Satraps (/ˈsætrəp/) were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to the king, though with considerable autonomy; and the word also came to suggest tyranny, or ostentatious splendour.
The word "satrap" is also often used metaphorically 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 word satrap is derived via Latin satrapes from Greek satrápēs (σατράπης), itself borrowed from an Old Iranian *xšaθra-pā/ă-. In Old Persian, which was the native language of the Achaemenids, it is recorded as xšaçapāvan (𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎱𐎠𐎺𐎠, literally "protector of the province"). The Median form is reconstructed as *xšaθrapāwan-. It is cognate with Sanskrit kṣatrapa (क्षत्रपम्).
In modern Persian the descendant of xšaθrapāvan is shahrbān (شهربان), but the components have undergone semantic shift so the word now means "town keeper" (shahr [شهر] meaning "town" + bān [بان] meaning "keeper").
Although the first large-scale use of satrapies, or provinces, originates from the inception of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, beginning at around 530 BCE, provincial organization actually originated during the Median era from at least 648 BCE.
Up to the time of the conquest of Media by Cyrus the Great, emperors ruled the lands they conquered through client kings and governors. The main difference was that in Persian culture the concept of kingship was indivisible from divinity: divine authority validated the divine right of kings. The twenty-six satraps established by Cyrus were never kings, but viceroys ruling in the king's name, although in political reality many took advantage of any opportunity to carve themselves an independent power base. Darius the Great gave the satrapies a definitive organization, increased their number to thirty-six, and fixed their annual tribute (Behistun inscription).
The satrap was in charge of the land that he owned as an administrator, 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 which was controlled by a royal secretary and 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 satrap: besides his secretarial scribe, his chief financial official (Old Persian ganzabara) and the general in charge of the regular army of his province and of the fortresses were independent of him and periodically ported directly to the shah, in person. The satrap was allowed to have troops in his own service.
The great satrapies (provinces) were often divided into smaller districts, the governors of which were also called satraps and (by Greco-Roman authors) also called 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 the Persian culture was the one most affected as the Great King endeavoured to meld elements from all his subjects into a new imperial style, especially at his capital, Persepolis.
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 BCE. Darius I struggled with widespread rebellions in the satrapies, and under Artaxerxes II occasionally the greater parts of Asia Minor and Syria were in open rebellion (Revolt of the Satraps).
The last great rebellions were put down by Artaxerxes III.
The satrapic administration and title were retained—even for Greco-Macedonian incumbents—by Alexander the Great, who conquered the Achaemenid Empire, and by his successors, the Diadochi (and their dynasties) who carved it up, especially in the Seleucid Empire, where the satrap generally was designated as strategos (i.e., military generals); but their provinces were much smaller than under the Persians. They would ultimately be replaced by conquering empires, especially the Parthians.
In the 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 Empire was considerably more centralized than that of the Parthian Empire; the semi-independent kingdoms and self-governing city states of the Parthian Empire were 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. Exceptionally, the Byzantine Empire also adopted the title "satrap" for the semi-autonomous princes that governed one of its Armenian provinces, the Satrapiae.
The Western Satraps or Kshatrapas (35–405 CE) of the Indian subcontinent were Saka rulers in the western and central part of the Sindh region of Pakistan, and the Saurashtra and Malwa regions of western India. They were contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the subcontinent from the area of Peshawar and were possibly their overlords, and with the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in central India to their south and east and the Kushan state to their immediate west.
Achaemenes (also incorrectly called Achaemenides by Ctesias, from the Old Persian Haxāmaniš) was an Achaemenid general and satrap of ancient Egypt during the early 5th century BC, at the time of the 27th Dynasty of Egypt.Andragoras (Seleucid satrap)
Not to be mistaken for Andragoras, a satrap of Alexander from 331 BC, also in the area of Parthia.Andragoras (Greek: Ανδραγόρας; died 238 BC) was an Iranian satrap of the Seleucid provinces of Parthia and Hyrcania under the Seleucid rulers Antiochus I Soter and Antiochus II Theos. He later revolted against his overlords, ruling independently from 245 BC till his death.Ariobarzanes of Persis
Ariobarzanes (Ancient Greek: Ἀριοβαρζάνης, in Old Persian: *Āriya-bṛdāna-, meaning "exalting the Aryans") also spelled as Ario Barzan or Aryo Barzan (Persian: آریوبرزن); died 330 BC), also known as Ariobarzanes the Brave, was an Achaemenid prince, satrap and a Persian military commander who led a last stand of the Persian army at the Battle of the Persian Gate against Macedonian King Alexander the Great in the winter of 330 BC.Arsames (satrap of Egypt)
Arsames (also called Sarsamas and Arxanes, from the Old Persian Aršāma) was an Achaemenid satrap of ancient Egypt during the 5th century BC, at the time of the 27th Dynasty of Egypt.Artabazos II
Artabazos II (in Greek Αρτάβαζος) (fl. 389 – 328 BC) was a Persian general and satrap. He was the son of the Persian satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, Pharnabazus II, and younger kinsman (most probably brother) of Ariobarzanes of Phrygia who revolted against Artaxerxes II around 356 BC. His first wife was an unnamed Greek woman from Rhodes, sister of the two mercenaries Mentor of Rhodes and Memnon of Rhodes.Artasyrus
Artasyrus or Ardashir was recorded as being the Satrap of Armenia during the reign of king Artaxerxes II. Referred to as the "King's Eye", Artasyrus was of Bactrian origin. His more "well known" son, Orontes, who was therefore sometimes referred to as "Orontes the Bactrian", served as the Satrap of Sophene and Matiene (Mitanni) during the reign of Artaxerxes II. There appears to be confusion in the historical records as to whether Artasyrus and Artaxerxes II were the same person. The daughter of Artaxerxes II, Rhodogune, was the wife of the satrap Orontes I. There are few English language sources to fully explain who he was, when he was born or died.According to H. Khachatrian, one of the rare accounts of Ardashir was that before his death he gathered his sons and told them that the duty of every king of the Orontid Dynasty was to build at least one water channel, which would last for centuries; as he had not managed to build one, he left all his fortune to his sons for them to build them for him.Asander
For the General and King of the Bosporan Kingdom, see Asander (Bosporan king).
Asander or Asandros (Greek: Άσανδρoς; lived 4th century BC) was the son of Philotas and brother of Agathon. He was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, and satrap of Lydia from 334 BC as well as satrap of Caria after Alexander's death.Autophradates
Autophradates (Greek: Aὐτoφραδάτης, Persian: Vadfradad, lived 4th century BC) was a Persian Satrap of Lydia, who also distinguished himself as a general in the reign of Artaxerxes III and Darius III.Eumenes
Eumenes of Cardia (; Greek: Εὐμένης; c. 362 – 316 BC) was a Greek general and satrap. He participated in the Wars of the Diadochi as a supporter of the Macedonian Argead royal house. He was executed after the Battle of Gabiene in 316 BC.Hecatomnus
Hecatomnus of Mylasa or Hekatomnos (Greek: Ἑκατόμνος) was an early 4th-century BC ruler of Caria. He was the satrap (governor) of Caria for the Persian Achaemenid king Artaxerxes II (404–358 BC). However, the basis for Hecatomnus' political power was twofold: he was both a high appointed Persian official and a powerful local dynast, who founded the hereditary dynasty of the Hecatomnids. The Hecatomnids followed the earlier autochthonous dynasty of the Lygdamids (520-450 BC) in Caria.Hyrcania
Hyrcania () (Greek: Ὑρκανία Hyrkania, Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 Varkâna, Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 Gurgān, Akkadian: Urqananu) is a historical region composed of the land south-east of the Caspian Sea in modern-day Iran, bound in the south by the Alborz mountain range and the Kopet Dag in the east.The region served as a satrapy (province) of the Median Empire, a sub-province of the Achaemenid Empire, and a province within its successors, the Seleucid, Arsacid and Sasanian empires. Hyrcania bordered Parthia to the east (later known as Abarshahr), Dihistan to the north, Media to the south and Mardia to the west. After the fall of the Sasanian Empire in 651 AD, Hyrcania was known as Tabaristan.Mazaces
Mazaces, also Mazakes (Aramaic: MZDK), was the last Achaemenid satrap of ancient Egypt during the late reign of Darius III of the 31st Dynasty of Egypt.
Mazaces succeeded Sabaces after the latter's death at the battle of Issus (333 BCE). His office lasted less than a year: when Alexander the Great invaded Egypt in late 332 BCE, Mazaces did not have enough military force to put up a resistance. Counselled by Amminapes, who knew Alexander well, Mazaces handed the country to the Macedonian without a fight, along with a treasure of 800 talents of gold. This event marked the end of the short–lived second Egyptian satrapy (343–332 BCE).It is unknown what happened to Mazaces after this event, but Alexander assigned the role of satrap of Egypt to the Greek Cleomenes of Naucratis before leaving for the East.Mazakes may have been nominated as satrap of Mesopotamia in reward for his submission, as coins in his name and in a style similar to his Egyptian predecessor Sabakes, are found in this region, and the satrap of Mesopotamia at that time is otherwise unknown.He was succeeded by Bleitor.Mazaeus
Mazaeus, Mazday or Mazaios (Greek:Μαζαῖος) (died 328 BC) was a Persian noble and satrap of Cilicia and later satrap of Babylon for the Achaemenid Empire, a satrapy which he retained under Alexander the Great.Nicanor (satrap)
Nicanor (; Greek: Nικάνωρ Nikā́nōr) was a Macedonian officer of distinction who served as satrap of Media under Antigonus. (Possibly to be identified with Nicanor of Stageira, who served under Alexander the Great.)
In the division of the provinces at Triparadeisus, after the death of Perdiccas in 321 BCE, he gained the position of governor of Cappadocia. He attached himself to the party of Antigonus, whom he accompanied in the war against Eumenes. After the second battle, that at Gabiene, the mutinous Argyraspids agreed to surrender their general into Antigonus' hands; it was Nicanor who was selected to receive the prisoner from them.After the defeat of Peithon and his associates around 314 BCE, Nicanor was appointed by Antigonus as satrap (governor) of Media and the adjoining provinces, commonly termed the "upper satrapies", which he continued to hold until 311 BCE when Seleucus made himself master of Babylon, and provoked the Babylonian War.
Nicanor now assembled a large force and marched against the invader, but was surprised and defeated by Seleucus at the passage of the river Tigris, and his troops were either cut to pieces or defected to the enemy.
What happened to Nicanor in this battle is uncertain. Diodorus writes that Nicanor escaped the slaughter and escaped to the desert, from where he wrote to Antigonus for assistance. Appian, however, says he was killed in the battle.Orontes I
Orontes I or Yervand I (classical Armenian: Երուանդ Ա, Yervand I) was an Armenian ruler of the Orontid Dynasty who ruled as satrap of the Achaemenid Empire between 401 BC – 344 BC. The Persian version of the name is Auruand which meant "Great Warrior" in the Avestan language. It is likely this was a special title given by the Persian king, though this seems to have become a hereditary title in that family.Orontes II
Orontes II (Armenian: Երուանդ Բ, Yervand II) was a Persian noble living in the 4th century BC. He is probably to be identified as the satrap of Armenia under Darius III, and may in fact have succeeded Darius in this position when Darius ascended the throne of Persia in 336 BC.Arrian lists Orontes and a certain Mithraustes as two commanders of Armenian forces in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC. The interpretation of this passage is controversial, with different historians interpreting it as indicating that Mithraustes commanded the infantry, or that there were two different contingents of Armenian cavalry in this battle, or even that Armenia was divided into two parts ruled by two satraps.Orontes fought at the Battle of Gaugamela on the Persian right flank with 40,000 units of infantry and 7,000 of cavalry under his command, where he died. His son, Mithrenes, Satrap of Lydia, had joined Alexander the Great after being defeated at Sardis in 334 BC, and fought at Gaugamela on the side of Alexander. After the battle, Mithrenes was made Satrap of Armenia by Alexander.The ultimate fate of Orontes is unknown. Diodorus and Polyaenus mention a man named Orontes, who was a Satrap of Armenia during the Second War of the Diadochi; Diodorus adds that this Orontes was a friend of Peucestas. Andrew Burn, Edward Anson and Waldemar Heckel consider this satrap to be the same Orontes who fought for Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela; Anson and Heckel state that Mithrenes may have perished in an unsuccessful attempt to wrest Armenia from Orontes. Heckel stated that in all likehood Armenia, which was bypassed by the Macedonian army, was never part of Alexander's empire. Anson, on the other hand, considered it likely that at some point after the Battle of Gaugamela Orontes made his submission to Alexander, who later put him in charge of the Greater Armenia. N. G. L. Hammond interpreted the sources as indicating that Armenia was already in submission when Mithrenes was sent there from Babylon late in 331 BC, that Mithrenes took it over as satrap ruling on behalf of the new Macedonian regime, and that he was left as satrap in 323 BC when Perdiccas let some satrapies remain under the existing satraps; in 317 BC Mithrenes was no longer satrap but had been replaced by Orontes.One of the inscriptions from the Mount Nemrut detailing the ancestry of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene mentions an ancestor whose name was incompletely preserved, and who was a son of Aroandas. This Aroandas (Orontes) is inferred to be the second ancestor of Antiochus listed in the inscriptions from Mount Nemrut who bore that name, succeeding the first Aroandas, who in turn was the son of Artasyrus and who married Rhodogune, the daughter of Artaxerxes II of Persia. Friedrich Karl Dörner and John H. Young (1996) interpreted the first preserved letter of the name of the son of Aroandas II as a delta, so that the name ended with -δανης, -danes. The authors considered this reading to be important, because it settled the proposal of Ernst Honigmann's ([Mιθρ]άνην), as well as one of the suggestions presented by Salomon Reinach ([Όστ]άνην). Brijder (2014) also interpreted the inscription as indicating that name of the son of Orontes II ended with -danes.Aroandas II mentioned in an inscription from Mount Nemrut was identified with the Orontes who was a commander in the Battle of Gaugamela by Karl Julius Beloch and Herman Brijder. This Orontes was also inferred to be a descendant of Orontes I and his wife Rhodoghune, possibly their son or grandson. On the other hand, Friedrich Karl Dörner was unsure whether ancient citations of connections of the bearers of the name Aroandas/Orontes with Armenia or their status as leaders of Armenian military units are compelling reasons for assuming that they were relatives. Dörner considered it very questionable whether Aroandas II mentioned in an inscription from Mount Nemrut is identical with the Orontes of Alexander's time; the author stressed the need to consider that in the course of the 4th century BC, besides the two ancestors of Antiochus I of Commagene, other bearers of the same name may have played a part in Persian politics.Philip (satrap)
Philip (in Greek Φιλιππoς; died 318 BC) was satrap of Sogdiana. He was first appointed to this position by Alexander the Great in 327 BC. He retained his post, as did most of the satraps of the more remote provinces, in the arrangements which followed the death of the king in 323 BC; but in the subsequent partition at Triparadisus in 321 BC, he was assigned the government of Parthia instead. Here he remained until 318 BC, when Peithon, who was then seeking to establish his power over all the provinces of the East, made himself master of Parthia, and put Philip to death.Tiribazus
Tiribazus, Tiribazos or Teribazus (c.440 BC-370 BC) was a Persian general and Persian satrap of Western Armenia and later satrap of Lydia in western Anatolia.Western Satraps
The Western Satraps, Western Kshatrapas, or Kshaharatas (35–405 CE) were Indo-Scythian (Saka) rulers of the western and central part of India (Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states). The Western Satraps were contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent and were possibly their overlords, and the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in Central India. The power of the Saka rulers started to decline in the 2nd century CE after the Saka rulers were defeated by the south Indian Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni of the Satavahana dynasty. Later the Saka kingdom was completely destroyed by Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire in the 4th century CE.Altogether, there were 27 independent Western Satrap rulers during a period of about 350 years.
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical derivations in italics.
Rulers of the Achaemenid Empire
|Kings of Kings|
of the Achaemenid Empire
|Satraps of Lydia|
|Satraps of Hellespontine Phrygia|
|Satraps of Cappadocia|
|Greek Governors of Asia Minor cities|
|Dynasts of Lycia|
|Dynasts of Caria|
|Kings of Macedonia|
|Kings of Tyre|
|Kings of Sidon|
|Satraps of Armenia|
|Satraps of Egypt|
|Satraps of Bactria|
|Satraps of Media|
|Satraps of Cilicia|
|Other known satraps|
In most territories, Achaemenid rulers were succeeded by Hellenistic satraps and Hellenistic rulers from around 330 BC
|Satraps under Alexander the Great|
|Satraps at the|
Partition of Babylon
|Satraps at the |
Partition of Triparadisus
Hellenistic satraps were preceeded by Achaemenid rulers, and followed or ruled by Hellenistic rulers