All throughout history, our concept of autonomy has been designated by nationality. In the very least, our sense of who we are relates directly from bloodline, surname, and ethnicity. We’ve created a bit of a problem, one where nationality and political borders happen to bother our image of humanity. Patriotism, to a degree, has been terrorism.
The rivalries we set up have created chasms between countries. Rivalries are what cause the world to fall into war. Both World Wars, every single conflict that rises between countries and across borders, they all find themselves rooted in the mere threat of “exceptionalism” that every country tends to feel for itself. This nationalistic narcissism has killed countless men, women, and children throughout history. Thus said, some nations have done better than others in the game of history. Some “exceptionalism” has gone far greater than typical borders to create expansive empires.
When we think of world domination, we oftentimes think of countries that have strongholds on land mass. How much of the world has been painted with their flag? But we have to realize that there are different forms of taking over the globe through this sense of empirical domination. Of course military can complete this sense of “world domination”. However, the influence through culture can be what allows a country to take over the world. Having the most POPULATION on Earth, rather than the most land, could be what inches a country to what we perceive was global domination. How can you be considered the most dominant force if you don’t have the most citizens?
While this won’t necessarily be the perfect explanation for what the empires stood for or accomplished, it’ll be interesting to see what nations had at least the slightest chance to dominate the world in one form or another. There are thousands of empires to choose from, so I’m going to focus on five of them.
So, with that, here’s FIVE of history’s greatest empires that could have become the empire to officially obtain world domination.
The Portuguese Empire: Wealthy World Domination
The first European power to consider colonial empire, the Portuguese Empire managed to fund a massive amount of exploration and spread European influence across the globe. The first global empire in history, the Portuguese Empire is considered the longest-living modern European colonial empire, spanning a time-span of almost six centuries (from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the handover of Macau in 1999). The spread of power felt by the once-massive empire is now a part of sixty separate sovereign states.
The birth of the Age of Discovery initiated the Kingdom of Portugal to expand its borders across the globe. Sailors began exploring the coasts of Africa, making their way to Atlantic civilizations by using developments in navigation and sailing technology. The introduction of the caravel made their navy something new comparative to ancient world shipping. The water was now officially man’s to conquer, and Portugal took advantage of this to the best of its ability.
With the chance to become the most wealthy empire in that era’s history, the Portuguese Empire basically began a lucrative trading system. In 1488, the Cape of Good Hope was rounded by Bartolomeu Dias. In 1498, India was reached by Vasco de Gama. By 1500, Brazil was “discovered” by Pedro Alvares Cabral.
In additions to global discovery and exploration, the wealth of this empire equated them as an international Venice of sorts. Wealth flourished until they managed to drain the resources and funding from exploration. Instead of letting private sources fund expeditions, the government emptied its pockets before knowing what to do with their spare change.
The Portuguese Empire set off this age of discovery with historical figures such as Henry the Navigator, as well. Thus, the Portuguese Empire — had it not wasted all its wealth and centralized its powerful authority while keeping control of their trade routes — could have easily expanded its power enough to become the British Empire before the British Empire even got a jump start. The history of Europe would be vastly different in an alternative universe where Portugal never fell as a colonial power.
The Mongol Empire: Brute Force & Sheer Power
The Mongols became a rather vicious force after Temujin (historically known as Genghis Khan) managed to unify the scattered Mongolian tribes in order to set his sight for power on China (and the rest of the world). From Vietnam to Hungary, the Mongol Empire has the title of the largest most-contiguous empire in history. Although they originated in the steppes of Central Asia, their power eventually stretched from the Sea of Japan all the way to the borders of Eastern Europe, extending as far north as Syria and as far south as the Indian subcontinent. Controlled by fearless, ruthless warriors, the Mongols had little experience in government and administrative abilities.
The empire eventually began to fracture itself due to internal wars over said administrative abilities. The grandchildren of Genghis Khan didn’t know how a “royal line” would work out, causing a conflicting hatred among heirs to the throne. Civil war ensued, but the “families” that created the original conflict couldn’t agree on anything when it came to administration — or what very little the Mongols actually had.
Unfortunately for the Mongols, brute force and sheer savageness couldn’t keep their empire afloat. Had they created a society with a form of diplomacy and internal administration, we could have perhaps seen an unstoppable Mongol force knock down the gates of Europe and eventually become a colonial power themselves.
Unlike the Mongols, the Romans were coupled with an excellent military and a magnificent administration system. Perhaps the greatest empire in all of history, the ancient Romans are one of the longest withstanding empires of all time. From the foundation of Rome to the fall of the Byzantine empire, 2,214 years of mankind’s history is “dominated” by the Roman name.
Where would we be without Ancient Roman contributions? Our modern day concepts of law, art and architect, war, literature and drama, and even language — the Romans greatly set up our society for centuries. Perhaps the PERFECT empire in the eyes of history (influential on all standing grounds — from culture to war), long-lasting, incredibly well defended and economically advanced compared to many other names on this list, the Roman Empire can still be felt to this day. The Catholic Church, the roots of Latin language, the list for what the Roman Empire influenced in its powerful reign can go on for ages.
From Iberia to Turkey, as far north as England and as far south as Egypt, the Roman name had a major chance to control the most “civilized” portions of the Ancient world. Unfortunately, the end of Rome would split the realm into divisions that would never reunite. Although the empire would never reach the peak of its power again, the peak of influence would continue long after the end of the Roman name.
The British Empire: A Global Influence
The British empire has gone down in history as the largest empire mankind has ever made. At its height, the British Empire controlled around 33.7% of the world’s landmass, compared to the Mongol’s contiguous 33%. Controlling more than 13,000,000 square miles, about 1/4 of Earth’s total land area, the British flag dawned the names of more than 500 million people.
Political reform, the spread of government, cultural exchanges, the spread of religion and language alike, the British Empire is behind it all. The legacy of such an empire has left everlasting imprints on countries around the globe, from the commonwealths to “up and coming democracies” of Asia and Africa. The English language is the second most-widely spoken language in the world, letting the British empire take the title as one of the most influential empires to ever exist in the history of mankind.
We all know the “Britain has invaded 90% of the world” story. We all know that 9/10 countries on Earth have at one point been invaded by Britain, and that only around 22 countries have been safe from British dominion.
Britain — winner of the Industrial Revolution and Imperialism — has perhaps come closest to our concept of world domination. Unfortunately, the peak of Britain’s power comes from the first and second World Wars. A crushing blow in terms of military, the arms race was when countries began catching up to the massive strength that had remained within the technological stronghold of Britain’s navy.
The Achaemenid Empire: Population Control
The Achaemenid Empire, or the First Persian Empire, was focused in Western Asia. The largest empire of ancient history, its largest extent controlled from the Balkans in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. A centralized and bureaucratic administration, the Achaemenid Empire set itself up for success for a short period of time (around 550 – 330 BCE).
Founded by Cyrus the Great, the empire managed to build superior infrastructure (from postal systems to road systems) and served as a serious antagonist force to the Greek city-states. Architecture was severely important to the empire. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was located within their borders. A large professional army, interesting primitive civil services (which would inspire later empires), and the use of an official language across diverse territories allowed for unification and successful stronghold.
Realize that this is the ancient world, so population and demographics were incredibly different. But, at the time, at least 44% of the world’s population belonged to this Persian leadership! 50,000,000 people found themselves under the Achaemenid flag. Thus, if we focus just on world population (of course in an ancient society it would be much easier to unite a smaller total number comparative to today’s 8 billion), this empire came close to “world” domination.
You can thank Alexander the Great for putting an end to the “evil Persians”, I suppose.