Matthew Nghiem, Pro Deo et Patria
Note: There’s no pleasing everyone when itcomes to a topic like this, so I won’t bother apologizing (if you disagree,feel free to comment below).
9,000–3,000 BC: The first cities emerge inthe Middle-East. Uruk is the greatest and most organized of these settlements. Verdict:Sumerian civilization.
3,000 BC: The unification of Upper andLower Egypt. Verdict: Ancient Egypt.
2,900–2,500 BC: Egypt maintains itsposition as the world’s preeminent power.
2,500–2,300 BC: At this point, with dozensof settlements established on the Indian Subcontinent, the Indus ValleyCivilization is considered to be at the height of its power despite the factthat the world’s most populated settlements were still in Egypt or Sumer then.Verdict: Indus Valley Civilization.
1800 BC: Egypt returns to power in terms ofterritories held, and continues to hold onto the world’s largest cities.Verdict: Ancient Egypt.
1700 BC: Egypt splits into two halves, withXois controlling the north. Babylon emerges as the world’s largest citymeanwhile, with a population of 60,000. Verdict: Babylonia.
1600 BC: Egypt maintains the world’s mostpopulous cities, but is split into three parts now, with Hyksos maintainingcontrol of the north, whilst the south is under Nubian rule. Hittites andElamites (Iranians) emerge in full vigour. Minoan civilization continues toprosper and reaches its peak. But Hittites are also powerful. Xia meanwhiledeclines. Verdict (in order): Minoan civilization and Hittites.
1500 BC: The Shang Kingdom is prosperous,having overthrown the corrupt Xia. However Egypt also recovers at this point intime, and continues to have the world’s largest cities. Both China and Egypthave similar territories (size). Verdict: Ancient Egypt or Shang China.
1400 BC: Minoan civilization is replaced bythe Mycenaeans, who quickly rise to power. China and Egypt’s New Kingdomlikewise also maintain stable rules over their respective domains at this time.Difficult decision. Verdict: Ancient Egypt, Mycenaean civilization, and ShangChina.
1,300–1,200 BC: The Mycenaeans are at thepeak of their power at this time. Yinxu meanwhile emerges as the most populouscity in the world (120,000 inhabitants) thus supplanting Thebes, Egypt. TheHittites meanwhile emerge as a powerful force to be reckoned with, especiallyafter the Battle of Kadesh (1274 BC) in which they even defeated Egypt. Again,difficult to come to a decision. Verdict (in order): Mycenaean civilization,the Hittites and Shang China.
1,100 BC: The Assyrians emerge as a forceto be reckoned with. Shang declines and so do the Mycenaeans. Meanwhile Egypthas regained its place as the nation with the world’s most populous cities. Itis also a shadow of its former self however. Verdict: Assyrian civilization.
600 BC: Babylon and Luoyi each have 200,000inhabitants. Carthaginians, Lydians, Medes all emerge as powerful nations -none of which are to be underestimated. However the Medes are at the height oftheir power under King Phraotes. Verdict: Median Empire.
500–400 BC: The Achaemenid Empire isfounded by Cyrus the Great. It is the world’s first “Hyperpower” and spans acrossthree continents with an an area of 5.5 million km^2. Under the succeedingreigns of the “King of Kings”, Persia becomes the first empire to invent andpropel both monotheism (disputed) in addition to a system of human rights. Atthis point, its power is both unprecedented and unrivalled by anyone anywhere.Verdict: Achaemenid Empire.
330 BC: In a mere matter of years,Alexander the Great conquers the entirety of the Achaemenid Empire, addingthese conquests to his territories in Macedonia. The new found polity is thelargest and richest in the world. However, it should be noted that Carthage wasthe world’s most populated city then (500,000 inhabitants). Even so, itsinfluence and power was nothing next to Macedonia’s. Verdict: MacedonianEmpire.
250 BC: With a population of 50 millioninhabitants in addition to a land area of 5 million km^2, the Mauryan Empireemerges as the world’s strongest and largest nation in the world during themid-3rd century BC. Having defeated Carthage recently, the Roman Republic wasalso growing in strength at the time. Similarly, the Seleucids were also aforce not to be trifled with. China meanwhile was divided still at the time(though that was quickly changing). Verdict: Mauryan Empire.
200 BC: After 550 years of disunity, all ofChina is finally unified under the totalitarian but strong, efficient andcentralized Qin Dynasty. The Qin is quickly replaced by the Han however, whocontinues to build up and reinforce the prosperity of the newly unified Chinesenation. With 400,000 inhabitants, China’s Chang’an emerges as the world’s mostpopulous city. Mauryan India meanwhile was declining, and whilst the SeleucidEmpire was in the midst of a revival, its power relative to Han was not comparable.Verdict: Han Dynasty.
100 BC: The Roman Republic declines, whilstthe Seleucids are being conquered by a newly emergent power: the ParthianEmpire. Even so, Parthia is no match for Han China - in any respect - who bythis point in time were at the heights of their power under the infamous andbrutal Emperor Wu. Chang’an is still the largest city in the world (disputed),and China maintains a monopoly on trade along the Silk Road, albeit Parthia hassomewhat of a large “market share” too. Only the Xiongnu Empire - a Turkicpolity - at the time could challenge Chinese power, but then even so onlymilitarily. Verdict: Han Dynasty.
200: All major powers of Eurasia are indecline at this time with the exception of the Kushan Empire. However, itspower is still no match for the Pax Romana, as Rome’s decline is not as fast aseither Parthia’s or Han’s. And to that extent, it is still in a somewhathealthy shape, and still has the world’s most populated city, and now also theworld’s largest and richest empire. Verdict: Roman Empire.
300: Exacerbated by the disaster that wasthe “Crisis of the Third Century”, Roman power was now in rapid decline by thedawn of the 4th century. A newly reunified China under the Jin Dynasty, is notthat much better off at this stage either. Taking advantage of Roman andParthian decline, the Sassanian Shahdom comes to power inPersia and emerges as the world’s greatest country. Verdict: Sassanian Empire.
400: The newly ascendant Gupta Dynasty isat the peak of its power with a land area of 3.5 million km^2, and an economicshare relative to the world at 30%. The legacy of the Guptas saw theintroduction of “0” to the world during their reign (disputed), andprecipitated in an era known as the “Golden Age of India”, in which theSubcontinent emerged as the most prosperous region on Earth. Whilst Rome wasstill the most populated city in the world by 400, it was by this time a mereshadow of its former self. The Sassanians meanwhile were then in between theirgolden eras and were no match for the Guptas. Verdict: Gupta Dynasty.