Persia's system of qanats, introduced in about 500 B. C.E., was crucial for carrying water to remote places of that arid eastern empire. As recently as 1933, all of the city of Tehran's water came from this underground irrigation system. One qanat linked the Nile River to the Red Sea. Along the length of this great qanat, which was 87 miles long and 164 feet wide, were a number of monuments.
In the 1860s, when workers were digging the Suez Canal (which connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea), they found fragments of a red granite monument marking Darius' qanat that had at one time stood
About 9.8 feet tall and 8.2 feet wide. It bore an inscription written in four languages, including Old Persian, Babylonian, Elamite (the language of Elam, an ancient kingdom in today's southwestern Iran) and Egyptian. According to A. T. Olmstead's book History of the Persian Empire, the words, from Darius I, read, "I am a Persian. From Parsa I seized Egypt. I commanded this canal to be dug from the river, Nile by name, which flows in Egypt, to the sea which goes From Parsa. Afterward this canal was dug as I commanded, and ships passed from Egypt through this canal to Parsa as was my command."
Father of Botany
The philosopher Theophrastus (c. 372-c. 287 B. C.E.) is sometimes called the father of botany, which is the study of plants. He gave botany its start by writing detailed books about plant life, such as his Historia Plantarum. Much of the information in Theophrastus's writings was said to have been gathered by Alexander during his eastern campaigns.
Qanat tunnels reached down and into the water table. Other shafts provided ventilation and access for cleaning and repairing the tunnels. This technology spread because of a policy King Darius I had introduced: As an incentive to people to spend the time and money to build qanats, he decreed that anyone who conveyed water to dry areas would be allowed to cultivate the land for five generations.