Ancient Questions

Administration and governance of the Empire

Have you ever wondered how the Archaemenid Empire, which covered over 6 million square miles, was managed? Russel Granger describes the size and nature of the Persian Empire by stating, ‘It was multi-national, multi-legal and multi-cultural’ empire which required ‘great political acumen’ to keep the empire ‘together’. The different parts of the empire were administrated through appointed officials, from the royal family and nobles. They were all loyal subjects to the king, Darius, who ruled by ‘the grace of Ahuramazda’.
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The bureaucracy in Persia was an ancient form of governance involving a central administration. The high officials were drawn from the royal family and other Persian and Median nobles. Reliefs from Persepolis and glazed bricks from Susa show nobles in combination of Persian and Median dress. The court consisted of major groups of efficacious officials including, royal princes appointed to key administrative and military positions including satraps, commander of the army, admirals of the navy. The hazarapat, commander of the Immortals was the king’s body guard as well as a confidential servant and chamberlain, a person who ushered the voice of the local citizens to the king. Change slides-Darius also had key supporters, a bow-bearer and spear bearer, which followed the king around and would act as the king’s bodyguard. A treasury relief at Persepolis depicts an image of these officials behind the king, where Ahuramazda was also present.

The Great King used Babylonian and Elamite scribes, indicated through the tablets in Persepolis to write. Scribes were people who wrote books and documents as a profession for the king to keep track of the City’s records. This includes records of the government, literature, religion and war and exploits. The king used scribes of different linguistic groups; the trilingual inscription on the Gateway of All lands is an example of three principal...