Let’s say that the tech level is that of antiquity to early medieval times and the entirety of the planet’s landmass exists as a single supercontinent. Could the local equivalent of the Roman/Persian/Mongol Empire conceivably conquer and rule over the entire thing? Or would logistics inevitably become a problem even without oceans separating the seat of the empire from its territories? Let’s assume internal politics don’t have any say in whether or not this empire collapses and that the regime is backed by some sort of theocracy or divine mandate.

tl;dr can I have a single empire believably ruling the entire world under certain conditions?

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    $\begingroup$ I find it fitting that the user who commented first on this question shares the name of one of the greatest conquerors to have lived. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2018 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ Too broad/Opinion based. Needs more information - how large is the landmass? As of right now, the answer is "yea, it's possible, technically speaking" $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Feb 28, 2018 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ I'd go for 'yeah, it's happened before.' $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2018 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ Consider Eurasia. When has a single empire ruled all of Eurasia? Never ever. And Eurasia is far from all landmass of Earth. And by "assum[ing that] internal politics don’t have any say" you mean that this is not a human empire -- in human empires internal politics always have a say in whether or not this empire collapses. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 28, 2018 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ With all due respect to @JakobLovern, the answer is a definitive NO. It has never happened in the history of our planet, not even on the continents as they are. The OP's criteria is the whole enchilada, and no human empire has ever held the whole enchilada, not even for a second. If it could prove possible, it would require substantial descriptions of your supercontinent, the civilizations, resources, rules, etc., which you have not provided. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 1, 2018 at 0:53

1 Answer 1


Trivially, yes. If the landmass is small enough, it can easily be controlled by a single empire.

However, that's not a very interesting answer, so a better question is how big the landmass could be. We can use real-life examples to see how large this hypothetical controllable landmass is:

0-1,000,000 sq. km of land: Easily. According to the sizes listed here, countries today range in size from <1 square kilometer (Vatican City) to more than 1,000,000 sq. km(Russia). The average country in the world takes up about 750,000 sq. km, which is about the size of Chile and Turkey. The Byzantine Empire roughly covered Turkey back in the 9th century, so these sizes are definitely possible.

1,000,000-15,000,000 sq. km of land: Probably. According to this list, there are plenty of large empires in history. Rome, Alexander's Macedon, and the Ottomans all claimed about 5 million sq. km of contiguous land at their peak, the Umayyad Caliphate got to about 11 million sq. km, and the Qing dynasty of China reached about 15 million sq. kilometers, which is about a third of Asia. These empires are certainly at the technological level you described, and there are plenty of examples so this size is pretty doable.

15,000,000-25,000,000 sq. km of land: Possibly. There are two historical land empires in this category: the Russian Empire and the Mongol Empire. The Russian Empire formed in the early 1700's so it might be a bit too advanced compared to the examples you gave, however the Mongols are the interesting one here anyway. At it's peak in the late 13th/early 14th century, the Mongol Empire covered 24 million square kilometers of land. This is about the size of North America. Since this is the largest land empire in history, it may be around the upper limit for the size of empire at the technological level of your examples.

25,000,000+ sq. km: Probably not. The largest empire in history, the British Empire, controlled about 35 million sq. km at it's peak. However, they cheated and used boats, which significantly sped up their empire-wide communication and logistics. Since no other empire has come close to this size, it is unlikely that an empire could come to this size without significant use of the ocean around the supercontinent. This would also require the continent to be thin or fjord-y in order to let ships cover most of the travel distance.

So, an empire easily can control an entire landmass: it's the size of the landmass that determines if some single empire can control it. According to real-life examples, a landmass the size of North America seems to be the upper limit for an empire with an ancient or medieval level of logistics ability, since nothing has gotten larger than that on Earth even though larger landmasses exist.

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    $\begingroup$ Its more the speed of communication, and the speed at which they can move troops. if it takes to long then the empire will fragment as individual areas gain influence and rival the central power. Rome flourished because of it's roads, the mongols were expert horse men with a very mobile army, the English had ships. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ +1, nice answer to a question some considered too broad. Like that you gave the actual examples. But looking at that list the Roman empire seems to actually be the largest that had any real stability at the correct technology level. (The caliphates and the mongols started fragmenting very soon, others are all too "modern") Seems that 5 to 7 million sq.km is something of a limit as several empires in addition to the Romans achieved that general size before gunpowder. Maybe link this as it fits your answer? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_empires $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi: Good point, a stable empire definitely would be closer to Rome than the Mongols in size. And I have that list linked in my answer already, where I refer to 'this list' in the 'probably' section. $\endgroup$
    – Giter
    Mar 1, 2018 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ LOL, totally missed that. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 21:25

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