The map of Achaemenid Empire and the section of the Royal Road noted by Herodotus

The Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great (Darius I) of the first (Achaemenid) Persian Empire in the 5th century BC.[1] Darius I built the road to facilitate rapid communication on the western part of his large empire from Susa to Sardis.[2] Mounted couriers of the Angarium were supposed to travel 1,677 miles (2,699 km) from Susa to Sardis in nine days; the journey took ninety days on foot.[3]


The course of the road has been reconstructed from the writings of Herodotus,[4] archeological research, and other historical records.


Because the road did not follow the shortest nor the easiest route between the most important cities of the Persian Empire, archeologists believe the westernmost sections of the road may have originally been built by the Assyrian kings, as the road plunges through the heart of their old empire. More eastern segments of the road, identifiable in present-day northern Iran, were not noted by Herodotus, whose view of Persia was that of an Ionian Greek in the West;[5] stretches of the Royal Road across the central plateau of Iran, such as the Great Khorasan Road, are coincident with the major trade route known as the Silk Road.

However, Darius I improved the existing road network into the Royal Road as it is recognized today. A later improvement by the Romans of a road bed with a hard-packed gravelled surface of 6.25 m width held within a stone curbing was found in a stretch near Gordium[6] and connecting the parts together in a unified whole stretching some 1677 miles, primarily as a post road, with a hundred and eleven posting stations maintained with a supply of fresh horses, a quick mode of communication using relays of swift mounted messengers, the kingdom's pirradazis.

In 1961, under a grant from the American Philosophical Society, S. F. Starr traced the stretch of road from Gordium to Sardis, identifying river crossings by ancient bridge abutments.[7] It was maintained by personal guards.[clarification needed]


The Greek historian Herodotus wrote, "There is nothing in the world that travels faster than these Persian couriers." Herodotus's praise for these messengers—"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"— was inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York and is sometimes thought of as the United States Postal Service creed.

A metaphorical "Royal Road" in famous quotations

Euclid is said to have replied to King Ptolemy's request for an easier way of learning mathematics that "there is no Royal Road to geometry", according to Proclus.[8] The same sentence is also attributed to Menaechmus replying to Alexander the Great.[9]

Charles Sanders Peirce, in his How to Make Our Ideas Clear (1878), says, "There is no royal road to logic, and really valuable ideas can only be had at the price of close attention."

Sigmund Freud famously described dreams as the "royal road to the unconscious" ("Via regia zur Kenntnis des Unbewußten").

Karl Marx wrote in the 1872 Preface to the French Edition of Das Kapital (Volume 1), "There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."

The Royal Road to Romance (1925) is the first book by Richard Halliburton, covering his world travels as a young man from Andorra to Angkor.

See also


  1. ^ Graf, David F. (1994). "The Persian Royal Road System". Continuity & Change: Proceedings of the Last Achaemenid History Workshop 1990. Vol. 8. Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. pp. 167–189. ISBN 90-6258-408-X.
  2. ^ Fox, Robin Lane (1973). Alexander the Great. London: Penguin. p. 96. ISBN 0-86007-707-1.
  3. ^ Kia, Mehrdad (2016). The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 127. ISBN 978-1610693912.
  4. ^ Herodotus, Histories v.52-54, viii.98; Herodotus seems to have been in possession of an itinerary. Calder, W. M. (1925). "The Royal Road in Herodotus". The Classical Review. 39 (1/2): 7–11. doi:10.1017/S0009840X0003448X. S2CID 162371707 suggested that Herodotus was partly in error in his tracing the route through Anatolia by making it cross the Halys and showed that though his overall his distances in parasangs are approximately correct, his distances over the sections he describes bear no relation to geographical facts.
  5. ^ "Herodotus, a Greek from the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, appears to have reported only that part of the network which led directly to the parts of the Greek world that concerned him," notes Young, Rodney S. (1963). "Gordion on the Royal Road". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 107 (4): 348–364. JSTOR 985675.
  6. ^ Near Gordium the track was identified as post-Phrygian, as it wound round Phrygian tumuli: Young, Rodney S. (1956). "The Campaign of 1955 at Gordion: Preliminary Report". American Journal of Archaeology. 60 (3): 249–266. doi:10.2307/500152. JSTOR 500152. S2CID 192962099 p. 266 "The Royal Road"; and 61 (1957:319 and illus.).
  7. ^ Starr, S. F. (1963). "The Persian Royal Road in Turkey". Yearbook of the American Philosophical Society 1962. Philadelphia. pp. 629–632.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Proclus, p. 57
  9. ^ "Menaechmus - Biography".