First Iranian Satraps


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury



The term Satrap derived from Old Persian Xsatrapa, means the Protector of the Land, and it was the name given to the provincial governor (in Persian: Osstandaar) in the ancient Median and Persian Empires, including the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) and in several of their heirs, such as the Seleucids (330–250 BC), Parthians (250 BC–AD 226), and the Sassanid Empire (226–651). Darius I or Darius the Great (522-486 BC) established 20 to 28 satraps with an annual tribute. Appointed by the king, satraps were usually of the royal family or Iranian nobility and held office indefinitely. They collected taxes, were the highest judicial authority, and were responsible for internal security and for raising and maintaining an army. A satrap was assisted by a council of Iranian noblemen, to which also provincials were admitted; and was controlled by a royal secretary and by emissaries of the king, especially the Eyes of the King. It should be noted that the term Satrap is also found in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible in the books of Esther, Ezra, and most commonly in Daniel. In this article a list of the most famous Iranian Satraps as related to their respective Satrapies (Provinces) will be presented and studied.

Aryandes was appointed as the satrap of Egypt by Cambyses in 522 BC. Soon after the death of Cambyses, a rebellion occurred in Egypt. The new Achaemenid king, Darius I traveled to Egypt in the summer of 518, pacified the people, and reinstated Aryandes. In the third year of his reign, Darius I ordered his satrap in Egypt, Aryandes, to bring together wise men among the soldiers, priests, and scribes, in order to codify the legal system that had been in use until the year of 526 BC. The laws were to be transcribed on papyrus so that the satraps and their officials, mainly Persians and Babylonians, would have a legal guide in both the official language of the empire and the language of local administration. Aryandes remained as the satrap of Egypt for a quarter of a century. However, Darius distrusted the satrap, and had to replace him. In 497 BC, Darius went to Egypt as if to open a new canal, and when he safely arrived with the royal bodyguard, he ordered Aryandes to be arrested and be replaced by a new satrap. By 492 BC, the satrap of Egypt was a man named Pharandates.

Achaemenes (Haxamanis) became the satrap of Egypt from 484 BC until his death in 460 BC, and a member of the Achaemenid dynasty. According to Herodotus, he was one of the sons of Darius I by his wife Atossa, and full brother of Xerxes I. After the first rebellion of Egypt, Achaemenes was put in charge of the country by king Xerxes. Achaemenes commanded the Persian fleet at Salamis Island (480 BC), and was defeated and slain by Inarus, the leader of the second rebellion of Egypt, during the Battle of Pampremis (460-459 BC).
It is not known who served as satrap in Egypt afterwards, but under Darius III (336-330 BC) there was satrap Sabaces, who fought and died at Issus and was succeeded by satrap Mazaces. In 332 BC Mazaces handed over the satrapy of Egypt to the Macedonian Alexander without a fight.

Cilicia located in the southeastern portion of the present Turkish coast, was a satrapy of the Achaemenid empire (6th-4th centuries BC). Cilicia resembled other western satrapies of the Achaemenid empire: There was a satrap who possessed an estate with a palace, and there were also a series of lesser officers, most of them possessing estates and villages, others being priests of sanctuaries; a variety of fortified strongholds protect¬ing the agricultural land and population; native and Per¬sian urban centers; and peoples organized into tribes led by native chieftains. The most famous satraps of Cilicia were Datames (378-372 BC) and Mazaios (361-334 BC).

Mausolus was a Persian satrap, though virtually an independent ruler, of Caria (southwestern Turkey), from 377 or 376 to 353 BC. Artemesia II who was his wife built for her husband, in his capital at Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey), the tomb called as the Mausoleum. The so-called Mausoleum is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a word now used to designate any large and imposing burial structure.

Arachosia was a province or a satrapy in the eastern part of the Achaemenid empire around modern Ghandehaar, aka Kandahaar (southern Afghanistan), which was inhabited by the Iranian Arachosians or Arachoti. The Old Persian form of its name is Harauvatiya. It is documented that the Persian rebel Vahyazdaata sent forth an army against the satrap of Arachosia, Vivaana, who was loyal to Darius and defeated the rebels three times so that the province remained under Darius's control. The history of Arachosia in Achaemenid times after 520 BC is unknown except that, under Darius III, the Arachosians were under the command of the satrap Barsaentes, who then joined Bessus, satrap of Bactria, and contrived a plot of the Arachosians against Macedonian Alexander. The Macedonian king entrusted the province to Meno and, after this satrap's early death (in 325 BC), to Sibyrtius who maintained this office until at least 316 BC.

Before the Achaemenid conquest, in the 540s BC, Dascylium was part of the Lydian kingdom. Cyrus II (559-29 BC) incorporated the province into the Achaemenid Empire in 546. The earliest administrative data on Achaemenid Dascylium are from the time of Cambyses II (529-22 BC), and according to the Greek historian Herodotus, Mitrobates governed the satrapy in Dascylium but was killed by Oroetes, satrap of Sparda (Sardis), probably in the 520s. Under Darius I (522-486 BC) and Xerxes I (486-65 BC) the house of Megabazus seems to have controlled the satrapy and to have furnished personnel for posts in Europe and Asia. (Megabazus was a Persian who was appointed by Darius I as his commander in Europe). Members of the family participated in the war with the European Scythians (514 BC), and after the victory Darius seems to have left his military forces in the command of Megabazus, who subdued Thrace and Macedonia and subsequently became a senior commander in Xerxes' fleet. Megabazus was accompanied on his Balkan campaign by one son, Bubares, who married into Macedonian royalty and supervised the construction of Xerxes’ canal south of Macedonia (483 BC); part of his family remained in Macedonia until the Greek defeat of the Persians in the 470s. A second son, Oebares, was satrap of Dascylium in the 490s. Megabates, a younger son of Megabazus, was Achaemenid commander of the fleet that sailed against Naxos in 500/499 and satrap at Dascylium in the early 470s.

The reliable documents indicate that First Iranian National Hero, Aryobarzan (ARB), known as Ariobarzanes-II (Old Persian: Ariyabrdna-II) and also as Artabazus-II, was a descendant of Pharnabazus (PHA) who was the son of an Iranian nobleman. In 387 BC, PHA was a satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia in Anatolia (the northwest of present-day Turkey). It should be noted that PHA cultivated the friendship of Athens and Sparta and, about 366 BC, he led the unsuccessful revolt of the satraps of western Anatolia against the Achamenian King Artaxerxes II (reigned 404-359 BC). PHA, however, maintained his friendship with the King, and preserved his position as a satrap until he died in 360 BC. Out of the marriage of PHA and lady Apamea, Ariobarzanes-I (AR-I) was born who later also became a satrap.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD 

Britannica Encyclopedia (2008): Online Notes on Satrap and Mausolus.
Columbia Encyclopedia (2008): Note on Satrap, 6th ed., Columbia University Press, New York, USA.
Dandamayev, M A (2006): Achaemenes, in Encyclopedia Iranica.
Lendering, J. (2007): Online Articles on Aryandes.
Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Online Article on First Iranian National Hero.
Saadat Noury, M. (2008): Various Articles and Notes on First Iranians and History.
Schmitt, R. (2007): Online Articles on Arachosia.
Shahbazi, Sh. (2007): Online Articles on Aryandes.
Smith, S. (2003): Notes on Satrap, in the New International Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, ed., Trident Press International, USA.
Wapedia Website (2008): Online Articles on Achaemenes.
Weiskopf, M. (2008): Online Articles on Cilicia and Achaemenid Dascylium.
Wildwinds Website (2008): Online Notes on Datames and Mazaios.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2008): Online Notes on Satrap, and the History of Achaemenid Egypt



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