Episode #125 of the Stack Overflow podcast is here. We talk Tilde Club and mechanical keyboards. Listen now
40

The necessary labor could be drawn from multiple sources: The incarcerated - hard labor as part of a sentence for a convicted criminal is not a new concept, and it's one that operated for centuries. Even in "first world" countries today there is the watered down version in the form of community service. Indentured servitude - making someone work off a debt ...


35

If I remember correctly, in ancient Japan all the daiymios had to send their sons to reside in the Shogun's castle, where they were held as hostages, as a warranty for the underling's fidelity. The practice was called Sankin-kotai, thanks to Jay Carr for pointing to the reference. The emperor can use a similar system. Each family has to give their heirs ...


34

There is a problem with raiders. They don't build. Some historians used the label Gunpowder Empire for an empire where only the central government had the means to produce siege guns and the vast amounts of ammunition they required. (This catchphrase is a simplification, of course.) Assume that only the ruling dynasty controls shipyards and factories to ...


33

I'm going for a definitive YES Contrary to what one could think - and apparently, most users in SE think - slavery is bad for the economy. Slavery is the worst form of unequality, and it gives way to economical stagnation. As the rich landowners got vasts latifundia and made them produce with slave work, the small farmer couldn't compete in price, so they ...


33

Distance - the intervening mountain range, swamp, or near barren grasslands make logistics of open war extremely impractical Attitude - it just isn't worth the trouble unless they bother us first Internal politics - cold wars can be more about how the ruling class uses them to influence their own people than external politics. Maybe the distrust is mostly ...


32

Spartan citizens could afford spending years and years on full time military training only because they had a large base of workers/slaves gained with the Messenian wars, who replaced them in all but military/reproduction tasks, which is not easily scalable to an empire size without creating issues with the conquered populations.


30

This article in Foreign Policy is highly relevant to your question, so I'd advise you read it. The crux however is that the longest lived empires lasted little more than a thousand years. Namely the Eastern Roman empire, and the Holy Roman Empire (successor state in name only). As averages go, the empires of the near east (inclusive of ancient Egypt) were ...


27

There is no hard limit, it really depends on the geography, administration and history of the empire. The first main factor is the ability of the empire to decentralize administration (in the EU I think it is called Subsidiarity principle) and the basic principle was known and used by large empires in ancient times. The Persians, the Romans, and the Chinese ...


27

Why do any two geo-political bodies join together? Well...there are countless reasons and many methods. The methods discussion is more simple to explain so lets start there. How does one geo-political entity absorb or combine with another? Conquest: This is pretty strait forward. One entity takes over another militarily. While simple, union by ...


24

One means to keeping a cold war going is the two antagonistic sides having the means of mutually assured destruction. These two empires could go to full-out war with each, but in the end, at best, one side will win. At worst, continued stale mate. With an "unlimited" supply of cheap soldiers (the serfs on the human side and humans on the dragon side) wars ...


23

I actually think it could, but it would need some very good reason to not have slavery. As others have noted forced labor has been a major factor in civilization. And this is kind of inevitable as the ability to arrange labor for public works such as irrigation, walls, roads, and harbors has been the big selling point of governments in ancient times. So ...


21

For the same reason why the British filled in the Braye du Valle in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. its a lot easier to defend Historical Example: the Braye du Valle The Channel Island of Guernsey was two islands seperated by a small channel, which were connected at low tide, however at high tide they were completely separate (Guernsey has a 10m tidal ...


20

One way would be to introduce a third party. It's neutral towards both the dragons and the knights, and it wouldn't stand a chance if it went to war with either of them. But if both the dragons and the knights believe this third party could easily overrun them if they went to war, even if they are the winners, that would be a strong motive not go to war. ...


19

Ye olde-fashioned way: Marriage A previous Emperor happened to have a dashing young prince for a son, who stole the heart of the beautiful and kind princess of the territory. They had some wacky adventure, fell in love and got married. When they both inherited the titles to their lands, they were merged into the Empire. It's a Protectorate The colony may ...


18

Mutually Assured Destruction Yes, it worked for Earth, it should work for your world. The main difference is that the means for destruction are asymmetric in your case. I'll assume for the question that both sides have significant defenses against each other's armies and capabilities, so that a conventional military strike at any vital point is unlikely ...


17

Slave labour is not necessarily required, but some form of forced labour is I think it depends on what you mean by slavery. Although some will say this is hairy splitting, I say given the nature of the question, this is a hair that very much needs to be split. Slave labour is merely the extreme end of a more general classification of indentured servitude. I ...


17

Yes... and no... Is today's communication fast enough and capable enough to manage a planetary empire? Absolutely. The Internet alone could do it. That's not your problem. Let me suggest a frame challenge: Your problem is establishing such an empire in a believable way, because the technology that allows massive, instantaneous communication also allows ...


16

Potentially very large. The limits would be speed of transport and communication. For comparison the Roman Empire was about 4,000 km across with maximum communication and transport speed of ~10 km/hr (horse or boat) By the time of the British Empire you have spread to effectively be world wide or about 40,000 km (Earth's circumference) with speeds of ...


15

Like so many Bronze Age ideas, Plato's idea of a utopia doesn't really work so well in the modern world and beyond. The world has changed too much in the past 2500 years for it to work now, and even more changes will make this system even less viable. The crux of the issue is that in Plato's day, basically everyone had the same life. The vast majority of ...


15

I like @Cort Ammon's answer a lot, and was already drafting my answer when he posted. If the leadership class is truly indestructible as you say, then the goal of the rebellion would not be to destroy the leadership class, but to establish independence from it. A rebellion would stay hidden, develop underground hydroponic food production and light industry,...


15

I'll take the occasion to mention Brandon Sanderson Mistborn series. Its practically the main theme of the second book. Anyway, to make it short: any empire needs some sort of power infrastructure to work. It serves no good being an evil emperor if you don't have anyone who goes around, making sure every peasant stays in check. Most evil empires are set in ...


15

Yes. Have you ever watched 300? Do you remember the bad guys in that movie, with the scary huge army and spooky masks? Well, it turns out they weren't so bad, after all. The largest empire in our planet's history by share of the world's population (forty-four percent!) did not have mass slavery: The Achaemenid empire. In fact, mass slavery has never been ...


15

Cold War Magic when used on a large scale could have the side effect of drawing heat from the world. Maybe this is how magic works, or it could just be an accidental byproduct; either works. An all-out war would result in the mass deployment of weaponised magic by both sides, and plunge the world into a new ice age that directly kills off large swathes of ...


14

I have looked into the dark, and see 40 millenia of stagnation. From my deck of many cards, let's draw them one at a time and see what we get. The First Card: Strife The first plague to befell your people is here in the first card. It is a rider upon a horse. He is carrying a spear in his hand and has a bow draped across his back. Dressed in skins, he ...


13

What level of (technological) development are you considering? Direct democracy would fall apart quickly in pre-industrial times (which seems to be your focus, given the reference to the Roman Empire), because every proposal to vote on something on would take weeks or even months to distribute across the empire, then another few weeks for the vote tallies ...


13

These sorts of questions are difficult to answer. In the body of the question, they give a set of macroscopic behaviors which suggest that one party is completely and utterly superior to the other in every way shape and form. Then, they ask how the underdog can win. This is tricky because you cannot give StackExchange enough information to actually answer ...


11

Egypt as a polity has existed for nearly 7 thousand years. Of course, not a lot is similar today from the formation of Egypt after the introduction of agriculture. The majority of the time frame there was a form of continuity in religious thought and some of the cultural ideas. What can be learned for the creation of a polity that lasts 10 thousand years ...


11

Other people have covered historical precedent on Earth, but what about science and space? Imagine a space colony on the planet Mercury. Mercury likely doesn't have the resources to sustain a large human population, so with advanced technology and a couple hundred years development from now, you could probably establish a small nation on the surface, whose ...


11

Bring along a "genetic guideline" aboard the colony ship, essentially an enormous database of the sequenced genomes of millions/billions of Empire citizens (the more genetically diverse this database is, the better). Before any reproductive event can be permitted/rendered legal in the Empire, the genetics of the involved gametes (or whatever is the ...


11

Give them a larger threat I have two examples of this being used with pirates in culture and history. The first one you are probably familiar with: Pirates of the Carribbean 3 - the pirates of the world basically elect a unified fleet commander in response to the threat of British vessels threatening to ruin all their livelihoods. The body that enforces ...


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