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This is all horribly nebulous, and I understand it.

But are there any examples in history, when any existing empire had dissolved and was afterwards recreated to more or less the same territory it occupied during its peak for any meaningful period of time (let's say 50+ years)?

I welcome suggestions about how to make this question more precise, but obviously I am looking into current aspirations of some people in Russia, who speak of "uniting Russia" to its historical 17th century borders.

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  • 4
    Is there a reason you are insisting on empires? If you look at the maps, the territory of modern Russian Federation (which is not an empire, at least officially), is roughly the same as the territory of the Tsardom of Russia in the late 17th century. (It was actually somewhat smaller back then comparing to now.) However, Tsardom of Russia also was not called an empire. Lastly, your question lack evidence of research on your part. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 9:31
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    Many empires have claimed to be successor states to older empires, sometimes after a long interregnum caused by a traumatic collapse or conquest. E.g.: the Sassanid Persian Empire claimed to be a revival or continuation of the old Achaemenid Persian Empire, which had been destroyed by the conquests of Alexander III about 550 years before. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 16:33
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    Restorationist Chinese dynasties like the Sui, Song and Ming often understood themselves as successors to the ancient unified empire of the Qin and Han dynasties, altho there'd been centuries of dissolution & divided rule in between. Are these the kind of cases you're asking for? Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 16:37
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    Or are you thinking more of shorter-term interregnums with a more direct lineal continuity between the regimes, more like e.g. the First Empire in France under Napoleon Bonaparte, followed after an interruption of 37 years by the Second Empire under Napoleon III? Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 16:39
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    I'd argue that the Roman Empire was re-created several times - from Republic to Empire and again after the crisis of the third century. One might even argue that Hannibal destroyed and recreated the empire. Or that the Servile wars did so...
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 12:49

5 Answers 5

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The Eastern Han dynasty was an empire that was founded in 25 A.D. and can be considered as a recreation of the Western Han dynasty. The founder of the Eastern Han dynasty: Emperor Guangwu was a descendant of Emperor Jin of the Western Han dynasty. The Western Han dynasty was dissolved by Wang Mang who created the Xin dynasty after deposing the last Western Han Emperor. Emperor Guangwu led an uprising and restored the Han dynasty.

Western Han dynasty map: enter image description here

Eastern Han dynasty map: enter image description here

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The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) fractured into several states after the Fourth Crusade.

enter image description here Map of the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade from Wikimedia Commons, around 1204.

Later, in 1261, the Empire of Nicaea succeeded in recapturing Constantinople from the Latins, and both claimed, and was generally recognised as a return of the Eastern Roman Empire.

enter image description here A map of the Eastern Roman Empire around 1263 also from Wikimedia Commons. The green line shows the expansion of the Ottomans by the 1326.

The territory is certainly vastly less than the Eastern Roman Empire occupied at its peak, but is pretty close to the territory held prior to the fourth crusade, so may still be of interest.

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  • You beat me to it!
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 17:10
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    First thing that came to mind to me as well. Personally, I'd argue it was never quite the same after the reconstitution, but it wasn't much better in 1203, and almost all the literature considers the post-1261 Byzantine Empire to still be the Byzantine Empire.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 17:14
  • I think this is a great answer; but there's an important complication to note, since the dynasty we now call the "Latin Empire" (1204-1261) does also seem to have claimed that they themselves were continuing the (Eastern) Roman Empire, not overthrowing or displacing it. (For elements of deliberate continuity see e.g. Filip Van Tricht, "Claiming the Basileia ton Rhomaion" (2018). This was of course disputed or rejected by the rival Byzantine dynastic states in Epirus, Nikaia & Trebizond Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 16:49
  • So when the Laskarid-cum-Palaiologid state in Nikaia ends up winning out and taking back control of Constantinople and its environs, from their point of view they were restoring an interrupted (Greek-speaking, religiously Eastern Orthodox) empire that had been effectively dissolved for 57 years; but that was a consequence of their particular view of what was distinctive & legitimate about imperial rule in Constantinople; other rival theories about the nature of the imperium could & did come to different conclusions. Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 16:56
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The state Qin conquered and unified all the warring states of China, and formed the first Chinese Empire in 221 BC befoe falling in about 207 BC. The Qin statea nd governmentwas totally destoryed, and various rebel groups ruled different parts of China.

One could claim that Han Dyanasty China from 202 BC to 220 AD was either a totally new empire, somewhat inspired by the Qin Dynasty, or else a sort of recreation of the Qin Empire by a rebel group.

Rebels revolted and China was divided into three major powers, each claiming to be the rightful governmentof all China, by the time the last Han dynasty emperor was deposed in 220. The rebel state of Wei eventually conquered the others, ending the Three kingdoms era and beginning the rule of the Jin Dynasty over China in 280.

The Chinese Empire during the Jin Dynasty can be considered either a totally new empire, somewhat inspired by the Qin and Han, or as else a sort of a recreation of the Qin and Han empires by a rebel group.

The Jin Dynasty ruled from 266 to 420, but only ruled a united China for a few decades after 280. The series of civil wars called The War of the Eight Princes (or Eight Kings) from 291 to 306 AD broke the Jin State into several more or less independent states, especially since the conflicts encouraged the barbarian invasions callled The Uprising of the Five Barbarians from 304-316.

The Jin Dynsty government fled to south China, along with millions of Chinese refugees, and the period of unified China was followed by the Sixteen Kingdoms from 304-4439, and the Nothern and Southern Dynasties from 42-589. One stte did not conquer all of Chaina until 589.

And this type of events went on for century after century of Chinese history.

So some people can claim that the Chinese Communists seized power in a country which had existed continuously since 221 BC. And some people can claim that unified Chinese states only existed for about two thirds or three fouths o fhe period from 221 BC tot he present, and there was no Chinese state in the intervals between, but instead several warring states whose wars often resulted in millions of deaths. Thus those people can claim that the various unified Chinese states in history were each a seperate empire, republic, or people's republic with no connection to previous states.

So the Chinese communists could be considered to be successful rebels against successful rebels against successful rebels against succesfull rebels aginst...an so on back to successful rebels agains the Qin Dynasty. But some of the Chinese rulers that were overthrown, leading to periods of division in China, were foreign conquerors of all China, so foreign conquerors have to be inserted into a few places in the otherwis euninterrupted succession of successful rebels.

So it is a mattet of opinion, interpretation, and speculation whether the Chinese Empire fell and was totally dissolved and then after a time and many bloody wars recreated several times, or whether there were a number of totally different and totally new Chinese empires each of which rose and then fell completely and were never recreated.

The city stateof Rome expanded under the RomanREpublic to rule the lands around the Mediterranean Sea, and expanded to be evenlarger durng the Roman Empire. In 395 there was an admiinstative division between two Emperors, one with authority in the East, and one in the west, but it remained a single empire.

The western section fell apart rapidly in barbarian invasions and revolts, and the last western emperos were deposed and assinate din476 and 480. People in the west who were still loyal to the empire, or claimed to be, acknowledged the eastern emperor as their rightful overlord. In the 530s under Justinian the empire struck back, reconquering about half of the former territory of the western Roman Empire.

A terrible plague, more barbarian invasions, the terrible Roman-Persan War in 602-628, and the following Arab invasions halted that Roman reconquest. But someone could consider Justinian's reconquests a recreateion of half of the western section of the Roman Empire.

This was not the first time, nor the last, that the Roman empire fell apart at least partially and then was at least partially reconstructed.

There were many Roman civil wars from the late Republic and then in the Empire were rival claimants had control of diferent sections of the Empire starting with the Year of the Four Empeors in AD 69, and repeating at various times.

In the Crisis of the Third Century from 235 to 284, The population and economy of the Empire declined, Barbarians tribes invaded, there were Persian Wars, and the soliders in various regions kept revolting and nominating willing or unwilling generals as emperors.

Men classed as legitimate RomanEmpeors are usually those who ruled the entire Roman Empire, and/or were recognzied by the Roman Senate, and/or were accepted as collegues by other and more or less legitimate emperors.

There were 27 more or less legitimate Roman Emperors in the 49 years from 235 to 284 in the list in Wikipedia, may of them began as Romanurusprers agaisnt previus emperors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_emperors#Crisis_of_the_Third_Century_(235%E2%80%93284)

If each emperor ruled alone the average reign before dying or being killed would have been about 1.074 years, but since their were many joint reigns the average survival time was a little better.

And if you think that was bad, there were 27 less successfull claimants, classified as Roman usurpers, in that period according to Wikipedia's list of Roman usurpers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_usurpers

This omitts several doubtfull cases, and also the 5 emperors of the Gallic Empire and the 1 or 2 emperors of the Palmyrene Empire.

And a few of the many rebellious regions in this era lasted long enough to be considered to be sort of separate states and offshoots of the Roman Empire.

For example, the so called "Gallic Empire" lasted from 260 to 274, and included Gaul, Hisbania, and Roman Britain at its height. The Palmyrene empire lasted form 270 to 273.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallic_Empire

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmyrene_Empire

So someone could claim that the Roman Empire dissolved and was later recreated. But that would be like saying that the USA dissoved in 1560 and was recreated in 1865. Most of the USA remained loyal to the Federal government under Lincoln, and fought a long war to reconquer the rebellios region. Similarly most of the Roman Empire remained under the control of the central government, and eventually Emperor Aurelian reconquered the Palmyrene and Gallic Empires.

Similalry the "Brittanic Empire" was founded in RomanBritain and northern Gaul in 286 and listed until 296 until being reconquered.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carausian_revolt

The Tetrarchy was the system instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293 to govern the ancient Roman Empire by dividing it between two senior emperors, the augusti, and their juniors and designated successors, the caesars. This marked the end of the Crisis of the Third Century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrarchy

Each of the four emperors in the Tetrarchy was assigned a region to defend against rebels and invaders. The two caesars were surbordinate to the two Augusti, and each e caesar was considered to be heir and succesor of his Augusutus.

Unfortunately, the Tetrarchy broke down as rival emperors battlde for power, until one, Constantine I, defeated his rivals and made himself solde emperor in 324. The imperial role was divided and reunited several moe times, until in 395 two emperors gained authority in the eastern and western sections of the Roman Empire.

The western section was soon taken over by barbarian groups, but the eastern section later struck back and reconquered much of the west.

The Roman Republic had an area of 1,950,000 square kilometers in 50 BC.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Republic

By 25 BC the Roman Empire ruled 2,750,000 square kilometers; in 117 it reached its brief peak of 5,000,000 square kilometers, and in 390 it ruled 4,400,000 square kilometers, still as much as 0.88 of its maximum size 273 years earlier.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Empire

By 518 the eastern section of the Roman Empire, the so called "Byzantine Empire", was down to 2,300,000 square kikometers, 0.46 of it's maximum size.

This rose to 3,600,000, 0.72 of its maximum size, by 565, but was down to 2,900,000, 0.58 of its maximum size, in 600.

By 668, the Roman Empire was down to 1,300,000 square kiometers, 0.26 of its maximum size, due to the Arab invasions.

By 775 the size was down to 800,000 squae kilometers, only 0.16 of its maximum size.

By 1025 the Roman Empire was back up to 1,675,000 square kilometers, 0.335 of its brief maximum size 908 years earier.

555,000 After the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 the empire rapidly shrank, and was down to square kilometers, 0.111 of its maximum size, in 1097.

This rose to 1,000,000 square kilometers, 0.2 of its maximum area, by 1143, and then fell to 610,000 square kilometers, 0.122 of its maximum area, by 1204.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_of_the_Byzantine_Empire

In all that tiem where the empire lost and regained territory, nobody could claim that the empire had been dissolved and then recreated. The central government had always retained a lot of territory and had always managed to reconquere a lot of lands taken from it.

The Empie did dissolve in 1204 The westerners who captured the Capital, Constantniople, in 1204 established the so called "Latin Empire of Constantinople", a group of rebels established the co called Trapezuntine Empire, and more loyal Romans established the so called Despotate of Epirus with is short life "Empire of Thessalonika", and the so called "Empire of Nicae.

The Nicaen Empireeventually reconquered most of the Latin Empire and more or less recreated the previous "Byzantine" Empire. By 1282 it ruled 550,00 squae kilometers, about 0.90 of the size in 1204, though only 0.11 of the maximum size of the Roman Empire in 117.

The empire of Charlemagne is often considered to be a partial reconstruction of the dissolved former western Roman Empire. By 843 it became divided into several kingdoms whose kings gave little obedience to the emperor, and the last emperor was assassinated in 924.

In 962, Otto I the Great, mighty king of Germany and Italy, was crown emperor. Otto's realm later became known as the Holy Roman Empire, and lasted until 1806.

Sometimes the Holy Roman Empire is considered to be the continuation of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire, and sometimes it is considered to be a totally new Empire. And a sort of midway positon could be to claim that the Carolingian Empire was dissolved and recreated several times before being dissolved in 924 and then being recrated in 962 as the Holy Roman Empire.

The ideology of the Holy Roman Empire was that the Emperors were the successors of the Carolingian Emperors. It was also claimed that when "Byzantine emperor Constantine VI was depsoed in7987, and his mother ruled the Roman Empire, the emperorship was vacent sinc eit was wrong for a woman to rulethe RomanEmire. Thus it was claimed that Charlemagne in 800 ws the rightful successor of Constantine VI in 797 and of all the "Byzantine" emperors back to Arcadius in 395, and of all the earlier Roman Emperors back to Augustus in 27 BC.

So the Holy Roman Empire never claimed that the RomanEmpire had been dissolved and reconstructed, but instead claimed that it had always existed in varius forms since 27 BC.

So in the case of Chine and Rome there is considerable uncertainty whether it is acurate to say that their empires dissolved and were recreated or existed continuously.

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  • << The Empie [sic] did dissolve in 1204 The westerners who captured the Capital, Constantniople [sic], in 1204 established the so called "Latin Empire of Constantinople" >> "So-called" by whom? Not by the Flanders-Hainaut emperors. They explicitly claimed that they were continuing the Empire of the Romans & referred to their state as the Basileia ton Rhomaion in Greek-language sources, which is also what the Angelos emperors before them called it. In Latin sources they frequently referred to their realm as "Romania" (land of the Romans), which is also what it had been called before 1204. Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 13:52
  • In Latin sources the emperor was generally referred to as something like Imperator Constantinopolitanus (the Constantinopolitan emperor), which, again, is what Latin sources already frequently used to refer to the Emperor before 1204. It's certainly true that the Latin Emperors almost immediately lost control of almost all the existing territory of the Empire outside of Constantinople and its immediate surroundings, both to rival powers like the Bulgarian Czars and to rival Byzantine dynastic states like Nikaia, Epirus, and Trebizond. Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 13:57
  • It's also true that the dynasty that defeated the Latin Emperors (the Laskarids and their successors the Palaiologids) and then displaced them in Constantinople took the position that the Latin Emperors were not a legitimate continuation of the empire; i.e., the didn't take over it, they destroyed it for a time. But not all agreed. See e.g. Filip Van Tricht, "Claiming the Basileia ton Rhomaion" (2018) for elements of the dispute over continuity or discontinuity in the dynasties. Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 14:03
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The Ottoman Sultanate was established sometime around 1300-1330 (the periodization is complicated because it evolved out of an existing, expanding beylik under Osman I Ghazi; it's not clear when exactly they first started claiming the status of sultan, but this certainly was the case by the time of his son Orhan Ghazi.) They grew steadily throughout the 1300s in western Anatolia and then, increasingly rapidly, into the Balkans and Greece; by the end of the century they had grown to completely encircle Constantinople, and were the dominant power throughout southeastern Europe (below the Danube) and the western half of Anatolia.

Conquest, Partition and Interregnum (1402-1413). In 1402 the empire was conquered and shattered after a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Timur's (Tamerlane's) army at the Battle of Ankara. The Ottoman's military forces were devastated and the Sultan Bayezid I taken prisoner and held in captivity until his death. Timur held one of Bayezid's sons (Mustafa) captive in Samarkand, and placed another, Mehmed as his vassal in the territories he conquered in Anatolia. The remaining Ottoman territory was divided among Bayezid's sons Süleyman (who declared himself an Emir and took control of the European territory of the empire, known as Rumeli), İsa (who controlled Bursa and its environs in Anatolia), and Musa (who at first allied with Mehmed in Anatolia, then took control of European Thrace after the defeat of Süleyman). They began fighting for control more or less immediately; after Timur died in 1405, the Anatolian territories became effectively independent again, but the four brothers remained locked in a four-way civil war which lasted until 1413, now often known as the Ottoman Interregnum (1403-1413).

Recapture, reunification and restoration (1413 onward). Mehmed ultimately killed off his brothers, won the civil war, and re-established unified control over the empire's old territories in July 1413. After he defeated his last rival, Musa, he had himself re-crowned as Sultan in Edirne, making him Sultan Mehmed I. He then had to fight off his last surviving older brother Mustafa (who demanded a partition of the empire and then led an unsuccessful rebellion when he was rebuffed). In the course of the civil war, the warring brothers had bargained some of the formerly Ottoman-controlled territories away (most importantly, the city of Salonica / Thessaloniki in return for temporary alliances with the Byzantine Emperors, who often served as power-brokers or mediators during the conflict; these territories were besieged and recaptured over the course of the next couple decades. The reunified and restored Sultanate resumed its military expansion into eastern Europe and central Anatolia, ultimately leading to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 (by Mehmed's grandson, Mehmed II Fatih and then of Egypt and most of the Middle East in 1516-1517 (by Mehmed I's great-great grandson, Selim I Yavuz), leading into the peak of Ottoman imperial power in the 16th and 17th centuries.

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  • Note that this seems like a pretty clear case in one sense (the empire was definitively destroyed by Timur's conquests, partitioned between territories ruled by a vassal of the conqueror and independent territories ruled by other sons of the defeated former ruler, etc.; afterward, the entire territory of the old empire was put back together by a direct dynastic successor of the former rulers). But in another, it's at the extreme end of short durations: the interregnum lasted only 11 years; the eventual successor was on the scene the whole time and simply defeated rivals in a dynastic civil war Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 13:36
  • There were other succession struggles within the Ottoman Empire that had similar dynamics, but without any external conquest preceding them, e.g. the conflict between the princes Bayezid II and his brother Cem after the death of Mehmed II Fatih; it's not obvious that these should be counted as interregnums, unless literally any prolonged rebellion or civil war within an empire's territory -- which of course all empires have, and which ancient and medieval empires have a lot of nearly all the time -- is counted as such. Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 13:40
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The Second Turkic Empire was founded in 682 CE, about 50 years after the end of the First (Eastern) Turkic Empire.

The German Reich was founded in 1871, about 65 years after the end of the Holy Roman Empire.

Plus there are of lots of current nation states that trace their roots to some previous kingdoms (or similar) and that at some point were incorporated into other states. E.g. Poland, Portugal, Korea, Egypt, Israel etc etc.

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  • The HRE and German Empires are not the same, consider the roles of Austria and Prussia major players and major parts in only one of the two.
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 18:27
  • The question is about "more or less", not "exactly" the same. The Eastern Roman Empire pre-1204 vs. post-1261 also had some territorial differences. Prussia was a major player in the HRE, see e.g. the Seven Years War.
    – Jan
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 22:55

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