Ancient post office named national heritage

February 18, 2022 - 21:24

TEHRAN –  Iran’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts has recently registered a Chapar-khaneh (ancient post office) in Semnan province as national heritage.

Located near the town of Lasjerd, the centuries-old office along with 12 other historical relics scattered across the north-central province have been inscribed on the national cultural heritage list, CHTN reported on Friday.

Chapar-khanehs are no longer used in Iran today, but they can still be seen throughout the country mostly in the shape of ruins. The ancient Persian postal system was powered by horses that operated on a relay system, which made journeys more speedy and efficient.

Contrary to popular belief, the history and post and postage goes far back in time as Iranians, during the Achaemenid era (c. 550-330 BC), enjoyed an innovative efficient system, which remained a source of inspiration for subsequent generations. At its peak under the reign of Darius the Great, the Persian Empire stretched from Greece to India.

Prehistorical Iranians were able to deliver messages from one end of the gigantic Persian Empire, which stretched from Ethiopia, through Egypt, to Greece, to Anatolia (modern Turkey), Central Asia, or India just within a few days using couriers on horseback.

According to reliable sources, a message could be sent from Susa, the administrative capital of the empire in western Iran, to Sardis, which is now situated in what is now western Turkey, in between seven and nine days, traveling through the then Royal Road, a sort of highway connecting the two cities.

As mentioned by the Encyclopedia Iranica, the celebrated Greek historian Herodotus described the system in the days of the Achaemenid King Xerxes (r. 486 to 465 BC): “Now there is nothing mortal that accomplishes a course more swiftly than do these messengers, by the Persians’ skillful contrivance. It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed. The first rider delivers his charge to the second, the second to the third, and thence it passes on from hand to hanḍ . . .”

In that era, the post was a government service for carrying official correspondence in sealed bags though routes occasionally disrupted by war, rebellion, or simply lacking security.

In addition, postal riders and messengers played a particularly important role in gathering intelligence throughout the empire. For instance, among their duties was escorting government officials to their posts. 

After the fall of the Sassanian Empire in the 7th century CE, the Persian system of message delivery was practiced more or less both by invaders like the Arabs and Mongols, and the indigenous dynasties that followed like the Safavids, Zands, and Qajars.


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