Taking over the world has to be the dream of at least half of all aspiring supervillians everywhere. However, some (questionably) more benevolent people attempt to do so the old fashioned way: exploration, colonization, subjugation, and occasionally (okay… rarely) even mutually-beneficial politics. Though nobody has publicly managed to take over yet (shadow societies don’t count), the age of empires was certainly not boring, and as recently as the late 1900’s, there has been some impressive progress. Let’s begin all the way back at 500 BC and work our way up. Here are the 25 Largest And Most Epic Empires In History.
Achaemenid Empire – Circa 500 BC
As the 18th largest empire in all of history, the Achaemenid Empire (also called the first Persian Empire) is already impressive. At their height around 550 BC, they occupied 2.12 million square miles of land space including the vast majority of the Middle East and parts of Russia. What’s even more impressive is that under Cyrus the Great, they had a complex societal infrastructure including roads and a postal service that later empires would emulate.
Macedonian Empire – Circa 323 BC
Alexander the Great led the Macedonian Empire to overthrow the Achaeminid Empire (you’re welcome, Sparta) and built the definitive Hellenistic state, ushering in Ancient Greek civilization, the philosophical contributions of Aristotle, and likely many, many orgies. At its height, the Macedonian Empire occupied nearly 3.5% of the entire world area, making it the 21st largest empire in history (and second largest at the time behind the Persians they overthrew).
Maurya Empire – Circa 250 BC
After Alexander’s death, all of India and much of the surrounding area was taken by the Maurya Empire, resulting in the first (and largest) Indian Empire. At its height, under a benevolent and diplomatic ruler known as Ashoka the Great, the Maurya Empire occupied some 1.93 million square miles of land, making it the 23rd largest empire in history.
The Xiongnu Empire - Circa 209 BC
During the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, what would eventually become China was made up of several small warring states. As a result, the nomadic armies of Xiongnu had an easy time raiding the northern territories. At its height, the Xiongnu Empire took up over 6% of the entire world as the 10th largest empire in history. They were so overpowering, it took years of negotiations, marriage arrangements, and concessions from the Han Dynasties to keep them from taking over.
Western Han Dynasty – Circa 50 BC
Speaking of the Han Dynasties, the Western Han Dynasty hit its peak about a century later. Though never to the level of the Xiongnu Empire, they did manage to occupy 2.32 million square miles of land with over 57 million people to be recorded as the 17th largest empire in history. To achieve this, they successfully drove the Xiongnu north while aggressively expanding south into what is now Vietnam and the Korean peninsula. The Western Han Dynasty included the major diplomatic efforts of Zhang Qian, who made contacts as far away as the Roman Empire and established the famous Silk Road trade network.