There have been no official agreement on how many empires have existed on this planet. The number of empires in the history depends on how we define “empire”. Of all those that thrived in the human history, what are the most powerful empires in human history? The way we choose our own “powerful empires” will be subjective. Because with hindsight, all empires were powerful and influential in their own way.
Powerful Empires: The Rise, Climax, and the Fall
However, some empires were so powerful that we can call them the greatest no matter what standard or definition we set.
The Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire or the first Persian Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great around 550 BCE. Cyrus the Great called himself the Shahanshah meaning the King of the Kings. Despite the Achaemenid Empire admitted defeat in the hand of Alexander the Great in 330BCE, what the Achaemenid Empire left for the next generation was incredible. Their lasting legacy was the foundation for the global development of civilization and future empires. Because the Achaemenid Empire set the standard for an empire that many of the successors followed it.
There were three most important things for an empire to flourish: position, position, and position. The Persian Empire happened to dominate most of the Middle East. At the time, Middle East was the cradle of world civilization. The Persian empire ruled over the largest number of world population in comparison with any other empires in the history. Specifically, the population of this empire reached approximately 50 million people dominating 44% of world population at the time.
Moreover, the Persian Empire was “the glue”. Because during its glory, “the glue” connected many regions in the world, including Middle East, North America, Central Asia, Europe, etc.
The success in the military campaigns and power of the Persian empire was great. But most of the time, the fall in the battle with Alexander the Great overshadowed them all.
What the Persian brought to us included the use of road networks, bureaucracy, postal system, etc. The main religion was the Zoroastrianism which influenced the pillars of some future religions.
If any list of the “powerful empires” in human history misses out the Roman Empire, it is never complete. Without any bias from the historical source, the Roman can be among the greatest empires in history by itself. Looking at the history of the Roman empire, the kings and the people as well displayed their ability to carry out war tactics and the ability to control a large amount of territory for hundreds of years.
The trait of the Roman Empire left was not the Colosseum only. They took over and dominated the Greek culture (Hellenistic), carrying on the Greek philosophy and architecture to the future. As Roman embraced Christianity, it helped the small cult of worship become popular and now among the most influential religions.
The system of laws and government of the Roman Empire paved the way for the development of civilization and legal system in the future. This was one of the key to the success of the Roman Empire during its years of glory.
The success of the Roman Empire included many factors. And so did the fall of this empire. Scholars always had reasons and explanations in store for the fall of Roman Empire. The most famous reason for the fall of the Roman Empire was the loss to the Germanic tribes. But we also have to take the historical context into consideration: the civil war and the political instability during the end of its glory were also the contributing factors to its collapse.
The Caliphate was an Arabian empire and its founder was Muslim Prophet Muhammad. By the time Prophet Muhammad passed away, the Caliphate power expanded most of the Arabian land. The scholars believe that we had better call this empire the Arab empire rather than the Islam empire. Because during the time, there were empires that ruled by the Muslim, not the Arabian.
Though the Caliphate quickly failed, the success in the military power and the religious achievement was no joke. It made the historians toss and turn as what made the loosely organized people won over the Byzantine Empire and the Neo-Persian Empire. The population of both empires far outnumbered that of the Caliphate. The success in the military campaigns of the Caliphate might be attributed to the attitude of the warriors which made up for their shortage in the weapons and technology. The Arabians generals during this time could be in the list of the greatest military leaders of all time.
Being “the glue” like the Achaemenid Empire, the Arabians in this time had the chance to communicate and learn from many regions. The biggest legacy of the Arabian Empire was the religion of Islam which had up to one billion followers these days.
The Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire was also among the empires that defeated and conquered the bigger ones. The founder of this empire was Temujin who called himself Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan was a wise leader to his people but to the enemies and victims, Genghis Khan was a true monster. Historians often claim that Genghis Khan was as excellent as Alexander the Great and sometimes a little bit greater.
The most common image of the Mongol Empire warriors were the muscular Asian men on horses with bows and arrows. Like many other empires, what made them remarkable the most was their military prowess. China was never in the reign of any outside force until Mongol Empire took over it. Kublai Khan the grandson of Genghis Khan was the founder of Yuan Dynasty in China.”Yuan” meant “the beginning”.
As time progressed, the Mongol Empire was torn into four pieces. This meant the empire would never gain its glory again as the power was separated. Following the same living patterns: creation, climax, and destruction, the Mongol Empire gradually fell. But the names of Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan deserve to be in the list of the greatest kings/emperors for what they did in the human history.
What the nations in this day and age should learn from these powerful empires include the reasons why they defeat. Even with the great military power as such, there was always something rotting each empire. It wrecked havoc on the empire decaying it until the day it finally collapsed.
Despite the strong military backup, Roman Empire fell. Civil war can kill any empire. The Persians were defeated by other empire not because their people were weak. But it was because their leaders were not powerful enough. Although the Mongol Empires hardly lost any battle, they could not prevent the wound of territory and power separation which led to the final collapse of the Mongol Empire.