Top 5 Most Powerful Empires In The World History
Top 5 Most Powerful Empires In The World History. Photo KnowInsiders

There have been hundreds of different empires in the human history. Five most powerful empires stand out among others.

Of all the empires that have emerged and prospered, which are the five most powerful? How to choose 5 empires out of hundreds of empires that have reigned in the past 5,000 years?

If we apply criteria on empires, there are some empires that stand out because they are strong, large and influential on a large scale of history, so they deserve to be called the greatest.

When did the world’s first empire appear?

As far as we know, the world's first empire was formed in 2350 B.C.E. by Sargon the Great in Mesopotamia. Sargon's empire was called the Akkadian Empire, and it prospered during the historical age known as the Bronze Age.

Anthropologist Carla Sinopoli, who provides a useful definition of empire, lists the Akkadian Empire as among those lasting two centuries. Here is Sinopoli's definition of empire and imperialism:

"[A] territorially expansive and incorporative kind of state, involving relationships in which one state exercises control over other sociopolitical entities, and of imperialism as the process of creating and maintaining empires.

Top 5 Most Powerful Empires In The World History

1. The British Empire

Photo Historic UK
Photo Historic UK

At its greatest extent, the British Empire was known as the largest empire in history, as it covered more than 13,000,000 square miles, which is approximately a quarter of the Earth’s total land area.

It controlled more than 500 million people—again, a quarter of the world’s population. It was once said that the “sun never set on the British Empire.”

As a result, the legacy it imprinted on these conquered lands is tremendous in terms of political reform, cultural exchanges, and way of life.

The English language, which it spread, is the second most widely spoken language in the world today, and many linguistics agree that English is the defacto standard language of the world. The British empire is definitely one of the most influential empires ever to have existed in human history.

Little-known Facts about British Empire

The Empire actually started with the French

In 1066, William of Normandy conquered England. England was part of the Angevin Empire during the reign of Henry II, which included Ireland and most of western France.

The Empire is likely bigger than many people ever imagined

The British Empire spanned the globe. As a result, there was a popular saying that the Sun never set on the British Empire, since it was always daytime somewhere in the Empire. The Sun never sets on all fourteen British colonies at once.

The time when the Sun actually stopped setting on the Empire was probably sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s when the first Australian territories were conquered.

The British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever seen. The British Empire covered 13.01 million square miles of land - more than 22% of the earth's landmass.The empire had 458 million people in 1938 — more than 20% of the world's population.

Queen Elizabeth II was reigning as monarch while the Empire was still alive and well

When Elizabeth was crowned in 1952, Britain still had a real empire, with more than 70 overseas dominions.

Does the British Empire still exist?

While the Empire doesn’t technically exist any more, there are still territories in the Commonwealth overseen by the Queen.

Why did the British Empire fall?

It’s all to do with money - what’s more, World Wars I and II effectively eroded much interest in keeping the Empire going!

2. Mongol Empire

Photo Students of History
Photo Students of History

Who founded Mongol Empire?

Around 1162 AD, Genghis Khan was born as Temujin. His family was poor and struggled to survive. He was captured by a rival tribe and imprisoned, however, he managed to escape and hid in a river crevice. From 1178 to 1206, he united many nomadic tribes of Mongolian plateau in northeast Asia and ultimately founded the empire in 1206 AD.

From Vietnam to Hungary, the Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous empire in the history of mankind. Unfortunately for them, their empire was too big to be controlled, and there was no unity among the different cultures. The Mongols were fearless and ruthless fighters but had little experience in administration. The image of the Mongols as a brutal and savage people is renowned throughout history.

After the British Empire, the Mongol Empire was the largest Empire in the World. It was the largest contiguous empire in the world. During the time of its largest extent, it covered a vast area of 9.3 square miles or 23 million square km; about 16.11% of the total land area of the World.

Unlike the British Empire, the Mongols did not benefit from technological advances that would allow them to govern their far-flung empire. As a result of this, the Mongol Empire eventually fragmented into smaller entities. The Mongols were renowned for their ferocity and ruthlessness. Nevertheless, one of the more positive achievements of the Mongols was the re-opening of the Silk Route that connected China to Europe.

What led to the fall of the Mongol Empire?

It was an empire. It was basically led by a small, uncultured and uncivilized minority which treated all its subjects as slaves. No sense of belonging and no similar identity as “Chinese-ity” or “Roman-ity” could emerge. Such empires are bound to disintegrate sooner or later.

It never managed to get its inheritance of throne straight. While the situation was not as bad as in usual Polygamist societies, where the country falls into a civil war as the dead king’s sons begin to murder and eliminate each other in a deadly musical chairs game, with the last surviving becoming the king, Mongols never had it really sorted out. When a Great Khan died, the kurultai elected one of his sons as the Great Khan, and the other sons got their own sub-khanates to rule. It was in the interests of the kurultai to elect an agreeable yes-man as the Great Khan, as one would not be a threat to the other sub-khans.

Too large and too stretched state. It was logistically simply impossible to keep the empire up.

Economy based on slavery. Such empires are always doomed from start; even if the Mongol Empire had lasted for 200 years more, it would eventually have collapsed on economic failure - just like the Roman and Arab empires.

No more good generals. Ögödei was lucky in the sense he had three absolutely the best field commanders of the day; Subudei, Batu and Baidar. They, not any innate superiority of the Mongol armies, were the key to Mongol initial expansion and conquest. But once they were gone, the subsequent generals were more keen on office politics and court plotting rather than military matters. Nogai was no match to Batu, and Talabugha was no Subudei.

Their enemies had learned to fight them. The invasion of Hungary 1285–1286 was a complete reversal of the 1241–1242 campaign, and Nogai and Talabugha got their noses bloodied.

3. The Roman Empire

Photo A referenced map of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent.
A referenced map of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent. Photo ancient origins

Whilst the British and Mongols had two of the largest empires in history, neither of them were the longest-lasting. This title is held by the Roman Empire (if one were to consider the Byzantine Empire as part of the Roman Empire as well).

This empire was founded in 27 BC with the ascension of Augustus to the throne, and ended in AD 1453 with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. It should be pointed out that the western half of the Roman Empire ended during the 5 th century AD, and the Byzantine Empire was temporarily dissolved during the 13 th century AD as a result of the Fourth Crusade.

Still, the Roman Empire lasted for almost a millennium and a half. Needless to say, the Romans have had a great impact on the landscape of Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as on the minds of those who inherited their lands.

Several important features of the modern world are the result of the Roman Empire. The Romans took over and expanded upon the Hellenistic (Greek) culture, passing down Greek architecture, philosophy and science to future generations. Later, the Roman embrace of Christianity helped elevate that religion from a minor cult to one of the world’s great religions.

Why did the Roman Empire fall?

-Invasions by Barbarian tribes

-Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor

-The rise of the Eastern Empire

-Overexpansion and military overspending

-Government corruption and political instability

-The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes

-Christianity and the loss of traditional values

-Weakening of the Roman legions

4.The Persian Empire


The Achaemenid Persian Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great around 550 B.C.E., who went by the title of King of Kings (Shahanshah). Although the Persian Empire came to an inglorious end at the hands of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.E., it had a lasting legacy on the subsequent development of world civilizations and future empires. Indeed, the Persian Empire was a pivotal empire because it was the first true empire that set the standard of what it meant to be an empire for future ones.

What Are Persian Empire’s Symbols?

Persian Rugs

Photo Amazon
Photo Amazon

The Persians were often subjected to harsh weather, especially in winter. To battle the cold, the Persian tribesmen, who were mostly nomadic, weaved carpets and rugs as a necessity. As the empire consolidated and trade grew, these rugs became an art form. Their versatile designs and patterns made the rugs popular, and soon they were an important export.

It is estimated that carpet-making originated around 2,500 years ago, and with every conquest or invasion, the style of the carpets and rugs changed. Cyrus the Great was so awestruck by the beauty of the designs and patterns on the carpets that he had his tomb in Pasargadae near Persepolis covered in carpets and rugs.

The oldest-known carpet to have been discovered was in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. The frozen lands of Siberia helped to preserve the carpet, and it gives us an insight into the skills which existed in ancient times. The patterns on the carpet show that carpet-weaving had progressed beyond simple designs. The rug is now exhibited in the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg.

Persian Roses

Considered a symbol of love and friendship, roses were a gift from Persia to the entire world. They remained native to Persia and its nearby territories for a long time. The yellow Persian rose was the first variety of the flower to be traded, reaching Vienna sometime in the 16th century. From there, it slowly gained prominence across Europe and the world for its color and fragrance.

Perisna Pets

Photo petshelpful
Photo petshelpful

The Persians were very fond of hedgehogs and dogs. Hedgehogs were kept in homes as protection from pests and ants. Domesticated hedgehogs were banned after the Islamic conquests, but people were willing to pay a huge amount in taxes to keep their domesticated hedgehogs. Another animal which the Persians were fond of was the dog, and exotic dog breeds were kept for good luck. Dogs were nurtured and treasured by the Persians and considered sacred.

The Fall of The Persian Empire: Heavy Taxation and The Economic Downfall

The heavy taxes imposed upon the public, which ultimately led to an economic slump, put the kingdom on a slippery slope that culminated in the downfall of Persian Empire. Moreover, the mandatory tributes demanded from the subject nations were unmanageable.

Weak Leadership and Lack of Identity

During the downfall of Persian Empire, the emperors were unsuccessful at ever molding the many subject nations into a whole; the creation of a national identity was never attempted. Any such intentions were hindered by the stringent economic conditions and the wide cultural gap. This lack of cohesion eventually affected the military’s efficiency.

The empire also lacked a strong ruler after the demise of Xerxes I (486-465 BC). This, along with the lack of national identity, led to much internal commotion. Many of these were fought for supremacy and notorious satrap’s revolts which worsened the condition of the Persian state and catalyzed the fall of the Persian Empire.

Revolts and Turmoil

The reign of Artaxerxes II, though generally peaceful, was disturbed by several insurrections. At first, Artaxerxes II was successful in his disputes with Greece. Then, however, he started having more trouble with the Egyptians, who had rebelled at the beginning of his reign.

Eventually, the Persians did attempt to reconquer Egypt in 373 BC but were unsuccessful. The only thing Artaxerxes II managed to do was defeat a joint Egyptian–Spartan effort to conquer Phoenicia.

5. The Ummayad Caliphate

Photo Khan Academy
Photo Khan Academy

Another empire that should be on a list of ‘greatest empires’ is the Ummayad Caliphate, which was the second of the four caliphates established after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. At its peak during the 7 th century AD, the Ummayads had an empire that covered an area of 11.1 million square km, and governed almost a third of the world’s population. Perhaps one of the most significant contributions of this empire to history is that it facilitated the spread of Islam, and elevated it to the status of a major world religion. In addition, the Ummayad Caliphate has also often been considered to be the Golden Age of Islam, as many contributions to the Arts and Sciences were made by the intellectuals of this empire.

The Umayyad Caliphate used its reach to spread Islam

The Umayyad Caliphate covered 5.02 million square miles of land - more than 8% of the earth's landmass.

The empire had 62 million people between 720 and 750 — nearly 30% of the world's population.

The second Islamic caliphate was founded in Arabia after the Prophet Muhammad's death and while the Umayyad family originated in Mecca but chose Damascus as its capital.

The Umayyad Caliphate, whose name comes from the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph, ruled between 661 and 750 A.D.

How did this huge empire fall?

The caliphs had been struggling from military defeats and financial issues for some time before the empire ended in 750. After the Byzantine army led a crushing defeat of the Umayyad forces in 740, civil war erupted in the Islamic world between the Qays and Kalb factions. In 749 C.E., the war was won by Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah, who founded the third Islamic empire (the Abbasid Caliphate) and executed members of the ruling family of the Umayyads.

All of those 5 powerful empires fell. Will America fall, too?

So how does the United States of America match up with all these behemoths? The United States is certainly the world’s most powerful nation ever, militarily speaking. It combines the British ingenuity for trade with a more deeply held liberalism and continent-sized resources. Like the Romans, it has an attractive culture. Like the Mongols, it can wield total destruction. Like the Arabs, it has spread a universal ideology across the globe. Like the Persian Empires, America combines different cultures and links together regions.

For all these reasons, America has a long future ahead of it as a great power. Yet, America also needs to keep in mind the faults of previous empires if it is not to repeat them. Despite its overwhelmingly strong military, Rome fell. Internal divisions and squabbling can kill even the most powerful empires. The Persians were conquered not because they were weak but because their leadership failed. Although the Mongols could win wars, they could not win the peace and ultimately they failed to establish themselves permanently anywhere. The Arabs spawned a successful civilization, but the positive aspects of it were taken over by newcomers who relegated the Arabs to subservience. And finally, the British were exhausted in trying to uphold their interests, global order, and European system, trying to do too many things at once, while also burning themselves out.

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