When you want to communicate with someone that lives across the country, you get on your laptop or cell-phone. Connections happen instantly without much effort.
Imagine if you were alive 2,500 years ago. If you wanted to communicate then, it was difficult. The leaders of the time had to figure out how to spread messages throughout their empires to organize troops and send out royal decrees.
The Persian king Darius The Great faced this problem head-on: he built the Royal Road from Sardis to Susa. That’s a road that stretches from modern-day Western Turkey to Iran.
Herodotus, the father of history, wrote about this road, giving people insight into the impressive feat.
Let’s look at five of the most interesting facts about the Royal Road and Herodotus.
1. Darius Might Not Have Been The Only Builder
King Darius was a practical and wise king. He had a penchant for grand planning and figuring out the easiest ways to carry out his many projects.
Knowing this, historians find it strange that the Royal Road doesn’t take the easiest route between the two cities. Not only is the route difficult, but it skips over many of Persia’s important cities!
This leads scholars to believe that the Assyrians built the western portion of the Royal Road.
Assyria was a bronze-age empire established in the 2600s b.c.e. It’s believed that they survived for 600 years before falling due to the arrival of new peoples and having too much territory to defend. It’s believed that the western part of the Royal Road connected important cities in their empire in modern day Turkey.
2. There Is A Bridge From The Road That Still Stands
A bridge at Diyarbakir, Turkey still stands from the original Royal Road. This is an amazing feat considering that the Persians didn’t have the technology that we have today.
The Romans, hundreds of years after the fall of Darius’s empire, continued to use the road as they expanded into Eurasia. It’s believed that they strengthened the road with gravel and could have reinforced the bridge, allowing it to still exist.
The bridge was so important to the Romans that they defended it with an entire Legionary unit.
3. The Massive Length Of The Road
According to Herodotus, who described the road in detail, the length of the Royal Road was 2500km. 30km was the average travel time of a healthy person in those days, meaning that to get from one end to the next, it would have taken someone 90 days.
That’s three months to get from one part of the Persian empire to another. Keep in mind, the Royal Road didn’t traverse the entire empire…this shows the amount of power Darius wielded in his time.
4. Herodotus Lived In Athens But Travelled Persia Frequently
Herodotus’ place of birth was Asia Minor, where he lived until the Persians, under tyrant king Lygdamis. Herodotus’ family opposed the new ruler and went into exile, settling in Greece.
Herodotus traveled around Persia however, collecting stories from people he met and creating the first systematic study of history. His contributions were so great that the citizens of Greece gave him ten talents ($200,000 in today’s money) for his works.
Herodotus, although born under a tyrant king, came to respect the industriousness and philosophical beliefs of the Persian Empire. He went on to write some of the most important historical works ever.
5. Herodotus Didn’t Mention The Eastern Part Of The Royal Road
Herodotus was, for all intents and purposes, an Ionian Greek. As such, he wasn’t concerned with Iran, choosing to focus on the areas around the Meditteranean Sea.
For this reason, he didn’t mention the Royal Road in Iran, where couriers delivered messages to the Persian capital. It’s worth noting that many sections of this road run concurrently with the Silk Road, the primary method of trading with Eastern Asian countries. Could Darius have designed this section to expedite trade with China?
Walk Through 3,000 Years Of History
Imagine traveling the same stretches of land as Darius and the Roman Legions. Imagine seeing the same beautiful landscapes witnessed by Herodotus on his journeys through the Persian Empire. You too could experience the Royal Road.
You can do this and more in Turkey. Turkey might be the most historically relevant nation in the world. From Istanbul to the west to Mt. Ararat to the east, the nation has something for everyone.
Contact us today if you would like to immerse yourself in the history and culture of Turkey!