I'm writing a fictional story and basically that's the case of one of the kingdoms there: conquering others to become more powerful and fight another nation. I'm asking this question to get some historical evidence if that could work.

I'll try to briefly explain the circumstances:

There is a group of 6 small kingdoms (in a European-ish medieval setting) that share a lot of their culture, since they were one single country in the past. In my story, a powerful foreign nation (let's call it P) is becoming too dangerous and has the potential to beat all these kingdoms in a war (and go even further).

The ruler of one of these kingdoms, who is a woman, thinks that the only way to have a chance against P is using the forces of all the 6 kingdoms together. Since she knows all the other rulers and knows that they probably won't work effectively as a group or accept to be lead by a female, her decision is to conquer all the neighbors and become a central ruler of them all.

Of course, making war to all of these countries would take a lot of resources, time, and result in many human losses. However, she prefers to play clever as much as possible, probably making use of force at first against the weaker kingdoms and later patriotism (mentioning the greater nation they once were) and intimidation to get the support of the other ones. Whenever possible, she will avoid battles, since the idea is to have more soldiers in the end.

I also assume that currently P is "busy" with other conflicts and so the woman will have some "extra time" to conclude this plan of unifying the nation.

So, my question is: were there similar situations in real History (even if they were not in Middle Ages)?

  • 3
    The title question says conquered but the body of the question allows patriotism and intimidation, and mentions avoiding battle if possible. Can you be a little clearer with the specifics as there are potentially dozens of examples which might fit your question as currently worded. Jul 3, 2019 at 1:12
  • 7
    This is actually incredibly common. See for example, the unification of Greece's city states into the Hellenic League under Philip and Alexander, in preparation for the latter's invasion of the Persian Empire. Or, Liu Bei's conquest of Yi in order to strengthen his forces for taking on Cao Cao. I suggest you narrow down your criteria somewhat since as it stands this question is quite broad.
    – Semaphore
    Jul 3, 2019 at 5:21
  • 3
    The life of Genghis Khan is an example of this. Jul 3, 2019 at 6:28
  • 5
    All empires like to think they've done exactly this.
    – Spencer
    Jul 3, 2019 at 7:54
  • 3
    Pretty sure the second punic war could count as well, since it was Hannibal's main source of new recruits, they did however hated Rome
    – LamaDelRay
    Jul 3, 2019 at 9:15

6 Answers 6


There are many cases, feel free to add more:

  • Napoleon conquerer north of Italy, and recruited forces there for other wars. Later on, after defeating Austria and Prussia, Napoleon invaded Russia. The invasion of Russia was not only with french forces, both flanks of his advance where covered by prussian and austrian forces (north and south).
  • As @Steven Burnap says. Genghis Khan is another good example. He unified mongol tribes by war, and with them he invaded other countries. Later on, even chinese engineers where included in his armies fighting in Europe.
  • In WWII, Soviet Union used romanian, finish, polish and bulgarian armies as allies at the end of the war against Germany, even though they were enemies (or almost enemies) before.
  • Spanish conquest of the new world. Spanish forces were quite small, they actually allied with other tribes to defeat major empires, these states or tribes joined spanish conquistadors either by convenience or defeat. Aztec empire did not fall to a small spanish adventurers.
  • When you mention WWII and the Russians, you should mention Germany as well. The Czech-built Pz35(t) / Pz38(t) were the mainstay of the German tank forces for much of the early war period (France, Poland, Russia). Romanian oil. French ports. The list goes on.
    – DevSolar
    Jul 3, 2019 at 15:50
  • 2
    @DevSolar, even though you're right about the use of resources of conquerer nations, my interpretation of the question is regarding to the people who belongs to those conquerer nations.
    – Santiago
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:02

For me the classic example is Edward I of England (aka "Edward Longshanks").

He conquered Wales and once pacified, combined the English and Welsh forces against the Scots thereby earning the epithet "Hammer of the Scots".


What about Japan in the WW2 period? Gathering up islands to the south such as Singapore. Then they acquired POWs who became slaves, while getting resources such as rubber. All to compete with a bigger enemy, the US.

  • 2
    A good example, but with a bit of confusion between cause and effect. It was the gathering up of resources that brought Japan into conflict with the US - and Britain, which already claimed many of those resources.
    – jamesqf
    Jul 3, 2019 at 16:19

Nazi Germany conquering all of Europe and using French, Norwegian, Danish, dutch, Belgian, Czech, Austrian, etc and even Yugoslav troops

  • Did that actually result in a net gain of men and materiel for Germany, considering the losses involved in capturing and occupying those countries?
    – Steve Bird
    Jul 4, 2019 at 8:36
  • @SteveBird Certainily a net gain in material (at first) - Nazi Germany's rearmament was unsustainable without looting the rest of Eurrope for it.
    – Semaphore
    Jul 4, 2019 at 18:52
  • In Yugoslavia no, but the others were easy
    – user38413
    Jul 4, 2019 at 22:29

Too many to count. In addition to those in other answers:

  • The Republic of Rome - conquered Italy and under Marius enfranchised Italian legionnaires following twenty years of service.

  • Philip of Macedon united the city-states of Greece; his son Alexander conquered the Persian Empire with a unified army of Macedonians and Greeks.

  • Alfred King of Wessex united the Saxon petty kingdoms of England into a nascent version of that state to repel the Danish invaders.

  • Bismark, Chancellor of Germany, used the threat of Austrian and French hegemony to unify the petty states of Germany into the Second Reich under Kaiser Wilhelm I.

  • Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, attempted to unify the tribes of the Ohio Valley and Lower Great Lakes basin as allies of the British against the United States.

  • Sitting Bull attempted to unify the Plains tribes against the United States - though he also failed.

  • The Commancheria may be another example from 19th century U.S. history.

  • Barbarossa's (re-)unification of the Holy Roman Empire after a long civil war prior to joining the Third Crusade against Saladin.

  • Charles Martel fought a long civil war to unify the Franks - just in time to defeat the Moors at the Battle of Tours.

  • The Iroquois Confederacy conquered everything South of the Great Lakes from Illinois to Upper new York State and Maryland, as well as SW Ontario, as part of their war against the French.

  • Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland, anschluss with Austria, and absorption of the Sudetenland prior to World War Two. These regions, unlike those conquered afterwards in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, were eager participants in the Wehrmacht and S.S. during World War Two.

Some may argue that a few of the above were accomplished without blood being shed in battle - yet the great military theorists have always recognized that the greatest victory is exactly that - one won so decisively in advance that the enemy succumbs without battle:

The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
Sun Tzu - The Art of War

War is the continuation of politics by other means.
Carl von Clausewitz - On War

  • All of those Italian legionnaries were in fact enfranchised before 20 years were up from the date of Marius's promise, since he made the promise in 107 BC and essentially all free (i.e., not slave) Italians were made citizens by 88 BC to end the Social War.
    – C Monsour
    Jul 9, 2019 at 1:17

To give a specific example from Roman history, the Social War (91-88 BC), uniting Italy as a political entity (as opposed to a patchwork of allies and colonies), was immediately followed by war against Mithridates VI in Asia.

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