 Macc 8:6; 11:13; 12:39; 13:32). He was present at the decisive battle of Magnesia (190 BC). He was murdered by HELIODORUS (which see), one of his own courtiers whom he had sent to plunder the Temple (2 Macc 3:1-40; Da 11:20).

For the connection of the above-named Seleucids with the "ten horns" of Da 7:24, the commentators must be consulted.

Seleucus V (125-124 BC) and Seleucus VI (95-93 BC) have no connection with the sacred narrative.