Vassal state

A vassal state is any state that has a mutual obligation to a superior state or empire, in a status similar to that of a vassal in the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support in exchange for certain privileges. In some cases, the obligation included paying tribute, but a state which does so is better described as a tributary state. Today, more common terms are puppet state, protectorate, client state, associated state or satellite state.

Historical examples

Hittite Empire

The Hittite Empire incorporated vassal states that extended over much of Anatolia and Northern Syria. The addition of vassal states reached its peak under the reigns of Suppiluliuma I and Mursili II in the 14th Century BCE.[1] The relationships between the Hittites and their vassal states centered around the Hittite king and the vassal ruler; the terms of their relationship were imposed unilaterally by the former, and accepted by the latter. Whenever a new Hittite king or vassal ruler came into power, a new treaty would be drawn up.[1]

In rare cases, local rulers were given kiurwana (protectorate status). While they had distinct privileges – such as exemption from tribute – they did not have any more freedom of activity than other vassal states. All relations among the regions under Hittite control were strictly determined by the king.[1]

Ancient China

From the time of the Zhou Dynasty (1046–770 BC) until the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), a varying number of vassal states existed in ancient China.

These ranged in size from small city states to vassals which controlled large swathes of territory such as the States of Chu and Qi. One of these vassal states would go on to conquer China and unite the country under the first emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Ottoman Empire

Vassal and tributary states of the Ottoman Empire in 1590.

The Ottoman Empire (1299–1923) controlled a number of tributary or vassal states in the peripheral areas of its territory. Vassalage took a number of different forms with some states permitted to elect their own leaders. Other states paid tribute for their lands.

During the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire controlled many vassal and tributary states such as the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, or the Crimean Khanate.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bryce, Trevor (2005). "Territories and Early Rivals of the Hatti". Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford University Press. p. 49–50. ISBN 9780199279081.

External links

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