Reviewing the Achaemenid Signature: Elamite Documentation from Persepolis (20 min)


Wouter Henkelman, École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris)


Research on the Achaemenid Empire and its administrative system and networks has come a long way from the cliché of a colossus on clay feet. A current baseline is provided by, among others, Briant et al., eds., L’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis (Paris:de Boccard, 2008) and Jacobs et al., eds., Die Verwaltung im Achämenidenreich (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 2017). Two concepts, sometimes called “imperial signature” and “imperial paradigm,” play an important role in ongoing debates: the imprint and the design of administrative structures in the center and notably in the satrapies. The increasing amount of administrative documentation available from Persepolis invites further development of these two notions. Notably, the many travel-related Elamite texts in the Persepolis Fortification Archive (now over 1500 discrete items) is improving our understanding of the Achaemenid imprint in the satrapies. On the one hand, the archive allows an increasingly clear view on the number of dependent workers drawn from all directions (and the costs of their transport), but also on the introduction of fruits and domesticated animals; on the other, the way the mobile court apparatus functioned in conjunction with regional institutional households (such as the one centered on Persepolis) allows further exploration of the notion of a template-like reproduction of the complex administrative system in some satrapies. A case in point is the satrapy of Media, which was more strongly connected with Achaemenid Pārsa than previously understood and plausibly developed in similar fashion. Building on this case, the paper will briefly sketch Achaemenid administrative policies further afield, retaking recent work on Babylonia, Arachosia, Bactria, and Kerman.