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In a world where tectonic plates decided this whole continental drift fad was just too much work and lets just hang out for a few more hundred million years, life has arisen, stomped around for a while, sat down for a good think, and decided to work together. An empire is born.

This empire has a few things going for it:

  • They have achieved a technology level equivalent to the Romans at their greatest, with a representational democracy since that whole monarchy thing just got too confusing if you had more than one kid (and what if the brat is an idiot?)
  • The single religion is highly resistant to fracturing, mostly because anyone who tries to subvert it spontaneously bursts into flames on account of the human body not being a good conductor of lightning bolts.
  • Due to there being only one land mass the amount of racial drift is very minor. in addition an ancient custom of marrying outside of the tribe in order to avoid interbreeding has carried over, so that looking for mates from afar (or who had recent ancestors from afar) is very common. Thanks for the idea nzaman.

All this adds up to a civilization that is fairly resistant to fracturing, though people are still people, so communications are very important. Especially since it is a land mass of around 60 million square miles (155 million square kilometers).

Sea travel is possible around the circumference of the super continent, and they have developed sailing. Likewise, like the Romans, their road building skills are really advanced.

Assuming a centralized capitol near the equator in the general area of "ARABIA" on the map, what kind of advances to Roman travel technology need to be made to keep the empire stable for a significant amount of time?

Perhaps a better question is, is it possible for an empire like this to be stable for a significant amount of time when the fastest mode of travel is a horse? And if not, what is the least impact improvement that can be made to the tech tree to allow it to work?

Edit 2: The Active Deity
The deity plays a semi active role, but mainly in how the religion is run.
Basically the message is similar to the biblical 10 commandments; don't murder, don't steal, there are no other gods, treat others like you would want to be treated, help those in need, etc, along with a short list of harmful lifestyle choices to avoid for a healthy life and healthy society.

Where the lightning comes in is in the area of spiritual leaders. If you are (or act like) a spiritual influencer, then you are taking on responsibility over peoples lives, and your words and actions can actively lead people away from the message. If a spiritual leader tries to use power or influence for corrupt personal purposes then they are in danger. If a normal person has a dream and takes on the role of cult spiritual leader to share their new revelation, they come under this rule.

The only place that this applies to politics is if a politician oversteps and tries to impose law in a way that affects spiritual matters, in effect becoming a spiritual influencer. If there is something that the message specifically forbids, and someone proposes a law that makes it mandatory/actively encouraged, then they might start to hear thunder on sunny days. But this is not something that the priests have any influence over. They can't pray and ask that someone be smote.

By and large, most of the DON'Ts in the message are things that would be considered illegal in most civilized societies, the DOs are things you should probably be doing anyway, and none of them are actively enforced outside of the priesthood/spiritual leaders. Leaders are held to a higher accountability.

There are other places where the deity shows some activity, like by favoring those that are faithful to the message, sort of like a Luck +1.

There is no law against spiritual leaders seeking political position, but their spiritual position doesn't give them any extra political authority, except that it enforces moral choices.

Map image source: ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, who got it from someone else.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you only looking for answers about improving travel? As you mentioned, the Romans had some dope roads, so the only reasonable improvements would probably be cars and airplanes. Improvements to communication and government structure would probably yield a richer answer. $\endgroup$
    – Giter
    Mar 1, 2018 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Giter Faster communication is good, and of course a local government systems would be key, but in cases of uprising/rebellion/raiders being able to move troops seems like a big deal. While I would like to avoid them having to develop an internal combustion engine, I'm not sure that horse technology is good enough. But I may also be focusing on the wrong thing. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 1, 2018 at 16:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The first thing comes to mind is how you will handwave the climate. This has a huge impact in culture and most of the central part of the supercontinent will be arid $\endgroup$
    – jean
    Mar 1, 2018 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ @jean Do I need to handwave it away? I do get your point about climate influencing culture (Bedouin vs tribes in a rain forest) but I'm not sure if it matters other than as a potential hindrance to travel. But I may be wrong too. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 1, 2018 at 17:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Connected landmasses wouldn't stop racial drift; what matters is travel time. If it takes 2 years to travel to another region, and another two years back, most people won't make the journey and most of those that do will probably not make it. Oceans etc. are merely barriers, and in connected land masses would be replaced by mountain ranges and deserts, to the same end. In the real world, for instance, the Russ and Han peoples live fairly close together on a map, on the same landmass, but travel to Europe was easier for the Russians than travel to China. $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Mar 2, 2018 at 7:04

8 Answers 8


Deserts and high mountains means sailing not roads are main transportation

Well, you need to consider a few additional factors. When they hear Pangeea, people tend to think of a lush luscious continent full of forests and fertile plains.

In fact, as you can see from the map below, there is a vast and foreboding Central Pangean Mountain Chain that made the Himalayas look like a joke. Moreover, they were set across the equator ripping apart monsoon-like winds, driving vast desert belts to the north and south.

This is actually good news for your empire, because it means that, just like the Roman empire (which is famous for Roads but was actually kept alive by grain shipments across the Mediterranean) this will likely be based on shipping around the vast and sheltered Tethys Ocean and the mini-continents that surround it.

Again, shipping can carry a larger volume of news, goods and people faster (~130 miles per day according to my source)


From the Capital (let's assume from the map above it would be in Africa, around present day Libya) news could travel from around the Tethys sea in about a month at most.

So you'd need some fairly significant improvements in shipping technology compared to the Romans to harden the ships for the larger distances across the more open Tethys sea compared to the Med.

  • $\begingroup$ That's a nice map. Seems like, in addition to the coastline of Tethys, they might be able to make pretty good inroads into the area marked South Africa, between the deserts, as well as along the mountian range. Probably not all the way to the west coast. Above the equator I can see Kazakhstania being colonized, but I'm not sure how far into Siberia they'd want to go, even with the water access... $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 2, 2018 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ There'd be also a rather sizeable river system, it would not be hard to imagine a monster-sized ur-Nile spanning most of Gondwana... $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2018 at 17:05

I'm going to add some rough, back of the envelope calculations to the above answers.


wikipedia says that the pony express riders covered 75 miles a day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pony_Express

This stack exchange answer says the Roman Legions marched about 10 miles a day: https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/8226/how-quickly-could-the-roman-legions-march-how-does-it-compare-to-the-mobile-cav

The earth's circumference is 24,000 miles. Pangea looks like it covers about a hemisphere so 12,000 miles from one end to the other. Assuming a seat of government in the center that leads a couple important metrics.

How long does it take a message to get from the outposts to the central government? 6,000 miles / 75 miles a day is 80 days. Right off, this seems like too long to me. News of misbehavior in the provinces won't even be heard off in the capital for over two months. I can imagine several ways to mitigate this problem. You could have semi-autonomous regional seats of power that can respond to most situations without direction from the central government. This requires a culture of loyalty as well as audits and checks on power to prevent rebellion and fragmentation. JBH's idea of moving people around, stationing legions from one region in another seems like a good way to go.

There are also technological steps such as optical telegraph or semaphore. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semaphore_line But perhaps the technological step up to electric telegraph isn't such a stretch from Roman level technology. I could imagine it developing before steam engines (if coal isn't as plentiful for example) and gun powder (no external threats so maybe the arms race isn't such a big deal).

The other metric is how fast you can move troops and material. 10 miles a day means it takes 18 months to get from the central capital to the most distant provinces. That is way too long for a military response so distributed centers of military power will essential (obviously). But once you have faster communications (ie. telegraph of some kind) it becomes reasonable to have legions stationed at 100 mile intervals, so that everything is a 5 day march from enforcers, and they receive orders via the Imperial Telegraph/Semaphore service.

Delegating authority, and layers of administration are going to be massive. Civil service will be a big chunk of GDP. But the unifying forces of shared religion, culture, and trade will be your friends.

Sounds like a pretty fun world to build!

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the time it takes to send information is as important as you think. Britain built it's Indian holdings when sending a letter took half a year: nytimes.com/books/first/m/marshall-east.html $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ The semaphore line is plenty fast enough on its own: the Chappe system could send a symbol down the line at about 1200 km/h, and transmit three symbols per minute. No need to stretch the definition of "Roman" technology to add an electrical telegraph. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Mar 2, 2018 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexanderDuchene To add that mean the empire must keep a strong military at site what rises up expediture a lot $\endgroup$
    – jean
    Mar 2, 2018 at 16:20

Addition based on comments/edited question

Regarding size of a Rome-y empire in travel time: On Roman roads, a message could go about 80km in a day. Handwaving the actual farthest point, let's say that Hadrian's Wall represented the farthest distance that the Roman Empire stably expanded from Rome. Hadrian's Wall is roughly 2400km away from Rome. 2400km/80km = 30, which is very conveniently about a month.

So, a rough(and far from conclusive) estimate on the maximum size of a Roman-level empire in days-of-land-travel-from-capital is about 30 days. Anything much larger presumably wouldn't be feasible for a centralized, Rome-esque empire to manage.

However, ocean/river travel would definitely help the distance. For example, Rome expanded as far east as Susa in Iran, a distance of more than 4000km, though about 2/3rds of the distance can be covered by sailing in the Mediterranean.

Original answer, regarding improvements needed to allow a Pangaempire

As you mentioned, the Romans had a great road system, and even they only got to about 5 million sq. kilometers. This is about 3-4% of the landmass you're talking about covering. You would need significant advances over the Romans in travel, communication, and government organization in order for this super empire(Pangaempire?) to function as a single entity. However, since you wanted a focus on travel:

Trains, planes, and automobiles would be needed to facilitate travel throughout this empire. Ships would speed up travel between coastal areas, however they generally aren't useful for traveling in the interior of continents(unless there are many large rivers).

Rail and highway systems today do a good job of facilitating travel throughout current continents, though infrastructure on this scale is far beyond the ancient Romans. Even if they had modern infrastructure, horses and people can only go so fast. On Roman roads, a horse relay system allowed messages to be carried only 80km a day, a distance a modern car could go in less than an hour. This is why cars and locomotives would be needed, as they are a vast improvement in speed and efficiency over walking. Planes are even better, plus you wouldn't have to worry about pesky mountain ranges. Regardless of the travel method, reading a list of large transport projects shows that even modern infrastructure isn't at the scale needed by the Pangaean empire.

In short, a Roman Empire-level civilization isn't even close to being able to maintain an empire this large. Modern civilizations have only recently accomplished a few continent-wide infrastructure projects, and you're essentially looking for such projects on every continent.

  • $\begingroup$ I wonder what the theoretical maximum size of an empire is in travel days? $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 1, 2018 at 17:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273: You got me wondering about that too! I just added a Rome-based estimate to my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Giter
    Mar 1, 2018 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Good info. having that Paleo Thethys Sea access will let them get big chunks of Australia, India, North America, Eurasia, and the China peninsula by boat. They could probably expand around the top of North America and down the western coast a bit too. Looking at the map, it's kind of hard to keep in mind the scale of it all. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 1, 2018 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273: Yeah, the sheer size of Pangaea is hard to imagine. The dorito-like area where the word "India" is is probably larger than Rome ever was, yet on this map it looks like the area of a small country. $\endgroup$
    – Giter
    Mar 1, 2018 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ This assumes that the most important (if not only important) factor is travel time to the central government. This is entirely unsupported. The theory that Rome didn't expand farther into Scotland for the pure reason of them judging it too distant from Rome for timely communication is outright ridiculous. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2018 at 17:01

Edit after considerable changes to the question

It can't be done

Here is a list of our world's largest empires. As I mentioned, Britain tops the list, but if you look at the map of their greatest extent, you'll realize that they held only as much of the world as they did because of a MASSIVE difference between their tech level and that of the indigenous peoples. As the difference in tech level began to even out, the colonies and holdings began demanding independence, and England couldn't fight such an extended war. (If you think about it, how loyal is a colony, really? Easy to grab. Very hard to keep.)

There isn't a small amount of tech that will make your empire come to be. There isn't any tech that will make your empire come to be. You can't keep the world in the dark. People learn about the technology, and soon thereafter, they have it (the American First Peoples are a very good example — they couldn't manufacture rifles, but it took very little time for them to obtain them). It's only the technological difference, and the fact that it's a considerable difference, that allows you to stay in imperial power at all.

So, unless your god decrees it, you're chasing a solution that doesn't exist. It's too much land mass, too many people, too little tech, and people learn too quickly. If your empire successfully gained the entire world, it would be a false claim, as there would be fights, battles, and wars everywhere — and all the while your empire is losing men and materials that are fairly difficult to replace.

I regret this response, but people 2,000 years ago were as capable of resisting the technological advance of superior forces just as they are today. There's a reason there's never been a militaristic, political, or economic one-world-order on Earth. Big planet, small controlling faction.

Original Answer

A massive problem is that it's difficult for an empire to grow without the ability to hold regional administrators accountable for their actions. Rome had this problem for a number of reasons including slow transport, slow communication, poor logistics, and (thanks to the Caesars) growing greed for personal power.

Consider this map of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent. It covers a pitiful fraction of the land you're proposing. So, your question is, what would have to change to let that empire grow by, what, 200,000%? The closest we've every come (the British Empire) was 22% or so of the planet - and that was with late 1700 early 1800 technology amidst a world that was 1500-1600 technology. As the world acquired the benefits of the empire, their desire to be a part of it waned.

I'm going to assume that I can't suggest new technologies. That I must try to coalesce your empire using only what Rome had at the height of its empire.

  • You have a god that appears to be very active. That's your single greatest source of control. However, it gives the priesthood 100% of the power.

  • A law that states anyone guilty of rebellion against the empire or acting not in the best interest of the empire had better off themselves quick before the jack-booted fanatics show up to publically execute you by means of (fill in the blank) along with every member of your extended family the Empire can possibly find. Your god may not like this law, though. I'm just sayin'. If he's OK with it, he'd be quite an accomodating god. Let's call this the "Liberty Through Loyalty Act" (LiTLA) and pitch it as the necessary consequence of not protecting every liberty enjoyed by the people according to what the Empire thinks they deserve.

  • Roads... roads, roads, roads, roads, roads. A honking lot of roads and a developed civil service to maintain them and make more. And laws that state that anyone trying to take control of the roads away from the empire would be subject to LiTLA by means of hot coals.

  • A massive mid-level bureaucracy fanatically loyal to the empire. Not only are these guys processing mountains of paperwork, but they're regularly visiting every city. Violating the sacred trust of the bureaucracy is subject to LiTLA by waterboarding. Like the priesthood (and the IRS) they have a dangerous amount of power.... You never send your administrators to their home provinces.

  • A massive police/military also fanatically loyal to the empire. You're people need to feel 100% safe when these guys are around, so violoating your oath subjects you to LiTLA by a thousand cuts. These guys also have an enormous amount of power (we're up to three now, your emperor, technically, has none BTW, only what fanatic loyalty gives him). You never post your military in their "home" province.

  • You need to bring the law, a very consistent law, to every reach of the empire. A citizen in the northern wastes should expect the same legal treatment as a citizen in the southern wastes, meaning a well-trained judiciary (subject to LiTLA by suffocation).

  • You want trade... every ounce of trade you can get. You want people, and your economy, to be in constant motion.

Your biggest problem is the triple whammy of the priesthood, the bureaucracy, and the police/military. My thought about LiTLA was an effort to balance the power between these three groups and keep that control in the hands of the emperors and their councils. Your most massive variable is your world's god. Gods get to do what they want, when they want. There's basically no way to balance the power of the priesthood — and they know it. That means you absolutely must, by Divine Decree, have an emperor lead by Divine Mandate. You have absolutely no choice, or the priesthood will assume control.

  • $\begingroup$ The one point I'm not quite sure about is However, it gives the priesthood 100% of the power... If technically the priesthood isn't allowed to make things up or subvert the religion to any great degree (So for example something like the inquisition where corrupt priests used their power to steal wealth from their political rivals would be impossible). Granted, I haven't put much thought into it. It was mostly to avoid it being a cause of fracturing. Does it change the anything if it all boils down to the 10 commandments, and the high level of activity is only directed at religious leaders? $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 1, 2018 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Religions have always been independent of politics. Politicians have tried to control and subvert them over the millennia, but the problem is (by definition) there is no authority greater than god's - and your god is active. If your god elects to never interfere with the government then you're OK. If there is any wiggle room at all, any, then the priesthood has control. They're backed by god who is happy to smite things. To answer the question you need to flesh out your god's specific relationship with your world. Be careful, where there's a will, there's a way, and the priesthood has motives. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 1, 2018 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Throughout history, many religions have been deeply intertwined with governments. The idea that religion should be separate from politics is a fairly recent idea, historically. If JBH's god knows when a priest has become corrupt, and gives him a lightning bolt, he can maintain pretty good cohesiveness. Perhaps one of the rituals of the priesthood should be to stand in the open on a balcony of the temple at high noon, making clear that the priest isn't trying to hide from divine justice, and is therefore fit to serve. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyHarder, you're right. Comments make it difficult to assert complicated ideas. People want to always be in control. Religion and politics have always been at war with each other due to this. Yes, there have been many where they were deeply intertwined, but they've never trusted one another. The OP's case of an active diety is interesting. How active? He doesn't indicate. Very active solves the problem. Not active enough creates a problem. Because the individual will always seek power, and religion is very good at asserting the "my authority is greater than yours" argument. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 2, 2018 at 0:22

Something like Roman Empire should develop along the coast, just like that empire did. Too far inland, you should need a way to make the transportation cheaper or faster. Then you need to improve the communication, as it was already mentioned. Once your empire riches its maximum size, it has to become self-sufficient. That's the real difficulty.

Rome was a very large city and coudn't support itself. Every now and then they would mount expeditions to rob their neighbors. When their neighbors became part of the empire, they would overtax them. Eventually, the empire overextended, there was a lot of Rome to feed and it was very hard to collect from the faraway provinces. Things got sour, then dark.

So, I propose the following:

  1. Your religion should worship an invisible God who sees everything and his prophet is Batman.
  2. Every time an official is proven guilty of corruption he is made an example of. Crucifixion, boiling alive, that sort of thing. So, you need to make a proper justice system. You have to have jury duty, judges should be chosen randomly, most trials should be public, etc.
  3. Schooling should be both right and obligation. You should have public universities were the elites should study. The others should still have Sunday schools. The greatness of your corruption free system should be drummed into people's mind from birth. No one should be an emperor if they didn't study at Princeton with Aristoteles.
  4. Transportation can be improved by building canals. Slaves from the defeated enemies need to dig them. Who doesn't die, becomes a citizen.
  5. Taxation should be fair. So, you need your mathematics to develop a little beyond Roman numerals, so that provinces don't get overtaxed, or undertaxed. If they are overtaxed, they would rebel, if they are undertaxed, Rome starves. You need to develop a Roman IRS.
  6. Laws regarding food safety should be developed and strictly enforced.
  7. Corn, potatoes would be better in terms of yield than wheat.
  8. You need to develop banking, safeguard trade, and make high-yield speculations next to impossible.
  9. Your rulers need to be aware of the actual limits of their power over neighbors. That has to be in the military manuals, developed by the strategists of the empire. The rulers have to be able to discern if a province needs to be conquered, pacified, or better left alone.

I could go on, but I think the technologies needed to make a lasting empire all belong to the category of population discipline. Law and order, plus organization. And lots of pro-empire propaganda built into the educational system. Those could slowly increase your empire, and could even get it to last for a very long time, until population density increases enough, and novel technologies are invented.

But, your Roman Empire would probably never extend much beyond the size of the one in history because of the poor transportation and low population density. When those are solved, other empires would have formed and yours would have to fight them to extend. Even with modern day technology we still can't have a single global state. It might be that our civilization will collapse before that ever happens.


What your empire needs is bureaucracy.

First, travel time matters less than you might think. Britain built its Indian holdings when sending a letter took half a year: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/marshall-east.html. As long as your provinces don't need troops from the capital at a moments notice to repel invaders, it's OK.

The real issue is the principal agent problem. Basically, how do you make sure the provincial governments do what's best for the Empire, and not what's best for each province or each provincial governor (like form a break-away state).

Luckily, we still have those problems, because even if technology means the CEO can look instantly at any part of the company, humanity means they'll still have to delegate. And what we've come up with is bureaucracy.

Model your Imperial government after a corporation, or if that feels too modern the British empire. For example, corporations control corruption in multiple ways:

  1. Clear standards of acceptable conduct (HR deparment)
  2. Promotions confer status and wealth, and corruption will hurt your units profits and thus your chances
  3. People are incentived to report each other, rather than to stay loyal to their immediate superiors (for example, encouraging rotation through departments, or reshuffling teams periodically)
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Bureaucracy, complete with inescapable all-knowing all-seeing all-powerful enforcement, is readily at hand from the priesthood. The active god leads to theocracy with totalitarian enforcement - no worries about principle agent issues when stepping out of line means instant lightning bolt. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2018 at 17:11

If the empire is on the coast of Arabia, the ocean currents run north and south from there, making travel from the capital easy. that means that response times to trouble will be faster than trouble coming to the capital.

However, the biggest effect for keeping the empire together would not be in modes of travel or communication. It would be in the terrain. If different areas of the empire are cut off from each other by largely impassible terrain (jungles, deserts, huge rivers, and mountains) then the empire can stay together.

The empire is not threatened by a region rebelling. The empire is threatened by a rebellion that spreads. The empire has the manpower to easily put down one region's rebellion. It would not be so easy if the empire had to spread it's forces over several regions.

Having to have the ability to suppress multiple regions simultaneously would increase the necessary size of their standing army. Increasing the size of the army would increase unrest since the money to pay for the army has to come from somewhere (usually from the outlying regions). This is one of the things that killed the historic Roman Empire.

If your empire somehow survived the process of getting big enough to dominate the entire continent (that's the biggest trick to explain) then, with no external threats, the army size can be much smaller.

In fact, with no external threats, the regions would have no legitimate reason to have standing armies of their own. So they would have no power.

In that case, if there was to be a threat to the empire, it would have to come from the capital itself.

  • $\begingroup$ Is a rebel considered a religious heretic, worthy of one of those lightning bolts? $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyHarder, I don't know what you are referring to. $\endgroup$
    – ShadoCat
    Mar 1, 2018 at 23:09

Faster communication. Whether it is optical telegraph (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semaphore_line) or something else, they need to be able to communicate quickly.

Also some sort of federalism. I don't think it's even possible to gather the congressmen in one place with a Roman empire type technology.

  • $\begingroup$ That's kind of my question... If it's not possible to run an empire like this at Roman levels of technology, what is the least impact change that could be made to make it possible? Railroads is too big of a leap up the tech tree from horses and oxen pulling wagons, but is there a natural progression that they could realistically make to bring it into the realm of possibility? $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Mar 1, 2018 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Uh... I said federalism (like US, not centralized like Rome) and optical telegraph. Optical telegraph is not a big deal technology wise, it's just poles arranged on top of hills in various configuration, and each relay station repeats the configuration of the poles from the previous station. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2018 at 17:20

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