Syria is an ancient Middle Eastern land that has been possessed by many foreign rulers all throughout its long history. Originally the territory of Syria was known as Elba, which was a city-state that was built up into a powerful kingdom. Various nomadic peoples such as the Canaanites, Phoenicians and Arameans all migrated into Syria until 2000 B.C. In time empires and kingdoms such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites and Babylonians all occupied Syria. Eventually, the Persians had taken over this territory and after Alexander the Great had passed away one of his former generals named Seleucus eventually dominated Syria. He established his capital in the ancient city of Antioch which was also a part of the Syrian territory. Syria was just one of a few provinces that were controlled by the Seleucid Empire. The Seleucid rule of Syria lasted a little over 200 years starting in 305 B.C. that is where it appears on the Bible Timeline Poster with world history. The rule ended when the Romans made it a part of their empire in 64 B.C.
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The land of Judea had become a part of the Seleucid Empire after it was divided up by Alexander the Great generals. The city of Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Judah. Once Judah had been taken over the Seleucids, it too remained a part of their territory up until they gained their independence in the Maccabee revolt.
The King, who ruled Syria or the Seleucid Empire during this era, was Antioch II Theos. His rule lasted between 261 B.C. and 246 B.C. Around 254 B.C. Antiochus II Theos was intermittently fighting an ongoing war against a rival Greek dynasty known as the Ptolemy. During this period he ruled Judah in a relatively peaceful manner.
One of the customary things to do when an empire or kingdom conquered a territory was to allow it to continue in its way of life. The Greeks used this practice and as long as a conquered territory paid its prescribed tribute and didn’t rebel the territory was left alone. There were governors or officials placed into these conquered territories, but many of them were put there just to remind the people that they were being dominated by a foreign ruler.
Antiochus II Theos was not that concerned with the Jews during his reign. He allowed them to worship as they pleased and to live in the manner that they were accosted. He didn’t try to change their ways or to force them to accept foreign gods. The Greek historian Josephus claimed that he had given citizenship rights to the Jews who lived foreign Greek cities. The people who lived in Jerusalem didn’t have any objection to King Antiochus II Theos rule. Though they did not want to be ruled by any foreign power, they didn’t necessarily believe that Antiochus II Theos was a terrible monarch. Once Antiochus II Theos had passed away in 246 B.C., another Seleucid ruler became king. His name was Antiochus III though he treated the Jews respectably he also set the stage for Antiochus IV, who would come to wreak havoc on Judeans.