Persian couriers

Persian mounted couriers

Persian couriers were ancient mounted messengers (despatch riders) kept ready at regular stages throughout old Persia for carrying the royal despatches at the time of the Achaemenid Empire.[1]



In Ancient Greek, Persian courier was called ἄγγαρος (ángaros, “Persian mounted courier”), whence Latin angarius, which is probably from an East Asian language (e.g., Sanskrit अजिरा (ajirā, “agile, swift”)). The word "angel" (ἄγγελος) is probably loaned from and related to Greek ἄγγαρος.[2]



In about 440 BC, Herodotus wrote in The Histories (book 8.98)[3] about the Persian couriers:

Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers. The entire plan is a Persian invention; and this is the method of it. Along the whole line of road there are men (they say) stationed with horses, in number equal to the number of days which the journey takes, allowing a man and horse to each day; and these men will not be hindered from accomplishing at their best speed the distance which they have to go, either by snow, rain, heat, or by the darkness of night. The first rider delivers his despatch to the second and the second passes it to the third; and so it is borne from hand to hand along the whole line, like the light in the torch-race, which the Greeks celebrate to Vulcan. The Persians give the riding post in this manner, the name of Angarum.[a]

Paraphrase of the Herodotus description was used by the United States Postal Service as a motto on the entrance to the Central Post Office building in New York City: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."[4]

The map of Achaemenid Empire and the section of the Royal Road noted by Herodotus
  1. The angarum were called pirradazish by the Persians.


  1. Liddell, H. G.; Scott, R. (1993) [1889]. "ἄγγαρος". An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (7th ed.). Oxford, UK: Trustees of Tufts University; Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199102066. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2015-05-12.
  2. Beekes R. S. P.; van Beek, L. (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Greek (in 2 vols.). Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series, Vol. 10. Vol. 1 (Bilingual ed.). Leiden, Belgium; Boston, USA: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 9, xlxiv, 1808. ISBN 978-9004174184. ISSN 1574-3586. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2015-05-12.
  3. Herodotus (1909). "Book VIII: Urania". The History of Herodotus (in 4 vols.). Vol. 4. Translated by G. Rawlinson. New York, USA: Tandy-Thomas Co. p. 147. ASIN B003ES5U32. Archived from the original on 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2015-05-12.
  4. Dobson, B. B. (aka Gramz) (2015-04-29). "The Fastest Messaging System in 500 BC". Another Q: Queing up for more mindless ramblings. Blogger; Blogspot. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2015-05-12.

Other websites

  • Gascoigne, B. "Persian couriers". List of Subjects: P–R: Persia: History of Iran (Persia): Achaemenids: Imperial communication: 522-486 BC. Bamber Gascoigne; HistoryWorld. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2015-05-12.