An empire is defined as “an aggregate of nations or people ruled over by an emperor or other powerful sovereign or government, usually a territory of greater extent than a kingdom, as the former British Empire, French Empire, Russian Empire, Byzantine Empire or Roman Empire.” An empire can be made solely of contiguous territories (that is, sharing a common border or touching) such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or of territories far remote from the homeland, such as a colonial empire.
On the other hand, a superpower is a very powerful and influential nation. The term is used especially with reference to the United States and the former Soviet Union when these were perceived as the two most powerful nations in the world.
So which empire was the biggest throughout history? Which had the largest population? Which covered the most area? The maps below detail some of the most powerful empires from history and display the area each empire covered, the amount of people they had under their rule, the year they reached their political height, the period of time they reigned, and their most famous ruler.
Compare the British Empire with the Mongol Empire and how they both fared against the Ottoman Empire and Roman Empire and more. Other notable empires are missing, and it’s challenging to compare apples-to-apples, so take it with a grain of salt.
Below the infographic, you’ll find a time lapsed animation demonstration the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. And below that, a histogram showing 4,000 years of world history.
Click the infographic to see a larger, more legible version.
The Expansion of the Roman Empire Animated
Watch the expansion of the Roman Empire through time from its birth until its demise in 1450’s AD.
4,000 Years of World History in One Graphic
This stunning infographic (called a “histomap”) captures 4,000 years of world history and the relative power of contemporary states, nations, and empires. Note the fall of the Egyptians beginning 2,000 years ago, and the rise of the Roman Empire in 700BC… till it swells to world domination around 100 AD. Then, note the rise of America in the 1900’s – relatively small, compared to the Roman’s vast expanse and duration.
The image comes to us via Slate, was originally created by John B. Sparks, and was first printed by Rand McNally in 1931.
Click the histogram to see a full size version (which is far more legible).