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A great power or nation or empire is a nation or state that, through its great economic, political and military strength, is able to exert power and influence over not only its own region of the world, but far beyond to others. The term "Great Power" was coined in the diplomatic discourse of the Congress of Vienna and later used extensively in academic discourse and eventually by the press about the preceding eras, and refers explicitly to international powers after the Congress (late September, 1814, to June 9, 1815).

Contents

Ancient Powers

Map of the ancient Near East during the Amarna Period, showing the great powers of the period: Egypt (green), Hatti (yellow), the Kassite kingdom of Babylon (purple), Assyria (grey), and Mittani (red). Lighter areas show direct control, darker areas represent spheres of influence. The extent of the Achaean/Mycenaean civilization is shown in orange.
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Ancient Near East

The terms ancient Near East or ancient Orient encompass the early civilizations predating classical antiquity in the region roughly corresponding to that described by the modern term Middle East, during the time roughly spanning the Bronze Age from the rise of Sumer and Gerzeh in the 4th millennium BCE to the expansion of the Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE.

The ancient Near East is generally understood as encompassing Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria), Persia (modern Iran), Armenia, the Levant (modern Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestinian Authority), and at times Anatolia (modern Turkey) and Ancient Egypt.

Sumer and Akkad

Sumer (or Šumer) was one of the early civilizations of the Ancient Near East, located in the southern part of Mesopotamia (southeastern Iraq) from the time of the earliest records in the mid 4th millennium BC until the rise of Babylonia in the late 3rd millennium BC. The term "Sumerian" applies to all speakers of the Sumerian language. Sumer together with Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley Civilization is considered the first settled society in the world to have manifested all the features needed to qualify fully as a "civilization".

Elam

Map showing the area of the Elamite Empire (in red) and the neighboring areas. The approximate Bronze Age extension of the Persian Gulf is shown.

Elam is one of the oldest recorded civilizations. Situated just to the east of Mesopotamia, Elam was part of the early urbanization during the Chalcolithic. Its culture played a crucial role in the Persian Empire, especially during the Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded it, when the Elamite language remained in official use. As such, the Elamite period is considered a starting point for the history of Iran.

Elam was centered in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province (which takes its name from Elam), as well as a small part of southern Iraq.

Elamite strength was based on an ability to hold various areas together under a coordinated government that permitted the maximum interchange of the natural resources unique to each region. Traditionally, this was done through a federated governmental structure.

Hurrian kingdoms

Hurrian kingdom in 2300 BC.

The Hurrians refer to a people who inhabited northern Mesopotamia beginning approximately 2500 BC. The Hurrian peoples were not incredibly united, existing as quasi-feudal kingdoms, the most prominent being the Mitanni kingdom, which was at its height towards the close of the 14th century BC. By the 13th century BC, the Hurrian kingdoms had been conquered by foreign powers, chiefly the Assyrians.

Assyria

Neo-Assyrian Empire

In the earliest historical times, the term Assyria referred to a region on the Upper Tigris river, named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur. Later, as a nation and empire that came to control all of the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and much of Anatolia, the term "Assyria proper" referred to roughly the northern half of Mesopotamia (the southern half being Babylonia), with Nineveh as its capital.

The Assyrian homeland was located near a mountainous region, extending along the Tigris as far as the high Gordiaean or Carduchian mountain range of Armenia, sometimes known as the "Mountains of Ashur".

The Assyrian kings controlled a large kingdom at three different times in history. These are called the Old, Middle, and Neo-Assyrian kingdoms, or periods. The most powerful and best-known nation of these periods is the Neo-Assyrian kingdom, 911-612 BC.

Hittite Empire

The Hittite Empire (red) at the height of its power in ca. 1290 BC, bordering on the Egyptian Empire (green)

The Hittites were an ancient people who spoke an Indo-European language, and established a kingdom centered at Hattusa (Hittite URUḪattuša) in north-central Anatolia from the 18th century BC. In the 14th century BC, the Hittite empire was at its height, encompassing central Anatolia, north-western Syria as far as Ugarit, and upper Mesopotamia. After 1180 BC, the empire disintegrated into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some surviving until as late as the 8th century BC.

The Hittites were also famous for their skill in building and using chariots. The Hittites were pioneers of the Iron Age, manufacturing iron artifacts from as early as the 14th century BC, making them possibly even the first to do so. The Hittites passed much knowledge and lore from the Ancient Near East to the newly arrived Greeks in Europe.

Median Empire (625-550 BC)

Median Empire

Median Empire was first empire on territory of Persia. By the 6th century BC, after having together with the Babylonians defeated the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Medes were able to establish their own empire, the largest of its day, lasting for about sixty years, from the sack of Nineveh in 612 BC until 549 BC when Cyrus the Great established the Achaemenid Empire by defeating his overlord and grandfather, Astyages, king of Media.

Achaemenid Empire

Achaemenid Persia at its zenith

The Achaemenid Empire (559 BC–330 BC) was the first of the Persian Empires to rule over significant portions of Greater Iran. At the height of its power, the Empire spanned over three continents and was the most powerful empire of his time. It also eventually incorporated the following territories: in the east modern Afghanistan and beyond into central Asia, and parts of Pakistan; in the north and west all of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the upper Balkans peninsula (Thrace), and most of the Black Sea coastal regions; in the west and southwest the territories of modern Iraq, northern Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt and as far west as portions of Libya. Encompassing approximately 7.5 million square kilometers, the Achaemenid Empire was territorially the largest empire of antiquity. In its time it had political power over neighboring countries, and had high cultural and economic achievements during its lengthy rule over a vast region from its picturesque capital at Persepolis.

Parthian Empire

The Parthian empire at its greatest extent.

The Parthian Empire was the third Iranian Empire. At the height of its power, the empire ruled most of Greater Iran, Mesopotamia and Armenia. But unlike most other Iranian monarchies, the Parthian followed a vassalary system, which they adopted from the Seleucids. The Arsacid Empire was thus not a single coherent state, but instead made up of numerous tributary (but otherwise independent) kingdoms.

Sassanid Empire

The Sassanid empire at its greatest extent.

The Sassanid Empire is the name used for the fourth Iranian dynasty, and the second Persian Empire (226 - 651). The empire's territory encompassed all of today's Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Afghanistan, eastern parts of Turkey, and parts of Syria, Pakistan, Caucasia, Central Asia and Arabia. During Khosrau II's rule in 590–628 Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon were also briefly annexed to the Empire. The Sassanid era, encompassing the length of the Late Antiquity period, is considered to be one of the most important and influential historical periods in Iran. In many ways the Sassanid period witnessed the highest achievement of Persian civilization, and constituted the last great Iranian Empire before the Muslim conquest and adoption of Islam.

Ancient Africa

Very few powers emerged in Africa in the early centuries of recorded history, but those that did were quite influential in and outside of their own realms. Ancient Egypt was a power to be contended with by both the Near East, the Mediterranean and Subsahran Africa. Further to the south, the distant but never reclusive Kingdom of Kush gained a reputation for wealth and military vigor throughout the ancient world.

Ancient Egypt

The maximum territorial extent of Ancient Egypt (15th century BC)

Ancient Egypt was one of the world's first civilizations, with its beginnings in the fertile Nile valley around 3000BC. Ancient Egypt reached the zenith of its power during the New Kingdom (1570–1070 BC) under great pharaohs such as Thutmose III and Ramesses II. It expanded far south into Nubia and held wide territories in the Near East. Ancient Egypt was an example of a nation that used mainly soft power to become a major power. It was one of the first nations to have a system of writing and large scale construction projects. However, as neighboring civilizations developed militaries capable of crossing Egypt's natural barriers, the Egyptian armies were not always able to repel them and so by 1000 BC Egyptian influence as an independent civilization waned.[1]

Kush

The maximum territorial extent of Kush circa 700 BC.

The Kingdom of Kush was the earliest of the Subsaharan states in Africa as well as the first to implement iron weapons. It was heavily influenced by Egyptian colonists, but in 1070 BC it became not only independent of Egypt but a fierce rival. It successfully fought off attempts by Egypt to reconquer it, and it began to extend influence over Upper Egypt. By the end of King Kashta's reign in 752 BC, Thebes was under Kushite control. A slew of able successors took the rest of Egypt and reigned as the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt stretching Kushie conrol from central Sudan to modern day Israel. The Kushites did not maintain this empire for long and were beaten back by the Assyrians in 653 BC. However, Kush remained a powerful entity in the region. It continued to meddle in Egyptian affairs and control trade resources originating in Subsaharan Africa. It waged a hard-fought campaign against the Roman Empire (27 BC - 22 BC) under the leadership of Queen Amanirenas, and achieved a more than amicable peace with the young Augustus Caesar. The two states work as allies with Kush lending cavalry support to Rome in its conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The kingdom of Kush maintained its status as a regional power until its conquest by the Axumite Empire in 350.

Greek powers

Greek colonies between the 8th and the 6th centuries BC.

Athens

Map of Ancient Athens in 431 BC.

The History of Ancient Athens is one of the longest of any city in Europe and in the world. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 3,000 years. It became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BC. Its cultural achievements during the 5th century BC laid the foundations of western civilization. During the Middle Ages, Athens experienced decline and then a recovery under the Byzantine Empire. Athens was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade.

The 5th century BC marked the zenith of Athens as a center of literature, philosophy (see Greek philosophy) and the arts (see Greek theatre). Some of the most important figures of Western cultural and intellectual history lived in Athens during this period: the dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, the philosophers Aristotle, Plato and Socrates,

Sparta

Territory of ancient Sparta

In antiquity Sparta was a Dorian Greek military state, originally centered in Laconia. As a city-state devoted to military training, Sparta possessed the most formidable army in the Greek world, and after achieving notable victories over the Athenian and Persian Empires, regarded itself as the natural protector of Greece.[2] Laconia or Lacedaemon (Λακεδαίμων) was the name of the wider city-state centered at the city of Sparta, though the name "Sparta" is now used for both.

Following the victories in the Messenian Wars (631 BC), Sparta's reputation as a land-fighting force was unequaled.[3] In 480 BC a small Spartan unit under King Leonidas made a legendary last stand against a massive, invading Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. One year later, Sparta assembled at full strength and led a Greek alliance against the Persians at Plataea. There, a decisive Greek victory put an end to the Greco-Persian War along with Persian ambition of expanding into Europe. Even though this war was won by a pan-Greek army, credit was given to Sparta, who besides being the protagonist at Thermopylae and Plataea, had been the nominal leader of the entire Greek expedition.[4]

In later Classical times, Sparta along with Athens, Thebes and Persia had been the main regional powers fighting for supremacy against each other. As a result of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta, a traditionally continental culture, became a naval power. At the peak of her power she subdued many of the key Greek states and even managed to overpower the powerful Athenian navy. By the end of the 5th century she stood out as a state which had defeated at war both the Persian and Athenian Empires, a period which marks the Spartan Hegemony. Sparta was, above all, a militarist state, and emphasis on military fitness began virtually at birth.

Greek Macedonian Empire

Map of Alexander the Great's empire.

Macedon or Macedonia (from Greek Μακεδονία Makedonía; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was the name of an ancient kingdom in the northern-most part of ancient Greece, bordering the kingdom of Epirus on the west and the region of Thrace to the east.[5] For a brief period it became the most powerful state in the world after Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, including the entire Achaemenid Empire, inaugurating the Hellenistic period of Greek history.

Carthage

Carthaginian Empire in the 3rd century BC

Carthage was a major power over the Western Mediterranean between 575 BC and 272 BC.[6] Carthage as a major power was originally a Phoenician settlement, and when Tyre fell to the Assyrians Carthage assumed power over the former settlements of the region. The foundation of Carthaginian power was seafaring trade throughout the Western Mediterranean (following the tracks of the Phoenicians). Although Rome was originally a land based military power, eventually it saw Carthage as an enemy and built a navy to challenge them, which led to the three Punic Wars between these powers. The last of these eliminated Carthage as an independent civilization, and left Rome as the most impressive power in the Western Mediterranean.

Hellenistic Kingdoms

Seleucid Empire

The division of Alexander's empire, showing the Seleucid Empire amongst other Hellenistic kingdoms.

The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic empire, and the eastern remnant of the former Achaemenid Persian Empire following its breakup after Alexander the Great's invasion. The Seleucid Empire was centered in the near East and at the height of its power included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan. It was a major centre of Hellenistic culture which maintained the preeminence of Greek customs and where a Greek-speaking Macedonian élite dominated, mostly in the urban areas.[7]

Ptolemaic Egypt

Ptolemaic Empire in 300 BC.

The Ptolemaic dynasty, sometimes also known as the Lagids, from the name of Ptolemy I's father, Lagus) was a Greek[8][9][10][11] royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC.

Ancient India

India has been unified under many emperors and governments in history. Ancient texts mention India under emperor Bharata and Akhand Bharat, these regions roughly form the entities of modern day greater India. Several Indian empires were able to expand across Southern Asia, and sometimes into parts of the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

Mahajanapadas

The Mahajanapadas were the sixteen most powerful kingdoms and republics of India, located mainly across the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, however there were a number of smaller kingdoms stretching the length and breadth of Ancient India.

Nanda Empire

The Nanda Empire at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda circa 323 BC.

The Nanda Empire originated from Magadha in Ancient India during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. At its greatest extent, the Nandas ruled much of Northern India.[12] The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builders of India.

Maurya Empire

Maurya Empire at its greatest extent under Ashoka the Great.

The Mauryan Empire was the first political entity to unite most of the Indian subcontinent and expand into Central Asia and the Middle East. Its soft power further spread into much of Persia and Greece due to its military victories over these regions. Its cultural influence also extended into west into Egypt and Syria, and east into Thailand, China and Burma. The Empire was founded in 322 BC by Chandragupta Maurya. Chandragupta waged a war against the nearby Greek powers and won, forcing the Greeks to surrender large amounts of land. Under the reign of Ashoka the Great, the empire became pacifist and turned to spreading its soft power in the form of Buddhism.[13]

It has been estimated that the Maurya Dynasty controlled an unprecedented one-third of the world's entire economy, was home to one-third of the world's population at the time (an estimated 50 million out of 150 million human), contained the world's largest city of the time (Pataliputra, estimated to be larger than Rome under the Emperor Trajan) and according to Megasthenes, the empire wielded a military of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 war elephants. The only comparible empire, was the Han Dynasty of ancient China.

Sunga Empire

Sunga Empire

The Shunga Empire is a Magadha dynasty that controlled North-central and Eastern India as well as parts of the northwest (now Pakistan) from around 185 to 73 BCE. It was established after the fall of the Indian Maurya Empire. The capital of the Sungas was Pataliputra. Later kings such as Bhagabhadra also held court at Vidisha, modern Besnagar in Eastern Malwa.[14] The Sunga Empire is noted for its numerous wars with both foreign and indigenous powers. Although very much isn't known, the Mathura school of art and the works of Patanjali colored North India during this empire.

Satavahana Empire

Satavahana Empire

The Sâtavâhana Empire started out as feudatories to the Mauryan Empire but declared independence soon after the death of Ashoka (232 BC). They were the first Indic rulers to issue coins struck with their rulers embossed and are known for their patronage of Buddhism resulting in Buddhist monuments from Ellora to Amaravati. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade and the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Gangetic plains to the southern tip of India.

Kushan Empire

The Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries) of Ancient India originally formed in Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus River or Amu Darya in what is now northern Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; during the first century CE, and later governed from capitals based in the Indian Subcontinent. They expanded their territory to include the Punjab and much of the Ganges basin.[15] The Kushan warriors were assimilated into Indian society as Kshatriyas. The Kushans conquered the central section of the main Silk Routes and, therefore, had control of the overland trade between India, Persia, China, and the Roman Empire.

Gupta Empire

The Gupta Empire under Chandragupta II (ruled 375-415)

In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Empire unified much of India. This period is called the Golden Age of India and was marked by extensive achievements in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy that crystallized the elements of what is generally known as Hindu culture. Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II were the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty.

The high points of this cultural creativity are magnificent architectures, sculptures and paintings. The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma, and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields. Science and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era. Strong trade ties also made the region an important cultural center and set the region up as a base that would influence nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, Malay Archipelago and Indochina.

Ancient China

Qin Dynasty

Qin Empire in 210 BC

The Qin Dynasty was preceded by the feudal Zhou Dynasty and followed by the Han Dynasty in China. The unification of China in 221 BCE under the First Emperor Qin Shi Huang marked the beginning of Imperial China, a period which lasted until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. The Qin Dynasty left a legacy of a centralized and bureaucratic state that would be carried onto successive dynasties.

Han Dynasty

Han Empire in 87 BC

The Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220), lasting 400 years, is commonly considered within China to be one of the greatest periods in the entire history of China. At its height, the Han empire extended over a vast territory of 6 million km² and housed a population of approximately 55 million. During this time period, China became a military, economic, and cultural powerhouse. The empire extended its political and cultural influence over Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Central Asia before it finally collapsed under a combination of domestic and external pressures. The Han Dynasty was arguably one of the strongest's empires in the world during the reign of Emperor Wu, though was established as the largest.

Xiongnu

Xiongnu c.174

Xiongnu (Hsiung nu) was an empire flourished in the central Asia. Their origin is debatable, but they probably spoke either a Proto Turkic, or a Proto Mongolic or a Yeniseian language. They conquered most of modern Mongolia under their leader Toumen (220-209 BC) in the third century BC. During Modu‘s reign (209-174 BC) they defetaed both the Donghu in the east and Yuezhi in the west and they began threatening Han China. The Great Wall of China had been constructed to protect Chinese towns from the Xiongnu attacts. Xiongnu empire disintegrated into two parts during the first century and then they gradually faded away. Although the details lacking, according to most historians, Huns of Europe were descendants of Xiongnu.

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire under Trajan (98 - 117). This would be the Empire's peak territorial power

The Roman Empire is widely known as ancient Europe's largest and most powerful civilization. After the Punic Wars Rome was already one of the biggest empires on the planet but its expansion continued with the invasions of Greece and Asia Minor. By 27 BC Rome had control over half of Europe as well as Northern Africa and large amounts of the Middle East. Rome also had a developed culture, building on the earlier Greek culture.

From the time of Augustus to the Fall of the Western Empire, Rome dominated Western Eurasia, comprising the majority of its population. Roman expansion began long before the state was changed into an Empire and reached its zenith under emperor Trajan with the conquest of Mesopotamia and Armenia in AD 113. At this territorial peak, the Roman Empire controlled approximately 5,900,000 km² (2,300,000 sq.mi.) of land surface. Rome's influence upon the culture, law, technology, arts, language, religion, government, military, and architecture of Western civilization continues to this day.

Hunnic Empire (370-454)

Huns were nomadic people who were known for their hordes of mounted archers. Their language seems to be Turkic; but Mongolic, Yeniseian, Uralic etc., are also postulated. After 370 under a certain Balamber they founded an empire in the East Europe defeating Alans and Goths. They triggered the great migration which eventually caused the collapse of the West Roman Empire. Hunnic khagan Atilla invaded Middle Europe. Although his invasion of Gaul was checked in the battle of Chalons in 451, he appeared in North Italy in the next year. But after Atilla’s death in 453 Hunnic empire collapsed

Medieval Powers

Byzantine Empire (330 - 1453)

The Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent c. 550. Territories in violet reconquered during reign of Justinian the Great

The Byzantine Empire is the modern name for the medieval eastern Roman Empire, which survived another 1000 years after the fall of the western Roman Empire, and even managed to reconquer great parts of it. Ancient Roman cultural heritage survived there and gave birth to the Italian Renaissance after its capital, Constantinople, was captured by the Turks in the fifteenth century. The Byzantines were the only Europeans to produce fine silk which was an important source of their wealth along with trade. Byzantium was a major military power with a huge army and strong fleet, and was a major cultural and religious center. It was the stronghold of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and thus influenced many states. It fought against the Arabs to the south, the Bulgarians to the north and the Crusaders, who managed to seize Constantinople in 1204. The Byzantines restored their state in 1261, but its strength never recovered and it was eventually destroyed and replaced by the nascent Ottoman Empire in 1453.[16]

Turkic Empires of the middle ages

Turkic empire, c. 600.

Turks, who were the residents around Altai mountains in Central Asia, founded a number of empires prior to their conversion to Islam. The first Turkic khanette (or Göktürk, meaning Celestial Turk) was founded in 551 in what is now Kazakhstan and Mongolia by Bumin Khan of Ashina clan. [17] Following a Turkish tradition, Bumin Khan ruled the east part of the empire and assigned his brother Istämi to the west part of the empire as his vassal. Bumin’s successor Muhan Khan defeated China and began controlling the prosperous silk road. Meanwhile, Istemi and his successors conquered Transoxania and Caucasus. It is one of Istemi's grandsons (Tong Yabgu) who founded the Khazarian Khanette in the Caucasus. Another state emerged in the realm of Western Turks was that of Turgesh in west Turkistan. (Both Khazars and Turgesh fought against the invading Arabic armies in the 8th century). Although, the empire was briefly dominated by Tang China during 650's, Kutluk Khan, another member of Ashina clan was able to defeat China. In the early 8th century, during Bilge Khan’s reign, first Turkish monuments in Turkish alphabet were erected.(Orkhon monuments) In 744, Uyghurs, another branch of Turks replaced Turkish Khanette in Central Asia.

Uighur Khanette

Uyghur Khanette was more or less the continuation of Turkic khanette. But unlike former Turkic Khanette, they were converted to Manichaeism and concentrated on trade relations with China. They built their capital Ordu balik in modern Mongolia. Although they were replaced by their Kyrghyz vassals in 840s, they managed to survive in three smaller states. Those who were called Sari Uyghurs (yellow Uyghur) settled in in Gansu (north China). Most of Uyghurs settled in Uighuristan (also called east Turkistan, modern Sin-Kiang, west China). Some Uyghurs together with Karluks ( their former vassals in Transoxania, modern Uzbekistan), founded Karakhanid state which soon embraced Islam.

Medieval China

The start of the Sui Dynasty in China after the end of the turbulent and chaotic Northern and Southern Dynasty marks China as one of the most powerful countries in the world economically and militarily. Below are some of the dynasties that occurred during this era:

Tang Dynasty 630s - 760s

Taizong "reign" 616-649
Colours show the succession of Taizong (Tang) conquest in Asia :
      Shanxi (617 : his father is governor, Taizong support his revolt.)       Sui's Empire Protector (618). Tang dynasty 618. Controlled all of Sui's China by 622-626.       Submit the Oriental Turks territories (630-682)       Tibetan's King recognizes China as their emperor[18] (641-670)       Submit the Occidental Turks territories (642-665) (idem) add the Oasis (640-648 : northern Oasis ; 648 : southern Oasis)       [Not shown in the map : Conquest of Goguryeo by his son (661-668)] The two darkest area are the area under the direct control of the Chinese empire, the 3 lightest area are under nominal control and/or vassals. Borders are not factual, they are indicatives.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization — equal to or surpassing that of the Han Dynasty - as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The influence of Chinese culture reached the highest peak in history and the result can even be found in countries around modern China. During its height, Tang Dynasty China was one of the greatest powers of the time.

The Song Dynasty (yellow) along with the Liao and Western Xia Dynasty

Song Dynasty 990s - 1080s


During the Song Dynasty, the wealth of China attracted numerous attacks from the north and the dynasty gradually retreated to the south. For the first time in history, China needed to pay tribute annually to buy peace. Ironically, the development of Chinese culture reached the highest peak in history due to the artistic character of the emperors. The technological advancement and policies also led to rapid growth of wealth and improvement of living standard.

Arab Empire (632 - 1258), the Caliphate

The expansion of the Arab Empire under the Rashidun and Umayyads.      Expansion under the Prophet Muhammad, 622-632      Expansion during the Patriarchal Caliphate, 632-661      Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750

In 622, a new world religion emerged, Islam, founded by Muhammad in Arabia. After his death, his successors began a century of rapid Arab expansion across most of the known world, establishing the Islamic Empire as one of the largest in the world.

Rashidun Caliphate

Under the Rashidun Caliphate occurred one of the most astonishing conquests in military history. The newly united and religiously inspired Muslim Arabs invaded the powerful Sassanid Persian Empire during the Rashidun conquest of Persia and the Byzantine Empire during the Byzantine-Arab Wars. The war of conquest resulted in a complete conquest of Sassanid Persian Empire and 2/3 of Byzantine Empire. With in a decade Rashidun Caliphs controlled an empire stretching from Indus River to Atlas mountains. The legendary general Khalid ibn Walid was responsible for the most of the conquests on Byzantine front. After a civil war in 657-661, the almost republic, disintegrated and was succeeded by Ummayad monarchy.

Umayyad Caliphate

The Umayyad Caliphate completed the Muslim expansion after conquering Roman North Africa, Visigothic Hispania, and a small part of the border of the Indian subcontinent and northwestern China. As a result, the Arab Empire became the largest empire the world had yet seen. However, Umayyad expeditions into the Frankish Kingdom and Byzantium were unsuccessful, as they were eventually stopped by the Bulgarians and Byzantines in 718 and the Franks in 732. Nonetheless, the Caliphate remained a huge military power with a mighty navy.

Abbasid Caliphate

The Abbasid Caliphate at its greatest extent

The period of the Abbasid Caliphate is considered the Golden Age of Islam. The empire was rich with flourishing trade across Asia, Europe and Africa. Its culture was thriving, influenced by the Persians, and boasted great achievements in its economy, arts, architecture, literature, mathematics, philosophy, science, and technology. Many cities grew with large populations, beautiful palaces and gardens such as Baghdad, which had a population of a million at its peak, as well as Damascus, Cairo and Cordoba. The Caliphate eventually diminished in size, and was further reduced during the Crusades. The Caliphate later disintegrated after invasions from the Mongol Empire from the east, ending with the sack of Baghdad in 1258.

Al-Andalus

The Caliphate of Cordoba c. 1000 at the apogee of Al-Mansur.

Al-Andalus (Arabic: الأندلس‎) was the Arabic name given to those parts of the Iberian Peninsula governed by Muslims, or Moors, at various times in the period between 711 and 1492.[19] As a political domain or domains, it was successively a province of the Umayyad Caliphate initiated successfully by the Caliph Al-Walid I (711-750), the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750-929), the Caliphate of Córdoba (929-1031), and finally the Caliphate of Córdoba's taifa (successor) kingdoms.

Fatimid Caliphate

The Fatimid dynasty at its peak

The Fatimids, Fatimid Caliphate or al-Fātimiyyūn (Arabic الفاطميون) is the Arab Shi'a dynasty that ruled over varying areas of the Maghreb, Egypt, and the Levant from 5 January 909 to 1171, and established the Egyptian city of Cairo as their capital. The term Fatimite is sometimes used to refer to the citizens of this caliphate. The ruling elite of the state belonged to the Ismaili branch of Shi'ism. The leaders of the dynasty were also Shia Ismaili Imams, hence, they had a religious significance to Ismaili Muslims. They are also part of the chain of holders of the office of Caliph, as recognized by most Muslims. Therefore, this constitutes a rare period in history in which some form of the Shia Imamate and the Caliphate were united to any degree, excepting the Caliphate of Ali himself.

Bulgaria (880s - 930s)

The First Bulgarian Empire's greatest territorial extent during the reign of Tsar Simeon[20]

In 681 the Bulgarians established a powerful state which played a major military and cultural role in Medieval Europe [4]. Bulgaria decisively defeated the Arabs in the battle before Constantinople (718) and stopped the Arab invasion in the eastern parts of the continent [5] effectively stopping the migrations of the barbarian tribes (Pechenegs, Magyars, Khazars) further to the west. It destroyed the Avars Khanate in 806. With the adoption of Christianity and the invention of the Cyrillic Alphabet, the Bulgarian Empire became the cultural and spiritual centre of the whole Slavic world. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church became the first National Church in Europe to gain its independence in 927 with its own Patriarch. The Bulgarian Empire reached its biggest size in the early 900s stretching from the Black Sea to Bosnia. [6]

Ghaznavid Empire (960s - 998)

Ghaznavid Empire at its greatest extent

The Ghaznavids were a Persianate[21][22][23] Muslim dynasty of Turkic mamluk origin[24] which existed from 975 to 1187 and ruled much of Persia, Transoxania, and the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent.[25][26][27] The Ghaznavid state was centered in Ghazni, a city in present Afghanistan. Due to the political and cultural influence of their predecessors - that of the Persian Samanid Empire - the originally Turkic Ghaznavids became thoroughly Persianized.[25][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]

Frankish Empire (790s - 840s)

Growth of Frankish Power 481-814 AD

The Franks were united for the first time by Clovis I in the late 5th century. In 732 they managed to defeat the Arabs at Poitiers, thereby halting their invasion of Western Europe. During the reign of Charlemagne, it reached its greatest extent, encompassing most of the territory of the Western Roman Empire, and eventually he was proclaimed Emperor by the Pope in 800. He Christianised the pagan peoples he defeated. This was a period of cultural revival known as the Carolingian Renaissance with important educational and writing reforms. The empire disintegrated into three parts after the death of his son Louis the Pious, from which later emerged France and Germany.

Norman Empire (1017 - 1154)

Norman conquests in red. The Normans also conquered the Maltese Islands, Ireland and parts of Tunisia and Libya.

The Normans were the people who gave their names to Normandy, a region in northern France. They descended from Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of mostly Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock. Their identity emerged initially in the first half of the tenth century, and gradually evolved over succeeding centuries until they disappeared as an ethnic group in the early thirteenth century. The name "Normans" derives from "Northmen" or "Norsemen", after the Vikings from Scandinavia who founded Normandy (Northmannia in its original Latin).

They played a major political, military, and cultural role in medieval Europe and even the Near East. They were famed for their martial spirit and Christian piety. They quickly adopted the Romance language of the land they settled in, their dialect becoming known as Norman, an important literary language. The Duchy of Normandy, which they formed by treaty with the French crown, was one of the great large fiefs of medieval France. The Normans are famed both for their culture, such as their unique Romanesque architecture, and their musical traditions, as well as for the military accomplishments and innovations. Norman adventurers established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy by conquest, and a Norman expedition on behalf of their duke led to the Norman Conquest of England. Norman influence spread from these new centres to the Crusader States in the Near East, to Scotland and Wales in Great Britain, and to Ireland.

Great Seljuk empire (1040-1154)

Seljuk Empire, c. 1100

The name Seljuk refers to a Oghuz Turkic leader whose tribe had migrated from North (probably Khazar Khanette) to Khorosan where they embraced Islam. [34], Seljuk’s grand sons after defeating Ghaznavids in 1040 founded an empire and decleared themselves to be the protectors of the caliph. Their empire with caliphs prestige, Turkish army and Persian breucracy proved to be one of the most powerful of states of 11th century. In 1071 after Alp Arslan of Seljuks defeated Byzantine army at Manzikert, Turks began to settle in Anatolia (Asiatic side of Turkey). But Great Seljuk Empire began to disintegrate in the second half of the 12th century. Soon, they were replaced by a number of states ruled by members of Seljuk house or by atabegs. The most important of these was the Seljuks of Turkey which continued up to 1300s and Khwarezmid Empire in Iran and Turkmenistan which fell prey to Mongols in 1220s.

Kingdom of Sicily (1059 - 1250)

With Robert Guiscard the Norman armies (see Norman conquest of southern Italy) became the main power in the central-west Mediterranean, influencing the policy of the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors. Successively under the rule of his descendants, the Norman Kings Roger II, William I, William II the Kingdom of Sicily dominated with his fleet, army and trade the regions of south Europe and north Africa for more than two centuries. In the same time some of the sons and nephews of Robert, participated at the First Crusade and conquered the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa. The apogee of the Kingdom of Sicily was under the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who inerithated it by his mother, Constance of Sicily. Frederick II used the powerful Kingdom of Sicily as a solid base for his imperial policy, in fact the Norman kings had created one of the first relatively modern bureaucracy and so at that time, Sicily was one of the first well ruled states in Europe, the kingdom also had a very flourishing agriculture and was at the center of the Mediterranean trade[35]. The decline of Sicily started in 1266, when the last son of Frederick, Manfred of Sicily, died in the Battle of Benevento: the Kingdom was initially conquered by Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence and some years later, in the 1282, it was divided in two half during the so called Sicilian Vespers.

Republic of Genoa (1099- 1380)

The Republic of Genoa and its possessions.

The Republic of Genoa was a state originating from the city of Genoa, and existed from 1005 to 1797. During the high Middle Ages the Republic of Genoa was able to become a very wealthy and powerful state through the rich trade between Europe and the Mediterranean sea, becoming one of the early model of capitalistic empires. Genoa started her main expansion expelling the Arab pirates from the Tyrrhenian Sea and west Mediterranean; in 1099 Genoa participated at the Crusades directly or more often supplying the armies, and so the city gained many settlements and commercial bases in the Levant. The apogee of Genoa was during the 13th century when her fleet dominated the western Mediterranean trade and in the same time the city was able to match the power of the rival Republic of Venice in the East. The Battle of Chioggia (1380) started the decline of Genoa.

Angevin Empire (1154 - 1453)

English territory in France during the Hundred Years War.

The Angevin Empire was a collection of states ruled by the Plantagenet dynasty. The Plantagenets ruled over the Kingdom of England, the Duchy of Normandy, the Duchy of Aquitaine, the Duchy of Gascony and various French counties (constituting approximatley half of the then kingdom of France), the Lordship of Ireland, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Their empire in France stretched from the Pyrenees to the English Channel over the 12th century to the 15th century.

The empire started when Plantegenet Henry II was made King of England. Successive Plantegenet kings of England possessed large areas of territory in France throughout much of the middle ages. Although England was the main source of revenue, the strategic situation meant the early Plantagenets usually ruled their empire from France, notably from Poitiers, the capital of Aquitaine, which was the birthplace of the dynasty, and they were buried in the Fontevraud Abbey near Poitiers. Starting with John Lackland the centre of political activity shifted to England due to the loss of most of their continental territories.

The end of the empire began when the Plantagenets were defeated by the king of France, Philip II Augustus, of the House of Capet, which left their empire split in two, losing the provinces Normandy and Anjou. This defeat, which left the ruling Plantagenets with their English territories and Gascony in France, set the scene for the Hundred Years' War, which started when the Plantagenet kings, provoked by French aggression against their trading partners in the Low Countries, proclaimed themselves rightful kings of France. The war lasted 116 years and the rival Valois claimants eventually conquered the majority of France, except for enclaves such as Calais, which ended the empire.

Ayyubid Sultanate (1171 - 1246)

Ayyubid Empire in its greatest extent.

The Ayybid Sultanate in the Middle East managed to rebuild the weakened Arab State, uniting Egypt, Syria, Hijas and parts of Iraq Libya and Sudan under its control, they managed to kick out the Crusader States.

Republic of Venice in Medieval times (1204- 1489)

The Republic of Venice at its greatest extent.

The Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice, and existed for a millennium from the late 7th century (697) until the year 1797 when the Austrians took its possessions. The leader of Venetian Republic was called a Doge. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the Republic's aristocracy. In the Medieval times Venice was able to become the main trade center between Europe and the East, and also one of the most rich cities in the world. During the Fourth Crusade (1204) the Republic of Venice conquered 1/4 of the Byzantine Empire, especially some important isles (as Candia) and commercial bases around the Aegean Sea and Black Sea. In the successive centuries the Republic was able to consolidate her position, against powerful rivals as the Republic of Genoa, meanwhile dominating with her fleet the Adriatic Sea and Est Mediterranean. During the XIV and XIV centuries Venice, participating in the Italians wars, was also able to conquest a more land based dominion (the so called Domini di Terraferma). The conquest of the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1489 signed the end of the expanding period of Venice.

Kingdoms of Aragon (1340s - 1480)

The maximum extent of the Aragonese Empire.

The Crown of Aragon was a Maritime Empire in the later Middle Ages that controlled a large portion of present-day northeastern Spain and southeastern Italy, as well as possessions stretching across the Mediterranean Sea as far as Greece. It originated in 1137, when the Kingdom of Aragon and the possessions of the County of Barcelona merged by dynastic union into what later would be known as the Crown of Aragon. In 1479 a new dynastic union merged the Crown of Aragon with the Crown of Castile, thus making the dawn of the Spanish Empire. The Crown of Aragon lasted through 1716, when it was abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees as a result of the Aragonese defeat in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Kingdom of Castile (1230 - 1480)

Limits of the Kingdom of Castile in 1360 (incorporating León)

The Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It was created as a politically autonomous entity in the 9th century: it was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León, which was later incorporated. Its name is supposed to be related to the host of castles constructed in the region. It was one of the ancestor kingdoms of the Kingdom of Spain.

Papal States (756 - 1870)

The Papal States comprised those territories over which the Pope was the ruler in a civil as well as a spiritual sense before 1870. The plural Papal States is usually preferred; the singular Papal State is rather used for the modern State of Vatican City. By the Lateran Treaty of 1929, State of Vatican City was established. The history of the Roman Catholic Church from apostolic times covers a period of nearly two thousand years, making it the world's oldest and largest institution. The office of the pope is called the Papacy. And the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the pope is called the Holy See or Apostolic See.

Kalmar Union (1397-1523)

Kalmar Union in the beginning of the 16 th century

Kalmar Union was a Personal union between the three kingdoms in the region Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden often seen as a reaction against the powerful Hanseatic League and Teutonic Knights which at that time had a major influence in northern Europe. The union was established in a meeting in Kalmar 1397. Copenhagen became the capital of the Union and the Danish regent became the ruler of the Union which in the end were the reason for severe tensions between Sweden and Denmark-Norway. The Kalmar Union had a larger area than any other country in Europe at the time. The most prominent regent during this time was Margarethe I. The last Danish king of the Union, Christian II, populary called Christian the Tyrant in Sweden, ordered a massacre called Stockholm Bloodbath at approximately 84 Swedish nobelmen and other leading men in 1520 just after his own coronation, he had before that promised the Swedish people that he would forget earlier hostilities. Gustav Vasa, a Swedish nobelman was starting a successful rebellion with the help of the notorious rebellious miners from the region Dalarna against Danmark-Norway and became the founder of the first Swedish royal dynasty in 1523 with inheritance from father to son.

Mali Empire (1300 - 1450)

The Mali Empire, c. 1350

The Mali Empire was a medieval state of West Africa. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the generosity and wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Kankan Musa I. The Mali Empire had profound cultural influences on West Africa allowing the spread of its language, laws and customs along the Niger River. Musa was a devoted Muslim and Islamic scholarship flourished under his rule; the Sankore University in Timbuktu reached its height, bringing together Islamic scholars from all over the Muslim World.

Medieval India

Chalukya Empire (543–753)

The Chalukya Empire was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka. The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the ascendancy of Badami Chalukyas. For the first time, a South Indian kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers. The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called "Chalukyan architecture".

Rashtrakuta Empire (753–982)

Rashtrakuta Empire in 800 CE, 915 CE.

The Rashtrakuta Empire was a royal Indian dynasty ruling large parts of southern, central and northern India between the sixth and the tenth centuries. The Rashtrakutas quickly became the most powerful Deccan empire, making their initial successful forays into the doab region of Ganga River and Jamuna River during the rule of Dhruva Dharavarsha.[36] The rule of his son Govinda III signaled a new era with Rashtrakuta victories against the Pala Dynasty of Bengal and Gurjara Pratihara of north western India resulting in the capture of Kannauj. An Arabic writing Silsilatuttavarikh (851) called the Rashtrakutas one among the four principle empires of the world.[37] Kitab-ul-Masalik-ul-Mumalik (912) called them the "greatest kings of India" and there were many other contemporaneous books written in their praise.[38] The Rashtrakuta empire at its peak spread from Cape Comorin in the south to Kannauj in the north and from Banaras in the east to Broach (Bharuch) in the west.[39]

Pala Empire (750–1174)

Pala Empire under Devapala

The Pala Empire was a Buddhist dynasty that ruled from the north-eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. Gopala was the first ruler from the dynasty. He came to power in 750 in Gaur by a democratic election. The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala extended the empire into the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent. This triggered once again the power struggle for the control of the subcontinent. Devapala, successor of Dharmapala, expanded the empire to cover much of South Asia and beyond. His empire stretched from Assam and Utkala in the east, Kamboja (modern day Afghanistan) in the north-west and Deccan in the south.

Chola Empire (1010-1200)

Chola Empire under Rajendra Chola c. 1030 C.E.

The Chola Empire ruled much of India and Southeast Asia. By the 9th century, under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, the Cholas rose as a notable power in south Asia. The Chola Empire stretched as far as Bengal. At its peak, the empire spanned almost 3,600,000 km² (1,389,968 sq mi). Rajaraja Chola conquered all of peninsular South India and parts of the Sri Lanka. Rajendra Chola's navies went even further, occupying coasts from Burma (now Myanmar) to Vietnam,[40] the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya in South East Asia and Pegu islands. He defeated Mahipala, the king of the Bengal, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital and named it Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

Mongol Empire (1206 - 1370's)

Expansion of the Mongol Empire

The Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous land empire in world history, covering over 33 million km² at its peak, with an estimated population of over 100 million people. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206, and at its height, it encompassed the majority of the territories from southeast Asia to central Europe. The Mongol expansion brought about mass depopulation in China and Persia and facilitated the transmission of the Black Death as a pandemic, but also helped bring political stability to Asia and re-establish the Silk Road.

Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)

The Yuan Dynasty (Chinese: 元朝; pinyin: Yuáncháo; Mongolian: Dai Ön Yeke Mongghul Ulus), lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. The dynasty was established by ethnic Mongols, and it had nominal control over the entire Mongol Empire (stretching from Eastern Europe to the fertile crescent to Russia); however, the Mongol rulers in Asia were only interested in China. Later successors did not even attempt to stake claim over the Khakhan title and saw themselves as Emperor of China, as the Yuan Dynasty grew from being an Imperial Mongol administration under Kublai Khan to becoming a basically Chinese institution under his successors.

In according to the Chinese historians, the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty followed the Song Dynasty and preceded the Ming Dynasty in the historiography of China.

Ming Dynasty 1370s - 1590s

Ming Empire without its "vassal states" under Yongle Emperor

The Ming Dynasty was the last ethnic Han Chinese-led dynasty in China, supplanting the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty before falling to the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty. At its pinnacle, the Ming Empire was one of greatest powers of its time. Ming rule saw the construction of a vast navy, including four-masted ships of 1,500 tons displacement, and a standing army of 1,000,000 troops. Over 100,000 tons of iron per year were produced in North China (roughly 1 kg per inhabitant), and many books were printed using movable type. Internally, the Great Wall was refurbished to its current state, and the Grand Canal of China was renovated, thus boasting domestic trade.

Timurid Empire (1370 – 1526)

Map of the Timurid Empire

The Timurids [41][42][43] were a Persianate[44][27] Central Asian Sunni Muslim dynasty of originally Turko-Mongol[27][5][45][46] descent whose empire included the whole of Central Asia, Iran, modern Afghanistan, as well as large parts of Pakistan, India, Mesopotamia and Caucasus. It was founded by the legendary conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) in the 14th century.

Khmer Empire (802-1431)

French map of Khmer empire.

The Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asia, based in what is now Cambodia. The empire, which grow out of former kingdom of Chenla, at times ruled over and/or vassalized parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Malaysia.[47] Its greatest legacy is Angkor, the site of capitals cities during the empire's zenith. Angkor bears testimony to the Khmer empire's immense power and wealth, as well as the variety of belief systems that it patronised over time. The empire's official religions included Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, until Theravada Buddhism prevailed, even among plain folks, after its introduction from Sri Lanka as of the 13th century.[48] Modern researches by satellites have revealed Angkor to be the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world.[49]

Modern Powers (1400-1815)

France (1450s - 1945)

French European conquests in 1811.

France was a dominant empire possessing many colonies in various locations around the world. The Empire of the French (1804-1814), also known as the Greater French Empire or First French Empire, but more commonly known as the Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I in France. It was the dominant power of much of continental Europe during the early 19th Century.

Napoleon became Emperor of the French (L'Empereur des Francais) on 18 May 1804 and crowned Emperor December 2 1804, ending the period of the French Consulate, and won early military victories in the War of the Third Coalition against Austria, Prussia, Russia, Portugal, and allied nations, notably at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) and the Battle of Friedland (1807). The Treaty of Tilsit in July 1807 ended two years of bloodshed on the European continent.

Subsequent years of military victories known collectively as the Napoleonic Wars extended French influence over much of Western Europe and into Poland. At its height in 1812, the French Empire had 130 départements, ruled over 44 million subjects, maintained extensive military presence in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Duchy of Warsaw, and could count Prussia and Austria as nominal allies. Early French victories exported many ideological features of the French Revolution throughout Europe. Seigneurial dues and seigneurial justice were abolished, aristocratic privileges were eliminated in all places except Poland, and the introduction of the Napoleonic Code throughout the continent increased legal equality, established jury systems, and legalized divorce. Napoleon placed relatives on the thrones of several European countries and granted many noble titles, most of which expired with the fall of the Empire. Historians have estimated the death toll from the Napoleonic Wars to be 6.5 million people, or 15% of the French Empire's subjects.

Map of the first (light blue) and second (dark blue — plain and hachured) French colonial empires.

The French colonial empire is the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 1600s to the late 1960s (some see the French control of places such as New Caledonia as a continuation of that colonial empire). In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 km² (4,767,000 sq. miles) of land at its height in the 1920s and 1930s. Including metropolitan France, the total amount of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 km² (4,980,000 sq. miles) at the time, which is 8.6% of the Earth's total land area.

France began to establish colonies in North America, the Caribbean and India, following Spanish and Portuguese successes during the Age of Discovery, in rivalry with Britain for supremacy. A series of wars with Britain during the 1700s and early 1800s which France lost ended its colonial ambitions on these continents, and with it is what some historians term the "first" French colonial empire. In the 19th century, France established a new empire in Africa and South East Asia. Some of these colonies lasted beyond the invasion and occupation of France by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Venetian Republic in Modern Era (1489 - 1718)

In the high Middle Ages the Republic of Venice was able to become a very wealthy and powerful state through the rich trade between Europe and the Levant. During the Modern Era started the decline of Venice, but it was a very long and "golden" decadence, in fact for almost three centuries the Republic was the only Italian state able to preserve his independence; in particular Venice was able to match the invading powers of the French and Spanish monarchies in Italy and in the same time, the Republic was also able to stop many times the expansion of Ottoman Empire in South-East Europe and Mediterranean. The last main success of Venice was the conquest of Morea between 1669 and 1718. The Republic of Venice ended in 1797 when Napoleon conquered the city and ceded its territories to Austria.

Qing Empire (1660s - 1800s)

Qing China in 1892.

The Qing Dynasty, occasionally known as the Manchu Dynasty, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1644 to 1912. The Qing Dynasty was the last Imperial dynasty of China. During its reign, the Qing Dynasty consolidated its grip on China, integrated with Chinese culture, and saw the height of Imperial Chinese influence. The collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912 brought an end to over 2,000 years of imperial Chinese rule.

Safavid Empire (1550s - 1700s)

The Safavid Empire at its 1512 borders.

The Safavids (1501-1736) are considered as the greatest Iranian Empire since the Islamic conquest of Persia[50]. The Safavid empire originated from Ardabil in Iranian Azerbaijan in northern Iran. It was a Turkic-speaking dynasty whose classical and cultural language was Persian.[51][52] The Safavid dynasty had its origins in a long established Sufi order, called the Safaviyeh. The Safavids established an independent unified Iranian state for the first time after the Islamic conquest of Persia and reasserted Iranian political identity, and established Shia Islam as the official religion in Iran.

British Empire (1600 - 1997)

Anachronous map showing British Empire from 1600-present. By 1920 it had become the largest empire in history, constituting approximately 25% of the world's surface and 25% of the world's people. [53]

The British Empire was the largest empire in world history and between 1815-1914 was unchallenged as the foremost global power. The empire began in the 17th century as a combination of factors led to its creation, such as the growth in British trade with India and the Far East, the success of the British East India Company, numerous British maritime explorations around the world, and the vast Royal Navy.

British colonies were created along the east coast of North America during the 17th century and 18th century but by the late 18th century most of these colonies rebelled against British rule, leading to the American War of Independence and formation of the United States of America. Nevertheless Great Britain retained significant colonies in Canada, the Caribbean and India, and shortly thereafter began the settlement of Australia and New Zealand. Following France's defeat in the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Great Britain took possession of many more overseas territories in Africa and Asia, and established informal empires of free trade in South America, China and Persia.

It was after this period during the 19th century that the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to industrialise and embrace free trade, giving birth to the Industrial Revolution. This rapid industrial growth transformed Great Britain into the world's largest industrial and financial power, while the world's largest navy gave it undisputed control of the seas and international trade routes, an unassailable advantage which helped the British Empire, after a mid-century liberal reaction against empire-building, to grow faster than ever before. The Victorian empire colonised large parts of Africa, including such territories as South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria, and Ghana, most of Oceania, colonies in the Far East, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, and took control over all the Indian Subcontinent, making it the largest empire in the world.

After victory in the First World War the empire gained control of territories such as Tanzania, and Namibia, from the German Empire, and Iraq, and Palestine from the Ottoman Empire. By this point in 1920 the British empire had grown to become the largest empire in history, controlling approximately 25% of the world's land surface and 25% of the world's population.[53] It covered about 36.6 million km² (14.2 million square miles)[54]. Because of its magnitude, it was often referred to as the empire on which the sun never sets.

The political and social changes and economic disruption in the United Kingdom and throughout the world caused by First World War followed only two decades later by the Second World War caused the empire to gradually break up as colonies were given independence. Much of the reason the empire ceased was because many colonies by the mid 20th century were no longer as undeveloped as at the arrival of British control nor as dependent and social changes throughout the world during the first half of the 20th century gave rise to national identity. The British Government, reeling from the economic cost of two successive world wars and changing social attitudes towards empire, felt it could no longer afford to maintain it if the country were to recover economically, pay for the newly created welfare state, and fight the newly emerged Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Nonetheless, most former colonies of the British Empire remained members of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of the Comonwealth. Some members have retained the British monarch as their head of state as Commonwealth realms and remain in intimate if informal association. A few scattered islands remain under direct British control as British Overseas Territories.

Low Countries/The Netherlands

A map showing the territory that the Netherlands held at various points in history. Dark green indicates colonies that either were, or originated from, land controlled by the Dutch West India Company, light green the Dutch East India Company.

The Dutch Empire[7] is the name given to the various territories controlled by the Netherlands from the 17th to the 20th century. Their skills in shipping and trading aided the building of an overseas colonial Empire from the 16th to 20th centuries. The Dutch initially built up colonial possessions on the basis of indirect state capitalist corporate colonialism, with the dominant Dutch East India Company. A cultural flowering roughly spanning the 17th century is known as the Dutch Golden Age, in which Dutch trade, science, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.

Mughal Empire (1550s - 1700s)

Approximate extent of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century.

The Mughal Empire was an Islamic imperial power that ruled the Indian subcontinent which began in 1526, invaded and ruled most of Hindustan (South Asia) by the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and ended in the mid-19th century.[55] In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan, swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which lasted for over 200 years.[56] The Mughal Dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a slow decline after 1707 and was finally defeated during the 1857 War of Independence also called the Indian Rebellion of 1857. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were ruled over by the Mughal emperors; most of them showed religious tolerance, liberally patronising Hindu culture. The famous emperor Akbar, who was the grandson of Babar, tried to establish a good relationship with the Hindus. However, later emperors such as Aurangazeb tried to establish complete Muslim dominance and as a result several historical temples were destroyed during this period and taxes imposed on non-Muslims. During the decline of the Mughal Empire, which at its peak occupied an area similar to the ancient Maurya Empire, several smaller empires rose to fill the power vacuum or themselves were contributing factors to the decline. The Mughals were perhaps the richest single dynasty to have ever existed.

Maratha Empire (1674 – 1820)

The Maratha Empire in 1760. The last Hindu empire of India.

The Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy was a Hindu state located in present-day India. It existed from 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire's territories covered much of South Asia. It expanded greatly after the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, only to lose Punjab region in Third battle of Panipat in 1761. Later, the empire was divided into confederacy of Maratha states which eventually lost to the British in the Anglo-Maratha wars by 1818.

Ottoman Empire (1400s - 1800s)

Ottoman Empire, 1299–1683

Ottoman Empire (1299 to 1922) was a Turkish state, which at the height of its power (16th - 17th centuries) spanned three continents (see: extent of Ottoman territories) controlling much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and most of North Africa. The empire has been called by historians a "Universal Empire" due to both Roman and Islamic traditions.[57]

The empire was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. The Ottoman Empire was the only Islamic power to seriously challenge the rising power of Western Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. With Istanbul (or Constantinople) as its capital, the Empire was in some respects an Islamic successor of earlier Mediterranean empires - the Roman and Byzantine empires.

Poland-Lithuania (1569 - 1795)

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent (ca. 1635).

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, also known as the First Polish Commonwealth, (Polish: Pierwsza Rzeczpospolita Polska or Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów (Commonwealth of Both Nations); Lithuanian: Abiejų tautų respublika) or as the "First Commonwealth," was one of the largest, most powerful and most populous[58] countries in 16th, 17th, and 18th century Europe. Its political structure — that of a semi-federal, semi-confederal aristocratic republic — was formed in 1569 by the Union of Lublin, which united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and lasted in this form until the adoption of the Constitution of May 3, 1791.

Some historians consider Poland (but not Lithuania) to have been a great European power in the interbellum period as it covered a significant piece of land and possessed one of the strongest armies in the world at the time.

Portugal (1415 - 1999)

An anachronous map of the Portuguese Empire (1415-1999).

The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history, and also the earliest and longest lived of the Western European colonial empires, existing from 1415 to 1999. Portugal's small size and population restricted the empire to a collection of small but well defended outposts along the shoreline. The height of the empire power was reached in the 16th century but the indifference of the Habsburg kings and the competition with new colonial empires like the British, French and Dutch started its long and gradual decline. After the 18th century Portugal concentrated in the colonization of Brazil and African possessions.

Prussia

The Kingdom of Prussia dominated northern Germany politically, economically, and in terms of population, and was the core of the unified North German Confederation formed in 1867, which became part of the German Empire or Deutsches Reich in 1871.

Prussia attained its greatest importance in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 18th century, it became a European great power under the reign of Frederick II of Prussia (1740–86). During the 19th century, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck pursued a policy of uniting the German principalities into a "Lesser Germany" which would exclude the Austrian Empire.

Russian Empire

Russian Empire (dark green) and areas within its sphere of influence (light green) as of 1866, at the time of the maximum territorial expansion of the empire.[59]

The Russian Empire as a state, existed from 1721 until it was declared a republic the 1st of September 1917. The Russian Empire formed from what was Tsardom of Russia under Peter the Great. Peter I, (1672–1725), played a major role in bringing his country into the European state system, and laid the foundations of a modern state in Russia. From its modest beginnings in the 14th century, Russia had become the largest state in the world by Peter's time. Three times the size of continental Europe, it spanned the Eurasian landmass from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

Spanish Empire

An anachronous map showing areas pertaining to the Spanish Empire at various times over a period exceeding 400 years.

In the 16th century Spain and Portugal were in the vanguard of European global exploration and colonial expansion and the opening of trade routes across the oceans, with trade flourishing across the Atlantic Ocean between Spain and the Americas and across the Pacific Ocean between Asia-Pacific and Mexico via the Philippines. Conquistadors toppled the Aztec, Inca, and Maya civilizations, and laid claim to vast stretches of land in North and South America. For a time, the Spanish Empire dominated the oceans with its navy and ruled the European battlefield with its infantry, the famous tercios. Spain enjoyed a cultural golden age in the 16th and 17th centuries as Europe's foremost power.

From 1580 to 1640 the Portuguese Empire and the Spanish Empire were conjoined in a personal union of its Habsburg monarchs, during the period of the Iberian Union, though the empires continued to be administered separately.

From the middle of the 16th century silver and gold from the American mines increasingly financed the military capability of Habsburg Spain in its long series of European and North African wars. Until the loss of its American colonies in the 19th century, Spain maintained one of the largest empires in the world, even though it suffered fluctuating military and economic fortunes from the 1640s. Confronted by the new experiences, difficulties and suffering created by empire-building, Spanish thinkers formulated some of the first modern thoughts on natural law, sovereignty, international law, war, and economics — they even questioned the legitimacy of imperialism — in related schools of thought referred to collectively as the School of Salamanca.

Constant contention with rival powers caused territorial, commercial, and religious conflict that contributed to the slow decline of Spanish power from the mid-17th century. In the Mediterranean, Spain warred constantly with the Ottoman Empire; on the European continent, France became comparably strong. Overseas, Spain was initially rivaled by Portugal, and later by the English and Dutch. In addition, English-, French-, and Dutch-sponsored privateering and piracy, overextension of Spanish military commitments in its territories, increasing government corruption, and economic stagnation caused by military expenditures ultimately contributed to the empire's weakening.

Map of the territories come under the Spanish monarch during the Iberian Union.

Spain's European empire was finally undone by the Peace of Utrecht (1713), which stripped Spain of its remaining territories in Italy and the Low Countries. Spain's fortunes improved thereafter, but it remained a second rate power in Continental European politics. However, Spain maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire until the 19th century, when the shock of the Peninsular War sparked declarations of independence in Quito (1809), Venezuela and Paraguay (1811) and successive revolutions that split away its territories on the mainland (the Spanish Main) of the Americas. Spain retained significant fragments of its empire in the Caribbean (Cuba and Puerto Rico); Asia (Philippines), and Oceania (Guam, Micronesia, Palau, and Northern Marianas) until the Spanish–American War of 1898. Spanish participation in the Scramble for Africa was minimal: Spanish Morocco was held until 1956 and Spanish Guinea and the Spanish Sahara were held until 1968 and 1975 respectively. The Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla and the other Plazas de Soberanía on the northern African coast have remained part of Spain.

Sweden

Formation of the Swedish Empire, 1560-1660

The seventeenth century saw the rise of Sweden as one of the Great Powers in Europe.[60] Sweden also had colonial possessions as a minor colonial Empire that existed from 1638-1663 and later 1784-1878.

The mid 1600s and the early 1700s were Sweden's most successful years as a Great Power. Sweden reached its largest territorial extent during the rule of Charles X (1622–1660) after the treaty of Roskilde in 1658. However, after more than a half century of almost constant warfare the Swedish economy had deteriorated. It would become the lifetime task of Charles' son, Charles XI (1655-1697), to rebuild the economy and refit the army. His legacy to his son, the coming ruler of Sweden Charles XII, was one of the finest arsenals in the world, a large standing army and a great fleet. Sweden's largest threat at this time, Russia, had a larger army but was far behind in both equipment and training. The Swedish army crushed the Russians at the Battle of Narva in 1700, one of the first battles of the Great Northern War. This led to an overambitious campaign against Russia in 1707, however, ending in a decisive Russian victory at the Battle of Poltava (1709). The campaign had a successful opening for Sweden, which came to occupy half of Poland and making Charles able to claim the Polish throne. But after a long march exposed by cossack raids, the Russian Tsar Peter the Great's scorched-earth techniques and the cold Russian climate, the Swedes stood weakened with a shattered confidence, and enormously outnumbered against the Russian army at Poltava. The defeat meant the beginning of the end for Sweden as an empire.

United States (1898-present)

While not formally an empire, the United States of America has exercised and continues to exercise worldwide economic, cultural, and military influence.

Founded in 1776 by thirteen coastal colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain, the United States began its western expansion following the end of the American Revolutionary War and the recognition of U.S. sovereignty in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

The treaty bequeathed to the nascent republic all land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, and Americans began migrating there in large numbers at the end of the 18th Century, resulting in the displacement of Native American cultures, often through native peoples' forcible deportation and violent wars of eviction.

These efforts at expansion were greatly strengthened by the 1787 Constitutional Convention, which resulted in the ratification of the United States Constitution and transformed the U.S. from a loose confederation of semi-autonomous states into a federal entity with a strong national core.

In 1803, the United States acquired Louisiana from France, doubling the country's size and extending its borders to the Rocky Mountains.

American power and population grew rapidly, so that by 1823 President James Monroe felt confident enough to issue his Monroe Doctrine, which proclaimed the Americas as the express sphere of the United States and threatened military action against any European power that attempted to make advances in the area.

This was the beginning of the U.S.'s emergence as a regional power in North America.

That process was confirmed in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, in which the United States, following Mexican military incursions into the recently-annexed Texas, invaded and totally defeated Mexico. The war, which included the rapid deployment of U.S. forces across the Mexican border, the taking of Veracruz by sea, and the occupation of Mexico City by American troops, stunned much of the world.

In the humiliating peace that followed, the U.S. annexed the northern half of Mexico, comprising much of what is now the Southwestern United States.

During the course of the war, the United States also negotiated by treaty the acquisition of the Oregon Territory's southern half from Great Britain.

Just twelve years after the Mexican-American War ended, the United States faced the greatest crisis in its history and the greatest threat to its Constitutional system ever manifested.

Tensions over slavery had been present in the country since the Founding, with conflict during the Constitutional Conventional concerning whether the practice should be outlawed in the new Union. It soon became clear that leaders from the South, whose agricultural economy was almost completely dependent on bondage, would refuse to back the Constitution if it prohibited the institution of slavery, and thus any mention of the custom was omitted from the document that emerged at the end of the Convention.

The decision of whether to allow slavery was in effect left to the states, with a distinct regional pattern emerging by the early 19th Century in which Northern states (i.e., those north of the Mason-Dixon Line) banned slavery and Southern states (those below the Mason-Dixon Line) protected it.

Major economic differences and cultural differences drove a wedge between the two parts of the country, leading to a fierce sectional rivalry in which the North more often than not emerged on top.

The onset of the Industrial Revolution in the United States led to a population explosion in the North, which in turn fueled further economic growth and only heightened the overwhelming advantages enjoyed over the South.

A massive population disparity led to overwhelming Northern dominance of the House of Representatives, the proportional lower chamber of the United States Congress.

In 1860, the last year before civil war broke out, the most populous Northern state, New York, had 33 representatives in the House; while the most populous Southern state, Virginia, had only 13.

In the United States Senate, however, where each state had two members regardless of size, the South managed to hold parity with the North by pairing one Southern state for every Northern state brought into the Union. Following the admission of Iowa (1846), Wisconsin (1848), California (1850), Minnesota (1858), and Oregon (1859), all free states, though, the balance of power even in the Senate shifted to the North, and the South became more defensive and less willing to compromise.

After the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, a candidate perceived in the South as being anti-slavery, to the presidency, eleven Southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America.

The independence movement severely threatened growing American power, a reality that the British Empire recognized when it contemplated intervening on the Confederates' side.

In the end, though, the conflict proved immensely beneficial to the United States, as it led to the dramatic and accelerated industrialization of the North, which after the war's end emerged as one of the largest economic powerhouses in the world.

The absolute defeat of the South upheld the supremacy of the Constitution and actually contributed to national stability in the long term, while the tremendous military and industrial mobilization in the North transformed the U.S. into one of the world's foremost powers.

American Precolumbian Empires

Maya Civilization

The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Preclassic period (c. 2000 BC to 250 AD), many Maya cities reached their highest state development during the Classic period (c. 250 AD to 900 AD), and continued throughout the Postclassic period until the arrival of the Spanish. At its peak, it was one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the world.[61]

Inca Empire

Inca expansion (1438–1527)

The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America.[62] The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca Empire arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in early 13th century. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, including large parts of modern Ecuador, Peru, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and north-central Chile, and southern Colombia.

Aztec Empire

The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the Late post-Classic period in Mesoamerican chronology. From the 13th century Valley of Mexico was the core of Aztec civilization: here the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, the city of Tenochtitlan, was built upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco. The Triple Alliance formed its tributary empire expanding its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica. In 1521, in what is probably the most widely known episode in the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Hernán Cortés, along with a large number of Nahuatl speaking indigenous allies, conquered Tenochtitlan and defeated the Aztec Triple Alliance under the leadership of Hueyi Tlatoani Moctezuma II; In the series of events often referred to as "The Fall of the Aztec Empire". Subsequently the Spanish founded the new settlement of Mexico City on the site of the ruined Aztec capital.

See also

References

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  31. ^ Anatoly M Khazanov, André Wink, "Nomads in the Sedentary World", Routledge, 2padhte padhte to pagla jayega aadmi, "A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia", Blackwell Publishing, 1998. pg 370: "Though Turkic in origin and, apparently in speech, Alp Tegin, Sebuk Tegin and Mahmud were all thoroughly Persianized"
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  58. ^ Heritage: Interactive Atlas: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, last accessed on 19 March 2006 At its apogee, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth comprised some 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 km2) and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million. For population comparisons, see also those maps: [2], [3].
  59. ^ After 1866, Alaska was sold and South Sakhalin lost to Japan, but Batum, Kars, Pamir, and the Transcaspian region (Turkmenistan) were acquired. The map incorrectly shows Tuva in dark green, although in reality protectorate over Tuva was only established in 1914.
  60. ^ http://www.allempires.com/article/index.php?q=The_Beginning_Of_The_Swedish_Empire
  61. ^ "Painted Metaphors: Pottery and Politics of the Ancient Maya". University of Pennsylvania Almanac. University of Pennsylvania. 4/7/2009. http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v55/n28/maya.html. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  62. ^ Terence D'Altroy, The Incas, pp. 2–3.

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