The most basic definition of an empire is a political entity that exercises control or domination over other political entities and persons. Empire has existed practically from the beginning of recorded human history on our planet.
More than one continent has been conquered by many empires, elevating them to global prominence. The history of empires has also shown that some last for a longer period of time than others. Although some are short-lived, others might last for hundreds of years or even generations.
Certainly, there are examples of empires that have lasted for more than a millennium or two. The following are short summaries of the 10 empires that have emerged over time of history.
Throughout history, empires have risen and fallen over decades, centuries, and even millennia. If history repeats itself, we may be able to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of the world’s largest and longest-lasting civilizations.
The term “empire” is difficult to define. While the word is often used, it is frequently misused and misrepresents a country’s political position. A political unit that exercises dominance over another nation entity is the most basic description.
In a word, it’s a nation or collection of countries that have sway over the political choices of a smaller state.
Although the terms hegemony and empire are often used interchangeably, there are some important distinctions to be made, just as there are distinctions between a leader (although an opportunistic leader) and a bully.
Hegemony operates on a set of international norms that have been agreed upon, while an empire creates and enforces the rules. Hegemony refers to a group’s dominating influence over another set of groups rather than its control.
What can we learn from history’s longest-lasting empires? We’ll look at the history of these kingdoms, how they arose, and the circumstances that finally contributed to their collapse.
Table of Contents
1. Roman/Eastern Roman Empire
The Roman Empire covered numerous eras, although it was most active from 27 B.C.E. to 1453 C.E., a period of 1,480 years. Civil wars took down the republic before it, leading to Julius Caesar’s appointment as emperor
The empire spanned modern-day Italy as well as most of the Mediterranean. It had a lot of power, but in the third century, Emperor Diocletian added one important feature that ensured its long-term success.
He came to the conclusion that two co-emperors could manage power and relieve the stress of vast growth, laying the groundwork for the Western and Eastern Roman Imperial powers
When Germanic soldiers rebelled and deposed Romulus Augustulus from the throne of the Western Roman Empire in 476 C.E., the Western Roman Empire was destroyed.
After 476 C.E., the Eastern Roman Empire prospered, and historians began to refer to it as the Byzantium Empire [source: World History Encyclopedia].
The Byzantine Empire was further weakened by social unrest and epidemic. The empire eventually crumbled when the Ottoman Empire captured Constantinople in 1453 C.E., due to mounting instability inside the empire, disease, and societal upheaval.
Despite Diocletian’s co-emperor plan, which probably prolonged the Roman Empire’s life span, it suffered the same destiny as earlier reigning powers whose huge growth and many ethnicities claimed sovereignty at some point.
These empires were the longest-lived in history, yet they all had flaws. No empire has been able to contain social discontent generated by the class, unemployment, or a lack of resources, whether it was via land or human exploitation.
2. The Kush Empire ruled from 1069 BCE until 330 CE.
The Kush Empire was mostly located in what is now northern Sudan. It all started with the city-state of Napata, which subsequently became the Kush Empire’s capital. Kushite rulers became Egypt’s 25th dynasty’s pharaohs in the 8th century.
The Kushites, on the other hand, lost control of The region when the Assyrians attacked in 666 BCE. The Egyptians attacked Napata in c. 590, and the Kushite capital was relocated to Meroe. The Aksumites destroyed Meroe in c. 330, bringing the Kush Empire to an end.
3. The Holy Roman Empire (800–1806 CE)
Empire of the Holy Roman Empire. At its most extensive, the Holy Roman Empire controlled a vast area of land (shaded in violet).
The Holy Roman Empire was an effort by some Western European leaders to resurrect the Roman Empire, which had fallen apart more than three centuries before. Charlemagne was crowned King of the Roman Empire by Pope Leo III.
The Holy Roman Empire included today’s German, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, the Netherlands, and considerable portions of modern-day Poland, France, and Italy at its peak.
The empire, however, fell divided when the Thirty Years War concluded in 1648. Finally, Napoleon of France compelled Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor, to resign in 1806.
4. Venetian Republic (797 CE – 1797 CE)
Symbol of the Venetian Republic. Detail of the Doge’s Palace’s Porta Della Carta entry in Venice, Italy, portraying Doge Francesco Foscari Kneeling before the Lion of St. Mark, the Venetian Republic’s historical emblem.
Venice’s Republic lasted over a thousand years. The Venetians went on to govern areas in Italy’s interior, including land in current Croatia and Albania, as well as territory near Venice’s main region. The republic’s powerful naval served as the principal means of expansion.
When Napoleon of France captured the city of Venice in 1797, the Republic of Venice came to an end.
5. The Silla Empire (57 BCE–935 CE)
Empire of Silla. Mihwangsa Temple was built in Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do, South Korea, during the seventh year of King Gyeongdeok of the Silla Dynasty (749).
The Silla Empire was located in modern-day South Korea. It originated as a tiny kingdom on the Korean Peninsula’s southeast corner. In the first century CE, the monarchy started to grow gradually.
Silla’s growth, on the other hand, truly took off in the 6th century CE. Silla and its vassals were the last surviving Korean kingdoms by the mid-to-late-seventh century, commanding territory approximately similar to modern-day South Korea.
However, by the ninth century, the empire was in collapse. The kingdom was finally defeated and annexed by the king of Goryeo in 935 CE.
6. Khmer Empire
People say that the Khmer Empire was awe-inspiring because it had one of the world’s biggest religious buildings, the Angkor Wat. It was built at a time when the Khmer Empire was at its most powerful, and it’s still a big draw for tourists.
The Khmer Empire began around 802 AD when Jayavarman II was named king of the area now known as Cambodia. When it was 630 years old, it broke up. In 1432, it was over.
A Chinese diplomat named Zhou Daguan went to Cambodia in 1296 and wrote a book called “The Customs of Cambodia” about what he saw and did there.
Most of its time in power was marked by war, as the Khmer tried to grow bigger and take over more land. In the last half of the empire, Angkor was the main place where nobles lived. They fought for control of Angkor when the power of the Khmer people was going down.
You can find a lot of different ideas about why the Khmer Empire came to an end. Some people think that a king started to follow Theravada Buddhism, which led to a loss of workers, a decline in the water management system, and weak harvests in the end.
Others say that the Thai empire of Sukhothai took over Angkor in the 1400s. It’s thought that the king gave the power to the town of Oudong, leaving the town of Angkor almost abandoned.
7. Ethiopian Empire.
We know very little about the Ethiopian Empire’s day-to-day activities, which is remarkable given the duration of its reign. In the midst of the European “Scramble for Africa,” Ethiopia and Liberia were the only African states to stand firm.
After the Solomonid Dynasty toppled the Zagwe Dynasty in 1270 A.D., they declared themselves to be the legal owners of the region based on a putative bloodline to King Solomon, thereby transferring power to the Habesha people.
With the incorporation of additional civilizations inside Ethiopia under its dominion, the dynasty progressed to the status of an empire.
However, it was not until 1895, when Italy waged war on Ethiopia, that the Ethiopian empire started to crumble. Ethiopia was able to stave off its invaders, but Italy was not through with the country just yet.
In 1935, Benito Mussolini ordered Italian forces to invade Ethiopia, beginning a seven-month conflict that was ultimately hailed a victory by the Italians in 1936. It was Italians who dominated the country from 1936 until 1941.
As we have seen in earlier cases, the Ethiopian monarchy did not overextend its borders or deplete its resources. Ethiopia, on the other hand, had resources that were in high demand by more strong nations – namely, coffee.
Despite the fact that Ethiopia suffered from civil conflicts, the country’s demise was ultimately brought about by Italy’s desire for expansion.
8. Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire was established in the fifteenth century. As a result of its expansion throughout the 18th century, the empire established colonies in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Portugal, on the other hand, lost its most important colony, Brazil, in the early nineteenth century.
During the mid-to-late twentieth century, its lesser colonies in Africa and Southeast Asia won independence from the United Kingdom.
Portugal ceded its last surviving overseas colony, Macau, to the People’s Republic of China in 1999, marking the end of an era.