Top 10 Most Important Empires In World History


Being an imperial power doesn’t impress people the way it used to.  A century ago, countries strived to be a dominating world power and were willing to fight wars to either acquire an Empire, or hold on to the one they already had.  Nowadays, of course, in this “kinder, gentler” world, imperialism is considered politically incorrect.  As a result—and because maintaining an empire is prohibitively expensive—they are basically no more, though a few remnants hang on (such as the Falkland Islands for the British and the Comoro Islands for France).  At one time, however, they were all the rage, with some of them extending around the globe and a few of them lasting for hundreds and, in a few cases, even thousands of years.

So which were the largest or most important ones, and which lasted the longest?  I realize that how one defines “important” can be subjective; I define it to mean its impact upon history or, more precisely, the ways in which it shaped the geopolitical map we see today.  With that in mind, then, below is my top ten list of the ten largest, most powerful and important Empires in history.

10.  The Mayan Empire (ca. 2000 BCE-1540 CE)


How does the Mayan Empire make it onto the list alongside such well-known empires like the Roman, British, and Mongol Empires?  Easy.  It holds the record for the longest running empire—almost 3500 years!  That’s more than twice as long as the Roman Empire, and 1500 years longer than the various Chinese dynasties combined!  While very little is known about its first 3,000 years, its demise and brief interaction with the Spanish in the 16th century is the stuff of legends (see the Mel Gibson-directed film Apocalypto to get a good idea of what the Mayan Empire looked like at its height).  Today, all we have left of the Mayans is their impressive pyramid-like structures scattered across the Yucatan peninsula, and a doomsday calendar that seems to have everybody up in arms nowadays.

9.  The French Empire (1534-1962)


Eventually becoming the second-largest empire in history (second only to the British Empire), at its zenith the French Colonial Empire extended over 4.9 million square miles, and covered almost 1/10 of the Earth’s total land area.  Its influence made French one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world for a time, and brought French architecture, culture, and cuisine to the four corners of the globe. Alas, like all the great European empires, its collapse came about incrementally over a long period of time, as it lost territories to other emerging nations—especially to the British—and it suffered through two World Wars, which drained it financially. Though it continued to hold onto to some of its territories well into the 20th century (and still does to this day), by 1962, with the granting of independence to rebellious Algeria, the French Empire was basically no more, bringing a close to a long and cultured era in human history.

8.  The Spanish Empire (1492-1976)


One of the first global empires, at its height it possessed territories and colonies in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania, making it one of the most important political and economic powers in the world for several hundred years.  Its establishment in the 15th century also ushered in the modern global era, and five centuries of European dominance of global affairs before competition from other European powers—particularly the French and British—weakened Spain to the point that, by the end of the 19th century, it was but a shadow of its former greatness. The end didn’t finally come until the 1970s, however, when it granted its last colonies in Africa and South America their independence, spelling finito to 600 years of Spanish colonialism.  Its chief contribution came in its discovery of the New World in 1492 and the spread of Christianity to the western world, both of which was to dramatically change the geo-political dynamics of the planet and lay the foundation for the modern western world.

7.  The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)


This was the last ruling dynasty of China before the country became a Republic, bringing an end to many hundreds of years of imperial rule. Preceded by the better-known Ming Dynasty, the Qing dynasty was founded by the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro in what is today Manchuria in 1644.  It grew quickly until, by the 18th century, it covered all of what is today’s modern China, Mongolia, and even parts of Siberia—an area of over 5.7 million square miles (and making it the 5th largest empire in history, according to land mass.)  The Qing Dynasty was finally overthrown following the Xinhai Revolution, however, when the Empress Dowager Longyu abdicated on behalf of the last emperor, Puyi, in February of 1912, bringing an end to a long line of Emperors stretching back over 1500 years.  Not a bad run by any standards!

6.  The Umayyad Caliphate (661-750)


I bet you’ve never heard of this one, but it proved to be one of the fastest growing—though shortest-lived—Empires in history.  Organized in the aftermath of the death of the venerated prophet Muhammad, it was the mechanism by which Islam was spread across the Middle East and into North Africa, sweeping aside everything in its path.  Actually, the Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four Islamic caliphates established after the death of Muhammad but, at its height, it would cover more than five million square miles, making it the largest empire the world had yet seen (modern Arab nationalism regards the period of the Umayyads as part of the Arab Golden Age of Islam).  Though it was eventually superseded by various other caliphates and empires (including the Ottoman Empire), it laid the foundation for what was to be a nearly unbroken string of Muslim control in the region, that continues to this day.

5.  The Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BCE)


More commonly referred to as the Medo-Persian Empire, this Asian Empire was the largest one in ancient history which, at its height, extended from the Indus valley of modern day Pakistan to Libya, and into the Balkans.  Forged by Cyrus the Great, it is best remembered as the chief foe of the Greek city states during the Greco-Persian Wars, for emancipating its slaves and releasing the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, and for instituting the usage of official languages throughout its territories.  It wasn’t very long, however, before it fell victim to Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, and was quickly defeated and absorbed into Alexander’s own vast, but short-lived, Empire.

Upon his death, it splintered into two smaller Empires, the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, as well as into other minor territories, many of which gained independence after its collapse.  Perhaps its greatest contribution was in its creation of a centralized administration that kept it running efficiently and profitably for centuries, and served as a model for future and modern governments.  So these are the folks that invented bureaucracy, is it?

4.  The Ottoman Empire (1299-1922)


The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and longest lasting empires in history.  During its height (under Suleiman the Magnificent) in the 16th century, it stretched from the southern borders of the Holy Roman Empire to the Persian Gulf, and from the Caspian Sea to modern day Algeria, giving it de facto control of much of southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.  At the beginning of the 17th century the empire contained no fewer than 32 provinces, along with numerous vassal states, making it one of the truly great empires whose influence continues to be felt to this day.

As is the case with most large empires, however, ethnic and religious tensions, and increasing competition from other emerging powers, whittled away at the Ottoman’s power until it finally began dissolving in the 19th century.  In many ways, the circumstances surrounding the Ottoman Empire’s fall closely paralleled those surrounding the decline of the Roman Empire, particularly in regards to the ongoing tensions between the Empire’s different ethnic groups, and the various governments’ inability to deal with these tensions.  Attempts to improve cultural rights and civil liberties came too late to reverse its demise, though it did lay the foundation for secularist governments in the Muslim world, as exemplified by modern-day Turkey.

3.  The Mongol Empire (1206-1368)


Though short-lived as Empires go—it lasted a mere 162 years—while it was around, few were as frightening, or grew as quickly, as this one.  Under the leadership of Ghengis Khan (1163-1227), it started small—basically just present-day Mongolia—but within seventy years it had grown into the largest contiguous land Empire in human history, eventually stretching from Eastern Europe to the Sea of Japan.  At its height, it covered an area of 9 million square miles, and held sway over a population of 100 million.

It would probably have been even larger—and possibly have lasted longer—had it managed to invade Japan, but its fleet lost bouts with first-class tsunamis in 1274 and 1281, ending Kublai Khan’s plans to expand eastward.  By the middle of fourteenth century, the empire began slowly falling apart through infighting and political instability until it finally folded, with its far-flung territories breaking away or being absorbed by other emerging powers.  While it existed, however, few Empires had as big an impact on trade, religion, and culture in Asia as did the Mongols.

2.  The British Empire (1603 to 1997)


Though it lasted a mere 400 years, no empire was larger than the one the comparatively-small island nation of Great Britain was able to maintain until fairly recently.  How big was it?  At its zenith in 1922, the British Empire held sway over nearly half a billion people (a fifth of the world’s population at the time) and covered more than 13 million square miles (almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area)!  Not bad for a country slightly smaller than the state of Oregon.  In fact, at one point the sun never set on the British Empire, not because God couldn’t trust an Englishman in the dark, but because of its global reach (with colonies and possessions on every continent—including, believe it or not, Antarctica).

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and that end came in the twentieth century, when two World Wars drained England financially, making it cheaper to dissolve her empire than keep it.  Of course, once they lost India in 1947 it was all over; except for a couple of small possessions (the aforementioned Falkland Islands and a few islands scattered around the globe), the sun really has set on the British Empire.  Its most important possession remains Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean, and one that is supposed to remain in British hands as long as its population of Barbary Macaques—a type of obnoxious monkey—remains on the peninsula.

1.  The Roman Empire (27 BCE to 1453)


This is a no-brainer, as absolutely no Empire is as well known and has been as thoroughly studied as is the one that owned the Mediterranean and much of Europe for almost 1,500 years.  Founded in 27 BCE, when the Roman senate granted Octavian the title of Augustus—thereby ending the old Roman Republic (which itself had already stood a good 500 years)—it ended nearly 1500 years later when the Ottoman Turks, under Mehmed II, sacked the last vestiges of the old Empire’s capitol, Constantinople, in 1453. Of course, by that time it was a mere shadow of its former glory (and was no longer even ruled from Rome) but, at its zenith in 117 CE, it was the most powerful nation on the planet, bar none.  While it wasn’t the largest, or even the longest-lasting Empire in history, its influence on western culture—especially in regards to architecture, language, literature, art, and science—cannot be underestimated.  In fact, it’s difficult to imagine how the world would look today if there hadn’t been a Roman Empire those many centuries ago.

Others empires worthy of note: The Assyrian Empire (mentioned prominently in the Bible), the Byzantine Empire (the long-lived successor to the Roman Empire), The Holy Roman Empire (which owned Europe for nearly 900 years), the Egyptian Empire (regional but nearly as famous as the Roman Empire), and the Greek—or, more precisely—the Macedonian Empire (one of the shortest-lived but most powerful empires in the world, under Alexander the Great).

Jeff Danelek is a Denver, Colorado author who writes on many subjects having to do with history, politics, the paranormal, spirituality and religion. To see more of his stuff, visit his website at

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  1. Spain only APPEARED to have the biggest empire, the only problem though was that at least 1/2 of it was usurped by the takeover of Portugal by Phillip of Spain from 1580 until 1640. As a result of that tragic event, Portugal lost most of its strongholds / territories in Asia.

    I love how Hispanics complain that Portugal took more land in South America than they should have. To that I say that those were very different times, and back then it was a survival of the fittest game…some got more, and some got less. Let me remind that the Philippines were actually within the Portuguese part of the world as designated by the parameters of the Tordesillas treaty outlined by the pope. So Spain got away with that. All is fair in love and war.

    Without question, the Portuguese empire was the first global empire and effectively the pioneers of globalization. They introduced the world to itself! The global commercial economy was controlled by Portugal. Portugal spearheaded the Renaissance and mapped the world. There is hardly any place in the world that was not touched, influenced by Portugal in some way, shape or form, either linguistically, culturally, religiously, architecturally, technologically/scientifically, intellectually, etc, etc. Portugal was great little country that was greater than the sum of its parts.

    Today, the Portuguese language is spoken officially by some 260 million people, on 5 continents. It is the 3rd most spoken European language, and the most spoken language of Souther Hemisphere. Powerful countries such as the USA, China, Japan, India, etc., are major trading partners of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries known as CPLP. Brazil alone has the 5th strongest economy in the world! Another remarkable thing is that all of the above mentioned countries, and many, many more, are fervently learning the Portuguese language, as they realize the importance of knowing a language that is day by day more important in global trade. Furthermore, Portuguese has been added to the school curriculums of countries like: Japan, China, India, South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, USA, Canada, Ukraine, Turkey, Australia, Korea, France, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and many more. They all want membership in CPLP that’s how en vogue the Portuguese language has become! Additionally, the Portuguese language is a compulsory subject in a few countries Uruguay being one of them.

  2. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth’s total land area.

  3. James P. Steward on

    I would place Spain first since they were the first Europe power house who opened the doors to America for the rest of Europe. At one point the owned most of Latin America and a huge chunk of what is now the USA. They established the fist city in what is now the USA which is still present with the same name: St Augustine Florida founded in 1565. And still has its original Spanish coat of arms. They also ruled parts of Europe” Holland, Italy etc Queen Isabel is probably the most powerful ruler in history and many historical events were done under her period. Heck she kicked the Arabs out of Europe.

  4. Oh andHan empire WAs more advanceed and civilized than Roman empire. Tang empire was far more advanced and civilized than ANY Islamic thing in the medieval times.

  5. ancient indian empires like the Mauryan and Guptas were most IMPORTANT in terms of knowledge and education…such large population even then ,they never had the time to move out of the subcontinent.

  6. Yes, what about the Austro-Hungarian Empire – if we talk about “Important Empires”. The author of the article made some mistake here, if we talk about important – not biggest, longest etc. This looks like a highschool article with a touch of “hollywood history”.

  7. Zenorsa Haile on

    ‘1. The Roman Empire (27 BCE to 1453)’

    The Roman Empire did not last from 27 BCE to 1453.
    The Empire was split into two parts, the dates usually given for this are either:
    285 AD, under Diocletian and the Tetrarchy or
    395 AD, when Theodosius split the Empire between his two sons, giving one the Western part, the the other the Eastern one.
    The Western Roman Empire was mostly made up of modern day England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
    The Western Roman fell around 476 AD after several pressures, including the Huns at the Sack of Rome and various ‘tribes’ at it’s doorstep.

    The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire fared a bit better. It was even able to reunify Rome and Constantinople, though not on the scale of Rome. However, as time marched on, their power declined and they fell when the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453.

    To conclude,
    The Roman Empire (27 BCE-285 AD)
    The Western Roman Empire (285 AD-476 AD)
    The Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire (285 AD-1453 AD)
    The complete unified Roman Empire ceased to exist in 285 AD, instead there were two parts. You [the author] have made the slight error that the Roman Empire was the Byzantine Emperor, those are my two cents on this.

    Best Regards

  8. Where is the Portuguese Empire? They had one of the biggest empires ever and were the first global empire in the world. The person that did this list clearly doesn’t know s*** about History!

  9. Vasco Fachada on

    Shameful research and a lot of wrong data presented here, but I’ll just go to one point.

    The Portuguese Empire was the first and longer lasting global empire.
    Heard of the term “Globalization”? Yes, started by Portugal.

    First europeans to make contact with China, Japan (founded Nagasaki, introduced firearms, gave many words, gastronomy and culture, ever tasted “Tempura”?), and so on.

    Brought “sugar” to the world. Brought “cinamon” to the world. Brought “palm trees” and “horses” and much more to the Americas.

    Sea routes, establishments and inventions in India (Do you like “curry”? Do you think it existed before portuguese arrived in India? Think better) .

    New world maps for all continents. It’s the only official first language spoken in all continents. Heard about the expression “worlds to the world”? Just imagine NASA but 500 years ago.

    New technologies (nautical astrolabes, sextants, sailing against the wind) and schooling of other european later powers.

    From what school (and country) do you think Fernão Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan), João Rodrigues Cabrilho (Juan Rodriguez Cabrilo), Vasco da Gama and others come from?

    Introduced the famous spanish fans in (guess where), Spain! Introduced tea drinking culture in England! Introduced vocabulary into other languages (“marmelade”, “curry”, “cashew”,”banana”,”baroque”,”piranha”, “mango” and many more…)

    By the way, heard of Charles Lindbergh (of course you did, he comes from the anglo-saxon culture)? Do you know what he did? Do you know why is he famous? Is it because he was maybe the first one to cross the Atlantic in a straight flight? No, he’s primarily famous because of the culture he comes from, a very pop culture. The first pilots to cross continental europe into the Americas in a straight flight were Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho, yes, portuguese!

    And I read somewhere, “what did the portuguese empire do for the world? What importance?”…
    Just look around you and educate yourself

    • James P. Steward on

      Spain landed in America close to 10 years before Portugal and they brought the horses first. Who told you otherwise?
      Also what difference it makes to be so great then and now so poor? What have Portugal done for the last 100-200 years?

      • Best Soccer player in the world, ‘Ronaldo’?

        Nobel Prize in Literature 1988 ‘Jose Saramago’ ?

        Female Singer ‘Nelly Furtado’ ?

        António Guterres – Secretary-General of the United Nations ?

        Aeorosmith Lead Guitarist ‘Joe Perry’ ?

        Lead Singer Journey ‘Steven Perry’ ?

        Greatest Portuguese Fado Singer ‘Amalia Rodrigues’ ?

        World Renowned Nuclear Physicist, ‘Ernest Moniz’ ?

        The list can go on, and on, and on, and on……..

        • I think he was referring to what Portugal as a country has done not individuals of Portugese descent

  10. The Islamic Empires should be higher up on the list seeing as how we were the most advanced civilization and without us Europe would still probablly be in the Dark Ages. AND WHATS WITH THIS ROME. SO WHAT IT LASTED A LONG TIME AND WAS BIG THE ISLAMIC EMPIRES CONQUERED TWICE OF THE AMOUNT OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN JUST 100 YEARS. AND NOT TO MENTION THEY LASTED FROM THE 600S TO THE 1920S.

  11. I realized the Portuguese empire, one of the biggest and more important empires, even greater than the Roman empire, was not mentioned at all here.

    The Portuguese empire was created before the Spanish empire. Critóvão Colombo (read Portuguese Wikipedia version and the few facts presented there) was Portuguese. Australia and New Zealand was discovered by the Portuguese Empire long before the British, but because it was in violation of the Tratado of Tordeslhas, it was not mentioned in Europe. In the future, more and more countries said to have been discovered by this or that will be disregarded, and the Portuguese Empire will be mentioned yet again and again.

    Most of the “world” was first discovered by the Portuguese Empire, not the French or Spanish ridiculous empires in comparison to the Portuguese Empire.

    The Spanish made a pact with the “holly greatness from Rome” to expand Christianity, that is why Tratado of Tordesilhas was made, but Portuguese continued its discoveries, as a sort of Private Enterprise, and discovered pretty much all. However, what it did discovered that was not in violation of Tratado of Tordesilhas was well enough to be considered to be the foundations for global trading and a lot more, which is why today we own global trading to Portugal, not Spanish or Rome or whatever. Side Note. Portugal is also one of the oldest countries in Europe, much older than Spain and France. This is a fact because you have to consider the same continental space. Some say France is older than Portugal, but it is not, as France did not have the same continental space. I am not explaining myself better because I have no more free time.

    The Portuguese Empire went from Europe all the way to India and beyond, and also to the Americas as well, but you can see the distance, right??? Only than, after the many risks and discoveries the Portuguese Empire did in such travels, that the other European countries ventured themselves; France did not do this, they have cut through Africa to get to Asia, but with no success. The Spanish Empire just went to where the Portuguese was, the Americas. However, because Portugal was a very little country, it did not wanted to go to way with all other European Countries, even with British as a traditional ally, but that changed afterwards. Nowadays, considering I never forget history, it is very difficult for me to see British, Spanish and French with good eyes, especially the Spanish, but the others will not fall much behind, no no.

    This is but nothing compared to what I know about History, especially about the Portuguese Empire. At that time, any country could have done what Portugal did, but no one did, only Portugal first, then much afterwards the Spanish…

    The roman empire ruled Europe, and not all. Portuguese Empire had colonies in all continents, it was the first to establish foundations for global trade, etc. Portuguese Empire, especially because it was and still is a very small country, did much more than all other European countries in every way, much more than all other empires in History. The Roman empire, as big as it was, did not do what Portuguese Empire did for such a small Empire!

    Read a bit more, please.

    • James P. Steward on

      I think you got it all wrong. Spain was the first super power who landed all over the Americas exploring and colonizing everything before anybody else. Portugal came next, then France and Holland and 100 years later the UK.

      • Wrong! The Portuguese had already been to India long before the Spain started exploring the Americas. And Ceuta North Africa was Portuguese before the Spanish. The Portuguese explorer Miguel Corte Real discovered America (around Massachusetts area) before Columbus did, who was a Portuguese Jew by the way. Magellan was Portuguese, not Spanish (but he sailed for Spain). And, the Philippines was inside the sphere of the Portuguese line of demarcation, but the Spanish got away with that. And Cabrilho was Portuguese and he explored the coast of California before the Spanish.

        These Spanish historical inacurracies are being corrected by Academic experts/historical researchers. Soon, the history books are going to be edited to report the truths which have long been covered up. The Portuguese empire was the first and last, and they were the founders of globalization. The Spanish have for hundreds of years been taking credit for things that the Portuguese did. Portuguese is spoken officially today by 260 million people on 5 continents. Spanish is nowhere spoken OFFICIALLY in Asia, but Portuguese is. Spanish is a strong REGIONAL language, but Portuguese is a strong GLOBAL language along with English and French. Even in South America Portuguese is spoken by more people (51%) than Spanish (49%). And Brazil’s land area is tied with Spanish South America’s land area at 47% – the Guyana’s comprise 6%. Spain is still crying that Portugal got Brazil – the more beautiful richer half of South America. Hispanics love to say that Spanish is spoken officially in 22 countries. Brazil could have easily split into that many separate countries, but it stayed intact as 1 huge giant, and as the strongest economy in all of Latin America, and it has the 6th strongest economy in the world! Portuguese speaking Angola and Mozambique are the Brazil’s of Africa, especially Angola. Both are very rich in precious natural resources like gold, silver, diamonds, coffee, oil natural gas etc., etc. China is doing tons of trade with the Portuguese speaking world called CPLP (Community of Portuguese speaking Countries) similar to the British Commonwealth of Nations. And so many countries in the world want associate membership in it such as Australia, India, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, Peru, China, Turkey, Ukraine, and more and more. Why? Because the world recognizes the great importance of the Portuguese language and doing trade with the Portuguese speaking world.

        And I never thought that I could say this, but even Spain is eagerly teaching Portuguese in its school system! Imagine that!

        Portuguese has for too, too long been overlooked as a country of any significance, but now millions are lining up to learn Portuguese and belong to CPLP. Thus is the dawn of the 3rd Portuguese empire of our time. Portuguese is a language of the future, and dare I say has more global importance than even Spanish, because it is spoken on 5 continents OFFICIALLY, and Spanish not. Most Spanish speaking countries today still have 3rd world economies, especially the Central American ones. Hispanics also love to brag about how Spanish is now the 2nd language of the United States. Nonsense. Yes, there millions of Spanish speakers in the USA, but the younger generation already prefers speaking English. In another generation, if not sooner, Spanish will go the way German 100 hundred years ago in the US. Eventually, foreign language speakers assimilate into the American English mainstream. Most of the individual states have already made English as the sole official language, and the remainder will soon do the same. The Hispanics have the audacity to now shade in large parts of the United States as Spanish speaking. The nerve!!

        Anyway, I had to set the record straight, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. But the information is out there, you just have to search for it. Best to all and God Bless!

  12. The Iberian union wrongfully gave Spain the illusion of ‘global empire’ – it was the addition of the Portuguese territories that gave that wrong illusion. By the same token Portugal could have included the Spanish territories as the crowns were united. But Portugal already had a very far flung commercial empire spanning the world. Spain’s possessions, save for the Phillipines, was only limited to S.America and C.America. Look on a map and you will see that the Portuguese language is spoken officially all across the globe, but Spanish is only limited as spoken officially to 1/2 of S. America and Central America. Who is the big brother, and who is the little brother? Portugal is the big brother without a doubt!

    • James P. Steward on

      When I travel across the world I am able to find Spanish speaker a lot easier than Portuguese. Also in North America Spain colonized/Explored: California, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, North & South Carolina, Montana and also Mexico etc. I can’t find Portugal anywhere in North America.

  13. “…but, at its zenith in 117 CE, it was the most powerful nation on the planet, bar none.”

    That’s not really true. The tribes of barbarians (mostly germanic tribes) crushed 3 roman legions in the battle of Teutoburg in the year 9 AD. After that romans never even tried to gain a strong presence over the Rhein river and also Donau, which had a barbaric Vandals tribe on the north side.

    • First european world empire builders came from Portugal and Spain. They travelled all around the world and conquered/discovered vast areas of this world. They ruled the oceans in the 15th and 16th centuries. Diaz, Columbus, Da Gama, Pizarro, Cortez etc.
      Then came the dutch. They ruled the oceans in the 17th century. A dutch company VOC was the biggest trading company of all times (back then).
      After dutch came french and english. They rivalled some 200 years to beat each other over the world seas. Finally Britain became the most succesful european empire by beating french in the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
      After that France and Britain didn’t go to war to each other again, but they rivalled the domination of the world other ways by conquering colonies around the world.
      1922 British Empire ruled over 33 million of land in the world.
      1938 The second French colonial Empire ruled over 12 million of land in the world.

      Today they are quite equal in many ways and both are shadows of their past might.

      • I’d like to add that before 1803 most of North America (USA/Canada) was French possession.
        Napoleon needed money – because the war chest was pretty much empty, due to revolution of the people of France – to beat and conquer England.
        Napoleon agreed with Jefferson to sell Louisiana to the United States.
        That – Louisiana purchase – doubled the size of the United States to over 5 million
        And the run to the west really began.

  14. The great empires were first Spanish and later the British Empire for his extension. Spain and England had colonies in 5 continents. With the discovery of America Spain became the first major empire in history with “Isabel I of Castile and Fernando of Aragon seconds”, although its peak was with Philip II. The British Empire was the most expelndor with Queen Victoria

  15. Let´s see… Where is portuguese empire? Probably the author thinks it was mixed with the spanish empire, due to a 60 years during (1580-1640) iberian union in a 6 centurys colonial history , and, in consequence, “One of the first global empires, at its height it possessed territories and colonies in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania”…

    It´s so wrong… But, well… he´s american, what could we expect?

      • Maybe, but I don´t make considerations with such errors, derived from ignorance.

        And, do not misunderstand me, i´m not offended with portugal´s absence in the list. But, please, don´t mix up Portugal and Spain and its empires and history. That´s unforgivable…

  16. You forgot the Mughals.. Or did you include them with the Mongols? At the height of their power, they would make England look like an average province..

    • An average province than governed a quarter of the world? That would be one hell of an ‘average province’. Compared to the Mughals that had parts of the Indian subcontinent and that was it! The Mughals, as far as I recall, were actually overthrown by the British, and the last remnants of the empire taken over by the British Raj. At the height of their power they would still have come up short against the British red-coat, no doubt about that.

  17. I agree with 7/10, nice list. The Mayans were not an empire, and I would knock of those, the French, and the Qing, for the Tang (much more important than Qing), Macedonian (massive Hellenic culture influence), and Russian (highly influential in ending the power of the central asian khanates). Very good list though, and particularly astute to include the Umayyads rather than the Abbasids

  18. Nathaniel’s empire. Wengerocracy is a form of government where the people watch the ruler entirely amongst their reign. Wengerocracy prevents the leader of a country from covering up unlawful behavior going on.

    Over 100 million lives died in the 20th century alone because of leaders of numerous countries covering up unlawful behavior.

    PS Why isn’t Anne Frank writing and publishing books on the importance of instating wengerocracy in Germany?

    Answer the question.

    I am teaching the importance to instate wengerocracy. Google it.

    I have been teaching the importance to instate wengerocracy for over five years.

    Why aren’t you writing and publishing articles on the importance of instating wengerocracy in Syria?

  19. correction, Indonesia in its history is in no way relate with Portuguese Empire. Timor Leste in other hand…

    • Search the net: Dutch East India Company in Indonesia.
      Yes. Portuguese had quite a little colony rule in south-east asia. However they had Goa in India, Macau in China and East-Timor in Indonesia.
      Dutch had almost the whole Indonesia and Philippines were under spanish rule until 1898, when the war between Spain and USA erupted. Eventually Spain lost and Cuba was decleared independent, Puerto Rico and Guam became US territories and Philippines went on independence war against USA.

  20. If only the British Empire was around today.. Then you wouldn`t have countries we once owned, as Third World dumps..

  21. I like how the author put in a couple original thoughts between all those cliches-just kidding there were no original thoughts.

  22. So I see you completely glossed over India? How about the Mauryan Empire or the Cholan empire? You know the ones that had a lasting effect on all asian cultures?

    • lol, are you seriously suggesting the Cholas as a TOP TEN empire? The CHOLAS over the Han, Byzantine, Holy Roman, ancient Egypian, Tang, Russian, or Timurid?

      The Mauryan were very impressive but not top ten. Maybe top 20- they did set the stage for millenia of powerful unified Indian states


      • Why not?the cholas ruled the indonesia,bangladesh,philippines and many south asean countries.they had very big navy.also had trade with romans and french

  23. Couldn’t read this article past the first entry. The Mayan Civilization was not an empire, but competing city-states that traded and occasionally went to war with each other. The definition of an empire is a collection of nations and territories united under the rule of a single person, oligarchy, or sovereign state. Apocalypto was filled with historical inaccuracies as many historical fiction movies are. The city shown in Apocalypto was Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. No Mayan city was close to that size when Europeans first arrived in the Americas.

  24. You should list Tang Dynasty Empire in the list instead of Qing Dyansty, Tang is the strongest in the world at its time, Qing is the last empire in Chiese history and invaded by many foreign coutries including Englang, Amercia, Japan ….ect. How can you list it as the one of the 10 most important empire in the world. Ridiculous.

    • Agreed sir, imo the Tang was the strongest in the world and most important in Chinese history. It set the stage for East Asia as a whole- Chinese culture pervaded into Japan, into southeast Asia, and China became a superpower even greater than during the Han

  25. As per standard operating procedure, someone will be ‘hurt’ and upset that “their” nation was left off the list.

  26. “Jeff Danelek is a Denver, Colorado author who writes on many subjects having to do with history, politics, the paranormal, spirituality and religion.”

    This ridiculous list is totally explained to me now. This dude never heard of the greatest empire in the world for being too busy reading about ghosts LOOOL seriously now, this author/list is just laughble for its pure ignorance, and copy-paste kid book stuff. Don’t go on the internet trying to thing a job when you know NOTHING about the subject, some people will actually belive the things you say on this site.

    • How would you correct it then, mr. expert? It’s a very decent list, I would only remove the Mayan French and Qing.

  27. No Portuguese empire, the longest and biggest empire ever? Its bad enough you put the Spanish in the list (since every history man will agree that the spanish empire actually underachieved when compared to the portuguese), but you don’t even reference the portuguese, and thats just shamefull. Dude, what a s— c— BAD list I must tell you, and I never commented on this site. To not even mention Portugal is JUST bananas.
    PS Carlos Costa speaks the truth

    • Portugal had neither the largest or longest lasting empire in history but it would probably come in at an 11 tied with the Dutch empire.

    • Portugal (and the Dutch, to the commenter below) are not top 30/40 empires. There have been a LOT of empires in history. When you consider the sheer number of little-known mighty and extensive states such as the Khitan – the Jurchen – the Chagatai – the Srivijaya – the White Huns – what is so particularly important about the Portuguese? All they really had of importance was Brazil. Goa, wow. And the Dutch were fantastic in the world of finance, and even industrialization, but that has little to do with their mediocre empire. They were briefly the strongest in the last 1600’s but for scarcely a decade

      • Well, thanks for giving me a good laugh!! Carlos Costa and PenguinMastan are right, Portugal was the first and longest empire.Portugal role and influence in europe and world was/is outstanding and we are talking about a small country. Unfortunately, because the Iberian Union, Portugal lost half of his empire for the Netherlands and England, and lost his best galleons and ships in the Spanish Armada, The Great Lisbon Earthquake( who had a geat impact in european thinking) and the French Invasions weakened and impoverished the country and the empire declined. In Pos War II Portugal was under a dictatorship ( the longest in europe) and in war with his african colonies.
        Nowadays the country don´t have fault of the shitty, capitalists and corrupt governments.

        An empire involves the extension of a state’s sovereignty over external territories. The greatness of an empire is based on the extent, population, economy, duration and many other factors.

        “what is so particularly important about the Portuguese?”

        Lets see:

        “Portugal is a country that has sometimes been dismissed as small and relatively unimportant. Portugal in European and World History, however, demonstrates that the contrary is true, showing that Portugal has been crucial to the development of Europe and the modern world. Spanning many centuries, from early Moorish times to the Atlantic Empire; the English Alliance of 1650 – 1900; African colonies; the Salazar regime; and the country’s liberal revolution in 1974, Malyn Newitt offers a fresh appraisal of Portuguese history and its role in the world.

        The author examines episodes where Portugal was a key player or innovator, linking its history to a broader context. Chapters focus on such topics as Moorish Portugal, describing the cultural impact of contact with the Moors; the discovery of Brazil and opening up of trade with western Africa; and the explorations of Vasco de Gama and the evolution of Portugal as the first commercial empire of modern times. Newitt also examines Portugal’s role in the Counter-Reformation, in Spain’s wars in Europe, and in the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. The Portuguese diaspora is considered: emigration had been taking place systematically since the fifteenth century but it reached massive proportions between 1820 and 1980. The author also shows how emigration is linked to underdevelopment, imperialism and globalization, and how the Portuguese experience compares with that of other major diasporas. Finally, Portugal’s position in Africa is assessed, the Salazar/Caetano regime of 1928 – 74 examined, and the fall of fascism and decolonization of Portugal explored in the light of global empires and movements.

        A new account of a country with a rich history, which has played a key role in the development and expansion of the modern world, Portugal in European and World History shows how Portugal has moved from being the last colonial power to one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the modern European ideal.”

        Malyn Newitt is Emeritus Professor of History in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, King’s College London. He is author of A History of Mozambique (1995).


        Before you right something, think and study about the subjects

        Enjoy, the readings!!!!

        “Portugal in European and World History.” Author: Marlyn Newitt
        “The First Global Village.How Portugal change the World.” Author: Martin Page
        “Empires in World: Power and the Politics of Difference”. Authors: Jane Burbank&Frederick Cooper

        • Thank you for writing this Aziza. And for those still in doubt I add this:

          1.Portuguese is a major world language (6th) most spoken by more than 240 million people in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America.

          2.Portuguese is the 6th language of the world; the 2nd most spoken Romance language after Spanish; one of the official languages of the EU; and the 2nd most spoken language by just over half the population of South America. Yes, Portuguese is more spoken in South America than Spanish.

          3.Portuguese is the 2nd most geographically far-flung European language after English. More people speak Portuguese worldwide than French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Korean. And Portuguese is more geographical global language than even Spanish. Look at a map and see: Portuguese is spoken OFFICIALLY across the globe, and Spanish on in S. America and Central America.

          4.Portuguese is the working language for the following international organizations:

          Community of Portuguese Language Countries (or) Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa
          CPLP was formed in 1996 with seven countries: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe. East-Timor joined the community in 2002 after regaining independence from Indonesia.

          • ACP – Países Africanos, Caraíbas e Pacífico
          • Mercosul – Mercado Comum do Sul
          • OEI – Organização dos Estados Ibero-Americanos
          • OUA – Organização de Unidade Africana
          • SADC – Comunidade para o Desenvolvimento da África Austral
          • UE – União Europeia
          • UL – União Latina
          • UEMOA – União Económica e Monetária da África Ocidental

          5.Portuguese is the language of Brazil (190 million population), a country occupying half of the South American territory. Brazil (a BRIC country), has the 5th strongest economy in the world right now, is a leading Mercosul member and the 2nd industrial power of the Americas.

          6.Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, the African republics of Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and St. Tome and Principe and Equatorial Guinea which recently adopted Portuguese as an official language. These Portuguese-speaking countries are an increasing force in the global economy (i.e., trade between China and Angola, and strong trade ties between Brazil China, and the United States, Latin America, and other economic powers in the world). In Asia, Portuguese is spoken in East Timor, Macau, and Goa. Portuguese is a growing language in the world, and increasingly being learned as a second language everywhere. The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics will be hosted in Brazil. Millions will now be lining up to learn Portuguese as a 2nd language.

          7.For those who don’t think Portuguese matters in the USA, Portuguese is widely spoken in the USA, where over 1.3 million people are of Portuguese heritage, perhaps more. In Massachusetts, Portuguese is the third most spoken language after English and Spanish. In Rhode Island, Portuguese is the 2nd most spoken language after English. Portuguese is also widely spoken in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York City, Florida, and New Jersey.

          8.Portuguese is widely spoken in many vibrant Portuguese-speaking communities around the world in the countries including, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Namibia, Paraguay, Rhodesia, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.

          9.The Portuguese language is the language of many cultures, each one with its unique History, Literature, Arts and Traditions.

          10. Portuguese is very close to Spanish, and has some similarities to French and Italian. Speakers of Spanish can learn Portuguese very easy and quickly. Speakers of other Romance languages can learn it too. The high intelligibility between Portuguese and Spanish is a real assest for speakers of these two languages. This means that combined, they can communicate with approx. 600 million people around the world.

      • @Staden

        The Dutch Empire was the most powerful for more then a decade.

        At least 50 years. Beyond that is debatable. Also if you take in account all the progress the dutch brought to the places they came to (among others founding New Amsterdam(New York after the english forced them out) and applying their knowledge about water defenses and building to make it a great city foundation) you should at least give them more credit then you are at this time.

        Kind regards,


        P.s. They had the biggest fleet of their time.
        P.s.s. This fleet was also bigger then all european powers together.

  28. What about the Portuguese Empire ?
    It was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires, spanning almost six centuries and most important it was was the first global empire in history ! From 1415 to 2002.
    Kingdom of Portugal began the Age of Discovery in the world.
    The empire spread throughout a vast number of territories that are now part of 53 different sovereign states.
    With a total of 236 million speakers, Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world, the 3rd most spoken language in the western hemisphere, and the most spoken language in the southern hemisphere. Portugal was the first empire to travel all aorund the globe.
    We can see things related to this great empire in Brazil, Japan, USA, Angola, Mozambique, Cabo Verde, Indonesia, India, China etc.. Portugal was everywhere..
    So, this list is absolutely fake. I guess u American guy have never heard of Portugal…

      • Absolutely agree!!

        Portugal spearheaded the first global empire…Spain got a free ride for 60 years when the two crowns were united as they were quick to include all of Portugal’s territories around the world. Yeah, any empire would have become the biggest with Portugal’s widespread global territories.
        In any case, Portugal’s global empire was the first and the last.

    • Here we go again with Portugal. Are you really going to consider length of empire as being of any importance? Then why don’t we fill the list with bronze age states like tyre or the zhou? How was portugal of ANY significance post-WW2? Or during the Iberian union? It was a state whose existance was defined by its vain effort to catch up to its bigger brother.

    • Yes, the portuguese were the first european “world empire” building nations.
      a quote from Wikipedia: “The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan and the first to establish direct trade between Japan and Europe, in 1542.”

  29. plz no more mention of Mayan calendars. I’m sure if the Maya where around they would have made a new calendar much like we do after a solar cycle.

  30. Yet another list where British and English are incorrectly and insultingly used to refer to the same thing.

    • Well you know that Great Britain and the UK have always been dominated by the English, right? At least since the fall of the Stuarts. Even they ruled from London

  31. This list is ranked by the most important empires in shaping the history of the world, not necessarily the largest, longest-lasting or most powerful. I think it is right on the money.

  32. You have chosen Roman Empire as 1st but it was ended by Ottoman Empire. By mistake (!), Ottoman Empire has been placed as 4th. Which one is bigger? The one which is ended by other? And also, Ottoman Empire was not ended by any other Empire. It was ended by M. Kemal Ataturk and his soldiers to build a Republic Country. M. Kemal Ataturk was military officer of Ottoman Empire. Even British Empire cannot affect Ottoman Empire as in Gallipoli War. So you don’t have any historical knowledge or you copied&paste from somewhere. As a result of this, your list is fake and not true totally.

    • The Turks didn’t ‘end’ their empire. The Ottoman empire allied with Germany in WWI and lost their empire to the British Empire during WWI, suffering numerous defeats.

      The Ottoman Empire had been in decline for a long time.

      France took Tunis off of the Ottomans in 1881.
      Britain took Egypt off of the Ottomans 1882.
      Italy took and Tripoli and Cyrenaica off of the Ottomans in 1911.
      Britain took Palestine, Syria and Iraq off of the Ottomans during 1916-1918.

      Turkey is what remains of the once powerful Ottoman Empire. Being a junior partner, it was only saved from allied invasion by the surrender of its senior partner, Germany.

      Today, Turkey suffers a population collapse that threatens to destroy what little is left of the proud Turkish people that built a once great empire.

      • You are just trying to pinch “realities”. You are totally true about “bla bla takes bla bla off” but as a result of these, is Turkey ended? Can France, Britain, Italy or any other finalize Turkey (Ottoman Empire)?. Sorry but a big NOOO. I am sorry about your country’s fails but NOBODY (as country) in the world could finalize Ottoman Empire. Turkish people finalized Ottoman Empire whom were officer of it. If you say “no bla bla (as country) finished Ottoman”, you are totally way off history.

        Now Turkey is comfortable country even the countries which you talk about are in crisis 🙂 Also Turkey doesn’t have any “inside” problem. Your sentences are just assumptions.

        • Why do you smile talking about countries in crisis. Your comments read like the rantings of a madman.

      • Beam me up, Scotty to where you came from because I think you are not from Earth. You have been teached a very different history.

      • Actually the west did invade turkey after WW1. The Turks under ataturk repelled an allied western invasion that was atttempting divide up what is almost all of what turkey is today.

    • what about the macedonian empire created by Alexander the Great? it was the first european empire to advance into asia and beat the persian empire arguably the most powerful in the ancient world. He had an empire that spanned from greece to egypt and right into the borders of india. he had 3 continents as part of his empire and founded nearly 70 modern cities throughout his empire. It was also one of the first to bring the people of asia and europe together

  33. there is hardly any reference as to why the empires were important, just how large and long lasting. what about their influences on civilisation? good and bad

    • Yes,you are right.Someone who make the list should have gone deep on each of the ten for making the right order.Besides, he should be free of prejudices and even need to forget his nationality and the region where he belongs to.
      When it comes to’ importance’ I think it is mainly to do with the global impact.In this case,my point of view is, it is the Mongol Empire that goes as Number One.Although they were natourious for their “we came we saw we destroy’ way of conquering countries(including Myanmar,my home land),they deserve sure credit for reopening long blocked trade route(by turks) between china and eroupe,and channeling those most important inventions(paper,compass,paper money,gunpowder,advanced medical knowledgesof the east..) into the west, thus one way or another finally leading us into this modern world.(My reference is “Gengis Khan and making of the modern world” by….Amazon books.)

      • I disagree, I would stick with the traditional view of the Romans being number 1, above the Umayyads which I might put 2 or 3, as the Romans essentially founded Europe, while the Arabs essentially created the modern Muslim world. I would pick the Romans as 1 though because of Europe’s eminent place in shaping the entire rest of the world over the last half-millenium with a western culture that it in turn derived largely from the Romans

      • I disagree with this idea. As half of those most important inventions wernt transmitted over as an idea, but were reinvented independently. And Europe’s medical knowledge was gained from Arabia not the East.
        This article ignores the impact of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most substantial events in human history -for the first time we were not held back by our mortal abilities- and this was created in/by an Empire. The Industrial revolution allowed the greatest advances in sciences and technology. If we are going by ideology as with the Roman Empire above, then Greece deserves 1st place no question.