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IRANIAN GOVERNMENT & ADMINISTRATION

ACHAEMENID ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

BABYLONIAN & EGYPTIAN DOCUMENTS


By: Muhammad A. Dandamayev

No documents composed in Old Persian and other Iranian languages are known. In Persia and Media private parties apparently did not conclude written transactions, though some Persians and other Iranians who lived in Babylonia actively participated in business and made various deeds with local individuals following traditional Babylonian legal norms. The documents of the royal household in Persia were written partly in Elamite and partly in Aramaic.

About 6,000 legal, economic, and administrative documents from Babylonian private and temple archives of the Achaemenid period have so far been published. They are written on clay tablets in the late-Babylonian dialect of Akkadian. These documents include promissory notes; mortgages; contracts for the sale and lease of land and houses; receipts for tax payments; records of court proceedings; and so on, including about 500 official and private letters. The majority of these texts belong to the reigns of Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius I (qq.v.; 539-486 B.C.E.). About two dozen of them were drafted in Ecbatana, Persepolis, Humadeshu (in the vicinity of Persepolis), Susa, and other cities of western and southwestern Iran. They represent transactions by Babylonians who came to Persia as merchants and businessmen or, in a few instances, had settled there.

From the archives of the Eanna temple in Uruk and the Ebabbar temple in Sippar, both in Mesopotamia, there is especially abundant information about the economy and social institutions of Babylonia. Among private archives the most important are those of the Egibi, Murashû, and several other business houses. Most of the Egibi documents were drafted in the vicinity of Babylon, but some were composed in other cities, including Ecbatana, where the firm was engaged in business (Dandamaev, pp. 12-22). The Murashû documents come mainly from the region of Nippur, but a certain number were composed in Babylon, Susa, and other cities. They constitute the largest single source for the economic history of Babylonia in the second half of the 5th century B.C.E. and for changes introduced by the Achaemenid administration into policies on property and the system of land tenure. They also provide extensive information on Persian and other Iranian soldiers and officials settled around Nippur (Stolper, pp. 1, 23-24).

Various documents written in Egyptian demotic on papyrus have been preserved from Achaemenid Egypt. Among them the Ryland Papyri comprise a number of documents of various periods, one of which, the "petition of Petesi," concerns the illegal appropriation of property by priests in the early Achaemenid period. It provides valuable insight into the Egyptian legal system. Cambyses' decree limiting the property of Egyptian temples and Darius I's edict codifying Egyptian laws are also of great importance. The correspondence of local priests with Pherendates, satrap of Egypt under Darius I, provides information on the administrative system of the country. Other demotic documents include leases for fields and livestock, the sales of slaves, hiring of labor, records of self-sale, and the like (Seidl, pp. 51-83; Cruz-Uribe, pp. 103-11).

About 200 Aramaic documents are known from Egypt. They include marriage contracts, promissory notes, leases for land, and other business documents. Some also contain information on Persian administrative policies in Egypt. All these texts are written on papyrus. Thirteen letters of Arshama (q.v.), satrap of Egypt in the second half of the 5th century B.C.E., contain instructions for management of the estates of Persian nobles in Egypt. They are written on leather. Finally, Aramaic documents from the Achaemenid province of Samaria include private documents (marriage contracts, manumission of slaves, etc.) drafted between 375 and 335 B.C.E. (Porten and Yardeni).

Bibliography: E. Cruz-Uribe, Saite and Persian Demotic Cattle Documents. A Study in Legal Forms and Principles in Ancient Egypt, American Studies in Papyrology 26, Chico, Calif., 1985. M. A. Dandamaev, Slavery in Babylonia from Nabo-polassar to Alexander II of Macedonia, DeKalb, Ill., 1984. B. Porten and A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, 3 vols., Jerusalem, 1986-93. E. Seidl, Ägyptische Rechtsgeschichte der Saiten- und Perserzeit, Glückstadt, Germany, 1968. M. W. Stolper, Entrepreneurs and Empire. The Murašû Archive, the Murašû Firm, and Persian Rule in Babylonia, Leiden, 1985.

 

 

 

 

 

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Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica

 

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Page Keywords: Aryans, Achaemenian, Achaemenids, Hakhamanesh, Hakhamaneshian, Persians

 

 

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