Empires have existed since the dawn of history.  What is an Empire?  Is it different than a Kingdom?  The Google definition of Empire is:

An extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority.”  In the past an empire was ruled by an emperor or empress.  Examples other terms that were used that could mean the same were:  caesar, king, potentate, sultan, mogul, autocrat,  führer, czar,  tsar, kaiser, plus several others.

This article is about geographic empires as defined above.  However, there are other types of empires such as commercial empires, trading empires, fashion empires, publishing empires, etc.

Some of the most common characteristics of a geographic empire include, expansive territory, military power, ruling class, trade and wealth.  

The following descriptions of Empires are considered by World Atlas to the eight most important empires in history URL:  worldatlas.com/ancient-world/greatest-empires-in-the-history-of-the-world.html

Akkadian Empire

Sumerian culture. King on chariot. Akkadian Empire. Mesopotamia. Middle East history. Ancient civilization art. Lion and warrior. Scene of fight


Depiction of fighting during the Akkadian Empire.

The Akkadian Empire, established around 2334 BCE, marked a significant period in ancient Mesopotamia. Founded by Sargon of Akkad, it is one of history’s earliest empires. At its zenith, the empire reigned over 310,000 square miles, demonstrating the strength of centralizing power as well as a novel capacity for administration and infrastructure. The Akkadian language became the lingua franca due to the rule of Akkadian administrators, although forms of Sumerian and Elamite were still used. The empire made significant strides in arts and sciences, with notable achievements in cuneiform script, which influenced later civilizations (and the aforementioned languages themselves). However, the empire faced challenges due to its large population, administrative complexity, and external threats.

Its decline around 2154 BCE stemmed from political instability, economic decline, and invasion by the Gutians. Until recently, it was falsely believed the Gutians and their kings swept suddenly into the area and overwhelmed the nation, but in reality, they had roots going back 100 years in the region. Furthermore, evidence of a drought around 2200 BCE also placed additional stress on the state. Upon collapsing, the Akkadian Empire’s regions reverted to a system of independently managed city-states, which, while functional, still signified a period of “dark ages” societally.

Roman Empire

Great Roman empire, conceptual collage in retro style


Great Roman Empire concept.

The Roman Empire, emerging from the Roman Republic in 27 BCE, was a geopolitical entity that profoundly shaped the future of Western civilization. The transition from a republic (ruled by representative senators) to an empire hinges on the ambitions of its first emperor, Julius Caesar, who began his rise to power when he was elected dictator in order to singularly respond to instability. Although he was assassinated by a group of senators, Julius’ adopted son Augustus became the subsequent emperor. Rome’s historical narrative spanned around five centuries until its fall in 476 CE.

The empire’s territorial expanse, at its peak under Emperor Trajan, spanned three continents and is due in part to military innovations, such as perfecting the ancient phalanx. Roman law and governance models influenced numerous modern legal and political systems. Infrastructure, like roads, aqueducts, and architecture, notably the Colosseum, underscore the empire’s achievements. Latin, its lingua franca, became the foundation of Romance languages. The empire’s conversion to Christianity under Constantine I further shaped the future of Western religious culture. The Pax Romana period epitomizes its prosperity and stability. However, the empire also faced numerous crises, including economic instability, military overreach, societal decadence, and barbarian invasions, leading to its eventual fragmentation in 395 CE.The Roman Empire at its greatest extent in 117 AD at the time of Trajan, plus principal provinces.

Persian Empire (Achaemenid Empire)

Overview of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire
Persepolis is the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.

The Persian Empire, spanning 550 to 330 BCE, was one of history’s most powerful and expansive empires, established by Cyrus the Great. Its peak covered three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, including modern-day Iran, Egypt, Turkey, and parts of India and Greece. The empire had an efficient bureaucracy, run by satraps or provincial governors, and a postal system fostering communication across vast territories. Infrastructural achievements like the 1,553-mile Royal Road facilitated trade and military movements.

Despite its military strength, the Persian Empire demonstrated a policy of tolerance towards conquered people, respecting their customs and religions (one popular example is the restoration of the temporarily-exiled Jewish people). Under Darius the Great, the empire codified laws and introduced standardized weights and measures. However, power struggles and external threats, notably the Greco-Persian wars, gradually eroded its stability. Alexander the Great‘s conquest in 330 BCE marked the end of the Persian Empire, and the territory fell under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Seleucid Empire after Alexander’s death.

Mongol Empire

Mongol Empire. The capital of the Golden Horde, Sarai Batu.


Sarai Batu, Mongol Empire.

The Mongol Empire, founded by Genghis Khan in 1206, was a monumental force in world history. Exhibiting exceptional military strategy and organizational skills, the Mongols established the largest contiguous empire ever, spanning Eurasia from China to Eastern Europe. Their advanced communication system, the Yam, facilitated control over distant territories. The Yam relied on countless, well-guarded relay posts that supplied fresh horses to messengers every 25 miles. The empire’s religious tolerance and merit-based promotions helped sway populations into submission without conflict. However, their expansion also entailed brutal conquests and mass killings (those who refused to submit were turned into examples), leaving a stark legacy of destruction.

Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire in 1227 and at its greatest extent in 1279.

The Pax Mongolica, their period of peace, facilitated unprecedented cultural exchange and trade along the Silk Road, influencing societies from Asia to Europe. However, domestic conflict, succession issues, and rebellions led to the empire’s fragmentation into khanates by the late 13th century. As a legacy, the empire left a trail of roughly 50 million deaths in its wake, which substantially affected global demographics during a time when the world population was approximately 500 million. 

Ottoman Empire

Blue mosque in glorius sunset, Istanbul, Sultanahmet park. The biggest mosque in Istanbul of Sultan Ahmed (Ottoman Empire)The Ottoman Empire (1299-1922) was a significant global power strategically The Ottoman Empire (12990-1922) was a significant global power strategically, situated between Europe and Asia. Its multiethnic, multicultural structure is evidence of its imperialistic endeavors. Rooted in Turkish tribes under Osman I, it expanded rapidly, reaching its zenith under Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) when it encompassed Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. The Ottoman Empire swallowed up much of the Eastern Roman Empire and claimed itself to be, therefore, the inheritor of the Roman Empire.

Turkish history, the Ottoman Empire at its greatest extent in 1683 - overview map of its territory expansion and military acquisition in Europe, Asia and Africa


Map of the Ottoman Empire.
The empire’s administrative structure, with its military elite (Janissaries), religious tolerance, and well-established laws, created social stability. However, long-lasting wars, internal strife, and increasing Western influence precipitated its decline, culminating in its partition after WWI. The Allied Powers occupied the territories of the opposed Central Powers, which included the Ottomans, and divided their territories between the United Kingdom and France. However, a successful rebellion instigated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created the smaller but reminiscent modern-day nation of of Türkiye.  

Further Discussion on this website at British Empire – Rise and Fall 

British Empire

British invaders advancing through flooded Mesopotamia in 1916


British invaders advanced through flooded Mesopotamia in 1916

Once the world’s most extensive geopolitical entity, the British Empire profoundly shaped global history from the late 16th century to the mid-20th century. By wielding maritime exploration, trade, and colonization, it established a complex imperial system of governance and economic control over numerous territories across nearly all continents. Although it brought infrastructural advancement and cultural exchange, it also imposed cultural hegemony, economic exploitation, and significant human rights abuses, including slavery and the eradication of indigenous societies.

Map of United Kingdom on world vintage map showing British EmpireMap of United Kingdom on world vintage map.


Globalization in the past two centuries is partly responsible for the downfall of the empire (and empires in general), in which administrative inefficiencies and ethical faults tend to outweigh benefits. The cracks first revealed themselves during the American War for Independence around 1783, and additional colonies followed suit upon sensing weakness. The British Empire’s legacy remains contentious; many former colonies have achieved remarkable progress post-independence yet grapple with socio-economic and political issues rooted in their colonial past. The British Empire’s influence on language, law, and governance remains evident globally, particularly in the Commonwealth of Nations. 

Russian And Soviet Empires

Karl Bulla - "cortege of the Emperor Nicholas II drives up to the Spassky Gate." Illustration from "Niva" magazine, publishing house A.F. Marx, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1913


Emperor Nicholas II, 1913.

The beginnings of the Russian Empire traces back to the principality of Moscow, which started as a small town in the 12th century and gradually grew in influence due to its strategic location and astute political maneuvering, notably under Ivan I (“Ivan Moneybags”). By the time of Ivan III (“Ivan the Great”) in the late 15th century, Moscow had successfully consolidated power over surrounding territories and threw off the Mongol yoke, laying the foundations for a unified Russian state that would later evolve into the Russian Empire under Peter the Great in 1721. The empire was marked by autocratic governance, massive territorial expansion, and a highly diverse ethnic population. Tsarist rule, while fostering modernization, was frequently oppressive, inciting social unrest that culminated in the 1917 Revolution.

The flag of the Soviet Union (USSR) waving in the wind.


Flag of the Soviet Union in Moscow, Russia.
The Soviet Union, which succeeded the Russian Empire, sought to construct a socialist utopia and worked to achieve this by salvaging the Russian Empire’s physical/geographical infrastructure while disposing of its cultural structure. Vladimir Lenin‘s leadership initially instilled revolutionary fervor, but his death gave way to Stalin’s iron-fist rule, characterized by mass purges and collectivization. Despite the devastation of World War II, the USSR emerged as a superpower, competing against the US in the Cold War. Then, Khrushchev’s and Brezhnev’s reigns saw a mix of de-Stalinization (ending large-scale forced labor), military expansion, and stagnation. The late 1980s’ Glasnost and Perestroika under Gorbachev aimed to reform the system, but instead led to its collapse in 1991.


United States Of America

The White House, Washington DC United States with the united states flag in front


The White House, Washington DC, United States.

Although not officially a traditional Empire, The USA’s current military and political influence, and history of territory acquisition and management, bear a striking similarity to empires of the past. The USA originated from 13 adjacent British colonies on the eastern coast of North America but declared independence in 1776 in the name of the Enlightenment ideals of liberty and democracy. Its early expansion westward into indigenous territories, termed Manifest Destiny, and the Industrial Revolution set the stage for its rise. Fueled by immigration, innovation, and resources, it emerged as a global power post-WWII. Its strengths lie in its diversified, technologically-advanced economy, military supremacy, and cultural influence. Furthermore, as it occupies a fairly isolated continent, it is currently near-impossible to successfully invade.

Today, it parallels old empires like Rome and Britain in scope, aesthetics, and influence. Rome’s legal system, infrastructure, and language permeated the known world, much like the USA’s cultural exports, English language, and democratic principles. Britain’s former naval prowess and colonies echo the USA’s global military bases and economic reach. However, the USA differs in its soft power emphasis, using cultural, economic, and political influence more than direct colonial control. Nevertheless, its military involvement in the Middle East and Southeast Asia has not gone without criticism, particularly because those involvements often provided indirect political or monetary benefits for the Red-White-and-Blue Federation. Last, the challenges it faces—inequality, polarization, global competition—mirror those of past empires, hinting at the universality of power dynamics.

Additional Information about the United States is available at:  North America – The United States of America

This concludes the discussion of the eight important empires from World Atlas.  Additional empires that I feel should be included follow.

Even though the Holy Roman Empire was limited to Central Europe, its existence was instrumental in political policies, religion and warfare that extended far beyond its geographical area. Could the Hapsburg Dynasty have developed? Could Nazism or Communism follow?  Could the papal power of the Roman Catholic Church have reached world-wide influence? To not include the Holy Roman Empire in the discussion of empires would be a travesty.


The following information is from Wikipedia research:

“The Holy Roman Empire,[also known as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation after 1512, was a polity in Central and Western Europe, usually headed by the Holy Roman Emperor. It developed in the Early Middle Ages and lasted for almost 1,000 years until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.

On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned Frankish king Charlemagne as Roman emperor, reviving the title in Western Europe more than three centuries after the fall of the ancient Western Roman Empire in 476.[The title lapsed in 924, but was revived in 962 when Otto I was crowned emperor by Pope John XII, fashioning himself as Charlemagne’s and the Carolingian Empire‘s successor, and beginning a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries. From 962 until the twelfth century, the empire was one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe. The functioning of government depended on the harmonious cooperation between emperor and vassals; this harmony was disturbed during the Salian period.[27] The empire reached the apex of territorial expansion and power under the House of Hohenstaufen in the mid-thirteenth century, but overextension of its power led to a partial collapse.

Scholars generally describe an evolution of the institutions and principles constituting the empire, and a gradual development of the imperial role. While the office of emperor had been reestablished, the exact term for his realm as the “Holy Roman Empire” was not used until the 13th century, although the emperor’s theoretical legitimacy from the beginning rested on the concept of translatio imperii, that he held supreme power inherited from the ancient emperors of Rome.  Nevertheless, in the Holy Roman Empire, the imperial office was traditionally elective by the mostly German prince-electors. In theory and diplomacy, the emperors were considered the first among equals of all Europe’s Catholic monarchs.

A process of Imperial Reform in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries transformed the empire, creating a set of institutions which endured until its final demise in the nineteenth century. According to historian Thomas Brady Jr., the empire after the Imperial Reform was a political body of remarkable longevity and stability, and “resembled in some respects the monarchical polities of Europe’s western tier, and in others the loosely integrated, elective polities of East Central Europe.” The new corporate German Nation, instead of simply obeying the emperor, negotiated with him. On 6 August 1806, Emperor Francis II abdicated and formally dissolved the empire following the creation – the month before, by French emperor Napoleon – of the Confederation of the Rhine, a confederation of German Client States.”

Map source is Encyclopedia Britannica

The Holy Roman Empire included today’s Germany, Austria, Czech and Slovakia, Bohemia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  It also included earlier areas such as Parma, Milan, Florence in Italy, part of Eastern France, Slovenia and Western Poland.  

By political location the Holy Roman Empire included in 1897:  Dutch Republic, Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Sardinia, Austrian Empire, Kingdom of Aragon, Kingdom of Hungary, Kingdom of Sicily, Volvodeship of Moldavia, Kingdom of Ireland, Kingdom of Italy, Kingdoms of Castile and Leon, West, Middle and East France, and Serbia.

The following areas of Europe were not included:  Britain, most of France,Most of Poland, Russia, Ottoman Empire, Most of Italy, Mediterranean Islands, Spain, Portugal, and Scandinavia.  

Holy Roman Empire Coat of Arms

There were many regional areas that we sometimes label as empires.  The definition is often blurred.  Dynasties are sometimes called empires.  Other empires not listed above have existed, and information is available on the web.  A list of Empires with links is available at 

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