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Persian influence on Greece (9)

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Map of the Delian League. Design Jona Lendering.
The Delian League
The ancient Persian and Greek cultures did not exist in isolation. There was cross-fertilization. The present article contains a description of Persia's influence on Greece.

This is the ninth part of the article; the first one can be found here.

Politics: Episcopus

The functions of the episcopus have already been described: every town in the Athenian empire, whatever its status, was supervised by an Athenian episcopus or overseer. This official kept an eye on the town where he resided. He controlled the payment of the tributes, was supposed to prevent insurrections and had to investigate evils and report them to the Athenian government. Usually, the episcopus was elected by the people's assembly.

The Achaemenid empire knew similar officials, who were called "the eye of the king". They were appointed by the king to inform him of what was going on in the empire, had more powers than the satraps, and were responsible for a well-defined region. They supervised the policy of the satraps and the payment of tribute, oversaw how rebellions were suppressed, and reported evils to the king.

The similarities are remarkable. The "eye" and the episcopus are responsible only to the highest authorities, they are supervisors of the local rulers, are responsible for the taxation, and are -in case of troubles- the direct link to the central government.

Their name may be similar as well. The real Persian title of the Eye is not known, but may have been spasaka ("seer"). If so, episkopos (which also has an association with "to see") is a translation that remains close to the sound of the original. However, this hypothetical.

It should be stressed that every ruler uses officials like the Eyes to know what is happening. The names of these inspectors may be different, but there are some primitive tasks that have to be executed anyway. For example, Charlemagne employed missi dominici. The Athenian government needed to send out inspectors, like all rulers had to do. Nevertheless, because the job responsibilities of the Eye and the episcopus are so very similar, we must seriously entertain the possibility that the Athenians copied a Persian function.

Architecture: Odeon
Architecture: Prytaneum
Architecture: Parthenon frieze
Architecture: Erechtheum
Politics: Delian League
Politics: Episcopus
to part ten
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