The GREATEST Empires
in World History

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One definition of an empire is that it is a state which controls or dominates over areas and populations that have a different culture and / or ethnicity than its own. Dictionary.com defines it as a group of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor, empress, or other powerful sovereign or government.

World empires, by their very nature, have come and gone since the first one began three thousand years ago and have used a wide variety of methods to rule. Examples of world powers in history include those centered in Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Parthia and others.

The list of empires below includes land that an empire claimed was theirs even if such territorries had few if any people.

Additionally, it should be noted that GDP (Gross Domestic Product the total value of all goods and services produced in a year) data has only been available for a few centuries, with highly accurate data available only in the last few decades. Some well-known empires that are not in the top 10 for a particular category are also listed with their corresponding rank.

Rank of Greatest Empires based on Land Controlled
(unless specified all numbers are in the millions of square miles)
(the number in parenthesis is the year milestone reached)

1. British - 14.13 mi² (1922)

2. Mongol - 12.82 mi² (1268)

3. Russian - 8.8 mi² (1895)

4. Spanish - 7.33 mi² (1759-1788)

5. Umayyad Arab - 5.1 mi² (723-743)

6. French - 4.82 mi² (1938)

 
 
 
 
Map of
Roman Empire
at its Peak
 
 
Alexander the
Great's Empire
 
 
Map of Assyrian
and Babylonian Empires
 
 
Ancient Near
East Empires
 
 
Map of Persian
Empire at its Height
Rank of Greatest Empires based on Land Controlled
(continued)

7. Qing - 4.63 mi² (Emperor Qianlong)

8. Portuguese - 4.02 mi²

9. American - 3.86 mi² (1898 to 1934)

10. Rashidun Arab - 3.47 mi² (644-656)

12. Achaemenid Persian - 2.9 mi² (521 - 486 B.C.)

13. Japanese - 2.86 mi² (during WWII)

16. Roman - 2.2 mi² (117)

17. Ottoman - 2.12 mi² (1680)

18. Macedonian - 2.08 mi² (Alexander the Great)

23. Eastern Roman (Byzantine) - 1.74 mi²

30. Nazi German - 1.39 mi² (during WWII)

40. Parthian - 1.1 mi² (Mithridates II 123–88 B.C.)

47. Neo-Assyrian - 540,543 mi²

56. Egyptian - 386,102 mi²

Rank of the Greatest Sea Powers
(unless specified all numbers are in the millions of square kilometers or miles)

1. British - 14.13 mi² (1922)

2. Spanish - 7.36 mi² (under King Charles III)

3. French - 4.83 mi²

4. Portuguese - 4.02 mi²

5. American - 3.86 mi² (1898-1902 and 1906-1908)

6. Japanese - 2.86 mi² (during WWII)

7. Italian - 1.47 mi² (during WWII)

8. Dutch - 1.43 mi²

9. German - 1.35 mi² (under Wilhelm II before WWI)

Rank of the Most Powerful Empires in the Ancient World
(unless specified all numbers are in the millions of square miles)

1. Achaemenid Persian - 2.9 mi² (521 - 486 B.C.)

2. Han - 2.32 mi²

3. Roman - 2.2 mi² (under Emperor Trajan)

4. Macedonian - 2.08 mi² (under Alexander the Great)

5. Maurya - 1.93 mi² (under Ashoka the Great)

6. Hunnic - 1.54 mi² (441)

7. Seleucid - 1.51 mi²

8. Gupta - 1.35 mi² (400)

9. Sassanid Persian - 1.35 mi² (626)

10. Parthian - 1.1 mi² (123 to 88 B.C.)

Rank of the Greatest Modern Empires
(unless specified all numbers are in the millions of square kilometers or miles)

1. British - 36.6 km² or 14.13 mi² (under King George V in 1922)

2. Russian - 22.8 km² or 8.8 mi² (under Alexander II in 1867)

3. Soviet Union - 22.4 km² or 8.65 mi² (in 1989)

4. Spanish - 19 km² or 7.34 mi² (under Charles III)

5. French - 12.5 km² or 4.83 mi²

6. Qing - 12 km² or 4.63 mi²

7. Portuguese - 10.4 km² or 4.02 mi²

8. American - 10 km² or 3.86 mi² (1898-1902 and 1906-1908)

9. Brazilian - 8.1 km² or 3.13 mi²

10. Japanese - 7.4 km² or 2.86 mi² (during WWII)

13. Italian - 3.8 km² or 1.47 mi² (during WWII)

15. Nazi German - 3.6 km² or 1.39 mi² (during WWII)

Rank of the Greatest Powers by Population
(population numbers are in the millions)

1. British - 531.3 (in 1938)

2. Qing - 432 (in 1912)

3. Soviet Union - 286,717,000 (in 1989)

4. Russian - 176.4 (in 1913)

5. Mughal - 175 (in 1700)

6. Ming - 160 (in 1600)

7. American - 146.4 (in 1942)

8. Japanese - 134.8 (in 1938)

9. French - 112.9 (in 1938)

10.Mongol - 110 (in the 13th century)

11. Dutch - 80 (1940)

12. Nazi German - 75.4 (in 1938)

16. Roman - 60 (in 1st century A.D.)

23. Ottoman - 39 (in the 17th century)

25. Eastern Roman (Byzantine) - 34 (5th-6th centuries)

Rank of the Wealthiest World Empires by size of GDP
(numbers below are in the billions of dollars)

1. American - $1,713.6 (in 1944)

2. British - $683.3 (1938)

3. Nazi German - $375.6 (1938)

4. Japanese - $260.7 (1938)

5. Russian - $257.7 (1913)

6. Qing - $241.3 (GDP decline to 1912, immediately before downfall)

7. French - $234.1 (1938)

8. Italian - $143.4 (1938)

9. Austro-Hungarian - $100.5 (1913)

10. Mughal - $90.8 (GDP decline in 1700)

 
Additional Study Materials
Greatest extent of
the Parthian Empire
Animated map showing the
RISE and FALL of the Roman Empire
 
List of Prophetic World Empires from
Babylon to the End Time Beast Power!
 
 
   
 
 
 
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