:"For the Syrian seaport of the same name that figures in the travels of Saint Paul, see Seleucia Pieria."

Seleucia (Greek: Σελεύκεια) was one of the great cities of the world during Hellenistic and Roman times. It stood in Mesopotamia, on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the smaller town of Opis (later Ctesiphon). [To distinguish it from the many lesser places named Seleucia, it is sometimes called Seleucia-on-the-Tigris, in reference to its site. Among its other names are, in the Talmud, "Selik", "Selika", and "Selikos"; in the Aramaic Targum, "Salwakia" or "Salwakya"; in other languages, "Zochasia", "Coche", and "Mahoza".]


eleucid empire

Seleucia, as such, was founded in about 305 BC , when an earlier city was enlarged and dedicated as the first capital of the Seleucid Empire by Seleucus I Nicator. Seleucus was one of the generals of Alexander the Great who, after Alexander's death, divided his empire among themselves. [] Although Seleucus soon moved his main capital to Antioch, in northern Syria, Seleucia became an important center of trade, Hellenistic culture, and regional government under the Seleucids. The city was populated by Macedonians, Greeks, Syrians and Jews. [ [ Seleucia - LoveToKnow 1911] ] Standing at the confluence of the Tigris River with a major canal from the Euphrates, Seleucia was placed to receive traffic from both great waterways. During the 3rd and 2nd century BC, it was one of the great Hellenistic cities, comparable to Alexandria, in Egypt, and greater than Syrian Antioch.

Polybius (5,52ff) uses the Macedonian "peliganes" for the council of Seleucia, which implies a Macedonian colony, consistently with its rise to prominence under Nicator; Pausanias ( [ 1,16] ) records that Seleucus also settled Babylonians there. Archaeological finds support the presence of a large population not of Greek culture.In 141 BC, the Parthians under Mithridates I conquered the city, and Seleucia became the western capital of the Parthian Empire. Tacitus described its walls, and mentioned that it was, even under Parthian rule, a fully Hellenistic city. Ancient texts say that the city had 600,000 people, and was ruled by a senate of 300 people. It was one of the largest cities in the Western world; only Rome, Alexandria and possibly Antiochia were more populous.

In 55 BC, a battle fought near Seleucia was crucial in establishing dynastic succession of the Arsacid kings. In this battle between the reigning Mithridates III (supported by a Roman army of Aulus Gabinius, governor of Syria) and the previously deposed Orodes II, the reigning monarch was defeated, allowing Orodes to reestablish himself as king.

In about 41 BC, Seleucia was the scene of a massacre of around 5,000 Babylonian Jewish refugees (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 9, § 9). []

In 117 AD Seleucia was burned down by the Roman Emperor Trajan during his conquest of Mesopotamia, but the following year it was ceded back to the Parthians by Trajan's successor, Hadrian, then rebuilt in the Parthian style. It was finally destroyed by the Roman general Avidius Cassius in 164. [ [ The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon] ]

assanid rule

Over sixty years later a new city, "Veh-Ardashir", was built on the site by Ardashir I (ruled 226–241), founder of the Sassanid dynasty. There were active Christian churches in Mesopotamia from the first century onwards and sometime during the third or fourth centuries Seleucia became an important centre.

Following the edict of toleration by the Persian Sassanian King Yazdegard,which brought to an end, for the time being, the persecution of Christians which had lasted for 70 years, the remaining Christians set about reorganizing and strengthening the church.

The Synod of Seleucia (The Synod of Mar Isaac) met in AD 410 under the presidency of Mar Isaac, the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The most important decision of the Synod which had a very far reaching effect on the life of the church, was to declare the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon as the primate of the Persian church; and in recognition of this pre-eminence he was given the title ‘Catholicos’. The Synod confirmed Mar Isaac as Catholicos and Archbishop of all the Orient. The Synod also declared its adherence to the decision of the Council of Nicea and subscribed to the Nicene Creed. The Canons of the Synod leave no doubt as to the authority of the great Metropolitan, the Catholicos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. Without his approval, no election of bishop would be valid. (Ctesiphon was a twin town on the opposite bank of the River Tigris).

Towards the end of the reign of Yazdegard, the Christians were again persecuted in AD 420. Dadyeshu was elected Catholicos in AD 421 and himself suffered during the persecution and was imprisoned.When he was released he resigned and left Seleucia, but the church refused to accept the resignation and there followed the Synod of Dadyeshu which met in AD 424 in Markabata of the Arabs under the presidency of Mar Dadyeshu. It proved to be one of the most significant of all Persian synods. The first synod of Isaac in AD 410 had decided that the Catholicos of Seleucia Ctesiphon be supreme among the bishops of the East. The Synod of Dadyeshu decided that the Catholicos should be the sole head of the Persian church and that no ecclesiastical authority should be acknowledged above him. In particular it was laid down that "easterners shall not complain of their Patriarch to the western Patriarchs; every case that cannot be settled by him shall await the tribunal of Christ." For the first time, this synod referred to the Catholicos as Patriarch and that their Catholicos was answerable to God alone. This had some effect in reassuraing the Sassandid monarchy that the Persian Christians were not influenced by the Roman enemy.

This city eventually faded into obscurity and was swallowed by the desert sands, perhaps abandoned after the Tigris shifted its course.


The site of Seleucia was rediscovered in the 1920s by archaeologists looking for Opis [ [ University of] ] .

Beginning in 1927, University of Michigan professors Leroy Waterman (1927-1932) and Clark Hopkins (1936-1937) oversaw excavations for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology on behalf of the American School of Oriental Research of Baghdad with funds supplied by the Toledo Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art. From 1964 till 1989 an Italian mission from the University of Turin excavated at the site. They found a Seleucid archive building with about 15 000 seal impressions, all in a fully Greek style.

In an outer wall of the Parthian period, a reused brick dated by stamp to 821 BC, during the Neo-Babylonian period.

It appears to have incorporated both Greek and Mesopotamian architecture for the public buildings. Finds have indicated an extensive non-Greek population.



*Richard Talbert, Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, (ISBN 0-691-03169-X), p. 91.
*"Oxford Classical Dictionary" "s. v."

External links

* [ Seleucia on the Tigris, Iraq]
* [ Hazlitt's Classical Gazetteer "Seleucia"]
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia "Seleucia"]

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