The federal government of ancient Persia was based upon an efficient administration which combined the centralization the power with the decentralization that administration. The Achaemenid realm (c. 550-330 BCE) founded by Cyrus the great (r. C. 550-530 BCE) is sometimes claimed to have actually invented this kind of government but actually attracted on earlier models that Akkadian and also Assyrian administration.

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The Achaemenid version would be complied with by successive realms in the region – the Seleucid empire (312-63 BCE), Parthia (247 BCE-224 CE), and also the Sassanian empire (224-651 CE) – with tiny modification since it to be so effective. The federal government was a pecking order with the emperor at the top, bureaucratic officials and also advisors just listed below him, and secretaries below them. The realm was split into provinces (satrapies) administered through a Persian branch (satrap) who was responsible just for polite matters; army matters in a satrapy were handled by a general. This device prevented any kind of satrap from elevating a rebellion since he had actually no accessibility to the military and also discouraged the very same by a army leader because he lacked private funds to tempt troops come rebel.

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This form of government remained in usage from c. 550 BCE with 651 CE, again with tiny modification, until the Sassanian empire fell to the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE. It to be the most effective model of government in the old world, affecting the kind of government adopted by the roman Empire, and also its straightforward model is tho in usage in the present day.

Early Models

The concept of centralized power administered with trusted officials was developed by Sargon of Akkad after he established the an initial multi-cultural realm in the world.

The ide of centralized power administered through trusted public representative was developed by Sargon of Akkad (r. 2334-2279 BCE) after he created the Akkadian empire (2334-2083 BCE), the first multi-cultural realm in the world. Sargon selected his administrators from those the felt he might trust (known together “Citizens the Akkad”) and granted them power to administer in the end 65 urban which consisted of his empire.

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He also made usage of the strength of religion, place his daughter, Enheduanna (l. 2285-2250 BCE) in the place of High Priestess that Ur in Sumer come encourage piety and also adherence to the created order. Back Enheduanna is the only known example of such positioning, that is most likely Sargon walk the exact same in the temples of other cities.

The governors of each city were oversaw by Sargon"s agents who would make surprised visits to ensure your loyalty and efficient usage of resources. Sargon"s initiatives produced a steady environment, which allowed for the advancement of a solid infrastructure the roads, improvements to cities, and also a postal system.

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Sargon and his successors ended up being legendary in Mesopotamia long after their realm fell and the Akkadian version was reformed through the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III (r. 745-727 BCE) that the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Tiglath Pileser III (birth name Pulu) to be the provincial governor of the city that Kahlu (also well-known as Nimrud) under the regime of Ashur Nirari V (r. 755-745 BCE). Provincial governors were responsible for administering the monarch"s decrees but, increasingly, plot autonomously in their very own interests, and Ashur Nirari V do no relocate to protect against this. Through 746 BCE, dissatisfaction with Ashur Nirari V"s negligence caused a civil battle – probably initiated by Pulu, though this is uncertain – pitting the factions that the provincial governors versus the judgment house. Pulu killed Ashur Nirari V and his family in a coup, seizing power and taking the throne name of Tiglath Pileser III.


King Tiglath-pileser III
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA)

His an initial order that business after that was to make sure he would not someday experience the very same sort the coup. He cut the dimension of districts in half, increasing their number native 12 come 25 so that the smaller areas would not have the ability to muster as countless men in arms together before. He then lessened the strength of provincial governors, place two males in power over each province each the whom had actually to agree on plan decisions before they could be spreading and, further, that made these governors eunuchs so that there was no chance of a branch making a power-grab in bespeak to establish a family dynasty.

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With this system in place, he then borrowed from the Akkadian model and also established an knowledge network through which trusted administrators would certainly visit the provinces unannounced to make sure whatever was running as he wished. Tiglath Pileser"s version would offer the Neo-Assyrian realm well until its autumn in 612 BCE come a coalition led through the Medes and also Babylonians.

Achaemenid Government

The Medes came to be the dominant power in the region until castle were toppled by Cyrus the good c. 550 BCE and also were the people which had earlier adopted the satrapy device used through the Assyrians. The Medes maintained the system much more or much less intact and also it to be this version Cyrus attracted on for his own while modifying the design of the Assyrians. Herodotus notes how “the Persians adopt an ext foreign custom-mades than everyone else” (I.135) and this was definitely true the Cyrus in creating his government. Both the Akkadian and also Assyrian empires ruled over diverse civilization across substantial regions, and while originally successful, both had fallen. In an effort to protect against that indigenous happening to his own creation, Cyrus took the best aspects of the previously governments and ignored those which caused the many problems.

One the the most hated policies of the Assyrian empire was the practice of deportation and also relocation of large populations. The decision of the Assyrians to relocate people was no made hastily or harshly – families were kept together and people were chosen for their specific talents and an abilities – even so, this was no consolation to those uprooted from your homes and also transported to some foreign region. Various other unpopular Assyrian plans were the practice of making anyone overcame (who was not then sold into slavery) an “Assyrian” as an integral component of the empire and also the proliferation of temples to the can be fried Assyrian god Ashur throughout overcame regions. In 612 BCE, when the Median-Babylonian coalition damaged the urban of Assyria, lock paid special attention come temples and also statues that the gods and kings they had pertained to hate.


It has actually been argued that Cyrus was a Zoroastrian based upon the religion having developed in the an ar c. 1500-1000 BCE and references to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda linked with Cyrus. Ahura Mazda was currently the can be fried god the the old Iranian pantheon, however, long prior to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra) received his vision. Everything Cyrus" personal beliefs, that did not force them on anyone else. Everyone in the realm was cost-free to worship whatever god castle pleased in any method they want to.

Cyrus famously freed the Jews from the so-called Babylonian Captivity and also even helped fund the rebuilding of their holy place in Jerusalem. Any type of conquered people were enabled to continue to be where lock had constantly lived, doing whatever they had constantly done, and all Cyrus asked was the taxes were paid, males were detailed for the armies, and everyone should try to get along with each other as finest they could.

His government was based on his supreme central rule spread by the decentralized satrapies who, as with the Assyrian system, were confirm up on by Cyrus" public representative - the eyes and also ears that the king. There are no taped revolts throughout the regime of Cyrus the an excellent and a testimony to his success together empire-builder and ruler is just how he was addressed through the civilization who referred to him as their father.

After Cyrus" fatality in 530 BCE, his child Cambyses II (r. 530-522 BCE) expanded the realm into Egypt and also continued the exact same policies. Cambyses II is often depicted as one unbalanced and also inefficient monarch, yet this is many likely due to the fact that he make so many literate enemies among the Egyptians and Greeks. That does seem, however, to have pursued harsher policies than one of two people his dad or his follower Darius ns (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE). One instance of this is his reaction come the imperial judge Sisamnes accepting a bribe. According to Herodotus:

Cambyses slot his throat and also flayed off all his skin. He had thongs made the end of the flayed string and he strung the chair on i m sorry Sisamnes had used come sit to deliver his verdicts v these thongs. Climate he appointed Sisamnes" boy to be judge rather of the father who he had killed and also flayed and also told him come bear in mind the nature that the chair on i m sorry he would certainly sit to supply his verdicts. (V.25)

When Darius the good came to power, the instituted a new paradigm v his law code recognized as the Ordinance of an excellent Regulations. This occupational only exists now in fragments and also citations from later writers yet seems to have actually been based on the earlier Code that Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE). Among Darius I"s stipulations was that “no one, not also the king, deserve to execute anyone who has been accused of only a single crime…but if after ~ due consideration he finds that the crime committed outweigh in number and also gravity the solutions rendered, climate he can give method to anger” (Herodotus I.137).


When a royal judge called Sandoces was found guilty of taking a bribe, Darius ns ordered him crucified. After considering his own law, however, he well-known that the good Sandoces had done together judge outweighed his solitary crime of agree the bribe and also so he to be pardoned though, rather of returning to his former position, he was made a provincial governor (Herodotus I.194).

Darius I divided the realm into seven regions:

The Southern coastal Regions: Libya, Ethiopia, Maka, and also Caria

Each of these areas was then further separated into twenty satrapies. To make sure the satraps were performing your duties honestly, Darius I retained Cyrus the Great"s earlier system i beg your pardon was currently refined because that the smaller sized satrapies. He put a imperial Secretary in each district who would assist the satrap however report to Darius. There was likewise a imperial Treasurer that oversaw government expenditure, approved everything projects the satrap essential money for, and likewise reported to Darius. The dual-responsibility the satrap and also military commander continued to be the very same with a Garrison command in charge of a province"s equipped forces however no accessibility to the treasury.

Darius also kept the practice of “trusted men” who would show up without notice to check up on each province. This were well-known as the Royal examiners whose major responsibility was to make sure government officials were performing their duties honestly however there was also a committee the trusted guys who assessed taxes in the an ar and registered citizens come make certain that taxes were being levied reasonably by the satrap and also that all taxes were going wherein they should.

Seleucid & Parthian Governments

Darius I"s successors continued these policies although nobody of the later monarchs to be as reliable as he had been. As soon as the Achaemenid realm fell to Alexander the an excellent in 330 BCE, the was changed by the Seleucid realm founded by one of Alexander"s generals, Seleucus ns Nicator (r. 305-281 BCE). Seleucus I retained the Achaemenid design of government intact yet placed Greeks in positions of power throughout the provinces. This policy resulted in resentment, and also after Seleucus I"s death, his successors had actually to address numerous rebellions.

The Parthians favored keeping customer kings on your thrones in order come encourage a feeling of continuous in the provinces.

Among the civilization who rebelled were the Parthians in 247 BCE. Their first king, Arsaces ns of Parthia (r. 247-217 BCE) also kept the Achaemenid model and was for this reason busy creating his realm at the Seleucids" price that he made small revision come it. His successors, however, would make significant changes. The empire was separated into top Parthia (Parthia and also Armenia) and also Lower Parthia (Babylonia, Persis, Elymais).

These 5 regions were split into provinces yet were not always administered by a Parthian official. The Parthians favored keeping customer kings on your thrones in order to encourage a sense of continually in the provinces and also loyalty that the provincial monarch to the empire.

This policy did not always work so well, however, together the client kings to be apt to seize on any type of perceived weakness of the central government and development themselves through alliances with adversaries of the state – which, in Parthia"s case, was increasingly the roman inn Empire. It was no Rome that lugged down the Parthian Empire, however, however the vassal king Ardashir ns (r. 224-240 CE) who founded the Sassanian Empire.

Sassanian Government

The Parthian device of federal government resulted in a much looser management than the Achaemenid model. The 5 regions, periodically governed by customer kings and sometimes through officials picked by the court, were not as cohesive one entity and also lacked the failsafe Darius I had made integral to to run an empire. After Ardashir I overthrew the last Parthian king Artabanus IV (r. 213-224 CE), he carried out a series of military campaigns to tighten control over Parthian lands and also centralize the government.

Ardashir i was a devout Zoroastrian and also founded his vision of federal government on the Five ethics of the religion:

The supreme god is Ahura MazdaAhura Mazda is all-goodGoodness is apparent through great thoughts, great words, and good deedsEach individual has free will to select between great and evil

After Ardashir united the former Parthian realm under his dominance (and increased it), he adhered to the same instance as his precursors in adopting the Achaemenid model of government only now the federal government officials were expected to honor Zoroastrian beliefs and also practices. This is not to to speak Zoroastrianism never ever played a component in Persian government before the Sassanians. Xerxes i (486-465 BCE) and other Achaemenid kings were practicing Zoroastrians, yet they never ever made the faith component of your political platform.

Zoroastrianism educated the Sassanian government and became the state religion, but this walk not mean that world of various other faiths were excluded from public service or persecuted under Ardashir i or his son and follower Shapur i (r. 240-270 CE). Shapur I, in fact, welcomed human being of all faiths into the realm and permitted Jews and Buddhists to develop temples and also Christians come erect churches. Shapur I saw himself as an embodiment the the holy warrior king progressing the fact of Zoroastrianism versus the forces of darkness and also evil epitomized through the roman inn Empire. Shapur ns was almost universally effective in his engagements against Rome and also became a design for his successors.


The spiritual tolerance that the Sassanian realm was continued until the power of Shapur II (309-379 CE) that saw Christianity together a roman inn faith, i m sorry sought come subvert the reality of Zoroastrianism. Under Shapur II"s reign, the Avesta (Zoroastrian spiritual work) was committed come writing and also Christians were persecuted throughout the empire. Religious tolerance continued to be expanded to those of other faiths not associated with Rome and also so Shapur II"s persecutions are regarded as an ext of a political 보다 religiously-motivated policy.

The persecutions did not last past his reign and also his successor, Ardashir II (r. 379-383 CE), reinstituted the previously policy of acceptance of all faiths. The greatest of the Sassanian kings was Kosrau ns (also recognized as Anushirvan the Just, r. 531-579 CE) who returned the Sassanian realm to the at an early stage vision the Ardashir I and also Shapur I but with a greater emphasis on education and social refinement.


Kosrau I"s successors kept the version of government even though, in the at an early stage 7th century CE, the empire was regular decentralized together nobles asserted themselves in various regions. The Sassanian realm fell once it was dominated by the invading Muslim Arabs in 651 CE who also applied the basics the Achaemenid federal government to their areas in the one ruler (a shah) decreed the law which to be then enforced by satraps. Under Muslim rule, however, non-Muslims would at some point be required to pay a taxation to live among them and also the policy of religious tolerance was discarded in donate of conversion.

The Achaemenid Persian version of government came to be the typical for rule in central Asia through Mesopotamia native c. 550 BCE with 651 CE, allowing for the advance of one of the richest societies in the world. Together noted, the Persian model affected that of the roman Empire, which would further impact later cultures right as much as the present-day instance of the United claims of America whose governmental paradigm is based upon Rome"s.

The only serious defect in the design was the an individual leader was never completely secure in his position due to the fact that kingship was thought to be conferred by the god or a solitary god, Ahura Mazda. A court noble or satrap who mounted a successful rebellion would be thought about chosen by magnificent forces for preeminence while the deposed would have simply deserved his fate.

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Even so, that is clear that a number of monarchs in each of the different empires seem to have been genuinely favored through the nobility and common people, primarily due to the fact that of benefits provided like reduced taxes. This exact same paradigm is checked out today around the world in governments whose civilization favor a leader just as lengthy as it services them personally. Basic human an ideas has not readjusted since taped time and there have actually been numerous different develops of government to try to manage and also channel it positively. Among these is the Persian design which served the ancient empires well for over a thousands years and also whose influence proceeds to be felt in the modern-day era.