By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
In 307 BC, Seleucus Nikator, Alexander the Great’s successor, founded Seleucia, the Asian capital of the Seleucid Empire.
Seleucia was 40 miles northeast of Babylon, at the crossroads of the Tigris and Euphrates waterways and the trading routes connecting Central Asia and India with the Mediterranean. Architectural decoration, terracotta figurines, pottery, glass, jewelry, and coins reveal the crucial role that Seleucia played in cultural exchange between East and West as the greatest Hellenistic city of Parthian Asia and a long-lived beacon of classical culture.
Seleucia was a typically Hellenistic town. A regular grid of blocks contained public buildings and spaces, including marketplaces, temples, a theater, and private dwellings.
From 141 BC onward, Seleucia flourished as an independent city in the Parthian Empire, striking its own coinage and rivaling Rome and Alexandria in wealth. After its destruction by the Roman army in the 2nd century CE, Seleucia declined until its death blow by the Sasanian conquest in 226 CE.
Between 1927 and 1937, the University of Michigan (on behalf of the American School of Oriental Research in Baghdad) carried out excavations of an entire dwelling block. Later, the Italian Archaeological Mission excavated the archive building, where thousands of seal impressions with Hellenistic portraits were found.