Were the Xiongnu under Maodun the largest empire in the world?

Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
this map that you create not accurate,
Care to explain how/why?

during han dynasty height of power, han dynasty owned northern xinjiang of dzungar basin, during han dynasty peak of power are roughly 6.500.000km2
Note the term "contemporary" in "contemporary Seleucid Empire and Han Dynasty" -- that is, referring to the Han Dynasty of about 200 bc, which covered an area of about 2.5 million sq km, not the late Western or Eastern Han. In any case, even the Han Dynasty as shown in the above maps covered about 4.7 million square kilometres, not 6.5 million, so still a fair bit less than the Xiongnu (assuming the map in the OP is correct):



Google Earth is free by the way, if you ever need to measure anything.
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,563
Google Earth gives the Xiongnu confederacy as shown in the map in the OP (no clue how accurate it is) about 5.3 million square kilometres, larger than the contemporary Seleucid Empire and Han Dynasty, and roughly equal to the Roman Empire at its height, but significantly smaller than the earlier Achaemenid Empire's roughly 6.9 million square kilometres:



Things to consider. The northern extent of the Xiongnu Empire is not clearly demarcated, but they certainly controlled lake Baikal as the Han envoy Su Wu was exiled there, Xiongnu fortresses and a Han style palace at Abakan (possibly the resident of Wei lue, who submitted to the Xiongnu) have also been found in areas west of lake Baikal (the territory of the Dingling, or the original Turkic speakers whom the Xiongnu conquered), so this map's northern boundary of the Xiongnu empire is not extensive enough. Adding these, the Xiongnu empire is closer to 6.2-7 million sq km depending how you include the vassal states.


As for the Achaemenid Empire, the map included vassal states or fictional vassal states. For Central Asia, Chorasmia and Sacæ were mere client states of the Achaemenid, but with no real jurisdiction. Since the formal border for lay along the Iaxartes, where Cyrus had constructed a string of forts, following the pessimistic assessment offered by J.M. Cook in The Persian Empire (J.M. Dent and Sons, London, 1983), it is doubtful of his ability to control effectively the Sacæ nomads on the plain of Amyrgion beyond the settled frontier in Sogdiana, covering around 336,496 square km of territory.

As for Libya, the Persian claim to Nubia by the Napata inscription which declared that Nastesen had routed the Persian armies of Cambyses and captured all his ships. The very fact that the Kushite king was able to raise such a monument supports the fact that he was independent. Furthermore, Herodotus, whose informants were Greek mercenaries in the Persian army, also depicts the Nubian expedition as a disaster.

In regard to Oman, the only "evidence" comes from Herodotus, who merely showed that the Arabs sent an annual gift of incense to Susa. Considering this was Dhofar, almost a thousand miles beyond the Persian frontier, it was most likely that this was a trade relationship (similar to Han claim of tributes in lands as far as Bactria and India). Persia did not rule any part of Arabia except for Kedar. Empire of Darius in 513 BC: 5,725,000 square KM.

Greece was only temporarily occupied by the Persian army, to include that would mean that we have to include temporarily Xiongnu captured Han towns as well. Yet even including the area of Greece captured by the Achaemenid, we still get less than 5.9 million sq KM.
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,563
Care to explain how/why?



Note the term "contemporary" in "contemporary Seleucid Empire and Han Dynasty" -- that is, referring to the Han Dynasty of about 200 bc, which covered an area of about 2.5 million sq km, not the late Western or Eastern Han. In any case, even the Han Dynasty as shown in the above maps covered about 4.7 million square kilometres, not 6.5 million, so still a fair bit less than the Xiongnu (assuming the map in the OP is correct):



Google Earth is free by the way, if you ever need to measure anything.
The Han era map he and you showed are significantly less extensive than the Han Empire at its height. The Western Han at its height had built walls in the Gobi desert in Mongolia itself, parts of it has been uncovered by archaeology. Han sources described an "outer wall" 外城, which in 102 BC was built by Xu Ziwei which was "several hundred Li north of Wuyuan (Ordos)“, with some wall as far as 1,000 li, going as west as Lugou, south of the Altai Mountains.”“汉使光禄勋徐自为出五原塞数百里,远者千里,筑城障列亭至卢朐,而使游击将军韩说、长平侯卫伉屯其旁”。This outer wall isn't one defensive structure, but the wall appears as far west as Lob Nor in Xinjiang and goes as far east as east of Liaoning.

I also have no idea why Yunnan is not included in your Han map, as the area was under the Zhen state which the Han submitted after conquering Nan Yue in 112 BC.

The Eastern Han also controlled the Southern Xiongnu (southern Mongolia) since 48 AD, abolishing their rulers at will, and if you include the brief period that Persia extended into Greece, you must also include the brief period that the Han conquered the Northern Xiongnu all the way north of the Gobi in Central Mongolia and erected an inscription at Yanran mountain in 89 AD (which has been recently found and deciphered by a joint Mongolian and Inner Mongolian university collaboration) commemorating the victory.
Zizhi Tongjian v.47: "初,北单于旣亡,其弟右谷蠡王于除鞬自立为单于,将众数千人止蒲类海,遣使款塞。窦宪请遣使立于除鞬为单于,置中郎将领护,如南单于故事...然上竟从宪策。"

"After the Northern Xiongnu Chanyu died, his younger brother the Left Guli King Yuchujian made himself Chanyu, send several thousand of his people to Bulei sea, and send an envoy to the frontier. Dou Xian petitioned to send an envoy to make Yuxujian the Chanyu, then establish the position of Zhonglangjiang to supervise them, just like the southern Chanyu...The emperor adopted Xian's strategy."

When counting the Northern Xiongnu as well, the Eastern Han Empire was around 8,000,000-8,500,000 sq km.


The Western Han also controlled the Wusun at Lake Balkash, and in 36 BC, the Han briefly extended its conquest to the Talas river, capturing the Xiongnu ruler Zhi Zhi Chanyu.
By 65 BC, the Han official Chang Hui established agricultural garrisons in the Wusun state; the Wusun king Wengui Mi appointed his half Chinese son (by the Han princess Jieyou) as imperial heir. After Wengui died in 60 BC, the Wusun aristocrats appointed another king instead. Princess Jieyou and the new Wusun king Kuangwang split the Wusun state into two. The greater part of the Wusun was hence ruled by Jieyou princess and her half Chinese son, both subject to the Han. Whereas the smaller part of the Wusun was then ursurped by another royalty named Wu Jiutu who also submitted to the Han. By 60 BC, the two Wusun states were hence essentially dominated by the Han, and had to send royal hostages to the Han court.
The Han also vassalized the Qiang people in northeastern Qinghai around the Kokonor region, and in 4 AD, the region was made into the county of Haixi with 5 fortresses surrounding the lake.

The Western Han at its largest: ~7,700,000 million sq km.


These are not even including Han vassal states such as the Xiongnu or the Wa state in Japan (both of which received Han seals and titles), or tributaries like the Kangju in Sogdiana (which send hostage princes to the Han court).

Map of Western Han (not including brief conquest of Talas, the Xihai county at Qinghai, the tributary tribes of South Korea, or the Gobi desert covered by the outer Great walls, and of course not including the vassal state of Xiongnu or Xianbei themselves)
timg.jpg
 
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Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
I am an expert on neither Achaemenid nor Han history -- I'm just putting maps into Google Earth as they're presented here and elsewhere online -- so I'm not going to try to argue any points here. I will note, though, that the Achaemenid and Han states as you describe them, without temporary occupations or looser vassals, still covered about 6,100,000 and 6,000,000 square kilometres respectively, including the Gobi territories and Wusun states, not 5,700,000 and 7,700,000:



 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,563
Your Achaemenid map is still including Nubia and Greece (since boundaries are not clearly demarcated, slight variations are to be expected), and your Han map is not including Zungharia, Korea, Ferghana, Central Vietnam or the Wuhuan of Eastern Inner Mongolia (and other parts of western Inner Mongolia where the outer Great Wall reached modern Mongolia), much less the temporarily occupied Sogdiana up to the Talas river (if Sui and Song era control is to serve as a reference, the Haixi commandery also probably controlled a good part of northeastern Qinghai, not just up to the lake alone, as the Qiangic tribes near it were all subjects).
 
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Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
Both the slivers of Nubia and of modern Greece still included in the map are tiny, and the latter was at the time considered a part of Thrace, not Greece itself, and is included in every single map/description of the Achaemenid Empire I could find (including very detailed maps of, for instance, the Greco-Persian wars).

On the Han, you didn't mention Ferghana before (and nothing I could find on the internet points to it having been conquered by the Han, at least at the same time as everything else) and in Korea (which you also didn't mention) Wikipedia claims the north-eastern peninsula was lost by 80 BC, although I understand its almost as often wrong as not and I know nothing about the matter so I wouldn't argue there. Including the Wusun states seems already quite generous enough, given their near-fully autonomous nature, but, regardless, all the other adjustments together still aren't too significant:



Also, a note on tribute: a polity receiving payments from, having familial connections with, receiving the nominal symbolic submission of, maintaining a somewhat unequal alliance with, or even receiving diplomatic hostages from another ruler/polity does not make the latter polity a constituent of the former -- that is, qualify it to be included within a map of that state -- at least without distinction. If it did, a map of the Byzantine Empire c. 1172~ would look like this, given the nominal submission of the Crusader states and Sultan of Iconion to Manuel, as well as his installation of and alliance with Bela-Alexios in Hungary:



In reality, though, the regions which the Emperor and his state could reliably extract resources and soldiers from, including some more permanent, formalized vassals, looked more like this:



I'm not familiar enough with the history of the Han dynasty to make many active claims about if this or that region is worthy of being included in a map of the Han polity proper, but many of the "subjects" of the Han seem to give off an impression much closer to the relationship between Manuel and the K. of Jerusalem or Hungary -- nominal deference and occasional cooperation as allies against a backdrop of de facto autonomy, that is -- than of real integration into structures of regularized service.
 
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heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
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I am an expert on neither Achaemenid nor Han history -- I'm just putting maps into Google Earth as they're presented here and elsewhere online -- so I'm not going to try to argue any points here. I will note, though, that the Achaemenid and Han states as you describe them, without temporary occupations or looser vassals, still covered about 6,100,000 and 6,000,000 square kilometres respectively, including the Gobi territories and Wusun states, not 5,700,000 and 7,700,000:
I specifically stated 7,700,000 was the Western Han at its largest (36 BC), not its normal state. From 60 BC - 10 AD, the Han was at a rough stable extent, ranging from roughly 7-7.2 million sq km. I also gave the Persian figure of 5,700,000 in 513 BC, not after its Greek conquest.
Both the slivers of Nubia and of modern Greece still included in the map are tiny, and the latter was at the time considered a part of Thrace, not Greece itself, and is included in every single map/description of the Achaemenid Empire I could find (including very detailed maps of, for instance, the Greco-Persian wars).
The discrepancy between our figures are small to begin with (my figures were derived from google map too, but I have no access to it at the moment). I gave 5.9 million sq km, your map presented 6.1 million sq km, minus Nubia, its about right. You cannot derive scientific precision for an era where boundary lines were not clearly demarcated, so small variations in estimates are to be expected.
Whether its included in every map of Achaemenid Empire is irrelevant to the fact that the Persians only had a stronghold in continental Greece from 480-478 BC, meaning it was only temporary, in the same way the Han occupied most of Mongolia from 91 AD-94 AD after conquering the Northern Xiongnu.

On the Han, you didn't mention Ferghana before (and nothing I could find on the internet points to it having been conquered by the Han, at least at the same time as everything else)
The internet is really not something you should be looking at when you draw maps of East Asian Empires, and you certainly shouldn't be ignoring my comments on states because unlike the amateur internet websites, I have a full grasp of the primary sources and archeology at hand.
I can't describe every single state the Han conquered when its not a topic of discussion as that will go on for pages but I showed you a map made by Tan Qixiang, a far more exhaustive study than the maps online, and it included Ferghana and you chose some random amateur map on google instead. Ferghana has been forced to pay tribute and hostage since Han Wudi's expedition in 100 BC, and by 60 BC, Han Shu specifically listed as one of the 36 states under the supervision of the Protectorate General of the Western Region. These states had the following characteristics:
1) paid tribute
2) provided military assistance
3) provided hostages
4) was banned politically from conducting independent diplomacy with the Xiongnu and could not receive or have the Xiongnu receive their refugees
5) had a Han seal and title and had to receive Han recognition for their new king.

Ancient ideas of sovereignty are not clearly drawn out. If you consider that insufficient, then Persian or Mongol rule of Central Asia are little different. In fact, there are little sources available to tell us how the Achaemenids even ruled much of its eastern frontiers other than the fact that they paid tribute.


and in Korea (which you also didn't mention) Wikipedia claims the north-eastern peninsula was lost by 80 BC, although I understand its almost as often wrong as not and I know nothing about the matter so I wouldn't argue there. Including the Wusun states seems already quite generous enough, given their near-fully autonomous nature, but, regardless, all the other adjustments together still aren't too significant:
Koguryo became a state in 37 BC and had parts of northeast Korea, but Wang Mang was still able to forcibly call upon it for soldiers against the Xiongnu in 12 AD, and when soldiers started to dissert, Wang Mang even executed the king for disobedience.
For Southern Korea under the Sam Han, San Guozhi volume 30 is pretty clear about the subordinate status of Mahan to the Lelang prefecture: "During the Han, it was subordinate to the Lelan commandery and pays tribute every season". For Zhenghan during the time of Wang Mang, the king was just a marshal under the Xin; Han supervision of South Korea would then be comparable to Yuan, Ming, and Qing supervision of much of Manchuria, a bureaucratic office that made periodic tributary missions and expeditions in the region.
The so called adjustments you made are minor, you still ignore Han presence in Ferghana, Han office of Wuhuan established to supervise their activity in Eastern Inner Mongolia, and the walls built in outer Mongolia even after I mentioned them to you. Most maps of the Han only portray the counties directly under Central Bureaucracy plus the Tarim vassal states, ignoring the empty steppe the Han controlled which were within the outer walls on the northern side of the Gobi desert. The Xiongnu court also completely abandoned the area south of the Gobi after 119 BC as explicitly mentioned in the Shiji and Han Shu. We have both textual and archaeological evidence now to confirm this.

Also, a note on tribute: a polity receiving payments from, having familial connections with, receiving the nominal symbolic submission of, maintaining a somewhat unequal alliance with, or even receiving diplomatic hostages from another ruler/polity does not make the latter polity a constituent of the former -- that is, qualify it to be included within a map of that state -- at least without distinction. If it did, a map of the Byzantine Empire c. 1172~ would look like this, given the nominal submission of the Crusader states and Sultan of Iconion to Manuel, as well as his installation of and alliance with Bela-Alexios in Hungary:
Much of this is subjective and the same question could be asked about the Achaemenid as we have even less information on how much authority it had over any of the Central Asian territories. If I included every vassal of the Han, then the Han empire would of looked more like this as presented in one Japanese map:


u=55070447,1932091430&fm=26&gp=0.jpg

This map included vassal states like the Xiongnu and even Kangju from Sogdiana, both of whom paid tribute and hostages to the Han court (the Xiongnu ruler even visited in person twice). Even this map does not represent the entirety of Han suzerainty, as the Wuhuan in light blue in the northeast were already supervised by the Han since Huo Qubing's military conquests in 119 BC.


I'm not familiar enough with the history of the Han dynasty to make many active claims about if this or that region is worthy of being included in a map of the Han polity proper, but many of the "subjects" of the Han seem to give off an impression much closer to the relationship between Manuel and the K. of Jerusalem or Hungary -- nominal deference and occasional cooperation as allies against a backdrop of de facto autonomy, that is -- than of real integration into structures of regularized service.
Again, territoriality is subjective before a time with the notion of state sovereignty. However, I should remind people that many of these Han vassals or tributaries are just like the way Mongols rule places like Tibet or Manchuria, or to how the Russians ruled the Buriats before the 19th century; all of these areas are also de facto autonomous, with only their foreign policy being controlled. In fact, places like Punjab India might also have been largely autonomous under the Achaemenid "rule", to include that and not places like Wusun or Ferghana for the Han would therefore be a double standard.
 
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Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
Again, I'm not going to try to argue any historical points, as I have very little experience with Han history (I'll leave the Achaemenids be, as you're right that our figures are relatively close), I'm just trying to put them to a map. Perhaps you could try treating this as a polite historical discussion/exchange instead of a debate you seem to be determined to win. All I was asking here is that you give some semblance of a source for or even logic behind including this or that region within the purview of the Han state, contrary to most maps and articles online, instead of just declaring it to be the case, showing a sourceless, low-detail map in another language which disagrees with half your points as an apparent standard to fit to, and adopting a confrontational tone when I don't necessarily accept every single declaration at face value. Maps and articles online are very often wrong, as I understand, but without some sort of support your word alone -- of a random stranger on an internet forum -- isn't any more reliable. You have done this for regions I've asked about, which is appreciated, but it's highly unproductive to assume that every single statement you make without an even rudimentary explanation will be accepted without question in every conversation you participate in.

In any case, I did broadly extend the Han border to the Mongolian Great Wall as shown in your map (although I do realize now I missed a small spot in the very north-west), as well as territory far north of the Han Great Wall further east in the Wuhuan region (again, you didn't, until now, post a single map, link, or description even outlining where you thought this office of Wuhuan was). Regardless, though, all of these points are relatively minor, so even including every single region you argue should be included in the map (without ephemeral occupations, as you've argued, and I generally agree, we shouldn't count towards the Achaemenid figure), we're still more than 1 million square kilometres short of 7,700,000, and 400-600,000 off from 7-7.2 million:



If you have an idea of where that missing territory is then feel free to make your own map -- again, Google Earth is free, and even MS paint is pretty decent for that sort of thing -- instead of vaguely and incompletely criticizing minute details of mine without presenting anything resembling an alternative. For my part, I'm not interested in being on the receiving end of arrogant, patronizing tirades in return for transcribing maps and information as I find them, so for the foreseeable future I'm quite done with this thread.
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,982
Republika Srpska
If anything, the Achaemenid borders should extent all across the Aegean Sea. They conquered most of the islands there during their first "invasion" of Greece.