Ancient Persian Ruling System
The Ruling System
Glossary of terms and definitions:
Sheikh- also spelled Sheik, Shaikh, or Shaykh, Arabic Shaykh: Arabic title of respect dating from pre-Islamic antiquity; it strictly means a venerable man of more than 50 years of age. The title sheikh is especially borne by heads of religious orders, heads of colleges, chiefs of tribes, and headmen of villages and of separate quarters of towns. It is also applied to learned men, especially members of the class of ulamas (theologians), and has been applied to anyone who has memorized the whole Qur’ān, however young he might be.
Vizier, Arabic and modern Persian wazīr, Turkish vazir, a high administrative officer in various Muslim countries, among Arabs, Persians, Turks, Mongols, and other eastern peoples.
Shāh, Old Persian Khshayathiya, title of the kings of Iran, or Persia. When compounded as shāhanshāh, it denotes “king of kings,” or emperor. Another related title or form of address is padshāh, or “lord king.” Sometimes, as a part of a name, shāh was used by hereditary governors and heads of Ṣūfī orders. The son of a shāh is called a shāhzāda (literally “shāh son”).
Sultan- originally, according to the Qurʾān, moral or spiritual authority; the term later came to denote political or governmental power and from the 11th century was used as a title by Muslim sovereigns.
Eunuchs- castrated male servants who played a variety of important roles in court. During the Ottoman empire, they were required for the protection and maintenance of harems, as confidential servants, as palace staff, and also as custodians of mosques, tombs, and other sacred places.
Satrap, provincial governor in the Achaemenian Empire. The satraps, appointed by the king, normally were members of the royal family or of Persian nobility, and held office indefinitely. As the head of the administration of his province, the satrap collected taxes and was the supreme judicial authority; he was responsible for internal security and raised and maintained an army.
The Ancient Persian court had a pyramidal social structure with rank allocation at the top end of the social hierarchy.
Obeisance- Persian gestures of greeting which differed according to the relative rank of those involved. An essential preliminary to a royal Persian audience. A Persian visitor, depending on his rank, would have to prostrate himself, bow for, kneel in front of or kiss the monarch.
Seating arrangements- dining couches organized in concentric circles centred on the monarch. In this hierarchal seating plan, the order of precedence radiated outwards from the monarch. Feasting in concentric circles is a Persian custom.
Concentric circle seating:
Lewis, Bernard, and Bernard Lewis. 1990. Race and slavery in the Middle East: an historical enquiry. New York: Oxford University Press
Spawforth, Antony. 2007. The court and court society in ancient monarchies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.