The Empire

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Obedience is Law

"To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

Tacitus, Roman historian

The Evil Counterpart to The Republic, the Foil to The Kingdom, the Shadow Archetype to Hegemonic Empire, and The Rival to The Federation, The Empire wants to be the One World Order. Amassing The Evil Army, it sets out to conquer all of its neighbors by force of arms. Taking cues from history, it often resembles the historic Roman, German, Russian/Soviet, or Chinese empires in some way. Led by The Emperor, who is usually also an Evil Overlord, Emperor Scientist or God-Emperor or by some kind of theocratic cabal. A theocracy of a Religion of Evil will almost certainly be The Empire. None of these apply to depictions of the British Empire, which was led at the height of its power by a Size 50 Matron otherwise known as Queen Victoria.

If The Empire does not pose itself outright evil, it may represent itself as the Lightbearer of Civilization, Defender of Faith, Domain of Law and Order, The Co-Prosperity Sphere, Central State of Humankind or Legitimate Regent of Humanity. The Empire may be highly civilized, wealthy, organized, and/or vital, or corrupt, bureaucratic, sybarite and/or ossified. It may be militaristic and imperialistic, or pacifistic and turned inwards. If The Empire actually is on the good side, it may be The Kingdom. If the Emperor is an elected official and the Empire consists of independent or semi-independent domains, it may actually be The Federation.

Of course, there's going to be some kind of Resistance movement within its borders, and small autonomous nations without who may need encouragement by the heroes to become The Alliance. They may also be helped by Les Collaborateurs. There may also be one or more powers that oppose it, often kingdoms or republics, which may or may not band together into The Alliance. The Empire is usually too strong to defeat militarily (unless the story is set in a war strategy video game), but taking down the leaders while they're instigating their sinister plan is usually enough. Or La Résistance may well turn out to be nothing but a treasonous cliqué to overthrow the government or dynasty and replace it with something even more cruel and brutal, or a nationalist or racist separation movement.

Empires can range from being oppressive to being benevolent in rule. In Sword and Sandal films set in the Classical World, the Alexandrian Conquest or the Roman Empire are both seen as benevolent, their Emperors ahead of their time as men of action, enlightenment and thought. Alexander from the movie of the same title and Marcus Aurelius from Gladiator are generally the classic examples of these. This is the reverse for anything involving the Mongol conquest or the Hunnic conquests, who tend to be led by classic examples of the Barbarian Hero, and are far less benevolent in rule as a result. Most depictions of the British Empire, in fact belong to the former, except when it involves the American Revolution.

If the Empire and The Federation exist in the same universe, the two are usually at war, just recovering from a war, or dangerously close to getting into one (the latter two often coincide). If The Republic is a separate entity alongside The Federation, you'll usually find them taking shots at one another prior to forming a pact against the Empire; they could've been longstanding rivals, they might view the other as the Empire, or they might've been pinned against each other by the Empire. If The Kingdom is in the same universe, expect the Empire to invade it (at best) or occupy it (at worst); The Kingdom could've been neutral ground, the original head/proposer of The Alliance, or a simple victim of the Empire's bid for dominance. If the Empire is part of The Alliance, you can make a good bet for it being the Token Evil Teammate.

Note that just being called an Empire is not sufficient to qualify a nation for this trope. Especially in a Heroic Fantasy setting, other types of empires abound, often based on the Holy Roman or British Empires (and occasionally a more sympathetic take on the actual Roman or the Chinese Empire). These types of empires may be better described as an expansionist kingdom, a militaristic federation, a nationalist republic, or a more centrally controlled alliance. The confusion springs from the fact that in real life, there is no actual definition of what constitutes an empire. Take Japan. With "the Empire of Japan" or "the Japanese Empire" you probably meant its time as a colonial power... but since it still has an emperor, it technically still is the "Japanese Empire" (although as a firmly established constitutional monarchy rather than an absolute one). Also, until recently the term "Empire" was used synonymously with "sovereign nation", and did not acquire its negative connotations until the twentieth century. For instance, the early United States referred to itself as an "Empire of Liberty," without irony.

Weakened or weakening versions of The Empire often become Vestigial Empires. If The Empire has been overthrown or mostly overthrown but what's left of it is fighting to get back into power, it's The Remnant. The Empire tends to have its Standard Evil Empire Hierarchy.

Examples of The Empire include:

Anime and Manga

  • Britannia in Code Geass.
  • Zaibach in Vision of Escaflowne.
  • The Principality of Zeon in Mobile Suit Gundam. Despite the misnomer (the head of state's official title was Sovereign), it practiced all the human rights abuses and genocidal tendencies seen in any given "Evil Empire". The twist, however, is that they played the victim card throughout and made it seem like they were forced to declare war on the the Earth Federation to gain their independance; in fact, the One Year War is known as the Zeon War for Independance on their side. And if that wasn't bad enough (since when does one invade other countries to declare secession?), the truth of the matter is Side 3 had already gained independance under the previous leader Zeon Zum Daikun, the same man that the Zabis (specifically the patriarch Degwin) assassinated to gain control of Side 3. Overall, Zeon is definitely the "evil empire" of the Gundam universe, in spite of having a legion of diehard fans that would say otherwise.
    • Also the Zanscare Empire of Victory Gundam which was bigger, stronger and more brutally oppressive then even Zeon was.
      • Zanscare was definitely more brutal; their main goal was to telepathically devolve humanity to a general infantile state and execution was a standard punishment for failure in their ranks. As for "bigger" or "stronger", however, that's up for debate, as they don't seem to have matched Zeon's OYW territorial expansion.
    • The Crossbone Vanguard and the Jupiter Empire of Mobile Suit Gundam F91 and Crossbone Gundam. The Crossbone Vanguard was essentially a pirate themed Zeon-wannabe militia, which sought to establish an aristocratically ruled dominion in Side 4, Cosmo Babylonia. Unlike Zeon however, it actually succeeded, but Cosmo Babylonia ended up collapsing on its own. The Jupiter Empire was more or less a precursor to Zanscare, which sought to eradicate all life in the Earthsphere and then rule over the resulting wasteland. It also practiced many of Zanscare's tendencies, such as executions being commonly used for punishment.
  • An aversion of this trope is the Lyzelle and Elmekia Empires of Slayers. The latter isn't even visited in-series (although it's stated that it's Gourry's homeland), while the former holds two cities, one being a peaceful, bustling epicenter of trade, and the other is an otherwise peaceful village that hosts a magical tree with healing properties and gets blown up twice. If there is an evil country among in the Inner World, it's its only duchy, Kalmaart, home of the one city where a dreaded assassin lives, and (only in the novels) a village that worships the world's Dark Lord.
  • Amestris in the manga version of Fullmetal Alchemist (the anime version is more benign). It's stated that over the past 400 years, Amestris has conquered numerous nations, and is currently at war with Aerugo, Creta and Drachma. The Amestrian government is currently planning to use the entire nation in a transmutation circle to raise an immortal army using the slain souls of the numerous soldiers who have died over the years in a plan to conquer its remaining neighbors. Or rather, this is what Father has led the Amestrian government to believe. In reality, it's the crux of his own bid for godhood.
  • The Holy Empire of Glass Fleet, led by Vetti Sforza, complete with the goal of becoming the One World Order.
  • The Humankind Empire Abh from Crest of the Stars, though Your Mileage May Vary. Their mode of operation is to forcibly take over planets that do * not* have faster-than-light travel, though oddly they do not interfere with those planets which have purchased the technology from others. In the novels this is explained by the fact that their empire began on an interstellar merchant ship, and that they still respect "vested rights". They do not seem to be overtly oppressive towards the planets they control, but they do not allow * any* starship not owned by the Empire to be armed or use faster-than-light travel technology. Then there's the fact that only the "space elves" in charge are able to command warships, though this is due mainly to their physiology, not overt racism.
  • Information from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS Sound Stage X portrayed Ancient Belka as this. It was a powerful civilization with superior magic and technology that took over other worlds, until infighting and the Lensman Arms Race led to the destruction of their world and most of their civilization, with its remnants moving to an autonomous district in Mid-childa.
  • The Hellas Empire from Mahou Sensei Negima is a partial subversion, since the war was actually orchestrated by Omnicidal Maniac terrorists. However, they made it look like the empire started it, and the heroes fought legions of imperial soldiers and warships until they learned of the conspiracy.
  • The Galactic Empire in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Subverted insofar it's not actually that much worse than The Federation, especially after Reinhart becomes de facto ruler, rids the empire of the Deadly Decadent Court, and reforms the system to become more friendly to commoners.
  • Russia in Axis Powers Hetalia: "Everyone will become one with Russia."
  • The Kushan Empire from Berserk.
  • This is the Methuselah's form of government in Trinity Blood.
  • Played Straight, then subverted in Zoids: Chaotic Century with the Guylos Empire. They get the fancier equipment and the more villainous characters who seek to sow strife, but while initially an antagonizing force, it is discovered that it is mostly through the manipulations of the high-ranking nobleman Gunter Prozen that caused war to break out and, once the rightful ruler is returned to power, the Guylos Empire becomes a vital ally to the heroes and a more benevolent force. It keeps the name "Guylos Empire", however.

Comic Books



  • Mordor and its client states (Harad, Umbar, Rhun, and Khand), ruled by Sauron, in The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.
    • Also the Morgoth's empire in The Silmarillion.
    • Saruman attempted to set up one at Isengard, but failed.
    • Nûmenor, especially at the end of the Second Age. Nûmenor began as The Kingdom, but transmuted into The Empire - and was mighty enough to even conquer Mordor and humiliate Sauron.
      • On the other hand, the dominant human 'good guy' societies, Gondor and Arnor, offspring of Numenor's uncorrupted minority, are also empires, especially Gondor, which at its height controls most of the southern reaches of the area mapped by Tolkien. Later, Aragorn, the leader of the 'good guys' reunited Arnor and Gondor and establishes the Reunited Kingdom, which is a very large, civilized, and decent empire.
  • In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series, the world is run by the Seven, almost exclusively populated by ethnic Han Chinese, and called Chung Kuo.
  • The Galactic Empire in Isaac Asimov's Empire and Foundation novels is a state which has already achieved this goal in the distant past - by the end of the Foundation series, the Foundation is on its way to achieving the same. Partially subverted in that Asimov doesn't treat these either of these political entities as overtly villainous.
    • Asimov's Empire is explicitly modeled on The Roman Empire, and the Foundation's therefore bears some resemblance to Byzantium, the Greek-centered "Eastern Roman Empire" that lasted a thousands years longer - but not exactly, as it was set up specifically to reestablish the Empire within a single millennium.
  • Although the Terran Empire in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels didn't start this way, by the time of its collapse it was a full-blown example of this trope.
  • The Empire in Terry Brooks' Shannara series is actually called The Federation. After refusing to get involved in the first three Shannara books despite the immense threat posed by the antagonists of each installment, they decide to invade the rest of the world in the Scions of Shannara multi-part series and (unintentionally) assist the real Big Bad in destroying the Four Lands. What a bunch of dicks.
  • The Barrayaran Empire and the Cetagandan Empire of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga both qualify at any point they're feeling expansionist. Barrayar's at the peak of one, and starting to slide down, during Shards of Honor and Barrayar, but by the time of The Warrior's Apprentice, it's mostly caught up colonizing a new world (one it didn't have to conquer; it was uninhabited by anything above animals) and helps fight off the Cetagandans, who are still messing about. By A Civil Campaign Cetaganda's calmed down too.
  • Persian, Ottoman, Hapsburg, and Chinese influences all show up in the Imperium of the Dune novels. While it doesn't receive a villainous portrayal (indeed, the heroes run it in some books), it doesn't exactly receive a heroic one either. It appears mainly as a status-quo form of society that keeps working because it's what the characters can build in their circumstances (particularly the civilization's dependence on the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild, who both rely on a natural resource found only on one single planet).
  • Tanya Huff's short story "A Woman's Work" showed a well-maintained, organized and competently led empire, all thanks to a Queen who very clearly has the Evil Overlord List memorized (the story plays it for a comedy, with some direct references to the list).
  • The Gurkish Empire from The First Law, complete with a Path of Inspiration.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time introduces the Seanchan Empire as a civilization with its stability dependent on enslaving natural sorcerers channelers, and a universal delusion that the slave-masters are not themselves capable of channeling. Aside from the slavery and aristocracy, their strong socialist policies make them fairly popular among the conquered.
    • The slave-master part is partially justified as if they hadn't ever had a slave, they would be incapable of channeling.
  • The Eastern Empire in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series. A mild subversion, as the Empire is only evil at the top levels of the bureaucracy - when the armies wash over your country and start building roads, adequate housing, and utilities, most people figure they know what they're doing and don't put up a fight.
  • Mijak in Karen Miller's Godspeaker Trilogy.
  • The Empire in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, which consists of a single country ruled by a king.
    • There have been empires ruled by kings and queens beforehand, although considering that the government prior to this was ruled by people on dragons it's unclear why the land is called an 'empire' or why they use the title of 'king'.
    • That empire only even barely qualifies as an empire, considering that we get no indication that there were separate states (or indeed any kind of organised government) or multiple ethnic groups that were incorporated together before Galbatorix founded his "empire". For all intents and purposes, it is merely a kingdom.
    • Galby did conquer bits of other countries - he took land from the Elves and Dwarves. "Empire" is still a pretty poor term for it, though, especially as he lost Surda and the lands east of the Hadarac.
  • One of the few "bad" things in Marge Piercy's Mary Suetopia in the novel Woman on the Edge of Time is that they still have war, and their agrarian, utopian society is fighting a war of attrition with an evil technocratic, cyborg, robotic empire. But, they must not be doing too bad (they use weapons called "jizzers"...tee hee), since while their utopia takes up most of the Earth, the evil empire is resigned to Antarctica, space, and the moon.
  • The CoDominium (CD) in Falkenberg's Legions by Jerry Pournelle. Technically The Alliance, consisting of the United States and the USSR, the CD becomes an interstellar empire, with Earth's nations really disliking the Alliance. It's also collapsing, because the US and USSR still hating each other.
    • Eventually the CoDominium military forces leave the Earth when the USA and USSR blow each other to pieces (and other nations join in), to relocated on the planets Sparta and St. Ekaterina, where they found a full-bore aristocratic empire of their own. The last line of 'The Prince of Spartans' is AVE. AVE LYSANDER, IMPERATOR
  • Inverted, played with and otherwise Deconstructed in the Honor Harrington series. Manticore may finally revel in some good old-fashioned imperialism, but that doesn't stop them from being the nice guy of the series, while alleged Federations are either corrupt bureaucratic monstrosities that are falling apart at the seams (League), or alternate between that and bloody tyranny (Haven). Although Haven has gotten a lot better lately. You can make a pretty good case that are now as much the "good guys" as anyone else. Right now the only reason they're fighting Manticore is over a really big misunderstanding (details would be a major spoiler).
  • In CS Lewis's The Horse and His Boy, Calormen is a mild instance of this. Although it is not entirely bent on conquest, the book features an attempt to conquer Archenland, and the promise that will help conquer Narnia. The curse on Rabadash is explicitly described as making life easier for small countries nearby, as he can not conquer them himself, and is afraid of the power generals would amass if they did so for him.
  • The Instrumentality of Mankind in the eponymous series by Cordwainer Smith. However, the Instrumentality is very, very unusual.
    • In fact, trying to give an encyclopedic explanation of how it governs, its structure, its people's, history or even its policies wouldn't explain it with any justice.
  • Both subverted and played straight in The Malazan Book of the Fallen. The Malazan Empire is aggressive and expansionistic, but they're not evil. In fact, in the third book one of the leaders of the forces fighting against them comes to the conclusion that many of the cities they'd conquered were better off under the Malazans than they had been under their previous rulers. The Letherii Empire, on the other hand...
    • And the Pannion Domin, a hellish theocracy of cannibals, is worse than Lether, to the point that most of the Domin is dead wasteland with only the fringes still supporting life. Fortunately, its also the smallest and least powerful of the three major empires of the current timeline (Malazan, Letherii, and Pannion Domin).
  • Played straight and subverted in Mistborn. The Final Empire controls the whole world and is a truly terrible place to live but its leader, rather than being power-mad, is a Well-Intentioned Extremist trying to protect mankind from an Omnicidal Maniac. After killing him and throwing the world into chaos, the heroes wind up having to create an empire of their own to stand up to the real Big Bad.
  • Inverted in David Weber's Safehold series, where the Empire of Charis is created by the protagonists. This is done out of survival since the Church of God Awaiting was trying to annihilate Charis and has been preparing steadily for another go after the first attempt failed.
  • The Dark Empire of Granbretan in Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon books.
  • The Medes in the Queens Thief books.
  • The Hrum Empire in the Farsala Trilogy, which was based on Ancient Rome.
  • The Imperial Order in the Sword of Truth. Richard himself also inherits the D'Haran Empire, and starts adding to it. His is a good version.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Hyborian Age", the Backstory to Conan the Barbarian, Aquilonia's greed for conquest destroyed the Hyrkanians even though their civilization was flourishing.
    • In "The Scarlet Citadel," Conan is lured into a trap so that an empire can extend itself by annexing Aquilonia.
  • The Wasp Empire in Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series.
  • The Global Community in the Left Behind series. Christ's Millennial Reign in Kingdom Come only gets viewed as this by the Other Light faction due to the 100 years of age limit for unbelievers imposed on the "naturals" who enter or are born in this time period.
  • In The Chathrand Voyages, two of these form the center of the storyline; Arqual is fairly progressive and cosmopolitan, but also aggressively expansionistic, while its Arch Enemy the Mzithrin is an insular, theocratic regime. Neither empire is exactly what you'd call "nice"- we see more of Arqual's oppression of its subject peoples up close (because many of the main characters are Arquali or from Arquali-occupied territory), but the Mzithrin have the dubious distinction of producing the Shaggat Ness.
  • The Kingdom of Witchland and its many vasall states in E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros.
  • An Exercise in Futility has the Kalharian Empire. They aren't so bad, really, provided they conquered you a long time ago.
  • David Eddings has played with the concept. The Belgariad and related works has the Tolnedran Empire, which is one in name only, in order to concrete its similarity to Rome, and the Mallorean Empire, which in the first series is nothing more than a source for countless cannon fodder and in the sequel is expanded and explored in greater depth, revealing a rich and diverse multiculture who almost universally serve the Big Bad only because they're forced to, and are freed from his grip by the end of the series without any major political upheavals. The Tamuli, sequel to the unrelated Elenium series, similarly explores the Tamul Empire in a similar way.
  • The Empire of Nilfgaard in the Witcher series. An expansive power ruled by an iron-fisted emperor which routinely uses terror tactics against the enemies' populace, it is also the place of flourishing economy where Trains Run On Time, scheming wizards are rare, and there is less racial prejudice or religious fanaticism, though an occasional coup d'etat does happen.
  • The Earth Alliance in The History of the Galaxy series, despite the name, had all the makings of an empire. The President ran things by himself and didn't need anybody's permission to declare an all-out war against the colonies, justifying that they needed to offload extra population (a single city on Earth is mentioned to have a population of billions) and the colonies wouldn't go fo it (they never actually asked the colonies outright). Their way of subjugating a colony? No declaration of war, although the sudden nuking of two major cities probably counts as one, followed by an invasion. When the invasion is unexpectadly repelled, the fleet admiral has the planet so thoroughly nuked that it remains uninhabitable for the next 1000 years. What follows is the First Galactic War, with the Free Colonies desperately trying to hold their own against the much more advanced and militarized Earth Alliance. After 30 years, the colonists finally manage to defeat the Alliance, and only because one of the Alliance top brass has decided that the war should end and turned off many defenses in the Solar System.
    • The Harammins had their own empire, including two slave races. However, they deliberately contained themselves in a large star cluster, never expanding, remaining static for nearly 3 million years with rulers suffering from Immortality Immorality.
  • A non-evil variant in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar with the Race, to the point where they can't conceive of any other form of government but absolute monarchy. This belief is further reinforced by the two previous races they subjugated, also reptilians. So when they arrive to Earth (which they call Tosev-3), they are baffled by (among many other things) by the wide variety of forms of government present on this planet. The only word they can come up with these forms of government in their language is "not-empires". Voting is derisively called "snout-counting". The Race have a Manifest Destiny-like belief on a galactic scale. They see their Emperors as ruling the entire galaxy (if not universe) by divine right. Their "evilness" can be described with the glee they express when they slaughter human soldiers or drop nuclear bombs on cities. They only reason they hold off on using nukes is because they don't want to damage the planet, which they want to settle. They're also highly hypocritical.
  • Magravandias in Storm Constantine's Chronicles of Magravandias.
  • Every major power is an Empire in Belisarius Series. The difference is not between Evil empire and good "something besides empire", it is between "that's just how humans arrange their affairs empire", and "Really evil empire".
  • Fred Saberhagen's The Empire of the East is about the war between the Free Folk and the titular empire. This one is one of the more thoroughly evil examples.
  • The Yeerk Empire in Animorphs, complete with conquered planets and slave races.
  • The Enterran Empire from The Diving Universe. The main character, Boss, keeps claiming that she doesn't have any particular desire to come into conflict with it; but the events of the novels cause her to keep butting heads with it again and again, and things seem to be inevitably marching towards all-out war.
  • The Terran Empire in Technic History was very much an Anti-Heroic empire. It was only founded in the first place because alien raids on Earth had gotten so pernicious that it was thought the only thing to do was to found a military regime and well, smash things. And even the first Emperor admitted to being mildly embarrassed about the whole idea. It was often corrupt, often incompetent, and sometimes devious or ruthless, but it also always had something resembling a conscience, had admirable servants, was often a benefit to those it conquered, and in any case was better than any likely alternative.
  • The Concord of the Loyal Houses (commonly just "the Concord") in M. K. Wren's The Phoenix Legacy is a feudal technocracy with a population of 4.5 billion (the 21st century Decades of Disaster really cut humanity back) in the Sol and Alpha Centauri systems. Slightly more than 3.1 billion of the populace are "Bonds" — serfs/slaves. The capital, Concordia, used to be named Melbourne. Some of the oligarchs, in particular the Chairman of the Directorate at the time of the story, are relatively nice people — still slaveowners, but working toward being more enlightened. A few of the others would fit right in alongside, for instance, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.

Live Action TV

  • Several examples from Star Trek that The Federation encounters from the outside, like the Dominion and the Romulan Star Empire, and the Mirror Universe version of the Federation itself, the Terran Empire (insignia pictured above).
    • The Klingon Empire in the original series qualified until they allied with the Federation. During the Dominion War however, it temporarily reverted back to its original practices, namely with the conquest of Cardassia.
      • As of Star Trek Online, it has again reverted back to its TOS practices, once more dropping its alliance with the Federation and waging a war of conquest in the Alpha Quadrant. So far it has conquered Gorn and several other worlds, established military alliances with the Nausicaans and Orions and has made several incursions into Federation space. Overall it's now the second leading superpower in the ST universe after the Federation (discounting the Borg, Undine and Iconians).
      • Interestingly, neither the Romulans nor the Klingons have an emperor, even though that's not a requirement to be considered an empire. The Romulans are officially controlled by the Praetor (at least until STO, where Sela ousted the last Praetor and declared herself Empress), although he has little political power and mostly controls the fleet with the Senate running everything else. The Klingons have the High Council, with the Chancellor being the de-facto Emperor, although the position is not hereditary. They used to have Emperors, but haven't had one for centuries. Then the clone of Kahless (their first Emperor) shows up, but he's made Emperor in name only and holds no actual power. NOTE: This was actually common practice for real life empires that lasted into the latter 19th century or early 20th century, as power shifted away from the monarchies to more higher up politicians. For example, Otto von Bismarck ran Prussia and later the German Empire in all but name, while there were several periods in the Ottoman Empire where the Grand Vizier actually ran things as opposed to the Sultan.
    • According to some non-canon sources, the Terran Empire arose from the American Empire, which was originally a much more militaristic and strength-based United States, before Teddy Roosevelt renames it and crowns himself Emperor. Interestingly, unlike a typical monarchy, the title of the Emperor is not hereditary. In fact, very few Emperors actually died of old age. Most were assassinated by those who then took up the mantle. Only one actually retired.
  • The Alliance of Firefly, though since the main characters are all anti-heroes, it's suggested that from another point of view the Alliance might be considered The Federation. However, the Academy, which is a subset of the Alliance, is firmly on the side of evil.
    • And then The Movie came and the Alliance crossed the Moral Event Horizon with what went down on Miranda. No shades of gray here!.
      • At least not until the Operative shows up on Serenity's dock with a Heel Realization to get off his chest, suggesting that even the Alliance has members too moral to tolerate that, and isn't unanimously 'evil'.
  • The Scarrans and the Peacekeepers, mortal enemies in Farscape.
    • They're both bad enough that Crichton feels that destroying the entire universe is a better option than allowing either side to gain supremacy over the other.
  • The Dalek and Sontaran empires in Doctor Who. Subverted in the Classic Series with the Draconian Empire, which is more The Kingdom than anything else.
  • The Federation in Blakes Seven, despite the sarcastic name.
  • The Zangyack in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.
  • In Andromeda, the Nietzschean plan during their rebellion against the Systems Commonwealth was to form a strong Nietzschean Empire with the Drago-Kazov pride forming the ruling dynasty. However, during the last major battle of the war, the Battle of Witchhead, a large Nietzschean fleet (constituting 15% of their total strength at the start of the conflict) suffers heavy losses when they destroy the last High Guard ships (with some help from Hunt). No longer having a strong position, the Drago-Kazov pride is unable to stay in charge, reducing the unified Nietzscheans into a bunch of squabbling prides who are more concerned with power than creating civilization. Cue 300 years of total chaos.
    • The Commonswealth itself originally started as the Vedran Empire before it became more egalitarian and switched to a republican form of government.

Tabletop Games

  • The Coalition States in Rifts can be given a little slack for establishing order in the post-Cataclysm world... but not for enforcing illiteracy, destroying pre-Rift artifacts, and brutally hunting down and persecuting D-Bees, magic users, and psychics with chilling coldness.
    • And Emperor Prosek's decision to consciously adopt Adolf Hitler as his role model really doesn't help. Although Prosek is not nearly so racist or anti-magic as he pretends. He just finds it useful for keeping the public simultaneously scared and ready to fight at his command. Also, the simple act of him successfully declaring himself "emperor" the Coalition States is in line with this trope, as they were originally more democratic than they are under his rule. This is a major source of tension between Chi-Town and Free Quebec, and also causes concern on the part of the New German Republic.
  • The Realm of Exalted is a classic example.
  • The Imperium of Man and the Tau Empire in Warhammer 40,000. And those are, by comparison, the good guys.
    • The same with the Empire in the other Warhammer Fantasy Battle
    • The Imperium is notable for it's sheer scale, A million worlds and with a population in the quadrillions, it fights thousands of wars at any given moment, its soldiers number in the trillions, and it has existed for ten thousand years. One man, even the greatest man, is nothing, even the death of millions matters little in the Imperium.
    • They are also both interesting in that they see the other as the violent expansionist empire. Though the Tau are also The Federation made up of many different races including human turncoats while the Imperium wipes out all alien life they find.
    • Various Chaos Warlords (both human and not-quite-humans-any-more) also sometimes manage to carve out they're own mini-empires, usually numbering a few dozen or hundred worlds. These are either eventually crushed by an Imperial Crusade or collapse into anarchy because, you know, they're chaos...
  • The Third Imperium of Traveller is more like The Federation with hereditary nobles than an example of this.
    • Though the first and second Imperiums may have been (and why the second one fell).
      • More precisely, the second couldn't decide whether to be an empire or a federation and just imploded. The first was definitely an empire and made no bones about it(they were utterly vicious in war, and sometimes did not behave in a very enlightened manner in peacetime). However they were not cartoonish like some Empires, and their rulers have style and a concept of grace and behave rather like Confucian nobility. Furthermore their empire really did have something to be said for it as it brought peace, prosperity, and if they could not invent technology were pretty good at maintaining it.
  • Greyhawk has the Empire of Iuz, while the Forgotten Realms has Thay.
  • In the Points of Light Dungeons & Dragons setting, the empire of Bael Turath was most definitely this, even forcing their entire populace into a Deal with the Devil when the empire was in danger of collapsing due to their own decadence.
  • Inverted in Anima: Beyond Fantasy with the Empire of Abel and the Azur Alliance -as well as before things got screwed up, when the Empire is described as a benevolent entity (at least for humans and not supernatural stuff)-.

Video Games

  • The Final Fantasy series uses this trope on multiple occasions.
    • Final Fantasy II has the Empire of Palemecia, which conquers, destroys, and enslaves seemingly for the heck of it. Partway through the game the Emperor kills the devil and usurps his throne. And as if that weren't enough to make him a Badass, the expanded GBA release reveals that his "good" side has also taken over the equivalent of Heaven.
    • Final Fantasy VI has an empire called...well, "The Empire" (it was renamed "Gestahlian Empire" in the GBA release) as the main antagonist for most of the game. As if it weren't clear enough, the intro shows the emperor giving the Nazi salute to his subjects. They're not the dangerous ones.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, Shinra fits the mold of The Empire, though it's nominally an electric company... with its own army, and control of most of the world.
    • In Final Fantasy IX, Queen Brahne is in the process of creating one of these until her death.
    • Final Fantasy XI includes the Empire of Aht Urghan, which makes up the setting for it's named expansion. It rules over the Aradijah continent with an iron grip, and is in constant war with various Beastmen factions and the Far Eastern army. Bioweapons, chimeras, electric harnessing and Blue Mages are the result of Aht Urghan's technology. The best part is that the player character works as a mercenary/double agent for the big bad Empire for the entire plot.
    • Final Fantasy XII has the Archadian Empire, which embodies this trope, and the Rozarrian Empire which seems more benevolent, but is only peripherally involved in the story.
    • Final Fantasy Type-0 has the aptly-named Milites, which is conquering most of the world at the time the game opens.
    • The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series has had a few. The original game takes place a while after the fall of the Liltian Empire, and Crystal Bearers takes place in the reign of it's revival. There was also an Ancient Empire in the past of Echoes of Time, led by a powerful Emperor Scientist. Who is the game's immortal Big Bad.
  • Another video game example is Valua in Skies of Arcadia.
  • The Suikoden games have the Scarlet Moon Empire and the Harmonian Empire.
  • While not always directly antagonistic, the Holy Lodis Empire is easily the largest military force in the Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre games and makes its presence known similarly to the Harmonians listed above.
  • Alfard from the Baten Kaitos video games is an interesting example in that there's no resistance against it. The reason: the empire works to instill extreme civic pride in all of its citizens, so that the idea of acting against it has all the attractiveness of stepping on one's own foot.

Lyude: It's unthinkable! To act against The Empire!?

  • The Combine of the Half-Life series are bent on inter-dimensional conquest. It's for our own good, though
  • In Panzer Dragoon, the Empire is portrayed this way, but slowly becomes more and more sympathetic as the series progresses.
  • Spiderweb Software's Exile / Avernum series starts the first game with a description of The Empire. "Not the Empire of Something or The Something Empire"... since there's really only one game in town. They find a massive underground cave network and decide it's the perfect place to chuck all their undesirables. Including you. So the rebellious elements in society are rounded up and sent down to live in near-darkness and plot revenge.
    • And exterminating all non-human species on the surface.
    • One of three ways to win the game is to join the rebels and help take revenge by assassinating the leader of The Empire. Although this does spark a war for the second game, and, well, The Empire does have a few more legions of disposable soldiers than the rag-tag underground rebels do. (Good thing you find aliens to help you!) Seriously, this game is fun.
      • Subverted starting in the third game when Avernum ends up helping the Empire out, which leads to the Reconciliation and the Empire and Avernum becoming allies. The fifth game even has you play as Empire soldiers.
  • The Empire in Drakengard, also fighting its own federation called The Union.
  • The Elder Scrolls series contains an unusual subversion, in that the Empire is generally treated as fairly benevolent. By Skyrim, they've lost a lot of power and have become somewhat corrupt, but they are still more benevolent than most examples of this trope. The Aldmeri Dominion plays this trope straight.
  • If it's a Fire Emblem game it has one of these. Generally the Empire has somehow fallen into the power of some dark evil God. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance's Daein and its King Ashnard are the best fitting, the others are all 'correct' but with a few details of note.
    • The sequel, Radiant Dawn, gives this role to Begnion, which, unlike Daein, actually is an empire. The Dawn Brigade of Daein, the Greil Mercenaries of Crimea, and the empress of Begnion end up fighting against the corrupt senate of Begnion.
    • Monshou no Nazo offers an interesting case - the country of Akaneia was a kingdom, then Hardin came to the throne and renamed it as an empire, changing practically nothing else about it save for its motivations. It's the antagonistic country of Monshou.
  • Halo
    • The Covenant, a collection of alien species lead by religious zealots that seek to conquer every race in the galaxy to teach them the divine truth of the Forerunners, except for humanity, who they want to annihilate because they are the true inheritor to Forerunner tech, even though humans don't know it.
    • The UNSC was described as an empire, and indeed has La Résistance fighting it, though they are portrayed more as terrorists than people bringing down an empire. La Résistance is only featured in the Expanded Universe, and not the actual games, sadly. Helps by the time the game starts most of the La Résistance is wiped out by the Covenant. It turned out that it was UNSC who was the stronger empire in the end.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic series featured Revan's Sith Empire in the original and the Sith Triumvirate in the sequel.
    • The latter being an allusion to the real-life Second Triumvirate. To be fair, the Triumvirate has no territories it controls, just a network of agents and blackened ruins where they have attacked. It is explicitly stated they don't care who rules as long as the Jedi are wiped out, since they would be unchallenged to do anything they want.
    • Both of those pale in comparison with the True Sith Empire, hiding in the Outer Rim, gathering strength to attack the weakened Republic. In fact, according to the novel Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, Revan is the only reason why the Sith Emperor doesn't immediately strike at the Republic, which, thanks to Revan himself, is quite vulnerable to attack. Instead, he manages to keep the Emperor doubting for 300 years before the attack finally happens.
  • Despite the name, the United Earth Federation of Supreme Commander is very much an empire, and a military dictatorship at that. Slavery of sorts is practiced, and there's at least some degree of restrictions on political freedom-the Infinite War began when outlying colonies began rejecting Earth rule and joining the Aeon. Earth's response was military in nature, one thing lead to another, and the Infinite War kicked off.
    • No, you're thinking of the Earth Empire, the UEF is what's left of the Empire and overall much nicer.
    • The UEF is still explicitly a military dictatorship-only a fraction of the UEF's population is allowed to vote, all the top officials are military personnel, active or retired, and oppression by military police is still in effect.
    • The UEF is the state formed by the Earth Empire's military (EarthCom) when the Empire collapsed. So yeah, it's essentially a military dictatorship.
    • The Aeon would also count, since they happen to led by a warmongering commander who plans to usurp the princess, and their goal is to brainwash everyone into accepting The Way, and cleanse all nonbelievers.
  • A few corrupt officials and officers aside, this is generally averted in Tales of Vesperia, where The Empire is not the primary antagonist.
  • Secret of Mana has an empire simply called The Empire that wants to harness the power of the Mana Fortress. A group in one of its towns was formed to work against it.
  • The East European Imperial Alliance from Valkyria Chronicles is your standard Empire.
  • Arc the Lad
    • The Dilzweld Empire. Their army seems unstoppable—at the start of the game, they are about to attack The World Alliance (Huh, kinda sounds like The Federation, don't it?), the grouping of the other five mighty nations, and they are certain they can win. Although, they might have some trouble with that, considering whole platoons of their gun-packing Army (they have mechs and airships, too) are defeated with little difficulty by a group of adventurers armed with a sword, an axe, a bow, and some kind of barbed fishing fly on a string.
    • The Romalian Empire were actually somewhat competent and are the cause of all the problems in the series. The Academy from Arc the Lad 3 fit this trope too, albeit they are a collection of scientists and scholars.. with platoons of soldiers with heavy machine guns and plans to rule the world.
      • Romalia is a subversion: it started as a commercial empire, because a Romalian merchant was the first to discover spirit stones and to use them as an energy source: When Arc the Lad start, Romalia has been the world first super-power for already 1000 years, thanks to its control of the energy supplies, and things started to go really bad only one generation ago.
  • The Furon Empire
  • Free Space has the Ancients' Empire in its Backstory, which fell 8,000 years before the game begins, annihilated by the Shivans. The Backstory is told from the Ancients' point of view, chronicling their rise and fall, painting them somewhat sympathetically as victims of the "Cosmic Destroyers"... it's easy to forget that they were a galaxy-spanning war machine conquering planets and enslaving species left and right: "And we saw other advanced life, and we subdued it, or we crushed it..." The Shivans could almost be seen as the heroes in this case.
    • The Vasudans are also governed by an Empire, though it seems to be a fairly benevolent one. It's also specifically mentioned to be a Parliamentary Empire. Indeed, the Vasudans' survival and economic prosperity following the devastation of their homeworld is largely attributed to their current Emperor, who is quite progressive and favors further integration with the Terrans in the sequel.
  • The Kilrathi Empire, from the Wing Commander series.
  • Super Mario Bros. has the Bowser Empire/Kingdom, or whatever it's called. Heavily militarised, run by a despotic monarch and frequently invading the Kingdom... but oddly, in later games it's shown that not only are Bowser's soldiers mostly just doing their jobs, they actually like, respect and admire Bowser, and are quite loyal and proud. (if not understandably scared of pissing off the giant super-strong turtle-dragon king)
  • Inverted with the Lanvaldear Kingdom and the Malkuth Empire in Tales of the Abyss. Through Luke's POV, Malkuth Empire should be the Big Bad and his own kingdom Lanvaldear is good. Turns out, neither is really good nor bad. If anything, Malkuth Empire is shown to have a much more benevolent.
  • Played quite straight in the MMORPG Pardus, where the Empire has won every war it was involved in up to this point(no, I'm not talking about the backstory either). This is even more surprising when you consider that the Empire(along with the other factions, The Federation and the Union) is completely player run!
    • However, that is in orion, one of its three universes (servers). In Artemis, the empire loses quite often, with the federation mostly winning due to having the most members and the best organisation. Then again, wars are not really common, being mostly once a year.
  • Overlord II has the Glorious Empire, a copy-paste of the Roman Empire, seeking to eradicate all magic in the world. By "eradicate", The Emperor means gather it all in one spot then use it to become a god and reshape the world. Standard stuff.
  • Played straight in Breath of Fire and extremely to trope in Breath of Fire IV.
    • How much to trope? This much:[1]
  • All hail the BFF Empire!
  • Averted in the Disciples series. The Empire, the human force and the local Jack of All Stats race, are more often than not generally the good guys, though there were some corrupted nobles that gained a lot of power during the time skip between the Original game and the Sequel, because the Emperor did mostly nothing for the entire decade. Once they got a new King, they cleaned up their act considerably. And then the Elves invaded them for poorly explained reasons.
  • Dragon Age has two: the Tevinter Imperium (a Vestigial Empire by the time of the game, though apparently by Dragon Age II they've all but regained their former glory) and the Orlesian Empire, the true Empire of the game's present setting.
  • Magnagora, the Engine of Transformation from Lusternia. It's ruled over by a Deadly Decadent Court, its most populous race are racist mutants twisted by The Corruption, and it uses The Undead as shock-troopers to blitz and overwhelm its enemies. Despite their obvious inclinations, they can be surprisingly subtle and manipulative in their perpetual bids for power.
  • The Confederation in Escape Velocity.
    • The Voinian Empire in Escape Velocity Override.
    • The Auroran Empire of Escape Velocity Nova is mostly The Alliance merged with Proud Warrior Race, but they do have their Imperial moments and aspects. The real example in Nova is the Bureau, working through The Federation - they are an autocratic organisation (headed by a Chairperson) seeking to suborn all humanity under their rule, and already have control of one of the three major states of Known Space.
  • The Terran Dominion in StarCraft, ruled by Emperor and former terrorist, Arcturus Mengsk.
    • The UED later in Brood Wars.
    • The Terran Confederacy was this in all but name, as well as lacking a single ruler. Their most famous acts are nuking a planet for some of the citizens speaking out against them and sending assassins to decapitate a family. No wonder many humans actually welcomed Mengsk's new government.
  • The, well, Empire in Gratuitous Space Battles, which is one of the most powerful galactic civilizations, a technologically-advanced powerhouse that has existed for thirty thousand years and counting and is bent on conquering what parts of the galaxy they haven't taken yet. Their "Emperor" is a bit "under the weather" - no one's seen him in about a thousand years or so, but the Empire itself keeps marching along.
  • Bronquia in Yggdra Union except not.
  • The Galaxy-spanning Taiidan Empire in Homeworld can perhaps best be described as what would have happened if the Galactic Empire from Star Wars had been allowed to remain intact for 4000 years. Not very pretty.
    • The Backstory reveals that the Hiigarans were pretty imperialistic in the old days, boldened by the fact that they had one of the three original hyperspace cores, giving them immense power. They use it to transport their fleet past the Taiidani defense lines right above the Taiidani homeworld, raining destruction on it. After the Bentusi interfered and took away their core, and wiped out a sizable chunk of their fleet, the vengeful Taiidani struck back and drove the Hiigarans from their homeworld, which they took for themselves as repayment.
  • Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas, modeled off of Imperial Rome, have the Evil part down, adopting traditions of cultural extinction and genocide, slavery and crucifixion. Their objective in the game is to establish the Empire part.
    • Caesar however still thinks they're The Horde, and wants Vegas to be their Rome thus making them a true Empire.
  • Eien no Aselia has the Sargios empire, the strongest nation on the continent. The people are actually perfectly content since they don't have to do any of the fighting and are benefited by the imperialistic nature of the empire.
  • The Junaris Empire of Vanguard Bandits. The largest nation on the continent, they came into power by rebelling against the Pharastia Kingdom and continue to war with them to the current day. They're the most consistent enemy on every path in the game.
  • The Empire of the Rising Sun in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. All hail Emperor Sulu!.
    • Interestingly, if you win the game as the Empire, Emperor Yoshiro grants you the rank of shogun. Historically, the shogunate usually held all the power in Japan, while the Emperor was merely a figurehead.
  • The Terran Empire in Ground Control II, originally the Draconis Empire, who renamed themselves after conquering Earth. They then spend centuries solidifying their hold on the Inner Sphere colonies and building up their military. They then strike out at the Northern Star Alliance, crushing all resistance mercilessly. The leader of the Terran fleet is Imperator Vlaana Azleea, AKA the Butcher of Ariel, charged by The Emperor to bring all the colonies under Imperial control, even if it means bombing them into nothingness. The Empire is partly modeled after the Roman Empire, including the ranks (imperator, centurion) and the fact that their foot soldiers are called legionnaires.
  • Universe At War: The Hierarchy play the stereotypical role of an Empire. Their a galaxy spanning race that has conquered countless worlds, and strip mine them for their resources(and by resources it includes all of its living inhabitants).
  • In the X-Universe, the Split Dynasty and Paranid Empire are opposed to the Argon Federation and Kingdom of Boron. The Split are the straighter version in that they're the only member of the Commonwealth that still practices slavery. Still, morality in the series is kinda grey; overall the only thing that makes either side good or evil is that the last time the two sides went to war, the Split and Paranid were the aggressors.

Web Comics

  • Order of the Stick: Elan's father Tarquin not only controls his own three-pronged empire, but he uses his understanding of the world's narrative structure to deduce that it MUST succeed for a significant amount of time...or else there would be no drama in a lone hero opposing it someday!
  • The Souballo Empire from Our Little Adventure is probably going to be the main antagonistic force of the comic.The adventuring group is about to get on a boat to the continent where its holds a huge foothold.
  • The Wulfenbach Empire from Girl Genius.
  • In Nip and Tuck Show Within the Show Rebel Cry, the Federation is an Empire.
  • Last Res0rt has the People's Republic of Celigo, which is allied with the Star Org (and it's up for debate which half is really in control).
  • Homestuck: It's never seen in action being that the main characters are all teenagers, but the Alternian Empire from which the trolls hail was reportedly a formidable and dominating conquering force constantly at war across the universe, seeking to conquer and add more territories to its own. After hundreds - possibly thousands - of years of this, the Vast Glub and the meteor apocalypse on Alternia put an end to that.

Web Original

  • Tech Infantry has several factions, both human and alien, that occasionally or always fit this trope. The Earth Federation was determined to be the only government of the human species, and aggressively expanded at the expense of various alien empires, who were trying to do the same to them. Then they get replaced by the Middle Kingdom after one faction finally wins the seemingly endless human civil war, and they are even worse in this department. Various alien empires, from the Arachnids to the Jurvain also fit the trope.
  • Decades of Darkness has the *USA and the Brazilian Empire.
  • In the Chaos Timeline... well, since this is a realistic (hi)story, it's a question of your POV. The New Roman Empire, the German Technocracy and others might all qualify.
  • Open Blue has two rival empires, Avelia (A mix of Imperial Spain and Great Britain) and Sirene (Imperial Germany), and a Vestigial Empire, Yaman (Imperial Russia). The Backstory features the Iormunean Imperium, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Ancient Rome, as Precursors armed with weapons blessed by their god who suffered a Gotterdammerung. Ironically, the three present empires are all part of a larger Federation, the Axifloan Coalition.
  • The Galactic League of Extraterrestrial Exploration from Starship
  • The Enforcers of the Plot Continuum, the PPC's Evil Counterpart, are dedicated to multiversal conquest and apparently already rule large sections of their multiverse. On finding out about the prime multiverse, it's been hinted they've now set their sights on it.
  • The Sith Council and The Galactic Empire are modern fations in The Gungan Council that have the most planets out of any other faction.

Western Animation

Real Life

Here's a list which shows all of them. Some of the most notable ones are described below, in mostly chronological order:

  • The Akkadian empire of Sargon the Great and the Assyrian Empire have both been called the first true empires in history, and probably many of the tropes associated with this were invented by the Assyrians.
  • The Persian Empire. From the Greeks' viewpoint, anyway (Cyrus the Great's empire actually has a pretty good bill for human rights).
    • Still an empire by any reasonable definition of the term
      • To be fair, in the context of their time-and indeed in most times-the idea of a natural right to autonomy was rather rare. Being an Empire was kind of a synonym for "we won".
  • The Macedonian Empire that Alexander the Great created out of his conquest of Greece and the entire Persian Empire.
  • Although not the first one by any stretch of the imagination, the original Trope Namer (and, in the Western tradition at least, the Trope Codifier) is the Roman Empire.[2] Although The Roman Republic that preceded it was actually responsible for conquering the majority of that territory, at its height it encompassed most of the civilized world of ancient times (neighbouring Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia and far-distant India and China notwithstanding), introduced it in many other regions, and its society altogether lasted for more than two-thousand years (although as a Vestigial Empire for much of the latter part). Owing to the enormous legacy they left behind many later empires claimed to be either the continuation of the Roman one, a successor, or to be led by a "Roman" emperor. The Byzantines were by far the most credible, but the Papacy, the Carolingians, the Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Tsardom, and the Ottomans all laid claim to it as well.
  • China, on and off until Revolution of 1911/12 and the establishment of the First Republic of China. Arguably 1949 as well, when the Communists won the Civil War and declared the Peoples' Republic of China. The PRC took advantage of the political climate to take control of Tibet and Xinjiang, which had (de-facto) seceded from the China during the 1911 Revolution without joining the Republic. Until the '60s Taiwan ("The Republic of China") still hoped that in the event of Civil War between elements of the PRC or the outbreak of World War 3 they would be able to retake areas of the mainland from (what they saw as) a bunch of illegitimate commie rebels. At its height in the Tang Dynasty (which came during the European 'Dark Ages', characterised by their lack of documentation) the Empire's influence extended as far as the caliphate, and such was the veneration of the Emperor that the Baten Kaitos example about dissing the Empire having "all the attractiveness of stepping on one's own foot" is not so far off. Though there were always people poised to dethrone an Emperor who looked to have lost the favour of heaven - i.e. he was mad and/or incompetent.
    • The later Han Dynasty and Rome were aware of each other and in fact had embassies in each other's empires. The Han were the first to disintegrate, becoming three separate kingdoms after the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 AD - there are two major factors in the grand narrative of Chinese History: conquering foreigners and centralising state control and power. As a dynasty is established, both of these things work in their favour but after a time the trends reverse and the Empire invariably self-destructs and/or is conquered by foreigners (from the steppes). Europe only experienced one full cycle of this kind of Imperial Confederation, however.
  • The Islamic Caliphate, way back when. All five of them, in fact, although it may be a stretch to describe the Caliphate of Cordoba as an empire, since it spanned only southern Iberia. In fact, the Umayyad Caliphate was the fifth largest contiguous empire in existence, spanning from Spain and Morocco to Persia.
  • The Mongols. When Genghis Khan and his kids were done they had amassed the largest contiguous empire in history, incorporating China, the 'stans, much of Persia, Thailand, Korea, and the northern Muslim world, almost all of Russia, and a decent chunk of eastern Europe. To put it into context: the area conquered by the Mongols was and is home to a third of the human race.
  • Some New World empires:
    • The Aztecs, who ran one of most brutal empires ever, and expanded at an ungodly fast rate during their first several years, absorbing and oppressing numerous local tribes. They actually left pockets of resistance and encouraged rebellion among their subject peoples so that they could descend upon them and drag their warriors off for Human Sacrifice. There's a reason why most of their subject peoples sided with the Spanish when they invaded. Not that this dramatically improved the situation.
    • The Incas, although the Inca state was more properly The Federation. The Quechua name for the Inca state was Tawantinsuyu, which translates as "The Four Provinces." Though military expansion did occur, the Inca would often inform neighboring peoples of the economic advantages of integration. Most regions that composed Tawantinsuyu joined political union under the Inca without any warfare.
  • The Ottoman Empire. Eventually controlled most of the Middle East, North Africa, virtually all of Southeastern Europe, and the Crimea. It probably reached its height during the 17th-century Siege of Vienna, but suffered a serious case of stagnation afterwards, with one territory after the other broken off from it. By the 20th century it was so far gone that many came to refer to it as "the Sick Man of Europe".
    • Interestingly, mostly just before the Empire showed that it still had quite some fight in it, and was not going to just roll over and die (which happened more than once).
  • The Spanish Empire, along with Portugal was one of the first maritime superpowers. Before the British adopted the phrase from them, this was "the empire on which the sun never sets".
  • The British Empire, at its height was the largest the world has ever seen, controlling as it did approximately one quarter of the world's land area and people, with territories on every continent.
  • The Portuguese empire, to an extent. Most of their early colonizing efforts were (unlike their Spanish counterpart above) more comparable to the Carthaginians than the Romans, as they more often established trading outposts rather than conquer and subject huge swaths of territory.
  • Tsarist Russia. When the Bolshevik Revolution happened it transformed into the Red Scare.
  • Austria under the Habsburgs could be a subversion of this trope at different times. Partly because people generally weren't sure how to actually describe it, as it wasn't like most other empires. Indeed, it could come out as The Federation at times, though Your Mileage May Vary.
    • While the details of the Habsburg empire are a bit complicated the essence is easy to understand once you realize that it was simply the reductio ad absurdum of the feudal system. The Family, instead of holding the one dynasty/one kingdom model which we(rather erroneously in fact) tend to imagine, held all the crowns of several at once. Think of The Emperor, not as wearing one crown but a whole bunch stacked on top of each other. This arrangement was in fact more common then might be thought; Queen Elizabeth for instance holds England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as being the Feudal Overlord of the Channel Islands. Her ancestors once held the Electorate of Hanover. Likewise(if I remember)the President of France share's the rulership over Andorra with the bishop of something or other. What made the Habsburgs unique was how far they took this system. The Habsburg empire was not illogical; in the sense of following the laws and customs of the time as far as they could logically go, the Habsburgs were so logical they were ridiculous.
  • The French had various periods in which they were this, the Napoleonic Empire and the French colonial empire of the mid-19th to mid-20th century being the most notable.
  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler claimed in his non-fiction book The Decline of the West that every culture/civilization eventually will end in this. Rome, Imperial China, the Muslim world and other cultures did, Western civilization isn't yet there. (He wrote the book in the 1920s.)
  • Nazi Germany, as well as the many territories it conquered and subjugated. In its heyday it encompassed an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Caucasus mountains, and from the Polar circle to the North African desert - not counting the enormous colonial empire under Vichy French control.
    • Elements of the Nazi leadership (including Hitler himself, notably) envisioned the creation of a Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation (Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation), which would consist of Greater Germany (Germany plus Austria and Czechia), the Netherlands, Flemish-speaking Belgium and France, the Channel Islands, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Aaland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, German-speaking Switzerland, even more of France, part of Yugoslavia, and eventually even parts of Italy, together with all the territory conquered in the east (Poland, the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine, Moscovia, etc). Had they succeeded, it would have been one of the largest contiguous empires in history - and the most brutal.
      • Probably though likely it would not have kept it up. If history is to go by, Nazi Germany would have deteriorated(if that is the word), until after a couple of generations it was nothing worse then the fammiliar tangle of Captain Renault style corrupt bureaucrats. It was already heading that way anyway even though the corrupt bureaucrats were generally willing to carry out instructions. It would have been a really nasty couple of generations before the old guard died of course in any event. Still, being properly evil takes a lot of work.
  • Japan still has an Emperor and fit many of the tropes up until the end of World War II. By mid-1942 they had acquired one of the largest empires in human history, radiating out from the Japanese Home Islands in virtually every direction. Although claiming to be "liberating" the rest of Asia from European and American colonial rule, their actual intent was to just control it themselves. Nowadays, it's a constitutional monarchy not unlike the United Kingdom and an empire In Name Only.
  • Till the middle of the 20th century, Empires were actually considered the ideal form of government, kinda like Democracies today. The failure and collapse of all the old colonial empires and the new ideas propagated by both the USA and USSR saw perceptions change.
  • The USSR. Though it claimed to stand against imperialism, it practiced it all the way. It turned the Eastern bloc of Europe into satellite states, and it garrisoned Soviet troops in those states to impose communist rule. It suppressed any form of opposition against it, and it had no problem in using armed force to do so. Famously, Ronald Reagan actually called them "the evil empire".
    • How the Soviets came out of World War II. After you lose 20 million people, you want to make sure such a calamity never happens again. Indeed, "Nobody is forgotten. Nothing is forgotten."
      • A good portion of those 20 million or so were killed off by the Soviets themselves, whether as a product of Stalin's regime or as part of the scorched earth tactics that the Red Army employed against the Nazis. Indeed, the Soviet Union was an "Evil Empire" since its inception; just look at the things they did in the Ukraine (Holodomor), Poland (Katyn Forest) and in Russia itself (Red Terror, among other things). Even the Nazis thought they were inhumane, which in itself is funny considering they were unofficial allies in the beginning (thanks to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact).
      • Not just the Soviets: A lot of Communist countries practiced imperialism. Take Vietnam after the Vietnam War ended: The Vietnamese, shortly after being reunified, proceeded to conquer Cambodia, Laos, and they almost conquered the Phillipines.
  • There's been debates on whether the United States Of America counts as an "Empire" during the last half of the 20th Century and into the 21st, as it is currently the most dominant nation politically, economically and culturally. A superpower nation defined by its opposition to the Soviet Union, it meddled in the politics of smaller nations across Asia, Africa and Latin America as part of the Cold War. While the government is a "Federal Republican Democracy" with limits on its power, the foreign policy is influenced heavily by The President of the United States, AKA Leader Of The Free World and arguably the most powerful man on the planet. Adding to this is that the United States had the ideology of "Manifest Destiny" that made it get more than half of it's territory by taking it from other nations (Mexico, Spain, France and Philippines), leases military bases across the globe, and still holds territories in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The argument against the U.S. counting as an Empire is that for all that, the United States never openly established itself as one by title or by overt takeover of foreign nations after having expanded its borders to the Pacific Ocean in the 1800s (even with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. worked quickly to establish local governments... whether they've been successful is open to debate).
    • To more precisely evaluate whether or not the US is an empire, one needs to define precisely what an empire is. "Is it imperialism to influence the activities of governments you helped create?" seems to be the big question here. While it's true that US foreign intervention always worked towards establishing local governments, many wonder just how independent such governments are from the nation that facilitated their creation. As with everything else, only time will tell...
  1. The Empire not only has the honour of having The Federation led by the local equivalent of The Kingdom in a cycle of running hot-and-cold wars for six hundred years, but actively is attempting to kill the very God-Emperor the country summoned six hundred years ago to unite the Vestigial Empire of the last dynasty because the present emperor doesn't want to give up his job. Up to and including using a Magical Nuke powered by aforementioned god's love interest. This only succeeds in really pissing off aforementioned God-Emperor.
  2. Imperium, from which the term "empire" is derived, originally referred simply to quasi-military authority, particularly over matters of life and death, and an imperator was simply a high-ranking and particularly honored commander, usually of praetorian or consular rank. Some terms in other languages, such as the German "Kaiserreich/Kaiser" and the Russian "Tsarstvo/Tsar" are derived from Caesar's name.