Courtesy of AtlasTours.Net
Courtesy of AtlasTours.Net
Armenia Kasakh river. An underground lake lies beneath the Ararat Valley recorded in the Assyrian period as forested marshland, with cultivated lakes. From mountain sources joining the Arax River, The Kasakh runs West to East in this ancient Valley.
© Andranik Michaelian/ Armenia / see biblio. With thanks to Mr. Michaelman.
Metropolitan Museum of New york.
Medallion with a seated deity and a male worshiper, Urartian; 8th–7th century B.C. Anatolia or Iran (Armenia possibly) Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989
photo by unknown Iraqi lady.
Silver coinage of Lydia, 450-330 B.C. AR Siglos. Obverse: Great King r. with dagger Reverse: Incuse with very clear and interesting banker’s countermark with bird and symbol above. Size: 16.8 mm Weight 5.5 grams Attribution: Sear 4683. - Courtesy of Marc Breitsprecher.
Satraps and Cyrus The Great
  Vanquished in battle 529 B.C. against the Persian Massagetai Scythians of Central Asia led by their Queen Tomyri, it was recorded Cyrus on his deathbed designated new satraps amongst the offspring of Spitames’ son-in-law Astyigas, a Bactrian. These were Spitaces satrap of the Derbices and Megabernes to be satrap governing the Barcanians southeast of the Caspian Sea. Cyrus supposedly freed Bactria of tribute naming a younger son Tanyoxarces its satrap (also known as Smerdis or Bardiya). The latter’s sinecure further included Chorasmia, Parthia and Carmania famed for its wine Strabo tells us. In his work Persica, Ctesias of Cnidus recounts these details. True or supposed, such events were to have transpired after the frenzied Massagetai battle east of the Caspian Sea but all such revelations linger ambiguously amidst the shadows in light of Herodotus claiming Queen Tomyris seized her foe’s corpse upon the battlefield, preserving his emptied skull as a recipient; drinking from it till her death. His version prevailed over the public mind as a J.P. Getty Museum miniature details.*10

Xenophon recounts Paphlagonia, Cilicia and Cyprus since willing to march against Babylon were not imposed satraps albeit tribute and troops were not waived. Another Persian (or Babylonian) named Gobyras/ Gubâru was empowered by Cyrus as Babylonia’s satrap circa 535 B.C. some time after the fall of its capital (538-539 B.C.) “The Holy City” of legendary wealth, Babylon, occurring the year following the biblical Writing on the Wall — mene, mene, tekel, upharsin — and the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after forty-nine years of exile. Gobyras appears in several Babylonian cuneiform texts as well as Xenophone’s Cyropaedia. Since his trace disappears during the Babylonian revolt of this period it is presumed he lost his life, a satrap’s risk of office. Daniel (9:1) mentions a Median Darius, son of Ahauerus accorded power over this realm possibly after Gobyras but we do not know whether this meant as its vassal king, satrap or otherwise.

For reasons unknown Cyrus spent a term in northwest Iran at the Median Court (Ecbatana of the Bible) before routing Media’s army, becoming himself a monarch and founder leading a new Achaemenid order. Herodotus describes Cyrus’ mother as Median. Once established he honourably treated the Medes, Zoroastraians as were his people, entrusting the royal archives to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan — Hâgmatâna, “a gathering place”) where his court spent its summers. He priviledged them, offering high positions: officials, satraps and generals. Its savant Magians Herodotus advanced as a Median tribe of hereditary priestly caste. Well-versed in astronomy Zoroastrian “fire-kindler” Magi created a religious centre at Rhagae, present day Tehran. (Their symbol the barsom or sacred twigs bring Druids to mind.— see below) Media (page 1-2) formed a large satrapy of comparable importance with Bactria, Susiana and Babylonia. Placed between Elam and Armenia, this land advanced to the Black and Caspian seas, the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf, paying four-hundred and fifty talents in yearly tribute as the tenth satrapy.

Cyrus’ conquests included pristine Elam (Hatamti) though this ancient realm found itself diminished to the territory of Susiana hitherto merely its satellite whereas according to Sargon of Akkad, Elam once extended across the entire Persian plateau. It was separated from Sumer by vast swamps which extended high upstream, far more so than today. Its ethnicity vanished during this historical period yet resurfaced later in history. Elamite yet remains illusive; a difficult language for researchers to grasp. With Persis (Fars region) of today’s southwest Iran it became a principal Achaemenid artery though Persis lodged the capitals: Pasargadae and Persepolis — the latter generally remaining without satraps though one was recorded in future under Darius III. Persepolis fortification tablets record Satrap Gobryas ruling Elam (521), partaking in Darius’ Scythian campaign (514 or 513), then returning to duty in Elam 498. Known as the eighth satrapy, Susiana with other areas of Cissia payed tribute reaching three hundred talents. Susa hosted the Achaemenid court as winter capital.

  An interesting story circulated with the fall of Babylon. Assyria’s Nebuchadrezzar had fortified the city’s walls erecting a third protective layer. This formidable barrier caused Cyrus to encircle the fortifications with a canal diverting in the process Euphrates waters normally running through the city. Thus, a fortuitous opening gave way under the wall wherein his troops funnelled through. The victory may have been simpler since a bridge as well as an underground passage connected the city divided by the Euphrates. Nebuchadrezzar (circa 630-562 B.C.) also built the Median wall south of Samarra between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as a barrier against barbarian hordes from the North. Tigris is from Old Persian Tigra. Ferat in Persian, the name Euphrates perhaps originated from Old Persian, Ufratu. Both rivers source their origins from Turkey.

After Sardis (page 3) it appears certain an imperial gold mint was set up in Babylon during the 5th century. Powerful “banks” or commercial institutions sourced from this area, pre-dating the Achaemenid: Egibis in Babylon and Murashu in Nippur . Later with Assyria, Babylonia would form the ninth satrapy paying yearly tribute of one thousand silver talents. This would be one of the wealthiest satrapies but also one fermenting in sedition.

Assyria or mat Ashur (the land of god Ashur) was long-destroyed by the time Achaemenid rule shaped history. Today its capital Ashur may vanish beneath water, threatened by earth’s most destructive element; mankind. An area west from River Tigris formed a satrapy together with Babylonia named Athura meaning “Assyria”, while another portion fell within Media’s satrapy ‘’Mada’’. Assyrian influences tenaciously remained . Its god Ashur adopted by Babylonia became Marduk, then evolved into Ahura-Mazda. Aramaic still ruled as lingua franca and the calendar with its months and names remained intact thanks to Assyrian vassals become conquerors; Babylonia and Media.*11 Assyrians were active under Achaemenid power with governors administrating Athura and other personages whose Assyrian names are recognizable appear in the Book of Nehemiah (circa 450 B.C.) citing a Sanballat as satrap of Samaria in 400 B.C. Xenophon mentions a certain Belesys, satrap of Syria. This name is identified by certain scholars with the above Gubâru, a Persian name and Belesys a Babylonian name. Most scholars agree the above Gobyras/ Gubâru was the first Achaemenid satrap of Athura and the latter satraps eventually his descendants yet others maintain there were two Gobyras.

Assyrian Relief, Nineveh.
Courtesy of
  Armenia’s origins and even its name “Armenia” linger in mystery alike Persepolis' tunnel system leading darkly beneath the throne hall. It is not understood so far from whence they came or how during the 7th century B.C. this Indo-European speaking people dominated Urartu’s non Indo-European Hurrian nation.*12 2 It is not even clear how Armenia jointed Achaemenid territories though we know Urartu fell subject to the Medes possibly around 605 and was subsequently annexed by Cyrus. He once captured Armenia’s king, apparently releasing him for reasons of friendship towards the king’s son Tigran, a companion, according to Xenophon. Keeping its mysteries, the land simply folded into the 13th satrapy. 1 Armenian contingents partook in Cyrus’ Lydian and Babylonian campaigns. Some privileged governance remained with native Lords and Orontids as satraps, the latter claiming Assyrian descent.*13 From Armenia, Pactyica *14 and on to the Euxine, expected tribute was four hundred talents, Armenia also supplying 20,000 foals. This corresponded to that which as tribute had previously been imposed by the Medes.

Lydia (page 4) the second satrapy had its first satrap named by Cyrus, Tabalos. He vanished from historical accounts during Lydia’s revolt crushed by satrap Mazaros whose successor was Harpagos.*15 Following Cyrus’ demise the satrapy fell to Oroetus who adroitly weathered through Cambyses’ startling disappearance, gaining extensive power to the extent Darius thought best to have him hushed by Bagaeus, possibly his brief replacement. A satrap’s risk of office.
A Mede holding the barsom.
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