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A satrap () was a governor of the
province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire's territorial possessions out ...
s of the ancient
Median In statistics and probability theory, the median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, a population, or a probability distribution. For a data set, it may be thought of as "the middle" value. The basic fe ...
and
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
s and in several of their successors, such as in the
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ) and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th centuries AD. Named ...
and the
Hellenistic In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in ...
empires. The satrap served as
viceroy A viceroy () is an official who reigns over a polity in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. The term derives from the Latin prefix ''vice-'', meaning "in the place of" and the French word ''roy'', meaning "k ...
to the king, though with considerable autonomy. The word came to suggest tyranny or ostentatious splendour, and in modern usage refers to any subordinate or local ruler, usually with unfavourable connotations of corruption. A satrapy is the territory governed by a satrap.


Etymology

The word is derived via Latin from
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. ** Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
''satrápes'' (), itself borrowed from an
Old Iranian The Iranian languages or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Iranian peoples, predominantly in the Iranian Plateau. The Iranian languages are grouped ...
''*khshathra-pa''. In
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan) and is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other Old Iranian languages, it was known to its native speakers as (Ir ...
, which was the native language of the Achaemenids, it is recorded as ''khshathapavan'' (, literally "protector of the province"). The
Median In statistics and probability theory, the median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, a population, or a probability distribution. For a data set, it may be thought of as "the middle" value. The basic fe ...
form is reconstructed as ''*khshathrapavan-''. It is cognate with
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominally , , ) is a classical language belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had diffused there from the northwest in the lat ...
''kshetrapal'' (). The
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew (, or , ), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of the Hebrew language, a language in the Canaanite branch of Semitic languages spoken by the Israelites in the area known as the Land of Israel, roughly west of ...
form is ''aḥashdarpan'' , as found in . In the Parthian (language of the
Arsacid Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, Arsaces I, who led the Parni tribe in conque ...
) and
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg () in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasanian collapse, Middle P ...
(the language of the Sassanian Empire), it is recorded in the forms ''šahrab'' and ''šasab'', respectively. In
modern Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the current stage of the Persian language spoken since the 8th to 9th centuries until now in Greater Iran and surroundings. It is conventionally divided into thr ...
the descendant of khshathrapavan is ''shahrbān'' (), but the components have undergone semantic shift so the word now means "town keeper" (''shahr'' [] meaning "town" + ''ban'' [] meaning "keeper").


History


Medo-Persian

Although the first large-scale use of satrapies, or provinces, originates from the inception of the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
under
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁 ), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the History of Iran, first Persian empire.#refachaemenids-EI, Schmitt Achaemenid dynasty ...
, beginning at around 530BCE, provincial organization actually originated during the
Median In statistics and probability theory, the median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, a population, or a probability distribution. For a data set, it may be thought of as "the middle" value. The basic fe ...
era from at least 648BCE. Up to the time of the conquest of Media by Cyrus the Great, emperors ruled the lands they conquered through client kings and governors. The main difference was that in Persian culture the concept of kingship was indivisible from divinity: divine authority validated the
divine right of kings In European Christianity, the divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandation is a political and religious doctrine of political legitimacy of a monarchy. It stems from a specific metaphysical framework in which a monarch is, before b ...
. The twenty-six satraps established by Cyrus were never kings, but
viceroy A viceroy () is an official who reigns over a polity in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. The term derives from the Latin prefix ''vice-'', meaning "in the place of" and the French word ''roy'', meaning "k ...
s ruling in the king's name, although in political reality many took advantage of any opportunity to carve themselves an independent power base. Darius the Great gave the satrapies a definitive organization, increased their number to thirty-six, and fixed their annual tribute ( Behistun inscription). The satrap was in charge of the land that he owned as an administrator, and found himself surrounded by an all-but-royal court; he collected the taxes, controlled the local officials and the subject tribes and cities, and was the supreme judge of the province before whose "chair" (''Nehemiah''3:7) every civil and criminal case could be brought. He was responsible for the safety of the roads (cf.Xenophon), and had to put down brigands and rebels. He was assisted by a council of Persians, to which also provincials were admitted and which was controlled by a royal secretary and emissaries of the king, especially the "eye of the king", who made an annual inspection and exercised permanent control. There were further checks on the power of each satrap: besides his secretarial scribe, his chief financial official (Old Persian ''ganzabara'') and the general in charge of the regular army of his province and of the fortresses were independent of him and periodically reported directly to the ''shah'', in person. The satrap was allowed to have troops in his own service. The great satrapies (provinces) were often divided into smaller districts, the governors of which were also called satraps and (by Greco-Roman authors) also called ''hyparchs'' (actually ''Hyparkhos'' in Greek, 'vice-regents'). The distribution of the great satrapies was changed repeatedly, and often two of them were given to the same man. As the provinces were the result of consecutive conquests (the homeland had a special status, exempt from provincial tribute), both primary and sub-satrapies were often defined by former states and/or ethno-religious identity. One of the keys to the Achaemenid success was their open attitude to the culture and religion of the conquered people, so the Persian culture was the one most affected as the Great King endeavoured to meld elements from all his subjects into a new imperial style, especially at his capital,
Persepolis , native_name_lang = , alternate_name = , image = Gate of All Nations, Persepolis.jpg , image_size = , alt = , caption = Ruins of the Gate of All Nations, Persepolis. , map = , map_type ...
. Whenever central authority in the empire weakened, the satrap often enjoyed practical independence, especially as it became customary to appoint him also as general-in-chief of the army district, contrary to the original rule. "When his office became hereditary, the threat to the central authority could not be ignored" (Olmstead). Rebellions of satraps became frequent from the middle of the 5thcentury BCE.
Darius I Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; grc-gre, Δαρεῖος ; – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was a Persian ruler who served as the third King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, reigning from 522 BCE until his d ...
struggled with widespread rebellions in the satrapies, and under
Artaxerxes II Arses ( grc-gre, Ἄρσης; 445 – 359/8 BC), known by his regnal name Artaxerxes II ( peo, 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂 ; grc-gre, Ἀρταξέρξης), was King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 405/4 BC to 358 BC. He was the son and suc ...
occasionally the greater parts of Asia Minor and Syria were in open rebellion ( Revolt of the Satraps). The last great rebellions were put down by
Artaxerxes III Ochus ( grc-gre, Ὦχος ), known by his dynastic name Artaxerxes III ( peo, 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠 ; grc-gre, Ἀρταξέρξης), was King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 359/58 to 338 BC. He was the son and successor of A ...
.


Seleucid

The satrapic administration and title were retained—even for Greco-Macedonian incumbents—by
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, wikt:Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Maced ...
, who conquered the Achaemenid Empire, and by his successors, the
Diadochi The Diadochi (; singular: Diadochus; from grc-gre, Διάδοχοι, Diádochoi, Successors, ) were the rival generals, families, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC. The Wa ...
(and their dynasties) who carved it up, especially in the Seleucid Empire, where the satrap generally was designated as '' strategos'' (in other words, military generals); but their provinces were much smaller than under the Persians. They would ultimately be replaced by conquering empires, especially the Parthians.


Parthian and Sassanian

In the Parthian Empire, the king's power rested on the support of noble families, who ruled large estates and supplied soldiers and tribute to the king. City-states within the empire enjoyed a degree of self-government, and paid tribute to the king. Administration of the
Sassanid Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ) and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the History of Iran, last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th cen ...
was considerably more centralized than that of the Parthian Empire; the semi-independent kingdoms and self-governing city states of the Parthian Empire were replaced with a system of "royal cities" which served as the seats of centrally appointed governors called ''shahrabs'' as well as the location of military garrisons. ''Shahrabs'' ruled both the city and the surrounding rural districts. Exceptionally, the
Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire primarily in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constanti ...
also adopted the title "satrap" for the semi-autonomous princes that governed one of its Armenian provinces, the ''Satrapiae''.


Indian

The Western Satraps or Kshatrapas (35–405 CE) of the
Indian subcontinent The Indian subcontinent is a physiographical region in Southern Asia. It is situated on the Indian Plate, projecting southwards into the Indian Ocean from the Himalayas. Geopolitically, it includes the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, In ...
were
Saka The Saka (Old Persian: ; Kharosthi, Kharoṣṭhī: ; Egyptian language, Ancient Egyptian: , ; , Old Chinese, old , Pinyin, mod. , ), Shaka (Sanskrit (Brahmi script, Brāhmī): , , ; Sanskrit (Devanagari, Devanāgarī): , ), or Sacae (An ...
rulers in the western and central part of the
Sindh Sindh (; ; ur, , ; historically romanized as Sind) is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. Located in the southeastern region of the country, Sindh is the third-largest province of Pakistan by land area and the second-largest provinc ...
region of
Pakistan Pakistan ( ur, ), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan ( ur, , label=none), is a country in South Asia. It is the world's fifth-most populous country, with a population of almost 243 million people, and has the world's second-la ...
, and the Saurashtra and Malwa regions of western
India India, officially the Republic of India ( Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on th ...
. They were contemporaneous with the
Kushan The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, ; sa, कुषाण वंश; Brahmi: , '; BHS: ; xpr, 𐭊𐭅𐭔𐭍 𐭇𐭔𐭕𐭓, ; zh, 貴霜 ) was a syncretic empire, formed by the Yuezhi, ...
s, who ruled the northern part of the subcontinent from the area of Peshawar and were possibly their overlords, and with the
Satavahana The Satavahanas (''Sādavāhana'' or ''Sātavāhana'', IAST: ), also referred to as the Andhras in the Puranas, were an ancient Indian dynasty based in the Deccan region. Most modern scholars believe that the Satavahana rule began in the late ...
, who ruled in central India to their south and east and the
Kushan The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, ; sa, कुषाण वंश; Brahmi: , '; BHS: ; xpr, 𐭊𐭅𐭔𐭍 𐭇𐭔𐭕𐭓, ; zh, 貴霜 ) was a syncretic empire, formed by the Yuezhi, ...
state to their immediate west.


See also

* Taxation districts of the Achaemenid Empire *
Orontid Dynasty The Orontid dynasty, also known as the Eruandids or Eruandunis, ruled the Satrapy of Armenia until 330 BC and the Kingdom of Armenia from 321 BC to 200 BC. The Orontids ruled first as client kings or satraps of the Achaemenid Empire and after th ...
*
Suzerainty Suzerainty () is the rights and obligations of a person, state or other polity who controls the foreign policy and relations of a tributary state, while allowing the tributary state to have internal autonomy. While the subordinate party is call ...


References

*


Further reading

*A. T. Olmstead, ''History of the Persian Empire,'' 1948. *Pauly-Wissowa (comprehensive encyclopaedia on Antiquity; in German). *Robert Dick Wilson. ''The Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions'', 1917. Available on home.earthlink.net. *Rüdiger Schmitt, "Der Titel 'Satrap'", in ''Studies Palmer'' ed. Meid (1976), 373–390. *. *Cormac McCarthy, ''All the Pretty Horses,'' 1992.


External links


Livius.org: Satraps and satrapies
{{Authority control Positions of subnational authority Achaemenid Empire Types of administrative division Gubernatorial titles Iranian inventions