The paper studies the question of the transition in Iran from a centralized bureaucratic empire to a state structure based on land grants and personal relationships between ruler and retainers. It analyses the spatial structure of Sanjar b. Malikshāh’s eastern Iranian empire in two sections. In the first section, the vassal zone where subdued kings ruled, a household zone where governors tried to found hereditary dynasties, and the imperial oasis which was under direct control of the central administration are described. In the second section, an aristocratic zone is identified where local lords held sway, sedentary as well as nomadic ones, who did not depend on imperial appointments for their position. In conclusion, the paper observes that personal relations of the khidma type were paramount even if the empire was still able to tax agricultural lands to a large degree and therefore could also pay the army in cash.