After nuclear war destroys society, a new society emerged, called the Midwestern Empire. It shares many similarities with the Roman Empire.

Their society is geared toward expansion and conquest, they are ruled by a emperor who is democratically elected (But the eldest son of the emperor is usually elected), and they have a large and powerful military force. Whenever they find one of the primitive tribes that surround their empire, they either enslave or assimilate that tribe.

My question is, what would be the best way to assimilate a tribe into their empire? By this I mean how to get the tribes to accept the empire's culture and customs.

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    $\begingroup$ What research have you done as to how the Romans did it? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Mar 6, 2018 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ "Conan, what is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!" In other words: Conquest! $\endgroup$
    – Len
    Mar 6, 2018 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ "I’ve done some research" Since the question of how to integrate a (typically barbarian) tribe into powerful empires was solved 2000 years ago, I'd like to know what research you did. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Mar 6, 2018 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ I second RonJohn, your empire is "much like the Roman Empire", the Romans had pretty much the same exact issue in many parts of the Empire, AND you can still recognize those parts of the old empire by the fact that people still speak languages derived from old latin. So obviously the Roman solution was very good. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2018 at 3:26
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds a lot like Caesar's legion in Fallout new vegas. Although they aren't democratic and are extremely bloody in their methods $\endgroup$
    – ArcWraith
    Mar 7, 2018 at 19:31

9 Answers 9


An expansionist empire may choose to assimilate the conquered peoples in its culture and society, or it may choose to keep them separate. The Romans, the Chinese, the Arabs, and the Russians chose to assimilate newly conquered peoples into the dominant culture, with the result was that after a while, all inhabitants of the empire were proud to be Romans, or Arab, or Chinese, or Russians. The Americans, the British and the French chose to keep their subjects separate from the high and pure dominant culture, with the result that violence never stopped unless, in the case of the Americans, the conquered peoples were all killed, or, in the case of the British and the French, the empire fell to pieces.

One may then consider that the best choice is to incorporate the conquered peoples into the dominant culture and society, so that with each conquest the empire’s strength grows and grows, instead of being sapped by constant guerilla warfare, and unstoppable insurgence, and general strife and ill-will. But if the choice is not to assimilate them into the superior culture and society, then it is best to go the American way and just kill them all. True, this is inhumane, and difficult, and will use up a lot of resources; but on the long term it avoids the never ending problems which have plagued the humane British and French empires; dead people don’t start insurgencies and independence movements, and they don’t resort to terrorism. The major disadvantage of this radical method is that it is not sustainable: for it is inhumane, and most people, most of the time, are not inhumane, and won’t stand for it. The Americans killed off all the Indians, or at least almost all the Indians, but when they expanded into the former territories of the French and Spanish empires they just could not do it any longer; and yet killing was all they knew, and when they could be killers no more they fell back on the definitely bad choice of letting the conquered peoples unassimilated, with the result that today many American web sites offer both English and Spanish, and the empire has a large section of the population that still primarily speak Spanish, many of whom live in ghettoized conditions.

It appears then that the best and sustainable choice is to assimilate the newly conquered peoples. This choice is not without its downsides, but those are mostly aesthetic; for example, assimilation is never really unidirectional, and some of the words and habits and cuisine of the conquered peoples will indeed percolate and modify the conquering society and culture. But then again, maybe this is not such a bad thing after all.

Before considering specific examples, it must be said that the one thing an assimilating empire absolutely must do is to encourage mixed marriages. Ties of blood are stronger than ties of tribe or city or nation. An empire where mixed marriages are rare, or are not socially acceptable, is not going to last long, because in the absence of mixed marriages the division between us and them persists with dire consequences. Colonists are to be encouraged to marry local women, and soldiers and merchants of the conquered peoples are to be encouraged to take wives from other parts of the empire. Ties of blood.

So how did the Romans do it? How did the Arabs do it? The Chinese? The Russians?

In the case of the Romans, it helped that the Romans themselves were not a pure people. From the very beginning their city was the result of a merger between the original Romans of Romulus, and the Sabines of the nearby Caere; the Romans even had a splendidly beautiful and multilayered myth about the abduction of the Sabine women, explaining how this came to be. (The traditional English translation of the name of the myth is “the rape of the Sabines”, and under this title you will find it illustrated by countless painters in countless paintings; but alas languages change and today the traditional translation would be severely misunderstood, to the point of conveying the exact opposite meaning; for the Romans most definitely did not offer sexual violence to the abducted girls, but were rather keen on honorable matrimony.)

The Rape of the Sabines, by Pietro da Cortona

The Making of an Assimilating People, picture by 17th century painter Pietro da Cortona, available on Wikimedia. Public domain.

So when the Romans conquered the Celtiberes of Iberia, or the Afri or Africa, or the Greeks or Greece, or the Gauls of Gaul, they made them Romans, in the same way that they had made Romans the Sabines, and the Sabelli, and the Samnites of Italy.

In the case of peoples which were on a much lower level of development, Romanization proceeded by showing them a better way of life. The Romans had rule of law, a protection of private property, and rights for women. What Gaulish peasant would not want to be a Roman when he finds out that he does not have to leave in fear that his more powerful neighbor can seize his land? What Gaulish woman would not instantly become Roman when she finds out that under Roman law she is a real person, who can own property and engage in trade, and that her daughters cannot be married off against their will?

Future Romans

Future Romans: soldiers of Gaul, as imagined by a late 19th-century illustrator for the Larousse dictionary. Picture available of Wikimedia. Public domain.

In the case of civilized peoples, such as the Greeks, the Romans came with a different proposition. They got to keep all their local laws and customs, and any Roman who wanted to live in a Greek city had to obey and follow them; and in addition, now the enterprising Greeks had the liberty to trade all over the immense empire. The empire got a large economic boost, for the Greeks were traders and navigators and engineers, and the Greeks became loyal citizens, and begun calling themselves Romans, a name which they kept until the middle of the 19th century.

The Arabs came at it from a different angle. To the conquered peoples of the Syria, and Egypt and Northern Africa, they promised a community of equals, predicated on the holy principles of their Mohammedan religion, which prohibits any kind of discrimination among Muslims. They combined this with a constant stream of religious propaganda, and with tolerance for those who did not wish to convert, while at the same time providing clear social and economic advantages to those who did. And lo and behold, one thousand years later most of the people of Egypt and Syria and Mesopotamia and Northern Africa consider themselves Arabs.

Faym-34 Fayum-35 Fayum-11 Fayum-13 Faym-22 Fayum-29 Fayum-14

Their descendants are now Arabs. Portraits of Egyptians from the Roman times. Fayum mummy portraits, 3rd to 7th century AD.

The Russians had the advantage that the core of their empire was established in the Middle Ages, or what passed for Middle Ages in Eastern Europe, a time when nations were in flux and national allegiance was unknown. They also had the advantage that, medieval as they were, the Russian feudal lords were nevertheless on a much higher stage of development than the Uralic or Turkic-speaking peoples whom they encountered in what is now European Russia, not to speak of the poor hunter-gatherers of Siberia.

The Chinese had the dual advantages of having a superior culture and infinite patience. That China is a large and stable empire is proof that waiting for a long enough time works very well; for the Chinese did not do anything special to assimilate the numerous and various peoples inhabiting their immense empire, they just waited centuries and millennia, until the very memory of a time when the emperor of China did not rule was lost in the mist of time and all inhabitants could not even imagine themselves as anything but Chinese.

Future conqueror should note that no method of assimilation is perfect, and all of them will fail occasionally. The Romans could not assimilate the fanatic Hebrews, who considered themselves to be chosen by the gods for a special mission, and who took active measures to resist assimilation; the Russians could not assimilate the Caucasians of the Caucasus; the Arabs could not assimilate the Persians (and the Hebrews, them again).

(Note to readers: This is an impressionist essay. It is not intended to be completely historically accurate, and indeed it isn't. There are many aspects which have been artfully avoided. And there are no links; use your favorite search engine, for the journey is at least as important as the destination.)

  • $\begingroup$ This is completely wrong WRT Americans. If the Europeans had killed off all, or even most, of the Indians, I wouldn't be here to write this. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    May 26, 2020 at 4:48
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf: Most Americans look like Europeans or Africans. Most Mexicans do not look like Spaniards. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 26, 2020 at 5:02


In ancient Greece prisoners of war were often pressed into slavery. Keep in mind that slavery during this period may have been different, my culture (and perhaps yours) is perhaps 2000 years in the future thousands of miles away. Nevertheless, house slaves probably had it better than say sailor or mining slaves -- this is somewhat similar to experience of African slaves in the US (http://www.crystalinks.com/greekslavery.html). At some points / in some states slaves were garuanteed basic human rights (such as trial in capital cases https://slaveryinjustice.wordpress.com/slavery-in-ancient-greece). A specific of example of this Greek slavery is found with the Helots who were conquered conquered by the Spartans. Note that the Helots outnumered the Spartans greatly (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helots) and this had a distinct impact on Spartan culture as there was always the very real fear of Helot revolt. A bizarre practice in Sparta that illustrates our discontect was the final test of manhood. Male Spartans were required to murder a Helot of high social standing, before admittance into the adult Spartan society during some historical periods. Note that there in Rome, which was heavily influence be Greek civilization and which took slaves in the course of warfare, it was possible for slaves to by their freedom and become freepersons (though not citizens). This was seen as a method of integrating concoured cultures (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/scheidel/091003.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwj40q6RodnZAhVpzVQKHTsuCcYQFjAFegQIABAB&usg=AOvVaw08WB7GuwDkrHEoA1O1jlzb <-- Princton Working Paper on ancient Rome, PDF).


"Kill parents and brainwash children" is a recipe for creating hardcore rebels, both in fiction and real life. Stalin tried that with Chechens, and Russia paid the price 50 years later. Integration means making people want to become a Roman.

Recruit common men into military, construction, or industry, and give then a chance to grow into officers or managers. Take sons of chiefs as wards and raise then alongside Roman nobility, let then serve as local governors, first in other provinces, then in their own homeland. Do not suppress local religion or customs.

This way the local will see that working with Romans is better than fighting them. And any rebels will look like nutjobs.


Two real world examples to draw from. You say assimilate, which I will take as removing their old culture and giving them the new culture.


The Celtic population lacked a written language. To maintain its history and culture, they passed this information along verbally through wisemen known as Druids. A Druid would hold the Celtic people's stories, culture, and traditions in his head to pass along to the next generation. The Romans heavily targeted Druids, hunting and killing them at every turn and making Druids 'illegal' in a Roman state. And they were pretty effective at this; as the Druids died off, so did Celt culture. With no manner of remembering their old ways, Celtic children found themselves immersed in a society where the only good to seek was to become a Roman.

So route A - If the conquered tribe has no written language, kill the leaders that hold the information of the tribe's culture and history. With no manner of remembering their old culture (language or traditions), only the new culture is left to adopt.

Canadian residential schools. Mentioned a bit in other answers, technically you don't really need to indoctrinate the parents into the new culture...you only need the children. Take the children (by force if needed) and relocate them to another part of the larger empire. Settle them into residences and educate them in the new culture, ban their old language, and pick out those most willing to adopt. Those that aren't receive less food and are dormed with sick children (yes, it can be brutal... instill disease in those that resist). In Roman times, forced conscription and military service also works here.

So Route B - Forced relocation and re-education of youth, focusing efforts on those that are willing to adopt and sweep the rest under the rug.


Morally, this is going to be horrifying, but I think it would work.

You don't assimilate the tribe. You assimilate the children of the tribe (the younger the better). Make the situation such that children don't have the possibility of learning about their "primitive" culture.

Once your Midwestern Empire encounters a new culture the steps should be fairly simple.

  1. Simply kill every adult male of the other culture, along with any adult women that aren't capable of breeding (unless you don't care about spawning new units, in which case you should have the women be killed as well).
  2. Make sure you suppress the knowledge of any killings you do in step 1, if you encounter children that are aware of step 1, they need to go as well
  3. Now that you have access to a bunch of children, it's time to play INDOCTRINATION!
  4. Over the next few years, "educate" the children with the classic cult mixture of deception (you "saved" the children from their barbaric parents you didn't slaughter the child's parents...), isolation (your children should be sparsely thrown in with the children of Midwestern Empire, because you don't want to give the impression there are many members of the primitive tribe), induced dependence (the Midwestern Empire now has to take care of/educate the children instead of the actual parents), Additionally social shaming for not conforming to Midwestern Empire values (whatever they may be) should be strictly enforced. This way the children grow up to be brainwashed that the Midwestern Empire is THEIR culture that they are a part of. There should also be a social stigma against giving these primitive children guff so to speak. The better the children of the Midwestern Empire and the primitive tribes can get along, the primitive tribe will be assimilated without much dissent.
  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer crettig $\endgroup$
    – Bryan 2
    Mar 6, 2018 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ That (especially steps #1 and #2) is exactly the opposite of how Rome did it, which was to impress the tribal leaders with Rome's (not just military but mainly technical, cultural and economic) power, and how beneficial it would be to become a Roman client. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Mar 6, 2018 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ A war orphan adoption charity as a branch of the army. Of course you don't actually need to kill the adults, you just need to be sure they never see any free child from their tribe ever again, so slave labor in a different province might work. @RonJohn the next tribe's adults being aware is distinct from the children being aware. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Mar 6, 2018 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ This is close to what happens to foster children: They are disconnected from their original socio-economic environment and raised as if they were always part of the socio-economic group of the foster parents. $\endgroup$
    – Bohemian
    Mar 7, 2018 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ It's been tried in living memory, it is absoutely abhorrent, and it didn't work. See The stolen generation $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2018 at 15:45

Interestingly, you don't say you're looking for a non-violent way to do this, only the best. IMHO, I would suggest the best way would be non-violent, if your primary parameter is success, and not speed.

And it's how American culture is one of the most globally accepted in the world.

Massive economic and cultural trade with the other cultures.

Sell/trade them a better way to hunt, funnier/more exciting forms of entertainment. Publicity campaigns about your culture's sporting events. Make your way of living look cooler, better, safer than theirs. Assuming speed isn't a desired factor, you can have everyone trading in their woad for T-shirts of your most popular singing idol in under twenty years.


A big question regarding assimilation is how different are the cultures that are clashing. I presume, from the name of your Empire is that the post nuclear area u are looking at is somewhere in North America? It would mean that both your Empire and the "primitive" tribes share some common past, language, customs. If that is the case, maybe the best way is slow and gradual cultural and political assimilation.

Gradually introduce new people into the cultural, economical and political system of the Empire. You always start from the ruling class of the population - with political and military leaders of the tribes (that way Christianity spread, not by introducing it to the simple people, but to the ruling class), richer traders, etc.

If language is not the same, make the Empire language a mandatory thing - for trade, laws, education, and so on.

Bring the Empire religion in and subtly start pressuring the tribe beliefs. In many cases in the history, religion is the thing that people hold on the most to. Also, I dont think there is an atheist society ever documented since the evolution of man.

Start with the low rights of the new tribes, to show them their place, and after a generation or two, add more rights, add possibility of sending children for education to the capital or already fully assimilated areas. Those people would return completely changed.

Very important thing it to settle the citizen of the Empire into the territories of the tribes - that is the best way to spread culture and customs, so the new people should see how they should live and what perks would they have of being the part of that culture. Roman Empire did it wisely with rewarding the veterans with land after serving, and land was in conquered provinces. Also, spread the population of the conquered tribes around the empire.

Gradually add possibility of serving the military. People who have done the servitude tend to change a lot, form new identity, et cetera.

Final process is making them full or partial citizens (on ur choice). Show the people perks of citizenship and they would think about it. Especially if the Emperor is chosen sort of democratically.

Assimilation is a long process that requires time, as history has shown us. Sometimes, even after centuries, it doesn't fully happen. Forced assimilation in most cases does not bear fruit, as history teaches us.

Another thing you need to take in consideration is the merger of cultures. New cultures will bring new addition to the Empire, new ways, customs, and traditions.

Hope this helps


You could assimilate them religiously, by sending missionaries zealously.

Cultural assimilation may be possible by slowly sharing technology and advanced philosophy and education with them.

Military assimilation requires no explanation.


These are good answers, but one option people forget is a simpler, potentially peaceful one: create a hegemony based on tribute and benefits for tribute. One empire like a hegemony could have the primitive tribe integrated by having them be considered part of the empire and being offered things like roads, libraries, protection from rival tribes/nations who wish to attack them, and better homes. In return, the empire may ask for some form of tribute in the form of goods or services from members of the tribe. Since this method doesn't require direct conquest and can allow certain members of the tribe to maintain some autonomy while being part of the empire, it can allow for a more peaceful assimilation. It might also make it easier for the empire since they can provide libraries and schools as part of services for the empire. These educational service can, overtime, teach kids to see themselves as members of the empire while still maintaining some cultural ties to their original culture.


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