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Satrap



Satrap

Satrap receiving two visitors. From monument of the Nereids, Xanthus.

Governors of Persian provinces, term used from around 530 until 300 BCE.
A satrap governed a satrapy, a very large province. At its height, around 500 BCE with King Darius 1, the enormous Achamenid Empire consisted of only 23 satrapies.
The term "satrap" comes from the Old Persian "khshathrapava", meaning "protector of the province". This word would pass through Greek, and into Latin where it became "satrapes".
The satrap was appointed by the king, and for indefinite periods. Often candidates were taken from the royal family or the nobility. An annual tribute was paid to the king, and the satrap saw to tax collection and acted as the supreme judicial authority and maintained an army.
Satraps were viceroys; so they did not enjoy the divine position of the king. A satrap headed a council with members that had to be of Persian origin. Royal secretaries and emissaries attended the council. One of the kings men was known as the "eye of the king", who made an annual inspection and exercised permanent control.
Gradually, the king's control measures would weaken, allowing many satraps to become virtually independent rulers. Also, satrapies developed into hereditary institutions.
Some satrapies were great satrapies, and divided into entities that were, confusingly, also governed by a satrap or a hyparch. With conquests, new satrapies could be added to the empire, then following the borders of the conquered states.

History
Around 530 BCE: Cyrus 2 the Great starts shaping provinces, satrapies, for the empire; based on Median organizational principles. He established 20 satrapies.
525: Egypt is turned into a satrapy, with the 27th Dynasty.
Around 500 BCE: Darius 1 completes the division of the Achaemenid Empire into satrapies. He increased their number to 23 and fixed the annual tribute.
5th century: Satraps begin to rebel against the central authority.
Early 4th century: Rebellions with the satrapies of Asia Minor and Syria.
Middle 4th century: Artaxerxes 3 suppresses the last satrap rebellions.
Around 300: Under the Seleucid Kingdom, the structures of satrapies are changed into smaller administrative units, headed by a strategos. The structures of satrapies and the title "satrap" would never reemerge.




By Tore Kjeilen