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Satraps were loyal governors established by the Persian Empire to rule distant lands. The title and convention was maintained by Alexander the Great and his successors (particularly amongst the Seleucidae) until Roman times. They had power to impose laws and taxes and were responsible for the protection of the province. They were often relatives of the king.[1]

Satraps (Old Persian khšaçapâvâ) were the governors of the satrapies (provinces) of the ancient Achaemenid Empire.

The title satrap is older than the Persian Empire. It is the hellenized form of the word khšaçapâvâ, which in Median means 'protector of the realm' and was used to describe the vassal kings of the Median empire. The satraps had their own court. They were in charge of the civil administration and were commanders of the satrapal levies.

When the office of satrap became hereditary, it became a threat to the central authority of the Great King. Checks were set up to counter this threat. The satrap's secretary, chief financial officer, and the general in charge of the garrison in the citadel of each satrapal capital reported directly to the Great King in person. In addition, the Median and Persian kings sent out inspectors called the "Eyes of the King" to control and supervise their satraps.

Various other individuals have used the term to describe the governors of discrete areas that were then known as satrapies, such as Alexander the Great.


  1. The Earth and Its Peoples A Global History, Bulliet et al, 2005