An empire is a large political entity where one group of people gains the political, economic, and military muscle to unify a bunch of other groups of people under its banner and either lords over them or integrates them into a cohesive whole. Empire is derived from the Latin word Imperium, which means "Authority" and more specifically the authority to command numerous Roman legions.
Notable Real Life Empires
- The Akkadian Empire (circa 2234-2154 BC): The oldest known empire in human history, located within northern Mesopotamia.
- The Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 BC–612 BC): An empire which had in its foundation a belief that if their army ever lost a battle, the world would end. Unsurprisingly, it lasted until slightly after they lost their first major battle.
- The Egyptian Empire: Mind you, the civilization is not the Empire. For details, please consult relevant professionals and their works instead of a wiki for tactical genius.
- The Achaemenid or first Persian Empire (550–330 BC): Most famous for being conquered by Alexander and, along with Egypt, providing aesethical insipration for the Thousand Sons.
- The Chinese Empire: Though already unified under a king as late as 841BC (re-dating based on astronomy claims to trace further exact years way into 2100BC and there is evidence of complex agrarian civilization going back well before that), the Chinese did not live under an Emperor until 221BC. They survived interim catastrophes by coming up with the Mandate of Heaven (if the dynasty turns into a bunch of idiots then your local emperor definitely isn't favored by the gods and every peasant can hang them off), their equivalent of a common law, in the Zhou (not empire), and enhanced social mobility with a general disregard in right of blood (began in the Qin(Chin), first empire) and the test system for enlisting government officials (began in the Sui, some 600 years later). Lasted until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in the early 20th century. Resurgent, you may say.
- The Macedonian Empire (330-323 BC) One of the largest Empires in ancient history, created by Alexander the Great. Conquered Persia, the largest Empire in history at the time. Shortly after the empire achieved its height, Alexander died at only 32 years old and his Empire was split into several smaller countries such as Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Kingdom, ruled by dynasties started by his generals, called Diadochi.
- The Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD (Western), 330–1204 AD (Eastern/Byzantine)): the trope codifier for fictional Empires everywhere, and (through borrowing/stealing Greek technology) largely blamed for turning Europe from a backwater land of barbarians into the home of the most ambitious superpowers in history. Has lots, and I mean LOTS, of children, whether it be the directly-descended Spanish and French Empires, or the more-religiously-oriented Roman Catholic Church, et cetera. Roma Invicta.
(Despite great upheavals and changes in China over the millenia, it shouldn't go down in detail here. Go to wikipedia for that.)
- The Holy Roman Empire (962–1806): Sometimes called the first Reich. Started as a powerful medieval state, but ever since Charlemagne died devolved into something "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire." (Voltaire) So complex that its easier to explain what it was not than what it was.
- The Ethiopian Empire (1137-1935/1941-1974): an empire of Africans, and one of the only two African nations to remain independent of the West. Also used to have Judaism as the official religion and then switched to its own version of Christianity. Its last Emperor, Haile Selassie, was revered by a religious movement as God incarnate.
- The Portuguese Empire (1139-1975): the Western kingdom-turned-empire that liked keeping their maritime maps secret, becoming the first global empire in the world. Notable for the founding of Nagasaki, moving their capital and court to Brazil to escape Napoleon, and coming back from the brink of dissolution three times. Also, their nicknames, Portugal Overseas: Ultramar Português or the Império Ultramarino Português has something to do with some smurfs made by a British company of Grimdark. Due to secrecy, nobody has found the old Portugese royal sea route maps.
- The Mongolian Empire (1206–1368 AD): Your stereotypical savage-nomad-kill-burn-kill-maim-burn empire. Put the Four Khanates and the Yuan Empire together, and lol, the second largest human empire, ever, at 88% the size of the British one. Mind you, the Mongol Empire is continuous, though.
- The Ottoman Empire (1299–1923): A vast and powerful Muslim empire which started out as an amalgamation of nomadic tribes uniting to fight off Mongol raiders. From there they became a small Turkish state in Anatolia that conquered Constantinople, the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa. In it's heyday it was huge, technologically advanced, well governed and constantly driving forward, until the 1600s when it got stuck in a rut and overshadowed by the Europeans.
- The Spanish Empire (1402-1975, at its height 1516-1700): colonized huge swaths of the New World, making Spanish the official language of most of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Annihilated the Aztec empire in the process of plundering its gold and silver.
- When talking about the Spanish and Portuguese empires the Treaty of Tordesillas is worth a mention. Created by Pope Alexander VI, the treaty split the New World between the Spanish and the Portuguese, which is why the Portuguese settled Brazil and got to Japan because that was east of the line.
- The Aztec Empire (1428–1521) & The Inca Empire (1438–1533): Inspiration for Lizardmen buildings and homeland. Enuff.
- The Mughal Empire (1526–1857): A Muslim superpower. After squandering the treasury on buildings and war, British influence managed to increase its presence on the subcontinent. Technically spent its last century as a British vassal.
- The British Empire (1583-1997): At its height, the British Empire ruled a quarter of the Earth's land. Began the decolonization process after World War II and the Empire is considered to have ceased to exist as such when Hong Kong was formally turned over to China. Even so they still have handful of oversees territory over which the sun has still yet to set. God Save the Queen.
- The Russian Empire (1721-1917): Big, powerful but often backwards in technology and social development. And when it finally started to catch up it decided to enter a world war. Genius indeed.
- The First French Empire (1804–1815): "Vive la Napoleon!" A pampered child of /v/, too.
- Austrian Empire (1804–1918, including time spent as Austria-Hungary): Ripped apart after WWI.
- Second French Empire (1852–1870): Mostly known for getting their ass kicked by Prussia, thus allowing Germany to be created.
- The Empire of Japan (1868–1947): They've had an emperor since 538, but didn't actually make significant conquests of any sort (though in the late 16th century they tried to invade Korea but were Crushed on land by China and at sea by Korean navy let by the famed Admiral Yi's and his turtle ships) until 1894, and even from then through 1947 it is still debated whether the emperor or the military was running things/and or in conflict with each other, with notable incidents such as the military attacking the Imperial Palace after Emperor Hirohito made a public broadcast in 1945, his first broadcast, asking the Japanese people to surrender to the United States. Also, Japanese used to revere their Emperor as the descendant of Amaterasu and therefore the rightful God-Emperor of Mankind.
And people say the Tau are space weeaboos*BLAM*
- The German Empire (1871–1918): The second Reich, put together by Otto von Bismarck's political genius and Prussian efficiency, it took a collection of feuding principalities and, in a few decades, turned them into the greatest industrial power in Europe until it was exhausted fighting pretty much every other industrial power that mattered, twice.
- Nazi Germany (1933-1945): The third and shortest Reich.
Note that when WWI started, the crowned rulers of Russia, Great Britain, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Germany, Romania, and Norway were all related by blood or marriage.
Notable Fictional Empires
- The First Galactic Empire (Star Wars)
- The Galactic Empire (Isaac Asimov's Foundation series)
- The Galactic Empire (Legend of the Galactic Heroes, from Japan. This name used to be fairly common but is often avoided today, due to its heavy association with Star Wars)
- The Empire of the Known Universe (Dune)
- The Empire (Warhammer Fantasy)
- The Imperium of Man (Warhammer 40K)
And what does this have to do with /tg/?
Historical empires are a commonly-referenced source for fantasy and sci-fi cultures. For example, the Holy Roman Empire had a lot of influence on the design of the Empire of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.