Page 0414

414 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

mandatory as the most formal articles in the written code of nations. Added to this

unalterable principle of human nature, as shown in the unwritten restraints imposed by

public opinion on the wills of barbaric kings and emperors, we must allow, in the case of

Parthia, a restraining influence to the Magian priesthood. This body, whose numbers, in

the latter times of the Empire, Gibbon has estimated at eighty thousand, could not fail to

hold the rod of religious authority over the secular rulers. The sovereign himself,

according as his nature was of a religious or a secular bias, must have felt in grater or

less degree the common awe which the traditional representative of the ancient Iranian

faith exercised over the mindiss^d conduct of the common people.

In lieu of a representative government, composed of delegate assembling from all parts at

the capital-in lieu of a system, of administration by which revenues Were regularly

gathered and authority dispensed from the central government to its remotest members---the

ancient provincial system, developed by the Achaemenian kings into the well-known

satrapial form, was adopted and adhered to by the Parthian monarchs. The plan was, in

brief, to regard the different provinces as a sort of quasi independencies, over each of

which a satrap, or governor, was appointed by the king. There was, however, among the

dependencies much inequality. Some of them consisted merely of the territories of a tribe

only half emerged from the bar- baric state. Others rose as high in the scale as regular

kingdoms. There was a great difference in rank between the rulers of the latter and those

of the former. The latter were in reality sub-kings, tributary monarchs to the great

sovereign, who now took upon himself the title of King of Kings. Over the smaller and less

important provinces mere satraps, holding office during the pleasure of the sovereign,

were sent out. In such countries as Media, Persia, Armenia, and Babylonia, the viceroys

were rulers of royal rank and hereditary rights. They had, of course, been obliged to

accept a tributary relation to the Parthian Emperor; but beyond this the administration of

the sub-kings was comparatively free from interference. There was, indeed, no general

administration for the whole Empire, but a sort of feudalism, under which connections and

subordinations were established on the principle of protection from above down, and of

military service and tribute on the part of the subject States.

Besides the two kinds of government here referred to, namely, the common satrapy and the

half-hereditary viceroyalty, there was still a third variety of political organization

within the Imperial dominions. This was the free city. It was not within the desire, and

probably not within the ability, of the Parthian monarchs to eradicate the Graeco-

Macedonian municipalities which for nearly two centuries had occupied the nexus of Europe

and Asia. These cities had for six generations lain like gems of culture on the immoderate

beast of barbarism. In many respects they were in Asia, but not of it. In the literal

order of things they became Detached from the surrounding provinces. At length permanent

relations were established between them and the monarchy. Many of the cities paid tribute

directly to the royal treasury, and were henceforth isolated from the local government of

the satrapy.

It was the policy of the Empire not to disturb the provincial governments, of whatever

kind they were, so long as the tribute was paid regularly and in full amount. The same

principle held with the cities. The latter were allowed to proceed on their own lines of

development. Thus, for instance, Seleucia grew to great- ness. According to Pliny, the

population waxed to six hundred thousand. Fortifications were built, and the place became

a sort of Hamburg of antiquity. A municipal government was constituted after a plan that

might well remind the reader of Mediaeval Venice under the Doges. Of course the arts and

learning of the Parthian Empire fled for covert to these Graeco- Asiatic strongholds. Each

became a sort of Constantinople of the desert, wherein culture might peaceably examine her

still beautiful features in the mirrors which had been preserved from the days of the

^Grecian ascendancy. To destroy such places was a thing not to