10 Greatest Empires in History
An empire is formed when a nation’s sovereignty extends beyond its borders and into other territories. The enormity of an empire depends on several factors. Some of them include: population, economy, the system of governance, and strength of the empire’s military force.
In the history of this world, there have been some prominent empires that existed for several centuries and controlled vast number of territories. Below, we shall be looking at some of the greatest empires in history:
Akkad was an ancient city in Northern Mesopotamia. The Akkadian Empire existed between 2334 and 2083 BC. The empire was situated in the city of Akkad and its environs in Iraq. For the record, the Akkadian Empire is recognized as the first-known empire to exist in world history. At the peak of its growth, the Akkadian Empire covered an area of 0.8 million square kilometers. The state of Akkad existed before the ethnic states of Assyria and Babylonia. The Akkadian Empire got even larger after the conquest of King Sargon of Akkad between the 22nd and 24th centuries BC.
- History and Timeline of Ancient Mesopotamia
- Remarkable Scientific Inventions from Ancient Mesopotamia
Another name given to the Achaemenid Empire is the Persian Empire. Cyrus the Great established the Achaemenid Empire. It covered three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia. The Persian Empire succeeded the state of the Median Empire. It existed approximately between 550 and 330 BC. Historically, the Achaemenid Empire was the largest ancient empire that ever existed. At the pinnacle of its growth, the empire measured an area of about 8 million square kilometers. The empire was taken over by Alexander III – King of Macedon. After its invasion by Alexander, the empire fell apart.
You may also like: Biography and Achievements of Xerxes the Great, King of Persia
The Roman Empire traces its history back to 27 BCE. It was characterized by dictatorial forms of ruling and large territories in Europe and the Mediterranean. During the time of Julius Caesar’s rule as a perpetual dictator, Rome, which was a republic at the time, grew massively.
The empire saw its earlier expansion during the reign of its first emperor, Augustus; but its greatest expansion occurred during the reign of Emperor Trajan.
At its greatest territorial extent, the Roman Empire possessed a land area of about 6.5 million square kilometers.
Influences of the Roman Empire, which ended around 390 AD, can never be underrated due to the spread of its language, culture, religion, laws, and government throughout the world.
Read More: Major Causes of the Fall of the Roman Empire
The Umayyad Caliphate was an empire ruled by the Umayyad – an Islamic dynasty. A caliph is an Islamic ruler while a caliphate signifies its territories or times. This Islamic form of government draws its principles from the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. The Umayyad Caliphate places second on the list of the four Islamic Caliphates instituted after the demise of Prophet Mohammed. Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate but it later spread far and wide controlling an area of over 13 million square kilometers. Thus making it one of the biggest empires in history.
Qing was the last of the Chinese dynasties which ruled between 1644 and 1912. The Qing Dynasty came in between the Ming Dynasty and the Chinese Republic. The last ruling dynasty was established by Manchu – one of the invaders of China. The empire was located in the northeast of present-day China. The Qing Dynasty was conquered and dethroned during the Xinhai Revolution. The empire was successfully embedded in Chinese traditions. During the 18th century, the population of China increased and favored the size of the empire. In terms of land mass, the empire spanned 14.7 million square kilometers.
Read more: Puyi, the Last Emperor of China
A state existed in Russia from 1721 until their 1917 Revolution. This large state was termed as the Russian Empire. It is the second largest contiguous empire that existed in ancient times. The strength of this empire stretched from east of Europe through Asia and North America. This remarkable growth was seen in 1866. For this reason, in the early part of the 19th century, Russia was known as the largest country in the world. Only two empires surpassed the size of the Russian Empire: the Mongol Empire and the British Empire.
The Mongol Empire existed between the 13th and 14th century AD. It spanned between the east of Europe and across Asia. Its birth was marked by the unification of two tribes in Mongolia- the Mongol and the Turkic tribes. Further expansion of the empire was fueled by invasions. At its maximum height, the Mongol Empire spanned from Danube to the Japan Sea through the Arctic to Camboja. The Mongol Empire was so large such that it covered an area of 24 million square kilometers. That figure represents 22% of the earth’s land area. The empire disintegrated in the early and mid-1260s.
Read More: History and Biography of Genghis Khan
From 1526, an Islamic Imperial authority ruled large portions of the Indian subcontinent. This imperial power was known as the Mughal Empire. It also invaded and ruled major parts of South Asia between the 17th and 18th century. Emperors of the Mughal Empire descended from the Timurids of Turkistan. In their peak power, the empire controlled a huge percentage of the Indian Subcontinent. Population figures at that time ranged between 110-130 million people. One characteristic feature of the empire was its highly centralized government. They had a rich architecture which was used to build great monuments. The empire collapsed in 1707 when Aurangzeb, its emperor, died.
Colonies, mandates, dominions, protectorates and all territories controlled by the United Kingdom were what formed the British Empire. The empire dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The UK grew its empire to a population of more than 458 million people – a quarter of the world’s population in 1922. The land area of this empire stood at an astounding 33.7 million square kilometers – about a quarter of the earth’s land area. The British Empire extended its roots to virtually every part of the world. It possessed the largest military numbers. The British Empire left a great deal of cultural, linguistic and political legacy for its territories.
The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire which was established in the 13th century AD in Asia Minor. It was an Islamic empire which existed from November of 1299 to July of 1923. The Ottoman Empire spread to three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa. It holds the record as the world’s longest ruling empire – it lasted for 7 centuries. The empire also tolerated diverse nationalities and religious beliefs such as Judaism and Christianity. Its cultural integration allowed Ottomans to adopt the architecture, music, government and leisure activities from its territories.
You may also like: History and Major Facts about the Songhai Empire