12 largest and most powerful empires in history

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Any power strives for absolutism. This manifests itself both in attempts to establish strict laws and in the expansion of territories. And therefore the history of mankind has many empires – huge states with an impressive area, often the presence of colonies, as well as a tough sole ruler.

The main feature of each empire is its international significance. The life of neighboring countries, and even the entire planet, depends on the decisions of foreign or domestic policy in such a state. For example, Britain in its best times ruled over a huge number of territories, and therefore every act of the ruler received a serious resonance. By this criterion, by the way, the Soviet Union and the United States of America are often included in the list of empires.

However, these two states will not be in our ranking. We were guided by other important criteria – size, territorial significance, the presence of colonies, the conduct of an aggressive policy, as well as the form of government. Based on these parameters, we have compiled a rating of the 12 largest and most powerful empires in history.

Ranking of the largest and most powerful empires in history

Nomination a place Empire area
Ranking of the largest and most powerful empires in history 12 Holy Roman Empire (962-1806 AD) 1 MILLION SQ. KM
11 Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD) 5 MILLION SQ. KM
10 Kyrgyz Kaganate (840-916 AD) 8.1 MILLION SQ. KM
9 Brazilian Empire (1822-1889 AD) 8.3 MILLION SQ. KM
8 Portuguese colonial empire (AD 1415-1999) 10.4 MILLION SQ. KM
7 Abbasid Caliphate (750-1543 A.D.) 11.1 MILLION SQ. KM
6 French colonial empire (1534-1980 AD) 13 MILLION SQ. KM
5 Qing Empire (1644-1912 A.D.) 14.7 MILLION SQ. KM
4 Spanish Empire (AD 1492-1976) 20 MILLION SQ. KM
3 Russian Empire (1721-1917 A.D.) 22.8 MILLION SQ. KM
2 Mongol Empire (1206-1368 AD) 33.2 MILLION SQ. KM
1 British Empire (1707-1999 AD) 36.6 MILLION SQ. KM

12th place: Holy Roman Empire (962-1806 A.D., 1 million sq. Km)

Rating: 3.9

Holy roman empire

Despite its name, the Holy Roman Empire had a political and social center in Germany. It began with the decision of the German king Otto I to revive the 'glorious traditions of the ancestors'. For this, he entered into an alliance with the Italians, Balkan, Frankish and even West Slavic peoples.

True, the Holy Roman Empire arose at a very unfortunate time for empires. Local rulers-feudal lords had already tasted power, enjoyed it, and therefore were in no hurry to swear allegiance to a single king. As a result, the empire turned out to be fragmented, decentralized, and its socio-political core in the form of Germany ruled not so much as the rule.

The history of the Holy Roman Empire is quite interesting. If in the early stages of its existence the ruler, at the very least, tried to hold on to absolute power, although he achieved it through a negotiated way, also in the middle of the Middle Ages, the Papal Court came out on top. Because of this, the state suddenly became theocratic, and in 1157 it acquired the prefix 'Sacred' in its name.

In the middle of the 15th century, the political situation in the Holy Roman Empire changed again. The German king Charles IV turned out to be quite a strong and domineering ruler. And the state was renamed the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, thereby indicating the presentation of Berlin as a political center.

And Napoleon Bonaparte had a hand in the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. The war with the French turned out to be a losing one for Germany, and the rest of the states simply rushed to leave.

11th place: Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD, 5 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.0

The Roman Empire

There was a period in the history of the ancient Roman state when republican power was ended and autocracy began. In addition, the rulers of those times pursued an active aggressive policy. This period is called the Roman Empire.

The geography of the Roman Empire, which existed for more than five hundred years, was constantly changing. The political center, of course, was the south of Europe and the Mediterranean countries. In addition, the rulers constantly annexed new states. For example, in 117 AD, the Roman Empire also included parts of the Middle East and North African territories.

Even the fact that Emperor Julius Caesar pursued an aggressive policy towards the British Isles speaks of the desire to expand territorial boundaries. At the same time, French and Spanish lands were under his control.

The Roman Empire, despite its relatively small size – history knows many larger superstates – remains an example of a powerful, majestic country. She even influenced future rulers. Five centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the German rulers decided to revive it. This is how the Holy Roman Empire appeared, which is in the previous place in the ranking.

10th place: Kyrgyz Kaganate (840-916 AD, 8.1 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.1

Kyrgyz Kaganate

It may be a little hard to believe, but Kyrgyzstan was once a large-scale, powerful state. Today it is at the bottom of the international indices. And in the period from 840 to 916 AD, the Kyrgyz Kaganate was at the peak of its power and seized the territories of Southern Siberia up to the Tien Shan.

The 'secret' is that during the 9th century the empire pursued an extremely aggressive 'foreign policy'. The steppe tribes of the Kyrgyz were actively conquering new territories, showing excellent “army” training – and the sedentary settlements simply could not resist them. In addition, the power in the Kyrgyz Kaganate was not just authoritarian – the entire Kagan clan was literally deified.

By the middle of the 9th century, the Kyrgyz Kaganate occupied the territory of Mongolia and the Tuvan lands. Later the warlike tribes reached the Amur and Irtysh. Traces of their possessions were found even on the territory of the modern Chelyabinsk region.

Due to the fact that the Kyrgyz in those days led a nomadic lifestyle and little documented what was happening, it is not possible to accurately determine the boundaries of the empire. But, as historians believe, at the peak of its power, the state had an area of ​​about 8.1 million square kilometers.

9th place: Brazilian Empire (1822-1889 A.D., 8.3 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.2

Brazilian empire

In 1822, Brazil, once one of the European colonies, like most other states in Latin America, declared independence. This was partly influenced by Napoleon. He drove the Portuguese royal family to Brazil, they established self-government there, and then returned to their native Lisbon. And that was their mistake. After the departure of the royal family, protests began in Brazil, as a result of which the state declared independence and installed its own monarch on the throne.

Pedro I, the first emperor of Brazil, first consolidated the country and then began to spread power. But his aggressive policy was not active. For example, as a result of the Brazilian-Argentine War (which was started by Argentina), a section of the East Coast province was annexed to the territory of the state.

In general, the Brazilian empire is not very different from the current state of the country. With the fall of this state, a revolution took place, as a result of which only a few small southern provinces separated from the territory.

What is especially interesting, during its existence as an empire, Brazil experienced an unprecedented economic and industrial boom. And even during the crisis of power, it did not slow down. Apparently, just a monarchy is not the form of government that suits developed countries.

8th place: Portuguese colonial empire (1415-1999 A.D., 10.4 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.3

Portuguese colonial empire

During the Middle Ages, the countries of southern Europe pursued a very active colonial policy. They can be understood. Located in the economic, industrial and production world center, these states literally needed to expand their possessions. Because “the higher the level, the greater the need.” And Portugal was no exception.

The rule of continental Portugal over the last 6 centuries of its existence has spread to the whole world. Its colonies were found in South America (Brazil, Uruguay, French Guiana), North America (part of Canada), and especially in Africa. The continents of the southern hemisphere had a certain value to Portugal, as they were sources of resources missing in Europe. Fruits and other agricultural products were imported from Brazil, gold and diamonds from Africa.

But what is interesting is not the flowering of the Portuguese empire (which is associated with the times of the pioneers), but its decline. This powerful international state was destroyed by Napoleon. After his invasion of Lisbon, Portugal lost almost all of its fleet, and the royal family urgently emigrated to Brazilian territory. Then, after the return of the rulers to Portugal, this South American “province” declared independence and became an empire itself. And the rest of the colonies gradually began to 'fall off' themselves.

The last colonies showed independence or were transferred to other states already in 1999. For example, the possession of Macau became part of China. And East Timor returned to Indonesia. Now the overseas possessions of Portugal are only the Azores and the island of Madeira – and then as autonomous regions.

Remarkably, Portugal, despite its policy and form of government, never called itself an 'empire'.

7th place: Abbasid Caliphate (750-1543 A.D., 11.1 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.4

Abbasid Caliphate

The Abbasid Caliphate is a Middle Eastern state whose existence began in 750. And even then it was one of the largest regions on two continents at once. The territory occupied by the Abbasid Caliphate extended to present-day Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and smaller Middle Eastern and North African states.

The history of the Abbasid Caliphate began with the revolution in the Arab Caliphate. And it was caused by a deep economic and political crisis. The Abbasids – a dynasty of rulers – overthrew the existing government and began their own politics.

Their policy was characterized by special attention to internal development – but at the same time, the caliphs did not forget to develop new territories. Even the first of them, Abul-Abbas al-Saffah, launched paper production in the country and fought a little (successfully) with neighboring China.

The history of the Abbasid Caliphate is very complex. In this state, internecine warriors were constantly waged, the rulers replaced each other not for natural reasons, and each more or less high nobleman tried to launch his own dynasty. It was this fragmentation that led to the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate.

6th place: French colonial empire (1534-1980 A.D., 13 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.5

French colonial empire

On the territory of Europe there are four countries that were once huge colonial empires (and some of them remain to this day): Portugal, France, Spain and Great Britain. Each of them is distinguished by excellent socio-economic development and being landlocked.

France was actively expanding in two directions – North America and Africa. So, at the beginning of the existence of the colonial empire, it was this state that founded the provinces on the territory of modern Canada and the United States. Later they gained independence. And although Canada got out of French control in 1763, it still has strong 'colonial sentiments'. For example, the state language is French.

The second period of expansion fell on the 19th-20th centuries. During this period, France was actively developing African territories. Sudan, Congo, Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire), Niger, Chad – all these states became colonies. And they existed in this status for quite a long time. Some of them only declared independence in the 1960s.

The French colonial empire was one of the largest trading states in Europe. It was her commercial companies, especially the West Indies and East Indies, that imported slaves, agricultural products, and various raw materials.

5th place: Qing Empire (1644-1912 A.D., 14.7 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.6

Qing Empire

China, now the largest communist country in the world, was once a monarchist power with a highly aggressive foreign policy. And he reached his heyday in the late Middle Ages, when the Qing dynasty ascended the throne.

China during the Qing Empire was a huge, multicultural country. It began as a Manchu state stretching from Mongolia to Tibet. In the 1820s, when the Qing Empire reached its economic, social and political peak, it also included territories that now belong to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam and many other Asian states.

But the foreign policy of European states led to the fall of the Qing Empire. In the second half of the 19th century, when the largest colonial countries became very interested in Asian territories, China had to actively defend its independence. In the north of the Qing Empire, conflicts arose with Russia, and in the south, the British continually landed. And at the end of the 19th century, a lean year also happened. And as a result, the Chinese could not stand it and raised a popular uprising.

4th place: Spanish Empire (1492-1976 AD, 20 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.7

Spanish empire

Spain was one of four European colonial superpowers attempting to take control of provinces in the Americas. And she did it very successfully. For example, in South America, the Spanish Empire, represented by Argentina, constantly competed with Portuguese Brazil, and conducted a very aggressive policy.

For example, when Brazil declared independence at the beginning of the 19th century, it was Spanish subjects who attacked it in the hope of “grabbing a piece” of the East Coast province.

Moreover, the Spanish Empire itself began with fragmentation. In the late 1480s, the Catholic kings, the rulers of their own domains, the King of Aragon and the Queen of Castile, united. And formally they retained their independence, but they pursued a common policy. Including external. Colonization began in 1492 with the capture of Granada and Iberia.

Then, at the end of 1492, the navigator Christopher Columbus, now a Spanish citizen, discovers the New World. And the superpower begins to expand into America. Colonies appear on the territory of the modern USA, Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Peru and even Brazil.

But America was not the target of the Spanish Empire. Of course, these two continents are very attractive, but Asia was the most interesting for the European powers at that time. And Spain left traces there too, having landed on the territory of modern India. Here she had to compete for power with Great Britain.

At the same time, the “golden age of Spain” is the 16th-17th centuries. In the future, this empire, although it was powerful, but due to constant internal uprisings and reforms, it simply could not retain international power. Nevertheless, she was in a hurry to part with the colonies. She said goodbye to the latter only in the 1960s, granting independence to Equatorial Guinea and a small province in Western Sahara.

But even now, Spain has several territories it owns in Africa. These are several islands and cities not far from Morocco.

3rd place: Russian Empire (1721-1917 A.D., 22.8 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.8

the Russian Empire

The Russian Empire – the third largest state in world history – began with Peter I. More precisely, with his victory in the Northern War at the end of 1721. Then the senators asked Tsar Peter I to accept the title of Emperor of All Russia and Father of the Fatherland.

And the peak of the power of the Russian Empire came at the end of the 18th century. It was then that its territories stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea, from the Baltic to Alaska. In addition, some of the countries of Eastern and Northern Europe were in one way or another controlled by the Russian Empire: the Hetmanate, Finland, Poland. During the expansion, Novorossia, Crimea, Georgia, Transcaucasia, a number of Asian and Far Eastern territories were annexed.

The Russian Empire pursued its expansive policy almost simultaneously with other superpowers. However, it expanded not by sea (if you do not take into account Alaska), but by land. But in Asia, she still clashed with the British Empire and for a long time, but almost bloodlessly, competed with her for part of the territories. This period is called the 'Big Game' or 'Shadow Play' – with the light hand of Rudyard Kipling.

The fall of the Russian Empire began in the 19th century, long before the February Revolution itself. In fact, the start of the collapse was the reforms carried out by Emperor Alexander II, as a result of which serfdom was abolished in the country and military operations in the Caucasus ended. In addition, at this point, the Russian Empire sold Alaska to the United States. All this leads to popular unrest, which in a few decades will turn into a full-fledged revolution.

2nd place: Mongol Empire (1206-1368 A.D., 33.2 million sq. Km)

Rating: 4.9

Mongol Empire

In 1206, Khan Temuchin, who would later become known under the common name Genghis Khan, founded a new country – the Great Mongol State. And immediately began an expansive policy.

As a result, the Great Mongol State – or the Mongol Empire – became the largest country in world history in terms of adjacent territories. Its western border was on the Danube, and its eastern border was on the Sea of ​​Japan. Russian Novgorod became the border point in the north, and Cambodia in the south. The area of ​​the Mongol Empire at its peak was 33.2 million square kilometers – and all this is an adjacent territory. No overseas islands or colonies.

The expansion began with a war with the Jin state. It was viewed not as territorial, but as blood. The Jin Empire executed the previous Mongol khan, Ambagai, in disgrace. The war lasted a long time, turned out to be very cruel and bloody – neither side was distinguished by humanism – and ended with the victory of the Mongol Empire.

After that, convinced of his own power, Genghis Khan set off to conquer Central Asia. I also reached central Eurasia – the Russian and Ukrainian territories. Partly thanks to Genghis Khan, internecine wars temporarily stopped in Kievan Rus – the princes of the territories had to unite in order to get rid of the Tatar-Mongol yoke.

The Mongol Empire began in China – and from there came its fall. In 1368, the Yuan Empire, created by Mongol henchmen, experienced a revolution that entered the annals of history as the Red Armband Uprising. Just 12 years later, the Battle of Kulikovo took place, after which Kievan Rus left the state. And then in the Mongol Empire, by that time a 'well-fed' and 'respectable' country, civil wars began.

1st place: British Empire (1707-1999 AD, 36.6 million sq. Km)

Rating: 5.0

British empire

The British Empire is the largest state that has ever existed on the planet. During its heyday, the area of ​​its territory was 36.6 million square kilometers. With all the colonies and provinces, of course.

And she had a lot of colonies and provinces. The possessions of the British Empire extended to Canada, part of the regions of the United States of America, Colombia, Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand, Nigeria, Egypt, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, India as a whole, Ceylon, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and countless other small and large territories, including many islands, as well as, for example, Gibraltar in Spain. In total, the British Empire occupied 22% of the earth's land area.

The British Empire influenced the formation and life of not only the controlled states, but the whole world. It is because of its expansiveness that the most common language on the planet is English, and we study it in order to communicate normally with the inhabitants of other countries. The British parliamentary system 'inspired' the former colonies to create their own government. Even after independence, the provinces continued to use English law. The British metric system (imperial) is still in use, including in the United States.

That is why the British Empire, which changed the world, is also the most powerful empire in history.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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