It was towards the end of the 5th century when the satraps commenced striking coinage. Thereupon lotus’s appeared in subtle ways such as counterstamps indenting coin fields such as Pamphylian staters from Aspendos as this example Pars coins displays:  Another example, this time from Myriandros Cilicia, satrap Mazaios issued obols revealing a seated dignitary whose crown leads one to presume this image might represent Persia’s king holding a lotus-tipped sceptre as well as a lotus flower.SatrapTiribazos of Lydia issued staters from the Tarsos mint having Ahura-Mazda emerging from a solar disk, holding a lotus blossom. Ahura-Mazda was the Creator divinity for Zoroaster, thus God himself, crowned in fact on these coins . (In Old Persian Auramazda). Also from Tarsos he issued staters where a women kneels upon reverses with a lotus plant to the right. Obverses honour Greek goddess Athena. One particular Lycian specie shows twin triskeles encircling two dolphins, one symbol above and one below, reverses carrying what possibly was the national symbol, a triskelis. An added lotus symbol fits into the field across from the Lycian monogram “K-O”.
Above satrap Mazaios of Cilicia issued from Myriandros a lion beneath a winged solar disk. Recent archaeological data suggests Myriandros near today’s Iskenderun in Turkey, was a Phoenician colony. With pro-Phoenician Tarsos these cities exemplify religious as well as cultural freedom Persians granted. Eastern gods, Ahura-Mazda, Baal and Melkart coexisted alongside western deities : Ares, Athena, Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and other worthies. Another Cilician issue, a Mallos obol circa 425-385 B.C. figured with a personage or god having curved wings who presents a solar disk with both hands. Upon the reverse stands a graceful swan, wings uplifted; possibly a reference to Aphrodite.
After the latter coin issues another Egyptian campaign set an imaging and pace change in Cilicia. Payments to Greek mercenaries encharged upon a joint military command under satraps Pharnabazos and Datames(the latter was satrap of Cilicia and Cappadocia) brought about accelerated minting to which was added a Hellenic touch: a helmeted and bearded Greek god of war, Ares.(wage rates:*7)

We know of Ionian Miletus via Hittite annals of Mursili II, circa 1320 B.C. Miletus squabbled with Lydia during the seventh century B.C. avoiding annexation but worse followed when after much resistance she was overrun by Persia in the sixth century along with Greek Anatolia. Circa 499 B.C. Milesians led the Ionian revolt spurring ahead the Greco-Persian Wars but during the process and to the horror of Greece, after the battle of Lade, Persia gutted the city in 494 passing on the carcass to an ever-ambitious Carian satrapy  . Early Milesian coins depict snarling lions (the lion was sacred to Sumerian goddess Inanna) with reverses outlining an enigmatic symbol variously described in numismatics as: a star or stellate pattern, a floral star, a floral design, a rosette, a spoked wheel, a sun, and others. A sun could be appropriate considering Apollo was the favoured deity of Miletus. Another Lydian variation on this theme: Numerous reverses of this coin-type are identical to the Phrygian motif below. (Phrygians and Lydians once spoke an Indo-European language). Sumerian seals also signal an eight-rayed sun or star symbol.

Phrygia : circa 750 –600 B.C.
Lydia : circa. 900–547 B. C


Phrygia : 6th century B.C. Gordion, lent by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for presentation by the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Ancient Near Eastern Art collection. Gift of the Turkish Government, 1954
Reverse. Miletos silver stater, circa 525.B.C.

Such a pattern or symbol could also be interpreted as four rays united by a central core, or a quincunx — four planets distanced apart by 150 degrees. This is the Pythagorean tetraktys. (Pythagoras born in 570 on the Ionian coast on Samos Island close to Miletos). Electrum Miletos reverses also carried this pattern, circa 650-600. Innumerable roots and interpretations remain an open study regarding this symbol so frequently used in the ancient world. Satrap Hekatomnos empowered over Caria and Ionia issued a very similar coin  as did his satrap son Mausolos minting in Miletos. Pixodarou, satrap son of Mausolos maintained the obverse “star”. Homer’s Iliad records Miletos as Carian. If this be fact, the lion and symbol coins struck centuries later by Caria’s satraps convey an understandable and applaudable continuity of spirit for the region they ruled. Since coin effigies conveyed socio-political significance, satraps not exclusively but foremostly placed themselves upon coin obverses were they present upon the face of a coin.*7B
Achaemenid and satrapial control did not impose the Zoroastrian faith. Patronymic religions and customs were not only accepted, they were encouraged and in well-known cases, adopted by the satraps themselves. For this reason one often finds satrapial coins portraying gods and patriotic symbols of the lands they ruled rather than their own. Another example of this is satrap Mazaios in Cilicia whose coins portray local god Baal, (as mentioned page 4),Tarsian beliefs being more pro-Phoenician than Hellenic. To note the Greek god Apollo may have been honoured by Persians as Ahura-Mazda, facilitating satrapial coinage such as Pixodarou’s coin above showing a laurel-wreathed Apollo.
Certain information places Hekatomnos (above) following Tissaphernes as satrap, others, Hyssaldomosof Mylasa as first satrap of Caria followed by his son Hekatomnos in authority over both Lycia and Caria from 395 till his demise 377 B.C. Combined with further reigns of direct descendants a period referenced as “Hecatomid” encompasses Caria under the Achaemenids. This is exceptional within the administration system wherein satrapal posts were not hereditary. Also exceptional was the feat of Hekatomnos maintaining his satrapy semi-independent of Achaemenidian authority represented in his time by Artaxerxes II. Hecatomid descendants surprisingly managed in like. Caria formed a territory withinthe first satrapy along with: the Aeolians, Ionians, Lycians, Magnesians, Milesians and Pamphylians. Their yearly dues summed four hundred silver Babylonian talents.

Satrapies paying in gold followed the Euboic standard measure. Quoting researcher Martin Doutré: “A number like 933.12 is simply indicating 1/10000th, a foundation value of 933120 (the number of seeds of grain in a Sumerian/ Babylonian talent weight)”. The Sumerian-Babylonian talent contained 60 mina, however, according to ancient Sumerian texts there was also a talent of 61.666666 mina (61 & 2/3rds). Researcher Donald Lee Lenzen estimated a Babylonian Mina weight as based upon a count of 15102.72 grains *8. He proceeds to explain the heavier standard would have been used for state treasury payments and that certain museum weights are so identified by the inscription “of the King”, such as a black basalt weight in the British Museum, an instrument in the times of Nebuchadrezzar II (circa 630-562 B.C.) incised with an inscription certifying it was a weight duplicate of Sumerian King Shulgi (2095-2048 B.C.) representing “one mina true weight” of 15100 grains. Donald Lenzen explains further “this is the usual heavy royal double mina. The single or light mina would weigh 7550 grains.” and Martin Doutré adds that in 606 B.C. Nebuchadrezzar II “restored the ancient Sumerian weight system organized 1500 years prior to his reign.” For further information *9:

There is much to learn through symbols used by the satraps including their counterstamps such as a heifer  chosen for satrap Pharnabazos of Tarsus, 479-474 B.C. which would have been familiar to him since Ahura-Mazda once created the primordial cow symbolising both plant and animal kingdoms . Coinage bespeaks the interaction between Greek and Persian cultures. In final, such symbols from Sumerians to Sassanides and beyond, imbricated in commonality whatever name changes occurred throughout the Mesopotamian spectrum. Unavoidably the satraps played a pivotal part extending Eastern culture beyond the Tigris and Euphrates be it East or West, North or South. In a fashion they were the treasurers of a rich and unique Achaemenidian legacy itself grafted upon centuries of Mesopotamian culture.

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) namedGobyras/ 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 asthe 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 asthe 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 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.*13From 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.*15Following 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.

Andrée Tougas



7.Wage rates:
7B.Satrap Rulers of Caria:
Hekatomnos 391-377
Mausolos 377-353
Artemisia 353-351
Idrieus 351-344
Ada 344-340 first reign
Pixodarou 340-334
Ada 334-326 ? second reign
8.Donald Lee Lenzen. See Biblio.
9.For more information on weights and measures:
11.In the 12th century B.C. the Assyrian empire passed across the Euphrates thus a majority of its population spoke Aramaic.
12.The Hurrian language possesses no known connections as far as we know today.
13.The Yervand (Orontes in Greek) were the first known Armenian dynasty — 6th c. B.C.
14.Himalayas of northern Pakistan.
15.Known satraps of Lydia:
Tabalos (546 – 545)
Mazares (545 – ca. 544)
Harpagos (ca. 544 – ?)
Oroetus (before 530 – ca. 520)
Bagaeus (ca. 520 – ?_ Otanes (517)
Artaphernes I (513 – 492)
Artaphernes II (492 – after 480)
Pissuthnes (before 440 – 415)
Tissaphernes (ca. 415 – 408)
Cyrus the Younger (408 – 401)
Tissaphernes (400 – 395)
Tithraustes (395 – ?)
Tiribazus Struthas Autophradates (c.365)
Spithridates (? – until 334)

A Mede holding the barsom.



About sooteris kyritsis

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