The People That History Forgot
Chapter 15 

The Seleucid Capital Moved West to Antioch

It was not long after the building of "new Babylon" that Seleucus made another important decision. Recognizing that the western part of his kingdom was politically more important than the east, he decided to build a further new city in the west, a city which could be his political capital. This is when the famous city of Antioch was built. This was done very soon after the new Babylon had been constructed on the Tigris. In fact, not satisfied with two new cities, Seleucus went on a building spree. He built more than 30 new cities in the empire that he controlled.

One of the most important of these new cities was Antioch. This new city represents an important link in our present study of Babylonians (and other Semites) moving into the west, into Syria. Indeed, just as old Babylon was left desolate when the Babylonians flocked to Seleucia-on-the-Tigris, there were likewise swarms of people from Mesopotamia moving to Antioch when it became the real capital of the kingdom. He invited thousands of people to come from Mesopotamia to populate Antioch and his other new cities. Josephus tells us that many of the Jews who were in Mesopotamia flocked to every one of these new western cities (see Antiquities, II.3,I). But Jews were not the only ones to move west into this new area of influence. Native Mesopotamians also migrated on a large scale. In fact, the region of western Syria had become so racially "Babylonian" by the end of the Seleucid rule, that Strabo the geographer of the 1st century B.C.E. said the peoples of Mesopotamia and those of Syria were then a homogeneous group. They became the same racial stock with no big differences between them (Strabo, Geography, Book I.2,34).

"The plains of Mesopotamia and Coele-Syria, inhabited by kindred races, extended across frontiers which are not marked out by nature, and, relations between the great temples situated east and west of the Euphrates continued (even in Roman times) without interruption."

  • Cumont, Astrology and Religion, pp.77–78

Yes, the priesthoods, and even the peoples, of Mesopotamia and those of Syria near the beginning of our era were of the same general stock. There can be no doubt of this.

Antioch — the New Babylonian Capital

When Seleucus built Antioch, he invited some Greek colonists to the city as well as bringing many Mesopotamian peoples with him as its new inhabitants. The Babylonian priests became the foremost of Antioch’s citizens. Antioch had "a high Greek civilization mixed with various eastern elements and especially with the superstitions of Chaldean astrology" (Smith’s Geography, vol.I,p.143). It is a simple fact that the Seleucid empire soon became a Babylonian or a Chaldean one in its religious and societal affairs. It was simply a matter of moving the political and religious centers west to Antioch.

"The Seleucids believed in Chaldean astrology, and the kings of Commune, as well as a great number of Syrian cities, had the signs of the zodiac as emblems on their coins. It is certain that this pseudo-science penetrated into those regions [of eastern and western Syria] long before the Hellenistic period. Chaldeanism modified Semitic paganism."

Speaking of Antioch, the Seleucid capital, and the religious motives which governed the region, Cumont again says:

"There can be no doubt that Babylonian doctrines exercised decisive influence on this gradual metamorphosis and this latest phase of Semitic religion. The Seleucid princes of Antioch showed as great a deference to the science of the Babylonian clergy as the Persian Achaemenids had done before them. We find Seleucus Nicator consulting these official soothsayers about the propitious hour for founding Seleucia on the Tigris. ... The cities of Syria often stamp on their coins certain signs of the zodiac to mark the fact that they stood under their patronage. If the princes and cities [of Syria] thus acknowledged the authority of astrology [the special science of the Chaldeans], we may imagine what was the power of this scientific theology in the temples. We may say that in the age of Alexander it permeated the whole of Semitic paganism."

  • Cumont, Astrology and Religion, pp.80–81

In other words, Syria and the Seleucid Empire were saturated with Chaldean and Babylonian teaching. Its religion and philosophies, while using Greek names and Greek cultural words, were nevertheless thoroughly Babylonian. The temperaments of those people who moved to Antioch and Syria were suited to such a religion.

"It was Babylon that retained the intellectual supremacy, even after its political ruin. The powerful sacerdotal caste ruling it did not fall with the independence of the country, and it survived the conquests of Alexander. The researches of Assyriologists have shown that its ancient worship persisted under the Seleucids, and at the time of Strabo the Chaldeans still discussed cosmology and first principles in the rival schools of Borsippa and Orchoe. The ascendancy of that erudite clergy affected all surrounding regions, but more than anywhere else [it affected] the Syrians, who were connected with the eastern Semites by bonds of language and blood."

What is interesting, even when the capital of the empire moved to Antioch, the Seleucid kings called themselves not only the kings of Antioch or Syria but they retained the prestige title: kings of Babylon (e.g. Bevan, House of Seleucus, vol.1, p.255). This was intended to show that though the geographical influence had changed in this western movement, the historical connection had not. The Seleucid kingdom was basically a Babylonian one with a Greek veneer (or, better yet, it was a Babylonian kingdom to the core but it was now using primarily the Greek language and cultural ideas to express its Babylonian principles).

Let us now inquire at what happened to the population of the Mesopotamian lands and their economic position after the removal of the capital to Antioch? In both cases there was continual deterioration in the east. First, many people were attracted to the west because political influence was in that direction. Secondly, in the later years of the Seleucid Empire, the Mesopotamian area became a war zone in the struggles between the Parthians and the Seleucids. Thousands of people, who had a natural affinity toward their brethren in the west (many had relatives there), retreated towards the Mediterranean regions. Also, because of the war zone and the migrations, the irrigation system which had so wonderfully made Mesopotamia a huge garden in earlier years was beginning to waste away to a considerable extent. Much of the land, near the end of Seleucid rule, was reverting to deserts or into impassable swamps. It was only natural that the people looked for, and went to, the more prosperous areas of the kingdom. The Babylonians moved west. Dr. Cumont explains about the deterioration of Mesopotamia in the two centuries before the time of Jesus. To understand his remark, recall that Babylonians and Chaldeans are the same.

"Hipparchus saw the ruin of the country [of Babylon] where was born the science [of astrology] which he illumined. Invaded by the Parthians about the year 140 B.C., recaptured by Antiochus VII of Syria in 130 B.C., reconquered soon afterwards by King Phraates, Mesopotamia was terribly ravaged for more than a quarter of a century. Babylon [Seleucia-on-the-Tigris], sacked and burned in 125 B.C., never recovered her former splendor: a progressive decay brought on her a death by slow consumption. Henceforth it is far from the Chaldean’s native land, in Syria, in Egypt, and in the West, that we must follow the development of the religious ideas derived from the Chaldea of antiquity."

  • Cumont, Astrology and Religion, p.41

Yes, the Babylonians of Mesopotamia went into Syria and some into Egypt, and by transplantation many of them flocked further west. The first step from Mesopotamia to the west was, of course, Syria. It must be remembered that Syria was much more prosperous in Seleucid times than now. There were huge farms all over Syria, from the Mediterranean eastwards even beyond Palmyra. A 2nd century B.C.E. Syrian (Posidonius), said,

"All the people of Syria, because of the great plenty which their land afforded, were relieved of any distress regarding the necessaries of life."

  • Athenaeus, V.195

This western region was absorbing the Mesopotamian population. And what is revealing, the eastern Mesopotamian population was deteriorating and the region was turning into desert at the same rate as Syria was growing in population and prosperity. In fact, by Roman times, Syria was the most populous area in the whole Roman Empire (see Trevor-Roper, "The End of Antiquity," The Listener [1971], p.916), while Mesopotamia had dwindled to very diminished proportions. Actually, by the 2nd century of our era, when the Roman Empire finally annexed Mesopotamia to its rule, they considered the area so useless to Rome that they withdrew their legions after only a generation of occupation. Hadrian in the 2nd century of our era, conquering the region for Rome, destroyed Seleucia-on-the-Tigris and reduced it to a ghost city. This was the fate of many of the few cities which remained in the region. In actual fact, Mesopotamia in not many generations became a desert or a semi-desert region, and by the 1st century B.C.E. Arabs had replaced the earlier people in the south and made up a third of the country (Strabo, Geography, I.2,34).

Now the important point for us to realize in this present study is that it was western Syria that absorbed most of the Mesopotamian movements of people when these wars and difficulties were happening. But many of the people did not stop in Syria for very long. We have already shown that by the 1st century of our era, even Rome and Italy (much farther west, of course) were now finding themselves deluged by people coming from this very region of Syria. They came into Italy mainly as slaves captured from the remaining Seleucid realm when it began to deteriorate at the time Rome came into the country. And when the Roman Empire really began under Augustus, the migration to the west increased.

"Under the Empire the importation of slaves increased. Depopulated Italy needed more and more foreign hands, and Syria furnished a large quota of the forced immigration."

"It is certain that the first worshipers of the Syrian goddess in the Latin world were slaves. During the wars against Antiochus the Great [the Seleucid king] a number of prisoners were sent to Italy to be sold at public auction, and the first appearance in Italy of the Chaldeans has been connected with that event."

After this time, we read of many Chaldeans in Italy, especially around Rome. They first came, however, with the Syrian slaves from the Seleucid Empire. That empire, as we have seen, was filled with Chaldeans (another name for "Babylonians"). Another reason why people were taken from Syria and Phoenicia to the west, is simply because Syria was an over populated country just before our era. Italy, on the other hand, after the Punic wars, had a great loss of population. Swarms of slaves were brought from Syria to fill up the "void" in Italy and Sicily. It has been proved that almost every slave in Sicily was from Syria (See the Story of the Nations series on Sicily). These Syrians who were transported to Rome took their Chaldean religions directly with them. They were simply transplanted Mesopotamians.

"The importance which the introduction of the Syrian religions into the Occident has for us consists in the fact that indirectly they brought certain theological doctrines of the Chaldeans with them."

"The Chaldean astrology, of which the Syrian priests were enthusiastic disciples, had furnished them [the Romans] with the elements of a scientific theology."

In process of time, these easterners finally became the later Romans (as explained in earlier chapters of this book). Babylonian Sun-worship and the mystery religions became the official religions of Rome. "The Syrian religions had spread far and wide in the Occident ideas conceived on the distant banks of the Euphrates" (Cumont, Oriental Religions, p.125). Yes, the transplanted people who came primarily from Syria and Phoenicia in the two centuries before the time of Jesus were the primary vehicle which brought pure Babylonianism to the west, into the heart of Italy itself. As a matter of fact, the Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century of our era, had so strongly the temperament of a Syrian that he proclaimed the Syrian Sun-god as the official god of the Romans. This Syrian Sun-god was even proclaimed as the author of the Roman race, i.e., the new Roman race of which the later Caesars had become the representatives.

"This Sun-worship was the final form which Roman paganism assumed. In 274 A.D. the emperor Aurelian conferred on it official recognition when, on his return from Syria, inspired by what he had seen at Palmyra, he founded a gorgeous temple in honor of Sol Invictus ― the invincible Sun ― served by priests [which he had brought with him from Syria] who had precedence even over the members of the ancient Collegium pontificum; and in the following century, the emperors worshiped the almighty star [the Sun] not only as the patron but also as the author of its race. The invincible Sun raised to the supreme position in the divine hierarchy, peculiar protector of sovereigns and of the Empire, tends to absorb or subordinate to himself all other divinities."

  • Cumont, Astrology and Religion, p.133

"The god Bel whom Aurelian brought from Asia to set up as a protector of his states, was in reality a Babylonian who had emigrated to Palmyra [in Syria]."

And it should be remembered that even the later Roman emperors, who had in their midst primarily a Syrian (or Semitic) race, said that the Babylonian Sun-god was the author of that Roman race.

What must be understood (as we will later show in this book) is the fact that the western part of the Roman Empire came to be settled by various types of Semitic peoples and that at one time a particular type would dominate and at another time others would take over. For example, in the time of the Severides (who ruled from C.E. 193 to 235), they were of Punic origin though they came from North Africa. They were Phoenician in racial stock who had originally come to North Africa from Tyre and its vicinity. In the time of the Severide emperors there were strong ties through marriage with these Punic peoples and those of Syria. The ancestors of the Severide emperors were really from Tyre and the early histories (as we will show) reveal that many if not most of the Tyrians that became Phoenicians were actually of Edomite stock (they were kin to the Jews through the twin brother of Jacob named Esau). Other Roman emperors and rulers in later times were from different branches of these various Semitic peoples who had moved into the western parts of the Empire.

All of these types of Semitic peoples (including, of course, the Samaritans) that came into the west are a part Of The People That History Forgot. We will show some of the significance regarding these important divisions of these kindred peoples as we progress in this research.

What this book is attempting to do is to place these so-called "lost people" within the mainstream of historical understanding which most scholars can easily recognize from the 7th century onward. These eastern peoples transformed the society that came to be found in the Roman west. It is important for the understanding of western civilization that these matters be recognized and comprehended. The history of the peoples of Europe can only be made clear when these points are realized.


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