ADMINISTRATIVE LEGACIES OF THE PERSIAN WORLD-STATE EMPIRE: IMPLICATIONS FOR MODERN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, Part 1

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Knowledge about governance and administration is cumulative with strong roots in ancient civilizations. Many of these roots have firm grounding in the ancient Persian Empire whose theory and practice of governance and administration have made immense contributions to world civilizations, their governments, and public administration. By conquering virtually the entire known world of antiquity in a single generation, the Persians changed the world's political and administrative history forever. Their legacies are both widespread and profound. This article discusses some of these legacies whose impacts and implications transcended far-away cultures and administrative systems and are preserved in various forms in the modern systems of public administration and governance around the world. Although the prePersian, six thousand years of administrative history of Iran is briefly touched as a background, the main focus of this article is on the Achaemenid World-State Empire (559-330 B.C.). By addressing the theory and practice of public administration and governance of the Persian Empire, the article outlines a number of implications for modern public administration. The article does not address the mighty Persian and Sasanian empires of Persia which, along with Rome, divided and ruled the ancient world for the next millennium.

INTRODUCTION

Persia or Iran, also the Land of Aryans, is home to one of the oldest civilizations in human history. As a bridgeland between the East and the West, Iran saved western civilizations from destruction by some of the most barbarous forces of the East and nurtured rich and powerful traditions of public administration and governance that have impacted significantly almost all empires and nation states that followed for over two millennia. The Persian legacies can be traced not only in the entire Middle and Near East over which Iranians ruled for over a millennium but also in the western countries which adopted over time directly and indirectly Persian administrative system principles passed on to them by Romans and medieval Islamic civilizations dominated by Persian advance achievements in culture, science, and administrative system. With a global reputation of being "excellent administrators," Persians have in the past made significant contributions to the global theory and practice of governance, public administration, and organization theory.

Beginning around 8,000 years ago, Iranian bureaucracy and public administration grew first in the city-state of Susa, one the oldest sites of ancient civilization contemporary to Sumer and then as the major institution of governance under the successive mighty empires of Elam, Media, Achaemenids, Persia, and Sasanids (6,000 B.C.-651 A.D.). When the Sasanid Persian Empire fell to the Islamic, beduin Arab forces in 651, it had already achieved the highest level of state and administrative traditions (Brown, 1995; Ghirshman, 1954; Cook, 1983). Its advanced cultural, state, and administrative heritage was passed on to the Islamic Caliphate who adopted the Persian state and administration almost totally in governing the new empire led by the beduin Arabs. This heritage is alive even today despite the centuries of foreign invasion and influence on Iran for Iranians have always found ways to restore and continue their past traditions and national character of independence.

The bureaucracy of the Persian Empire was a formidable institution of administration and governance, both efficient and effective. The organizational and administrative principles developed under the Persian Achaemenid Empire had significant influence on the Roman administation and were adopted almost totally by the Islamic, the Ottoman, and the following Iranian Safavid Empires. The influence of these principles can even be traced in almost every contemporary government in the Middle/Near East as the Persian Achaemenid legacy has affected the entire region. …