Persian Empire Royal Road System
The ultimate basis of the Persian Empire’s greatness was not its bureaucracy, nor even its armies, but its roads – the world’s original information superhighway. It’s no wonder control of such a service by Darius, the Great King, should have overawed his subjects, and struck them as the surest gauge and manifestation of Persian power.
Persia’s road system, known as the Royal Road, provided the immensity of the empire’s body with its nervous system, along which news was perpetually flowing, from synapse to synapse, to and from the brain.
The distances were routinely annihilated by royal couriers. Every evening, after a hard day’s ride, the messenger would find a posting station waiting for him, equipped with a bed, provisions and a fresh horse for the morning.
A truly urgent message, one brought at a gallop through storms and the dead of night, might arrive in Persepolis from the Aegean in under two weeks. This was an incredible, almost magical, degree of speed. Nothing to equal it had ever been known before.
Access to the Road System
Access to the road system was ferociously restricted. No one could set foot on it without a pass, a viyataka. Mere possession of such a pass was a mark of prestige. So tightly controlled were the itineraries of travelers on the roads that those who dawdled on the way and failed to arrive at a given destination on an alloted date could expect to forfeit their rations for the night.
Those who traveled on the roads without a viyataka pass would not merely go hungry, but very quickly be hunted down and killed. Even mail if it were sent without royal approval would be destroyed. Only the most cunning could hope to evade the vigilance of the highway patrols.
Immensity of the Persian Empire
The first dynasty of the Persian Empire was created by Achaemenids, established by Cyrus the Great in 550 BCE with the conquest of the Median, Lydian and Babylonian empires. It covered much of the Ancient world and controlled the largest percentage of the earth’s population in history when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.
………………The Persian Empire
Darius, the Great King, ruled the Persian Empire at its peak, from 552-486 BCE (36 years), when it included a vast area, including: much of West Asia, the Caucasus, parts of the Balkans (Thrace–Macedonia and Paeonia), most of the Black Sea coastal regions, parts of the North Caucasus, Central Asia, as far as the Indus Valley in the far east, and portions of north and northeast Africa including Egypt (Mudrâya), eastern Libya and coastal Sudan.
Tom Holland is a British writer and popular historian. He has published several non-academic works on classical and medieval history. In addition to his writing work, he has worked with BBC, adapting Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for TV documentaries also focusing on history.
Holland lives in London with his wife and two daughters. He is a keen cricket fan and member of the Authors XI cricket team.
Books Tom Holland has written include:
- Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
- In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire
- Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom
- Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
- Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
- The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West
- The Histories: Herodotus (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), translator