CHILIARCH, Greek title of one of the chief offices of state in Achaemenid Persia, presumably translated from Old Persian hazārapati-, attested in Greek as azarapateîs (plur.; Hesychius, ed. K. Latte, Copenhagen, 1953, I, p. 52), explained as eisaggeleîs, that is, announcers or ushers. In Parthian the corresponding title was hazārpet or hazāruft, borrowed in Armenian as hazarapet and hazarwuxt respectively; in Middle Persian it was hazārbed or hazāruft (Gignoux, pp. 24: Mid. Pers. hzʾlwpt, 54 Parth. hzrwpt; in ŠKZ, see below, the Greek version has hazaropt and azariptou).

Information about the office comes from foreign, mainly Greek, sources. We first learn from Herodotus (7.81) that the Achaemenid forces were grouped under commanders of 10,000, 1,000, 100, and 10 men; to these Xenophon added commanders of 50 and 5 men (Cyropaedia 2.1.23). The chiliarch of the Corps of the Immortals had the duty of watching over the safety of the king of kings at all times and was in fact the second most important person in the realm (Diodorus, 18.48.4-5; Nepus, “Conon” 3.2; cf. Benveniste, pp. 53, 67). The chiliarch’s responsibilities did not (as was supposed by scholars like Ernst Herzfeld, Josef Marquart, and A. T. Olmstead; see Szemerényi, pp. 378-82) include presentation of guests to the king or management of the royal finances.

E. Benveniste (pp. 67-71) has shown that neighboring peoples like the Armenians, as well as the Germans and the Greeks of Alexander’s army, were influenced by this system, and he concluded that the relevant terms found in the four languages must have originated from Achaemenid Persia. Some of these terms also appear in the Elamite tablets from Persepolis, however. More recently O. Szemerényi (pp. 354-94) has found evidence of the existence of a similar system in the Akkadian empire. It therefore seems likely that the Achaemenid army organization had an Akkadian source.

Although the office may well have been revived in the Parthian period, it is not attested until the 3rd century c.e., under the Sasanians. The Middle Persian term hzʾlwpt and its Parthian equivalent hzrwpt appear in the inscription of Šāpūr I on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt at Naqš-e Rostam (ŠKZ). The title was held under Ardašēr (Ardašīr) I by a certain Pābag, who is named immediately after the members of the royal family and the deputy (bthšy; see bidaxš) of the king (ŠKZ Mid. Pers. line 29, Parth. line 23; ed. Back, pp. 350-51). Pābag retained the office under Šāpūr I (ŠKZ, Mid. Pers. line 31, Parth. line 25; ed. Back, p. 357). Under Wahrām (Bahram) II and Narseh I, according to Narseh’s inscription at Paikuli, a certain Ardašēr was the chiliarch (NPi Mid. Pers. line 16, Parth. line 14; ed. Humbach and Skjærvø, III/1, p. 41, cf. III/2, pp. 40-41). At that time the office, though important, may no longer have been military, but civilian. Later in the Sasanian period, on the evidence of the Armenian historians Ełišē and Łazar Parpʿecʿi, it was equivalent to that of a prime minister. According to Ełišē, it was equivalent to that of wuzurg framadār, or prime minister. Thus Ełišē calls Mihr-­Narseh, the wuzurg framadār of Yazdegerd I (late 4th cent.; see Herzfeld, p. 188), both “great hazarapet of the Iranians and non-Iranians” (mec hazarapet arikʿ ew anarikʿ; 22.7) Middle Pers. hazārbad miswritten hazār-banda; Shaki, p. 258 n. 16; and “great commander of Ērān and Non-Ērān” (vzruk hramatar eran ew aneran; 20.5).

Armenian hazarapet has other meanings, as well, however. In Mark 6:21 it renders Greek khilíarkhos, retaining its military meaning, and in other works it denotes an intendant or a guardian (Genesis 43:16, 44:1, 4). The Armenian form hazarawuxt is comparable to Middle Persian hazāruft, but with xt for ft as in Bactrian uazaroxt(t)o, the title of the Kushan king Kidara’s prime minister, whose first name was *Farnvistāx (Bivar, pp. 209-10; Davary, pp. 287-88; Göbl, I, pp. 233, 243; Henning, p. 81).



M. Back, Die Sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège,1978.

E. Benveniste, Titres et noms propres en iranien ancien, Paris, 1966, pp. 67-71.

A. D. H. Bivar, “Notes on Kushan Cursive Seal Inscriptions,” NC, 1955, pp. 203-­10.

Pauly-Wissowa, III/2, cols. 2275-76.

G. D. Davary, Baktrisch. Ein Wörterbuch, Heidelberg, 1982.

P. Gignoux, Glossaire des inscriptions pehlevies et parthes, Corpus Inscr. Iran., Suppl. Ser., vol. 1, London, 1972.

R. Göbl, Dokumente zur Geschichte der Hünnen in Baktrien and Indien, Wiesbaden 1967, 1, 233, 243.

W. B. Henning, “Surkh Kotal and Kaniṣka,” ZDMG 115, 1965, pp. 75-87.

E. Herzfeld, Paikuli. Monument and Inscription of the Early History of the Sasanian Empire I, Berlin, 1924, p. 188.

H. Humbach and P. O. Skjærvø, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli, 3 vols. in 4, Wiesbaden, 1978-83.

Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik, p. 174.

M. Shaki, “Observations on the Ayādgār ī Zarērān,” Archív Orientální 54, 1986, pp. 257-74.

O. Szemerényi, “Iranica V,” in Monumentum H. S. Nyberg II, Acta Iranica 5, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 313-94.

(Philippe Gignoux)

Originally Published: December 15, 1991

Last Updated: October 14, 2011

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