The Administration of the Achaemenid Empire Administration of the Achaemenid Empire CHRISTOPHER...

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  • The Administration of the Achaemenid Empire



    IMPERIAL administration concerns above all two things: the extraction of profit forthe ruling power and the maintenance of control (and hence of the possibility ofexploitation). The former presupposes structures for collecting tribute or exploit-ing resources more directly (e.g. by reallocation of ownership); the latter is partly amatter of eradicating or (better) manipulating high status local interest groups andtaking advantage of low status groups' indifference to the identity of the rulingpower (administratively speaking both favour maximum use of existing structures)and partly a matter of forcethe threat of large scale reprisal for revolt and thepermanent presence of garrisonsof which the second at any rate is a standardadministrative feature. The purpose of the present paper is not to reveal anyparticularly new interpretation of its subject but to provide a (doubtless far fromcomplete) conspectus of relevant material, some of it not perhaps very familiar toGreek historians and numismatists who have not made special study of theAchaemenid empire. To find a convenient arrangement of the material is not easyand I have chosen to use two approaches: delineation of some geographicallydefined administrative units of the empire and description of the tribute system.

    I begin with three preliminary points. Bureaucratic tendencies were highlydeveloped in the Persian %npire. This is reflected even in literary sources. Ezraspeaks of archives where-royal edicts might be consulted.1 The particular case inquestion is somewhat controversial (Cyrus' decree about the Jerusalem temple). Nocopy could be found at Babylon (the expected location) but one did turn up atEcbatana, (The possibility of a Persepolitan copy is not even considered). Takingthings at face value this suggests that storage was rather haphazard and thebureaucracy far from perfect. Alternatively one could wonder whether the decree(or at least the copy) was not after all spurious. But even so the imposturepresupposes the existence of a document-oriented bureaucracy of some sort. Thesame perhaps goes for the belief of Ctesias (688F1 = Diod. 2.22.5, F5 = Diod.2.32.4) and the authors of Ezra and Esther in various Persian 'historical' chronicles(though the status and subject matter of these is debatable).2 And the statement in

    1 Ezra 5.17, 6.1-2 (cf. I Esadr. 6.21 f., Joseph. AJ refers to the 'annals of your (i.e. Artaxerxes I)11.94, 98). According to Ezra 6.1 the Babylonian predecessors' which tell of the history of Jewisharchive was in a treasury. rebelliousness: these are certainly meant to includeNote: for Abbreviations and Bibliography see end of neo-Babylonian records and that may be all that isarticle. involved. Ctesias consulted basilikai diphtherai 'in2 Ezra 4.15, 19 (/ Esdr. 2.21 f., Joseph. AJ 11.24f.) which the Persians, in accordance with a law, had a

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    Esther (1.22, 3.12, 8.9) that royal edicts were sent 'to each province in its own scriptand each people in its own language', though doubtless hyperbolic (especially sincethe author takes there to be 127 provinces), does reflect a multilingual empire withwhich central authority communicated in writing and not exclusively in Persian.Hellanicus' observation (687A F7) that Queen Atossa 'invented' the transmission ofroyal decisions through epistolai and bibloi belongs in the same category: peopleknew that the empire was a literate system, and Greeks loved to have a protosheuretes. (The clearest example of a royal text communicated to all parts of theempire in various tongues is Darius' Behistun narrative: his own statement 'Thisinscription I sent off everywhere among the lands/peoples (dahyava)' (DB70) isconfirmed by an Aramaic fragment from Egypt (Greenfield & Porten 1982) and anAkkadian one from Babylon (Voigtlander 1978:63).)

    But it is the evidence revealed by archaeology that makes the point aboutbureaucracy most emphatically: the caches of Achaemenid bullae which are all thatremain of such administrative centres as Dascyleium (Balkan 1959) or Memphis(Petrie 1910:xxxv, xxxvi, Bresciani 1958:182)3 and the Elamite tablets from thePersepolis administration,4 which reveal, for example, the bureaucratic aspect ofthe Royal Road.5 What Greek sources have to say should already have suggestedthat a considerable organization was needed to keep 111 stathmoi between Sardisand Susa in commission for royal despatch riders.6 But their tendency toconcentrate on the latter distracted attention from the generality of travellers(except for a few stories suggesting that such people could expect policesurveillance).7 We now see that there was a system of travel authorizations by king,satrap, or other high official, which entitled the traveller to draw provisions atdaily stopping places and we can understand what lies behind Alcibiades' need to

    compilation of ancient events' (F5): the claimappears at the start of the Median history, and thebasilikai anagraphai of Fl concern Memnon's actionsin the Assyrian period. By contrast in Esther 2.23,6.1 f. (cf. Joseph. AJ 11.208) a contemporary event isrecorded in royal chronicles: cf. the benefactors-listin Thuc. 1.129, Hdt. 8.85, Wiesehofer 1980:10.3 These cases are only special because of large

    concentrations at one site: Achaemenid seals arefound in small numbers all over the empire, as arenon-Achaemenid seals and seals displaying varyingdegrees of influence from pure Achaemenid style.The large caches are generally associated with findsin these latter categories, so all sorts of design mightevidently be found in any given administrativecentre and we may e.g. legitimately regard theprovenances of the pyramidal seals in Boardman1970 as reflecting Sardis' role as administrativecentre.4 Texts: Cameron 1948, 1958, 1965; Hallock1969, 1978. Many Elamite texts remain unpublished.The Treasury archive contains one Akkadian tablet(PT 85). The Fortification archive contains 700unpublished Aramaic tablets, one Akkadian tablet(Stolper 1984), one Greek text (Hallock 1969: 2>andone Phrygian text. It is assumed that what survives isan unbalanced cross-section of the archives' originalcontents because of the total disappearance of Ara-

    maic texts on perishable material (Hallock 1973), andthat the total absence of tablets after 458 indicatesthat the administration went over totally to suchAramaic records. Studies: Hallock 1960, 1977, 1985;Hinz 1971; Koch 1980, 1981, 1983; Lewis 1977:4f.,1984:592 f.5 See especially Hallock 1985, Lewis 1977:4f,1984:596f. Hallock 1978:114 discerns officials con-cerned with maintenance and measurement of roadsin the dattimara and 'spear-bearers' found in sometexts.6 The basic source is Hdt. 5.52; cf. also id. 3.126.2,

    8.98, Xen. Cyt. 8.6.17, Esther 3.13 f, 8.9 (all ondespatch riders). Substantial 'royal stathmoi' arementioned in Plut. Artox. 25 (Median / Cadusianborder), Hdt. 6.119.2 (Cissia); and cf. Ael. VH 1.32,NA 15.26. The Royal Road (Sardis-Susa) is not theonly 'royal road': cf. Ps. Ar. Oec. 1348a25 (Lycia),BP 3.8, 10, 4.10, 12.19 (Elephantine), P. Louvre E.2430 (Thebes), VS 3.153, 156, 158, 160, 165, 5.110(Dilbat), FP 18, 30, 44, 63, Ball 1892:167 (Babylon),VS 4.98 (Borsippa), YOS 7.136 (Uruk), TCL 13.203(Nippur), Dar. 140.7 Hdt. 5.35, 7.239 (secret messages), Xen. An.1.9.13 (roads in Cyrus' provinces 'kept safe'), Diod.11.56.6, Plut. Them. 26 (travel in purdah to avoidsurveillance).



    have Pharnabazus 'arrange' a projected trip to the king.8 Nor was this the only wayto travel. The Egyptian satrap Arsames issued an Aramaic passport to his personalestate-manager allowing him to get provisions from counterparts in Babylonia,Assyria, and Syria (AD 6). But Arsames' estates did not run continuously fromSusa to Memphis, so the manager presumably carried other provision authoriz-ations as well.9

    Secondly, the Persian approach to administration did not involve abolishingexisting structures and replacing them with a unified Persian one. There could beinterference, of course: the bow-fief system in Babylonia (below, pp. 153 f.) was aPersian innovation and must have involved considerable dislocation of the previousstatus quo, and this would no doubt be generally true of landholding throughoutthe empire. Surveillance of the appointment of lesonis priests in Egypt belongs inthe same category, since they were temple presidents concerned -with financialadministration10though even in native practice they would theoretically be (andperhaps were actually) royal appointees (Lloyd 1983:303). But equally typical isthe continued functioning of the Elders and the 'popular' assemblies of Babyloniantemple/city communities which had jurisdiction in various sorts of propertydispute (Dandamayev 1976:473 f., 1977:590 f., 1982:38 f.) or the Jewish commun-ity assembly at Elephantine (AP 15.22, 26, BP 2.7, 7.2: also a judicial body) orsimilar foreign community institutions in Babylonia (Eph'al 1978:76, Danda-mayev 1982:41, 1984a:339) and maybe even Persis (Stolper 1984:309) or (ofcourse) the Phoenician or Cypriot or Anatolian Greek city-state.11 The Persiansmight interfere in the political matter of which individual or class controlled aparticular city-state; they might visit enslavement, deportation, and destructionupon the population and buildings of a rebel polls, but they did not eradicate theinstitution (even in the latter cases),12 and did not necessarily object to the union ofseveral cities in leagues or the like.13 It is also typical that Achaemenid rulers -wereeager to adopt the titles and status of some of the monarchs whom they displaced14and that viewing pre- and post-Persian conquest native documentary evidence

    8 Diod. 14.11.2 f., Plut. Ale. 37 (Pharnabazuswould authorize safe passage and provide a hodegos)Naveh