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Mail in Persian civilization

 

A part of royal Persian mail

Post has a vital, important and great role in the interconnection and communication of countries, ancient and modern, in times of peace and in conditions of war. It is an important element in the prosperity of trade, strengthening social relations, and transmitting news between relatives and friends who live far apart.

The Persian Empire extended and reached the borders of India in the east, and in the west it annexed Iraq, and it was the field of conflict between it and the Roman Empire in its western (Rome) and eastern (Byzantium) eras, the Levant and Anatolia, and parts of Europe were cut off until it reached Greece.

This wide expansion requires the expansion of the postal service in a large, organized and creative way as never before.

    The system primarily served the needs of the Persian government and nobility, transmitting royal decrees, military orders, and reports from provincial governors.

    Private citizens could pay to have messages and small packages transported via the royal couriers, but this was generally restricted.

Postal network in the Persian Empire

The Persians were the first to establish regular communication routes between the three continents; Africa, Asia and Europe, they built many new roads and developed the first postal service in the world, as there is evidence that the first postal system was in ancient Iran. It began in the era of Cyrus the Great, where drivers of horse-drawn carriages carried mail from one place to another, and there were relay stations or what is known  post offices.

Persia showed a lot of skill and genius in paving roads and improving transportation and means of transportation.

In the era of Darius I, engineers built wide roads linking his various capitals, and among these roads was a main road linking Sus and Sardis, which was one thousand five hundred miles long, and they used to set the road gauges in leagues.

    Courier stations (called chapar-khaneh) were established every 15-30 km along major roads, providing fresh horses and lodging for royal messengers. This allowed messages to travel up to 100 km per day.


Herodotus says that every 4 leagues there is a royal station and next to it are wonderful hotels, they were keen to take the route in safe, populated areas, and horses were standing at each station, ready to transport mail.

The Royal Mail's horses used to cross the road between Sus and Sardis in the same time it takes now as a column of cars, that is, in less than one week, while the average traveler at that time needed at least ninety days to cross it.

    The postal riders, known as chapar, were highly trained and sworn to deliver messages as quickly as possible without delay.

They crossed the wide rivers by boat, and through their engineers they were able to build bridges and crossings on the Euphrates River and across the Bosporus and make them so strong that hundreds of elephants could cross them easily and safely.

There were roads linking Persia to India, crossing the mountain passes of Afghanistan, and these roads made the city of Sus a central repository for the wealth of the East, which even in that distant era was a great wealth that could hardly be believed by the mind.

These roads were originally built for military and governmental purposes, to facilitate the control and administrative work of the central government; But it also helped stimulate trade and the transmission of customs and ideas.

Memorial plaques found in the city of Persepolis, the official capital of this empire, revealed that letters were sent to that city from places such as Egypt and India and vice versa, these paintings also indicate that the ancient historian Ctesias had previously indicated that the ancient Greek city of Ephesus was one of the cities to which mail was sent or arrived.

This means, according to Bryant, that the entire area of ​​the empire was “covered” at that time by the old postal system.

Why did postal service advance in the Persian Empire?

Paying attention to fast means of transportation

The postal system used in the Persian Empire at that time depended on horses, in which letters were transmitted from one courier to another in a tracking manner, making this transportation process fast and efficient.

It is certain that the Persians would not have been able to cover these long distances connected by rugged roads, unless they were originally skilled and experienced horsemen.

The Persians were the first to establish regular communication routes between the three continents. Africa, Asia and Europe, they built many new roads and developed the first postal service in the world, as there is evidence that the first postal system was in ancient Iran, starting in the era of Cyrus the Great, where horse-drawn cart drivers carried mail from one place to another, and there were relay stations.

Construction of roads and transportation

A map of Persian royal road of mail

 

The Persians also paid attention to transportation in order to consolidate their control and facilitate the movement of the army to the outskirts of the empire, and in order to improve land and sea trade routes throughout its various parts, especially since trade relations had begun to flourish between the countries of India in the East and the countries of the Mediterranean.

Dara was interested in stimulating commercial business, so he ordered the re-digging of the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea and the Nile River, which had been cut by the Pharaohs of Egypt and filled in by sandy winds.

The Persians were also famous for organizing mail. Postmen used horses and carts, but they only transported official correspondence.

Indeed, this was the first time in history that letters were transmitted by mail on such a large scale, the postal system used in the Persian Empire at that time depended on horses, in which letters were transmitted from one courier to another in a sequential manner, making this transportation process fast and efficient,

Certainly, the Persians would not have been able to cover these long distances connected by rugged roads, unless they were originally skilled and experienced horsemen.

Historical facts indicate that the ancient Iranians, of whom the Persians are one of the many peoples that make up their nation, were highly skilled at horsemanship.

Far from even the postal system in which they excelled; The ancient Iranians were the ones who inspired the Greeks - for example - to develop cavalry in wars, and they were also credited with inventing the game of polo.

In his book “A History of the Urban World: An Economic and Geographical Perspective,” Dr. Locke-Norman Tellier says that “the Persian Royal Road, from a historical point of view, constitutes” the first road of its kind designed “with the aim of taking full advantage of the process of transporting things by horse, by people.” They move by a “sequential system” in which letters and packages are passed from hand to hand.

Use a common language and standard vocabulary

Among the distinguishing factors of the ancient Persian postal system are; As Dr. Lindsay Allen, lecturer in ancient history at King's College in the British capital, London, says: It witnessed the use of a unified language and standard vocabulary, across the wide expanse of the Achaemenid Empire, as well as the similarity of the methods used within it to deliver letters, as well as the form and designs of these letters.

 

In this context, the Aramaic language was used in preparing letters that were sent by mail in the Persian Empire, since it was the approved language in administrative transactions throughout it, even though it was not related to “Old Persian”; The mother tongue of the Persians.

This is similar to what usually happens today, with the use of the English and Latin alphabets on envelopes and packages in various parts of the world.

Allen says this was "the first time that formatted letters were used on a regular basis... (in this way) within a postal system." She adds, “Unfortunately, we only have a limited number of letters left on parchment in Aramaic...but that in itself indicates that that period witnessed the adoption of uniform administrative practices governing the issue of sending letters by mail, whether it was letters sent To a country like Egypt, or with other messages coming from a local ruler of a smaller region of the empire like Bactria.

 

 

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