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1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

The satraps are people who have much power

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In some contexts the word "satrap" has a pejorative meaning, negative, derived from the great power than such position had in ancient Persia.

The word satrap derives from the Latin satrăpa, this from the Greek σατράπης, and this last from the Avestan or Old Persian  šathrapāvan, meaning "protector of the territory."

Currently, amongst other meanings, refers to the person who abuses power or authority of subordinates, with obvious negative and pejorative connotations in a time when freedom is a fundamental right and value of people.

However in ancient Persia, Satrap was the governor’s name or title of a province, the viceroy who ruled on behalf of the king. They had absolute power, and often abuse of people, hence the pejorative meaning.

Persian kings themselves distrusted the power and behavior of these "satraps" and thus created a curious figure: officials called "King’s eyes and ears", which traveled the empire and issued the reports.

Well, accurate and reliable information always was a problem for the rulers of kingdoms and empires of great extent, because many hundreds of years later, around the year 800 AD, Charlemagne created the figure of the "missi domici " envoys of the lord, a couple of Inspectors constituted by a layman and an ecclesiastic, who roamed the Carolingian Empire.

Today this task seems more complex but not least important, as indicated by the various centers and intelligence services of countries, or as reveal by the thousands of American diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.


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