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Satrap (ancient Greek σατράπης satrápes; ancient Persian xšaçapāvān, read like ksatrapavan, "protector of rule") was the title of governor of a larger province ( satrapy ) in the ancient Persian empire . Satraps had a political-administrative and military management function, corresponding to a current governor .

Concept development

The division of the empire or the division into administrative areas was introduced by Dareios I. This divided his territory into so-called countries (altpers: Dahyāva) . Since Herodotus these have been called satrapies. The satrap was responsible for collecting taxes for his satrapy and had to provide troops to the great king in the event of war. The Persian Empire was divided into satrapies. According to Herodotus (3.89) there were 20 satrapies, according to the epitaph of Darius there were 29, each without mentioning the Persians.

By Alexander the Great and in the Seleucid Empire , this term and function was reduced to purely civil administrative activity, i.e. without the military tasks that were instead assigned to a strategist ( strategos ) . Satraps are also attested with the Parthians , who apparently continued the administrative structures of the Seleucids. Further to the east they are also documented among the Indo-Scythians , who apparently resorted to Greek administrative structures (at least in the choice of words).

The term satrap was also used in German grave inscriptions of the early modern period in relation to the administrative activities of lawyers , e.g. B. in Trier in a funerary inscription for the lawyer Jakob Meelbaum de Castelberg (1598–1671), whose son was Satrap of St. Maximin .

Today the term satrap economy is sarcastically or mockingly applied to the arbitrariness of authorities.

The Dadaistic French Collège de 'Pataphysique turned this term on its head by awarding the title Satrape as the highest honor for non-conformist artists and writers such as Joan Miró , Marcel Duchamp , Max Ernst or Eugène Ionesco .

Satrapies according to Herodotus


Illustrations in Persepolis

On the reliefs in Persepolis 24 peoples are depicted:

  1. Egyptians
  2. Arabs
  3. Areier (area around Herat, present-day Afghanistan )
  4. Armenians
  5. Ethiopian
  6. Babylonians
  7. Bactrians (northern part of present-day Afghanistan , southern parts of present-day Tajikistan and Uzbekistan )
  8. Drangians and Arachosians (southern part of present-day Afghanistan )
  9. Elamer
  10. In the
  11. Ionians
  12. Cappadocians
  13. Karer (Asia Minor)
  14. Libyans
  15. Lyder
  16. Medes
  17. Parthian
  18. Persian
  19. Sagartier (border region to media, between what is now Iraq and Iran )
  20. Scythians (Pointed Indo-Scythians from Asia ( Saken ), probably from Amu-Darja / Syr-Darja, not to be confused with European Scythians)
  21. Syrians
  22. Sattagydians and Gandharians (today Punjab or partly Afghanistan and Pakistan )
  23. Sogdians and Khorasmians (today's Uzbekistan and Tajikistan )
  24. Thracian (northern Greece)

Funerary inscription from Darius I.

The grave inscription of Dareios I from Naqsch-e Rostam contains the 29 tributary countries of the then Persian Empire:

  1. media
  2. Elam
  3. Parthia
  4. Areia
  5. Bactria
  6. Sogd
  7. Chorasmia
  8. Drangiana
  9. Arachosia
  10. Sattagydia
  11. Gandhara
  12. are
  13. Haumaschwelger Saken
  14. Pointed-helmeted saks
  15. Babylonia
  16. Syria
  17. Arabia
  18. Egypt
  19. Armenia
  20. Cappadocia
  21. Lydia
  22. Ionia
  23. Saken across the Black Sea
  24. Thrace
  25. Macedonia
  26. Libya
  27. Nubia
  28. Mekrān
  29. Caria

Book Daniel

Another historical source is the book of Daniel in the Bible . In verse 6: 2-3 EU it says:

“It seemed good to Darius, and he put 120 satraps over the kingdom, who were to be over the whole kingdom, and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, so that these satraps would keep reporting to them and the king himself not a loser would."

Epoch of Xerxes I.

Under Xerxes I (519–465 BC) , the areas known from Darius I (549–486 BC) were added to Kush and the Ionians on the other side of the sea, i.e. a total of 31 satraps without the Persis ( the Persian homeland).

See also


  • Gerd Gropp: The representation of the 23 peoples on the reliefs of Apadana of Persepolis. In: Iranica antiqua 44 (2009), pp. 283–359 ( online )
  • Bruno Jacobs : The administration of satraps in the Persian Empire at the time of Darius III. (= Tübingen Atlas of the Middle Orient. Supplements. Series B: Geisteswissenschaften. No. 87). Reichert, Wiesbaden 1994, ISBN 3-88226-818-2 (also: Basel, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 1992).
  • Hilmar Klinkott : The satrap. An Achaemenid office bearer and his room for maneuver (= Oikumene. Studies on ancient world history. Vol. 1). Verlag Antike, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-938032-02-2 (also: Tübingen, Univ., Diss., 2002), ( review ).
  • Thierry Petit: Satrapes et Satrapies dans l'empire achéménide de Cyrus le Grand à Xerxès Ier (= Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres de l'Université de Liège. Vol. 254). Droz, Genève 1990, ISBN 2-251-66254-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Satrap  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. The Satrapies (Herodotus)
  2. See Satrapenwirtschaft at Duden online
  3. Histoire de Collège - Le 23. clinamen 84 (French, accessed on September 18, 2014)