Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C

Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C

Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C

Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C

Synopsis

Xerxes' exploits are famous, but what about Irdabama, a successful landowner who controlled her own wine and grain business? Or the ruthless queen Parysatis who murdered her enemy after a game of dice? By approaching the subject from a near eastern perspective, and thoroughly re-examining the Greek sources, This book is the first to reveal the fascinating picture of women and their economic and political importance in the Persian empire.

Excerpt

Monarchic rule by the Achaemenids was supported by an organized political structure, manifested by advisers and officials immediately surrounding the king at the court and by the organization of the empire through satraps. The reliefs displaying royal audience scenes at Persepolis or the relief above Darius' tomb at Naqš-i Rustam vividly depict the interrelationship between the king and his immediate officials. Closest to the Great King was the heir to the throne, followed by the King's Bow-bearer and the King's Spear-bearer. At the court the King's Relatives, the Persian nobles, and the King's Friends acted as counsellors and advisers. Externally the organization of royal power was represented by the satraps whose own courts presumably were modelled on the royal court. The levels of political power and authority within the palace organization continued down to the palace administration. Within such a carefully structured hierarchy of power it is difficult to imagine that the women at the royal court were an undifferentiated group lacking a similar order of status and rank in relation to the king as the centre of authority.

Distinctions of status between the different members of the Persian nobility must have affected and involved the position of the wives of these nobles, and similarly we may expect that female members of the royal family were placed in some kind of rank, presumably dependent on the closeness of their relationship to the king. In other words, the more closely related a woman was to the king the more this would be reflected in her position among the other women of the court. If this assumption is correct then we should be able to identify in the sources individual females and groups of women who seem to relate to each other in this way.

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