There's a thread bumping around about American exceptionalism, and a common theme in that thread is noting that many great nations have exceptionalist viewpoints and tendencies.
Over the course of the thread, one user posted a poem as a response to Rudyard Kipling's 'White Man's Burden', a sort of nod to American imperialism in the Philippines marking the US's transition from upstart colony to proper colonial power.
The poem is extremely well-done, and I am in total awe at how perfectly it nails the response to Kipling. It can be found here:
Ex-Conservative: The Judgment of Peers
You'll note that the poem evokes the imagery of the great empires of the world judging America on its imperial capability -- and this imagery got me thinking about the empires of the past.
So, Debate Politics, vote, for which you think the greatest empire in history was!
Your options, in chronological order:
The Persian Empire -- It gets a mention because it was the first empire in recorded history, and brought some pretty revolutionary ideas into common use, like codified law and local government.
The Roman Empire -- The ancient world's most extensive, and certainly most famous empire. Lasted for an exceptionally long time, especially if you think of the Byzantine Empire as a direct continuation of the Roman Empire, though this isn't well-advised, as the institutional differences between them were vast. Still, there's no doubting that Rome's literature, architecture, philosophy and engineering has made a lasting impression on Europe, and thus the world.
The Han Empire -- A shining page in Chinese history, in which figures from earlier ages like Confucius and Sun Tzu were mythified and spread across Asia. Impressive legal reforms and a (relatively) meritocratic examination system meant that all of East Asia, from Vietnam, to China, to Mongolia, to Korea to Japan all sought to emulate the Han Empire in the following centuries.
The Mayan Empire -- Though lost to history and the creep of the jungle, Mayan ruins still tell a story of a civilisation with unique ideas about cosmology and theology. It stretched over much of modern-day Mexico and Central America until the mysterious Mayan Collapse -- the reasons for which no one is quite sure.
The Mongol Empire -- Through the iron will of one fierce leader, the Mongols were the scourge of the Mediaeval world, and conquered southern Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East and even China. After Genghis Khan's death, the Mongols fractured into four 'hordes', evoking imagery of Alexander the Great's successor kingdoms. While the Mongols were eventually driven out by the Russians, Arabs and Persians, they managed to hold on to China for another century. Often depicted as an unstoppable horde of mounted warriors, what the Mongol Empire lacked in administrative capability, it made up for in strength of arms.
The Portuguese Empire -- The first global empire! Portuguese navigators sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, and showed up in places as far apart as Brazil and Macau off of mainland China, with trading posts by way of Africa and India. Though her influence has waned tremendously, Portugal's exploration paved the way for the next six centuries of European colonialism.
The Spanish Empire -- At one point stretching from California to Florida to Argentina, Spain's legacy on the New World is unsurpassed in terms of demographics, culture and language. Spain's conquistadors brought about the apocalyptic destruction of the Incas and Aztecs; colonised the New World and sent traders around the Old; and by the time they were done Spain had become so rich that even a moderately wealthy hidalgo wouldn't work a day in his life. Not to say it was not without issues -- Bartolomeo de las Casas was an outspoken critic of Spain's brutal slavery and serfdom systems in the New World.
The Russian Empire -- The largest contiguous land empire in history (by most counts), the Russian Empire spanned the crown of the world from Alaska to Poland and Finland. An evocative image is the fact that if you were born in 1800, you were more likely than not to live somewhere to the south of the Russian Empire. Even more evocatively, this remains true today. An old and vast country, the Russian Empire inspired both a Northern European Renaissance in beautiful cities like St Petersburg, while remaining shockingly backwards for a European country, only abolishing serfdom in 1862 -- the year before the US abolished slavery.
The French Empire -- Often called the 'liberal empire' (though this may not seem like such a compliment to some at Debate Politics), revolutionary and Napoleonic France was an intellectual and military powerhouse. Not only did it conquer Europe with one hand and hold off the British with the other, it instituted sweeping revolutionary reform everywhere it went, and its legal system (Napoleon's Civil Law) is now the most widely used legal system on Earth. It was so powerful, both ideationally and practically, that even in defeat at the end of the Waterloo Campaign, it retained a seat at the council presiding over its own peace treaty.
The British Empire -- The largest empire the world has ever seen, conquering almost a third of the world and leaving its mark indelibly upon modern life. The architect of the Industrial Revolution, international diplomacy, modern civil reforms and labour laws, it is very true to say that we still live in the world created by the British Empire today. For more than a century it remained the foremost global power, administering and arbiting international disputes around the world. With territory on every continent on Earth, there was no corner of the globe that did not feel the power of the British Empire.
That's it guys, hope you liked the write-ups -- and go vote!