The Roman Empire: "comparison" maps of "successor" Empires

This page contains maps of four Empires that came after the end of the Roman Empire, which were "successors" in the sense that they contained an Imperial city (Rome or New Rome). I compare them at their height to the Roman Empire at various times. In addition, I include the kingdom of Greece, even though this was not an Empire and did not include New Rome.

Ottoman Empire in 1606; Byzantine Empire in 564.

Byzantine (Roman) Empire in 564 AD towars the end of Justinian's reign

The first successor Empire came into being immediately following the end of the Roman Empire in 1453, when the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II captured Constantinople. Thereafter titled "the Conquerer", Mehmet declared himself Qaysar (Caesar) as well as Sultan, and some Greek scholars accepted him as the new Emperor of the Romans. Named after its first ruler, Osman (1280-1324), the Ottoman Empire grew fairly steadily for three centuries to the early 17th century. It then declined fairly steadily for another three centuries until its end in 1923 when the modern state of Turkey replaced it. Above it is shown at its peak, in 1606, following the successful conclusion of a war with the Hapsburg Empire which extended the Ottomans' hold over Hungary. In the east, however, a war since 1603 with Safavid Persia was going badly, and would lead to the loss of significant territory by 1639.  The Ottoman territories shown here are comparable to those of the Byzantine Empire at its peak under Justinian, roughly 1000 years earlier. The Byzantine Empire at this time extended a lot further west, but the Ottoman Empire extended considerably further east, north, and south. The Byzantine Empire lasted almost 900 years after its peak; the Ottoman Empire little more than 300.    

Hapsburg Empire in 1538; Theodoric's Kingdom in 523

Hapsburg Empire Charles V 1538 Ottoman EmpireTheodoric the Great Roman Empire Goths Kingdom 523 Byzantine

The second successor Empire was the Hapsburg Empire of Charles V. He originally (1515) held only the former Burgundian territories on the border between France and Germany, but by accidents of deaths and marriages, Charles ended up inheriting also Castille (with its Empire in the New World) and Aragon (with its Mediterranean Empire) in 1516; the Hapsburg lands in Austria and the title of Holy Roman Emperor in 1519; and Bohemia and Hungary (disputed) in 1526. His Empire reached its maximum when he annexed Milan and Tunisia in 1535, all of the Netherlands in 1536, and reached a settlement in Hungary in 1538 which left him with the western part. By 1530 he had also made the Patrimonium Petri (together with much of the rest of Italy), dependencies of his Empire. This, and his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope in that year (the last such coronation), justifies the colouring of his Empire in pale red --- it was almost the Western Roman Empire reborn. The same is true of the comparison Empire, that of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, almost 1000 years earlier. Having overthrown Odovacer as king of Italy at the behest of the eastern Emperor Zeno in 493, Theodoric acted much more as an equal to his counterpart in Constantinople. Emperor Anastasius returned the western Imperial regalia in 497, and Theodoric was Emperor in all but name. Thus his Empire is shown in pale red without the purple stippling used for Odovacer's kingdom in the 19 maps page. Theodoric also reconstituted much of the Western Empire, ruling the Visigoths in Spain from 511 onwards, and exerting hegemony over the Vandals in Africa from 500 to 523. His Empire (not reproduced elsewhere on this site) reached its maximum in that year when he annexed southern Burgundy and made the rest a dependency. The Visigothic and Ostrogothic kingdoms were separated on Theodoric's death in 526, and Rome fell to Emperor Justinian ten years later. Similarly, on the retirement of Charles V in 1556, his Empire was split between the Austrian Hapsburg Empire (including the Imperial title) and the Spanish Hapsburg Empire, but Spain maintained its power in Italy for a century and more longer. The above maps also show the Ottoman Empire and the (Eastern) Roman Empire, and their extents at these times were also remarkably similar.

Napoleon's Empire in 1812; Charlemagne's Empire in 812

Frnakish Charlemagne Empire 812

The third successor Empire was Napoleon's Empire of the French. As the most successful general of the French revolution, Napoleon made himself dictator of France in 1799. In imitation of Classical Rome, he took the title of First Consul. In 1804, he followed the lead of that earlier Emperor of the Franks, Charlemagne, by being crowned Emperor in Rome. Pointedly unlike Charlemagne, however, he took the crown from the Pope and placed it on his own head himself. In 1809 he annexed the Papal States, bringing Rome into his Empire. His Empire reached its height in 1812 as shown above. The stippled areas were mostly ruled by members of Napoleon's family. Of the great powers, only Britain and Russia remained in opposition to him. In 1812 he marched east with an army of half a million men to bring the Czar into line. This campaign was a disaster, and the next year all of Europe rose against him. With his final defeat in 1815, Napoleon's Empire crumbled to nothing. Yet at its height, it was well comparable to Charlemagne's Empire 1000 years before.  

Fascist Empire in 1942; Roman Empire in 146 BC

Roman Empire 146BC Carthage Greece

The fourth successor Empire was Mussolini's Fascist Italian Empire (1922-1943). It was named after the Fasces, a bundle of sticks symbolizing authority in the ancient Republic of Rome. Mussolini portrayed himself as the new Julius Caesar, and then the new Augustus. Around the turn of the century the kingdom of Italy had conquered Somalia (south of this map) and Libya in Africa. Mussolini's only real success at Empire building was his annexation of Ethiopia (also south of this map) in 1936 and Albania in 1939. In the Second World War, Italian forces were at first humbled by the Greek army. The Italians were able to annex (solid) or occupy (stippled) the European territories shown above only with German assistance. Just one year later Italy was invaded by the British and Americans, and Mussolini overthrown.  At its height, the Fascist Italian Empire plus the areas it occupied was comparable to the Empire of Republican Rome in 146 BC, when it had just become indisputably the greatest power in the northern Mediterranean. The map for this time is not reproduced elsewhere in this site.  

Greek Kingdom in 1921; Byzantine Empire in 1204

Byzantine Empire 1204 before 4th Crusade

The last state shown does not strictly belong, as it was not an Empire, and did not contain New Rome. However, I could not resist showing the Greek Kingdom in 1921. This was after the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire was on the losing side. Its territories south of Anatolia and Armenia had already been lost to British and French forces, and much of its other territories occupied by the Allies (Britain, France, Italy and Greece). In 1920 the Allies decided to recreate a large Armenian state, give Smyrna and its hinterland to Greece, and make Constantinople and the straits an international area. The Ottoman Sultan agreed to these terms, but nationalist Turks refused to accept this further loss of territory. In the ensuing civil war, Greece saw its chance to recreate a Greek state encompassing western Anatolia as well as European Greece. By 1921 Greek forces controlled the area shown above (also including southern Albania, which was occupied 1918-23). With the notable exception of Constantinople, most of the area held by the Byzantine Empire before its collapse in 1204 was briefly under Greek control again. (The map of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 is not one of the 19 main maps.) But the nationalist Turks under Kemal (later Attaturk) won their civil war, and by 1923 had beaten the Greek army and negotiated the withdrawal of the other Allied forces. Following this, both sides expelled their ethnic minorities, so that western Anatolia became overwhelmingly Turkish for the first time, and the southern Balkans (apart from Istanbul and its hinterland) overwhelmingly Greek. There was to be no Byzantine restoration, and no demographic justification for one in the future.    

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