Genghis Khan, Alexander etc. are rulers who had kingdoms which were larger than most of the countries now. How would they have ruled their countries efficiently when it would take weeks for information from one place to reach another. For example, if unrest broke out in a far corner of their kingdom, wouldn't it take longer for them to hear of it and longer still to quench it?

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    This question is too broad, you should ask for each of the kingdoms you are interested in.
    – ocodo
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 0:44
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    I am not looking for kingdom wise examples - rather the means with which ancient kingdoms were ruled when the means of communications were primitive. It could apply to any large kingdom in that era.
    – rest_day
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 0:49
  • Beaurocracy was and is the way governments operate (If police/army are included in beaurocracy).
    – Dale
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 1:12
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2 Answers 2


The answer to this question depends somewhat on the kingdom, geography, and era. The ancient Achamaemenid Empire of Persia (Iran) was arguably the first true empire in history, and spanned a sizeable amount of territory. It made use of regularly stationed outputs with stables always containing well-fed and well-rested horses, for messengers to quickly get around the empire. Combined with a primitive road system (which the Romans used to excellent military and economic advantage in their later empire), this ensured good communication and administration of the kingdom. Alexander the Great, having conquered Persia in the 4th century B.C., inherited this network of roads and indeed learned from the Persian method of government. In addition, the sub-division of an empire into smaller regions, run by local rulers or trusted generals, led to early top-down bureaucratic forms of rule that worked quite well. For Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire, these rulers were "satraps"; for Rome they were provincial governors.

In summary: the combination of regular stationed outposts (garrisons for the army, and trading/tax collection stations), and the pyramid-like sub-division of territories for administration by petty rulers and officials led to a, while often fragile, fairly efficient and manageable form of impirial administration that worked for the Persians, Macedonians, Romans, and later the Mongols.


Usually the ruler would divide the kingdom up into smaller territorries and appoint someone to be the leader for that territory. This has historically been a pretty common practice. From the Zhou Dynasty in China to the Roman Empire we can see examples of this. In addition, when you look at medieval kingdoms in England, France, and Germany, the monarchs appointed Earls and Dukes and such to maintain control over portions of their kingdom and to ensure loyalty and support.

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    +1 - it's worth noting that a Kingdom didn't need to be particularly large to require localised proxies of the king.
    – ocodo
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 1:12
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    The monarchs had to be "on the move" large part of the time, to visit different parts of their kingdom and keep their vassals loyal.
    – quant_dev
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 20:37
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    Or make the vassals come to them and spend money so they couldn't raise armies, like the Shogun used to do in Japan. It also kept the vassals close so they could not be far away plotting mischief.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 13:46
  • @MichaelF, you should make that an answer. It's a very important method of keeping a kingdom intact.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 22:50
  • @quant_dev: Not necesaarily; in fact, this was common in the early middle ages, but probably due to the fact that no single locality was sufficiently economically developed to support the court for any extended lenngth of time. The Persian Kings stayed mostly in one place. Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 0:17

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