Persian Empire > Achaemenid Satrapies

Satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire


The Achaemenid Empire, one of the largest empires in ancient history, was divided into administrative regions called satrapies. Each satrapy was governed by a satrap (governor) appointed by the king. The satraps were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining order, and overseeing local administration. Herodotus and other ancient historians provide detailed descriptions of these satrapies. Here is an overview of the key satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire:

Key Satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire

  1. Persis (Parsa)

    • Capital: Persepolis
    • Significance: The heartland of the Achaemenid dynasty and the center of political power. Persis was the home region of the Persian kings and the site of major ceremonial capitals.
  2. Media (Mada)

    • Capital: Ecbatana (modern-day Hamadan)
    • Significance: An important cultural and administrative center. Media played a crucial role in the empire's military and political strategies.
  3. Elam (Ūvja)

    • Capital: Susa
    • Significance: An ancient and culturally rich region. Susa was a major administrative center and one of the empire's capitals.
  4. Babylonia (Bābiruš)

    • Capital: Babylon
    • Significance: One of the wealthiest and most influential satrapies, known for its advanced culture, science, and administration. Babylon was a key center of trade and learning.
  5. Assyria

    • Capital: Nineveh
    • Significance: Historically significant as the center of the Assyrian Empire. Under Achaemenid rule, it continued to be an important administrative region.
  6. Armenia

    • Capital: Artaxata
    • Significance: A strategically important region that acted as a buffer zone between the empire and the northern tribes. It was known for its rich resources and military contributions.
  7. Lydia (Sparda)

    • Capital: Sardis
    • Significance: A wealthy region with significant gold deposits. Lydia was known for its coinage and played a major role in the economy of the empire.
  8. Phrygia

    • Capital: Gordion
    • Significance: A region known for its strategic location and cultural heritage. It served as a key military and administrative center.
  9. Cilicia (Kilikia)

    • Capital: Tarsus
    • Significance: An important coastal satrapy with strong maritime connections. Cilicia was known for its fertile lands and military significance.
  10. Egypt (Mudrâya)

    • Capital: Memphis
    • Significance: One of the richest and most ancient cultures within the empire. Egypt was a major source of grain and other resources.
  11. Syria (Aram)

    • Capital: Damascus
    • Significance: A key region connecting the eastern Mediterranean with the interior of the empire. It was an important center for trade and culture.
  12. Bactria (Bāxtriš)

    • Capital: Bactra (modern-day Balkh)
    • Significance: A significant eastern satrapy known for its wealth and strategic location on trade routes connecting Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
  13. Gandhara

    • Capital: Taxila
    • Significance: A region known for its cultural and religious significance, particularly as a center of early Buddhism. It connected the empire with the Indian subcontinent.
  14. Parthia (Parthava)

    • Capital: Nisa
    • Significance: A northeastern satrapy that played a crucial role in the defense of the empire against nomadic invasions.
  15. Sogdiana

    • Capital: Marakanda (modern-day Samarkand)
    • Significance: An important region for trade and cultural exchange, linking the Persian heartland with Central Asia.
  16. Hyrcania

    • Capital: Zadracarta (modern-day Gorgan)
    • Significance: A strategically important region on the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea, known for its fertile lands and military significance.
  17. Maka

    • Capital: Hormozia (modern-day Hormozgan)
    • Significance: Located in the southeastern part of the empire, it was known for its maritime trade and connection to the Persian Gulf.
  18. India (Hindush)

    • Capital: Possibly Taxila (also associated with Gandhara)
    • Significance: The Indian satrapy was rich in resources, particularly in precious stones and spices, and played a crucial role in the empire's trade networks.
  19. Arachosia

    • Capital: Alexandria Arachosia (modern-day Kandahar)
    • Significance: Located in modern-day southern Afghanistan, this satrapy was important for its strategic location and agricultural production.
  20. Drangiana

    • Capital: Prophtasia (modern-day Farah)
    • Significance: A region located in the area of modern-day southeastern Iran and southwestern Afghanistan, known for its strategic and agricultural importance.
  21. Cappadocia

    • Capital: Mazaka (modern-day Kayseri)
    • Significance: An inland region known for its rugged terrain and strategic military value.

Administration and Governance

  1. Role of the Satraps:

    • Governance: Satraps were responsible for maintaining order, collecting taxes, and overseeing the administration of their regions. They acted as the king's representatives and wielded significant power locally.
    • Military: Satraps were also responsible for the defense of their territories. They commanded local garrisons and could raise armies when necessary.
  2. Central Control:

    • Royal Inspectors: To prevent the satraps from becoming too powerful, the Achaemenid kings appointed royal inspectors known as the "king's eyes and ears" to monitor the satraps' activities and report directly to the king.
    • Tribute System: Each satrapy was required to pay an annual tribute to the central government, contributing to the empire's wealth and stability. This tribute could be in the form of silver, gold, agricultural produce, or other valuable goods.
  3. Integration of Local Customs:

    • Cultural Tolerance: The Achaemenid administration often retained local customs, laws, and officials to ensure smooth governance. This policy of cultural tolerance helped maintain stability and loyalty among the diverse populations within the empire.


The satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire were crucial to its administrative efficiency and stability. Each satrapy contributed to the empire's wealth, military strength, and cultural diversity. The Achaemenid system of governance, with its combination of centralized control and local autonomy, allowed the empire to manage its vast and diverse territories effectively, leaving a lasting legacy in the history of governance and administration.

Persian Satrapies


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