How did Persian kings maintain control and organize such a vast empire?

Persian kings were able to maintain control over their vast empire by tolerating the practices of the many different peoples within their empire. This kept the people compliant and loyal. If they stepped out of line, they had the wrath of the mighty Persian military to fear. Otherwise, they enjoyed the protection of this fighting force. The empire was organized into smaller districts called satrapies, which were governed by satraps, who reported directly to the king.

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Persia was a vast empire. At its height during the Achaemenid Dynasty, it contained approximately 5.5 million square kilometers and over forty percent of the world's population.

For the kings to maintain control of such a large and multi-cultural territory, they had to make their empire attractive to their citizens....

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Persia was a vast empire. At its height during the Achaemenid Dynasty, it contained approximately 5.5 million square kilometers and over forty percent of the world's population.

For the kings to maintain control of such a large and multi-cultural territory, they had to make their empire attractive to their citizens. To this end, the kings were relatively lax in allowing the various ethnic groups within the empire to practice their own customs and run their local communities as they saw fit. As long as they paid tribute and did not cause any trouble, most people in the empire were left to their own devices. This level of toleration meant that uprisings were very uncommon.

The military was also a tool of control. This worked in two ways. First of all, many people throughout the empire enjoyed the protection of the mighty Persian military. They knew that such a strong military meant that they were relatively safe from outside attacks. However, they were also aware that rebellion or dissent could draw the wrath of the king, who could send the military in to easily subdue them. This double-edged sword of military might kept most Persians compliant.

Given the vastness of the empire, the various far-flung peoples of Persia could not be ruled directly by the king. Instead, the empire was divided into numerous administrative districts known as satrapies. Local governors, or satraps, administered these districts and reported to the king. An extensive network of sophisticated roads linked all the satrapies to the capital, facilitating easy communication.

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The Persian empire was able to control such a vast and expansive area mainly due to their combined system of centralized and decentralized hierarchical control. The Persian empire held centralized power through the king who ruled over the entire empire backed by the military strength of the enormous Persian military. The empire was sectioned off into regions known as "satrapies". The satrapies were ruled by local rulers (sometimes native to the conquered land) called "satraps". These satraps were under direct control of the king but were able to focus specifically on ruling their designated regions. While the Persian empire allowed for some religious and other freedoms, the empire still maintained its absolute control through the fierceness and size of its army.

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The Persian kings governed their massive territory by dividing conquered lands into provinces known as "satrapies." Each satrapy had its own governor known as a "satrap" who was appointed by the king. These officials were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining a military, and had supreme judicial authority over their region. Satraps reported directly to the king and were periodically inspected by Persian royal officials. The royal officials were referred to as "trusted men" who assessed taxes and recruited able-bodied males for the army. Two other positions that were essential to maintaining an efficient government were the "Royal Treasurer" and "Garrison Commander." Satraps worked with both officials who reported directly to the king. The central administration was also responsible for building and maintaining new roads. This expansive system of roads allowed merchants to travel freely which enhanced and encouraged trade throughout the empire. In addition to the various trade routes, the Persian monetary system introduced by Darius created a more organized economy. 

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The Persians often get a bad reputation in the West, but if we examine their vast empire, we cannot but be impressed by what they were able to achieve. They had three main ways of ruling. 

First, like the above answer intimated there was a system of local governmental officials, called satraps. These satraps ruled over a region called satrapies. This hierarchy was effective in organizing vast areas. Like the Romans, the Persians were organized and structured. 

Second, it must be stated that the Persians had a vast army and navy. We must not allow the Greek defeats of the Persians cloud our vision of the military power of the Persians. The Greeks did not defeat the entire Persian army. This point is important to mention, because people for the most part feared going against such a powerful army. This alone helped the Persians to rule. 

Third, the Persians adopted a policy of freedom. For example, they were very sensitive to the people they overcame in important matters such as religion. Even a reading of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible shows that the second temple was built under the encouragement of the Persians. For more information read, the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. 

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Basically, the Persian kings were able to organize and control their empires because they were willing to delegate authority and to pay some attention to the desires of the people they conquered.

The Persian empire was divided into "satrapies," each ruled by someone called a "satrap."  Satraps were essentially kings in their own areas, but the Great Kings tolerated this, which allowed the system to work, thus making the empire easier to administer.

At the same time, the kings kept their subject people happy by letting them keep their own religions and even funding temples for religions of the conquered people.  Similarly, the kings allowed many of the elites of the conquered areas to hold positions of power.  By doing things like this, the Persians avoided acting simply as conquerors and made their rule more popular.  This helped them to control their empire.

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