The Smallest Empires in History

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,749
United States
#21
In Korean history, Shilla, Paekche, and Koryo were all empires at various points. Their home territories were all less than the modern Korean borders and their external vassal territories were on Ullung-do and Cheju-do islands.
 
Nov 2014
931
USA
#22
Not quite true. Most documents in the East were translated into Greek, and Suetonius in his Life of Claudius claims that the emperor himself considered both Greek and Latin Roman languages and praised the superiority of Greek. During the late antiquity in the ERE, imperial communication with imperial subject was done in Greek, despite Latin's official status. And the first language of most people entering the imperial administration in the 5th century ERE was Greek, though proficiency in Latin was also needed.
You are probably referring to the original ERE after the split of the Roman empire where the governing elite was still of Roman extraction and used Latin as their primary language of communication, while the overwhelming majority of the population was using Greek as it had for centuries coming down from the Hellenistic period after the death of Alexander the Great.
This situation continued until the last quarter of the 6th century, when by that time even the previous governing elite had also been assimilated by the predominance of the Greek culture, and for all practical purposes it had become the Greek Empire of the middle ages.
This transformation actually took place even before emperor Hercules made Greek the official language of the empire, around the time of 578AD, when even the emperors were using Greek as their first language like the rest of the population; it actually had become an anachronism by that time!

Yeah, sorry. I wasn't clear in the previous post. I meant no one from Byzantium called the Orthodox Church Greek. The Westerners did for political reasons.
Yes that's true, because it was assumed to be so (Greek Orthodox)!

The Westerners however were correct in their assessment in calling the Byzantine empire Greek; where they were wrong was in trying to name other people as actual Romans, like the Germans from the Holy Roman Empire.
There were also other people who tried to assume the title of being Romans without actually being ones, like the Russians with the New Rome for Moscow, and even the Seljuk Turks with the Sultanate of Rum (Rome) tried to do so!

If someone is giving himself a title for prestigious reasons without actually being one, is like fooling himself in order to make him feel good!
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,842
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#23
Here is a suggestion for the smallest empire ever:

Isaac Komnenos (c. 1155-1196/96) took control of the province of Cyprus in 1884, created a Patriarch of Cyprus, and was crowned emperor in 1185.

In 1191, the sister and wife of Richard the Lionheart were shipwrecked on Cyprus and imprisoned by Isaac. So Richard conquered Cyprus which eventually became the crusader kingdom of Cyrpus.

Cyprus has an area of 9,251 square kilometers or 3,572 square miles.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,842
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#24
This is like asking who was the biggest dwarf in history...
You have it backwards. It is exactly analogous to asking who was the smallest giant in history. Remember that there have been many tribes, kingdoms, and city states much smaller than Haiti or Cyprus, so even the tiniest empires were giant states, much larger than the average state in history and in prehistory.


In Korean history, Shilla, Paekche, and Koryo were all empires at various points. Their home territories were all less than the modern Korean borders and their external vassal territories were on Ullung-do and Cheju-do islands.
Were they smaller than the Haitian Empire? Were they smaller than the Cyprus Empire in 1185 to 1191?

The Republic of Haiti has an area of 27,750 square kilometers or 10,710 square miles, about the same size as the Haitian Empire.

Cyprus has an area of 9,251 square kilometers or 3,572 square miles.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,842
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#25
People keep referring as the Roman empire what was actually left from the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The Roman empire was long gone for centuries before 1453.
If this is being done for prestigious reasons or desired thoughts, it is actually a misnomer in itself!

Of course, the people whose language was Greek and not Latin.

This same people whose religion was Greek Orthodox and not Roman Catholicism,
....and finally but not least the people whose culture naturally was transplanted in modern day Greece and no where else!
Greek may had been one of the main languages in the Roman empire as other languages also were like in Gaul, in Iberia, Britain, North Africa etc.
The official language of communication however in the Roman Empire was LATIN. Greek was learned and studied only by the elite Romans as the language that had produced an admirable civilization during the Classical or the Hellenistic periods after the death of Alexander the Great.

If nobody called Orthodoxy.... "Greek" in the middle ages (and I'm not sure that this assumption is correct), it was because it was assumed to be without saying it.

It depends in what sense it's assumed the Ecumenical Patriarch would refer to Rome?
Even if that is so, in no way could this be interpreted to conclude him as being a Roman.
It takes a lot more than that!
The Roman Empire was a political organization, not a nation or ethnic group. Any inhabitant of the Roman Empire was a Roman subject and thus a Roman in addition to being a member of another ethic group. After 211 all free men in the Roman Empire were Roman citizens.

The ideology of the Roman Empire was that it was the rightful government of EVERYWHERE and EVERYONE in EVERY TIME. Greeks and Gauls, Egyptians and Britons, Armenians and Spaniards, were all equally Romans and equally citizens of the Empire.

You are from the USA. Does anyone of the thirteen original states from 1789 have anything like the same ethnic, religious, and racial composition now as it had in 1789? No! Each of the thirteen original states has had vast demographic changes in the last 229 years. But nobody says that the state government of Rhode Island or Pennsylvania or Virginia is not the same state government that ruled that state in 1789 merely because of the vast demographic differences.

The Indian tribes in the USA are considered domestic dependent nations. Are you saying that the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma is not really Modoc merely because their ancestors were forced to move from the California-Oregon border to Oklahoma?

Would you claim that Bulgarians are not Bulgarians merely because modern Bulgaria is hundreds of miles from old Bulgaria?

If you don't claim that Ukrainians are the real Russians and that Russians are really Muskovites you have no grounds for claiming that Byzantines were not Romans.
 
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Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,749
United States
#26
You have it backwards. It is exactly analogous to asking who was the smallest giant in history. Remember that there have been many tribes, kingdoms, and city states much smaller than Haiti or Cyprus, so even the tiniest empires were giant states, much larger than the average state in history and in prehistory.




Were they smaller than the Haitian Empire? Were they smaller than the Cyprus Empire in 1185 to 1191?

The Republic of Haiti has an area of 27,750 square kilometers or 10,710 square miles, about the same size as the Haitian Empire.

Cyprus has an area of 9,251 square kilometers or 3,572 square miles.
Not quite that small :). The largest was Koryo from 935-1105 and it ruled over all but the northeastern arm of the peninsula
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,842
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#27
Here is what might have been the smallest empire in history:

Isaac Komnenos (c. 1155-1196/96) took control of the province of Cyprus in 1884, created a Patriarch of Cyprus, and was crowned emperor in 1185.

In 1191, the sister and wife of Richard the Lionheart were shipwrecked on Cyprus and imprisoned by Isaac. So Richard conquered Cyprus which eventually became the crusader kingdom of Cyrpus.

Cyprus has an area of 9,251 square kilometers or 3,572 square miles.

But like the Empires of Trebizond, Thessalonica, Constantinople, and Byzantium at their smallest, the empire in Cyprus is an avatar, or incarnation, or remnant, or continuation, of the mighty Roman Empire that was once many, many times larger, so some people might not think that it counts.

I have questions for those who support various candidates:

The Glorious Haitian Empire [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Empire_of_Haiti]First Empire of Haiti - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
Okay, the Republic of Haiti has an area of 27,750 square kilometers or 10,710 square miles. The first Haitian Empire and the second Haitian Empire and the third Haitian Empire alleged by some sources all had approximately the same area as the republic. Since the Haitian Empire was never a vast empire that shrank in size, it might be considered the best candidate for the smallest empire ever.

The empire of Trebizond.

Around 1900 the Trebizond Vilayet had an area of 31,290 square kilometers or 12,082 square miles. In the 19th century the Trebizond Eyalet had an area of 27,210 square kilometers or 10,507 square miles. How much larger was the Trebizond Empire at its height than the Trebizond Vilayet, and how much smaller was the Trebizond Empire at its smallest than the Trebizond Eyalet?

The Byzantine Empire under Constantine XI.
The Byzantine Empire at its fall in the mid 1400's... it was essentially as large as the city walls extended.
It extended tens of miles beyond the city walls and included a dependency in the Peloponnese.

The Roman or "Byzantine" Empire in 1453. It consisted of land around Constantinople directly ruled by the Emperor plus the "Despotate" of the Morea in the Peloponese. The Peloponese has an area of 21,549.6 square kilometers or 8,320.3 square miles, not much smaller than Haiti. In 1450 the Despotate of the Moria ruled about 0.90 to 0.95 of the Peloponese. As the territory near Constantinople got smaller and smaller, the Despotate of the Morea expanded at the expense of the Frankish Principality of Achaia, finally annexing what was left in 1430-1432. Thus the empire might have been smaller in total area sometime before 1430 than it was in 1453. After the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and the Morea in 1460, the town of Salmeniko, and then it's castle, held out for some time until July 1461, the last remnant of the Roman Empire.

For a few years in the 1220s Emperor Theodore with his capital at Thessalonika ruled most of northern Greece and Thrace. By 1242 his son John Komnenos Doukas ruled a much smaller area around Thessalonika. Emperor John Doukas Vatatzes of Nicaea forced Emperor John Komnenos Doukas to become his vassal and use the lesser title of despot in 1242.

The Latin Empire of Constantinope was founded in 1204 and some of the fiefs in it lasted for centuries, although the last person to use the imperial title died in 1383. The Duchy of Naxos or of the Archipelago consisted of most of the Cyclades Islands. The Cyclades Islands have a total area of 2,572 square kilometers or 993 square miles, and the Duchy was apparently always a bit smaller than that. In 1537 the Duchy became tributary to the Ottomans and in 1566 the Duchy was annexed. Thus some might consider the Duchy of Naxos to be the remnant of the Latin Empire up to 1537.


Of course the problem with Trebizond, Cyprus, the "Byzantine" Empire, the Empire of Thessalonika, and the Latin Empire as candidates for the smallest empire is that they were remnants of the vast Roman Empire.

Latin empire and Empire of Nicaea could qualify:



But the Empire of Trebizond, the Empire of Nicaea, the Latin Empire, the Despotate of Epirus, The Sultanate of Rum (Rome), and the Bulgarian Empire in this map are each several times as large as the Peloponese, and thus larger than the Haitian Empire.

There was the Irish Empire under Brian Boru, which, for all intents and purposes, was the High Kingship rebranded. There was also the actual Irish Empire, which included Ireland, most of western Britain, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides, and the Faroes at its peak.
Ireland. The island of Ireland has an area of 84,421 square kilometers or 32,595 square miles, larger than Haiti. Also Ireland was probably never officially declared an empire.

...For most of its existence, the Japanese empire consisted of the islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, and the subjugation of Honshu wasn't completed until the 13th century.
Honshu has an area of 225,800 square kilometers (87,200 square miles), Kyushu has an area of 36,782 square kilometers, and Shikoku has an area of 18,800 square kilometers. Total 281,382 square kilometers.

The self-proclaimed Central African Empire?
The Central African Empire had the same area as the Central African Republic 622,984 square kilometers or 240,535 square miles.

In the 3rd century, there was the "Gaulish Empire" which was a small one :).
At its height the "Gaulish Empire" included Portugal (92,212 square kilometers), Spain (505,990 square kilometers, France (640,679 square kilometers), and England (130,279 square kilometers), each of which is much larger than the Haitian Empire, total area about 1,369,160 square kilometers.
 
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Nov 2014
931
USA
#28
The Roman Empire was a political organization, not a nation or ethnic group. Any inhabitant of the Roman Empire was a Roman subject and thus a Roman in addition to being a member of another ethic group. After 211 all free men in the Roman Empire were Roman citizens.
Maybe..... after 211 you could consider it in such a manner,..... but to what extent would you claim that the Romans did not consist an ethnic group before that?
What were all the wars done against the Greeks, the Carhedonians, the Gaul, the Iberians, North Africans, Egyptians, Persians etc., and in whose name were conducted?

The ideology of the Roman Empire was that it was the rightful government of EVERYWHERE and EVERYONE in EVERY TIME. Greeks and Gauls, Egyptians and Britons, Armenians and Spaniards, were all equally Romans and equally citizens of the Empire.
It might be one of the reasons why it eventually fell apart, there wasn't any ethnic national conscious to hold them together.
There are countries like this even today who try to operate in such a manner; lets not hope they'll have the same fate, and lets not say which are the ones.

Would you claim that Bulgarians are not Bulgarians merely because modern Bulgaria is hundreds of miles from old Bulgaria?
I don't know which you call old Bulgaria?
IMHO as far as I know their ethnos has been in about the same place they are today for hundreds of years for many centuries, unless you refer to the tribes that came from Northeast and settle in the present area, and did not constitute a state at that time.
 
Jul 2018
4
France, Lyon
#29
The Westerners however were correct in their assessment in calling the Byzantine empire Greek; where they were wrong was in trying to name other people as actual Romans, like the Germans from the Holy Roman Empire.
This is an extremely subjective opinion. How do you evaluate whether they were "correct" or "wrong"? What we call nowadays "Byzantine Empire" always called itself "Basileia ton Rhomaion", i.e. "Kingdom/Empire of the Romans".

Germans never called themselves "Romans". Their state was called "Holy Roman Empire of the German people". Most emperors of this entity were crowned in Rome, by the Pope. This is a symbolic action, as the name is, and the goal is to pretend for political continuity with the Roman Empire.

You seem to assume that ethnic origin and political identity were the same thing throughout history. This is very wrong and the whole idea stems in XIX century nationalism.
 
Nov 2014
931
USA
#30
This is an extremely subjective opinion.
If you want to look at it this way, you could also assume that the opposite is also subjective in the same manner by its assumption.

How do you evaluate whether they were "correct" or "wrong"?
Look the answer above!

What we call nowadays "Byzantine Empire" always called itself "Basileia ton Rhomaion", i.e. "Kingdom/Empire of the Romans".
Calling it for different reasons as the case might be, does not make it necessarily so.
Other people that they were in close contact (Arabs & Persians) with the Byzantine Empire as early as the 6th c. realized with whom they were dealing with and called the "Empire of the Greeks".

Germans never called themselves "Romans". Their state was called "Holy Roman Empire of the German people".
Another case in point!
Why you think they would want calling it "Roman empire" when in reality it wasn't?

Most emperors of this entity were crowned in Rome, by the Pope.
That by itself does not make them Romans either!
The popes were doing it for political reasons, and not in reality due to actuality!

This is a symbolic action, as the name is, and the goal is to pretend for political continuity with the Roman Empire.
They would have liked to believe that probably for prestigious reasons, but that in itself did not make them Romans in reality, as was also the case with the Byzantines.

You seem to assume that ethnic origin and political identity were the same thing throughout history. This is very wrong and the whole idea stems in XIX century nationalism.
No, I don't think ethnic origin and political identity coincided; if that was the case you would have been right in your assumption.
Neither do I think that 19th century nationalism is the determining factor in assessing reality!
 

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