geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a central authority or a central figure
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An empire is an aggregate of nations or peoples ruled by a single sovereign government.

Aeneas] is the symbol of Rome; and, as Aeneas is to Rome, so is ancient Rome to Europe. Thus Virgil acquires the centrality of the unique classic; he is at the centre of European civilisation, in a position which no other poet can share or usurp. The Roman Empire and the Latin language were not any empire and any language, but an empire and a language with a unique destiny in relation to ourselves. ~ T. S. Eliot

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  • The world is full of the markers of abandoned empires, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Great Wall of China, from the remnants of the one in Arizona to the remnants of the one in Berlin.
    • Elizabeth Bear, The Hand is Quicker— (2014), reprinted in Rich Horton (ed.), The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 (p. 430)
  • By the time of Augustine (354-430 AD), the Roman Empire had become an Empire of lies. It still pretended to uphold the rule of law, to protect the people from the Barbarian invaders, to maintain the social order. But all that had become a bad joke for the citizens of an empire by then reduced to nothing more than a giant military machine dedicated to oppressing the poor in order to maintain the privileges of the rich. The Empire itself had become a lie: that it existed because of the favor of the Gods who rewarded the Romans because of their moral virtues. Nobody could believe in that anymore: it was the breakdown of the very fabric of society; the loss of what the ancient called the auctoritas, the trust that citizens had toward their leaders and the institutions of their state.
  • It was this idea (Be nice!) that fueled liberals' rage at Reagan when he vanquished the Soviet Union with his macho "cowboy diplomacy" that was going to get us all blown up. As the Times editorial page hysterically described Reagan's first year in office: "Mr. Reagan looked at the world through gun sights." Yes, he did! And now the Evil Empire is no more.
    • Ann Coulter, "Are videotaped beheadings covered by Geneva?" (20 September 2006)
  • [Aeneas] is the symbol of Rome; and, as Aeneas is to Rome, so is ancient Rome to Europe. Thus Virgil acquires the centrality of the unique classic; he is at the centre of European civilisation, in a position which no other poet can share or usurp. The Roman Empire and the Latin language were not any empire and any language, but an empire and a language with a unique destiny in relation to ourselves, and the poet in whom that Empire and that language came to consciousness and expression is a poet of unique destiny. [...] No modern language can hope to produce a classic, in the sense in which I have called Virgil a classic. Our classic, the classic of all Europe, is Virgil.
  • Three things seem to me necessary to explain the extreme violence of the twentieth century, and in particular why so much of it happened at certain times, notably the early 1940s, and in certain places, specifically Central and Eastern Europe, Manchuria and Korea. These may be summarized as ethnic conflict, economic volatility and empires in decline. By ethnic conflict, I mean major discontinuities in the social relations between certain ethnic groups, specifically the breakdown of sometimes quite far-advanced processes of assimilation. This process was greatly stimulated in the twentieth century by the dissemination of the hereditary principle in theories of racial difference (even as that principle was waning in the realm of politics) and by the political fragmentation of ‘borderland’ regions of ethnically mixed settlement. By economic volatility I mean the frequency and amplitude of changes in the rate of economic growth, prices, interest rates and employment, with all the associated social stresses and strains. And by empires in decline I mean the decomposition of the multinational European empires that had dominated the world at the beginning of the century and the challenge posed to them by the emergence of new ‘empire-states’ in Turkey, Russia, Japan and Germany. This is also what I have in mind when I identify ‘the descent of the West’ as the most important development of the twentieth century. Powerful though the United States was at the end of the Second World War — the apogee of its unspoken empire — it was still much less powerful than the European empires had been forty-five years before.
  • Russian regionalists and non-Russian nationalists must recognize that they live in a territorial rather than a colonial empire and that as a result, the demise of the Russian one is almost certain to be more explosive and protracted than the other kind, Andrey Smirnov, a Siberian activist says.
    He argues that there are “two polar types of empire, the territorial and the colonial,” and that they arise, live and die in fundamentally different ways. Territorial empires arise when a state expands either by attraction or by force and wants to transform its acquisitions into a people just like those at its center (region.expert/imperii/).
    Colonial empires in contrast, Smirnov continues, start with a nation state that is not interested in spreading its culture but rather in extracting resources for itself. The British empire had no interest in transforming the peoples of India into Englishmen, a sharp contrast with the Russian empire, an empire of the territorial kind, which wanted to make others into Russians.
  • Christianity, with its strong emphasis on unity under one God (an emphasis that it shares with Islam), can seem an almost natural ally of empire—unless, of course, the prophetic-critical dimension of the biblical tradition, which the Jesus of the synoptics certainly represented, is allowed a hearing. But as the history of Christology in the West easily demonstrates, after the establishment of Christianity, the prophetic office of the Christ, based not only on Jesus’ teaching but (even more so) on his suffering at the hands of power, was definitely subdued in favor of his priestly and kingly offices. Triumphant peoples, successful peoples, possessing peoples—empires!—do not want crucified criminals as their chief cultic symbol, especially not when they themselves are the crucifiers ... as they regularly are!
  • Cultural elites in countries that dominate peoples have adapted subject people’s religion for their own purposes.
  • Amerika faces no meaningful threat to its security except from those who live within its own territorial borders.
    The domestic upheavals of the 1960’s and 70’s taught empire some valuable lessons on just how dangerous an informed and discontent population can be. As a result, and through a steady application of misinformation, carrots, and sticks, empire has worked steadily to drain the focus, resolve, and militancy of the informed and discontented. From that point to this, empire has manufactured a discontinuity in popular struggle, while maintaining continuity in its own growth and consolidation. One of the empire’s principal tools and weapons has been its prisons.
    • Kevin Rashid Johnson, Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin Rashid Johnson (2010)\
  • States and empires have grown through wars of conquest or when weaker powers have capitulated to them rather than engage in a hopeless one-sided struggle. The Athenians used their navy and their land forces to bring their neighbours under their control. Alexander the Great led his armies to build a vast empire. The Roman legions marched outwards from Rome conquering as they went. China was once divided among some 150 small states which were gradually consolidated in a painful and bloody process. The Chinese still remember with horror their Warring States period from the fifth to the third century BC, when the remaining handful of states fought an endless series of wars and the people were ground down and impoverished. The Qin Emperor who finally brought the different states under his control in 221 BC was a ruthless tyrant, but he has been remembered with gratitude as the ruler who brought peace and order to China. He was buried in Xi’an with ranks of terracotta soldiers, a fitting reminder of the role that military force had played in creating his state. Closer to our own times, Prussia, that patchwork collection of territories, used its army to accumulate more and more territory and ultimately to create modern Germany. The Soviet Empire in the Cold War was acquired and held down by the Red Army.
  • Empires are inherently politically unstable because subordinate units almost always prefer greater autonomy, and counterelites in such units almost always act, upon opportunity, to obtain greater autonomy. In this sense, empires do not fall; they rather fall apart, usually very slowly, though sometimes remarkably quickly.
    • Donald J. Puchala, "Theory and History in International Relations", p.56.
  • So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
    • Ronald Reagan, Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (8 March 1983)
  • Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn't trust the evidence of one's eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest mission civilizatrice.

See also