List of medieval great powers
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In a modern context, recognized great powers came about first in Europe during the post-Napoleonic era. The formalization of the division between small powers and great powers came about with the signing of the Treaty of Chaumont in 1814. A great power is a nation or state that, through its great economic, political and military strength, is able to exert power and influence over not only its own region of the world, but beyond to others.
The historical terms "Great Nation", a distinguished aggregate of people inhabiting a particular country or territory, and "Great Empire", a considerable group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, are colloquial; their use is seen in ordinary historical conversations (historical jargon).
- 1 Medieval Middle and Near East
- 2 Medieval China
- 3 Medieval Inner Asia and Mongolia
- 4 Medieval Europe
- 4.1 Frankish Empire
- 4.2 Kingdom of Germany and after
- 4.3 Medieval Kingdom of Hungary
- 4.4 Jagiellon dynasty
- 4.5 Normans
- 4.6 Papacy
- 4.7 Kingdom of Sicily
- 4.8 Republic of Genoa
- 4.9 Medieval Venetian Republic
- 4.10 Capetian Kingdom of France
- 4.11 Angevin Empire
- 4.12 Crown of Aragon
- 4.13 Kingdom of Castile
- 4.14 Kalmar Union
- 5 Medieval Africa
- 6 Medieval India
- 7 Medieval Southeast Asia
- 8 American Precolumbian Empires
- 9 See also
- 10 External references
Medieval Middle and Near East
The Byzantine Empire is the name for the medieval eastern Roman Empire, which survived 1000 years after the fall of the western Roman Empire. The Byzantines managed to reconquer great parts of it. Ancient Roman cultural heritage survived there and gave birth to the Italian Renaissance after its capital, Constantinople, was captured by the Turks in the 15th century. The Byzantines were the only Europeans to produce fine silk which was an important source of their wealth along with trade.
Byzantium under the Justinian dynasty saw a period of recovery of former territories. The period is marked with internal strife within the Empire, from Ostrogoths, and from the Persians. The strength of the dynasty was shown under Justinian I, in which the territorial borders of the Empire were expanded because of numerous campaigns by his favored general, Belisarius. The western conquests began with Justinian sending his general to reclaim the former province of Africa from the Vandals who had been in control with their capital at Carthage. Their success came with surprising ease, but the major local tribes were subdued. In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric the Great, his nephew and heir, and his daughter had left her murderer Theodahad on the throne despite his weakened authority. A small Byzantine expedition to Sicily was met with easy success, but the Goths soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until later, when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome.
Byzantium continued to be a major military power with a huge army and strong fleet, and was a major cultural and religious center. Byzantium was the stronghold of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and thus influenced many states. Byzantium fought against the Arabs to the south, the Bulgarians to the north and the Crusaders, who managed to seize Constantinople in 1204. The Byzantines restored their state in 1261, but its strength never recovered and it was eventually destroyed and replaced by the nascent Ottoman Empire in 1453.
Great Seljuk Empire
|Great Seljuk Empire|
The name Seljuk refers to an Oghuz Turkic leader (see Seljuk) whose tribe had migrated from North (probably Khazar Khanette) to Khorosan where they embraced Islam. Seljuk’s grand sons after defeating Ghaznavids in 1040 founded an empire and declared themselves to be the protectors of the caliph. Their empire with caliphs prestige, Turkic army and Persian bureaucracy proved to be one of the most powerful of states of the 11th century. In 1071 after Alp Arslan of Seljuks defeated Byzantine army at Manzikert, Turks began to settle in Anatolia (Asiatic side of Turkey). But Great Seljuk Empire began to disintegrate in the second half of the 12th century. Soon, they were replaced by a number of states ruled by members of Seljuk house or by atabegs. The most important of these was the Sultanate of Rûm which continued up to the 14th century and Khwarezmid Empire in Iran.
In 622, a new world religion emerged, Islam, founded by Muhammad in Arabia. After his death, his successors began a century of rapid Muslim expansion across most of the known world, establishing the Islamic Empire as one of the largest in the world.
Under the Rashidun Caliphate, the newly united and religiously inspired Muslim's invaded the Sassanian Empire during the Rashidun conquest of Persia and the Byzantine Empire during the Byzantine-Arab Wars. The war of conquest resulted in a complete conquest of the Sassanid Persian Empire and two-thirds of the Byzantine Empire. Within a decade, Rashidun caliphs controlled an empire stretching from the Indus River to the Atlas mountains. Khalid ibn Walid was responsible for most of the conquests on the Byzantine front. After a civil war in 657–661, the almost republic disintegrated and was succeeded by the Ummayad dynasty.
The Umayyad Caliphate completed the Muslim expansion after conquering Roman North Africa, Visigothic Hispania, and a small part of the border of the Indo-Pak subcontinent and northwestern China. As a result, the Islamic Empire became the largest empire the world had yet seen. However, Umayyad expeditions into the Frankish Kingdom and Byzantium were unsuccessful, as they were eventually stopped by the Bulgarians and Byzantines in 718 and the Franks in 732. Nonetheless, the Caliphate remained a huge military power with a mighty navy.
The period of the Abbasid Caliphate is considered the Golden Age of Islam. The empire was rich with flourishing trade across Asia, Europe and Africa. Its culture was thriving, influenced by the Persians, and boasted great achievements in its economy, arts, architecture, literature, mathematics, philosophy, science, and technology. Many cities grew with large populations, beautiful palaces and gardens such as Baghdad, which had a population of a million at its peak, as well as Damascus, Cairo and Cordoba. The Caliphate eventually diminished in size, and was further reduced during the Crusades. The Caliphate later disintegrated after invasions from the Mongol Empire from the east, ending with the sack of Baghdad in 1258.
|Caliphate of Córdoba|
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to those parts of the Iberian Peninsula governed by Muslims, or Moors, at various times in the period between 711 and 1492. As a political domain or domains, it was successively a province of the Umayyad Caliphate initiated successfully by the Caliph Al-Walid I (711–750), the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750–929), the Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031), and finally the Caliphate of Córdoba's taifa (successor) kingdoms.
The Caliphate enjoyed immense prosperity throughout the 10th century. Abd-ar-Rahman III not only united al-Andalus, but brought the Christian kingdoms of the north, through force and diplomacy, under control. Abd-ar-Rahman stopped the Fatimid advance into Caliphate lands in Morocco and al-Andalus. This period of prosperity is marked by growing diplomatic relations with Berber tribes in North African, Christian kings from the north, with France and Germany, and Constantinople. The death of Abd-ar-Rahman III led to the rise of his 46-year-old son Al-Hakam II in 961. Al-Hakam II more-or-less followed in his father's footsteps, occasionally dealing with a few disruptive Christian kings and North African rebels, though trying not to be too severe. Unlike his father, al-Hakam's dependence upon his advisers was more distinct.
The al-Fātimiyyūn was the Arab Shi'a dynasty that ruled over varying areas of the Maghreb, Egypt, and the Levant from 5 January 909 to 1171, and established the Egyptian city of Cairo as their capital. The term Fatimite is sometimes used to refer to the citizens of this caliphate. The ruling elite of the state belonged to the Ismaili branch of Shi'ism. The leaders of the dynasty were also Shia Ismaili Imams, hence, they had a religious significance to Ismaili Muslims. They are also part of the chain of holders of the office of Caliph, as recognized by most Muslims. Therefore, this constitutes a rare period in history in which some form of the Shia Imamate and the Caliphate were united to any degree, excepting the Caliphate of Ali himself.
The Fatimids were known to a great extent for their exquisite arts. A type of ceramic, lustreware, was prevalent during the Fatimid period. Glassware and metalworking was also popular. Many traces of Fatimid architecture exist in Cairo today, the most defining examples include the Al Azhar University and the Al Hakim mosque. The Al Azhar University was the first university in the East. It was founded by Caliph Muizz and was one of the highest educational facilities of the Fatimid Empire.
Unlike other governments in the area, Fatimid advancement in state offices was based more on merit than on heredity. Members of other branches of Islam, like the Sunnis, were just as likely to be appointed to government posts as Shiites. Tolerance was extended to non-Muslims such as Christians, and Jews, who occupied high levels in government based on ability.
The reliance on the Iqta' system ate into Fatimid central authority, as more and more the military officers at the further ends of the empire became semi-independent and were often a source of problems.
The Ayyubid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Kurdish origin, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt. The dynasty ruled much of the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries CE. The Ayyubid family, under the brothers Ayyub and Shirkuh, originally served as soldiers for the Zengids until they supplanted them under Saladin, Ayyub's son. The Ayyubid Sultanate in the Middle East managed to rebuild the weakened Arab State. In 1174, Saladin proclaimed himself Sultan following the death of Nur al-Din. The Ayyubids spent the next decade launching conquests throughout the region and by 1183, the territories under their control included Egypt, Syria, northern Mesopotamia, Hejaz, Yemen, and the North African coast up to the borders of modern-day Tunisia. Most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and beyond Jordan River fell to Saladin after his victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. However, the Crusaders regained control of Palestine's coastline in the 1190s.
After the death of Saladin, his sons contested control over the sultanate, but Saladin's brother al-Adil eventually established himself as Sultan in 1200. In the 1230s, the Ayyubid rulers of Syria attempted to assert their independence from Egypt and remained divided until Egyptian Sultan as-Salih Ayyub restored Ayyubid unity by taking over most of Syria, excluding Aleppo, by 1247. During their relatively short tenure, the Ayyubids ushered in an era of economic prosperity in the lands they ruled and the facilities and patronage provided by the Ayyubids led to a resurgence in intellectual activity in the Islamic world. This period was also marked by an Ayyubid process of vigorously strengthening Sunni Muslim dominance in the region by constructing numerous madrasas (schools) in their major cities.
Bahri Mamluks Empire
The Bahriyya Mamluks (Bahri dynasty) was a Mamluk dynasty of mostly Kipchak Turkic origin that ruled Egypt, the Levant, and some parts of Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya, from 1250 to 1382. Their name means 'of the sea', referring to the location of their original residence on Al-Rodah Island in the Nile (Baḥr an-Nīl) in Cairo at the castle of Al-Rodah which was built by the Ayyubid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub
Under Saladin and the Ayyubids of Egypt, the power of the mamluks increased until they claimed the sultanate in 1250, ruling as the Mamluk Sultanate. Mamluk regiments constituted the backbone of the late Ayyubid military. Each sultan and high-ranking amir had his private corps, and the sultan as-Salih Ayyub (r. 1240–1249) had especially relied on this means to maintaining power. His mamluks, numbering between 800 and 1,000 horsemen, were called the Bahris, after the Arabic word bahr (بحر), meaning sea or large river, because their barracks were located on the island of Rawda in the Nile. They were mostly drawn from among the Kipchak Turks who controlled the steppes north of the Black Sea.
The Bahriyya were succeeded by the Burji dynasty, another group of Mamluks. Tehj Burji saw a turbulent and short-lived Sultanate. Political power-plays often became important in designating a new sultan.
- 800s – 1000s
In 681 the Bulgarians established a powerful state which played a major military and cultural role in Medieval Europe. Bulgaria decisively defeated the Arabs in the battle before Constantinople (718) and stopped the Arab invasion in the eastern parts of the continent effectively stopping the migrations of the barbarian tribes (Pechenegs, Magyars, Khazars) further to the west. It destroyed the Avars Khanate in 806.
With the adoption of Christianity and the invention of the Cyrillic Alphabet, the Bulgarian Empire became the cultural and spiritual centre of the whole Slavic world. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church became the first National Church in Europe to gain its independence in 927 with its own Patriarch. The Bulgarian Empire reached its biggest size in the early 10th century stretching from the Black Sea to Bosnia.
The medieval Bulgarian state was restored as the Second Bulgarian Empire after a successful uprising of two nobles from Tarnovo, Asen and Peter, in 1185, and existed until it was conquered during the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans in the late 14th century, with the date of its subjugation usually given as 1396 or 1422. Under Ivan Asen II in the first half of the 13th century it gradually recovered much of its former power, though this did not last long due to internal problems and foreign invasions.
The Ghaznavids were a Persianate Muslim dynasty of Turkic mamluk origin which existed from 975 to 1187 and ruled much of Persia, Transoxania, and the northern parts of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. The Ghaznavid state was centered in Ghazni, a city in present Afghanistan. Due to the political and cultural influence of their predecessors—that of the Persian Samanid Empire—the originally Turkic Ghaznavids became thoroughly Persianized.
Saboktekin (Mahmud of Ghazni) made himself lord of nearly all the present territory of Afghanistan and of the Punjab by conquest of Samanid and Shahi lands. In 997, Mahmud, the son of Sebük Tigin, succeeded his father upon his death, and with him Ghazni and the Ghaznavid dynasty have become perpetually associated. He completed the conquest of Samanid, Shahi lands, the Ismaili Kingdom of Multan, Sindh as well as some Buwayhid territory. Under him all accounts was the golden age and the height of the Ghaznevid Empire. Mahmud carried out seventeen expeditions through northern India establishing his control and setting up tributary states. His raids also resulted in the looting of a great deal of plunder. From the borders of Kurdistan to Samarkand, from the Caspian Sea to the Yamuna, he established his authority. The wealth brought back from the Indian expeditions to Ghazni was enormous, and contemporary historians (e.g., Abolfazl Beyhaghi, Ferdowsi) give glowing descriptions of the magnificence of the capital, as well as of the conquerors munificent support of literature. Mahmud died in (1030). Even though there was some revival of importance under Ibrahim (1059–1099), the empire never reached anything like the same splendor and power. It was soon overshadowed by the Seljuqs of Iran.
The Timurids  were a Persianate Central Asian Sunni Muslim dynasty of originally Turko-Mongol descent whose empire included the whole of Central Asia, Iran, the Caucasus, modern Afghanistan, as well as large parts of Pakistan, India, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.
It was founded by the legendary conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) in the 14th century. In the 16th century, Timurid prince Babur, the ruler of Ferghana, invaded North India and founded the Mughal Empire, which ruled most of the North India until its decline after Aurangzeb in the early 18th century, and was formally dissolved by the British Raj after the Indian rebellion of 1857. Later princes of the dynasty predominantly used the title Mirza to show descent from the Amir.
Although the Timurids hailed from the Barlas tribe which was of Turkicized Mongol origin, they had embraced Persian culture, converted to Islam and resided in Turkestan and Khorasan. Thus, the Timurid era had a dual character, which reflected both the Turco-Mongol origins and the Persian literary, artistic, and courtly high culture of the dynasty.
The start of the Sui dynasty in China after the end of the turbulent and chaotic Southern and Northern Dynasties period marks China as one of the most powerful countries in the world economically and militarily. Below are some of the dynasties that occurred during this era:
- 581–618 AD
Founded by Yang Jian (Emperor Wen), the Sui capital was Chang'an (which was renamed Daxing, 581–605) and the later at Luoyang (605–614). His reign saw the reunification of Southern and Northern China and the construction of the Grand Canal. Emperor Wen and his successor, Yang Guang (Emperor Yang) undertook various reforms including the equal-field system, which was initiated to reduce the rich-poor social gap that resulted in enhanced agricultural productivity, as well as government centralisation and reforms, creating a new model of governance after centuries of division. The Three Departments and Six Ministries system was officially instituted, coinage was standardized and re-unified, defense was improved and the Great Wall expanded. Buddhism was also spread and encouraged throughout the empire, uniting the varied peoples and cultures of China.
This dynasty has often been compared to the earlier Qin dynasty in tenor and in the ruthlessness of its accomplishments. The Sui dynasty's early demise was attributed to the government's tyrannical demands on the people, who bore the crushing burden of taxes and compulsory labor. These resources were overstrained by the completion of the Grand Canal, a monumental engineering feat, and in the undertaking of other construction projects, including the reconstruction of the Great Wall.
The Tang dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. It was founded by the Li (李) family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty (October 16, 690 – March 3, 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right.
The Tang dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an, the most populous city in the world at the time, is generally regarded as a high point in Chinese civilization—equal to, or surpassing that of, the earlier Han dynasty—a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and it rivalled that of the later Yuan dynasty and Qing dynasty. In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records estimated the population by number of registered households at about 50 million people. Yet, even when the central government was breaking down and unable to compile an accurate census of the population in the 9th century, it is estimated that the population had grown by then to about 80 million people. With its large population base, the dynasty was able to raise professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers in dominating Inner Asia and the lucrative trade routes along the Silk Road.
Various kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang imperial court, while the Tang military also conquered or subdued several regions which it indirectly controlled through a protectorate system. Besides political hegemony, the Tang Empire also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Such was the dynasty's influence that even today, the Chinese term for a Chinatown bears the title, the Tang People's Street.
The Tang dynasty was largely a period of progress and stability, except during the An Shi Rebellion and the decline of central authority in the latter half of the dynasty. Like the previous Sui dynasty, the Tang dynasty maintained a civil service system by drafting officials through standardized examinations and recommendations to office. This civil order was undermined by the rise of regional military governors known as jiedushi during the 9th century. Chinese culture flourished and further matured during the Tang era; it is considered the greatest age for Chinese poetry. Two of China's most famous poets, Du Fu and Li Bai, belonged to this age, as did many famous painters such as Han Gan, Zhang Xuan, and Zhou Fang. There was a rich variety of historical literature compiled by scholars, as well as encyclopedias and geographical works.
There were many notable innovations during the Tang, including the development of woodblock printing. Buddhism became a major influence in Chinese culture, with native Chinese sects gaining prominence. However, Buddhism would later be persecuted by the state and decline in influence. Although the dynasty and central government were in decline by the 9th century, art and culture continued to flourish. The weakened central government largely withdrew from managing the economy, though the country's mercantile affairs stayed intact and commercial trade continued to thrive regardless.
During the Song dynasty, the wealth of China attracted numerous attacks from the north and the dynasty gradually retreated to the south. For the first time in history, China needed to pay tribute annually to buy peace. Ironically, the development of Chinese culture reached the highest peak in history due to the artistic character of the emperors. The technological advancement and policies also led to rapid growth of wealth and improvement of living standard.
The Song dynasty was divided into two distinct periods: the Northern Song and Southern Song. During the Northern Song (960–1127), the Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) and the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Southern Song (1127–1279) refers to the period after the Song lost control of northern China to the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty. During this time, the Song imperial court retreated south of the Yangtze River and established their capital at Lin'an (now Hangzhou). Although the Song dynasty had lost control of the traditional birthplace of Chinese civilization along the Yellow River, the Song economy was not in ruins, as the Southern Song Empire contained 60 percent of China's population and a majority of the most productive agricultural land. The Southern Song dynasty considerably bolstered its naval strength to defend its waters and land borders and to conduct maritime missions abroad.
To repel the Jurchens, and later the Mongols, the Song Empire developed revolutionary new military technology augmented by the use of gunpowder. In 1234, the Jin dynasty was conquered by the Mongols, who took control of northern China, maintaining uneasy relations with the Southern Song. Möngke Khan, the fourth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, died in 1259 while besieging a city in Chongqing. His younger brother Kublai Khan was proclaimed the new Great Khan, though his claim was only partially recognized by the Mongols in the west. In 1271, Kublai Khan was proclaimed the Emperor of China. After two decades of sporadic warfare, Kublai Khan's armies conquered the Song dynasty in 1279. China was once again unified, under the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).
The population of China doubled in size during the 10th and 11th centuries. This growth came through expanded rice cultivation in central and southern China, the use of early-ripening rice from southeast and southern Asia, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Northern Song census recorded a population of roughly 50 million, much like the Han and Tang dynasties.
The Ming dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the Ming capital Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng who established the short-lived Shun dynasty, which was soon replaced by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, regimes loyal to the Ming throne (collectively called the Southern Ming dynasty) survived until 1662.
Ming rule saw the construction of a navy and a standing army. Although private maritime trade and official tribute missions from China had taken place in previous dynasties, the tributary fleet under the Muslim eunuch admiral Zheng He in the 15th century. There were enormous construction projects, including the restoration of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall and the establishment of the Forbidden City in Beijing during the first quarter of the 15th century. Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million. The Ming dynasty is often regarded as both a high point in Chinese civilization as well as a dynasty in which early signs of capitalism emerged.
The Hongwu Emperor attempted to create a society of self-sufficient rural communities in a rigid, immobile system that would have no need to engage with the commercial life and trade of urban centers. His rebuilding of China's agricultural base and strengthening of communication routes through the militarized courier system had the unintended effect of creating a vast agricultural surplus that could be sold at burgeoning markets located along courier routes. Rural culture and commerce became influenced by urban trends. The upper echelons of society embodied in the scholarly gentry class were also affected by this new consumption-based culture. In a departure from tradition, merchant families began to produce examination candidates to become scholar-officials and adopted cultural traits and practices typical of the gentry. Parallel to this trend involving social class and commercial consumption were changes in social and political philosophy, bureaucracy and governmental institutions, and even arts and literature.
Medieval Inner Asia and Mongolia
Turks, who were the residents around Altai mountains in Central Asia, founded a number of empires prior to their conversion to Islam. The Turkic Khaganate (or Göktürk, meaning "Celestial Turk")(another possibility is "East Türk" since Blue (Gök) represent east direction in ancient Türks) was founded in 551 in what is now Kazakhstan and Mongolia by Bumin Khan of Ashina clan. Following a Turkic tradition, Bumin Khan ruled the east part of the empire and assigned his brother Istämi to the west part of the empire as his vassal. Bumin’s successor Muhan Khan defeated China and began controlling the prosperous silk road. Meanwhile, Istemi and his successors conquered Transoxania and Caucasus. It is one of Istemi's grandsons (Tong Yabgu) who founded another Turkic empire; the Khazarian Khaganate in the Caucasus. Another state emerged in the realm of Western Turks was that of Turgesh in west Turkistan. (Both Khazars and Turgesh fought against the invading Arabic armies in the 8th century). Although, the empire was briefly dominated by Tang China during 650s, Kutluk Khan, another member of Ashina clan was able to defeat China. In the early 8th century, during Bilge Khan's reign, first Turkic monuments in Turkic alphabet were erected.(Orkhon monuments) In 744, Uyghurs, another branch of Turks replaced Turkic Khaganate in Central Asia.
The Uyghur Khaganate established itself as a major power in Central Asia the late 8th century. At their height, they controlled an area of land stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Tibetan Plateau. They built their capital Ordu balik in modern Mongolia. Although they were replaced by their Kyrghyz vassals in 840s, they managed to survive in three smaller states. Those who were called Sari Uyghurs (yellow Uyghur) settled in Gansu (north China). Most Uyghurs settled in Xinjiang (west China). Some Uyghurs together with Karluks ( their former vassals in Transoxania, modern Uzbekistan), founded Karakhanid state which soon embraced Islam.
The Mongol Empire was an empire from the 13th and 14th century spanning from Eastern Europe across Asia. It is the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. It emerged from the unification of Mongol and Turkic tribes in modern-day Mongolia, and grew through invasions, after Genghis Khan had been proclaimed ruler of all Mongols in 1206. At its greatest extent it stretched from the Danube to the Sea of Japan and from northern Siberia to Camboja, covering over 24,000,000 km2 (9,300,000 sq mi), 22% of the Earth's total land area, and held sway over a population of over 100 million people. It is often identified as the "Mongol World Empire" because it spanned much of Eurasia. As a result of the empire's conquests and political and economic impact on most of the Old World, its wars with other great powers in Africa, Asia and Europe are also believed to be an ancient world war. Under the Mongols new technologies, various commodities and ideologies were disseminated and exchanged across Eurasia.
However, the empire began to split following the succession war in 1260–1264, with the Golden Horde and the Chagatai Khanate being de facto independent and refusing to accept Kublai Khan as Khagan. By the time of Kublai Khan's death, the Mongol Empire had already fractured into four separate khanates or empires, each pursuing its own separate interests and objectives: the Golden Horde in Russia, the Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia, the Ilkhanate in Persia and the Yuan dynasty in China. The Mongol rulers of Central Asia successfully resisted Kublai's attempt to reduce the Chagatayid and Ogedeid families to obedience. It was not until 1304, when the Yuan Dynasty re-established nominal suzerainty over the western khanates. However, with the breakup of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368, the Mongol Empire finally dissolved.
The Yuan Dynasty lasting from 1271 to 1368. The dynasty was established by Mongols from Mongolia, and it had nominal control over the entire Mongol Empire (stretching from Eastern Europe to the fertile crescent to Russia); thus, the Mongol rulers claim over the Khakhan title and also saw themselves as Emperor of China.
In according to the Chinese historians, the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty followed the Song Dynasty and preceded the Ming Dynasty in the historiography of China. A rich cultural diversity developed during the Yuan Dynasty. The major cultural achievements were the development of drama and the novel and the increased use of the written vernacular. The political unity of China and much of central Asia promoted trade between East and West. The Mongols' extensive West Asian and European contacts produced a fair amount of cultural exchange. The other cultures and peoples in the Mongol World Empire permanently influenced China. Tibetan-rite Tantric Buddhism also had a significant impact in Chinese Buddhism during that period. The Muslims of the Yuan Dynasty introduced Middle Eastern cartography, astronomy, medicine, clothing, and diet in East Asia. Middle Eastern crops such as carrots, turnips, new varieties of lemons, eggplants, and melons, high-quality granulated sugar, and cotton were all either introduced or successfully popularized by the Yuan Mongols.
The Yuan undertook extensive public works. Road and water communications were reorganized and improved. To provide against possible famines, granaries were ordered built throughout the empire. The city of Beijing was rebuilt with new palace grounds that included artificial lakes, hills and mountains, and parks. During the Yuan period, Beijing became the terminus of the Grand Canal of China, which was completely renovated. These commercially oriented improvements encouraged overland and maritime commerce throughout Asia and facilitated direct Chinese contacts with Europe. Chinese travelers to the West were able to provide assistance in such areas as hydraulic engineering. Contacts with the West also brought the introduction to China of a major food crop, sorghum, along with other foreign food products and methods of preparation.
In historiography of Mongolia, the Yuan Dynasty is generally considered to be the continuation of the Mongol Empire. In traditional historiography of China on the other hand, the Yuan Dynasty is usually considered to be the legitimate dynasty between the Song Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty. Note, however, Yuan Dynasty is traditionally often extended to cover the Mongol Empire before Kublai Khan's formal establishment of the Yuan in 1271, partly because Kublai had his grandfather Genghis Khan placed on the official record as the founder of the dynasty or Taizu. Despite the traditional historiography as well as the official views (including the government of the Ming Dynasty which overthrew the Yuan Dynasty), there also exist Chinese people who did not consider Yuan Dynasty as a legitimate dynasty of China, but a period of foreign domination. The latter believe that Han Chinese were treated as second-class citizens, and China stagnated economically and scientifically; in addition, Chinese technologies such as gunpowder and the compass spread to Europe under the Yuan.
The Merovingian dynasty founded one of the monarchies which replaced the Western Roman Empire from the fifth century. The Frankish state consolidated its hold over large parts of western Europe by the end of the eighth century, developing into the Carolingian Empire which dominated most of Western Europe. This empire would gradually evolve into France and the Holy Roman Empire. Under the nearly continuous campaigns of Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne—father, son, grandson—the greatest expansion of the Frankish empire was secured by the early 9th century. The tradition of dividing patrimonies among brothers meant that the Frankish realm was ruled, nominally, as one polity subdivided into several regna (kingdoms or subkingdoms).
The Franks were united for the first time by Clovis I in the late 5th century. The geography and number of subkingdoms varied over time, but the particular term Francia came generally to refer to just one regnum, that of Austrasia, centred on the Rhine and Meuse rivers in northern Europe; even so, sometimes the term was used as well to encompass Neustria north of the Loire and west of the Seine. Eventually, the singular use of the name Francia shifted towards Paris, and settled on the region of the Seine basin surrounding Paris, which still today bears the name Île-de-France, and which region gave its name to the entire Kingdom of France. In 732 the Franks managed to defeat the Arabs at Poitiers, thereby halting their invasion of Western Europe.
During the reign of Charlemagne, it reached its greatest extent, encompassing most of the territory of the Western Roman Empire, and eventually he was proclaimed Emperor by the Pope in 800. He Christianised the pagan peoples he defeated. This was a period of cultural revival known as the Carolingian Renaissance with important educational and writing reforms. On Christmas Day, 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charles as "Emperor of the Romans" in Rome in a ceremony presented as a surprise (Charlemagne did not wish to be indebted to the bishop of Rome), a further papal move in the series of symbolic gestures that had been defining the mutual roles of papal auctoritas and imperial potestas. Though Charlemagne, in deference to Byzantine outrage, preferred the title "Emperor, king of the Franks and Lombards", the ceremony formally acknowledged the Frankish Empire as the successor of the (Western) Roman one (although only the forged "Donation" gave the pope political authority to do this), thus triggering a series of disputes with the Byzantines around the Roman name. After an initial protest at the usurpation, in 812, the Byzantine Emperor Michael I Rhangabes acknowledged Charlemagne as co-Emperor. The coronation gave permanent legitimacy to Carolingian primacy among the Franks. The Ottonians later resurrected this connection in 962. The empire disintegrated into three parts after the death of his son Louis the Pious, from which later emerged France and Germany.
Kingdom of Germany and after
|The Holy Roman Empire|
The Kingdom of Germany grew out of East Francia in the 10th century. The eastern partition of the Treaty of Verdun of 843, or East Francia, encompassed a population that was never entirely Frankish, but also included large numbers of Saxons, Bavarii, Thuringii, Alemanni and Frisii. When the crown passed to a non-Frankish dynasty (the Liudolfings), the term regnum Teutonicum or Teutonicorum came into informal use. By the High Middle Ages, the German character of the united stem duchies was generally recognised.
As the other various states removed themselves from its orbit, leaving solely Germany, her kings holding the imperial title and struggling for it, the German state became synonymous with the Empire and in the time of the Renaissance, the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" united the two concepts of empire and kingdom. Although the term "sacrum" (i.e. "holy") in connection with the medieval Roman Empire did not appear until 1157 under Frederick I Barbarossa, it is Otto I (also known as Otto the Great and Otto the German), crowned King of Germany in 962, who is generally considered to have been the first Holy Roman Emperor. Otto was the first emperor of the realm that later became known as the Holy Roman Empire who was not a member of the earlier Carolingian dynasty. The last Holy Roman Emperor was Francis II, who abdicated and dissolved the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. In a decree following the 1512 Diet of Cologne, the name was officially changed to Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
The term rex teutonicorum (king of the Germans) first came into use in the chancery of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy (late 11th century), perhaps as a polemical tool against the Emperor Henry IV. In the twelfth century, in order to stress the imperial and transnational character of their office, the emperors began to employ the title rex Romanorum (king of the Romans) on their election (by the prince-electors, seven German bishops and noblemen). Distinct titulature for Germany, Italy and Burgundy, which traditionally had their own courts, laws, and chanceries, gradually dropped from use. After the Reichsreform and Reformation settlement, the German part of the Holy Roman Empire was divided into Reichskreise (imperial circles), which effectively defined Germany against imperial Italy and the Kingdom of Bohemia. The archepiscopal electors continued to bear the titles of chancellors of Germany, Italy and Burgundy. After the Peace of Westphalia (1648), Germany was effectively a congeries of independent states and statelets, over which the remaining institutions of Kingdom and Empire claimed a declining authority. The German kingdom survived until the abdication of Francis II in 1806.
Medieval Kingdom of Hungary
The origin of the system of the tribes among the Magyars has not been discovered yet, but the distribution into seven tribes had been established by the middle of the 9th century. The seven tribes (Jenő (tribe), Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék and Tarján) formed a confederation called "Hétmagyar" (ie, "The Seven Magyars"). Their leaders, who besides Álmos included Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba and Töhötöm, took a blood oath, swearing eternal loyalty to Álmos. The confederation of the tribes was probably led by two high princes: the kende (their spiritual ruler) and the gyula (their military leader). The high princes were either elected by the leaders of the tribes or appointed by the Khagan of the Khazars who had been exerting influence over the Magyars.
The Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages, after its sedentarization and conversion to Christianity, became a European power and served as the "gate to Europe" from Asia. A "kingdom" arose only in AD 1000 and a Hungarian state or principality only in the late 9th century, but the concept describes its early development after the year 896 when the Magyars arrived in the Carpathian Basin. The Hungarian kingdom's golden age was during the reign of Matthias Corvinus, the son of John Hunyadi. His nickname was "Matthias the Just". He further improved the Hungarian economy and practised astute diplomacy in place of military action whenever possible. Matthias did undertake campaigning when necessary. In 1485, aiming to limit the influence and meddling of the Holy Roman Empire in Hungary's affairs, he occupied Vienna for 5 years. After his death, Vladislaus II of Hungary of the Jagiellonians was placed on the Hungarian throne.
The medieval Kingdom of Hungary ceased to be a significant power when the Ottomans conquered a large portion of it in 1526, splitting the county in three parts: the Ottoman-occupied central region, the north-west which fell under Habsburg domination, and the more or less independent Transylvania.
The Jagiellonian dynasty (Polish: Jagiellonowie, Lithuanian: Jogailaičiai) was a royal dynasty originating from the Lithuanian House of Gediminas. 14 August 1385 by Jogaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania, in exchange for marriage to the underage reigning Queen Jadwiga of Poland. Jogaila converted to Christianity, married Jadwiga, and was crowned King of Poland in 1386. Jagiellonian dynasty that reigned in Central European countries (present day Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, parts of Russia (including nowadays Kaliningrad oblast), Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) between the 14th and 16th century. Members of the dynasty were Grand Dukes of Lithuania (1377–1392 and 1440–1572), kings of Poland (1386–1572), kings of Hungary (1440–1444 and 1490–1526), and kings of Bohemia (1471–1526).
The dynastic union between the two countries (converted into a full administrative union only in 1569) is the reason for the common appellation "Poland–Lithuania" in discussions about the area from the Late Middle Ages onwards. One Jagiellonian briefly ruled both Poland and Hungary (1440–44), and two others ruled both Bohemia (from 1490) and Hungary (1490–1526) and then continued in the distaff line as the Eastern branch of the House of Habsburg.
The Normans were the people who gave their names to Normandy, a region in northern France. They descended from Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of mostly Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock. Their identity emerged initially in the first half of the 10th century, and gradually evolved over succeeding centuries until they disappeared as an ethnic group in the early 13th century. The name "Normans" derives from "Northmen" or "Norsemen", after the Vikings from Scandinavia who founded Normandy (Northmannia in its original Latin).
They played a major political, military, and cultural role in medieval Europe and even the Near East. They were famed for their martial spirit and Christian piety. They quickly adopted the Romance language of the land they settled in, their dialect becoming known as Norman, an important literary language. The Duchy of Normandy, which they formed by treaty with the French crown, was one of the great large fiefs of medieval France. The Normans are famed both for their culture, such as their unique Romanesque architecture, and their musical traditions, as well as for the military accomplishments and innovations. Norman adventurers established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy by conquest, and a Norman expedition on behalf of their duke led to the Norman Conquest of England. Norman influence spread from these new centres to the Crusader States in the Near East, to Scotland and Wales in Great Britain, and to Ireland.
The history of the Roman Catholic Church from apostolic times covers a period of nearly two thousand years, making it the world's oldest and largest institution. The office of the Pope, as the chief of Catholic Church is called the Papacy; the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Pope is called the Holy See or Apostolic See. During the Middle Ages the spiritual and civil authority of the Popes was far more extended over Europe, than the relatively small territories under their direct rule, the Papal States, that were the base of their power, in fact many kingdoms were vassals of the Holy See and the Popes were directly involved in the choosing of many rulers, especially the Holy Roman Emperors. Usually the Popes were also involved as primary judges and counselors in all the questions of marriage and succession regarding many kings.
Particularly during the Late Middle Ages the Papacy played a major temporal role in addition to its spiritual role. The conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor was fundamentally a dispute over which of them was the leader of Christendom in secular matters. The success of the early crusades added greatly to the prestige of the Popes as secular leaders of Christendom, with monarchs like the Kings of England, France, and even the Emperor merely acting as Marshals for the popes and leading "their" armies. The apogee of the Popes was signed by the reign of Innocent III, when the papacy was at the height of its powers and Innocent III was considered to be the most powerful person in Europe at the time.
The Papal States comprised those territories over which the Pope was a direct ruler in a civil as well as a spiritual sense, before 1870. The plural Papal States is usually preferred; the singular Papal State is rather used for the modern State of Vatican City, created by the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The ancient Papal States were formed around Rome in central Italy in the today regions of Lazio, Umbria, Marche and Emilia-Romagna, but also in a little portion of Provence (actual France) around the city of Avignon.
Kingdom of Sicily
With Robert Guiscard the Norman armies (see Norman conquest of southern Italy) became the main power in the central-west Mediterranean, influencing the policy of the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors. Successively under the rule of his descendants, the Norman Kings Roger II, William I, William II the Kingdom of Sicily dominated with his fleet, army and trade the regions of south Europe and north Africa for more than two centuries. In the same time some of the sons and nephews of Robert, participated at the First Crusade and conquered the Principality of Antioch and the County of Edessa.
The apogee of the Kingdom of Sicily was under the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who inherited it by his mother, Constance of Sicily. Frederick II used the powerful Kingdom of Sicily as a solid base for his imperial policy, in fact the Norman kings had created one of the first relatively modern bureaucracy and so at that time, Sicily was one of the first well ruled states in Europe, the kingdom also had a very flourishing agriculture and was at the center of the Mediterranean trade.
The decline of Sicily started in 1266, when the last son of Frederick, Manfred of Sicily, died in the Battle of Benevento: the Kingdom was initially conquered by Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence and some years later, in 1282, it was divided in two halves during the so-called Sicilian Vespers.
Republic of Genoa
|Republic of Genoa|
The Republic of Genoa was a state originating from the city of Genoa, and existed from 1005 to 1797. During the high Middle Ages the Republic of Genoa was able to become a very wealthy and powerful state through the rich trade between Europe and the Mediterranean sea, becoming one of the early model of capitalistic empires. Genoa started her main expansion expelling the Arab pirates from the Tyrrhenian Sea and west Mediterranean; in 1099 Genoa participated at the Crusades directly or more often supplying the armies, and so the city gained many settlements and commercial bases in the Levant. The apogee of Genoa was during the 13th century when her fleet dominated the western Mediterranean trade and in the same time the city was able to match the power of the rival Republic of Venice in the East. The Battle of Chioggia (1380) started the decline of Genoa.
Medieval Venetian Republic
The Republic of Venice was a state originating from the city of Venice, and existed for a millennium from the late 7th century (697) until the year 1797 when the Austrians took its possessions. The leader of Venetian Republic was called a Doge. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the Republic's aristocracy.
In the Medieval times Venice was able to become the main trade center between Europe and the East, and also one of the most rich cities in the world. During the Fourth Crusade (1204) the Franco-Venetian force conquered the Byzantine Empire and 1/4 of it was granted to Venice, especially some important isles (as Candia) and commercial bases around the Aegean Sea and Black Sea. In the successive centuries the Republic was able to consolidate her position, against powerful rivals as the Republic of Genoa, meanwhile dominating with her fleet the Adriatic Sea and East Mediterranean. During the 13th and 14th centuries Venice, participating in the Italians wars, was also able to conquest a more land based dominion (the so-called Domini di Terraferma). The conquest of the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1489 signed the end of the expanding period of Venice.
Capetian Kingdom of France
The Capetian dynasty in France started in 987 with the accession to the throne of Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris. During three centuries the Capetian Kings were able to extend their direct rule from the small area around Paris to the majority of France, absorbing to the crown many almost independent fiefs.
Particular strong was the competition against the Plantagenet dynasty that ruled contemporaneously over England and many fiefs in north and central-south France (Normandie, Brittany, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine). But finally the King of France Philip II Augustus was able to conquer 2⁄3 of the Plantaginian territories.
The Angevin Empire was a collection of states ruled by the Angevin kings of England. The Angevins ruled over the Kingdom of England, the Duchy of Normandy, the Duchy of Aquitaine, the Duchy of Anjou and various other French counties and duchies (constituting approximately half of the then Kingdom of France). They also ruled over the Lordship of Ireland, and had various levels of control over other areas. Their empire stretched from the Pyrenees to Ireland during the 12th and early 13th centuries.
The empire formed when Henry II was crowned King of England, on top of his title of Count of Anjou. Successive Plantagenet kings of England possessed large areas of territory in France throughout much of the middle ages, but this was after the fall of the Angevin Empire during John's reign in the Anglo-French War (1202–14). Although England was the main source of revenue, the strategic situation meant the Angevins usually ruled their empire from France, notably from Poitiers, the capital of Aquitaine, and Angers, the capital of Anjou. At the height of their reign, they were buried in the Fontevraud Abbey near Poitiers. After John, King of England and son of Henry II lost the majority of his French possessions, the centre of political activity shifted to England.
Once the empire had been defeated by Philip of House Capet, the English Plantagenet kings were left ruling only with their British territories and Gascony in France, which set the scene for the Hundred Years' War. That began when the kings of England were provoked by French aggression against their trading partners in the Low Countries, and proclaimed themselves rightful kings of France. The war lasted 116 years and the rival Valois claimants eventually conquered the majority of France, except for enclaves such as Calais, which ended all hopes of regaining the empire.
Crown of Aragon
- 1340s – 1480s
|Crown of Aragon|
The Crown of Aragon was a Maritime Empire in the late Middle Ages that controlled a large portion of present-day northeastern Spain and southeastern Italy, as well as possessions stretching across the Mediterranean Sea as far as Greece. It originated in 1137, when the Kingdom of Aragon and the possessions of the County of Barcelona merged by dynastic union into what later would be known as the Crown of Aragon.
In 1479 a new dynastic union merged the Crown of Aragon with the Crown of Castile, thus making the dawn of the Spanish Empire. Ferdinand married Infanta Isabella of Castile, half-sister of King Henry IV of Castile, who became Queen of Castile and Léon after his death in 1474. Their marriage was a dynastic union which became the constituent event for the dawn of the Kingdom of Spain. At that point both Castile and the Crown of Aragon remained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, parliaments and laws.
The process of territorial consolidation was completed when King Charles I, becoming known as Charles V, in 1516 united all the kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula minus Portugal under one monarch (his co-monarch and mother Queen Joanna I in confinement), thereby furthering the creation of the Spanish state, albeit a decentralized one. The Crown of Aragon lasted through 1716, when it was abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees as a result of the Aragonese defeat in the War of the Spanish Succession.
Kingdom of Castile
|Kingdom of Castile|
The Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It was created as a politically autonomous entity in the 9th century: it was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León, which was later incorporated. Its name is supposed to be related to the host of castles constructed in the region. It was one of the ancestor kingdoms of the Kingdom of Spain.
As with all medieval kingdoms, supreme power was understood to reside in the monarch "by the grace of God," as the legal formula explained. Nevertheless, rural and urban communities began to form assemblies to issue regulations to deal with everyday problems. Over time, these assemblies evolved into municipal councils, known as variously as ayuntamientos or cabildos, in which some of the inhabitants, the property-owning heads of households (vecinos), represented the rest.
By the fourteenth century these councils had gained more powers, such as the right to elect municipal magistrates and officers (alcaldes, speakers, clerks, etc.) and representatives to the parliaments (Cortes). Due to the increasing power of the municipal councils and the need for communication between these and the King, cortes were established in the Kingdom of León in 1188, and in Castile in 1250. In the earliest Leonese and Castilian Cortes, the inhabitants of the cities (known as "laboratores") formed a small group of the representatives and had no legislative powers, but they were a link between the king and the general population, something that was pioneered by the kingdoms of Castile and León. Eventually the representatives of the cities gained the right to vote in the Cortes, often allying with the monarchs against the great noble lords.
The Kalmar Union was a Personal union between the three kingdoms in the region Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden often seen as a reaction against the powerful Hanseatic League and Teutonic Knights which at that time had a major influence in northern Europe. The union was established in a meeting in Kalmar 1397. Copenhagen became the capital of the Union and the Danish regent became the ruler of the Union which in the end were the reason for severe tensions between Sweden and Denmark-Norway. The Kalmar Union had a larger area than any other country in Europe at the time. The most prominent regent during this time was Margarethe I.
The last Danish king of the Union, Christian II, popularly called Christian the Tyrant in Sweden, ordered a massacre called the Stockholm Bloodbath of approximately 84 Swedish noblemen and other leading men in 1520 just after his own coronation. Before that, he had promised the Swedish people that he would forget earlier hostilities. Gustav Vasa, a Swedish nobleman, was starting a successful rebellion with the help of the notorious rebellious miners from the region Dalarna against Danmark-Norway and became the founder of the first Swedish royal dynasty in 1523 with inheritance from father to son.
The Ghana (Wagadu) Empire (before c. 830 until c. 1235) was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania and western Mali. Complex societies had existed in the region since about 1500 BC, and around Ghana's core region since about 300 AD. When Ghana's ruling dynasty began is uncertain; it is first mentioned in documentary sources around 830 AD by Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. The domestication of the camel, which preceded Muslims and Islam by several centuries, brought about a gradual change in trade, and, for the first time, the extensive gold, ivory trade, and salt resources of the region could be sent north and east to population centers in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe in exchange for manufactured goods.
The empire grew rich from the trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt. This trade produced an increasing surplus, allowing for larger urban centers. It also encouraged territorial expansion to gain control over the lucrative trade routes.
The first written mention of the kingdom comes from Arabic language sources some time after the conquest of North Africa by Muslims, when geographers began compiling comprehensive accounts of the world known to Islam around 800. The sources for the earlier periods are very strange as to its society, government or culture, though they do describe its location and note its commercial relations. The Cordoban scholar Abu Ubayd al-Bakri collected stories from a number of travelers to the region, and gave a detailed description of the kingdom in 1067/1068 (460 AH). He claimed that the Ghana could "put 200,000 men into the field, more than 40,000 of them archers" and noted they had cavalry forces as well.
The Mali Empire was a West African empire founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the generosity and wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Kankan Musa I. The Mali Empire had profound cultural influences on West Africa allowing the spread of its language, laws and customs along the Niger River. Musa was a devoted Muslim and Islamic scholarship flourished under his rule; the Sankore University in Timbuktu reached its height, bringing together Islamic scholars from all over the Muslim World.
Imperial Mali is best known to us through three primary sources: The first is the account of Shihab al-Din ibn Fadl Allah al-'Umari, written about 1340 by a geographer-administrator in Egypt. His information about the empire came from visiting Malians taking the hajj, or pilgrim's voyage to Mecca. He had first hand information from several, and at second hand, he learned of the visit of Mansa Musa. The second account is that of the traveler Shams al-Din Abu Abd'Allah ibn Battua, who visited Mali in 1352. This is the first account of a West African kingdom made directly by an eyewitness, the others are usually at second hand. The third great account is that of Abu Zayd Abd-al-Rahman ibn Khaldun, who wrote in the early 15th century. While the accounts are of limited length, they provide us with a fairly good picture of the empire at its height.
The Songhai Empire, also known as the Songhay Empire, was a state located in western Africa. From the mid-15th to the late 16th century, Songhai was one of the largest Islamic empires in history. This empire bore the same name as its leading ethnic group, the Songhai. Its capital was the city of Gao, where a Songhai state had existed since the 11th century. Its base of power was on the bend of the Niger River in present-day Niger and Burkina Faso.
The Songhai state has existed in one form or another for over a thousand years, if one traces its rulers from the settlement of Gao to Songhai's vassal status under the Mali Empire to its continuation in Niger as the Dendi Kingdom.
The Songhai are thought to have settled at Gao as early as 800 CE, but did not establish the city as their capital until the 11th century, during the reign of Dia Kossoi. During the second half of the 13th century Gao was conquered by the Mali Empire, and remained under its control until the 15th century, when Songhai reclaimed it as its capital.
- 1300s – 1700s
The Ajuran Empire was a Somali empire that ruled over large parts of the Horn of Africa from the Middle Ages to the early modern era. It was one of the leading trade empires of the Indian Ocean, with a commercial network that stretched across many kingdoms and empires in East Asia, South Asia, Europe, the Near East, North Africa and East Africa. The Ajuran Sultanate also minted its own Ajuran currency.
The Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia) existed at the end of the late Middle Ages, approximately 1137 (beginning of Zagwe Dynasty). In 1270, the Zagwe dynasty was overthrown by a king claiming lineage with the Aksumite emperors and thus that of Solomon (hence the name "Solomonid"). The Solomonid Dynasty was born of and ruled by the Habesha, from whom Abyssinia gets its name. The Habesha ruled Abyssinia with only a few interruptions from 1270 until the modern age.
Kingdom of Zimbabwe
the Kingdom of Zimbabwe's capital was Great Zimbabwe.
The Chalukya Empire was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka.
The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the ascendancy of Badami Chalukyas. For the first time, a South Indian kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers. The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called "Badami Chalukya architecture (Western Chalukya architecture during the rule of Western Chalukyas)".
The Chalukyas ruled over the Deccan plateau in India for over 600 years. During this period, they ruled as three closely related, but individual dynasties. These are the "Chalukyas of Badami" (also called "Early Chalukyas"), who ruled between the 6th and the 8th century, and the two sibling dynasties, the "Chalukyas of Kalyani" (also called Western Chalukyas or "Later Chalukyas") and the "Chalukyas of Vengi" (also called Eastern Chalukyas).
Vikramaditya VI was an ambitious and skilled military leader. Under his leadership the Western Chalukyas were able to end the Chola influence over Vengi (coastal Andhra) and become the dominant power in the Deccan. The Western Chalukya period was an important age in the development of Kannada literature and Sanskrit literature. They went into their final dissolution towards the end of the 12th century.
The Rashtrakuta Empire was a royal Indian dynasty ruling large parts of southern, central and northern India between the 6th and the 10th centuries. An Arabic writing, the Silsilatuttavarikh (851) called the Rashtrakutas one among the four principle empires of the world. The Kitab-ul-Masalik-ul-Mumalik (912) called them the "greatest kings of India" and there were other contemporaneous books written in their praise.
The Rashtrakutas quickly became the most powerful Deccan empire, making their initial successful forays into the doab region of Ganges River and Jamuna River during the rule of Dhruva Dharavarsha. The rule of his son Govinda III signaled a new era with Rashtrakuta victories against the Pala Dynasty of Bengal and Gurjara Pratihara of north western India resulting in the capture of Kannauj. The Rashtrakuta empire at its peak spread from Cape Comorin in the south to Kannauj in the north and from Banaras in the east to Broach (Bharuch) in the west.
The Carnatic expansion of people and influences to the North from Karnataka during 10-12th century period is well attested by the sources but has not yet been studied carefully.
The Pala Empire was a Buddhist dynasty that ruled from the north-eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. Gopala was the first ruler from the dynasty. He came to power in 750 in Gaur by a democratic election.
The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala directly ruled the present-day Bihar and Bengal regions, and had vassal states all over North India. Devapala also captured the Assam and Utkala in the east. The Munger (Monghyr) copper plate of Devapala states that his empire extended up to the Vindhyas and Kamboja. While an ancient country with the name Kamboja was located in what is now Afghanistan, there is no evidence that Devapala's empire extended that far. Kamboja, in this inscription, could refer to the Kamboja tribe that had entered North India (see Kamboja Pala dynasty). The Badal Pilllar inscription of Narayanapala that Devpala's empire extended up to the Vindhyas, the Himalayas, and the two oceans (presumably the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal). It also claims that Devpala defeated Utkala (present-day Orissa), the Hunas, the Dravidas, the Kamarupa (present-day Assam), and the Gurjaras (the Gurjara-Pratiharas). These claims are exaggerated, but cannot be dismissed entirely: the neighbouring kingdoms of Rashtrakutas and the Gurjara-Pratiharas were weak at the time, and may have been subdued by Devapala. "Dravida" is generally believed to be a reference to the Rashtrakutas, but a few scholars believe that it may refer to the Pandyan king Sri Mara Sri Vallabha. However, there is no definitive record of any expedition of Devapala to the extreme south. In any case, his victory in the south could only have been a temporary one, and his dominion lay mainly in the north.
The Pala Empire can be considered as the golden era of Bengal. The Palas had extensive trade as well as influence in south-east Asia. This can be seen in the sculptures and architectural style of the Sailendra Empire (present-day Malaya, Java, Sumatra). The Pala Empire eventually disintegrated in the 12th century weakened by attacks of the Sena dynasty followed by the invasion of Bakhtiyar Khilji's Muslim armies.
Medieval Southeast Asia
The Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asia, based in what is now Cambodia. The empire, which grow out of former kingdom of Chenla, at times ruled over or vassalized parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Malaysia. Its greatest legacy is Angkor, the site of capitals cities during the empire's zenith. Angkor bears testimony to the Khmer empire's immense power and wealth, as well as the variety of belief systems that it patronised over time. The empire's official religions included Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, until Theravada Buddhism prevailed, even among plain folks, after its introduction from Sri Lanka as of the 13th century. Modern researches by satellites have revealed Angkor to be the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world.
From Kambuja itself - and so also from the Angkor region - no written records have survived other than stone inscriptions. Therefore, the current knowledge of the historical Khmer civilization is derived primarily from:
- archaeological excavation, reconstruction and investigation
- stone inscriptions (most important are foundation steles of temples), which report on the political and religious deeds of the kings
- reliefs in a series of temple walls with depictions of military marches, life in the palace, market scenes and also the everyday lives of the population
- reports and chronicles of Chinese diplomats, traders and travellers.
The beginning of the era of the Khmer Empire is conventionally dated to 802 AD. In this year, king Jayavarman II had himself declared chakravartin ("king of the world", or "king of kings") on Phnom Kulen.
The 11th century was a time of conflict and brutal power struggles. Only with Suryavarman II was the kingdom united internally and extended externally. Under his rule, the largest temple of Angkor was built in a period of 37 years: Angkor Wat, dedicated to the god Vishnu. Suryavarman II conquered the Mon kingdom of Haripunjaya to the west, and the area further west to the border with the kingdom of Bagan, in the south further parts of the Malay peninsula down to the kingdom of Grahi, in the east several provinces of Champa and the countries in the north as far as the southern border of modern Laos. Suryavarman II's end is unclear. The last inscription, which mentions his name in connection with a planned invasion of Vietnam, is from the year 1145. He died during a failed military expedition in Đại Việt territory around 1145 and 1150.
The First Nusantara Kingdom (Srivijaya Empire) has success uniting most western part of Nusantara or maritime Southeast Asia. Srivijaya was a coastal trading centre and was a thalassocracy. As such, it did not extend its influence far beyond the coastal areas of the islands of Southeast Asia, with the exception of contributing to the population of Madagascar 3,300 miles to the west.
According to the Kota Kapur Inscription, discovered on Bangka Island, the empire conquered most of Southern Sumatra and neighboring island of Bangka, as far as Lampung. Also according to this inscription, Jayanasa launched a military campaign against Bhumi Java in the late 7th century, a period which coincides with the decline of Tarumanagara in West Java and Holing (Kalingga) in Central Java. The empire thus grew to control the trade on the Strait of Malacca, Sunda Strait, the South China Sea, the Java Sea, and Karimata Strait. During the same century, Langkasuka on the Malay Peninsula became part of Srivijaya. Soon after this, Pan Pan and Trambralinga, which were located north of Langkasuka, came under Srivijayan influence. These kingdoms on the peninsula were major trading nations that transported goods across the peninsula's isthmus. With the expansion into Java and the Malay Peninsula, Srivijaya controlled two major trade choke points in Southeast Asia. Some Srivijayan temple ruins are observable in Thailand and Cambodia.
At some point in the 7th century, Cham ports in eastern Indochina started to attract traders. This diverted the flow of trade from Srivijaya. In an effort to divert the flow, the Srivijayan king or maharaja, Dharmasetu, launched various raids against the coastal cities of Indochina. The city of Indrapura by the Mekong River was temporarily controlled from Palembang, capital of the empire during the century, in the early 8th century. By that century, Srivijaya controlled both the spice route traffic and local trade, charging a toll on passing ships. Serving as an entrepôt for Chinese, Malay, and Indian markets, the port of Palembang, accessible from the coast by way of a river, accumulated great wealth. Envoys travelled to and from China frequently.
American Precolumbian Empires
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Preclassic period (c. 2000 BC to 250 AD), many Maya cities reached their highest state development during the Classic period (c. 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Postclassic period until the arrival of the Spanish. At its peak, it was one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the world.
The Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of interaction and cultural diffusion that characterized the region. Advances such as writing, epigraphy, and the calendar did not originate with the Maya; however, their civilization fully developed them. Maya influence can be detected from Honduras, Guatemala, Northern El Salvador and to as far as central Mexico, more than 1,000 km (620 mi) from the Maya area. Many outside influences are found in Maya art and architecture, which are thought to result from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest.
The Classic period (c. 250–900 AD) witnessed the peak of large-scale construction and urbanism, the recording of monumental inscriptions, and a period of significant intellectual and artistic development, particularly in the southern lowland regions. They developed an agriculturally intensive, city-centered empire consisting of numerous independent city-states. This includes the well-known cities of Tikal, Palenque, Copán and Calakmul, but also the lesser known Dos Pilas, Uaxactun, Altun Ha, and Bonampak, among others.
The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca Empire arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, including large parts of modern Ecuador, Peru, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and north-central Chile, and southern Colombia.
There is some debate about the number of people inhabiting Tawantinsuyu at its peak, with estimates ranging from as few as 4 million people, to more than 37 million. The reason for these various estimates is that in spite of the fact that the Inca kept excellent census records using their quipu, knowledge of how to read them has been lost, and almost all of them had been destroyed by the Spaniards in the course of their conquest.
The most powerful figure in the empire was the Sapa Inca ('the unique Inca'). Only descendants of the original Inca tribe ascended to the level of Inca. Most young members of the Inca's family attended Yachay Wasis (houses of knowledge) to obtain their education.
The Inca Empire was a federalist system which consisted of a central government with the Inca at its head and four provinces. The four corners of these provinces met at the center, Cusco. Each province had a governor who oversaw local officials, who in turn supervised agriculturally productive river valleys, cities and mines. The local officials were responsible for settling disputes and keeping track of each family's contribution to the mita (mandatory public service).
Architecture was by far the most important of the Inca arts, with textiles reflecting motifs that were at their height in architecture. The main example is the capital city of Cusco. The breathtaking site of Machu Picchu was constructed by Inca engineers. The stone temples constructed by the Inca used a mortarless construction that fit together so well that a knife could not be fitted through the stonework. This was a process first used on a large scale by the Pucara peoples (ca. 300 BC–AD 300) and later in the great city of Tiwanaku (ca. AD 400–1100). The rocks used in construction were sculpted to fit together exactly by repeatedly lowering a rock onto another and carving away any sections on the lower rock where the dust was compressed. The tight fit and the concavity on the lower rocks made them extraordinarily stable.
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the Late post-Classic period in Mesoamerican chronology. From the 13th century Valley of Mexico was the core of Aztec civilization: here the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, the city of Tenochtitlan, was built upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco. The Triple Alliance formed its tributary empire expanding its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica. In 1521, in what is probably the most widely known episode in the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Hernán Cortés, along with a large number of Nahuatl speaking indigenous allies, conquered Tenochtitlan and defeated the Aztec Triple Alliance under the leadership of Hueyi Tlatoani Moctezuma II; In the series of events often referred to as "The Fall of the Aztec Empire". Subsequently the Spanish founded the new settlement of Mexico City on the site of the ruined Aztec capital.
The Aztec Empire was an example of an empire that ruled by indirect means. It was ethnically very diverse and was structured by a system of tribute. The Aztec empire as an hegemonic empire did not exert supreme authority over the conquered lands, it merely expected tributes to be paid. It was also a discontinuous empire because not all dominated territories were connected. The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire can be seen in the fact that generally local rulers were restored to their positions once their city-state was conquered and the Aztecs did not interfere in local affairs as long as the tribute payments were made. Although the form of government is often referred to as an empire, in fact most areas within the empire were organized as city-states, known as altepetl. These were small polities ruled by a king (tlatoani) from a legitimate dynasty.
- General topics
- History of warfare,
- Political science
- Power in international relations, Expansionism (List of examples of expansionism)
- General Lists
- List of largest empires, List of countries spanning more than one continent, List of historical countries and empires spanning more than one continent
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- There is another theory about the origin of the name which states that they were called 'Bahariyya' because they came by sea or from over sea. (Shayyal, 110/vol.2 )
- (Al-Maqrizi, p. 441/vol.1 ) - (Abu Al-Fida, pp.66-87/ Year 647H - Death of as-Sailih Ayyub) - (Ibn Taghri/vol.6 - Year 639H )
- After the Castle of al- Rodah was built, As-Salih moved with his Mamluks to it and lived there. (Al-Maqrizi, p.405/vol. 1 ). Later, the Mamluk Sultans lived at the Citadel of the Mountain which was situated on the Muqatam Mountain in Cairo (Al-Maqrizi, al-Mawaiz, p. 327/vol.3 ) where the Mosque of Muhammad Ali and the remains of the Citadel (known now by the name Saladin's Citadel) stand now.
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- Newman, John, The Linguistics of Eating and Drinking, (John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009), 155. "The Persianate culture was carried by succeeding dynasties into Western and Southern Asian, in particular … by the Ghaznavids."
- Meisami, Julie Scott, Persian Historiography to the End of the Twelfth Century, (Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 143. "Nizam al-Mulk also attempted to organise the Saljuq administration according to the Persianate Ghaznavid model."
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- M.A. Amir-Moezzi, "Shahrbanu", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, (LINK): "... here one might bear in mind that non-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs and Ilkhanids were rapidly to adopt the Persian language and have their origins traced back to the ancient kings of Persia rather than to Turkic heroes or Muslim saints ..."
- Encyclopaedia Iranica, Iran: Islamic Period – Ghaznavids, E. Yarshater
- B. Spuler, "The Disintegration of the Caliphate in the East", in the Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. IA: The Central islamic Lands from Pre-Islamic Times to the First World War, ed. by P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970). pg 147: "One of the effects of the renaissance of the Persian spirit evoked by this work was that the Ghaznavids were also Persianized and thereby became a Persian dynasty."
- Anatoly M Khazanov, André Wink, "Nomads in the Sedentary World", Routledge, 2padhte padhte to pagla jayega aadmi, "A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia", Blackwell Publishing, 1998. pg 370: "Though Turkic in origin and, apparently in speech, Alp Tegin, Sebuk Tegin and Mahmud were all thoroughly Persianized"
- Robert L. Canfield, Turko-Persia in Historical Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1991. pg 8: "The Ghaznavids (989–1149) were essentially Persianized Turks who in manner of the pre-Islamic Persians encouraged the development of high culture"
- John Perry. Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193–200. The Historical Role of Turkish in Relation to Persian of Iran. Excerpt: "We should distinguish two complementary ways in which the advent of the Turks affected the language map of Iran. First, since the Turkish-speaking rulers of most Iranian polities from the Ghaznavids and Seljuks onward were already iranized and patronized Persian literature in their domains, the expansion of Turk-ruled empires served to expand the territorial domain of written Persian into the conquered areas, notably Anatolia and Central and South Asia. Secondly, the influx of massive Turkish-speaking populations (culminating with the rank and file of the Mongol armies) and their settlement in large areas of Iran (particularly in Azerbaijan and the northwest), progressively turkicized local speakers of Persian, Kurdish and other Iranian languages." (John Perry. Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193–200. The Historical Role of Turkish in Relation to Persian of Iran)
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Note: Gurkānī is the Persianized form of the Mongolian word "kürügän" ("son-in-law"), the title given to the dynasty's founder after his marriage into Genghis Khan's family.
- Note: Gurgān, Gurkhān, or Kurkhān; The meaning of Kurkhan is given in Clements Markham's publication of the reports of the contemporary witness Ruy González de Clavijo as "of the lineage of sovereign princes".
- Edward Balfour The Encyclopaedia Asiatica, Comprising Indian Subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Asia, Cosmo Publications 1976, S. 460, S. 488, S. 897
- Maria Subtelny, "Timurids in Transition", BRILL; illustrated edition (2007-09-30). pg 40: "Nevertheless, in the complex process of transition, members of the Timurid dynasty and their Turko-Mongolian supporters became acculturate by the surrounding Persinate millieu adopting Persian cultural models and tastes and acting as patrons of Persian culture, painting, architecture and music." pg 41: "The last members of the dynasty, notably Sultan-Abu Sa'id and Sultan-Husain, in fact came to be regarded as ideal Perso-Islamic rulers who develoted as much attention to agricultural development as they did to fostering Persianate court culture."
- Encyclopædia Britannica, "Timurid Dynasty", Online Academic Edition, 2007. (Quotation:...Turkic dynasty descended from the conqueror Timur (Tamerlane), renowned for its brilliant revival of artistic and intellectual life in Iran and Central Asia....Trading and artistic communities were brought into the capital city of Herat, where a library was founded, and the capital became the centre of a renewed and artistically brilliant Persian culture...)
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- See, e.g., Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 196.
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- Ghana Empire
- Songhai Empire
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