I see three criteria here: I'm wondering which historical empire was the most long lived, largest, most populous, and represented the largest percentage of world population.

  1. Who controlled the greatest amount land [highest estimate at the geographical peak of the empire]?

  2. Who lasted the longest [highest estimate available]?

  3. Who ruled the most people [highest estimate at population peak of the empire]?

    a. In terms of sheer numbers

    b. In terms of percentage of the total population of the world at the time.

  • 2
    1) Russian Empire or Brittish Empire, depending on the definitions 2) Chineese Empire or Mongolia depending on definitions 3) Modern-day China, although India is pretty close
    – Bregalad
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:18
  • 4
    @Bregalad, your 2) is debatable. The Chinese state is divided into separate dynasties, which carry the corresponding name(e.g. Ming China, Qing China, etc.), and each change was followed by profound changes in society, government, economy(if the previous dynasty had worked, they wouldn't have dissapeared). So my candidate would be the Brittish Empire, since, technically, it was one state at all times. And, as somewhat a funny and unusual candidate, i'd name the Bulgarian empire, the oldest country in Europe which keeps it's founding name to present day since it's creation(681 AC). Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:24
  • 2
    @Bregalad, and your 1) - really, no Mongols? The level of their control is certainly debatable, but their Empire was from the Sea of Okhotsk in the East to the Adriatic in the West, to the Persian Gulf in the South and the Arctic Ocean in the North. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:25
  • 3
    Have you checked out the Wikipedia list of largest empires?
    – Semaphore
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 20:34
  • 2
    This question is an opportunity to write an answer about the limitations of historical sources and why the answer is difficult.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 8:27

2 Answers 2

  1. largest area. According to Wikipedia's list of largest empires, the largest thalassocracy or colonial empire was the British Empire about 1920 with 3.35 million square kilometers or 13.71 million square miles, 23.84 percent of the world's land area of 148,940,000 square kilometers or 57,500,000 square miles.


  1. longest lasting. The first Huang di of China took the title in 211 BC and the last Qing dynasty Huang di was deposed in 1912. Thus it can be calculated that the Chinese Empire lasted for 2,132 years. But the major Chinese dynasties ended in bloody civil wars often resulting in many millions of deaths and fragmentation of the realm often lasting decades or centuries. Thus it is hard to see government continuity between major dynasties, and it is common to refer to each major dynasty as a separate empire.

The Roman realm was a kingdom, republic, and empire lasted from sometime about the traditional foundation date of 753 BC, or the usual date of the foundation of the Empire in 27 BC, until the fall of the western Roman Empire in 476 or 480 AD (about 502, 506, 1,228, or 1,232 years), or the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 (about 1230 or 1,956 years), or the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 (about 1,479 or 2,205 years), or the capture of the Morea by the Turks in 1460 (about 1,486 or 2,212 years), or the capture of Trebizond by the Turks in 1461 (about 1,487 or 2,213 years) or the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 (about 1,832 or 2,558 years).

See also here:





  1. a) Largest total population:

By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time,2


  1. b) Largest percentage of the world's population:

Many sources say that the Achaemenid Empire in 480 BC ruled 44 percent of the world's population. But that is disputed here, in post # 12.


Post number 16 gives more accurate figures for various realms including a more accurate (hopefully) list of the ten historical empires with the largest percentages of the world's population.

  1. Qing (1800): 38-39%

  2. Tang (750): 36%

  3. Song (1100): 35%

  4. Ming (1600): 33%

  1. Mongol Empire (1300): 29-30%
  1. Han (1 CE): 29%

  2. Sui (600): 29%

  1. Republic of China (1915): 27%
  1. Roman Empire (160): 26%

  2. British Empire (1922): 25.5%



I think the best empires were Spanish and Portuguese empire. Becuase they take long 300 years, they were the first european explorers and conquers of the world, and all with their technological limitations. The first empires that used the arquebus, the first firearm. XV- End of XVIII centuries their peak.

In contrast with the british empire and France empire, that they were the ones that continue the iberian empires. Ones making the best and the most advanced navy of the world. leading the industrial revolution and the other having the best army of europe both in the end of XVIII.century. They started their empires using the musket that was the evolution of the Arquebus. End of XVIII-XIX. centuries their peak.

Germany, austria, Italy and Russia were the ones that were supposed to balance the power of the British and French in the world. Germans were the ones who achieved to build the best and most advanced army of europe just in the end of XIX. century, however, the lack of expand an empire outside europe limited with natural resources in their industry. These groups I considered as the last modern european empires but had the limitations that UK and France didnt have. The end of XIX and early XX.century.

The XX.century is the century of the USA and Russia after ww1.

  • 4
    Does not answer it's question with the three arbitrary criteria proposed by OP. OP did not ask about weapons.
    – MCW
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 21:16

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