By the 6th century BCE, the Persian empire was the largest the world has ever seen. What strategies did Persian kings develop to help them govern such a massive empire? Describe at least two of these governing strategies and explain how they benefited Persia. Support your conclusions with clearly organized historical evidence.  

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A preceding answer has already given a lot of good information concerning this question regarding the use of a postal system and roads, as well as the division of the Persian Empire into satrapies. When speaking about the satraps, though, it's also useful to note that, while the Achaemenids allowed...

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A preceding answer has already given a lot of good information concerning this question regarding the use of a postal system and roads, as well as the division of the Persian Empire into satrapies. When speaking about the satraps, though, it's also useful to note that, while the Achaemenids allowed a great deal of political autonomy within the provinces, they also utilized tactics to counterbalance the local power of the satraps themselves. According to many accounts, the Achaemenid Kings employed royal spies who traveled widely among the provinces, serving as instruments of royal power.

In addition, it should be noted that the Achaemenids did not rule from a single capital. Rather, they had several capital cities, and the royal court would travel between them. This migratory approach to governance allowed the Persian Kings to exercise royal authority over a far larger geographical area than they could have managed had they ruled from a stationary capital.

Finally, one should be aware that the Persian Kings used military power to quash revolts when they did arise. The famous Battle of Marathon, for example, was itself a retaliatory attack. The Persians were responding to earlier Athenian interference in the Ionian Revolt, where Greek cities in Asia Minor had rebelled against their Persian rulers. Additionally, one can note accounts of Xerxes crushing revolts in Babylon and his son crushing a revolt in Egypt.

The subject of Egypt seems to be particularly interesting, given that it actually did break free from Persia temporarily during the reign of Artaxerxes II, before being forcibly reconquered by Artaxerxes III. It should be noted then, that there were moments where Persian governance did break down, and in those cases, the Achaemenids actively sought to reimpose their authority by force.

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The two main strategies that held the Persian Empire together during its height were federalism and rapid communication.

Because the empire was so huge, it was necessary to establish lines of communication that were very fast (for their time) across it; for this, Persia established a postal service, one of the first in the world (and certainly the first on anything like this scale). Their motto (reported by Herodotus) may sound familiar: "Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers. These men will not be hindered..., either by snow, or rain, or heat, or by the darkness of night." This postal service was centered around the Royal Road, a highway over 1500 miles long that crossed the empire. The postal service was so efficient it could cover that whole distance in a little over a week.

Yet there was another part of Persia's successful strategy, which was that they devised the government so that they would not need to constantly micromanage the local affairs: federalism. The empire was divided into satrapies, essentially states, each governed by a local satrap. There were between 20 and 30 satrapies (they varied over time), and each one had its own system of laws and taxes tailored to that specific region. Satraps were monitored by the king, but also given substantial autonomy.

As part of this federal system, many different cultures and religions were allowed to coexist, as long as they obeyed the basic laws of the empire and paid their taxes on time. This prevented a great deal of ethnic violence and unrest that would otherwise have occurred, and kept the Persian Empire stable and flexible to change.

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