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satrap

satrap (sā´trăp), governor of a province (satrapy) of the ancient Persian Empire. He was nominated by the king and given extensive powers. Darius I reorganized the privileges and duties of his satraps in the 6th cent. BC; the number of satraps varied from 20 to 28 during his reign. To prevent the concentration of power in one man's hands, certain officials, responsible only to the king, checked up on the satrap. The king also regulated the taxes and imposed a fixed sum upon each satrap. Alexander the Great revised the system, replacing Persians with Macedonians and reducing their powers. The command of the troops was taken from the satraps, who lost the right to engage mercenaries and to issue coinage.

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satrap

satrap governor of a province in ancient Persia. XIV. — (O)F. satrape or L. satrapa, satrapēs — Gr. satrápēs, also exatrápēs, of Iranian orig.; cf. OPers. χšaçapāvan- satrap, f. χšaça- (:- *χšaθra-) Kingdom + pā- protect.
So satrapy (-Y3) XVII.

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satrap

sa·trap / ˈsāˌtrap; ˈsa-/ • n. a provincial governor in the ancient Persian empire. ∎  any subordinate or local ruler.

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satrap

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Satrap

SATRAP

SATRAP (Heb. pl. אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנִים; Aram. אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנַיָּא; Old Persian xšaçapāvan, "protector of the province"; Greek σατράπης), an official title during the Persian Empire of varying meaning. According to Herodotus (3:89–94) and contemporary inscriptional material, Darius i divided up his empire for administrative purposes into some 20 districts called satrapies. In the biblical passages where Persian officials are listed in descending order of importance, the satrap almost always comes first (Esth. 3:12; 8:9; Dan. 3:2–3, 27; Ezra 8:36; Esth. 9:3, a literary variation?). The one passage which defines the title, however, speaks of Darius the Mede appointing 120 satraps over his kingdom (Dan. 6:2). Such a division of the realm is reminiscent of the Esther narrative (Esth. 1:1; 8:9) where Ahasuerus (Xerxes, the successor of Darius), is said to have ruled over 127 provinces (Heb. medinot).

The flexibility of titles as they are translated from one language to another and transferred from official to literary sources may be seen by a comparison of three sources. The Old Persian Darius Behistun inscription calls Dadarshi "satrap" of Bactria (3:13–14). The fragmentary Aramaic text apparently refers to him as "governor" (peḥah; Cowley, Aramaic, p. 252, line 18). Likewise, Tattenai, head of the Trans-Euphrates, apparently a satrapy, was called "governor" (Ezra 5:3, 6; 6:6, 13). Conversely, Greek historians occasionally used "satrap" to designate lower officials.

[Bezalel Porten]

The satrap possessed very extensive authority: he supervised the administration of the districts of his province, including the imposition of taxes. He had the right to mint coins in his name, except for gold coins, the minting of which was the prerogative of the emperor. He was the supreme judge and traveled throughout the province dispensing justice. He was responsible for security inside his province and supervised the highways. He also had an army which he recruited locally, but the garrisons in the citadels and the regular army were under the direct command of the emperor. The peḥah was subordinate to the satrap, who in turn was subject to the representative of the emperor, but satraps frequently conducted their own foreign policy. Sometimes more than one province was under the rule of one satrap. The office of satrap at times passed by inheritance, and there were dynasties of satraps which continued for many generations. As a result of the extensive authority bestowed upon the satrap, the Persian Empire in the course of time was a united country only in theory; in practice the forces of schism and disintegration prevailed more and more. From time to time, the great satraps rebelled, and it was only with difficulty that the emperors succeeded in overpowering them. Alexander the Great continued with the division of the country into satrapies; and it was continued by the Seleucids. The satrap of Transjordan held sway also over Samaria and Judea, and when there was a governor in Judea, he was subject to the authority of this satrap.

[Abraham Schalit]

bibliography:

Herodotus, 3:89ff.; P. Julien, Zur Verwaltung der Satrapien unter Alexander dem Grossen (1914); Pauly-Wissowa, 2nd series, 3 (1921), 82–188; O. Leuze, Die Satrapieneinteilung in Syrien und im Zweistromlande von 520320 (1935); E. Bickermann, Institutions des Seleucides (1937); J.A. Montgomery, Daniel (icc, 1927), 199; B. Porten, Archives from Elephantine (1968), 24, no. 93; A.F. Rainey, Australian Journal of Biblical Archaeology, 1 (1969), 51ff.

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