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Q: Communications in Ancient Persian History ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Communications in Ancient Persian History
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: caius-ga
List Price: $23.00
Posted: 09 Dec 2004 08:12 PST
Expires: 08 Jan 2005 08:12 PST
Question ID: 440378
For use in a book on communications I am trying to verify and find a
correct historical source I can site for the following system of
distance communication via a linked line of shouting heralds, found on
the web.  ?The greek historian DIODORUS CRONUS ( IV cent. B.C. ) tells
how persian king DARIUS I ( 522-486 B.C., son of ISTAPSES, who brought
the Empire to its maximum extension from Indus to Danube rivers, and
who was later defeated by the Greeks in Marathon ) could send the news
from the capital to the provinces of the Empire, by means of a line of
shouting men positioned on heights. This kind of transmission was 30
times faster than normal couriers.? [from: communications web site]

But Diodorus Cronus is a Philosopher and this does not seem to be the
kind of thing he would address. Additionally his works do not seem to
have been published but cited by third parties.  The web site does not
respond to e-mail inquiries asking for the reference that correctly
sources this material.  I suspect that  the reference to Diodorus
Cronus may be a mistake and the author may really be Diodorus Siculus
who is a Greek historian who came much after Cronus and is the author
of many history books on the Persians and other.  In any case I would
like to find a valid historical reference for this story about Persian
communications presuming it is true.  A reference should be a valid
book or historical citation, author, chapter, page, publisher and

Request for Question Clarification by leli-ga on 09 Dec 2004 10:09 PST
Hello Caius

I've found out where Diodorus (Siculus, as you thought) describes this
system of communication and could offer you the relevant quote with a
book, chapter and paragraph reference. I could also refer you to a
published English translation, but don't have a print copy to hand and
would not be able to give you an actual page reference.

Please let me know if this would be a satisfactory answer for you, and
I'll be glad to write up the details.

Thanks - Leli

Clarification of Question by caius-ga on 09 Dec 2004 10:59 PST
Yes, if provided as you describe with the book no., or vol. and
chapter number this would certainly do it.  When you say "where" I
presume that you have some information as to which of his books,
chapters etc.  if so  the information would meet my needs and I would
not need the page number.  If it is just somewhere in one of his
books, he has written many in many volumes, I'm afraid this would be
too vague to track down.  I've already tried looking through them with
no further detail to point me to the quote to no avail.  Thanks.
Subject: Re: Communications in Ancient Persian History
Answered By: leli-ga on 10 Dec 2004 01:15 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear Caius

Thanks for your message. Apologies for not getting back to you sooner.
For a while I was experiencing technical problems and then, since I am
in the UK, it was my night-time.

First, this is the passage you want:

"Although some of the Persians were distant a thirty days' journey,
they all received the order on that very day, thanks to the skilful
arrangement of the posts of the guard, a matter that it is not well to
pass over in silence. Persia is cut by many narrow valleys and has
many lookout posts that are high and close together, on which those of
the inhabitants who had the loudest voices had been stationed. Since
these posts were separated from each other by the distance at which a
man's voice can be heard, those who received the order passed it on in
the same way to the next, and then these in turn to others until the
message had been delivered at the border of the satrapy."

From Diodorus Siculus -  [Library of ]World History 19.17.5-6

The numbers are a standard way of citing from Diodorus. In this case,
it is Book 19 of his "Library of History", Chapter 17, paragraphs 5
and 6.

The article at is by a classical scholar, so the citation
should be reliable, although he doesn't actually specify which
translation he is using. The book and chapter are confirmed elsewhere.
(see below)

There is an English translation of Diodorus Siculus by C. Bradford
Welles, published by the Loeb Classical Library, part of Harvard
University Press. It is on sale at Amazon:

There is another translation by Russel M. Geer, also published by
Loeb/HUP, which is listed by Barnes and Noble:

It is also on sale here:

This is the key information you need, I hope, but you are welcome to
ask for clarification if you have any queries. Below I have given some
additional links which may also be useful.

Thank you for drawing my attention to such an interesting area of
history. Good luck with your book!

Best wishes - Leli

The passage about the "shouters" is also given here:

Watchmen and Stentors

The author offers this footnote which confirms the other citation -
except for saying 7 instead of 5-6 for the paragraph!:

"Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus of Sicily, Book XIX, 17.7. The passage can
also be found in Aschoff 1984, and in Hennig 1906"

More information on Diodorus

About Jona Lendering

Satraps and satrapies

Out of many searches I found these two the most helpful:

"Darius the Great"
://   diodorus voice
caius-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Excellent answer, very complete with helpful additional information.  Thanks.

Subject: Re: Communications in Ancient Persian History
From: neilzero-ga on 16 Dec 2004 06:32 PST
Since perhaps 1000 sentinals would repeat what they thought they
heard, my guess is the message received would rarely resemble the
original. My guess is the system never operated over a distance of
more than a few miles.   Neil

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