The Persian Empire was vast, and so broken up into 20 provinces, or satrapies. Each satrapy was ruled by a satrap, who in turn reported to the king. Now the king had to keep a check on whether his officials (the satrap and his men) were as loyal as they claimed to be. He needed to make sure that they weren’t pocketing some of the taxes being collected. So what would the king do? He would appoint special servants, who kept tabs on these officials, and their ears open for the slightest hint of treachery. That’s why these servants were known as the ‘King’s Ears.’
The Pharaohs --- the kings of Egypt --- ruled Egypt for about 3,000 years. The Pharaohs were considered superior, as they were believed to be descendents of the gods themselves. Finding an ideal candidate, befitting enough to be the queen of Egypt was a difficult task. The Pharaoh was conveniently allowed to have many wives, but the queen --- who was known as the Great Royal Wife --- had to be of royal blood (to prevent the blood of the gods from being diluted!). So the Pharaohs had no choice but to marry their sisters or any other close female relatives. The eldest son of this union would become the next Pharaoh.
In Ur, one of the cities of Sumer (the first great civilization that came into being in about 3500 BC), archaeologists have found the tombs of the early kings and queens. They discovered grand furniture, musical instruments and gold jewellery. But they also came across the bodies of hundreds of servants. Apparently once their master or mistress died, the poor servants had to follow suit and commit suicide. The objective: to be able to serve their rulers in the next world!
About 3792 years ago (1792 BC) a young man named Hammurabi inherited the throne of Babylon. Hammurabi conquered all of Sumer and Akkad (the first civilisations, near the river Euphrates). One of the greatest achievements of King Hammurabi was to combine the laws of the various parts of his empire. This new code set out laws and penalties covering family, property, slaves and wages. The concept of `an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ comes from these ancient law codes.
Over 5500 years ago, i.e. in 3500 B.C a group of people called Sumerians resided in Mesopotamia. This was the area between the river Tigris and Euphrates or what is known today as Iraq. Though the weather was hot and dry, the area was very fertile as the rivers supplied the Sumerians with all the water they needed to grow wheat, fruit and vegetables. The Sumerians became a prosperous civilization. The Sumerians decided to keep records of all their wealth by drawing pictures of the objects they wanted to record. This elaborate form of recording soon developed into `cuneiform’ (wedge-shaped writing) that scribes wrote on damp clay tablets which were later dried in the sun. This form of recording or `writing’ soon travelled across different civilizations with each group of people developing their own scripts.
Like the Sumerians, the Egyptians in about 3300 B.C. invented the hieroglyphs or writing that uses picture signs. But unlike the 26 basic alphabets that you had to learn, hieroglyphs involved learning more than 700 picture signs! Obviously hieroglyphs took a very long time to write. So the Egyptians soon developed a shorthand system called hieratic.