Achaemenid Satrapies > Satrapy of Aria

Satrapy of Aria


The Satrapy of Aria was an important administrative region within the Achaemenid Empire, located in the northeastern part of modern-day Iran and western Afghanistan. Aria played a crucial role in the empire's administration and military strategy due to its strategic location and resources.

Key Features of the Satrapy of Aria

  1. Geographical and Strategic Importance:

    • Location: Aria was situated in a region that encompasses parts of modern-day northeastern Iran and western Afghanistan. The satrapy was centered around the fertile valley of the Hari River (also known as the Herat River).
    • Strategic Position: Aria's location made it a critical area for controlling the trade routes between the Iranian plateau and Central Asia. It served as a buffer zone protecting the empire's eastern frontiers.
  2. Administrative Significance:

    • Satrapal Governance: Aria was governed by a satrap appointed by the Achaemenid king. The satrap was responsible for maintaining order, collecting taxes, and overseeing local administration. The capital of Aria was likely located at the ancient city of Artacoana (modern-day Herat).
    • Role in the Empire: As a satrapy, Aria was integral to the administration and security of the Achaemenid Empire. It helped facilitate communication and coordination between the central administration and the eastern provinces.
  3. Economic Activities:

    • Agriculture: The fertile lands along the Hari River supported extensive agricultural activities, including the cultivation of grains, fruits, and vegetables. The region's agricultural output was essential for feeding the local population and supporting the empire's economy.
    • Trade: Aria was a hub for trade, connecting the Achaemenid Empire with Central Asia, India, and the Iranian plateau. Key trade goods included textiles, spices, metals, and luxury items.
  4. Cultural and Religious Aspects:

    • Cultural Diversity: Aria was home to various ethnic groups, including Aryans, Persians, and other local communities. This cultural diversity was reflected in the region's art, architecture, and religious practices.
    • Religious Practices: Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in Aria, and the region was home to several important fire temples. The Achaemenid administration promoted Zoroastrian practices while allowing the continuation of local religious traditions.

Historical Interactions and Events

  1. Integration into the Achaemenid Empire:

    • Conquest by Cyrus the Great: Aria was incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great in the mid-6th century BCE. The region's strategic importance and resources made it a valuable addition to the empire.
    • Role in the Empire: As a satrapy, Aria played a crucial role in the administration, security, and economic prosperity of the Achaemenid Empire.
  2. Military Contributions:

    • Military Base: Aria served as a key military base for the Achaemenid Empire. The region's strategic location and resources made it an important area for deploying and supporting military forces.
    • Rebellions and Control: Despite its importance, Aria occasionally experienced unrest and resistance against Achaemenid rule. However, the central authority generally managed to maintain control through military and administrative measures.

Administrative Structure

  1. Satrapal Governance:

    • Role of the Satrap: The satrap of Aria was responsible for maintaining law and order, collecting taxes, and ensuring the region's security. The satrap managed relations with local leaders and integrated them into the administrative framework.
    • Local Administration: The Achaemenid administration often worked with local elites and officials, blending Persian administrative practices with local traditions to ensure effective governance.
  2. Tribute and Economy:

    • Economic Contributions: Aria's economic contributions included agricultural produce, livestock, and trade goods. These resources were essential for the financial stability of the Achaemenid Empire.
    • Trade Networks: Aria's strategic location facilitated extensive trade networks, connecting the Achaemenid Empire with Central Asia, India, and other regions.


  1. Cultural Heritage:

    • Archaeological Sites: Archaeological excavations in Aria, particularly in the area around Herat, have uncovered numerous artifacts and structures that reflect the region's rich cultural and historical heritage. These include palaces, temples, and inscriptions.
    • Historical Records: Inscriptions, coins, and historical texts provide valuable insights into the administrative, economic, and cultural aspects of Aria during the Achaemenid period and beyond.
  2. Influence on Subsequent Periods:

    • Hellenistic and Parthian Influence: After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, Aria came under the influence of the Hellenistic kingdoms, particularly the Seleucid Empire, and later the Parthian Empire. The region continued to be significant for its strategic and economic contributions.
    • Sassanian Rule: Aria maintained its importance during the Sassanian period, continuing to be a central region for administration and military strategy.


The Satrapy of Aria was a vital region within the Achaemenid Empire, known for its strategic location, rich natural resources, and cultural significance. As a major administrative and military center, Aria played a crucial role in the stability and prosperity of the empire. The integration of Aria into the Achaemenid administrative system facilitated effective governance and control over the eastern frontiers. The legacy of Aria continued to influence the region through subsequent empires, leaving a rich cultural and historical heritage that endures to this day.

Alexander the Great

During Alexander the great, Aria must have been a significant region. It turned out applied by a satrap, referred to as Satibarzanes, who was simply among the three principal Persian officials in the East of the Empire, alongside the satrap Bessus of Bactria and Barsaentes of Arachosia. In overdue 330 BC, Alexander the great, captured the Arian capital Artacoana. The province was section of the Seleucid Empire but was captured by others on different events and became section of the Parthian Empire in 167 BC. Aria later on became a province within the kust of Khorasan in the Sassanid Empire. Following fall of the Sassanid Empire, Aria was annexed by Nezak Tarkhan, the Hephthalite leader of Badgis.

Aria was an Old Persian satrapy, which enclosed chiefly the valley of the Hari River (Greek Ἄρ(ε)ιος, this being eponymous to the whole land according to Arrian[1]) and which in antiquity was considered as particularly fertile and, above all, rich in wine. The region of Aria was separated by mountain ranges from the Paropamisadae in the east, Parthia in the west and Margiana and Hyrcania in the north, while a desert separated it from Carmania and Drangiana in the south. It is described in a very detailed manner by Ptolemy and Strabo [2] and corresponds, according to that, almost to the Herat Province of today's Afghanistan. In this sense the term is used correctly by some writers, e.g. Herodotus (3.93.3, where the Areioi are mentioned together with the Parthians, Chorasmians, and Sogdians); Diodorus (17.105.7; 18.39.6); Strabo (2.1.14; 11.10.1, cf. also 11.8.1 and 8; 15.2.8 and 9); Arrian (Anabasis 3.25.1); Pomponius Mela (1.12, where we read that “nearest to India is Ariane, then Aria”).

Reconstruction of Ptolemy's map (2nd century AD) of Aria and neighbouring states by the 15th century German cartographer Nicolaus GermanusIts original capital was Artacoana (Ἀρτακόανα)[3] or Articaudna (Ἀρτίκαυδνα) according to Ptolemy. In its vicinity, a new capital was built, either by Alexander the Great himself or by his successors, Alexandria Ariana (Ἀλεξάνδρεια ἡ ἐν Ἀρίοις), modern Herat in northwest Afghanistan. Ptolemy lists several other cities, an indication of the province's wealth and fertility. The most important, according to Ptolemy and Arrian were:


The Persian Achaemenid district of Aria is mentioned in the provincial lists that are included in various royal inscriptions, for instance, in the Behistun inscription of Darius I (c. 520 BC). Representatives from the district are depicted in reliefs, e.g., at the royal Achaemenid tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam and Persepolis. They are wearing Scythian-style dress (with a tunic and trousers tucked into high boots) and a twisted turban around the head.

At the time of Alexander the Great, Aria was obviously an important district. It was administered by a satrap, called Satibarzanes, who was one of the three main Persian officials in the East of the Empire, together with the satrap Bessus of Bactria and Barsaentes of Arachosia. In late 330 BC, Alexander the Great, captured the Arian capital Artacoana. The province was part of the Seleucid Empire but was captured by others on various occasions and became part of the Parthian Empire in 167 BC. Aria later became a province within the kust of Khorasan in the Sassanid Empire. After the fall of the Sassanid Empire, Aria was annexed by Nezak Tarkhan, the Hephthalite ruler of Badgis.

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