Top 10 Greatest Empires in History

July 13, 2011
What defines a great empire? Is it its sheer size? Or perhaps its influence over others? Some may say an empire's wealth is what truly makes it great. Whatever it is, there are some empires that stand out in history as being the greatest of all time.

10. Egyptian Empire

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One of the oldest empires in history, the Egyptian Empire can be traced back to as long ago as 3000 BC. As the territory was situated near the Nile River, Egyptians learned how to use irrigation and advanced agricultural techniques to produce a wealth of goods for their people. Egyptians even were among the first civilizations to create ships. When you go as far back in history as Ancient Egypt, you'll always find the inventors that changed our way of life.

9. Byzantine Empire

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When the Roman Empire was divided in 395 AD, the Western half was still ruled by Rome, but the Eastern half was known as the Byzantine Empire. While the Western half of the Roman Empire fell during the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire on the other hand lasted for over a thousand years, becoming one of the most advanced and influential Christian states ever to have existed.

8. Russian Empire

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After the Tsardom of Russia, but before the Soviet Union, there existed the Russian Empire. Between 1721 and 1917 this empire grew to be one of the largest in history, spanning through Eastern Europe, Asia, and up to North America. This world superpower even defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 when Napoleon's troops marched through a harsh Russian winter.

7. Qing Dynasty

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For almost 300 years the Qing Dynasty ruled over China, and is in fact the last imperial dynasty that ruled the country. But here's the real kicker – it was not ruled by the Han Chinese, the major ethnic population in China, but instead by the Manchus, a small minority. At the time, this dynasty's form of military organization was touted as being the best in the world.

6. Achaemenid Empire

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At its height, the Achaemenid Empire (also known as the Persian Empire) was nearly eight million square kilometers in size. From 550 to 330 B.C. the world saw the expansion of an empire so large in size that it had an extensively multicultural society, abundant wealth, and power. The Achaemenid Empire was so vast that at the time, that by 5th century B.C. almost 45% of the entire world's population lived under it.

5. Ottoman Empire

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With Constantinople as its capital city, the Ottoman Empire started in 1299 and ended in 1923. This Muslim state ruled not only over much of the Middle East, but also parts of North Africa and Europe as well. For 600 years this empire was known as the only one that allowed its citizens to retain their religious, cultural, and ethnic identities. Unfortunately it was this very attitude towards multiculturalism that led to the fall of the empire and the creation of dozens of new countries.

4. Macedonian Empire

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What can you say about a tiny state in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula that Alexander the Great took and made into a full-blown kingdom? Alexander's conquests seized so much territory that at the time the Macedonian Empire was the strongest empire on the planet. He even managed to take over much of the territory of the Persian Empire. In 323 B.C. when Alexander died, no leader was left in charge so the land was split up.

3. British Empire

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The world has never known such a massive empire like the British Empire – in fact it was the first and foremost global empire. This empire grew not only by wars being waged, but also by a fierce competition for resources and markets. Almost a quarter of the Earth's land mass was covered by this gigantic force, spanning 33,700,000 square kilometers altogether.

2. Mongol Empire

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Sure Alexander the Great won numerous battles and conquered so much territory, but the Mongol Empire at its peak was five times the size of Alexander's Empire. World Conquest was Genghis Khan's goal, and in just a short period of time he claimed land from the Yellow Sea to the Caspian Sea, taking over parts of Persia and China. Genghis Khan died of battle wounds in 1227, but that didn't stop his successors from conquering parts of Eastern Europe. What makes this empire so great is that it was the largest contiguous empire in history, but that's also the reason why it fell, as unity was lost among its people. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

1. Roman Empire

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No one can deny the influence of the Roman Empire. From military weapons to political systems, this empire is without a doubt the greatest of all time. Founded in 27 B.C, Julius Caesar was an integral part of turning the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire when he was appointed as perpetual dictator. Ancient Rome has made tremendous contributions to history, not just in war, also in art, literature, religion, architecture, and politics.