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What if Seleucid Empire had lasted much longer?

Discussion in 'World History' started by Hamilton321, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. Hamilton321

    Hamilton321 Warlord

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    I just thought of something which would change the history of the old world quite a lot. What if the Seleucid Empire lasted significantly longer and kept its empire? The implications of that would be enormous especially for Rome. The empire could have possibly spread beyond its historical boundaries to Greece and Egypt. There would have been no mithridatic wars, Rome would have had significantly different culture, religion had they not conquered formerly Seleucid territories. Two of the more significant Roman gods, namely Cybele and Mithras came from these areas. Not to mention that the wealthiest Roman territories would later be in this region. There would be no Byzantine Empire, and here's something else, there would have been no Christianity.
     
  2. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Deity

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    I highly doubt your last sentence is true. The Persians/Selucids were more tolerant of foreign cultures and religions, by and large than the Romans. And even in Rome Christianity managed to survive and finally even prosper. That's a really tough case you're making.

    The reason why the empire didn't spread that far in the first place is they were spread thin. Even if they managed to capture it, it's hard to imagine how they would have able to keep it. The Romans left Brittania voluntarily, for example. It really comes down to whether the people in Asia Minor/Turkey would accept them as leaders or revolt. If they revolt, the Salucid's didn't really have the manpower to keep it. But otherwise you're right, that would have been drastically different history.
     
  3. Olleus

    Olleus Deity

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    Even if the Seleucid had managed to reclaim Alexander's empire, I really don't see how they could resist Rome. Remember, the Romans barely broke a sweat conquering Macedonia or Greece. In many ways they did so because it was *less* troublesome than not conquering them. The Seleucid were no harder. Egypt basically gave itself to Rome.

    Now a unified Hellenic world would have been much tougher nut to crack. But not that much harder. It's impossible to imagine Greece not fracturing from such an empire. A centralised monarchy in 300BC over such a large, diverse and in parts sparsely populated empire was inherently unstable. The Seleucid was always going to bleed itself dry just keeping itself alive.

    So in the best case scenario, a Seleucid empire lasting for longer only means a slowly decaying prosperity for what was the richest and most dynamic part of the ancient world. Until they get taken over by Rome. Maybe this would have made Rome focus more on the west/north africa than on the east?
     
  4. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    I am sure that @Dachs will be able to post something far more interesting (given his studies are on this), but considering that Rome could have even lost Greece to Pontus (Pontus landed a far larger army, and if they had a decent general they would have retaken central Greece after the decisive battle they historically lost), Rome doesn't appear to have been invinsible at the time. Consider how they lost all of Asia Minor in a few years, again to Pontus (a relatively small player).
    Moreover, Rome didn't defeat Macedonia that easily; it took a lot of alliances to bring that about. Afaik even the Achaean League was instrumental in securing Rome's position as arbitrator in southern Greece.
    Also take note of Pyrrhos in Italy, and Hannibal in Italy; if they had more allies they could have defeated Rome. The vast hellenistic empires didn't seem interested in helping, and later paid dearly for that. That said, even the Seleucid Empire alone could have destroyed roman aspirations in Greece, had they (much like Pontus) actually used the services of a better general.
     
  5. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    Rome made a big bet at Margnesia coming from the wars with Carthage and Macedonia. That was one battle they probably could not afford to lose. Carthage had not yet been deleted, and Macedonia was still a power in Greece.

    Had the Seleucid won this battle, they'd probably have annexed Egypt, and Rome would have had to wait a few decades before expanding eastwards. But Greece would remain divided and easy pickings when they did turn that way. Whether a larger Seleucid empire would be there still to meet them, is anyone's guess. Mine is it would be unlikely, it would probably break up quickly due to some internal split.
     
  6. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    I wrote an alternate history idea about this a long time ago. It's something near and dear to my heart.
    Yep, agreed on all counts - except Antiochos probably would have reentered Greece before going after Egypt (yet) again. The war started over Greece, after all, and he probably would have defined victory as restoring the power of his allies in Aitolia and Sparta, destroying Achaia and Pergamon, and regime-changing Macedonia.

    To add to what you said: Rome was in trouble in 190 BC. The casualties of an unbroken three decades of extremely high-intensity (and high-casualty) wars against: the Gauls of northern Italy, the Carthaginians, the Celtiberians and other inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula, the Illyrians, and the Macedonians, left the Romans scraping the barrel for their expeditionary force. They had to use extraordinary measures to even gather an army to sail for Greece in the first place; casualty replacement would have been between difficult and impossible. A disaster on the scale of the defeats in Numantia a few decades later might even have triggered a political struggle over the franchise. Rome probably would have survived the defeat (although it might not have), but it would have had a lot of issues to work out before crossing the Adriatic again.

    At that point, we're through the looking glass, where virtually anything is possible. Rome returns and conquers the East? Maybe. Rome returns and gets its butt kicked even harder than the last time, whether at the hands of the Seleukids or some sort of successor state? Also totally within the realm of possibility.
    I'm actually not a classicist in even the loosest sense of the word. Not only am I not an academic, I haven't even learned any of the classical Mediterranean languages! So I can't really say that my "studies" were on this. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though.

    But yeah, the Romans were skin-of-their-teething the war against Antiochos III and very easily could have lost it. He probably wouldn't have even tried to land in Italy after a victory, but he could very conceivably returned to Greece and crushed the Romans' allies there.
     
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  7. Tee Kay

    Tee Kay Justice guaranteed

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    Since Christianity as we know it is basically a product of Messianic Judaism meeting Roman imperial policy, I would say yes without the Roman Empire there would not have been Christianity. Not in any form that we would readily recognise as such anyway.
     
  8. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Moreover, without the Romans to demolish the Second Temple, Christianity may have remained a sort of charismatic renewal movement with Judaism, rather than fragmenting off into its own weird thing.
     
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  9. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Deity

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    Zoroastrians also believed in a "messiah" similar to Jews. It's not entirely absurd that they would have an equivalent with it as the Romans did.
     
  10. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    I don't think the temple's destruction caused the split between Jews and Christians. The authentic Pauline Epistles... show that Jews and Christians were already at odds before the Temple fell. Paul himself had a personal role in it.
    Some other choice tidbits from Paul include...

    and...
    The circumcision debate being a reflection of another big difference, the significant number of gentiles active in the early church.
    I'm not so sure about that. It's kind of a vexed question, I believe.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
  11. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    That's fair, but I think there's something to be said about the destruction of the Temple and the whole disorientation of Jewish religious life that followed marking the line between Christians as Judaising Gentiles to another bunch of people with a semi-overlapping set of holy texts.

    But, I might be confusing a dramatically convenient symbol with actual causation.
     
  12. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    The destruction of the temple was certantly a propaganda coup that Christians exploited and used for their own ends. But that seems like just one line of difference among the many that already existed.

    Moreover, some Jews seemed to have had a similar reading to Christians about what the destruction of the temple meant. To wit, that this was God’s punishment levied against an insufficienlty faithful people. Not everyone mourned it in other words.
     
  13. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    I didn't knew about that, really should get to reread the whole bible again, is his historically a very relevant document. How much did the early christians viewed themselves as a sect among jews before becoming established as a separate religion?
    And @Masada, good to see you back!
     
  14. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    It’s complicated. For example, Luke-Acts spends an awful lot of time explaining why there’s so many gentiles in the Jesus movement. His answer ends up being something like: “well you Jews rejected Jesus, the Messiah, but these gentiles didn’t so there!” Paul had slightly different views and seems more bullish on Gentile converts generally. A good source is Acts 15: 6-35 which is about this and how the early Church dealt with it. I’m not sure if that was the breaking point. I tend to think there was no single point of departure. It was part of a process in which both sides decided to separate themselves because it suited them.
     
  15. HoloDoc

    HoloDoc Emperor

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    Not entirely true. The Coptic Church, while it started in Roman territory, never really had much to do with the Empire itself. More likely is that the Christian communities in Central Asia don't get themselves genocided. Of course, this is a pretty wide open counterfactual.
     
  16. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    Yeah, it did. It exists because successive Roman Emperor's had a very real interest in ensuring religious conformity within the Empire. The Council of Chalcedon which 'created' the Coptic Church was an Imperial intervention, by the Emperor Marcian, aimed at heading off another Christological dispute. It just so happened in that attempting to head off that dispute... another dispute broke out that resulted in a schism in the Imperial Church.

    The losers -- those who would later go on to become the Coptic Church -- were not as one might imagine outsiders. They were themselves, the recipients of the patronage of past Emperors. For example, the Emperor Theodosius II, who ruled before Marcian, was an adherent of Dioscorus I. Theodosius II tried to change the trajectory of the Church towards Dioscorus' views. He did this two ways: first, he appointed bishops friendly to the Dioscorus and second he held the Second Council of Ephesus which declared Dioscorus' views the orthodox one. In other words the Coptic view was the correct one...

    And might have remained so had Theodosius' successor Marcian not been partial to monophysitism. The Council of Chalcedon he called explicitly repudiated the Second Council of Ephesus. But even then, the split wasn't final because successive Emperor's tried to resolve the issue. The biggest such effort was made by the Emperor Zeno who managed with lots of arm twisting and threats to get all the Eastern Bishops to sign onto his Henotikon (Instrument of Union). That compact lasted 40 years before it was backed out of. It's only then that the split became final.

    The Coptic Church really only makes sense in terms of a Roman Empire that could and did try shape and influence the Church within its boundaries. More often that not it was successful in this.

    The Church of the East is a different kettle of fish, but it's theological distinctiveness only really makes sense in light of imperial competition between Rome and Persia. Parts of the Church looked to Rome and some preferred to look internally. Persian Emperors, especially Peroz I, made concrete attempts to favor those who looked internally - most but not all of whom were Nestorians. Peroz famously executed Patriarch Babowai who was theological "Roman" in outlook and replaced him with the Nestorian Barasuma. From then on Imperial patronage strengthened the Nestorian's hands until they became the only voice in the Church.

    Honestly, trying to imagine a Christian Church without the Roman Empire seems to me like a fools errand. The entire Church is inextricably linked to the Empire and imperial policy in the first four centuries CE.
     
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  17. Gelion

    Gelion Captain

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    This topic interests me a lot and not only due to my recent campaign in RTW 1.

    The main reasons for the fall of the Seleucid Empire in the East was the overall weakness of the central power and its inability to maintain control of the peripheral areas. Years after years the areas that were on the border broke away from the Empire and it shrunk until it was able to fit on the territory of the Levant. Since we are talking about the Seleucid empire surviving for a considerable time, we are therefore assuming that this crisis of authority which at some point reduced the descision making area under the influence of Seleucid Kings to a circle of 1-2 meters in diameter has been resolved in some way.

    A unified Macedonian Empire died with Alexander and none of the diadoches could have hoped the master the legitimacy to restore the state in its Persian-era borders. Initially they all pretended to be doing so, but it was impossible to accomplish. The diadoches were forced into the geopolitical dilemmas of the pre-Persian realities and any prominent leader could have established a kingdom if he was strong enough to hold an area or small enough so that others won't bother with his claims. Therefore a surviving Seleucid Empire should have been able to deal with this problem in order to jump into a more permanent state. In a way they should have been able to repeat what the Persians were doing all this time and not becoming a failed second Persian Empire, which they did in history.

    The Seleucids needed a population as a basis for their power. Greeks and Macedonians, as victors, enjoyed greater respect and position in Seleucid society, however their numbers were low. A continuation of policy of Alexander of founding colonies (like the Romans did too !) by attracting Macedonians and Greeks could have, in the long term, boosted their power and stability. Some sort of decree of offering land to anyone who moves East could have attracted masses of Greeks always hungry for agricultural land. I can't envisage Seleucids building a system of roads as basis for their power like the Romans did, but greater colonization effort was possible within their comprehension of geopolitical realities.

    Secondly a certain number of choices needed to be made. Historically, Seleucid capital has always been moving Westward following the abandonment of territories in the East and more involvement in affairs of the Mediterranean. Previously, the Persians had their basis of power to the East of the interfleuve of Mesopotamia. Seleucids had their hands free. It might have been better to split the kingdom, abandoning all lands to the East of Persia, leaving them in the hands of an allied dynasty and to concentrate on gaining lands in Asia Minor if possible. I think that this is the strategy that was employed by Seleucids in history, but an earlier start could have helped more.

    Thirdly, surviving for considerable time requires an alternation of two stages : acquisition and digesting of new territories. Times of serious conflict should alternate with times of relative peace to be able to install structures that reinforce attachment of new subjects to the empire. Romans employed this strategy quite well. For Seleucids this meant that they should have stopped their rivalry with Egypt and Macedon as much as possible. If such wars would occur the main strategy should be to make them waste their forces, but not to attempt to conquer until smaller kingdoms have been absorbed. Legitimacy of Seleucids as the only diadoches should have been built up even slower as rushing into conflict to gain all former Alexandrian conquests costed all diadoches too much and ended up in no one restoring that empire.

    What would have happened to the Empire if these changes took place ? I could potentially envisage a formation of the second Roman empire, a Byzantine of the East before its time. Seleucids could have had a unified empire with protected borders, more hellinized population and a lot more resources to spare. Greeks living in the East would have been more numerous, abandoning their « strange » (used ironically) democratic ways once they moved into the Empire as agricultural settlers. Greek could have become a basis for a new lingua franca in the area, not replacing the local languages, but serving as a pool into which local dialects would contribute. Much in the same way that Latin did. By the time Rome gets to the East, having defeated Carthage, we'd have set the scene for a real confrontation between the Latin and Greek worlds, worlds that would have been almost equally matched. Had none of them won (Eastern Mediterranean being an unbreachable barrier for two states of almost equal power) the world would have been in the paradigm of conflict/contact of the lands of « older civilization » (Mesopotamia-centered) and « new civilization » (Europe/Italy-centered). A new sort of history would emerge.
     

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