Strongest military powers throughout history:A Timeline

Nov 2012
3,848
#1
Approx. 4000 BCE: Urban life emerges in Sumer. Uruk is the preeminent Sumerian city.

3000 BCE: Upper and Lower Egypt are unified, making Egypt the most powerful state in the world.

2300 BCE: The Akkadian Empire has emerged as possibly the first empire in history.

1500 BCE: Egypt is probably the strongest power at this point.

1200 BCE: Still Egypt.

1000 BCE: With the Middle East in turmoil, the Western Zhou Dynasty in China is probably the strongest power in the world.

700 BCE: The Neo-Assyrian Empire, centered in Mesopotamia, was probably the strongest power in the world at this point.

500 BCE: At this point the Achaemenid Empire, originating from modern-day Iran, is the strongest empire in the history of the world.

200 BCE: The Han Dynasty, Mauryan Empire, Seleucid Empire, and Roman Republic are the contenders. India probably has the largest economy and population at this point, so I'll go with the Mauryan Empire.

50 BCE: The Han Dynasty is probably slightly ahead of the Roman Republic at this point.

100: Tough call between the Han Dynasty and Roman Empire. Interestingly, they both covered 6.5 million square kilometers, they both had a little less than 100 million people at their peak, they both lasted a bit over four centuries (counting only the Western Roman Empire), and they both ended because they outlived their usefulness to their de jure vassals. I'll call it a draw between the Han Dynasty and Rome. The Parthian Empire (Iran), Kushan Empire (northern India), and Satavana dynasty (southern India) all had solid empires.

300: The Jin, Roman, and Sassanid Empires are the contenders, but the Sassanid Empire isn't quite as big as the other two. Both the Jin and Roman Empires had their fair share of civil wars, but the Romans are in better shape at this point.

450: The Gupta Dynasty and Eastern Roman Empire are the two main contenders. I'll go with the Gupta Dynasty by a hair.

600: The Eastern Roman Empire, Sui Dynasty (which would shortly be succeeded by the Tang Empire), and the Sassanid Empire are the contenders. The Roman Empire is smaller than it was in 100, while the ruling Chinese dynasty is about the same size, so I'll go with the Sui Dynasty.

800: The Abbasid Caliphate is probably stronger than the Tang Dynasty at this point.

1000: The contenders are probably the Roman Empire (aka the Byzantine Empire), Song Dynasty, Ghaznavid Empire (centered in Iran), the Chola Dynasty (southern India) and the Fatimid Caliphate (centered in Egypt). At this point in time, Western Europe (among other areas) was behind technologically and had a lower population than other regions. With other areas splintered, and with another 100 years of dominance, I'll go with the Song Dynasty.

1250: The Mongol Empire is one of the largest in history.

1500: Spain, the Ottoman Empire, and the Ming Dynasty are the main contenders. Spain was starting to build a vast colonial empire, and would soon gain de facto control of Habsburg lands. The Ottoman Empire would soon defeat the Mamluks and gain control of Egypt. But in 1500, the vast economy and population of the Ming Dynasty made it the most powerful country in the world.

1700: France under Louis XIV was probably the most powerful country in Europe. Spain still had its vast colonial empire, but it had weak ruler and was about to become (to some degree) a vassal state of France. England had established control over the British isles but had barely begun to put together their vast colonial empire. However, despite the rise of colonialism and the Atlantic trade, Europe still wasn't clearly the most powerful region in the world; that separation would not come until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The Ottoman Empire was still strong, and the Qing Dynasty in China and the Mughal Empire in India looked strong as well. The Qing Dynasty is probably the strongest country in the world at this point, again based on population and economy.

1815: The Napoleonic Wars would end this year. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution has started to elevate the power of European countries above all others. France would be given more lenient terms after the Napoleonic Wars than many had thought and would remain a great power. Austria-Hungary and Russia both have large empires, as does the Qing Dynasty. But the British, as the center of the early Industrial Revolution, and as the owners of the strongest navy in the world, are probably the strongest country in the world at this point.

1914: The Europeans have a major technological advantage on all others at this point. Russia, France, Austria-Hungary, and Italy are all great powers, but they don't compare to the Germans, British, and Americans, which have the three largest economies in the world. The Americans don't have the military power or will to exert the same influence as Germany and Britain. Germany has more people in Germany itself and the better army, but Britain has a larger empire and a better navy. Britain seems to have the advantage based on having better diplomacy, as they would succeed in recruiting the US, Italy, and Japan onto their side in World War I. So I guess I'll go with Great Britain.

1919: At the end of World War I, most European countries have suffered huge economic and population losses, while the US didn't exert the same amount of effort. It still doesn't have a large military, but it's economic advantage over other countries is too great to say that any other country is more powerful. Great Britain is the only country on the same level as the US at this point.

1939: The US, Great Britain, and Germany are again the main contenders, with each having familiar strengths (economy, navy, and army, respectively). Again, I'd go with the US.

1942: Germany controls half of Europe, but is fighting a two-front war. If the Nazis had succeeded in knocking either Britain or Russia out of the war, then the Germans might have been first. But luckily they didn't, so it's the US.

1945: The US, Soviet Union, and Great Britain are the contenders, but the US is still the strongest country in the world.

2009: The US. No military or economy can compare.


Your thoughts ?
 
Likes: Zanis

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,770
At present SD, USA
#3
1914... France doesn't compare with Germany or Britain? While they may have been in outdated uniforms, it needs to be remembered that from 1914 to 1918 the FRENCH held most of the Western Front. Britain had only around 7 divisions total, counting cavalry. In terms of individual skill and training, the British may have been the best, but at that time they lacked the staying power to fight on a large front and hold out. In fact the Battle of Mons ended in a British retreat because they lacked the manpower to stay there and that the Germans would have crushed them with weight of numbers if the British stayed.

In terms of the scope and scale of the combat in WWI, the best army was likely either Germany or France. Britain doesn't really begin to enter the discussion until 1917-1918 when they had the numbers to fight large scale battles in the field and stay there...
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
4,985
Canary Islands-Spain
#4
300: The Jin, Roman, and Sassanid Empires are the contenders, but the Sassanid Empire isn't quite as big as the other two. Both the Jin and Roman Empires had their fair share of civil wars, but the Romans are in better shape at this point.

450: The Gupta Dynasty and Eastern Roman Empire are the two main contenders. I'll go with the Gupta Dynasty by a hair.
During the 3rd century, the Sassanids beaten Romans time and again; they did so during the 4th century. Several emperors dying campaigning in the East. I'd put the Sassanids ahead.

450 is hard contested, but with the Hunnic Empire. To put it simple, the Eastern Roman armies in the Balkans had been all smashed by the Huns in previous years, so that the Huns refocused to the WRE after getting huge sums of money from the ERE. In 451, they were repulsed by the Western "army" in Gaul, but attacked Italy almost without opposition. The ERE movilized against and destroyed a Hunnic army before meeting Attila again, but the king died.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
3,946
Connecticut
#5
During the 3rd century, the Sassanids beaten Romans time and again; they did so during the 4th century. Several emperors dying campaigning in the East. I'd put the Sassanids ahead.
But Sassanid power waned as well as waxed. Even after the great victories of Shapur I, the Romans captured Ctesiphon twice before 300 CE. And Julian's army was tactically better than the sassanid one, which relied heavily on logistical strangulation.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
3,946
Connecticut
#6
100: Tough call between the Han Dynasty and Roman Empire. Interestingly, they both covered 6.5 million square kilometers, they both had a little less than 100 million people at their peak, they both lasted a bit over four centuries (counting only the Western Roman Empire), and they both ended because they outlived their usefulness to their de jure vassals. I'll call it a draw between the Han Dynasty and Rome.
Maybe. But if the standard here is military power, Rome may have an edge in that its army, to this point, had evolved to take on other states, whereas that of the eastern Han fought nomads.
 
Jan 2016
1,085
Victoria, Canada
#7
At this point in time, Western Europe (among other areas) was behind technologically and had a lower population than other regions
Generally that is true for dark age/early medieval Europe, but the byzantine roman empire was the exception to this. In many ways the byzantine empire was still ahead of the rest of the world thanks to its continuation of roman/greek technology (baths, aqueducts, heron's inventions, greek fire, etc, I could go on for ages but that would make this comment too long), as well as roman bureaucracy and law.

Even considering this though, the song dynasty was definitely the stronger military power, I'm just pointing out that this statement isn't accurate for the only european state you mentioned.
 
May 2015
718
Sweden
#8
Generally that is true for dark age/early medieval Europe, but the byzantine roman empire was the exception to this. In many ways the byzantine empire was still ahead of the rest of the world thanks to its continuation of roman/greek technology (baths, aqueducts, heron's inventions, greek fire, etc, I could go on for ages but that would make this comment too long), as well as roman bureaucracy and law.

Even considering this though, the song dynasty was definitely the stronger military power, I'm just pointing out that this statement isn't accurate for the only european state you mentioned.
The ERE was not a Western European power though.
 
Nov 2012
3,848
#9
But Sassanid power waned as well as waxed. Even after the great victories of Shapur I, the Romans captured Ctesiphon twice before 300 CE. And Julian's army was tactically better than the sassanid one, which relied heavily on logistical strangulation.
I agree with the other poster in hindsight Sassanids had better of Romans/Byzantines most of the time during conflict and Romans were ahead in the engagements with Parthians.
 
Nov 2012
3,848
#10
1914... France doesn't compare with Germany or Britain? While they may have been in outdated uniforms, it needs to be remembered that from 1914 to 1918 the FRENCH held most of the Western Front. Britain had only around 7 divisions total, counting cavalry. In terms of individual skill and training, the British may have been the best, but at that time they lacked the staying power to fight on a large front and hold out. In fact the Battle of Mons ended in a British retreat because they lacked the manpower to stay there and that the Germans would have crushed them with weight of numbers if the British stayed.

In terms of the scope and scale of the combat in WWI, the best army was likely either Germany or France. Britain doesn't really begin to enter the discussion until 1917-1918 when they had the numbers to fight large scale battles in the field and stay there...
France was a weakling after Franco-Prussian wars and would never have regained a superpower status had the rest of the allies not helped it in WW2.
 

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