Everybody wants to rule the world
April 11, 2005 11:43 PM   Subscribe

The 25 largest empires. The influential British were first, of course. But the original Axis of Evil never beat the Mongols, and Canada holds more territory than Rome at its peak. Watch some amazing animations of the rise and fall of the Mughals in India. (or other examples). Only one official empire remains today, but speculation on new candidates abound.
posted by blahblahblah (21 comments total)
I thought Genghis' grandchildren moved into India.

I'd like to see the percentage of known land area occupied by each empire. The Romans would do pretty well then. Or scaled for technology (like economists scale to 1990 dollars or similar). Then the Mongols on horseback would surely win?

Not that it's a competition of course, no sireee. Go U.K.
posted by Maxwell at 12:31 AM on April 12, 2005

Chingis for President!
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:21 AM on April 12, 2005

Q: Why does the sun never set on the British Empire?
A: Because God doesn't trust them in the dark.

Har har har. sorry, I couldn't help myself.
posted by sbutler at 1:38 AM on April 12, 2005

I found it weird that in the Japanese link, the official photo of the Emperor and Empress had them wearing Western European high-garb. What's up with that?

ps: Great post.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:50 AM on April 12, 2005

We're number one! Yay! It's remarkable just how far down the list the Roman Empire is. For all the great extent of their Empire, it was mainly just the fertile territories that are next to the Mediterranean Sea.
posted by salmacis at 2:18 AM on April 12, 2005

The Romans are held high in Western history because a) they they were the only empire listed to hold large swaths of Europe west of Anatolia (aside from the short-lived Axis and possibly France if they meant under Napoleon's short reigns), and b) the establishment and proliferation of Christianity.

Contrast Europe against, say, Mesopotamia, which had been through the hands of most of the empires on that list.
posted by DaShiv at 3:04 AM on April 12, 2005

I wonder why Ancient Mali, circa 1300, was left off the list. Depending on how you define the extent of the empire, it ecompassed between 2 and 4 million square miles - certainly large enough for inclusion on that list somewhere.
posted by Chanther at 3:31 AM on April 12, 2005

salmacis: IIRC, and please someone correct me if I'm wrong, the Roman Empire at its peak had as its subjects half the population of planet Earth, as far anyone can reasonably guess.

Chanther: I wondered about Mali too.
posted by Kattullus at 5:23 AM on April 12, 2005

It would be interesting to see estimates of population numbers or other indicators of economic significance for each empire. To have dominion over vast expanses of desert, marshes, tundra or rain forest (and any sort of land considered as barren when the empire was established) isn't really meaningful, though it makes for nice patriotic catchphrases.
posted by elgilito at 5:33 AM on April 12, 2005

The animation in your link looks like a bloodstain spreading and/or drying up. Think that's intentional?

Nice post!
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 6:05 AM on April 12, 2005

Maps comparing the Roman/Byzantine empire to other Eurasian empires at three different times.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:00 AM on April 12, 2005

Ah, the sun never quite sets on the old Empire.

Tea and cricket, eh chaps? Pint of the foaming ale, village green, cucumber sandwiches, jolly old blighty, matron's slipper and a cold shower before breakfast, that's the ticket. Good lord, dashed weather's abominably sticky, what? Give the old punkah wallah a bit of a kick Carruthers. Did I tell you about the time I fought off 5,000 screaming Zulu chappies with only a couple of rifles and a brace of drunken Jocks? I say sir, I appear to have lost my leg. Mustn't grumble, what? Chin chin!

posted by Decani at 7:22 AM on April 12, 2005

I heard about this cool map that probably has a bunch of information about all these empires but I haven't found anywhere to buy it.
posted by tke248 at 9:39 AM on April 12, 2005

The TimeMap website is noteworthy of its own FPP, I think, considering you can download the software under GNU/GPL and make your own flash and AVI animations with it.
posted by linux at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2005

What a good post!
posted by absalom at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2005

This is a bit ridiculous. To list the Mongols alongside the USSR and compare the sizes of their empires based on territory is akin to comparing the size of minted coins throughout history. Who cares--and it's beside the point.

To say that Canada is bigger than the Roman Empire is laughable. An empire is more than a slab of unpopulated tundra with a flag jammed into the permafrost. This survey takes no account of population as a percentage of world population, economic and military strength and so on. To say nothing of the fact that the further back in history you go, the more tenuous even the most basic territorial lines become. Just because we now say that the Ottomans controlled such and such, doesn't mean they actually controlled that place. It simply means they may have claimed to.
posted by schambers at 1:52 PM on April 12, 2005

My favorite part of this site so far has been in the list of Irish kings. They start out respectful with Baedan of the Yellow Hair, Colman the Celebrated, Aedh the Handsome, start to lose it a little with Niall I of the Showers, Niall III Black Knee, and finally let it all go with Aedh IX the Lazy-Arsed Youth. How could you not like a king named Lazy-Arsed Youth?
posted by joaquim at 3:30 PM on April 12, 2005

Who cares--and it's beside the point.

Well, obviously the guy who created the site cares, and apparently a lot of the rest of us do too. If you don't, good for you, you clearly have a higher sensibility. I'm curious, though, exactly what "point" it's "beside." I personally think it's interesting to see the sizes of various empires. But then I think coins are interesting too.

Just because we now say that the Ottomans controlled such and such, doesn't mean they actually controlled that place. It simply means they may have claimed to.

Just out of curiosity, could you let me know which places the Ottomans claimed to control but actually didn't? Because I suspect you may be talking out of your ass.
posted by languagehat at 3:40 PM on April 12, 2005

I agree with schambers. What would make this much more interesting is an analysis of other factors determining an empire's overall "size" and importance, such as population, economic strength, power relative to other nations/empires, cultural influence, and impact on history, but of course they would be even harder to quantify.
posted by blue shadows at 1:40 AM on April 13, 2005

blue shadows, I look forward to someone quantifying cultural impact and impact on history in a way that doesn't look like another lame top ten list from Age of Empires (the Mongolz are leet!). When someone does, you can be sure I will post it.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2005

Sorry, I didn't mean it as a criticism of your post. It is a very interesting topic, more so because of all the talk of American empire these days.
posted by blue shadows at 9:25 AM on April 13, 2005

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