The government of ancient Persia was based on an efficient bureaucracy which combined the centralization the power v the decentralization of administration. The Achaemenid realm (c. 550-330 BCE) established by Cyrus the great (r. C. 550-530 BCE) is sometimes asserted to have invented this kind of government however actually drew on earlier models that Akkadian and Assyrian administration.

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The Achaemenid model would be complied with by successive empires in the region – the Seleucid empire (312-63 BCE), Parthia (247 BCE-224 CE), and also the Sassanian realm (224-651 CE) – with small modification due to the fact that it to be so effective. The government was a pecking order with the emperor at the top, bureaucratic officials and advisors just listed below him, and secretaries listed below them. The realm was divided into districts (satrapies) administered through a Persian governor (satrap) that was responsible just for polite matters; military matters in a satrapy were handled by a general. This device prevented any satrap from elevating a rebellion due to the fact that he had actually no access to the military and also discouraged the same by a army leader because he lacked exclusive funds to entice troops come rebel.

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This kind of federal government remained in use from c. 550 BCE v 651 CE, again with tiny modification, till the Sassanian realm fell to the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE. It to be the most efficient model of government in the ancient world, influencing the type of government embraced by the roman Empire, and also its basic model is tho in use in the current day.

Early Models

The ide of centralized power administered with trusted public representative was arisen by Sargon of Akkad after ~ he developed the first multi-cultural empire in the world.

The concept of central power administered with trusted officials was occurred by Sargon that Akkad (r. 2334-2279 BCE) ~ he created the Akkadian realm (2334-2083 BCE), the very first multi-cultural empire in the world. Sargon selected his administrators indigenous those the felt he could trust (known as “Citizens the Akkad”) and also granted them power to administer in the end 65 cities which made up his empire.

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He also made use of the strength of religion, place his daughter, Enheduanna (l. 2285-2250 BCE) in the place of High Priestess the Ur in Sumer come encourage piety and adherence to the developed order. Back Enheduanna is the only known instance of together positioning, that is likely Sargon go the very same in the temples of various other cities.

The governors of each city were looked after by Sargon"s agents who would make surprise visits come ensure their loyalty and efficient use of resources. Sargon"s initiatives produced a secure environment, which enabled for the advance of a solid infrastructure that roads, improvements to cities, and a postal system.

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Sargon and also his successors ended up being legendary in Mesopotamia long after their empire fell and also the Akkadian design was reformed by the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III (r. 745-727 BCE) of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Tiglath Pileser III (birth surname Pulu) was the provincial branch of the city the Kahlu (also well-known as Nimrud) under the regime of Ashur Nirari V (r. 755-745 BCE). Provincial governors were responsible because that administering the monarch"s decrees but, increasingly, action autonomously in their very own interests, and also Ashur Nirari V make no move to avoid this. By 746 BCE, dissatisfaction through Ashur Nirari V"s negligence led to a civil war – maybe initiated by Pulu, despite this is uncertain – pitting the factions that the provincial governors versus the judgment house. Pulu killed Ashur Nirari V and also his family members in a coup, seizing power and also taking the throne name of Tiglath Pileser III.


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

His very first order of business afterwards was come make certain he would certainly not someday experience the same sort that coup. He reduced the size of provinces in half, increasing their number from 12 come 25 so that the smaller areas would not have the ability to muster as countless men in arms together before. The then reduced the power of provincial governors, placing two guys in strength over each district each of whom had to agree on plan decisions prior to they could be spread and, further, that made this governors eunuchs so the there was no opportunity of a governor making a power-grab in order to establish a household dynasty.

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With this device in place, that then borrowed from the Akkadian model and established an intelligence network through which trusted administrators would visit the districts unannounced to make sure whatever was running as he wished. Tiglath Pileser"s design would offer the Neo-Assyrian realm well till its loss in 612 BCE to a coalition led by the Medes and also Babylonians.

Achaemenid Government

The Medes came to be the dominant power in the an ar until they were overthrown by Cyrus the good c. 550 BCE and were the people which had earlier embraced the satrapy mechanism used by the Assyrians. The Medes maintained the system an ext or less intact and it was this design Cyrus drew on because that his very own while editing and enhancing the design of the Assyrians. Herodotus notes how “the Persians adopt more foreign custom-mades than everyone else” (I.135) and also this was definitely true of Cyrus in creating his government. Both the Akkadian and also Assyrian empires ruled over diverse world across large regions, and also while originally successful, both had actually fallen. In an effort to protect against that from happening come his own creation, Cyrus took the best elements of the previously governments and ignored those which brought about the many problems.

One the the many hated policies of the Assyrian empire was the exercise of deportation and relocation of huge populations. The decision of the Assyrians to relocate world was not made hastily or harshly – family members were kept together and people were favored for their particular talents and skills – even so, this was no consolation come those uprooted from your homes and transported to some foreign region. Other unpopular Assyrian policies were the practice of do anyone overcame (who was not then sold right into slavery) one “Assyrian” together an integral component of the empire and likewise the proliferation of temples to the can be fried Assyrian god Ashur throughout dominated regions. In 612 BCE, when the Median-Babylonian coalition ruined the urban of Assyria, castle paid unique attention to temples and statues that the gods and also kings they had involved hate.


It has been said that Cyrus was a Zoroastrian based upon the religious beliefs having occurred in the an ar c. 1500-1000 BCE and references come the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda connected with Cyrus. Ahura Mazda was already the supreme god of the ancient Iranian pantheon, however, long prior to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra) got his vision. Every little thing Cyrus" personal beliefs, that did not force them on anyone else. Everyone in the realm was complimentary to worship every little thing god they pleased in any means 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 kind of conquered civilization were permitted to stay where castle had always lived, doing everything they had always done, and all Cyrus inquiry was the taxes were paid, men were listed for the armies, and everyone should shot to get in addition to each various other as best they could.

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

After Cyrus" death in 530 BCE, his boy Cambyses II (r. 530-522 BCE) prolonged the realm into Egypt and continued the very same policies. Cambyses II is often illustrated as one unbalanced and also inefficient monarch, but this is most likely due to the fact that he do so numerous literate enemies among the Egyptians and also Greeks. That does seem, however, to have pursued harsher plans than either his dad or his successor Darius ns (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE). One example of this is his reaction to the imperial judge Sisamnes agree a bribe. Follow to Herodotus:

Cambyses slot his throat and also flayed off every his skin. He had actually thongs made out of the flayed string and also 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 it is in judge instead of the father who he had actually killed and flayed and also told him come bear in mental the nature of the chair on i beg your pardon he would certainly sit to deliver his verdicts. (V.25)

When Darius the great came come power, the instituted a new paradigm through his law code well-known as the Ordinance of good Regulations. This job-related only exists now in fragments and also citations from later writers but seems to have actually been based on the previously Code that Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE). One of Darius I"s stipulations was the “no one, not also the king, can execute anyone who has been accused of only a single crime…but if after due factor to consider he finds that the crimes committed outweigh in number and gravity the solutions rendered, climate he have the right to give way to anger” (Herodotus I.137).


When a imperial judge called Sandoces was uncovered guilty of acquisition a bribe, Darius ns ordered that crucified. After ~ considering his own law, however, he well-known that the an excellent Sandoces had actually done together judge outweighed his single crime of accepting the bribe and also so he was pardoned though, rather of return to his former position, he was made a provincial branch (Herodotus I.194).

Darius I separated the empire into seven regions:

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

Each of these regions was climate further divided into twenty satrapies. To make certain the satraps to be performing your duties honestly, Darius I maintained 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 province who would help the satrap but report come Darius. There was also a royal Treasurer who oversaw government expenditure, approved everything projects the satrap required money for, and additionally reported to Darius. The dual-responsibility of satrap and also military commander continued to be the same with a Garrison commander in fee of a province"s armed forces however no access to the treasury.

Darius also kept the exercise of “trusted men” who would appear without an alert to inspect up on every province. These were well-known as the Royal inspectors whose primary responsibility to be to make sure federal government officials were performing their duties honestly yet there was likewise a committee the trusted men who assessed count in the region and registered citizens to make sure that taxes were being levied relatively by the satrap and also that every taxes were going whereby they should.

Seleucid & Parthian Governments

Darius I"s successors ongoing these policies although nobody of the later monarchs were as reliable as he had actually been. Once the Achaemenid empire fell come Alexander the an excellent in 330 BCE, it was replaced by the Seleucid empire founded by one of Alexander"s generals, Seleucus i Nicator (r. 305-281 BCE). Seleucus I retained the Achaemenid version of government intact but placed Greeks in positions of strength throughout the provinces. This policy caused resentment, and also after Seleucus I"s death, his successors had to deal with numerous rebellions.

The Parthians favored keeping client kings on your thrones in order to encourage a sense of continually in the provinces.

Among the world who rebelled to be the Parthians in 247 BCE. Their an initial king, Arsaces ns of Parthia (r. 247-217 BCE) likewise kept the Achaemenid model and also was therefore busy creating his empire at the Seleucids" cost that the made tiny revision come it. His successors, however, would certainly make significant changes. The realm was split into top Parthia (Parthia and also Armenia) and also Lower Parthia (Babylonia, Persis, Elymais).

These 5 regions were split into provinces however were not always administered by a Parthian official. The Parthians favored keeping customer kings on their thrones in order to encourage a feeling of continuous in the provinces and also loyalty that the provincial king to the empire.

This policy did not always work therefore well, however, as the client kings to be apt to seize on any kind of perceived weakness of the main government and development themselves through alliances with opponents of the state – which, in Parthia"s case, was significantly the roman Empire. That was no Rome that lugged down the Parthian Empire, however, yet the vassal king Ardashir ns (r. 224-240 CE) who founded the Sassanian Empire.

Sassanian Government

The Parthian system of federal government resulted in a lot 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 lacked the failsafe Darius I had actually made integral to running an empire. After ~ Ardashir I overthrew the last Parthian king Artabanus IV (r. 213-224 CE), he embarked on a collection of military campaigns to tighten control over Parthian lands and centralize the government.

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

The can be fried god is Ahura MazdaAhura Mazda is all-goodGoodness is noticeable through an excellent thoughts, an excellent words, and great deedsEach separation, personal, instance has complimentary will to choose between an excellent and evil

After Ardashir unified the former Parthian empire under his rule (and broadened it), he adhered to the same instance as his predecessors in adopting the Achaemenid design of federal government only currently the federal government officials were supposed to respect Zoroastrian beliefs and also practices. This is not to speak Zoroastrianism never ever played a part in Persian government prior to the Sassanians. Xerxes i (486-465 BCE) and other Achaemenid monarchs were practicing Zoroastrians, but they never ever made the faith part of your political platform.

Zoroastrianism educated the Sassanian government and became the state religion, but this go not average that civilization of various other faiths to be excluded from public service or persecuted under Ardashir ns or his boy and successor Shapur ns (r. 240-270 CE). Shapur I, in fact, welcomed human being of all faiths into the realm and permitted Jews and Buddhists to build temples and Christians come erect churches. Shapur I observed himself as an embodiment the the holy warrior king proceeding the reality of Zoroastrianism versus the pressures of darkness and evil epitomized by the roman Empire. Shapur ns was practically universally effective in his engagements versus Rome and became a model for his successors.


The religious tolerance the the Sassanian empire was ongoing until the regime of Shapur II (309-379 CE) that saw Christianity as a roman faith, which sought come subvert the fact of Zoroastrianism. Under Shapur II"s reign, the Avesta (Zoroastrian sacred work) to be committed come writing and Christians were persecuted throughout the empire. Religious tolerance ongoing to be prolonged to those of other faiths not linked with Rome and also so Shapur II"s persecutions are concerned as an ext of a political 보다 religiously-motivated policy.

The persecutions did no last beyond his reign and also his successor, Ardashir II (r. 379-383 CE), reinstituted the earlier policy of accept of all faiths. The biggest of the Sassanian queens was Kosrau ns (also recognized as Anushirvan the Just, r. 531-579 CE) who changed the Sassanian empire to the beforehand vision of Ardashir I and also Shapur I however with a greater emphasis on education and cultural refinement.


Kosrau I"s successors kept the design of government also though, in the beforehand 7th century CE, the empire was regularly decentralized as nobles asserted themselves in various regions. The Sassanian empire fell as soon as it was dominated by the invading Muslim Arabs in 651 CE who additionally applied the basics of Achaemenid government to their territories in the one leader (a shah) decreed the law which was then applied by satraps. Under Muslim rule, however, non-Muslims would ultimately be required to pay a tax to live among them and also the plan of religious tolerance to be discarded in donate of conversion.

The Achaemenid Persian version of government came to be the traditional for dominance in central Asia through Mesopotamia from c. 550 BCE with 651 CE, allowing for the advancement of one of the richest societies in the world. Together noted, the Persian model influenced that the the roman Empire, which would further influence later cultures right up to the present-day instance of the United states of America who governmental paradigm is based on Rome"s.

The just serious cons in the model was that an individual ruler was never fully secure in his position since kingship was assumed to it is in conferred by the god or a solitary god, Ahura Mazda. A court noble or satrap who an installed a successful revolt would be thought about chosen by divine forces for dominance while the deposed would have actually simply deserved his fate.

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Even so, that is clear the a variety of monarchs in every of the different empires seem to have been genuinely favored by the nobility and also common people, primarily because of benefits offered like reduced taxes. This very same paradigm is viewed today roughly the human being in governments whose human being favor a leader just as lengthy as it benefits them personally. Straightforward human motivation has not adjusted since recorded time and there have actually been countless different forms of government to shot to manage and channel that positively. Among these is the Persian design which offered the ancient empires well for over a thousand years and also whose influence continues to be felt in the contemporary era.