Post Alley 


Historic Records of the Road 

As you might have guessed , there are multiple historical records of the road , including such as Herotodus who mentioned the " royal " waystations along one of the best - known segments . Extensive information also comes from the Persepolis Fortification Archive ( PFA ) , tens of thousands of clay tablets and fragments incised in cuneiform writing , and excavated from the ruins of Darius' capital at Persepolis . Much information about the Royal Road comes from the PFA's " Q" texts , tablets which record the disbursement of specific traveler's rations along the way , describing their destinations and / or points of origin . Those endpoints are often far beyond the local area of Persepolis and Susa . One travel document was carried by the individual named Nehtihor , who was authorized to draw rations in a string of cities through northern Mesopotamia from Susa to Damascus . Demotic and hieroglyphic graffiti dated to Darius I's 18th regnal year ( ~503 BCE ) has identified another important segment of the Royal Road known as Darb Rayayna , which ran in North Africa between Armant in the Qena Bend in Upper Egypt and the Kharga Oasis in the Western Desert .

Architectural Features 

Determining Darius' construction methods of the road is somewhat difficult since the Achmaenid road was built following older roadways . Probably most of the routes were unpaved but there are some exceptions . A few intact sections of the road which date to Darius's time, such as that at Gordion and Sardis , were constructed with cobblestone pavements atop a low embankment from 5 – 7 meters ( 16 – 23 feet ) in width and , in places , faced with a curbing of dressed stone . At Gordion , the road was 6.25 m ( 20.5 ft ) wide , with a packed gravel surface and curbstones and a ridge down the middle dividing it into two lanes . There's also a rock - cut road segment at Madakeh which has been associated with the Persepolis – Susa road , 5 m ( 16.5 ft ) wide . These paved sections were likely limited to the vicinities of cities or the most important arteries .

Traveler's Comfort Inns 

Another possible but less fancy way station has been identified at the site of JinJan ( Tappeh Survan ) , in Iran . There are two known near Germabad and Madakeh on the Persepolis – Susa road , one at Tangi - Bulaghi near Pasargadae, and one at Deh Bozan between Susa and Ecbatana . Tang-i Bulaghi is a courtyard surrounded by thick walls , with several smaller ancient buildings , which fits other types of ancient buildings but also caravanserais . The one near Madakeh is of similar construction . Various historical documents suggest that there were likely maps , itineraries , and milestones to aid travelers in their journeys . According to documents in the PFA , there were also road maintenance crews . References exist of gangs of workmen known as " road counters " or " people who count the road " who made sure that the road was in good repair . There is also a mention in the Roman writer Claudius Aelianus' " De Natura animalium " indicating that Darius asked at one point that the road from Susa to Media be cleared of scorpions . 

Archaeology of the Royal Road 

Much of what is known about the Royal Road comes not from archaeology , but from the Greek historian Herodotus , who described the Achaemenid imperial postal system . Archaeological evidence suggests that there were several precursors to the Royal Road : that portion which connects Gordion to the coast was likely used by Cyrus the Great during his conquest of Anatolia . It is possible that the first roads were established in the 10th century BCE under the Hittites . These roads would have been used as trade routes by the Assyrians and Hittites at Boghakzoy . Historian David French has argued that the much later Roman roads would have been constructed along the ancient Persian roads as well ; some of the Roman roads are used today , meaning that parts of the Royal Road have been used continually for some 3,000 years . French argues that a southern route across the Euphrates at Zeugma and across Cappadocia, ending at Sardis , was the main Royal Road. This was the route taken by Cyrus the Younger in 401 BCE , and it is possible that Alexander the Great traveled this same route while conquering much of Eurasia in the 4th century BCE . The northern route proposed by other scholars as the main thoroughfare has three possible routes : through Ankara in Turkey and into Armenia , crossing the Euphrates in the hills near the Keban dam, or crossing the Euphrates at Zeugma . All of these segments were used both before and after the Achaemenids .

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International Highway of Darius the Great

The Royal Road of the Achaemenids was a major intercontinental thoroughfare built by the Persian Achaemenid dynasty king Darius the Great ( 521 – 485 BCE ) . The road network allowed Darius a way to access and maintain control over his conquered cities throughout the Persian empire . It is also , ironically enough , the same road that Alexander the Great used to conquer the Achaemenid dynasty a century and a half later . The Royal Road led from the Aegean Sea to Iran, a length of some 1,500 miles ( 2,400 kilometers ) . A major branch connected the cities of Susa , Kirkuk , Nineveh , Edessa , Hattusa , and Sardis . The journey from Susa to Sardis was reported to have taken 90 days on foot , and three more to get to the Mediterranean coast at Ephesus . The journey would have been faster on horseback , and carefully placed way stations helped speed the communication network . From Susa the road connected to Persepolis and India and intersected with other road systems leading to the ancient allied and competing kingdoms of Media , Bactria , and Sogdiana . A branch from Fars to Sardis crossed the foothills of the Zagros mountains and east of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers , through Kilikia and Cappadocia before reaching Sardis . Another branch led into Phyrgia .

Not Just a Road Network

The network might have been called the Royal " Road " but it also included rivers, canals , and trails , as well as ports and anchorages for seaborne travel . One canal built for Darius I connected the Nile to the Red Sea . An idea of the amount of traffic that the roads saw has been gleaned by ethnographer Nancy J. Melville , who examined ethnographic records of Nepali porters . She found that human porters can move loads of 60 – 100 kilograms ( 132 – 220 pounds ) a distance of 10 – 15 kilometers ( 6 – 9 miles ) per day without the benefit of roads . Mules can carry loads of 150 – 180 kg ( 330 – 396 lbs ) up to 24 km ( 14 mi ) per day ; and camels can carry much heavier loads up to 300 kg ( 661 lbs ) , some 30 km ( 18 mi ) per day .

Pirradazish : Express Postal Service

According to the Greek historian Herodotus , a postal relay system called pirradazish ( " express runner " or " fast runner " ) in Old Iranian and megaregion in Greek , served to connect up the major cities in an ancient form of high - speed communication . Herodotus is known to have been prone to exaggeration , but he was definitely impressed with what he saw and heard. There is nothing mortal that is faster than the system that the Persians have devised for sending messages . Apparently , they have horses and men posted at intervals along the route , the same number in total as the overall length in days of the journey , with a fresh horse and rider for every day of travel . Whatever the conditions — it may be snowing , raining , blazing hot , or dark — they never fail to complete their assigned journey in the fastest possible time . The first man passes his instructions on to the second , the second to the third , and so on. Herodotus , " The Histories " Book 8 , chapter 98 , cited in Colburn and translated by R. Waterfield .

Way Stations

Even ordinary travelers had to stop on such long journeys . A hundred and eleven way - posting stations were reported to have existed on the main branch between Susa and Sardis , where fresh horses were kept for travelers . They are recognized by their similarities to caravanserais , stops on the Silk Road for camel traders . These are square or rectangular stone buildings with multiple rooms around a broad market area, and an enormous gate allowing parcel - and human - laden camels to pass under it . The Greek philosopher Xenophon called them hippo , " of horses " in Greek , which means they probably also included stables . A handful of way stations have been tentatively identified archaeologically. One possible way station is a large ( 40 x 30 m , 131 x 98 ft ) five - room stone building near the site of Kuh-e Qale ( or Qaleh Kali ) , on or very close to the Persepolis – Susa road , known to have been a major artery for royal and court traffic . It is somewhat more elaborate than would have been expected for a simple traveler's inn , with fancy columns and porticoes . Expensive luxury items in delicate glass and imported stone have been found at Qaleh Kali , all of which leads scholars to surmise that the site was an exclusive way station for wealthier travelers .