:"See also the related deity
Satrapes."Satrap (Persian: ساتراپ) was the name given to the governors of the provincesof ancient Median and Persian empires, including the Achaemenid Empireand in several of their heirs, such as the Sassanid Empireand the Hellenistic empires.
Satrap is derived from the Old Persian "xšaθrapāvā" ("protector of the province"), from "xšaθra" ("realm" or "province") and "pāvā" ("protector"). In Biblical Hebrew, the word is spelled אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפָּן "ahashdarpān" (only in the plural אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנִים "ahashdarpenim"). In Greek, the word was rendered as σατράπης, "satrápēs", and was romanized as "satrapes", from the Old Persian "xšaθrapā(van)"). In modern Persian this would have naturally evolved to شهربان ("shahrban"). "Sharban", translated from modern Persian, literally means "town keeper";(ﺷﻬﺮ "shar", meaning "town", ﺑﺍﻦ "ban" meaning "keeper"). There is a link, via
Sanskrit, to the warrior class of India, the kshatriya.
The word satrap is also often used in modern literature to refer to world leaders or governors who are heavily influenced by larger world superpowers or hegemonies and act as their surrogates.
The first large scale use of satrapies, or provinces, originates from the conception of the first
Persian Empireunder Cyrus the Great, beginning at around 530 BC. However, Provincial organization originated during the Median era from at least 648 BC.
Up to the time of the conquest of Media by
Cyrus the Great, Median emperors ruled their conquered territories as provinces, through client kings and governors. The chief difference was that in Persian culture the concept of kingship was indivisible from divinity: divine authority validated the divine right of kings. The twenty satraps established by Cyrus were never kings, but viceroys ruling in the king's name, although in political reality many grabbed any chance to carve themselves an independent power base. Darius Igave the satrapies a definitive organization, increased their number to twenty-three and fixed their annual tribute ( Behistun inscription).
The satrap was the head of the administration of his province, and found himself surrounded by an all-but-royal court; he collected the taxes, controlled the local officials and the subject tribes and cities, and was the supreme judge of the province before whose "chair" ("Nehemiah" 3:7) every civil and criminal case could be brought. He was responsible for the safety of the roads (cf. Xenophon), and had to put down brigands and rebels.
He was assisted by a council of Persians, to which also provincials were admitted; and was controlled by a royal secretary and by emissaries of the king, especially the "eye of the king" who made an annual inspection and exercised permanent control.
There were further checks on the power of each satr
*The great satrapies (provinces) were often divided into smaller districts, the governors of which were also called satraps and (by Greco-Roman authors) also "
hyparchs" (actually "Hyparkhos" in Greek, 'vice-regents'). The distribution of the great satrapies was changed repeatedly, and often two of them were given to the same man.
*As the provinces were the result of consecutive conquests (the homeland had a special status, exempt from provincial tribute), both primary and sub-satrapies were often defined by former states and/or ethno-religious identity. One of the keys to the Achaemenid success (as with most enduring great empires) was their open attitude to the culture and religion of the conquered people, so ironically the Persian culture was the one most affected as the Great King endeavoured to melt elements from all his subjects into a new imperial style, especially at his capital
*Whenever central authority in the empire weakened, the satrap often enjoyed practical independence, especially as it became customary to appoint him also as general-in-chief of the army district, contrary to the original rule. "When his office became hereditary, the threat to the central authority could not be ignored" (Olmstead). Rebellions of satraps became frequent from the middle of the
5th century. The great usurper Darius Istruggled with widespread rebellions in the satrapies, and under Artaxerxes IIoccasionally the greater part of Asia Minorand Syria was in open rebellion.
The last great rebellions were put down by
The term "Satrap" is found in the Old Testament (of the Holy Bible) in the books of Esther (3:12, 8:9 and 9:3), Ezra (8:36)and most commonly in Daniel (3:2,3:3,3:27,6:1,6:2,6:3).
The satrapic administration and title were retained—even for Greco-Macedonian incumbents—by Alexander the Great, who conquered the empire and even enlarged it, and by his successors, the
diadochi(and their dynasties) who carved it up, especially in the Seleucidempire, where the satrap generally was designated as "strategos"; but their provinces were much smaller than under the Persians. They would ultimately be replaced by conquering empires, especially the Romans.
Parthian and Sassanian satraps
Parthian Empire, the king's power rested on the support of noble families who ruled large estates, and supplied soldiers and tribute to the king. City-states within the empire enjoyed a degree of self-government, and paid tribute to the king. Administration of the Sassanid Empirewas considerably more centralized than that of the Parthian Empire; the semi-independent kingdoms and self-governing city states of the Parthian Empire was replaced with a system of "royal cities" which served as the seats of centrally appointed governors called "shahrabs" as well as the location of military garrisons. "Shahrabs" ruled both the city and the surrounding rural districts.
*By analogy, the word "satrap" is also used anachronistically for various
governors, especially in the Orient, whose real title is etymologically independent, such as the "shaknu" and "bel pihati" in the earlier Assyrian (and consecutive [New] Babylonian?) empire, about the first of such size west of the Far East, which rather seems the model for the provincial concept.
*It is also used in modern times to refer (usually derogatively) to the loyal, subservient lieutenants or clients of some powerful figure (with equal imprecision also styled "
mogul", " tycoon", or the like), in politics or business.
Hungarian languagea slightly changed version of the word, "satrafa" refers to old women, often mothers-in-law, who always quarrel and try to force their will on others.
Spanish languagethe word "sátrapa" carries not only the aforementioned ancient historical meaning, but in modern usage it also applies to people who abuse power or authority. It can refer as well to those living in luxurious and ostentatious conditions or to individuals who act astutely and even disloyally.
*The title is also used by the College of
Pataphysicsas "Transcending Satrap" for certain of its members, among which were counted such peoples as Marcel Duchamp, Jean Baudrillardand the Marx brothers.
*A. T. Olmstead, "History of the Persian Empire," 1948
*Pauly-Wissowa (comprehensive encyclopaedia on Antiquity; in German)
*Robert Dick Wilson. "The Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions", 1917. Available on home.earthlink.net
*Rüdiger Schmitt, "Der Titel 'Satrap'", in "Studies Palmer" ed. Meid (1976), 373–390.
* [http://www.livius.org/sao-sd/satrap/satrap.htm Livius.org: Satraps and satrapies]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.