Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Aramaic origins of the postal service

ARAMAIC WATCH: The Surprising Origins of the Postal Service. An ancient Persian institution served as the model and inspiration for the United States Postal Service and other such delivery services (Joobin Bekhrad, BBC).
According to Dr Lindsay Allen, a lecturer in ancient history at King’s College London, the Persian postal system was also impressive for its use of a standardised language across such a vast expanse, as well as its consistency in terms of message delivery and format. Although Old Persian was the Persians’ native tongue, the linguistically unrelated Aramaic was the administrative language of the empire and thus used in composing messages throughout it, much in the same way that English and Latin-alphabet transliterations are usually used on envelopes and parcels worldwide today.

“For long distances we’re looking at Aramaic on ink on prepared animal skin, folded up and sealed,” Allen said. “This was the first time that consistently formatted letters, folded and sealed, were used. Unfortunately, we have only a few surviving parchment letters written in Aramaic… [but] even these suggest there was shared administrative practice between letters sent to Egypt and those sent by a local governor in Bactria.”
This is a long article on how the ancient Achaemenid Persian empire developed a postal service that covered the whole empire. It served as the template for subsequent postal services, including the modern ones.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.