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Persia Theme: Centralization and Localization

Part 1: Persia Theme: Centralization and Localizationheritagesocialstudies.weebly.com/.../5/4/0/7/54074601/persianempir… · Alexander the Great •Persian Empire fell to Alexander

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  • Persia

    Theme: Centralization and Localization

  • Achaemenid Empire

    (558-330 B.C.)

    • Medes and Persians:

    migrated from central Asia to Persia before 1000 B.C.

    considerable military powers

    • Cyrus the Great 558-530 B.C.

    launched the Persians’ first imperial venture

    • Darius 521 to 486

    expanded the empire both east and west

  • Darius

    • Empire:

    • 1,865 miles: Indus River in the east to the

    Aegean Sea in the west

    • 933 miles from Armenia in the north to the first

    cataract of the Nile in the south

    • Population of some 35 million people including

    over 70 distinct ethnic groups

    – Description of the construction of the palace

    at Susa testifies to the diversity of the empire

  • Palace at Susa

    … the sun-dried brick was molded, the Babylonianpeople -- it did (these tasks). The cedar timber, this -- a mountain named Lebanon -- from there was brought. The Assyrian people, it brought it to Babylon; from Babylon the Carians and the Ionians brought it to Susa. The yakâ-timber was brought from Gandara and from Carmania. The gold was brought from Sardis and from Bactria, which here was wrought. The precious stone lapis lazuli and carnelian which was wrought here, this was brought from Sogdiana. The precious stone turquoise, this was brought from Chorasmia, which was wrought here. The silver and the ebony were brought from Egypt.

  • Palace at Susa

    The ornamentation with which the wall was adorned, that from Ionia was brought. The ivory which was wrought here, was brought from Ethiopia and from Sind and from Arachosia. The stone columns which were here wrought, a village named Abiradu, in Elam -- from there were brought. The stone-cutters who wrought the stone, those were Ionians and Sardians. The goldsmiths who wrought the gold, those were Medes and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians.

  • Darius

    • Governing more difficult challenge than conquering

    • Darius was an excellent administrator

    • finely tuned balance between central initiative and local administration

  • Darius

    • Centralization

    – Authority

    – Persepolis

    – Royal Road

    – Standardized taxes

    • Localization

    – Satraps

    – Tolerance

  • Authority: Centralization

    • Achaemenid rulers held the official title of “The

    Great King, King of Kings, King of Persia, King

    of Countries”

    • Darius ruled by the grace of Ahura Mazda, the

    Zoroastrian god of light

  • Authority: Centralization

    – “A great god is Ahura Mazda, who created the

    earth, who created the sky, who created man,

    who created happiness for man, who made

    Darius king.”

    – Zoroastrianism was a Persian religion which

    emphasized the duality of good and evil and

    the role of individuals in determining their own


  • Authority: Centralization

    • King’s decision on all matters of policy was final

    • King was commander-in-chief of the army and ceremoniously took his position in the center of the formation

    – There he was protected by an elite royal bodyguard

    The Greeks called the bodyguard

    the Ten Thousand Immortals

  • Persepolis: Centralization

    • Soon after Darius came to power he began centralizing his administration

    • About 520 he began building a new capital in Persepolis– Would become the

    nerve center of the Persian empire

    Palace of Darius


  • Persepolis: Centralization

    • Persepolis had vast reception halls, lavish royal residences, and a well-protected treasury

    • It was designed to be not just an administrative center but also a monument to the Achaemeniddynasty

    Gate of All Nations at

    entrance to city

  • Persepolis: Centralization

    • Persepolis was full of advisors, ministers, diplomats, scribes, accountants, translators, and other bureaucratic officials

    • Governors served as agents of the central administration to oversee affairs in the various regions

    Persepolis is near modern

    day Shiraz in Iran

  • Royal Road: Centralization

    • The Royal Road stretched 1,600 miles from the Aegean port of Ephesus and Persepolis

    • Caravans took 90 days to travel the route

    • Inns along the way provided lodging

    • The road was well policed for safety

  • Royal Road: Centralization

    • Darius established 111 postal stations at 25 to 30 mile intervals along the route

    • Each station kept a fresh supply of horses so couriers could travel the entire route in one week

    – Like the Pony Express

    • Herodotus praised the couriers saying, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

    – Motto of the US Postal Service

  • Satraps: Localization

    • Darius divided the kingdom into 23 satrapies

    – Administrative and taxation districts governed by satraps

    Satrap receiving a visitor

  • Satraps: Localization

    • Satraps were royal appointees, often members of the royal dynasty by birth or marriage

    – Satrapies tended to become virtually hereditary domains

    Satrap receiving a visitor

  • Satraps: Localization

    • Principal duty of the satrap was to collect taxes and deliver them to the central treasury

    Satrap receiving a visitor

  • Standardized Taxes: Centralization

    • Darius replaced the irregular payments with formal tax levies

    • Each satrapy was required to pay a set quantity of silver– and often horses and slaves

    • In order to quicken payments, he issued standard coins

    Gold coin issued by Darius,

    known after him as a daric

  • Localization: Legal Tolerance

    • Darius did not abolish the existing laws of individual lands and peoples:

    • no uniform law code for the entire empire

    • codified the laws of the subject people

    • modified laws to harmonize them with the legal principles observed by the empire as a whole

  • Localization: Religious Tolerance

    • “Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-

    Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their

    fellow officials of that province, stay away from

    there. Do not interfere with the work on this

    temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews

    and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God

    on its site.”

    – Ezra 6: 6-7

    • Darius also funded the project and provided

    harsh penalties for anyone who interfered

  • Checks and Balances

    • Since the satraps were often far away from Persepolis, there was always the possibility they might ally with local groups and become independent of the central authority

    • To prevent this, Darius:

    – Placed a contingent of military officers and tax collectors in each satrapy to serve as a check on the satrap’s power and influence

    – Appointed agents to serve as “the eyes and ears of the king” by traveling throughout the empire conducting surprise audits and gathering intelligence

  • Alexander the Great

    • Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great in

    330 B.C.

    • Alexander is going to have an even larger

    empire and he will rely largely on established

    Persian institutions such as the satrapies to

    govern it

  • How were populations controlled by

    the Persians?

    • Combination of centralization and localization

    – Centralization

    • Authority

    • Persepolis

    • Royal Road

    • Standardized taxes

    – Localization

    • Satraps

    • Tolerance