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"There was a time when this whole quadrant belonged to us! What are we now? Twelve worlds and a thousand monuments to past glories. Living off memories and stories, and selling trinkets. My god, man! We've become a tourist attraction.

'See the great Centauri Republic - open 9 to 5 - Earth time.'"
Londo Mollari, Babylon 5"The Gathering"

This nation used to rule the known world, or at least a sizable chunk of it. Unfortunately, for the last n years, its influence has been declining and its territory shrinking.

Vestigial Empires tend to leave behind still-working infrastructure (especially roads or the nearest space-operatic equivalent) as they shrink; frequently, they also leave behind a common language. Generally their remaining bits are a hotbed of cutthroat politics, ruled by decadent nobles with superiority complexes.

The protagonist is rarely actually from the Vestigial Empire--any time one is involved in a setting, it's usually it's either a source of villains, or a setting whose politics need to be navigated in order to obtain allies. Quite often, the only mention of them may be in a Cryptic Background Reference.

Being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to late imperial Rome or Byzantium isn't required, but it's definitely a bonus.

Contrast with Precursors — an entire species of Vestigial Empire which tends to leave little to no working infrastructure and is also long gone by the time the story takes place. All or part of the Vestigial Empire may be The Remnant if they're still fighting for the (usually) lost cause of restoring their former glory.

Examples of Vestigial Empire include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Lyrical Nanoha, Ancient Belka was a powerful empire that spanned many dimensions, a mighty civilization that conquered every world that came its way with its superior magic and technology. However, infighting mixed with the Lensman Arms Race and widespread pollution have destroyed the empire from the inside until it finally fell apart after the self-sacrifice of the last Saint King, Olivie Segbrecht. All that's left of the Belkan Empire in modern times is the Saint Church Autonomous Region in the Northern Mid-Childa, although the Saint Church focuses more on the religious than political power (their doctrine is based around Olivie as the messianic figure) and preservation of the Ancient Belkan cultural and magical heritage. Setting a number of nuclear bombs off on themselves didn't help.
  • The Earth Federation from the Universal Century universe of Mobile Suit Gundam is this in the Fall of Rome way. While not that bad with Mobile Suit Gundam by Zeta Gundam the Earth Federation has weakened to the point that the remnants of Zeon are still a serious threat, which is made worse by the Titans creating dissension so that the collapse can happen quicker so that the Titans leader can take over. By Chars Counterattack even though Zeon has been defeated twice, the Earth Federation is so weak that the Zeon nearly make the Earth uninhabitable and only a miracle caused by Amuro's death stops it. By the time of Victory Gundam (60 years after CCA), the Federation is so weak and ineffectual that it falls to a militia to oppose The Empire.

    And yet the Earth Federation not only manages to outlast all opposing Zeon fraction but also to re-integrate Zeon itself.
    • If the live-action film G-Saviour is canon, then the Federation finally collapsed around UC 200, when the Earth succumbed to pollution and became uninhabitable.
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, the now dead countries of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Germania play this role, with Rome being the prominent one. He left two (idiotic) grandsons behind who are constantly being fought over because of their grandfather's inheritance, Germania is the father/grandfather of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany, and Prussia, and Ancient Greece and Egypt each left behind a son who spend a great deal of time discovering and researching the ruins of their mothers' kingdoms. Rome even comes back from heaven occasionally to check up on N. Italy and bother Germany. And if history's any indication, this may apply to Austria as well, who, as both the Austrian Empire and (one half) of Austria-Hungary, served as a remnant of the Holy Roman Empire.


  • In the Gene Catlow fanfic The Basalt City Chronicles, the Empire of Smilodons once ruled an empire spanning from Burma in the southwest and Chile in the southeast, to the Bering Strait in the north. They're now down to a group of islands in the Bering Strait, though they've still got plenty of their ancient national treasure...
  • In the Nineteen Eighty Three Doomsday Stories for Axis Powers Hetalia, there are nods to Austria still feeling this despite being one of the core members of the Alpine Confederation, though with painful justification. Having been reduced to a neutral Cold War buffer by the time Doomsday came, he was powerless to stop the bloodshed and save Hungary, which would come to haunt him in the years to come.


  • Both the New Republic and the First Order in The Force Awakens. While the First Order is obviously a smaller Empire, the New Republic's disarmament protocols and its distaste for a strong centralized government meant that it was comparatively weaker than the Rebel Alliance was at its peak.
  • Krypton in Man of Steel is a pathetic shadow of the glorious spacefaring power it once was.


  • The Trope Namer is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, which describes the Vestigial Empire as being part of the standard fantasy setting.
  • The Galactic Empire from Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels turns into this over the course of the series; by the time of the Mule, it holds only twenty agricultural worlds, having abandoned its original capital planet of Trantor after the Great Sack. Since Foundation is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire IN SPACE, the Roman parallels are many and explicit.
    • When the story's protagonists visit Neotrantor, the new capital, the senile Emperor is under the impression that the Empire is as strong as ever, treating the Foundation as just another world within the Anacreon Province of the Empire.
  • A slightly odd example which nonetheless fits all the above criteria is the U.S. government in Snow Crash, although in this case the "cutthroat politics" are office politics between software engineers. Power, influence and respect all withered away, so they fill the void with bureaucracy.
  • Similarly, the U.S. in Octavia Butler's Parable series looks a lot like this.
  • Gondor from The Lord of the Rings has been in decline for the past one and a half thousand years. Its sister kingdom Arnor would also have qualified, before it ceased to exist entirely. This reinforces the parallelism with the ancient Roman empire: one part (Arnor = Western Roman Empire) has collapsed under attack, the other (Gondor = Byzantine Empire) subsists as a beacon of civilization built around a borderline impregnable city (Minas Tirith = Constantinople), but is shrinking and weakened by devious politics. In a bit of a subversion, the appendices cite that after the War of the Ring, Gondor grew back into power under King Elessar (Aragorn). An alliance with Rohan led by Eomer also sturdied the emerging Dominion of Men (including Arnor's old lands) as well. Where this re-emergence of power goes following Elessar's death at the end of the appendices' timeline, no one is certain.
  • Ergoth in the Dragonlance books. Solamnia too, though its decline is eventually reversed.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The post-Endor Empire is like this, getting progressively more so as time passes. Various defeats actually led to factions led by formerly-Imperial warlords splintering off. Now and again it surges back somewhat, like under Grand Admiral Thrawn or the Emperor Reborn, but since the people behind these surges are inevitably killed, these are temporary. The one good thing Daala did was to reunite the forces under the warlords; she promptly killed off a good portion, but she did leave the still-united remains in the command of someone who knew their limits. By the time of the Hand of Thrawn duology, the weary Supreme Commander looks at the eight sectors and thousand systems they still command, the two hundred Imperial Star Destroyers, the "Preybird" class fighters they buy from he knows not where, and thinks about how the Empire once ruled a million systems, had twenty-five thousand Star Destroyers, and could afford more than one surviving major shipyard which couldn't keep up the demand for capital ships, let alone starfighters. He believes that the only way it can survive is for him to make peace with the New Republic. And he does. When, while pushing for the Moff Council to support his peace treaty, he's told that the Empire still has significant military power, Pellaeon's response is that they have just enough power for the New Republic to consider them worth destroying if peace is not achieved. Fittingly, this territory is called the Imperial Remnant by the rest of the Galaxy.
    • A century or so afterwards, it's the republican government that replaced it (The Galactic Federation of Free Alliances) that crumble and survive only as the Galactic Alliance Remnant. Star Wars is cyclic about these things.
    • Replacing the Galactic Alliance? A resurgent Empire, partially subverting the trope. But when the Sith overthrow Emperor Roan Fel, he escapes to lead ANOTHER remnant, and the cycle continues...
    • The Star Wars Empire was inspired by the Foundation Empire, above.
  • Melnibone from Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer series is like this, having ruled over the entire world for almost ten thousand years under the blessing of the gods of Chaos. It is noted that its latest emperor (and series protagonist) Elric could restore much of its former power if he had a mind to.
  • Tolnedra from the Belgariad (Although most of the countries around it were never really under its political influence, they still act as if they controlled the whole continent once upon a time). They are a greater force for law and order in large portions of Arendia than the Arendians are, and the backstory details how they basically forced the other countries to create Sendaria at one point.
  • Discworld:
    • Ankh-Morpork is a rare example of a Vestigial Empire where main characters not only come from the corrupt and decadent city, but often spend the entire book there. Also notable in that while the actual empire is long gone, and the Patrician expresses distaste with recreating the idea ("We are not having another Ankh-Morpork empire; we've only just got over the last one"), the Pax Morporka is still in effect in many places due to Ankh-Morpork's economic and cultural dominance, only now instead of 'Do not fight, or we will kill you' it is 'Do not fight, or we will call in your mortgages.'
    • Another example from Discworld would be Djelibeybi, Pratchett's analogue to Ancient Egypt in Pyramids. They only control a tiny stretch of river by the events of the book, but it's stated that they used to control most of the continent before they sold it all to pay for pyramids.
  • In S.M. Stirling's novel In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, the Tollamune emperors once ruled all of Mars. By the time of the story they are reduced to ruling the territory around their capital at Olympus Mons, where all the old court officials and functionaries continue, though largely without actual functions.
  • Almost every nation in The Wheel of Time is this, at least on the continent where most of the story takes place, due to a mysterious depopulation and the effects of repeated wars. Even the tiny city-state of Mayene claims to be ruled by a descendant of Artur Hawkwing's continent-spanning realm, and there were entire kingdoms swallowed by the Blight that were supposed to be very strong. Much of the depopulation since then could be attributed to people being killed/enslaved by raiding from the Blight. All of the major southern cities are indicated to be very large, as they have never been attacked and some (at the beginning of the series, at any rate) did not even believe that Trollocs existed.
  • The Elder Things in the Cthulhu Mythos were this for a significant time. They used to rule all of Earth when the world was still young, but over the aeons various cataclysms and wars with younger species and other extraterrestrial beings (including Cthulhu himself) caused them to lose most of their territories, until they only held a single city in the Antarctic. Then the continent got covered in ice, destroying the city, and the survivors got killed by their servitor race that turned againt them.
  • Harry Turtledove's "Videssos Cycle" doesn't even file all the serial numbers off the late and declining Byzantine Empire, to the point of including historical names, places, battles and personas from the Empire and its neighbours, and adding a cohort from Caesar's Imperial Legions. To be fair, the author has a degree or two in the subject...
  • In Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser series, Quarmall used to be a large kingdom, but by the time the eponymous pair see it, it's a single city that's almost all underground.
    • Likewise Lankhmar itself; in The Swords of Lankhmar, Kreeshkra mentions that "Lankhmar's empire stretched from Quarmall to the Trollstep Mountains and from Earth's End to the Sea of Monsters".
  • The Commonwealth in The Book of the New Sun claims to be the successor state to the monarch's interplanetary empire, but in actual fact they only control part of one continent on Earth. Still, the interplanetary civilization recognizes the Autarchs of the Commonwealth as the legitimate spokesmen for Earth, which drives the entire plot of The Urth of the New Sun. Bonus points because the Commonwealth is an Expy of the Byzantine Empire in South America.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Hyborian Age", the Backstory to Conan's world, the oldest known history begins with an era with one of these.

 The Thurian civilization was crumbling; their armies were composed largely of barbarian mercenaries.

    • Kull's kingdom (Valusia, part of said Thurian civilization) is also this. He is told he can restore some of its lost glories.
    • By Conan's time there are a few as well, such as Stygia (Ancient Egypt but filled with shadowy evil) and arguably Koth (The Roman Empire, but with less of the "powerful, disciplined legions" part and more of the "ludicrously decadent rulers" part). Then there is dreaded Acheron, which, despite having been destroyed almost three millenia ago, has left remnants that are still deadly to those unlucky of stupid enough to stumble on them, as The Hour of the Dragon" demonstrates.
  • The Strugatsky Brothers' Hard to Be A God is set in one of those - significant portions of the the empire are independent states in all of the ways that matter, something which the Imperial nobility loathes to acknowledge.
  • The Empire of Humanity gradually becomes this during the course of Sergey Lukyanenko's Genome trilogy, transforming from a strong star-faring empire to a weak shadow of its former self.
    • The Taii to an even greater extent. Once rulers of most of known space, they have been reduced to a few dozen worlds and are hopelessly behind the younger races which have arisen after the Taii Empire's collapse. Unlike the human example, the current state of the Taii is due to a devastating interstellar war fought against an equal galactic power. As the author maintains, such a conflict will inevitably result in the destruction of one of the powers and a Pyrrhic Victory for the other, for it will have lost much in the war. The once-mighty moon-sized Taii battleships still patrol much of what used to be theirs. However, this is only because the current rulers of that space allow the Taii this small favor as a testament to their former glory. Those battleships are escorted by modern warships a tiny fraction of their size but which can blast the massive Taii relics with a single volley. The author uses this as a clear example of what will happen to humanity should they enter into a such a conflict with the Czygu, an equally strong empire.
      • Even moreso, if the human-Czygu war breaks out, the Emperor will be forced to lift the quarantine of Ebon, a world of religious fanatics who absolutely hate all aliens and have built up a massive war machine dedicated to eliminating all those who are not true children of God. This will cause all aliens to band together against the humans and result in mutual destruction of everyone involved. Anyone who remains will be a clear example of this trope.
  • Old Ethshar became this after a time. It once controlled a sizable continent to the south but the centuries of war against their enemy led to the original empire fracturing into dozens of squabbling countries, each claiming legitimate rule to the whole empire. The army fighting in the north decided to just use the newly captured lands to found a new nation rather than deal with that.
  • Subverted with the Fjordell Empire in Elantris. On a map, Fjorden appears to be only a shadow of its once continent-spanning might, but it's far from in decline. Rather, it's leaders recognized that attempting to millitarily reconquer their old lands would be unfeasible, and so made an alliance with the Shu-Dereth religion. The "new" Fjordell Empire fused its own political hierarchy with the Derethi religious hierarchy, and as a result it's actually far more powerful than it was in its heyday through the Derethi religious sphere of influence. Anyone who is politically aware in this world knows that Fjorden is far from the Vestigial Empire it appears as at first glance.
  • The Romulan Star Empire of the Star Trek universe seems destined to become this in all realities - note that this was even the case before the latest film destroyed their capital.
    • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, post Star Trek Nemesis, the Star Empire fragmented into factions. Praetor Tal'aura and Proconsul Tomalak were able to reunite most of them, as the Federation sought to maintain peace along the borders (the Klingons "helped" by making Remus a protectorate). Commander Donatra, however, declared the worlds and fleets loyal to her independent. Between losing territory to Donatra, uprisings on the outworlds, and the damage from the Borg Invasion, the Empire was less than half its former size. It was explicitly stated in Star Trek Articles of the Federation that the Romulans were no longer a superpower. They bounced back thanks to membership in the Typhon Pact...only for the empire to presumably collapse again when Romulus was destroyed (though we're still a few years short of that in the current timeframe...)
    • In Star Trek: Mirror Universe, it happens sooner, after Romulus is destroyed early by a weapon of mass destruction. The core forces of the empire are reduced to joining forces with anti-Alliance freedom fighters in order to survive.
    • In Star Trek Online, the empire is also a shadow of its former self following the loss of Romulus.
  • In David Weber's Hell's Gate series, the Ternathian Empire was previously a massive empire spreading across most of the planet of Sharona (essentially an Alternate Universe of Earth). Unlike most examples, the empire was not established out of a desire for expansion but instead to secure their borders against lawless brigands and organized raiders - and every time the new borders were stabilized, more cross-border raiders and brigands appeared, forcing the empire to expand to destroy them as well. Ternathia eventually withdrew from many of its outer territories when they became too expensive to maintain control of, turning them over to local governments in an orderly, controlled contraction of their borders.
  • Nabban from Memory Sorrow and Thorn is what happens when you go the next step beyond this- once a Rome-esque superpower, it had been in decline for some time and controlled only the core of its former territories, and then about a generation before the novels High King Prester John showed up and conquered it, making it only one province of his own empire. It's still the headquarters of the continent's dominant religion, though, and its greatest knight went on to become John's Number Two.
  • The Nansur Empire in the Second Apocalypse series, which has been steadily losing territory to Fanim jihads for centuries and retains only a shadow of its former glory.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Dorne, after a fashion. Dorne's Rhoynar elements are descended from refugees fleeing their old homeland in Essos as it burned under the Valyrian Freehold.
    • Slaver's Bay consists of three allied city states that are the remnants of the Ghiscari Empire, which was conquered millenia ago by the Valyrian Freehold. There is also the island city of New Ghis, which has a trading arrangement and military alliance with the three but is otherwise independent.
    • The Valyrians who crushed the Ghiscari were wiped out by a cataclysm known as the Doom of Valyria, leaving behind a handful of city-states to squabble over their legacy.
    • The once widespread nations of the Sarnori and Qaathi peoples are reduced to a single city each (Saath and Qarth, respectively).
    • The Patrimony of Hyrkoon was consumed by an expanding desert until only three cities remained.

Live Action TV

  • The Centauri in Babylon 5, at least as the series is starting. The Shadow War causes them to briefly enter a new expansionistic phase.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Gallifrey, the Time Lords' home planet, was once the capital of a mighty empire before various wars saw its dissolution.
    • During the run of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, the Daleks were half-mad scavengers who survived the Dalek Empire's collapse. By the time of the Eleventh Doctor's era, they'd managed to build the New Dalek Paradigm as a new empire.
    • The Cybermen in Series 12.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Dragon's Teeth", the crew awakens several hundred members of a species that used to rule the quadrant, who find that their enemies have overrun their old empire and that the name of their species is now a synonym for "foolish."
    • The Terran Empire in Star Trek: Enterprise was seemingly this before the arrival of the USS Defiant.
    • The Klingon Empire was heading this way in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. Preventing this was T'Kuvma's main goal.
    • The Romulan Empire is confirmed to have collapsed by the time of Star Trek: Picard. While many Romulans now just want peace, some remnants do continue to war against the Federation.
  • The Amazon used to be an empire but Xena: Warrior Princess reduced it to a few scattered tribes.
  • The Iron Throne under Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones is reduced to pillaging an entire region to pay off its debts. It's also lost most of its manpower so she has to buy foreign mercenaries to keep fighting her war of conquest.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000...
    • The Imperium of Man has been in decline for 10,000 years. A hundred centuries of millions of soldiers dying in pointless wars every day, billions slaughtered to sate the thirst of angry gods, while every part of the Imperium falls apart. The words most commonly used is "decaying" and "rotting" and that's pretty much perfectly accurate.
    • And then there's the Eldar. Theirs isn't a vestigial Empire as is it's the skeletal remains of one. When you discuss Empires of trillions upon trillions, one can see how it might take thousands of years for them to finally all get wiped out.
    • The Necrons aren't looking good either-their technology hasn't declined (which is a very good thing for them, being Virtual Ghosts and all), but it's literally impossible for them to reproduce, and the deep enmity that most Lords have for each other prevents them from pooling their resources.
  • In Warhammer:
    • The Dwarfs have one of these. It first got cracked when the Slaan noticed that the mountains were no longer where they thought they should be, so they moved them back. The dwarfs happened to be living in them at the time. After that they've been fighting a very slowly losing battle against orcish and goblin invaders. The elvish empire also got split into three - the original High Elves, the Dark Elves, and later the Wood Elves. The High Elves have been slowly dying out, with the other two faring a bit better.
    • Said Slaan and their Lizardmen aren't doing too well themselves. Most cities are gone and the Slaan have lost contact with most of the world. However...they are in a better position than most. Whereas the Dwarfs and the Elves have only lost cities, the Lizardmen are actually rebuilding some of theirs. Granted, several cities are still marked on their maps with Lizardmen equivalents for "Never Go Within Thirty Miles Of This Place Again", but it's a start.
    • This change has also been reflected in their rulers: The Slaan have gone from a Dying Race incapable of replacing their numbers (in earlier editions) to one that is capable of replacing their numbers, albeit very slowly.
  • The default setting in Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition, Points of Light, is rife with these, most notably Human-controlled Nerath, Tiefling-controlled Bael Turath, and Dragonborn-controlled Arkhosia.
  • Unther in the Forgotten Realms. Up until the Time of Troubles it was a force to be reckoned with, ruled by Physical Gods. After the gods' mortal incarnations are killed, Unther becomes a shadow of its former self and is mostly annexed by its neighboring empire, Mulhorand. In 4E, Unther is one of multiple countries that was unceremoniously destroyed by the Spellplague.
  • Eberron has the goblinoid Dhakaani Empire, which was mostly destroyed 9000 years ago by an invasion from Xoriat, the plane of madness, then slowly declined. Well before that was the ancient Giant empire on Xen'drik, which was destroyed by the dragons. Survivors of both occasionally attempt to restore their civilization's former glory.
  • In Traveller, the Vilani Imperium. It was superficially powerful, controlling thousands of worlds when the Terrans found it. But it was senile, indecisive, and generally a meal waiting to be snatched by whomever discovered it.
  • Lookshy of Exalted fashions itself as the last remnant of the Shogunate, the worldwide Dragon Blooded government prior to the Great Contagion, reduced to a single (if securely independent) city-state.
    • The Realm itself is not quite there yet, but it is a lot less strong abroad for having spent the last five years drawing the lines in preparation for civil war, and being reduced to a fraction of its former power is a noted possibility. Some Dynasts would even prefer a Vestigial Empire; it would be easier to manage, and they don't have any greater ambitions than maintaining their own tremendous wealth and luxury.
    • The Lintha have been on a downward spiral since the fall of the Primordials. Depictions of the First Age show the Lintha Empire (which once ruled most of the West) to have been reduced to a small coastal state where pure blooded Lintha (the only ones able to use their magic and operate their technology) are virtually an endangered species. The default setting shows the vestigial remnant of that, where the Lintha are nothing but a few criminal families (with practices of incest and self-castration/mutilation) operating off of the back of a dying monster.

Video Games

  • The Principality of Belka from the Ace Combat series controlled a sizable chunk of the planet until it's economy collapsed and it started hemorrhaging territories until it was a quarter its original size. The plot of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War centres around its attempt to reclaim the states it permitted to secede, particularly the protagonist nation of Ustio. Speculations are abound that AC's Belka was the inspiration for the Nanoha's one, too.
  • There are hints that Ikana from The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask may be like this.
  • San d'Oria from Final Fantasy XI was the game's original Vestigial Empire, wracked with internal strife but still fairly powerful. It now shares its former power among two other nations. Overshadowed by the Aht Urhgan empire, which fits this trope to a T. Political intrigue, encroaching hordes, you name it.
  • The Dollet Dukedom in Final Fantasy VIII, analogous to the Real Life Post-WWI Imperialist states. Attacked towards the beginning of the game by its former territory, Galbadia, itself similar to the Real Life Third Reich.
  • The empire of King Rhobar II in the Gothic series is going down the toilet in the first game, near collapse in the second game, and pretty much ceases to exist as a political entity in the third and the add-on, though most of the people and geography are intact.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Empire of Tamriel is on the decline politically, though not geographically (yet). The Province of Cyrodiil (the Capital) appears bloated and lazy, while various political factions are constantly vying for control of the outlying provinces. Two of the games (Daggerfall & Morrowind) deal with different Gambits by the Emperor to keep the empire together and delay its break up, while the last game has you actively saving the empire from an invading force and a conspiracy:
      • In Daggerfall, the hero is sent on a personal errant for the Emperor (the protagonist is "friend" with said emperor) The emperor's true goal is to have you find a Forgotten Superweapon that was used to forge the empire and that you'll return it to him. You have the choice to give it to many factions, all with their own plot. Later games reveal that a Divine Intervention made all the game's endings happen at once, most of them cancelling out and bringing peace and some stability to the region.
      • Morrowind has the Emperor sending the player, who's a prisoner, to the eponymous province, so that he may join the emperor's Blades and fulfill a prophecy the locals have. Doing so would give the emperor a very religiously and politically powerful tool (you, the Nerevarine), as well as removing forces more hostile to the empire (Dagoth Ur & The Tribunal).
      • In Oblivion, the very heart of the Tamriel is attacked by The Legions of Hell and the emperor who has been the last link to keep it together is assassinated. Fortunately, he has an heir, but unfortunately he doesn't survive long. So unless the Elder Council finds a new dynasty to replace the Septims, Tamriel will degrade to a "full-fledged" Vestigial Empire by the next installment of the series. Which of course will be a very bad thing as the Empire was the only thing keeping the provinces (and races) from killing and enslaving each other.
      • In the novels taking place 40 years after Oblivion, the Empire has fallen but slowly coming back thanks to a warlord.
      • Skyrim reveals that some time after the novels, Cyrodiil was invaded by the High Elf Dominion. They outlawed all worship of Talos and may or may not be controlling what's left of the Empire through the Emperor.
    • The Empire of Tamriel itself was built on the remains of the ancient Ayleid Empire after it was overthrown in a slave rebellion. The Province of Cyrodiil is loaded with ancient Ayleid ruins, and the Imperial Palace is a repurposed Ayleid fortress.
  • The Lilty Empire from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles once almost conquered the world, but eventually ran out of materials and shrank down to its Capital City. It seems to lack the political complexities, though their princess did run off after being cooped up in the castle...
  • Dragon Age:
    • The Tevinter Imperium in the first game. The player may not visit it in the game, but it's a big part of the world's lore and history, and its ruins litter the game. Their decline was brought about by a combination of a massive internal slave rebellion triggered by a immense barbarian invasion spearheaded by Andraste, who was a sort of fusion of Jesus and Joan of Arc who punted the Imperium right in the knockers and wrecked much of their power. Some centuries later, the Qunari showed up, settling in the northern islands, and started kicking everyone's collective asses across Thedas, including the Imperium's, and the Imperium has been fighting a bloody and expensive and ultimately fruitless war with the Qunari ever since.
    • In Dragon Age II, Fenris claims that Tevinter's power is slowly returning. Since Tevinter is an Evil Empire that relies on the worst of Blood Magic, this is a very bad thing.
  • In Escape Velocity Nova, the Federation is merely a pale shadow of a portion of what the Colonial Council once controlled. There is, however, one reason why the Federation is not as clear an example of a Vestigial Empire as the above would imply: the Federation is not the direct descendant of the Council, there was a period of utter and complete collapse of interstellar civilization in between... plus the Federation's direct predecessor was the Earth Empire, which at its height was precisely as large as the present day Federation.
  • The Crimson Skies universe has the United States of America break up in the 30's. One of it's successor states, Columbia, contains the remnants of the old United States' Federal Government.
  • The Vasari in Sins of a Solar Empire once ruled a massive empire, but it was destroyed by... something. The Vasari in the game are the refugees from a single colony.
  • Homeworld:
    • The Taiidan Empire was a full-blown one in the times of the first game, but by the beginning of the Cataclysm expansion it's reduced to the Taiidan Republic and a bunch of splinter bandit kingdoms, strong enough to launch an occasional raid against Hiigara, but by no mean a major player on the galactic arena anymore. Similar to the aforementioned Centauri, the kingdoms are mightily frustrated with such a state of affairs and seize a reckless opportunity by striking an unholy deal with a monstrous sentient virus designated as "the Beast". It doesn't work out for them.
    • In Homeworld 2, the Taiidani remnant makes up a part of the Vaygr armada, poised to finally destroy Hiigara.
    • The Hiigarans themselves can, possibly, be considered one, given that the old Hiigaran Empire was highly expansionist and was responsible for pissing off the Taiidani in the first place.
  • Eve Online:
    • The Amarr Empire has seen better days. After the catastrophic collapse of the wormhole back to Earth, they were the first civilization to re-emerge from the Dark Age, re-discover space flight and conquer most of their neighbors. But after their catastrophic campaign against the mysterious Jove Empire, the Minmatar successfully seceded from the Empire, corruption became widespread, the Ammatar Mandate was revealed to be throughly infiltrated by the La Résistance and the Minmatar returned with a vengeance. However, Empress Sarum has managed to stop the decline, so they're not down for the count yet.
    • Meanwhile, the Jove Empire has been utterly crippled by a Despair Event Horizon-causing genetic disease, preventing them from taking any overt role in galaxy-wide politics.
    • Player alliances, such as Band Of Brothers, that were at one point in control of vast tracts of the map, but due to internal issues, wars, etc, were eventually crushed to nothing.
  • Both the ARM and the CORE in Total Annihilation start their campaigns from their home worlds, having lost their galaxy-spanning empires over the last four thousand years of non-stop war. All that's left are the armies squabbling over the ruins of a galaxy. (According to the intro and manual, that is. The core at least is implied to still have digital copies of many of it's civilians.) Notably, the expansion packs make it clear that after the war finally ended, the ARM managed to build itself up into a wonderful period of reconstruction.
  • In the Fallout series, The Enclave consider themselves the sole and true heirs to the United States of America, despite only hanging on to Navarro and the Oil Rig in Fallout 2 (which they've lost), Raven Rock in Fallout 3 (which they've lost), and implied to have holdings in the Mid-West, specifically Chicago (which they've NOT lost, yet), and have absolutely no contitutional authority (unless there were amendments that we've not heard of in-game). If it weren't for their Power Armor, their air force, and their genocidal plans, they would be a joke.
    • By the time of Fallout: New Vegas only a few remnants of the Enclave even exist in the Mojave region, most of which who are on the run and hiding from the New California Republic after the events of Fallout 2.
      • Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas is a young, aggressive militaristic empire with the weaponry, the manpower and the stones to take on the NCR. However they can become the Vestigial Empire if you assassinate Caesar and rally other factions like the Boomers, the Brotherhood of Steel and even the Enclave remnants to aid the NCR in a key battle at Hoover dam. Then if you defeat Caesar's most dangeous general, Lanius and win the battle, the Legion is effectively doomed to collapse.
  • In Emperor Of The Fading Suns, a 4x space game where you take control of one of five noble houses in the attempt to reunite a dying galactic empire.
  • The Warcraft universe is full of these.
    • In antiquity, various troll empires reigned supreme, until they were outclassed by the insectoid Aqir, and later on by the night elven Kaldorei, followed by knockout blows from the emerging human and high elven quel'dorei empires.
    • The night elves dominated much of old Kalimdor until the War of the Ancients, and the subsequent Sundering.
    • Many of the human Seven Kingdoms. The Empire of Arathor played this trope straight, while the Kingdoms of Alterac and Lordaeron went a step or two further than this trope. The Kingdom of Azeroth (later renamed Stormwind) played it straight in Orcs & Humans, only to invert it in the period between Tides of Darkness and Reign of Chaos, when it was rebuilt.
    • The nerubians who are not part of the Scourge are about as vestigial as you can get: Kilix the Unraveler and his two guards are the only non-undead nerubians present in World of Warcraft. He speaks of rebuilding the old Nerubian empire (with the Player Characters helpfully clearing out key Scourged Nerubian strongholds), meaning he either speaks for a significant number of well-hidden Nerubian refugees who never appear in the game, or is simply deluded about his prospects.
  • The Holy Celestine Empire in Lusternia used to encompass the entire Basin of Life, until the outbreak of The Taint - which they were partially responsible for - changed the entire political landscape and created a rival in Magnagora. Celest is now only a single city, striving to wipe out Magnagora and the Taint.
  • The Gittish Empire in Dragon Quest IX embodies this trope in a particularly creepy way. Centuries before the game starts, it seems like they at least dominated over one of the world's continents, before getting obliterated in a cataclysmic war. In the time of the game, an insane angel has brought back the Gittish Empire's king and army as undead monsters who have little if any awareness that they ever died. Now they just rule over a desolate and partially poisonous wasteland and a fortress full of slaves. You'd almost feel sorry for them if they weren't all such vicious bastards.
    • The Empire in Parthenia in Dragon Quest IV is one of the more dramatic examples of this trope. Once a great nation, it is now only a single tiny village that contains a tent instead of a castle. The Emperor and his subjects are now happily making a living by growing medicinal herbs.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player eventually comes across Rakata Prime, which is all that remains of the once galaxy-spanning, trillions-enslaving Rakata Empire.
  • In the Rance World, the Helman Empire is this. This makes sense since it is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Russia.

Web Original

  • Word of God says that the Empire of Smilodons in the Basalt City Chronicles once ruled western coasts of both Americas, and even the North-Eastern coast of Asia, but is now relegated to a few islands off Alaska.
  • Subverted in Decades of Darkness. The Restored Empire, a loose union of former British colonies led by Australia after the fall of Britain itself, appears to advertise its empire-in-exile status in the title, but is actually the free-est, most vibrant, and nicest place in the southern hemisphere and possibly the world as of the timeline's end. At least for English-speaking people.
  • Yaman in Open Blue is suffering from decades of decadence and corruption, and can only prioritize maintaining its outward appearance. Avelia, one of the two dominant empires of The Verse, is slowly following in Yaman's footsteps.
  • Several in the Chaos Timeline, most notably the remaining British royal family. They flee to New Albion (New Zealand) after Britain turns republican and eventually socialist. A civil war over throne succession issues eventually rocks the country in the 1960s and effectively splits it in two, the South Island standing behind the resident Cloudcuckoolander and the North Island standing behind a certain Elizabeth. Talk about the British royal family being the Butt Monkey of this timeline.

Western Animation

  • The First Ones in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power warred against the Horde in an interstellar war but were eventually destroyed. Though Horde Prime believed that he'd destroyed them all, Adora's existence proves that they still exist somewhere in the universe.
  • Cybertron in the Transformers Aligned Universe, particularly in the Transformers Exodus line of novels. Millions of years ago, it had an empire that spanned several galaxies but antebellum Cybertron is a stagnant, isolated planet. Rebuilding the empire is a primary motivation of the Decepticons.

Real Life

Examples in this section are listed in (mostly) chronological order:

  • The Western Roman Empire and its ever-decreasing territory during the 5th century is a rather good example. By 395, its last partition with the Eastern Roman Empire, the West included Britannia (Wales, England), Gallia (Gaul: France and certain areas of the Low Countries), Hispania (Spain, Portugal), Italia (Italy), Dalmatia (Croatia), Mauretania Tingitana (Morocco), Mauritania Caesariensis (western Algeria), and Africa province (eastern Algeria, Tunisia, Libya). Imperial troops left Britannia between 407 and 410, leaving the Romano-British to fend for themselves against invasions. Gallia and Hispania were increasingly settled by Germanic populations from c. 412 onwards. While often allied or even subordinate to the Romans, they set up regional kingdoms and eventually become fully independent. The last Roman governor in Gaul, Syagrius, fell to the Franks in 487. Most of the North African areas fell to the Vandals between 429 and 439. The Vandals use their new ports to replace the Romans as the chief naval power of the Mediterranean Sea. Italia fell to its own Germanic mercenaries in 476. Dalmatia followed it in 480. By the end of the century what was left of Roman rule in the west was an independent but isolated Mauretania Tingitana. Eventually Belisarius took it back for the East, but then the Arabs came along... That makes this at least Older Than Feudalism
  • The so-called Byzantine Empire, the Roman Empire's eastern half, centred around Constantinople/Byzantion, lingered for just under a thousand years after the better known fall of the western half. It spent most of that time gradually losing territory, power and influence, though it also had several resurgences — one under Justinian and Belisarius, one under the Macedonian dynasty, and one under the Komnenoi emperors. It spent the last century or so of its existence as a few disconnected regions and cities around the southern Balkans, until the Ottoman Turks put it out of its misery in 1453; technically, though most forget it, the last vestige of Roman power was not Byzantium, but the small Empire of Trebizond, which did not fall until 1461. This example is probably closer to fictional portrayals than most others on this list, in that for a long time Constantinople's wealth and glory lingered, even if they could never recover the political or military power of the old empire. In fact Basil the Bulgar Slayer is believed by some estimates to have been worth almost 170 BILLION in modern US dollars, placing him among the top ten richest men to have ever lived. That last century or two, however, it was simply a shadow of its former self, barely holding on.
  • The Byzantine Empire was the Vestigial Empire of The Roman Empire making this perhaps the most spectacular example in history. And then the Vestigial Empire retreated to ANOTHER Vestigial Empire in the form of the Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261), which was formed by refugees of the Imperial court and aristocracy after Crusaders occupied Constantinople. It managed to reconquer its old capital after more than half a century. The restored empire then had yet another vestigial empire in Trebizond, above.
    • Bear in mind that it's hard to call Byzantine decline terminal before the later Komnenoi, since all empires fluctuate in power to some extent, especially on their frontiers.
  • Brunei once had an empire throughout most of the Borneo Island and other islands, like parts of the Phillipines, as well. It is now a small enclave of Malaysia in Borneo. Made more jarring because Borneo is named as such because of Brunei. The nation's substantial oil wealth helps cushion the blow, though.
  • The 12th century Fatimids and post-11th century Abbasids are also good examples of this trope. The former went from a vast empire that spanned from northern Morocco to Syria to a rump state that was restricted to Egypt in about a century, while the latter went from dominating most of the Muslim world during the late 9th century to a remnant that had no real power outside central and southern Mesopotamia in about two centuries.
    • The Caliphates in general. The Rashidun Caliphate expanded from the city of Mecca to swallow up all of Arabia, North Africa, the Middle-East and Persia, before it was internally dismantled by the Umayyads. The Umayyad Caliphate was one of the largest contiguous empires in history, spanning from Persia to Spain. It was then overthrown by the aforementioned Abbasid dynasty, and the Umayyad dynasty fled to Spain and established a new Caliphate at Cordoba, which later disintegrated into warring factions which were all annexed by Portugal and the Spanish kingdoms following the Reconquista.
  • The Mongol Empire. It used to be one of the largest empires ever, conquering many well developed societies under it, till it stretched all across Asia, from the Caspian to China. Now, its back at former position as a swath of desert, and a bunch of nomads. It has the lowest population density (people per square mile) in the world. And it was the largest empire ever up till its time by far.
    • This is also one of the quickest examples of this trope happening. Very soon after Genghis Khan died, his empire split into several Khanates, which took a while to collapse themselves.
  • The Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee (The Longhouse Builders), a league of nations formed somewhere between 1450 and 1600. A few historians even argue for dates as early as 1142 based on astronomical details in oral tradition. Aside from being a highly sophisticated democracy - they had merit-based offices, bicameral legislature, and a constitution back when the best Europe could come up with was letting inbred lunatics inherit the throne - they were formidable military opponents, and were busy conquering and annexing their way through half the continent when white people discovered America. To make a very long story short, the massive cultural, political, military, economic, biological (as in Warfare) and spiritual changes that came from the European influence, as well as a few military disasters like backing the crown during the Revolutionary War, caused the Confederacy to become severely damaged and fragmented. Now all they own are a handful of reservations, and probably a good 90 percent of Americans haven't even heard of it. However, it's still around, it's still a sovereign nation, and it is still the world's oldest living participatory democracy, not to mention the absolutely massive influence it had on the nascent cultural and political landscape of America.
  • The Mughal Empire, before the British East India Company put it out of its misery in the early 19th century. The Mughals are the most recent example, but India is scattered with ruins of long-dead empires, like the Gupta Empire, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Maratha Empire.
  • 19th and 20th century Spain fits this trope to a tee: losing its empire and all pretensions of world power status, sinking into a deep economic decline, dominated by an over-powerful nobility, racked by constant political instability, coups, and the occasional civil war. Attempts to lord over its former South American colonies led Spain to get its ass kicked by them in the Chincha Islands War. Lingering imperial delusions and hubris were finally shattered in 1898, when they were quickly and brutally defeated by the United States (mind you, the American armed forces were viewed as a joke in 1898, making this especially humiliating), but not much changed after that.
  • Portugal, similarly. Lampshaded, albeit symbolically, in its national anthem. Translated: "Heroes of the sea, noble people, valiant, immortal nation, raise, today, once again, Portugal's splendor!".
    • For some 20 years after they fled in fear of Napoleon, the seat of the Portuguese monarchy and capital of the Empire was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, making Brazil a "united kingdom" (of Brazil, Portugal and the Algarves) and also making Brazil the only former colony to ever become the capital of the empire it belonged to (Imagine if the British royals had simply up and moved to Montreal or Calcutta...). Later on, Brazil was one of the few colonies to gain independence peacefully. (And by "peacefully" we mean "after about two years of irregular warfare with only a few dozen thousand battle deaths." That this was actually considered peaceful says something about the wars of independence further west in the Spanish colonies). This was why Brazil was an empire in its first half-century of independence, and probably would still be had it not been for some rich aristocrats declaring staging a coup and declaring a republic to protect their rights against the leveling Imperial family (Peter II signed the Lex Aurea in 1888, outlawing slavery).
      • One of the contingency plans Britain had back in World War II in the event of successful Nazi invasion was to relocate much of the Royal Family and top leadership to Canada. So it could almost have happened twice, at least in theory. There was even a plan to move the royals abroad during the Blitz; however, George VI insisted on staying in London In Its Hour of Need. Note that by this time, Canada was independent of Britain in all but a few, very minor areas.
  • The Ottoman Empire was so far gone by the 19th century that Russian Czar Nicholas I coined the term "sick man of Europe" to describe it, and further noted that it was "falling to pieces." Subverted when the Turks wised up and became strong again during the mid-19th and again early the 20th century...only to chose the losing side in World War One and now Turkey only has Anatolia left. At least they still have Constantinople, now named Istanbul. And now there's been an insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers Party and various other assorted groups going on since the 70s. Many of these seek to create an independent country in the southeast for the oppressed Kurdish minority. Armenians are also sore over losing much of their homeland after the Soviets conquered Armenia and gave Turkey over 85% of their land, but their having any of it returned to them is rather unlikely unless Turkey is finally forced to pay them genocide reparations.
    • Had the Turks not become involved in the First World War (which caused the British to instigate the Great Arab Uprising), they would have soon discovered that they were sitting on 20% of the world's oil deposits. Judging from the disproportionate power that countries such as Saudi Arabia wield as a result of "the politics of oil", it would certainly have regained its status as a Great Power - unless its neighbours then decided to simply divide it up between them.
      • Had it not been for a now-obscure series of both diplomatic and military blunders by the British at the start of World War I, it's very possible that the Ottoman Empire would have joined the Allies or at least remained neutral, in which case it almost certainly would be one of the world's great powers today.
        • Or it might have looked similarly divided as it does today, it was already in the process of Balkanization even before world war 1, if not for choosing the wrong side in the war it still had internal divisions along religious and ethnic lines and fear of foreign influences working against it.
  • The Carolingian Empire once occupied a HUGE chunk of Europe, from Spain to Germany and a large chunk of Italy and other nations as well. It is now represented by Andorra, a delightful little enclave between France and Spain, and the 191st country in the world by area. Andorra is the only remaining daughter of the Carolingian Empire, as said in its anthem. Or "her" anthem, as it would seem.
  • The Principality of Liechtenstein may not seem much today, but it is arguably the last remaining piece of the old Holy Roman Empire. It probably helped that the ruling family possessed considerable land and clout to retain their power even after Napoleon signed its death warrant. And surprisingly enough, prior to World War I the Principality was somewhat larger, having included properties scattered across Austria-Hungary.
    • Andorra identifies itself with the Holy Roman Empire as well.
  • Austria under the Habsburgs once held hegemony over pretty much all of Central and Eastern Europe, especially during the 16-17th Century. But by 1914, the Dual Monarchy had long become (perhaps not fully justifiably) the basis of Ruritania for much of Europe. The next decades would see the country dismembered, absorbed into Germany, and ultimately reduced to only a fraction of its former territory. Indeed, given their shared history, much of that could be said of Hungary as well; a quick look at the complete lyrics of the latter's national anthem ought to give it away.
    • If you look closely as the Hungarian anthem, the Himnusz, it's actually a surprisingly solemn hymn lamenting their lost achievements and calling on God Himself to pity their fallen glory.
  • Where once Britain ruled a quarter of the world, she now maintains Gibraltar, the Falklands, some delightful rocks in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, some rather more windswept rocks in the Atlantic, and the headquarters of the Commonwealth, which is about as loose an organisation as it gets. One wonders if JMS had it in mind when writing Londo's dialogue quoted on this page. One notable legacy of the British Empire that is near-inescapable is English, the international lingua franca of business, science, technology and aviation. The UK, however, subverts this to the extent that, despite its dramatic territory loss, it still wields a disproportionate amount of influence and power. The UK retains its permanent seat in the UN Security Council, meaning it could theoretically (although this is highly unlikely) veto motions issued by such powers as the USA and the PRC. Through its membership of the Security Council, its position as current head of the Commonwealth and its various other ties with former colonies, British influence extends to a majority of the Anglosphere. The defeat of Argentina in The Falklands War, accurately dubbed as "The Empire Strikes Back", went a long way to show that the UK had not lost its status as a major power. This is probably best shown in the high Euroscepticism and general mild jingoism in Britain - we have lost our Empire, but have not quite realised it yet. Inner London is a monument to this - all manner of grand Victorian palaces and state buildings for an impoverished northern welfare state.
    • Britain is also a key member of NATO, is an acknowledged nuclear weapons state, and still has the world's third-highest military budget, is the world's fifth-largest arms exporter (thank you BAE Systems!), and is the world's sixth-largest economy (by GDP, nominal) (thank you City of London!).
  • The French also subvert this to a degree like the British do, and many of the same traits apply to it (NATO member, nuclear weapons capability, fourth-largest military and fifth-largest economy. They remain a powerful force in the world and in Europe and Western Africa in particular, both by themselves and through their influence with the EU. That, and they still have a number of larger overseas territories around. Not bad for a bunch of Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys.
    • Unlike what is commonly believed, the expression "lingua franca" is not however a vestige of France's former power and influence. It actually means "language of the Franks" (not the French), and arose as a result of the mediaeval Arabic use of "Franks" to denote any and all Western Europeans (or the Western Christians/Catholics, since at the time there wasn't any distinction between the two).[1] Not at all surprising considering the Franks and the subsequent empire they founded under Charlemagne essentially re-established political order in a Europe that hadn't seen any since the fall of the Roman Empire, and one that would later evolve into the Holy Roman Empire. The original Renaissance-era lingua franca (Mediterranenan Lingua Franca) consisted largely of Italian, with a vocabulary that also incorporated many words and phrases from Turkish, French, Spanish, Greek, and Arabic. Many different languages both before and after have also been lingua francas, of course.
  • The European Union itself is a quasi-federation of many vestigial empires cited here: in fact, having the world's biggest GDP, the first millitary in terms of troops and the second biggest military expenditures, the world's second reserve currency, the world's third largest population a very respectable amount of soft power, and the fact that it one of the few polities to have known a significant expansion in the post WWII, the UE could very well be the first alliance of surviving Vestigial Empires turning into an Hegemonic Empire... That is, if it had a strong central government which it still lacks.
  • In the early twentieth-century, Imperial Japan was one of the great powers of the Pacific thanks to its rapid industrialization in the late nineteenth-century, holding its original islands, Korea, and many islands in the Pacific, with plans to expand into China and Oceania during The Great Depression. Now, thanks to their defeat during World War Two and their subsequent occupation by the United States, Japan consists almost entirely of just its original islands, and its military has been constitutionally neutered. People once predicted that Japan would make a major comeback, but that idea has since been discredited.
    • At best, their big comeback came in the form of popular technolgies, particularly cars and consumer electronics (hence the catchphrase "Made in Japan", particularly in The Seventies and The Eighties), and until now the largest car company in the world is Japan based. But now that too is eroding (first thanks to South Korea, then China).
  • The Qing Empire was a shadow of its former self by the time of European (and later, Japanese) expansion into its territory, and modern China is noticeably smaller than it used to be. Mongolia is now independent, and Taiwan its own country to say the least (the details behind that are rather complicated and will be discussed below). In spite of going through a humiliating cultural and economic decline in the past two centuries, most of its key territories were intact and the country was still by far one of the largest and most (over) populated countries in the world. With the resurgence of Chinese economic and political power in the 21st century, it can be said that this trope applies to China no longer.
    • It should also be noted that at various points of Chinese history, the empire has gained territory, lost territory, regained territory, or even split up and later reunited. Both the Warring States and Three Kingdoms periods follow after the fall of a major dynasty (the ancient Zhou and imperial Han respectively) and involved disparate successor states vying among each other for influence. They were succeeded by the Qin Dynasty (recognized as the first actual "Chinese" empire) and the Jin Dynasty respectively.
    • And on top of that, apart from the Yuan dynasty which was part of the Mongolian Empire, the Qing dynasty had the largest territory in the history of China. Even with the loss noted above, the current Chinese territory is still larger than most of the territories in other dynasties.
    • Now that we come to Taiwan, the actual title as a country is the Republic of China, as opposed to the People's Republic of China that serves as the title for the mainland proper. Formerly a part of China itself, the territory developed its own distinct nationality when it became the refuge of the Chinese Nationalist government in 1949. For awhile, it continued to represent China and even retained its UN seat until 1971, when it was given to the PRC. As time went on and the government became more native, the claim to being the sole representative of China was de-emphasized to the point where it no longer exists in fact (theory is another question; see below). While relations with the mainland have thawed over the years, it is still uncertain at this point in time what Taiwan actually is: the remnant territory of the former Chinese government or an independent country in its own right? However it goes about it, declaring for one or the other has repercussions that would adversely affect the territory and its international relationships.
      • As we mentioned before, the government ruling Taiwan still calls itself the Republic of China and still theoretically claims all of the PRC, plus Mongolia and parts of pretty much every neighboring state. Why? Well, besides nationalist pride, there's a very simple reason for doing so: Declaring the actual de facto situation to be reality is very likely to piss off the PRC. Why? Because the PRC's claim that Taiwan is a province of a single, united China meshes very neatly with the ROC's claim that Taiwan is a province of a single, united China...the only difference is which single, united China it is a province of. The current situation allows both sides to claim the current situation as an extended cease-fire in a civil war in a single country, which suits both sides' propaganda. A declaration of a Republic of Taiwan with no claims on the mainland would run counter to the PRC's claim that Taiwan is a rebel province, and would therefore require a response, probably an armed one... Confused? You should be.
      • The situation between the PRC and ROC can be summed up as follows. They both agree that there is only one China. They just disagree on who the leader of China is.
  • Although not formally an empire, modern Russia is significantly smaller than Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union (although it's still the world's largest state), and also has about half the latter's population.
  • The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At one point it was a Central European superpower, spanning from the Baltic Sea on the north to the Black Sea in the south. The Commonwealth managed to successfully invade what would later become the inpenetrable Russian Empire. Twice. They managed to survive near-total Swedish invasion, while defending themselves from Hungary, the Cossacks and other neighbours at the same time. They also saved Austria, and by extension, the rest of Europe, in 1683. Internal bickering, noble houses and confederations selling out to neighbouring superpowers, and general anarchy - all this led to the Commonwealth's three-stage partitions at the end of 18th century. Although Poland managed to rebuild some of its holdings after WWI, its current, post-WWII size is very, very unimpressive. Still, Poland's current borders are quite close to the way they used to be, pre-Commonwealth.
  • The Dutch Empire once consisted of; South Africa, Formosa (Currently Taiwan), Suriname, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, this doesn't include the coastal settlements in Africa, America and Asia. The remnants of this empire are a few islands in the Caribbean and a large influences in all kinds of languages, ranging from Afrikaans, English and even Japanese
  • The Achaemenid Persian Empire was once a world-spanning empire, encompassing most of the civilized world and featured in the annals of most others. Its successor states? Not so much.
    • Debatable at best-the Parthian and Sasanian empires both were strong enough to rule roughly from Mesopotamia to Afghanistan and parts of the other Stans, which is probably about in line with what the core Teispid/ Achemenid territories and they regularly feature as Rome's major Eastern adversary. Our view of them and the Achemenids is skewed because they tend to be defined by control of Greece and eastern Anatolia, which were at least somewhat peripheral to the Iranians themselves.
  • The Kievan Rus' (the original Russian state) used to occupy what is now Northern Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia. It was a powerful state on par with the Western kingdoms whose royalty intermarried with the West. Then the Mongols came, completely devastating the princedom. In the following centuries, the nation would never again regain the former glory, although there were several attempts, such as the independent Cossack states (eventually abolished by Empress Catherine the Great). Ukraine considers itself to be an heir to the Kievan Rus', especially since the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was originally the capital of the princedom. Interestingly, the current territory of Ukraine (the second-largest nation in Europe after Russia) is not that much smaller than that of the Kievan Rus' at the height of its power. Military and economic power is a different story, though. It's telling that the anthem of Ukraine starts with the words "Ukraine is not dead yet".
  1. Eastern Christians were another story; Muslim Arabs were quite familiar with them, seeing as they tended to literally live next door, as Christian Arabs.