In the ancient world, there was no such thing as the rule of law. It was a world in which might was right. Small countries had no choice but to live under the mercy of bigger and more powerful countries.
There is a famous saying, in ancient Greece, that "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must". In Chinese literature, we find a similar view about the fate of small countries. The ancient Chinese said that "small countries have no foreign policy".