Throughout human history, vast Empires have risen and fallen whose names today remain but a whisper.
Some Empires ruled for over half a millennia and others for less than two decades but all had important impacts on history.
From the mighty gold-rich Empire of Mali that reigned over much of West Africa to the 120,000 square mile island Empire of the Tu’i Tonga, there is so much to unearth.
Read and discover these states of the past who once ruled millions of people but are now forgotten.
How many have you ever heard of?
1 The Empire of Brazil
In 1807, fleeing from a French invasion, the rulers of Portugal abandoned Europe and reestablished the capital of their Empire in Rio de Janiero.
In 1816, Brazil was raised from Colony to Kingdom status equal to the Mother country.
However, after Napoleon’s defeat and with uprisings occurring in Portugal, the new King John IV returned to Lisbon leaving behind his son Dom Pedro as regent.
As talk swirled of reducing Brazil once more to a colony, Pedro was convinced to revolt.
In 1822 he was crowned Emperor of Brazil and after a brief war was recognized in 1825.
The Empire continued until a coup in 1889 proclaimed a new Republic.
2 The Tu’i Tonga Empire
Once stretching more than 195,000 square miles, the Tu’i Tonga Empire once held the entire Polynesian archipelago of Tonga under its sway.
Soon, ships from islands as distant as Samoa brought tributes of tools, stone, and exotic goods to the chiefs of Tonga.
From 1300-1500 AD giant stone monuments were built on Islands across the Pacific, it is now thought due to the influence of the Tu’i Empire.
3 Ashanti Empire
During the 1670s, the Ashanti (also known as Asante) people of what is today Southern Ghana rose to power under the leader Osei Tutu.
Over the next two centuries, continual war with neighboring groups helped fuel a lucrative trade in slaves as defeated captives were then sold to Dutch and British traders.
From atop his “golden stool” in the capital of Kumasi, the Kings of Ashanti kept the encroaching British Empire at bay until the 1870s.
The Ashanti military by then found itself at a great technological disadvantage and despite attempts to modernize the once-dominant state was made a British colony in 1902.
4 The Olmec Civilization
The rulers of Mesoamerica long before the Maya or the Aztecs, these mysterious “rubber people” as the later Aztecs called them occupied a large swath of modern Mexico.
Between 1200-400BC they built enormous pyramids, stone statues, and traded rare goods of polished obsidian knives, tropical bird feathers, jade, mica, and polished malachite mirrors.
Added to this was rubber used to make the balls for a popular sporting event. Little is known about their demise but later Mesoamerican cultures carried on much of their religious and cultural practices.
5 The Mali Empire
Around 1230 a man named Sundiata took control of the state of Kangaba on the upper Niger river, which had for centuries controlled the gold trade across sub-Saharan Africa, and began an aggressive expansion of territory.
His successor Mansa Musa conquered further territory including Timbuktu and the precious salt deposits of Taghaza.
In 1324, Mansa Musa made a famous pilgrimage to Mecca where stories would be passed down for centuries about the shimmering wealth of his caravan.
The Dyula Muslim leaders of Mali continued to dominate much of West Africa until the mid-sixteenth century when internal rebellions broke the state apart.
6 The Italian Empire
After unifying in 1861, the new State of Italy sought to catch up with its powerful European neighbors and acquire colonial territories.
In 1879 they annexed Tunisia, then Somalia, Eretria and Libya in the next few decades.
The international reaction to these actions led Italy to sign the ill-fated Triple Alliance with Germany and Austro-Hungary placing them on the losing side of WWI.
From the 1920s, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini sought to further the Empire and recapture the “glories of Ancient Rome” sending many Italian colonists to the new territories.
After success in Albania and a series of disastrous attempts to invade Ethiopia, the Italian Empire was dissolved at the end of WWII.
7 The Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Persian Empire was the largest Empire of the ancient world.
This same Cyrus is famously written about in the bible as liberator of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.
His successions conquered further into India and Turkey but failed to claim Greece, being defeated at Salamis and Platea after the famous last stand of the 300 at Marathon.
The Empire prospered for the next 150 years until it was destroyed by another “Great” – Alexander of Macedon.
8 The Korean Empire
Lasting only 13 short years from 1897-1910, the Korean Empire was proclaimed in an effort to fend off Japanese aggression.
After defeating China in the Sino-Japanese war, the Japanese turned their sights on Korea.
They orchestrated the assassination of Korea’s Queen Myeongseong and then attempted to turn its now widowed King into a political puppet.
King Gwangmu of the Joseon Dynasty, who had ruled Korea for the last 500 years, tried in 1897 to reposition his beleaguered country on the World political map by reorganizing it into a modern Imperial state.
The effort failed however and in 1910 Japan annexed Korea, ruling it for the next 35 years.
9 The Timurid Empire
Known as “the scourge of god”, in the 1370s Timur the Lame, a decedent of Genghis Khan through his wife sought to reconstitute the Mongol Empire.
Using brutal step nomad tactics and war elephants captured in India, he eventually succeeded in conquering from Pakistan to the Black sea setting up a dynasty that would last for over 100 years.
Under the Timurid Emperors, Persian and Turkic culture flourished with new architectural styles and art emerging in the capitals Samarkand and Herat.
The descendants of Timur, however, squandered his gains in petty rivalries and the empire fell to its powerful neighbors, disappearing into the Mughal Empire in 1526.
10 The Ottoman Empire
Beginning as the dream of the Turkmen leader Osman I, from 1300 his band of nomadic tribesmen began a steady march of conquest across the decaying Byzantine and Seljuk Empires.
In 1453 they most famously breached the triple walls of Constantinople and rechristened it Istanbul.
Using Turkmen and Janissary forces they eventually controlled lands from Bagdad to Algiers including Egypt and were threatening Vienna.
The highly centralized state bureaucracy kept meticulous records, encouraged the arts and built glorious mosques across its lands.
Despite attempts to modernize however, by the mid-19th century they were the “sick man of Europe” and after defeat in WWI, fell apart as the Young Turk revolution swept through Turkey.