The Murder of Seleucus Nicator

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These were the first documents that I unwrapped. All were written on papyri.

The Testimony of Ptolemy Keraunos

I wasn’t to blame for the death of the last Successor king. Yes, I put the dagger into him as he relieved himself by the side of the road but I tell you, I wasn’t to blame for his death. It was my father who really killed Seleucus Nicator. He had been dead two years by the time I cut the king’s throat, but that moment would never have come about had my father not forced me to leave Alexandria.
I never wanted to go. I wanted to be Ptolemy II Keraunos, but my father chose my brother to succeed him instead. Why? Was it something I did? No. Perhaps I spoke out of turn one day? Again, no. I was robbed of my throne because my father fell out with my mother, and married that witch Berenike instead. She turned him against my mother and against me. It got so bad that I had to leave Alexandria even before my father died lest he have me assassinated.
Upon leaving the city, I travelled to Thrace where I lived for a time at the court of King Lysimachus. Those were good days. I had great hopes that Lysimachus would give me his favour me, and for a while things went well; my dreams were shattered, however, when he decided to favour Lysimachus, Philip and Ptolemy – his sons by my half-sister, Arsinoe – over Agathocles – his son by Nicaea.
I remember the day that I heard the news – it felt like the shadow of my father had fallen upon us! Curse him to Tartarus. Arsinoe, of course, was my father’s daughter by the witch queen. Well, I was not going to let my father have his way even so many miles from Alexandria. I helped Agathocles scheme against his father; I helped persuade officers to join him; I gave him money to bribe soldiers… I gave him my wisdom as a military commander. Of course, he wasted it all. There was a battle, and he wasn’t just beaten, he was thrashed, like a child caught trespassing. I saw it all from the king’s side. I suspected Agathocles didn’t have it in him to finish his father off; that’s why I pretended to be the latter’s loyal subject throughout.
When Lysimachus put the knife in my hand and told me to kill Agathocles, I didn’t want to kill him, but I knew I had to – the longer Agathocles lived, the more likely he would – in that wretched prison cell – break his oath and betray me. In my opinion, Lysimachus sensed that I had helped Agathocles. The command to murder him, therefore, was a loyalty test. I passed it, just as I passed every test anyone ever set for me, but you know how it is with loyalty. Once you suspect someone of being disloyal, the feeling that they are never entirely leaves you even if you have thousand proofs to the contrary. That’s why, even as I walked downstairs to the dungeon where Agathocles was being held, I knew that my time in Lysimacheia was over.
Almost straight after Agathocles’ death, his wife Lysandra decided to flee to Seleucus’ court. She wanted to go because she feared for her life, and rightly so. I was happy to offer to accompany her. I liked her. I hated her brat offspring with their manners and sense of entitlement but I liked her.
On the very day we reached Babylon, Lysandra met with Seleucus and begged him to see justice done to Lysimachus for the wrong he had done her. We had spent weeks travelling and never once could I bring myself to care about her cause, but the more I thought about it, the more I cared about mine, and I saw that if we could persuade Seleucus to eliminate Lysimachus, maybe I could use his death to my advantage… I had made myself popular with Agathocles’ soldiers; I could make myself popular with Seleucus’…
I could, and I did. That’s why, when I gave them the signal to fall back as brave Seleucus Nicator rode forward to find a suitable spot to piss, they did so. And that’s why, after I killed him, they accepted my plea of self-defence at my ‘trial’, and why they acclaimed me king of Macedon. Alexander’s country! By this time, my father was dead and rotting; a shame, I would have liked to have seen his face when he heard that I – I – was king of the homeland; not him, me. Egypt; what’s that country to the world?
The Thoughts of Ptolemy II Philadelphus on hearing of Seleucus’ murder, and Ptolemy Keraunos’ accession to the throne of Macedon according to his mother, Berenike I
He did not move.
The food rested on his plate patiently.
The slave continued to cool him with his ostrich feather fan.
…..“My son…?” I said, nervously. Why nervously? Ptolemy was a good son. He always had been. He would not be angry with me. Still, though, he did not move. An age passed in that chamber; an age passed in the blink of an eye. Before I had spoken, Ptolemy had eaten his food as a young man, full of vigour and hope; upon hearing my news, however, he became a wearied, sad figure, at odds with a confusing and evil world. It was this that was holding him in thrall. He looked up.
…..“I understand why you are upset,” I said, “Your brother has betrayed you.”
…..“How so, my mother?” he asked.
…..“Why, by killing a king; and by taking what does not belong to him – Macedon.”
…..“That is not why I am sad,” he replied,  simply, “Keraunos… Keraunos has wasted himself once more. Why Macedon? Who cares about Macedon? Only the tribes who live north of it, and the Greeks who live south.” he paused, and seemed to laugh to himself, “And the only care they have is to destroy it. Yet, I can sense Keraunos – even as we speak – sitting on his throne, thinking, ‘I rule Alexander’s country! How annoyed Philadelphus will be!’. Poor fool. Pool, deluded fool. Alexander left Macedon.
…..“Well, perhaps he is there still, but he is also here, he is everywhere; everywhere where men think, dream and search for glory. In the meanness of his mind, however, Keraunos cannot comprehend this. And never will. He has drunk a poison cup, and thinks that it is I who will die, when really, it is him who is dying. Soon enough, either the barbarians or Greeks will finish him off.”

The Last Moments of Seleucus Nicator

The dagger entered my body a few inches below my heart. Typical, I thought, he can’t even assassinate me properly. No use complaining; he’d kill me with arguments that I alone of all men have a heart that is in my abdomen. I looked down at the dagger, and remembered Philip – Alexander’s father – doing likewise all those years ago in the theatre. O Philip… what that day started…
I lifted my hand to see if I could pull the dagger out, but as I slowly wrapped my fingers round the golden hilt I thought, What’s the point? I’m dying. He missed my heart, but he has got enough of me to kill me. Let him or some other fool have the job of removing it after I am dead.
I looked up at Ptolemy. He was watching me, slack jawed and stupid. No wonder Ptolemy chose Philadelphus to rule Egypt; you’ve seen men die before, get used to it. Suddenly, as blood drained out of my body, my legs wavered. I fell to my knees into my own piss, causing a little cloud of dust and dirt to rise up around my legs. I caught sight of the distant Aegean past Keraunos’ hip as I fell. It never looked more richly blue or inviting. What a shame, I thought to myself, I would have liked to have bathed in it. Such are the thoughts dying men have. Not once when I was strong had I thought about going for a swim. No longer able to support itself, my head flopped forward onto my breast; finally, I fell onto my side, choking on the dust cloud that my body threw up. As it settled, I saw that the Aegean was gone, to be replaced by the faded white of the cloudy sky. Breathing became difficult. I had to fight for every breath now, wheezing in dust an dirt with rapidly weakening strength. Blood choked me as it rose through my throat, and tickled me as it trickled down my face and into the ground.
“Alexander…” I murmured.
The ground…
With my last strength, I lifted my free arm and let it drop in front of me. I grasped some of the yellow dirt. So close, I thought, So close… Even closer than Antigonus to having it all. Macedon first, then Greece… finally, Egypt. Then, I would have been immortal. I would have been the man who reunited Alexander’s empire…
I paused.
Did I just say ‘immortal’? I opened my mouth to laugh a hollow laugh, but I could no longer breath. I felt my hand go limp, and my eyes darken. My breathing slowed until I could no longer feel or hear it.
And then, most curiously, the darkness of my sight was replaced by an intense and piercing light.
I was alive.

Categories: Euridike's Documents | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Murder of Seleucus Nicator

  1. Kizzykat

    Interesting and readable story, and I managed to keep the characters separated in my mind. If you fancy cross-posting these stories elsewhere, I’m sure you’d be welcomed on Alexander’s Army on Livejournal.


  2. arnav kapoor

    thank you for the information.


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