Royal Road

Royal Road

Overview

The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great (Darius I) of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 in the 5th century BC. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 to Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 ("centralized rule is the victim of time and distance," Robin Lane Fox
Robin Lane Fox
Robin Lane Fox is an English historian, currently a Fellow of New College, Oxford and University of Oxford Reader in Ancient History.-Life:Lane Fox was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford....

 has observed in this context). Mounted couriers could travel 1,677 miles (2,699 km) in seven days; the journey from Susa to Sardis took ninety days on foot.
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The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great (Darius I) of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 in the 5th century BC. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 to Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 ("centralized rule is the victim of time and distance," Robin Lane Fox
Robin Lane Fox
Robin Lane Fox is an English historian, currently a Fellow of New College, Oxford and University of Oxford Reader in Ancient History.-Life:Lane Fox was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford....

 has observed in this context). Mounted couriers could travel 1,677 miles (2,699 km) in seven days; the journey from Susa to Sardis took ninety days on foot. The Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 historian Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 wrote, "There is nothing in the world that travels faster than these Persian couriers." Herodotus's praise for these messengers—"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness of night prevents these couriers from completing their designated stages with utmost speed"— was inscribed on the James Farley Post Office
James Farley Post Office
The James A. Farley Post Office Building is the main post office building in New York City. Its ZIP code designation is 10001. Built in 1912, the building is famous for bearing the inscription: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of...

 in New York and is sometimes thought of as the United States Postal Service creed
United States Postal Service creed
The United States Postal Service has no official creed or motto.Often falsely cited as such, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" is an inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City, derived from...

.

Course of the Royal Road



The course of the road has been reconstructed from the writings of Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, archeological research, and other historical records. It began in the west in Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 (on the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 coast of Lydia
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

, about 60 miles east of İzmir
Izmir
Izmir is a large metropolis in the western extremity of Anatolia. The metropolitan area in the entire Izmir Province had a population of 3.35 million as of 2010, making the city third most populous in Turkey...

 in present-day Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

), traveled east through what is now the middle northern section of Turkey, (crossing the Halys
Halys River
The Kızılırmak , also known as the Halys River , is the longest river in Turkey. It is a source of hydroelectric power and is not used for navigation.- Geography :...

 according to Herodotus) and passed through the Cilician Gates
Cilician Gates
The Cilician Gates or Gülek Pass is a pass through the Taurus Mountains connecting the low plains of Cilicia to the Anatolian Plateau, by way of the narrow gorge of the Gökoluk River. Its highest elevation is about 1000m....

  to the old Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n capital Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 (present-day Mosul
Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

), then turned south to Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 (near present-day Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

). From near Babylon, it is believed to have split into two routes, one traveling northeast then east through Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

 and on along the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

, the other continuing east through the future Persian capital Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 (in present-day Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

) and then southeast to Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

. Of course, such long routes for travellers and tradesmen would often take months on end, and so during the reign of Darius the Great numerous royal outposts (Caravanserai
Caravanserai
A caravanserai, or khan, also known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey...

) were built.

History of the Royal Road


Because the road did not follow the shortest nor the easiest route between the important cities of the Persian Empire, archeologists believe the westernmost sections of the road may have originally been built by the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n kings, as the road plunges through the heart of their old empire. More eastern segments of the road, identifiable in present-day northern Iran, were not noted by Herodotus, whose view of Persia was that of an Ionian Greek in the West; stretches of the Royal Road across the central plateau of Iran are coincident with the major trade route known as the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

.

However, Darius I made the Royal Road as it is recognized today. A later improvement by the Romans of a road bed with a hard-packed gravelled surface of 6.25 m width held within a stone curbing was found in a stretch near Gordium and connecting the parts together in a unified whole stretching some 1500 miles, primarily as a post road
Post road
For other uses, see Post Road .A post road is a road designated for the transportation of postal mail. In past centuries only major towns had a post house, and the roads used by post riders or mail coaches to carry mail among them were particularly important ones or, due to the special attention...

, with a hundred and eleven posting stations maintained with a supply of fresh horses, a quick mode of communication using relays of swift mounted messengers, the kingdom's pirradazis.

The construction of the road as improved by Darius was of such quality that the road continued to be used until Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 times. A bridge at Diyarbakır
Diyarbakır
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, still stands from this period of the road's use. The road also helped Persia increase long-distance trade, which reached its peak during the time of Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon).

In 1961, under a grant from the American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society
The American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743, and located in Philadelphia, Pa., is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications,...

, S. F. Starr traced the stretch of road from Gordium to Sardis, identifying river crossings by ancient bridge abutments.

A Metaphorical “Royal Road” in Famous Quotes


Euclid is said to have replied to King Ptolemy's request for an easier way of learning mathematics that "there is no Royal Road to geometry," following Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

.

Charles Sanders Peirce, in his How to Make Our Ideas Clear (1878), says, "There is no royal road to logic, and really valuable ideas can only be had at the price of close attention." This essay was claimed by William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

 as instrumental in the foundation of the philosophical school of pragmatism. Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 also famously described dreams as the "royal road to the unconscious" ("Via regia zur Kenntnis des Unbewußten").

See also

  • Chapar Khaneh
    Chapar Khaneh
    "Chapar Khaneh" or "Chapar-Khaneh" is a term in Persian, meaning the "house of courier" as "Chapar" means "courier", referring to the postal service used during the Achaemenid era. The system was created by Cyrus the Great the founder of the Persian Empire and later developed by Darius the Great,...

  • Persian Corridor
    Persian Corridor
    The Persian Corridor is the name for a supply route through Iran into Soviet Azerbaijan by which British aid and American Lend-Lease supplies were transferred to the Soviet Union during World War II.-Background:...

  • Baghdad Railway
    Baghdad Railway
    The Baghdad Railway , was built from 1903 to 1940 to connect Berlin with the Ottoman Empire city of Baghdad with a line through modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq....

  • Trans-Iranian Railway
    Trans-Iranian Railway
    The Trans-Iranian Railway was a major railway building project started in 1927 and completed in 1938, under the direction of the Persian monarch, Reza Shah, and entirely with indigenous capital. It links the capital Tehran with the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea...

  • History of Iran
    History of Iran
    The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from the Danube River in the west to the Indus River and Jaxartes in the east and from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and Egypt...

  • Achaemenid Empire
  • El Camino Real (California)
    El Camino Real (California)
    El Camino Real and sometimes associated with Calle Real usually refers to the 600-mile California Mission Trail, connecting the former Alta California's 21 missions , 4 presidios, and several pueblos, stretching from Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego...

  • Via Regia (Germany)
    Via Regia
    Via Regia, i.e. "Royal Highway", denotes a mediæval historic road. The term, in the usual sense, means not just a specific road, rather a type of road. It was legally associated with the king and remained under his special protection and guarantee of public peace.There were many such roads in the...

  • Angarum
    Angarum
    Angarum was the name of the royal riding post in the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid period.In book 8.98, Herodotus talks about the couriers: "Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers. The entire plan is a Persian invention; and this is the method of it...

  • Angaria (Roman law)