The 6 Greatest Empires to Exist in the Years Before Count

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Today many people are familiar with some of the great empires in history, those than spanned continents and ruled over millions, such as the Roman Empire, the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire. But few are very familiar with the early empires, those that existed in years long before the modern era, long before the medieval era. The first empires to conquer and change the world occurred in the years B.C. according to the Christian calendar.

These empires are chosen based not only on their size but on their influence to the world around them and people and empires that would come after them. Some you may know while others are often forgotten.

1. The Maurya Empire 322- 185 B.C.

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The Maurya Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya. Chandragupta Maurya’s rise to power is largely unknown but his empire began when he conquered the Nanda Empire at just 20 years old.  At the time the empire spanned through the northern part of what is now modern day India. In 305 B.C. Chandragupta expanded the borders to the Northwest following his victory over  Seleucus I Nicator of the Seleucid Empire. In the final expansion under his reign, he drew the borders further south to encompass nearly all of modern day India by 300 B.C.

The Empire was divided into four provinces, each headed by a royal prince who would govern as a representative of the King. There was a vast infrastructure with a civil service that was in control of everything from trade with other empires to the hygiene of the local populace. The empire also maintained one of the largest armies of its time with over 600,000 infantry, 9,000 war elephants and 30,000 cavalry. A spy system gathered information on enemies both local and abroad.

The stability of the empire led to a growing economy and a fair taxation system. Chandragupta Maurya created a single currency throughout the empire which made it easier for farmers to sell their crops for a fair price. The empire also developed a profitable system of international trade with the Greek states and the Hellenic kingdoms. The economy was so well managed it would later be compared to that of the Roman Empire.

At its height the Maurya Empire ruled over nearly 60 million people, making it one of the most populated empires in ancient history. Spanning over 2 million square miles it was also one of the largest ancient empires ever to exist.  The Shunga coup in 185 B.C. ended the Mauryan dynasty and the peace and stability it had brought to the region.

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  • E. Brown

    Yet not one of these empires spanned quite the distance and area that the Mongolian Empire did under Genghis Khan (who, once one REALLY reads the histories, wasn’t just some drunken, bloodthirsty barbarian).

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      You are right the Mongolian empire was huge, as were many other empires that existed. However since this article only focused on empires in the years B.C. (or B.C.E.) they were not included.

      • Cody

        I was thinking the same thing. Good article..

      • Mary

        If the article concentrated on Empires in B.C. then how come you conveniently did not mention the Assyrian Empire which had a reign span over 1000 consecutive years ?

  • James Ervin

    You include Han, but no Rome? I am pretty sure that Rome matches your criteria, despite that you mentioned them in the lede.

    Augustus was in power before Christ, they controlled the whole mediterranean at that point and, checking the last 2000 years of western history, yup they were *somewhat* influential.

    Maybe you should have termed this article something like “6 greatest empires in the years before Christ that you’ve probably never heard of.”

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      You’re right I could have included the Roman Empire here. I chose not to solely because they reached their height well after B.C. era and only became an “empire” at the tail end of the B.C. era. I wanted to focus on empires that had their height and existed for much longer in the B.C. era. Much of what Rome accomplished and is known for occurred A.D. so that was just a choice I made.

  • Matthew Davies

    Great article Stephanie. I found it really interesting and informative.

    Thanks

  • Ryan McParland

    Great article

  • daca

    Az egész fals, és félrevezető szar. A hunok a szkíták hol voltak??? Az északi-sarkon??? idióták, hazugok!!!

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      The Huns came AD/CE.
      The Scythians ruled a kingdom not an empire.

  • Christopher

    Thanks for this post. I want those tat express the desires to reverse “Evils of Colonialism” had a better grasp of History. Thanks again.

  • Juan

    Hey how bout Carthage?

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      I have a hard time classifying Carthage as an empire though. It was a large city or civilization but in order to be considered an empire, it has to be several states/civilizations under the rule of an emperor/empress.

  • Juan

    How about Carthage pretty big Empire till it lost the Punic Wars to Rome.

  • Drity

    Hmm, is Alexander the Great not considered to be Greek? Wasn’t Macedonia part of ancient Greece?

  • Greg

    I see your reason for not including Rome. But I would say the republic was abolished before CE. And much of the success of what became an empire was established before Christ. Some major victories. Conquest of Gaul and Britain being of note. And an emperor ruled before Christ. That being said I think your intro paragraph covers it enough. These other empires are often forgotten. Later empires were modeled after the earlier ones.

  • Hector Arguello

    Interesting but curious if there’s any data on the empires of the western hemisphere of the time (aztec, mayan, etc)

  • M. Bihzor

    Where does the phrase “the years Before Count” in your title come from? I’ve never come across that before… Surely you’re not under the impression that is what “B.C.” stands for!

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      I actually have no answer for this because it was originally titled “years before Christ.”

      • disqus_v3SHzvCspj

        Thank you for using the correct B.C. rather than the political rediculous ‘BCE’ and ‘CE’ which I refuse to use.

  • HistoryFun

    Ancient Macedonians were Greek. They spoke Greek and believed in the Greek gods, and participated in the Olympics. Greeks were almost never united under one Hellenic nation, as we have in a modern sense, unless they all faced a common foe. Alexander unified the Greeks by force (sans Sparta) and then invaded Asia. On a side note, the Persian empire heavily utilized Hellenic mercenaries, who inherently would not fight as fiercely with their Hellenic brethren.

  • Ardian Krasniqi

    Great article! Usually empires can sustain well during the reign of their creators , after that if there is no family dynasty after the emperor dies is very unlikely or impossible to maintain the same way or exist the empire because of interest and fighting for that leadership.. Just like in the case of Alexander the Great his mother was the key of his success but also the demise of the empire because she made sure Alexander half sister don’t get any power so she wouldn’t pose any threat to Alexander throne …her name was cynane the daughter of Philip II of macedon and Audata the Illyrian princes the daughter of bardylis the king of dardanians (Illyrian tribe) …cynane is my all time hero !

  • I’m surprised the Babylonian empire was not included. Also, what about the Gaelic Empire that spanned all of modern day Fance, Belgium, England, Scotland and Ireland. There is also the Hittite empire who ruled Turkey and the western Middle East and were Egypts primary rival for a time.

  • smendler

    Six Flags Over Babylon