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Q: Ancient water management - qanats ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Ancient water management - qanats
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: digsalot-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 20 Oct 2002 22:29 PDT
Expires: 19 Nov 2002 21:29 PST
Question ID: 85738
I am particularly interested in tracking down a letter that Darius The
Great sent to one of his satraps berrating him for failing to get on
with the job of digging and maintaining his assigned number of qanats.
I read the letter over 10 years ago so I know that it exists.

Request for Question Clarification by duncan2-ga on 21 Oct 2002 00:36 PDT
Hello digsalot,

First, were you looking for the letter in any particular language?  I
have found a letter that might be the one you're referring to, with
translations in English, French, Italian, German and (original?)

I'm uncertain if it's the letter you're looking for however, as the
text I've found does not mention qanats.  Instead it praises his
satrap for his agricultural efforts and then rebukes him for "taxing
the priests of Apollo, and forcing them to cultivate sacred ground".

If you think this might be the letter you seek, I'll be happy to paste
the text of the letter and the additional information I found while
researching it.

Clarification of Question by digsalot-ga on 21 Oct 2002 02:59 PDT
I have a feeling both you and the commentator are speaking about the
same letter -  "Letter of Darius to Gadatas"

It is not the one.  I have stumbled over that one a few times in my
search.  Qanats were very important to Darius in various parts of the
empire.  Qanats  were developed and built by the Persians 2000 years
before Rome built its aquaducts.  While the Roman aquaducts are in
ruin, the qanats still deliver 75% of Iran's water supply.  The letter
deals with specifics of qanats, irrigation, and an assigned amount of
work to be done (which wasn't).

Clarification of Question by digsalot-ga on 21 Oct 2002 14:32 PDT
Hi ace - I just sent the results of the last comment to the professor
at Queensland University who is doing the ancient water management
project.  There may be some 'collective' memory fuzziness involved,
but she is a lot younger than I am so I am probably fuzzier than she
is.  LOL, the search for this letter is bigger than the both of us. 
At least from the standpoint that it has become an intercontinental
"find it" project.  Researchers from Oxford and the University of
South Africa are also looking for it now.

As soon as I hear back, I will let you know.

Clarification of Question by digsalot-ga on 21 Oct 2002 15:19 PDT
From what I received from SA just now, it seems more than 90% certain
the question refers to the Letter of Darius to Gadatas.  So Duncan2,
since you brought it up first, please post it as an answer.  It will
be accepted.
Subject: Re: Ancient water management - qanats
Answered By: duncan2-ga on 21 Oct 2002 21:33 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello digsalot,

Thanks for such an interesting challenge!  Though there are a number
of websites and internet resources on Darius the Great (Darius I),
finding documentation of his writings proved difficult.  And while
some of the resources I consulted mention messages between Darius and
his satraps (and Alexander), few had the actual text of the letters.

In the process of searching for this enigmatic irrigation missive, I
found several additional mentions of a "Letter of Darius to Gadates". 
Interestingly, several of the pages spelled it "Gradates".

Aceresearcher arrived at the same place I did,,
which has several documents (mostly in French) that relate to Darius'
letter to Gadatas.  One document in particular has the versions of the
letter in various languages, including English.

Quoted from Page 4 of :
(Crawford-Whitehead 1983, 95B)
 The King of Kings, Dareios son of Hystaspes,says this to his slave
Gadatas : "I find that you are not obeying my commands in all
respects; insofar as you are cultivating my land and planting the
furthest parts of Asia with the fruit-trees from across the Euphrates,
I praise your design and as a result great favour will lie in store
for you in the house of the King; but insofar as you are flouting my
disposition with respect to the gods,I shall make you experience the
wrath of my spirit unless you change your course; for you are exacting
tribute from the sacred gardeners of Apollo and ordering them to
cultivate profane land,ignorant of my ancestors’ attitude to their
god, who enjoined strict uprightness on the Persians and ... " 

Also mentioning this letter were:

"Darius reproaches Gradates for taxing the priests of Apollo, and
forcing them to cultivate sacred ground"
(Last paragraph on page)

The identical paragraph appears here:
(Hmmm, shared author, or 'shared' content?...)
The same site has a reference to the letter again here:
(Half-way down the page)

Finally, I'll mention that the Crawford-Whitehead referenced in the
translation above refers to the 1983 text, Archaic and Classical
Greece: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation by Michael H.
Crawford, David Whitehead
( ) 

On a whim, I checked my university library for a copy and came up only
with Crawford's 1984 volume, Sources for Ancient History
( )
This one, while interesting, did not appear to contain any letters
from Darius.

Regrettably, none of the resources I consulted yielded a letter
matching the description of the one you are seeking. So if there is
truly such a letter as the one you describe, it remains an elusive
epistle.  Good luck on your hunting and let me know if I can be of
further assistance!

digsalot-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Both you and aceresearcher did a remarkable job. However, you pointed
the direction first and have earned the crown.  While information from
University of South Africa gives a 90% + chance the letter to Gadates
is the right one, or points in the right direction, the search goes

The response from Queensland University was as follows:

Hi R***

 I just read this one! It is entirely possible that my memory has
 blurred - you have fingered my secret fear!!! But the memory still
nags at
 me vividly - insisting that such a letter exists. It was definitely a
 Persian ruler to a satrap in the Imperial era in which there was no
 re: the ruler's displeasure in finding out that the satrap had not
got on
 with his assigned task of digging and attending to his quota of wells
 imagine that means qanats). I can only imagine that it was Darius.

 Thank you for your extraordinary efforts and those of your friends
 associates across the world! Please do not be concerned if it cannot
 found easily. I will not stop until I have found it anyway and when I
do, I
 too will have something to share with you!!!


I am still waiting to hear from Oxford.  In the meantime, you have
been an important part of a project involving researchers on three

When and if another letter is found, and if you are interested, I will
let you know.  In the meantime, I think the ancient water management
project will be occupying ever more of my time.  It is sort of fun
being a retired archaeologist called in to work on a project about a
subject of which I knew next to nothing.  But life does have its
strange turns.

Thanks again for a good job - both of you.

Subject: Re: Ancient water management - qanats
From: aceresearcher-ga on 21 Oct 2002 01:37 PDT
The purported "Letter of Darius to Gadatas", with translations in
several languages, including English, is located at:

However, there is considerable academic controversy as to whether
Darius' letter is genuine, or was forged by someone else in ancient
times. Pierre Briant's Noruz Lecture on "New Trends In Achaemenid
History" for the Foundation for Iranian Studies in Washington, D.C.
(March 23, 2001) states:

"But the re-examinations that I have offered recently (between 1998
and 2001) [13], have led me to the following conclusions:
--in one case (the “Letter of Darius to Gadatas”), the document is a
forgery of the Roman period."

If you feel this response has satisfied your requirements, please let
me know and I will post it as an answer. If you need additional
information, post a Request For Clarification and I will be glad to
help you out.
I hope this information will be of assistance to you!
Subject: Re: Ancient water management - qanats
From: aceresearcher-ga on 21 Oct 2002 07:17 PDT

Just a thought - Is it possible your memory of the content of the
letter has become blurred over the last 10 years? I ask this because
Gadatus was indeed one of Darius' satraps, and although Darius praises
Gadatus for "cultivating my land and planting the furthest parts of
Asia with the fruit trees from across the Euphrates", he also berates
the satrap "flouting my disposition with respect to the gods... for
you are exacting tribute from the sacred gardeners of Apollo and
ordering them to cultivate profane land". 

In addition, Pierre Briant states in his Noruz lecture that
"The only ancient mention of qanats, as has been well known, is a
passage of the Hellenistic historian Polybius (Histories, X.28),
describing an expedition conducted by Antiochos the Third against the
Parthian king Arsaces the Third, in Parthia itself, between Rhagai
(just next to Tehran) and Hekatompylos (at modern Shahr-i
Qumis)...Here is what it says (for convenience, I quote the
translation by Paton, in the Loeb Classical Library, even though it is
debatable in places[23]):

'In this region of which I speak, there is no water visible on the
surface, but even in the desert there are a number of underground
channels communicating with wells unknown to those not acquainted with
the country'. (X.28.2-3)...

At the time when the Persians were the rulers of Asia they gave to
those who conveyed a supply of water to places previously unirrigated
the right of cultivating the land for five generations … [so that]
people incurred great expense and trouble making underground channels
reaching a long distance..." 


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