Empire that ruled the largest % of world population

Mar 2012
4,405
#21
And as noted by others, also the estimates of the population of the ancient Empires vary a lot [I mean academic estimates].

These two aspects make similar comparisons not that meaningful. As usual, to make a chart, we need the certainty of a good level of approximation. And statistically, when it comes the time to make the chart, a difference of just a 10% in the estimates of the world population can change the position of this or that Empire. Just consider the very different estimates about world population in 1st century CE and the estimates about the Roman Empire …
It's difficult to rank ancient empires, however, you cannot take the estimate of the world population by one scholar and mix it with estimates of a particular empire by another without adjustment. That is the problem with the random figures given for the Achaemenid empire. You cannot take a baseless high figure of 50 million and mix it with the low count given by McEvdy and Jones, then take McEvdy and Jone's figure of world population, which only assumed a 17 million people for the Achaemenid Empire, without at least adding another 30 million to it, making the world population at least over 130 million rather than 116 million (the source of which I have not being able to locate).

Furthermore, the figure of 50 million did not come from any exhaustive professional demographic estimate, but from generic introductory history books and journals written by non-historians (the citation page is now taken down from wikipedia, so I don't know why people are still circulating the figure). The figure is even more unlikely when you consider that even as late as 1900, the population of the region outside of Pakistan which constituted the entire Persian Empire was just over 50 million, broken down as follows:
Iran: 10 million
Iraq: 2 milion
Turkey: 12 million
Egypt: 10 million
Syria: 600,000
Armenia: 1.3 million
Afghanistan: 3.6 million
Persian Central Asia: 7 million

With clear population growth (doubling or more) in places like Egypt, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran where we have actual Roman era statistics, rough Han figures, and middle age census. It is absurd to think the region had the same population in 500 BC as 1900 and much greater in 500 BC than it was in the first century and in the late middle ages.

Both the Han and Roman Empire probably ranges in estimate from below 1/4 - just over 1/3, if we adopt Durand and McEvdy and Jones high end and low end estimates respectively. It's unlikely however, that either surpassed the Qing in total percentage even if we assume a lower world population given by McEvdy and Jones.

I would say the only state where a range of plausible academic estimates allows it to potentially surpass the Qing in total world population percentage count is the mid-8th century Tang, if the higher figure of 90 million is used (and there are a number of historians which accept it based on actual primary records such as the Yuanhe Junxiantuzhi, which showed that hidden households in the Tang might have been as large as those on the census).
 
Last edited:

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,626
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#22
Now, just as a reference, we could take a look at Worldpopulationhistory [World Population | An Interactive Experience - World Population]. Such a representation can be criticized as well, but it gives a direct and visual impression of the distribution of the population and we can note that centuries before it's improbable that the Achemenid Empire ruled on very crowded areas [a part North Western Indian Subcontinent, but the large part of the population was along river Gange].

Note: for 1CE the indicated world population is 176,060,000 [again: why such an accuracy? I would round the figures ...].
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,843
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#23
Unusual use of the word 'usurp'. That's normally internal.

The Romans must have 'usurped' many thrones then? Or did they just conquer them?
From the Persian point of view Alexander may have combined the bad points, but not any good, of both internal usurper and foreign conqueror.

My main point is that Alexander the Great didn't conquer Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. separately but took over the ready made Persian Empire. Thus the Macedonian Empire was pretty much the same thing as the Persian Empire under new and inferior management that ruined it in a few decades.
 
Last edited:
Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#24
From the Persian point of view Alexander may have combined the bad points, but not any good, of both internal usurper and foreign conqueror.

My main point is that Alexander the Great didn't conquer Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. separately but took over the ready made Persian Empire. Thus the Macedonian Empire was pretty much the same thing as the Persian Empire under new and inferior management that ruined it in a few decades.
But arabs took over the Byzantine Empire in large part, and the Visigothic 'empire'/structure. Romans took over the Macedonian empire.

My point is it's not unusual in the Empire-building world!
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,843
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#25
But arabs took over the Byzantine Empire in large part, and the Visigothic 'empire'/structure. Romans took over the Macedonian empire.

My point is it's not unusual in the Empire-building world!
The Romans did not take over the Macedonian empire. There wasn't any Macedonian empire life by the times the Romans acquired some of the pieces that had formerly been in the Macedonia empire, one at a time, the Parthians getting most of the eastern pieces.
 
Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#26
The Romans did not take over the Macedonian empire. There wasn't any Macedonian empire life by the times the Romans acquired some of the pieces that had formerly been in the Macedonia empire, one at a time, the Parthians getting most of the eastern pieces.
Just ploughing through Historia de la Hispania Romana by Pedro Barcelo and Juan Jose Ferrer. They were certainly the main players this side, especially culturally, and took a lot of Rome's military and political operations 'a profound change of orientation of the politica Romana' (from Hispania), until:

"After a series of military interventions in the Balcan Peninsula, the Roman Legions under the command of Lucius Emilius Paulus former pretor of Hispania Ulterior, in 168 defeated, at Pidna, Perseus, the last independent Macedonian king, which smashed the fragile helenistic system based on the more or less equitable partition of the Empire of Alexander the Great between the Tolemy, Seleucid and Antigonid monarchies, the last being on the way to converting into a Roman province.

As had already happened in Spain with the appropriation of the Carthaginian heritage, the great latin power appropriated the conquered Macedonian and Helenistic territories and implanted their indisputable sovereignty over the eastern Mediterranean"
 
Jun 2017
2,895
Connecticut
#27
From the Persian point of view Alexander may have combined the bad points, but not any good, of both internal usurper and foreign conqueror.

My main point is that Alexander the Great didn't conquer Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. separately but took over the ready made Persian Empire. Thus the Macedonian Empire was pretty much the same thing as the Persian Empire under new and inferior management that ruined it in a few decades.
Want to point out while you're correct and this a reason the "Alexander conquered the known world" thing is a misleading statement, the Macedonian Empire is still smaller than the Persian Empire because he didn't take over every single region though he overthrew and took most of it. So there was separate conquest happening once Persia had fallen all those conquests were much easier once the Persian umbrella was gone though.

Also the Seleucid's ruled pretty much all of the empire Alexander did, and kept the Persian Empires old status until Rome became powerful and some of the far eastern provinces began rebelling. Aside from the centuries between the fall of that empire and the new Persians the Persian Empire largely stayed together under one ruler or another until the 2nd millenia AD.
 
Mar 2019
1,535
KL
#28
most probably the nanda, the mauryas, guptas, pala, rashtrakutas, gurajara pratihara, dehli sultanate, mughal empire in india and the dynasties in china, persian and western empires were big but they practically ruled a land mass which was not that heavily populated and mostly desert. europe at that time period also probably didn't support a big population.

regards
 
Last edited:
Feb 2016
4,358
Japan
#29
In 1913 Britain had about 24% of the Earths population under its flag.
So I’d guess that between 1850-1914 the two most prominent will be British Empire and China.

I should think that out that at any given point in history some great power will hold sway of 15-20% of the worlds population.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,340
Las Vegas, NV USA
#30
Reliably 458 million for the the British Empire in 1922. (25%) The size of the empire didn't change much until 1947 when the end of the colonial era began. It officially became a Commonwealth in 1931.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Futurist

Similar History Discussions