Most powerful empires of each century

Jan 2016
1,045
Victoria, Canada
By mid 10th century, Byzantine population was more in the order of 9 million, while peaked in early 11th century at 12 million people.
More recent estimates, such as that of Angeliki Laiou, put the population at 19 million in Basil II's reign, a few million of which I would assume comes from the Balkan territories taken after Nikephoros Phokas, hence the 14 million. Even using older conservative estimates, the Byzantine empire had a population of at least 10 million by the 970's, giving Cordoba a population two thirds the size of the Byzantine Empire's.

In mid 10th century, Abd-al-Rahman Caliphate, yearly revenues amounted 5,480,000 gold dinars = 23.2 tons of gold equivalent (4.25 gold grams per dinar), and 20 million gold dinars in treasure (85 tons equivalent).

The Byzantine Empire revenues at 959 were lightly inferior, at 4,000,000 nomismata = 18 tons of gold equivalent (4.5 grams per solidus). Basil II left, at 1025, a treasure of 14.4 million nomismata = 63 tons of gold equivalent.
959 was before the reconquests of Crete, Cyprus, and Syria, one of the most profitable areas in the entire empire. Considering that the Bulgarians and Serbs paid taxes in kind during Basil II's reign, and hence wouldn't show on the monetary income, Warren Treadgold's figure of 5,900,000 Nomismata would be more accurate for Nikephoros's reign, if his low population estimates are correct. If Angeliki's are more accurate, then that figure would be considerably higher.

By the way, where did you get the figures for the Caliphate? Those Numbers seem abnormally high.

In regard to administration, the Cordoban Caliphate was not much behind the Byzantine Empire, with centralized tax collection, civil servants and ministries.
I don't know too much about the Cordoban government admittedly, but it evidently didn't last very long without completely collapsing. As you point out in a paragraph below, it was a semi feudal system, dominated by powerful noble families, wasn't it? The Byzantine administration was an extremely stable, centralized, top-down, efficient, and meritocratic system founded on the common farmers which made up 90% of the Byzantine population. It didn't have to bow to the interests of nobles or merchants like most other governments, and could effectively exercise its will over the provinces. And, as Machiavelli could tell you, stability was the best property a government could have.

In regard to military, the Caliphate developed a very strong armed force, a cause of its fall actually. Its navy, permanent, posseses naphta bombs; there were permanent military provinces with border troops, a territorial army (Jund) of feudal levy numbering 22,000 and a central professional army of different size through the ages. At the time of Abd-al-Rahman III, his professional guards were 12,000, while some news talk about 40,000 paid men.

Information is sparce, but Almanzonr expanded this force with many more mercenary units: 12,000 Northafrican cavalrymen, 5,000 Andalusian cavalrymen and 40,000 infantrymen in one of his expeditions. This man, Almanzor, was one of the greatest military commanders of the age.
While that's, again, fairly impressive by western European standards, it's dwarfed by the 200,000 men, half fully professional Tagmata and half semi-professional Theme troops, the Byzantines commanded. This figure actually comes from Treadgold as well, meaning that if Angeliki's population figures are accurate the army may well have been significantly larger. The Byzantine figure only includes men either in active service in the national military, or who could be called from the themes when necessary. When needed, many more mercenaries could potentially be raised, though there normally wasn't too much of a need for this.

In naval terms, I don't think there's much doubt that the Byzantines win. The sheer size of the imperial navy, having at any one time some 300 warships in addition to those from the themes, combined with liquid fire give the Byzantines a clear advantage in this field. There were over 30,000 sailors, larger than most armies, in the employ of the navy overall.

Information is fragmentary, but as I said, the Caliphate wasn't that much behind the Byzantines.
With a population two thirds to half the size of the Byzantine empire and a military to match, I would say that the Caliphate of Cordoba was pretty far behind the Byzantines, in term of pure power at least. That isn't to discredit their intellectual and cultural influence though, they just don't stack up well in a 1v1 power comparison with the Byzantines. The two empires actually liked each other quite a bit, holding multiple cultural and intellectual exchanges.
 
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Nov 2010
7,332
Cornwall
I'm not sure if you're entirely serious, but in terms of military and economy, as well as population, the Byzantine Empire was straight up better than the Caliphate, just like the Song were straight up better than the Byzantines. If it existed in its 10th century form during the 9th century, it might be a contender, but regardless it would have to compete with a, still larger, Byzantine empire, as well as Chinese states with more than twice its population.

The Caliphate was certainly exceptional by contemporary western european standards, undoubtedly being the foremost regional power, and the city of Cordoba itself wouldn't have a western european rival for centuries, but on a world scale I think, optimistically, it gets third place (As usual though, there's likely an Indian state in there somewhere as well, namely the Cholas from the research I've done).
Byzantine population in 969: 14+ million (extrapolated from a figure of 20 mil from Basil II's reign)

Cordoban population at their height: 7~ million

I think one has a pretty clear advantage here, especially considering the vastly more efficient administration of the Byzantine empire.

In military terms, I don't know too much about the Cordoban army, but I would be willing to bet that it wasn't 200,000 strong and mostly made up of fully professional soldiers. It also likely didn't possess proper liquid fire, nor the consistently exceptional commanders that defined the 10th century Byzantine army.
I don't want to get too involved, but as you say you haven't read about it. For example it finished with an entirely professional army of foreign (as opposed to Spanish-living) berbers and slavs, all mixed up with no cliques. Almanzor led over 50 army raids into Christian territory, all without defeat.

One of Almanzors many methods of ensuring total allegiance and removing any threats was to dispose of the traditional system where army constituents were provided by different lords/regions around Iberia and create a wholly professional army. This was to come home to roost when the Amiri dynasty collapsed by it's own behaviour (Sanchuelo) and, when everything came to be shaken down, the individual Taifa states created had lost their military base - this is the reason for the easy conquests by the Christians, the consequent invasions of the African Empires and the whole history from then on. Unintended consequences at their best.

It was a dictatorship - ironically with a 'Byzantine' and powerful administration.

And lastly, comparing a wide spread-out empire with a country where larger armies just are not sustainable is ridiculous. What matters is how many people you can put in the same place at the same time.
 
Jan 2016
1,045
Victoria, Canada
I don't want to get too involved, but as you say you haven't read about it. For example it finished with an entirely professional army of foreign (as opposed to Spanish-living) berbers and slavs, all mixed up with no cliques. Almanzor led over 50 army raids into Christian territory, all without defeat.
I was under the impression that troops, or infantry at least, were generally recruited on a more Ad hoc basis as they were in the east. You say that the fully professional army was only operational in the late 10th century though, which seems to imply that they generally did do this during the 10th century. Regardless, while the professional army of Almanzor you describe seems quite strong, I can't imagine that it numbered in the 100,000's. Keep in mind that the Byzantines also had an extremely strong military tradition in the 10th century, spawning many great commanders and conquering heroes such as John Kourkouas, Leo Phokas, Nikephoros Phokas, John Tzimiskes, Bardas Skleros, and Basil II. They also practically turned military science into an art form during this period, even incorporating it into the general education.


One of Almanzors many methods of ensuring total allegiance and removing any threats was to dispose of the traditional system where army constituents were provided by different lords/regions around Iberia and create a wholly professional army. This was to come home to roost when the Amiri dynasty collapsed by it's own behaviour (Sanchuelo) and, when everything came to be shaken down, the individual Taifa states created had lost their military base - this is the reason for the easy conquests by the Christians, the consequent invasions of the African Empires and the whole history from then on. Unintended consequences at their best.

It was a dictatorship - ironically with a 'Byzantine' and powerful administration.
I admit I had an image closer to the pseudo-feudal states of the east in my mind, and that seems to be fairly inaccurate. The administration you describe appears to be much more centralized and authoritarian. That being said, it was evidently quite fragile, as I said before, if it could fall apart after only one failure of a ruler. In the Byzantine empire, usurpation was quite literally a tradition, and the state almost always survived fully intact afterwards (until the seljuk invasions, that is). The Roman empire arguably had the best staying power of any state, period, surviving for 800 years, 284 to 1081, with only minor changes in the form and function of the civil administration.

And lastly, comparing a wide spread-out empire with a country where larger armies just are not sustainable is ridiculous. What matters is how many people you can put in the same place at the same time.
The byzantine empire was large, but it wasn't that large, we aren't talking about China or the Mongol Empire here. The entire professional army, with some theme troops as backup, could be assembled anywhere except Italy or Crimea with relative ease. Constans II was said to have assembled "all the themes" (still somewhat properly professional, it should be noted), or some 50,000 to 70,000 men, for his campaign against the Bulgars, though it didn't exactly go well. As that campaign proves though, numbers certainly weren't everything. Nikephoros Phokas proscribes around 16,000 fighting men as the ideal size for a single army, more only being needed in truly critical situations, with any more troops generally being useless and better utilized elsewhere. This principle was proven some years later when Bardas Skleros decisively defeated an army of 30,000~ Russians with only 12,000 men at the battle of Arcadiopolis.
 
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Dec 2016
11
Europe
This is just based on my current understanding/opinion of how it was since around 1500 a.d.

USA 1918 - pressent
UK 1763 - 1918
France c. 1650 - 1763
Spain c. 1520 - 1650
Ottomans 1517 - 1571

It's more difficult to judge prior to these as it changes more often and there aren't as many hegemonic powers (though there of course were exceptions mongols, Chinese Empires, Caliphates etc.)
 
May 2013
1,710
The abode of the lord of the north
I would say

9th-7th century BC - Neo Assyrian empire
6th-5th century BC - Achaemenid Empire, Greek states
4th Century BC - Macedonian empire, Maurya Empire
3rd Century BC - Maurya Empire, Selucid Empire
2nd Century BC - Han china, Rome
1st century BC - Rome, Han china
1st century AD - Roman empire, Parthian empire
2nd Century AD - Roman empire, Kushan Empire
3rd Century AD - Sassanid Empire, Roman/Kushan empires
4th Century AD- Gupta empire, Hunnic Empire/Eastern Roman empire
5th Century AD - Sassanid Empire, Gupta/ Eastern Roman empires
6th Century AD = Eastern Roman Empire, Sassanid Empire
7th Century - Tang China, Ummayad Caliphate
8th Century - Ummayad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate
9th Century - Abbasid Caliphate, Pratihara Empire
10th Century - Byzantine Empire
11th Century - Chola Empire, Ghaznavid Empire/ Song china
12th Century - Song China, Ayyubid/ Ghorid sutanates
13th Century - Mongol Empire, Mamaluk Sultanate
14th Century - Timurid Empire, Yuan china/ Khalji sultanate
15th Century - Ottoman empire, Ming China
 
Mar 2012
4,277
This is my list, I base this on population, resource, centralization, budget and military size:

31st century - 25th centuries BC Old Kingdom Egypt
24-22nd centuries BC Akkadian Empire
early 2nd Mellenium BC Middle Kingdom Egypt, Babylonian
late 17th century BC Hyksos
~1550 - ~1350 BC New Kingdom Egypt
1350 BC - 1,100 BC Egypt, Hittites, Shang
~1,100 BC - 771 BC Shang/Western Zhou
~700-663 BC Neo-Assyrian Empire
663 BC - 540 BC Neo-Babyloneon, Medes, Eastern Zhou
539 - ~355 BC Persian Empire
late 4th century BC- Macedonian Empire, Qin, Qi
305 BC - ~232 BC Mauryan, Qin state
232 BC - 207 BC Qin
200 - 154 BC Xiongnu
154-134 BC Xiongnu, Han
134 BC - 308 AD Han - Jin
mid 4th century Later Zhao, Eastern Jin, Roman Empire
376-394 AD Former Qin
430-534 AD Northern Wei
552-577 AD Turuk
581-616 AD Sui
617-624 Eastern Turuk
626-756 AD Tang
756- 840 AD Tang, Abbasid Caliph, Tibet, Uighur
late 9th century Tang
923-960 AD Khitan/Liao
960-1115 AD Liao and Song
1125-1206 AD Jin
1213-1353 AD Mongol Empire/Yuan
1368-1595 AD Ming
1595-1636 AD Ming, Mughals
1636-1661 AD Mughals
1661-1705 AD Qing, Mughals
1705-1793 AD Qing
Early 19th century Napoleonic France, Britain, Russia
1815 - 1914 British Empire
1919-1938 United States, British Empire
1943 - now United States
 
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Jan 2019
89
Southeast Asia
This is my list, I base this on population, resource, centralization, budget and military size:

31st century - 25th centuries BC Old Kingdom Egypt
24-22nd centuries BC Akkadian Empire
early 2nd Mellenium BC Middle Kingdom Egypt, Babylonian
late 17th century BC Hyksos
~1550 - ~1350 BC New Kingdom Egypt
1350 BC - 1,100 BC Egypt, Hittites, Shang
~1,100 BC - 771 BC Shang/Western Zhou
~700-663 BC Neo-Assyrian Empire
663 BC - 540 BC Neo-Babyloneon, Medes, Eastern Zhou
539 - ~355 BC Persian Empire
late 4th century BC- Macedonian Empire, Qin, Qi
305 BC - ~232 BC Mauryan, Qin state
232 BC - 207 BC Qin
200 - 154 BC Xiongnu
154-134 BC Xiongnu, Han
134 BC - 308 AD Han - Jin
mid 4th century Later Zhao, Eastern Jin, Roman Empire
376-394 AD Former Qin
430-534 AD Northern Wei
552-577 AD Turuk
581-616 AD Sui
617-624 Eastern Turuk
626-756 AD Tang
756- 840 AD Tang, Abbasid Caliph, Tibet, Uighur
late 9th century Tang
923-960 AD Khitan/Liao
960-1115 AD Liao and Song
1125-1206 AD Jin
1213-1353 AD Mongol Empire/Yuan
1368-1595 AD Ming
1595-1636 AD Ming, Mughals
1636-1661 AD Mughals
1661-1705 AD Qing, Mughals
1705-1793 AD Qing
Early 19th century Napoleonic France, Britain, Russia
1815 - 1914 British Empire
1919-1938 United States, British Empire
1943 - now United States
How do the eastern Jin compared to Roman Empire from Diocletian to Constantine?

and how do the Zhou compared to the Neo-Assyrian empire?
 
Mar 2012
4,277
The Roman Empire under Constantine probably had as much as 56 million people, whereas the Eastern Jin had only around 20 million people (it probably had even less before Cheng Han was re-conquered). However, the Eastern Jin was a lot more centralized and also had more advanced military technology such as the crossbow, stirrup, and heavy steel cataphract (including horse armor). The Later Zhao under the Xiongnu, controlling most of Northern China, should have been briefly more powerful than the Eastern Jin.

The Western Zhou (11th century - 771 BC), in contrast to what older scholars think, was actually a relatively centralized polity with a rather developed bureaucracy; it also had a professional standing army known as the "6 divisions of Zong Zhou" stationed in and around the capital and the "8 division", used to occupy the old Shang remnants of the east. Each division (shi), is probably around 12,500 in size according to Zhou Li, giving a total of 14 divisions of around 175,000 professional standing army (see Li Feng, Feudalism and Western Zhou China: a criticism)

In addition to this central controlled army, the regional states, according to "Rites of Zhou" had three armies for "large states", 2 armies for medium states, and 3 for small states. How large these armies are and what the total number of regional states were in the Western Zhou realm is loaded with different sources, there are records of from 80 or so subject regional states to hundreds. The Western Zhou also seem to have mobilized at least 100,000 in its southern campaigns, a huge force compared to other polities of the time. The Neo-Assyrians by the 7th century BCE seem to have mobilized armies also up to 100,000, but before the 8th century, it was a much smaller polity compared to the Zhou; by the late 8th century BCE, the Zhou have became a loosely coalition of states under the nominal suzerainty of the Zhou king.The Neo-Assyrian was probably stronger at this time. Large states like the Jin, Qi, or Chu by the end of the 7th century BC could already mobilize 700-800 chariot corps (a total of 30,000-50,000) by themselves. However, from 681-643 BC, the state of Qi, under Duke Huan was able to attain hegemony over several states and could mobilize in access of 100,000 when combining this coalition. I do not have information on more details of Assyrian administration compared to the Eastern Zhou at this time, however in military mobilization, the Qi coalition seem to be comparable in size to what the contemporary Assyrian kings such as Ashurbanipal could mobilize.
 
Jan 2019
89
Southeast Asia
Thank you.

It seems that once Chinese military start using crossbow, it will be hard to compare to other ancient military that have no crossbow.

How did the population of the Jin decline so much compared to the Han? Is the Three Kingdom phase kill that much people?



How did the Zhou military technology compared to Neo-Assyrian one?

From what I see the Assyrian looks very advanced with the siege engine-battering ram combination, even the Roman never use such things.

They also have iron armor that cover almost the whole body too from what I remember.


From what I know the Zhou would have bronze plate armor or probably lamellar at that point.
 
May 2018
547
Michigan
I'm quite objective and logical about this topic and I'm speaking as historian.
That sentence what I'm said is being able to seen subjective but It's only a short sentence; I can make extensive explanations concrete historical examples.
However, as I see, this topic have popular context little bit and therefore I have wrote only one short and popular sentence like topic. :)

Is it clear?
Lol, it's very clear that you don't take constructive criticism well.
 

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