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Satrap (Greek word from Old Persian Kishvarpad, i.e. "protector of the land/country"). In ancient history, the name given by the Persians to the governors of the provinces.

By the earlier Greek authors (Herodotus, Thucydides and often in Xenophon) it is rendered by satrapes "lieutenant, governor," in the documents--from Babylonia and Egypt and in Ezra and Nehemiah by pakha, "governor"; and the satrap Mazaeus of Cilicia and Syria in the time of Darius III and Alexander (Arrian iii. 8) calls himself on his coins "Mazdai, who is [placed] over the country beyond the Euphrates and Cilicia."

Cyrus the Great divided his empire into provinces; a definitive organization was given by Darius, who established twenty great satrapies and fixed their tribute.

The satrap was the head of the administration of his province; he collected the taxes, controlled the local officials and the subject tribes and cities, and was the supreme judge of the province to whose "chair" (Nehem. iii. 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 (esp. the "eye of the king").

The regular army of his province and the fortresses were independent of him and commanded by royal officers; but he was allowed to have troops in his own service (in later times mostly Greek mercenaries). The great provinces were divided into many smaller districts, the governors of which are also called satraps and hyparchs. The distribution of the great satrapies was changed occasionally, and often two of them were given to the same man. When the empire decayed, the satraps often enjoyed practical independence, especially as it became customary to appoint them also as generals in chief of their army district, contrary to the original rule. Hence rebellions of satraps became frequent from the middle of the 5th century; under Artaxerxes II. occasionally the greater part of Asia Minor and Syria was in open rebellion.

The last great rebellions were put down by Artaxerxes III[?]. The satrapic administration was retained by Alexander and his successors, especially in the Seleucid[?] empire, where the satrap generally is designated assirategus; but their provinces were much smaller than under the Persians. In later times the cult of a god Satrapes occurs in Syrian inscriptions from Palmyra and the Hauran; by Pausanias vi.25, 6, Satrapes is mentioned as the name of a god who had a statue and a cult in Elis and is identified with Korybas. The origin of this god is obscure; perhaps it arose from a cult connected with a statue or a tomb of some satrap.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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