Maintaining Order: Part 1: Persia Part 2: India Part 3: China Lesson 16 Part 1: Persia Theme: Centralization and Localization

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Maintaining Order: Part 1: Persia Part 2: India Part 3: China

  • Lesson 16

Part 1: Persia Theme: Centralization and Localization

  • Lesson 16


  • Darius, Persepolis, Royal Road, satrap

Achaemenid Empire (558-330 B.C.)

  • Medes and Persians migrated from central Asia to Persia before 1000 B.C.

  • The Medes and Persians were considerable military powers

  • Cyrus the Achaemenid ruled from 558-530 B.C. and launched the Persians’ first imperial venture

  • Darius reigned from 521 to 486 and expanded the empire both east and west


  • Darius’ empire stretched some 1,865 miles from the Indus River in the east to the Aegean Sea in the west and 933 miles from Armenia in the north to the first cataract of the Nile in the south

  • Population of some 35 million people encompassing over 70 distinct ethnic groups

    • Description of the construction of the palace at Susa testifies to the diversity of the empire

Palace at Susa

  • … the sun-dried brick was molded, the Babylonian people -- it did (these tasks). The cedar timber, this -- a mountain named Lebanon -- from there was brought. The Assyrian people, it brought it to Babylon; from Babylon the Carians and the Ionians brought it to Susa. The yakâ-timber was brought from Gandara and from Carmania. The gold was brought from Sardis and from Bactria, which here was wrought. The precious stone lapis lazuli and carnelian which was wrought here, this was brought from Sogdiana. The precious stone turquoise, this was brought from Chorasmia, which was wrought here. The silver and the ebony were brought from Egypt.

Palace at Susa

  • The ornamentation with which the wall was adorned, that from Ionia was brought. The ivory which was wrought here, was brought from Ethiopia and from Sind and from Arachosia. The stone columns which were here wrought, a village named Abiradu, in Elam -- from there were brought. The stone-cutters who wrought the stone, those were Ionians and Sardians. The goldsmiths who wrought the gold, those were Medes and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians.


  • Governing such a far-flung empire would prove to be a more difficult challenge than conquering it

  • Darius was an excellent administrator

  • He arrived at a finely tuned balance between central initiative and local administration

  • Centralization

    • Authority
    • Persepolis
    • Royal Road
    • Standardized taxes
  • Localization

    • Satraps
    • Tolerance

Authority: Centralization

  • Achaemenid rulers held the official title of “The Great King, King of Kings, King of Persia, King of Countries”

  • Darius ruled by the grace of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god of light

    • “A great god is Ahura Mazda, who created the earth, who created the sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king.”
      • Zoroastrianism was a Persian religion which emphasized the duality of good and evil and the role of individuals in determining their own fate

Authority: Centralization

  • King’s decision on all matters of policy was final

  • King was commander-in-chief of the army and ceremoniously took his position in the center of the formation

    • There he was protected by an elite royal bodyguard

Persepolis: Centralization

  • Soon after Darius came to power he began centralizing his administration

  • About 520 he began building a new capital in Persepolis

    • Would become the nerve center of the Persian empire

Persepolis: Centralization

  • Persepolis had vast reception halls, lavish royal residences, and a well-protected treasury

  • It was designed to be not just an administrative center but also a monument to the Achaemenid dynasty

Persepolis: Centralization

  • Persepolis was full of advisors, ministers, diplomats, scribes, accountants, translators, and other bureaucratic officials

  • Governors served as agents of the central administration to oversee affairs in the various regions

Satraps: Localization

  • Darius divided the kingdom into 23 satrapies

    • Administrative and taxation districts governed by satraps
  • Satraps were royal appointees, often members of the royal dynasty by birth or marriage

    • Satrapies tended to become virtually hereditary domains

Satraps: Localization

  • Principal duty of the satrap was to collect taxes and deliver them to the central treasury

  • Before Darius, Cyrus had accepted irregular, periodic “gifts” as tribute from subject lands and cities

  • Though often lavish, these gifts did not provide a consistent and reliable source of income

    • Darius changed all that

Standardized Taxes: Centralization

  • Darius replaced the irregular payments with formal tax levies

  • Each satrapy was required to pay a set quantity of silver– and in some cases a levy of horses and slaves also– to the imperial court

  • In order to expedite payments, he issued standard coins

Localization: Legal Tolerance

  • Darius did not abolish the existing laws of individual lands and peoples

  • He had no uniform law code for the entire empire

  • He did direct legal experts to codify the laws of the subject people and modify them as necessary to harmonize them with the legal principles observed by the empire as a whole

Localization: Religious Tolerance

  • “Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.”

    • Ezra 6: 6-7
  • Darius also funded the project and provided harsh penalties for anyone who interfered

Royal Road: Centralization

  • The Royal Road stretched 1,600 miles from the Aegean port of Ephesus to Sardis in Anatolia, through Mesopotamia along the Tigris River, to Susa in Iran, with an extension to Pasargadae and Persepolis

  • Caravans took 90 days to travel the route

  • Inns along the way provided lodging

  • The road was well policed for safety

Royal Road: Centralization

  • Darius established 111 postal stations at 25 to 30 mile intervals along the route

  • Each station kept a fresh supply of horses so couriers could travel the entire route in one week

    • Like the Pony Express
  • Herodotus praised the couriers saying, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

    • Motto of the US Postal Service

Checks and Balances

  • Since the satraps were often far away from Persepolis, there was always the possibility they might ally with local groups and become independent of the central authority

  • To prevent this, Darius:

    • Placed a contingent of military officers and tax collectors in each satrapy to serve as a check on the satrap’s power and influence
    • Appointed agents to serve as “the eyes and ears of the king” by traveling throughout the empire conducting surprise audits and gathering intelligence

Alexander the Great

  • Ultimately the Persian Empire is going to fall to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.

    • We’ll talk about the military conquests of Alexander in Lesson 20
  • Alexander is going to have an even larger empire and he will rely largely on established Persian institutions such as the satrapies to govern it

How were populations controlled by the Persians?

How were populations controlled by the Persians?

  • Combination of centralization and localization

    • Centralization
      • Authority
      • Persepolis
      • Royal Road
      • Standardized taxes
    • Localization
      • Satraps
      • Tolerance

Part 2: India Theme: Social hierarchical controls

  • Lesson 16


  • caste system, jati, untouchables, varna

Where we left off in Lesson 13: Roots of Hinduism

  • The Vedas (“Wisdom”) were collections of prayers and hymns of the Indo-European Aryans who migrated into India around 1500 B.C.

    • Reflect the knowledge that priests needed to carry out their functions
  • The Aryans developed a social structure with sharp distinctions between individuals and groups according to the occupations and roles in society

    • These distinctions became the basis of the caste system
    • Brahmins (priests) were at the top of the caste system

Aryan Social Order

  • Aryan social hierarchy served to maintain order and stability that other societies such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China maintained through state and political structures

  • The term caste comes from the Portuguese word casta meaning a social class of hereditary and usually unchangeable status

    • Coined by Portuguese merchants and mariners who visited India during the 16th Century

Caste and Varna

  • As the Aryans settled in India they interacted with more people to include the darker-skinned Dravidians

  • The Aryans began using the word varna meaning “color” to refer to the major social classes

    • This suggests that social distinctions arose partly from differences in skin color


  • After about 1000 B.C., Aryans increasingly recognized four main varnas

    • Brahmins (priests)
    • Kshatriyas (warriors and aristocrats)
    • Vaishyas (cultivators, artisans, and merchants)
    • Shudras (landless peasants and serfs)


  • Some centuries later, the Aryans added the category of untouchables

  • The untouchables performed dirty or unpleasant tasks such as butchering animals or handling dead bodies

  • Such work made them become so polluted that their very touch could defile individuals of higher status

Subcastes (Jati)

  • Until about the 6th Century, the four varnas were sufficient to maintain the desired social distinctions, but increased urbanization and specialization demanded a more complex hierarchy

  • Jati emerged as subcastes

    • Largely determined by occupation
    • By the 18th and 19th Centuries there were several thousand jati
    • Even untouchables had jati and some looked down on others as more polluted and miserable than themselves

Castes and Subcastes

  • Prescribed an individual’s role in society in the minutest of detail

    • Members of the same jati ate together, intermarried, and cared for their own sick
    • Elaborate rules dictated how members of different jati addressed each other and communicated
    • Violation of the rules could result in expulsion from the larger group

Social Order

  • Individuals came to identify themselves more closely with their jati than with their cities or states

  • The caste system served as the principal foundation of social stability in India, doing what states and empires did to maintain public order elsewhere


  • There were some provisions for movement between classes, but individual upward mobility was not easy

  • The caste system enabled foreign people to find a place in Indian society

Expansion of the Caste System

  • As more people migrated to India, especially Turks and Muslim merchants, the caste system continued to provide order

  • Immigrant groups gained recognition as distinct groups under the umbrella of the caste system

    • Established codes of conduct both within their group and in their interactions with others

Caste and Economic Development

  • Since jati was so closely tied to occupation they often took the form of workers’ guilds that were able to powerfully represent the group’s interests

  • Merchants and artisans established distinct jati based on their particular type of commerce or industry

Geographic Expansion

  • At first the caste system was confined to northern India where the Aryans had first entered

  • As commercial relationships pushed south, the caste system took hold there as well

  • By the 11th Century the caste system was the principal basis of social organization in southern India

Caste in India Today

  • The preamble of India’s constitution forbids negative public discrimination on the basis of caste.

  • In reality, caste ranking and caste-based interaction continue

    • More prominent in the countryside than in urban settings and more in the realms of kinship and marriage than in less personal interactions
    • “The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) is part of a wider struggle to abolish ‘untouchability’ and to ‘cast out caste’. ‘Untouchability’ and caste discrimination continue to be a brutal reality for more than 160 million Dalits living in India today, despite the fact that more than half a century has passed since India was born as a ‘democratic’ and independent state.”

How were populations controlled in India?

How were populations controlled in India?

  • Caste system

    • Maintained order by assigning an individual to a place in the social hierarchy and established a rigid code of behavior based on that assignment
    • Allowed immigrant groups to find a place in society by recognizing them as distinct groups within the overall system

Part 3: China Theme: The costs of maintaining order

  • Lesson 16


  • Confucianism, Daoism, dynasty, Han Feizi, junzi, legalism, mandate of heaven, Period of the Warring States

Where we left off in Lesson 4

  • Dynasty

    • “A sequence of powerful leaders in the same family”
      • Shang Dynasty 1766 to 1122 B.C.
      • Zhou Dynasty 1122 to 256 B.C.

Characteristics of a Civilization

  • Intensive agricultural techniques

  • Specialization of labor

  • Cities

  • A social hierarchy

  • Organized religion and education

  • Development of complex forms of economic exchange

  • Development of new technologies

  • Advanced development of the arts. (This can include writing.)

Social Hierarchy: Mandate of Heaven

  • Zhou justified their disposition of the Shang by the mandate of heaven

    • Earthly events were closely related to heavenly affairs
    • Heavenly powers granted the right to govern to an especially deserving individual known as the son of heaven
    • Ruler served as a link between heaven and earth

Social Hierarchy: Mandate of Heaven

  • The ruler had the duty to govern conscientiously, observe high standards of honor and justice, and maintain order and harmony within his realm

    • As long as he did, the heavenly powers would approve his work, all would be in balance, and the ruler would retain his mandate to govern
    • If the ruler failed his duties, balance would be disrupted, chaos would follow, and the displeased heavenly powers would withdraw the mandate and transfer it to a more deserving candidate
  • This principle was maintained by Chinese rulers until the 20th Century

Decline of the Zhou

  • The Zhou relied on a decentralized administration, entrusting power, authority, and responsibility to subordinates who in return owed allegiance, tribute, and military support to the central government

  • Subordinates gradually established their own bases of power, setting up regional bureaucracies, armies, and tax systems which allowed them to consolidate their rule and exercise their authority

  • The Zhou began to lose control

Period of the Warring States (403 to 221 B.C.)

  • The late centuries of the Zhou Dynasty brought political confusion to China and led eventually to chaos

  • Territorial princes ignored the central government and used their resources to build, strengthen, and expand their own states

  • They fought ferociously among themselves to become the leader of the new political order

  • Violence and chaos gave rise to the name “Period of the Warring States”

Period of the Warring States


  • In response to this chaos, people began thinking about the nature of society and the proper roles of human beings in society to hopefully identify principles that would restore political and social order

    • Confucianism
    • Daoism
    • Legalism

Education: Confucianism

  • Founded by Kong Fuzi (551-479 B.C.)

    • Known in English as Confucius
  • Thoroughly practical approach

    • Moral, ethical, and political thought
    • Did not address abstruse philosophical or religious questions

Education: Confucianism

  • Thought social harmony arose from the proper ordering of human relationships rather than the establishment of state offices

  • Believed the best way to promote good government was to fill official positions with individuals who were both well educated and extremely conscientious

    • Concentrated on forming junzi (“superior individuals”) who took a broad view of public affairs and did not allow personal interests to influence their judgments

Education: Confucianism

  • Even more important than advanced education to the ideal government official was a strong sense of moral integrity and a capacity to deliver wise and fair judgments

  • Confucius encouraged his students to cultivate high ethical standards and hone their facilities of analysis and judgment

  • Required social activism

Education: Daoism

  • Daoists were the most prominent critics of Confucian activism

    • Considered it pointless to waste time and energy on problems that defied solution
    • Instead, Daoists devoted their energies to reflection and introspection, hoping that they could understand the natural principles that governed the world and learn to live in harmony with them

Education: Daoism

  • Dao means “the way,” “the way of nature,” or “the way of the cosmos”

  • Dao is neither positive or negative

    • It is a supremely passive force that does nothing but accomplishes everything
    • Individuals should tailor their behavior to Dao’s passive and yielding nature
  • Called for retreating from the world of politics and administration and living a simple, accepting life

Education: Legalism

  • Ultimately, order was restored through legalism

    • Unlike the Dao, legalists cared nothing about principles governing the world or the place of human beings in nature
    • Practical and efficient approach to statecraft in which the state was strengthened and expanded at all costs
    • Sought to channel as many people as possible into cultivation or military service and discouraged them from careers as merchants, entrepreneurs, scholars, educators, philosophers, poets, or artists

Education: Legalism

  • “Legalism”

    • Self-interest must be subordinated to the interests of the state
    • Strict legal regimen that clearly outlined expectations and provided severe, swiftly administered punishment
    • Harsh penalties for even minor infractions

Education: Legalism

  • Collective responsibility before the law

    • Expected all members of a family or community to observe others closely, forestall any illegal activity, and report infractions
    • Failure to do so meant all members of the family or community were subject to punishment along with the violator
  • Unpopular program but eventually restored order and brought about a unified China

Shang Yang (390 to 338 B.C.) and Han Feizi (280 to 233 B.C.)

  • Yang and Feizi were the chief developers of the legalist doctrine

  • Both served as advisors to the Qin court

  • Both made serious enemies

    • Yang was murdered, his body mutilated, and his family annihilated
    • Feizi was forced to commit suicide

Legalism: According to Han Feizi

  • “...rewards should be rich and certain so that the people will be attracted by them; punishments should be severe and definite so that the people will fear them; and laws should be uniform and steadfast so that the people will be familiar with them. Consequently, the sovereign should show no wavering in bestowing rewards and grant no pardon in administering punishments, and he should add honor to rewards and disgrace to punishments--when this is done, then both the worthy and the unworthy will want to exert themselves...”

Qin: Unification

  • Rulers of several regional states adopted elements of the legalist doctrine

  • The most enthusiastic were the Qin in western China (where Yang and Feizi had overseen the legalist doctrine’s implementation)

    • The Qin soon dominated their neighbors and imposed centralized rule throughout China
  • Qin only lasted a few years, but their successors, the Han, followed their policy of centralized imperial administration

How were populations controlled in China?

How were populations controlled in China?

  • Philosophically, as a response to the failed social and political order of the Period of the Warring States

  • Confucianism

    • Cultivate high ethical standards and facilities of analysis and judgment and apply them in a socially active way
  • Daoism

    • Retreat from the world of politics and administration and living a simple, accepting life
  • Legalism

    • Subordinate self-interests to the interests of the state and harshly punish all violations

Legalism in Action

  • When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York City he vowed to clean up crime

The Broken Window Theory

  • A broken window (or a littered sidewalk or graffiti) does no great harm to a neighborhood if promptly addressed.

  • Left untended, it sends a signal: that no one cares about this neighborhood, that it is a safe place to break things, to litter, to vandalize. Those who engage in such behaviors will feel safe here. And once these minor miscreants have become well established, perhaps it will seem a safe enough neighborhood in which to be openly drunk, in which to beg for money, and possibly extort it.

  • In short the smallest symptoms of antisocial behavior will, left to fester, breed greater and greater crimes, all the way down to murder.

The Debate

  • Obviously crime went down

  • Critics however argued that in the process civil liberties were curtailed

  • Do you think the trade-off is worth it?

Next Lesson

  • Greece

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