Antiochus III the Great (Megas), (c. 241 - 187 BC, ruled 223 - 187 BC), younger son of Seleucus II Callinicus, became ruler of the Seleucid kingdom as a youth of about eighteen in 223 BC. (His traditional designation, the Great, stems from a misconception of Megas Basileus (Great king), the traditional title of the Persian kings, which he adopted.)
Antiochus III inherited a disorganized state. Not only had Asia Minor become detached, but the further eastern provinces had broken away, Bactria under the Greek Diodotus of Bactria, and Parthia under the nomad chieftain Arsaces. Soon after Antiochus's accession, Media and Persia revolted under their governors, the brothers Molon and Alexander.
The young king, under the baneful influence of the minister Hermeias, authorised an attack on Judea instead of going in person to face the rebels. The attack on Judea proved a fiasco, and the generals sent against Molon and Alexander met with disaster. Only in Asia Minor, where the king's cousin, the able Achaeus represented the Seleucid cause, did its prestige recover, driving the Pergamene power back to its earlier limits.
In 221 BC Antiochus at last went east, and the rebellion of Molon and Alexander collapsed. The submission of Lesser Media, which had asserted its independence under Artabazanes, followed. Antiochus rid himself of Hermeias by assassination and returned to Syria (220 BC). Meanwhile Achaeus himself had revolted and assumed the title of king in Asia Minor. Since, however, his power was not well enough grounded to allow of his attacking Syria, Antiochus considered that he might leave Achaeus for the present and renew his attempt on Judea.
The campaigns of 219 BC and 218 BC carried the Seleucid arms almost to the confines of Egypt, but in 217 BC Ptolemy IV confronted Antiochus at the Battle of Raphia and inflicted a defeat upon him which nullified all Antiochus's successes and compelled him to withdraw north of the Lebanon. In 216 BC Antiochus went north to deal with Achaeus, and had by 214 BC driven him from the field into Sardis. Antiochus contrived to get possession of the person of Achaeus (see Polybius), but the citadel held out until 213 BC under Achaeus's widow and then surrendered.
Anabasis of Antiochus III (212 - 205) BC
Having thus recovered the central part of Asia Minor - for the Seleucid government had perforce to tolerate the dynasties in Pergamum, Bithynia and Cappadocia - Antiochus turned to recover the outlying provinces of the north and east. He obliged Xerxes of Armenia to acknowledge his supremacy in 212 BC. In 209 BC Antiochus invaded Parthia, occupied the capital Hecatompylus and pushed forward into Hyrcania. The Parthian king Arsaces II apparently successfully sued for peace. 209 BC saw Antiochus in Bactria, where another Greek, Euthydemus, had supplanted the original rebel. Antiochus again met with success. After sustaining a famous siege in his capital Bactra (Balkh), Euthydemus obtained an honourable peace by which Antiochus promised Euthydemus' son Demetrius the hand of one of his daughters.
Antiochus next, following in the steps of Alexander, crossed into the Kabul valley, received the homage of the Indian king Sophagasenus and returned west by way of Seistan and Kerman (206/5). From Seleucia on the Tigris he led a short expedition down the Persian Gulf against the Gerrhaeans of the Arabian coast (205 BC/204 BC). Antiochus seemed to have restored the Seleucid empire in the east, and the achievement brought him the title of "the Great King." In 205 BC/204 BC the infant Ptolemy V Epiphanes succeeded to the Egyptian throne, and Antiochus conduded a secret pact with Philip V of Macedon for the partition of the Ptolemaic possessions.
The Fifth Syrian
Once more Antiochus attacked Judea, and by 199 BC he seems to have had possession of it before the Aetolian, Scopas, recovered it for Ptolemy. But that recovery proved brief, for in 198 BC Antiochus defeated Scopas at the battle of Panium, near the sources of the Jordan, a battle which marks the end of Ptolemaic rule in Judea.
Antiochus then moved to Asia Minor to secure the coast towns which had acknowledged Ptolemy and the independent Greek cities. This enterprise brought him into antagonism with Rome, since Smyrna and Lampsacus appealed to the republic of the west, and the tension became greater after Antiochus had in 196 BC established a footing in Thrace. The evacuation of Greece by the Romans gave Antiochus his opportunity, and he now had the fugitive Hannibal at his court to urge him on.
War with the Romans
In 192 BC Antiochus invaded Greece, having the Aetolians and other Greek states as his allies. In 191 BC, however, the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio routed him at Thermopylae and obliged him to withdraw to Asia. But the Romans followed up their success by attacking Antiochus in Asia Minor, and the decisive victory of Scipio Asiaticus at Magnesia ad Sipylum (190 BC), following the defeat of Hannibal at sea off Side, gave Asia Minor into their hands.
By the peace of Apamea (188 BC) the Seleucid king abandoned all the country north of the Taurus, which Rome distributed amongst its friends. As a consequence of this blow to the Seleucid power, the outlying provinces of the empire, recovered by Antiochus, reasserted their independence.
Antiochus perished in a fresh expedition to the east in Luristan (187 BC). The Seleucid kingdom as Antiochus left it fell to his son, Seleucus IV Philopator.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.