ĀMĀRGAR, a Middle and New Persian word designating a person holding a particular administrative post.

i. Etymology.

ii. The post.


i. Etymology

The term which yielded Middle Persian āmārgar is first attested in the 5th century B.C. as a loanword in two Semitic languages: [ḫ]a-am-ma-ra-(a-)ka-a-r[u?], am-mar-kar-ra, am-ma-ri/ru-a-kal in Late Babylonian and hmrkʾ (later ʾmrkl) in Aramaic. Together with the later loanword in Armenian hamarakar these show only that the word began with an h-; the lengths of the vowels are uncertain. Since in Iranian the root *hmar (cf. Skt. smar, IE. *(s)mer) “think of” early and everywhere lost its first consonant directly before -m- (except when, after i, it was preserved as -š-), it is clear that the word must have been compounded of ham and a form of mar and not, as assumed by many writers, contain a form *hmāra. This is corroborated without being proven by the Babylonian spellings, which all have -mm-. Later Parthian spellings with initial ʾ- (Nisa ʾhmrkr, Paikuli ʾḥmrkr) do not disprove it: cf. Mid. Pers. ʾḥmtʾn, Parth. ʾḥmtn (and Armenian Ahmatan) < Old Pers. Ha(n)gmatāna-. Only in Mid. Pers. inscriptions (Paikuli ʾmʾlkly) and seals (also ḥmʾlkly) is the length of the second vowel revealed. Thus Old Pers. *hammāra-kara- became *hammārgar, then āmārgar in Mid. Pers., just as *ham + ⩚ mauk gave Manichaean Parth. ʾmwxtn, ʾmwc- against Man. Mid. Pers. hmwxtn, hmwc-, but later N. Pers. āmōxtan, āmōz- “to teach.” 


J. C. Greenfield, “*Hamarakara > ʾamarkal,” W. B. Henning Memorial Volume, London, 1970, pp. 180-86.

See also the bibliography to part ii.

(D. N. MacKenzie)

ii. The post

During the Sasanian period the āmārgar was a sort of tax collector or chief fiscal officer. The function of *hamarakara is referred to from the Achaemenid period, especially in the 5th century B.C. Elephantine documents (A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C., Oxford, 1923, 2nd ed., 1967, no. 26; G. A. Driver, Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B.C., Oxford, 1954, 2nd ed., 1968, letters no. 8, 9, 10; R. T. Hallock, Persepolis Fortification Tablets, Chicago, 1969, no. 281; on the different duties of this Achaemenid functionary, cf. J. C. Greenfield, “Hamarakara > ʾamarkal,” W. B. Henning Memorial Volume, London, 1970, pp. 180-86, and Acta Antiqua Academia Hungarica, 1977, pp. 115-16); the title is also attested in Akkadian (W. von Soden, Akkadisches Handwörterbuch I, Wiesbaden, 1965, p. 44). An āmārgar (ʾhmrkr) is mentioned at Nisa in 81 B.C. (I. M. Diakonov and V. A. Livshits, Peredneaziatskiĭ sbornik II, Moscow, 1966, no. 394, p. 146). Under the Sasanians, the āmārgar was essential to provincial administration; he could be assigned to one, two, or even three towns (which were undoubtedly chief district seats). The most important āmārgar could have an entire province assigned to him, e.g., Kermān (R. N. Frye, Iranica antiqua 8, 1968, p. 124, nos. 21, 22), Sind (ibid., p. 128, no. 44), Fārs (idem, ed., Sasanian Remains from Qasr-i Abu Nasr, 1973, p. 63, D209), Beth Aramāyē or Asorestān (P. Bedjan, Vie de Mar Iabalaha, Leipzig, 1893, p. 210; cf. P. Peeters, Recherches d’histoire et de philologie orientales, Brussels, II, 1951, p. 121), Media (Ph. Gignoux, Catalogue des sceaux, camées et bulles de la Bibliothèque Nationale et du Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1978, p. 91), Ādurbādagān (Pahlavi inscriptions at Derband; cf. K. Trever, Ocherki po istorii i kul’ture drevneĭ Albanii, Moscow and Leningrad, 1959, pp. 347f.), and *Vāspuragān (Sebeos, History of Heraclius VI, tr. F. Macler, Paris, 1904, p. 32; a different and more convincing interpretation is given by H. Hübschmann, Die altarmenischen Ortsnamen, Strassburg, 1904; repr. Amsterdam, 1969, p. 262: This refers to the tax collector of the vāspuhrakān, i.e., the “higher nobility”). In the 4th (?) century, Garamea (Beth Garmaï) and Adiabene were served by the same functionary (A. D. H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum. Stamp Seals II, London, 1969, p. 117). In one case, at the end of the 3rd century, āmārgars are mentioned alongside satraps and other officers (P. O. Skjærvø, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli 3.1, Wiesbaden, 1983, pp. 42-43). At the height of the Sasanian dynasty an Ērān-āmārgar was in charge of the financial services of the empire (Yaʿqūbī, p. 202). A. Christensen (Iran Sass., pp. 524-26) proposes reading ērānmārḡar in the Fārs-nāma of Ebn al-Balḵī (p. 91), making the Ērān-āmārgar a deputy of the wuzurg-framādār. In the Sasanian period, the āmārgar was qualified to do property evaluation, handle real estate matters, etc. (MHD, ed. Anklesaria, Bombay, 1913, pp. 27.12-28.3; cf. A. Perikhanian, Revue des études arméniennes 5, 1968, p. 10; M. Macuch, Das sasanidische Rechtsbuch “Mātakdān i Hazār Dātistān” [Teil II], Wiesbaden, 1981, pp. 190-91, 204). He also had to collect and store the taxes within his jurisdiction (e.g., the Isfahan collector under Ḵosrow II; Sebeos, History of Heraclius XIII, tr. p. 42). A Christian text refers to the trial of an āmārgar and to that of other provincial functionaries (Synodicon orientale, ed. J. B. Chabot, Paris, 1902, p. 77, tr. p. 329). On the seal of the āmārgar, see MHD, ed. Modi, p. 93.5. In recent times the term āmārgar has been revived by the Farhangestān with the meaning “statistician, census official.”


See also E. Herzfeld, Paikuli, Monument and Inscription of the Early History of the Sassanian Empire I, Berlin, 1924, p. 130, no. 51.

R. Altheim-Stiehl, Epigraphica Anatolica I, 1983, p. 17.

(D. N. MacKenzie, M. L. Chaumont)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: August 2, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 9, pp. 925-926

Cite this entry:

D. N. MacKenzie, M. L. Chaumont, “ĀMĀRGAR,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/9, pp. 925-926, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amargar (accessed on 30 December 2012).