How Long Did the Empires of Ancient Civilizations Last?

Recently, I was talking with a colleague at work and I mentioned that civilizations usually only last 500 years. The only problem was that I couldn't remember where I had heard that. In fact, I wasn't all that sure that I was right. I know that the Roman Empire lasted rougly 500 years but how about the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Ottomons, etc. I thought that it would be interesting to explore different empires and see how long they lasted.

In another article, I talk about the definition of "civilization." There, I explain in detail how I determine when a civilization starts, when it ends, and when it gets listed in this survey.

My survey here will not be complete. For this first article, I will only focus on ancient civilizations (civilizations that existed during 3000 BC to 0 AD). My goal is to analyze some well known civilizations and see how long they lasted. I will divide up the survey by region.

I will most certainly miss some major civilizations so please add your comments and I will add additional civilizations over time.

The Aksum obelisk from Ethiopia
The Aksum obelisk from Ethiopia
An artwork from Ancient Carthage
An artwork from Ancient Carthage

Africa (3000 BC - 0 AD)

1. Ancient Egypt

Historians traditionally divide up Ancient Egypt into three periods. By my definition offered in a previous hub, I consider all three to be separate "civilizations" of Egypt.

Ancient Egypt begins with the unification of upper and lower Egypt. According to Egyptian lore this was accomplished by Menes around 3000 BC.

Historians place the rise of the first major period of Ancient Egypt's history, known as the Old Kingdom, at around 2686 BC and say that it lasted until 2134 BC. It was during this period that the first pyramid was built by Djoser and Cheops built the Great Pyramid which is the only remaining seven wonders of the ancient world. The capital of Egypt at this time was Memphis. The Old Kingdom fell due to rising power of the regional governors and due to a severe drought that occurred 2200 to 2150 BC. Egypt's first civilization lasted roughly 550 years.

The next major period known as the Middle Kingdom begins around 2040 BC and ends around 1640 BC. Egypt at this time was ruled from Thebes. The Middle Kingdom ended with the invasions by the Hyksos. This second "civilization" lasted roughly 400 years.

The Hyksos ruled Egypt from1648 BC until 1540 BC. Their rule began with their successful invasion and ended 108 years later after the Thebans successfully drove the Hyksos out of power.

The last period of Ancient Egypt is known as the New Kingdom. This is the period of Tutankhamun, Akhenaten, and Ramses II. The New Kingdom lasted from 1570-1070 BC. The New Kingdom as a result of a diminishing of central power, the rise of the High Priests of Amun, and a series of droughts. So,we see that it lasted roughly 500 years.

2. Kerma Civilization (Sudan)

The Kerma Civilization had its high point from 2450 BC to 2050 BC. Its capital city was Kerma.

3. Kushite Kingdom (Sudan)

The Kushite Kingdom began around 800 BC. Initially, their capital city was in Nepata. In 750 BC, Kashta was able to take over Upper Egypt for 10 years. Their expansions ended around the 7th century BC when the Assyrians entered Egypt. The early kingdom came to an end around 590 BC when Egypt invaded Nepata.

Around 590 BC, the Kushite Kingdom shifted its capital to Meroe which was more secure. The Romans invated Nepata in 23 BC but decided to withdraw instead of colonize. The Kushites traded with the Egyptians and the Romans. It is believed that the Kushite Kingdom fell to King Ezana of Axum in 350 AD.

4. Ptolemaic Egypt

Ptolemaic Egypt lasted from 332 BC to 30 BC. It begins when Ptolemy I, a general under Alexander the Great, declared himself pharoah and ends with Queen Cleopatra during the Roman Invasion. So, it lasted rougly 300 years.

5. Carthage (Tunisia)

Carthage was founded by the Phoenicians in what is today Tunisia. According to legend, it was founded by Queen Dido. It lasted from 575 BC until 146 BC. Its end came about by a major loss to Rome. So, the Carthaginian Empire lasted for roughly 425 years.

6. Numidia (Algeria/Tunisia)

Numidia begins as a Berber Kingdom in 202 BC when Massinissa aligns himself with the Rome in its war against Carthage. When Rome wins, Massinissa is given Numidia as his reward. In 112 BC, the ruler Jugurtha took on Rome and lost. He was executed by the Romans in 104 BC. The end came in 46 BC.

7. Aksumite Empire (Ethiopia)

The Aksumite Empire was a kingdom that resided in what is today Ethiopia. Its capital city was Aksum. It lasted from the 100BC to roughly 1000 AD. So, it lasted 1100 years. It did not so much disappear as lose its central importance with the rise of the Islam.

A king of the Akkadian Empire
A king of the Akkadian Empire
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon: One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon: One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Mesopotamia (3000 BC - 0 AD)

8. Akkadian Empire (Sumer)

The first great leader of the Akkadian Empire was Sargon who became ruler around 2270 BC The Akkadian Empire lasted from 2270 BC to 2083 BC. Its center was the city of Akkad. The empire collapsed due to the invasions by the Gutians. So, the Akkadian Empire lasted roughly 200 years.

9. Third Dynasty of Ur (Sumer)

After the invasion by the Gutians, there was a resurgence of the Sumerian Kingdom around 2050 BC. This lasted only until around 2004 BC when Sumer fell to invasions by the Elamites It was at this time that Gilgamesh was written. So, the Third Dynasty of Ur lasted roughly 50 years.

10. First Babylonian Dynasty

The Old Babylonian Empire begins with Sumu-abum. It rose to power and influence with the rise of Hammurabi. It lasted from roughly 1830 BC to 1531 BC. From 1770 to 1670 BC, its capital city, Babylon, was perhaps the largest city in the world. The last king, Samsu-Ditana was overthrown after a Hittite invasion. So, the First Babylonian Dynasty lasted roughly 300 years.

11. Assyrian Empire

The Old Assyrian Empire begins with the founding of Ashur. The Old Assyrian Empire lasted from 2000 BC to 1759 BC. The Old Empire fell to Hammurabi's forces. The Old Assyrian Empire lasted roughly 340 years.

The Middle Assyrian Empire begins with the rise of Ashur-uballit to the thrown of Assyria around 1360 BC and ends around 1047 BC. The main cities were Ashur, Ninevah, and Nimrud with Ashur still the capital. The empire declined around 1047 BC after the reign by Tiglath-Pileser I. So, the middle period lasted rougly 315 years.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire lasted from 934-609 BC. Some historians have claimed that the Neo-Assyrian Empire was the first "real" empire in human history. The Neo-Assyrian empire ended in 612 BC with the fall of its capital city Ninevah to invasions by the Chaldean Dynasty. The empire lasted roughly 330 years.

12. Chaldean Dynasty (Babylon)

The Chaldean dynastry also called the Neo-Babylonian Empire lasted from the rise of power of Nabopolassar in 626 BC to the invasions by Persia in 539 BC. So, the Chaldean Dynasty lasted roughly 80 years.

13. Hittites

The Old Hittite Empire was founded around 1750 BC by Hattusili I. The ruler Mursili was able to conquer Babylon in 1595 BC. The invasion overextended the resources of the Hittites and Mursili was assassinated when he returned from the invasion. The successor to Mursili, Telepinu reigned until roughly 1500 BC and was the last ruler of the Old Hittite Empire. So, the Old Empire lasted roughly 250 years.

The Middle Hittite Kingdom begins after Telepinu's rule around 1500 BC. Unfortunately, there is very little information regarding this period. Historians believe that it lasted from 1500 to 1430 BC. So, it lasted roughly 70 years.

The New Hittite Kingdom begin with the rise of Tudhaliya around 1400 BC. This began a major resurgence of Hittite power. Its capital city was Hattusa. The empire declined with the rise of the Meditteranean Sea Peoples who succeeded in cutting off the Hittite trade routes. In 1180, Hattusa was destroyed by invading armies. So, the new Hittite Kingdom lasted roughly 220 years.

14. Lydia

Lydia emerges at the collapse of the New Hittite Kingdom around 690 BC. According to Herodotus, the Lydians were the first to have gold and silver coins. Lydia was conquered by the Persians in 546 BC.

15. Phrygia

Phrygians were a short lived kingdom. King Midas came to the throne in 738 BC and he was defeated by the Cimmerians in 695 BC. The capital city was Gordion.

Ashoka the Great
Ashoka the Great
Buddhist stupa at Sanchi built during the Mauryan Empire
Buddhist stupa at Sanchi built during the Mauryan Empire

India: (3000 BC - 0 AD)

16. Harappan Civilization (Indus Valley Civilization)

Around 2600 BC, the Indus Valley civilization had city centers including Harappa, Mohenjo Daro, and Lothal. Over 1,052 sites have been found of cities and community settlements. Around 1800 BC, there are signs of a major decline with ost fo the cities abandoned. Climate change may have been the cause of the decline. Unfortunately, little is known about this early civilization.

17. Vedic Civilization (India)

The origin of Vedic Civilization is controversial but for purposes of this hub, I will follow Wikipedia and place its beginning around 1500 BC. The period ends around 500 BC with the rise of the Mahanjanapadas. This period lasted from 1500 - 500 BC. So, it lasted roughly 1000 years.

18. Mahanjanapadas (India)

These are the16 "Great Kingdoms" of India. The kingdoms emerged from the nomadic Jana tribes around 600 BC. This is also considered the golden age of Sanskrit literature. Around 400 BC, they had merged to four major kingdoms. Their major period was 600 BC to 400 BC.

19. Magadha Empire (India)

Magadha was one of the sixteen Mahanjanapada kingdoms. Its first capital city was originally Rajagriha but later it was Pataliputra. This lasted from 684 BC to 320 BC. The Magadha Empire declined around 320 BC after the death of King Udayan. It eventually fell to the Nanda Dynasty.

20. Nanda Empire (India)

The Nanda Dynasty ruled Magadha from roughly the 5th Century BC to the 4th Century BC . The empire lasted roughly 100 years and it fell to Chandragupta Maurya and his Maurya Empire.

21. Maurya Empire (India)

This empire unified most of India. The empire began in 322 with the ascension of Chadragupta Maurya. It lasted until 185 BC when the Sunga Dynasty was founded after the assassination of King Brhadrata. The empire had begun to fall apart in 232 BC after the death of Ashoka the Great when in-fighting between rulers and invasions from external groups destabilized the empire.

22. First Chera Empire (India)

This was a dynasty that lasted from 300 BC to 200 AD. Its capital was Vanchi Muthur. The first Chera ruler was Perumchottu Utiyan Cheralatan. Around 200 AD, there empire comes to an end with the invasions by the Kalabhras.

23. Early Chola Empire (India)

The early Chola Empire lasted from 300 BC to 200 AD. Its major cities were Urayur and Kaveripattinam with the original capital being at Urayur. Around 200 AD, they were conquered by the Kalabhras.

24. Sunga Empire (India)

The Sunga Empire was started in 185 BC after the downfall of the Maurya Empire. Its capital was Pataliputra. The Sunga Empire lasted until 73 BC with the rise of the Kanva Dynasty. So, the Sunga Empire lasted 112 years

25. Kanva Dynasty (India)

The Kanva Dynasty lasted from 71 BC to 26 BC. The dynasty started when Vasudeva ousted the last ruler of the Sunga Dynasty. They eventually fell to Satavahanas Dynasty. The dynasty lasted less than 50 years.

26. Satavahana Dynasty (India)

This dynasty lasted from 230 BC to around 220 AD. The Satavahanas took power after the death of Ashoka. Around 200 AD, the central state was losing power to local authorities. The end of Satavahana Dynasty occurs as small dynasties divide up the territory. The dynasty lasted roughly 450 years.

Persian archers at the time of Darius
Persian archers at the time of Darius
Chogha Zanbil, one of the best preserved ziggurats
Chogha Zanbil, one of the best preserved ziggurats

Persia: (3000 BC - 0 AD)

27. Elam Civilization (Iran)

Elam is an ancient civilization in southwest Iran whose major city was Susa. Their civilization is divided into three periods.

The Awan Dynasty lasted from 2240 BC to roughly 2083 BC. Elam under the rule of Kutik-Inshushinak declares itself independent of the Akkadian Empire around 2240 BC. Around 2083, the dynasty comes to the end with invasions by the Guti people.

The Eparti Dynasty was founded in 1970 BC by Eparti I. Susa once again is the capital. The dynasty comes to an end around 1760 BC when they are driven out of their territory by Hammurabi.

The Middle Elamite Period is from 1500 BC to around 1158 BC. The Elamite state comes back around 1500 BC. It reaches the peak of its power around 1200-1100 BC. The collapse of the Middle Elamite empire occurs when they they are conquered by Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylonia.

The Neo-Elamite Period is from 742 BC to 539 BC. In 742 BC, there is mention of a king of Elam. It appears that during this period, the Elamite region is divided into separate warring regions. The period comes ot an end in 539 BC when they are conquered by the Assyrian Ashurbanipal.

28. Medean Empire (Iran)

The Medean Empire was found around 625 BC when Cyaxares succeeded in uniting all the Medean tribes under his rule. The empire lasted until 559 BC when Cyrus the Great succeeded in conquering the Medean Empire.

29. Achaemenid Empire (Iran)

The Acheamenid Empire begins with the rise of Cyrus the Great who won a decisive victory against the Medes in 550 BC. The Achaemenid Empire lasted until its military defeat by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

30. Seleucid Empire (Iran)

Seleucid I was a general under Alexander the Great. When Alexander died, Seleucid established his empire in Persia around 312 BC. Over time, the empire began to decline. In 83 BC, Tigranes the Great, King of Armenia, invaded Syria. In 63 BC, they were conquered by Rome.

31. Parthian Empire (Iran)

Around 245 BC, Adragorus, a satrap under the Seleucid rule was able to declare his independence. Although he was killed in 238 BC by a political rival, the Parthian Empire continued. The empire eventually fell in 224 AD to the Sassanian Empire.

Bronze battle axe from the Shang Dynasty period
Bronze battle axe from the Shang Dynasty period
Tombs from the Han Dynasty
Tombs from the Han Dynasty

China (3000 BC - 0 AD)

32. Xia Dynasty (China)

The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty mentioned in traditional histories. According to legend, the dynasty begins around 2100 BC when the rule Shun abdicated in favor of his minister Yu. The dynasty ends around 1600 BC with a corrupt king Jie who is ousted by Tang, the head of the Shang people. So, it lasted for 500 years.

33. Shang Dynasty (China)

Tang takes over the northeastern region of the Yellow River valley in 1600 BC from the Xia Dynasty. Its capital city was Yin. The dynasty comes to an end in 1122 BC when the Shang lose a major battle to the Zhou and the last Shang leader Shang Zhou commits suicide. So, it lasted for roughly 500 years.

34. Zhou Dynasty (China)

The Zhou Dynasty began in 1122 BC with the suicide of Shang Zhou. The Zhou Dynasty begins with Ji. Its capital city is Hao. This is the time of Confucius, Lao Tzi, the founder of Daoism. The dynasty changes significantly in 771 BC when King You decides to leave his queen and marry a concubine. This first period is called the Western Zhou period.

In 771 BC, a war is fought between King You and the family of his former queen. The queen's son Ji Yijiu becomes king and the capital is moved to Luoyang. This period is called the Eastern Zhou period. It ends around 441 BC when the feudal lords rise in power and are able to eclipse the power of the Zhou family. This first half of the Eastern Zhou period is called the Spring and Autumn Period.

The last half of the Eastern Zhou period is called the Warring States Period. It lasts from 771 BC until around 260 BC. In this period, the Zhou ruling family are primarily figureheads. This is the time when Sun Tzu wrote the Art of War. The state of Qin becomes very powerful and in 316 BC, it takes over the Shu area. In 260 BC at the battle of Changping, the Qin win a decisive victory.

35. Qin Dynasty (China)

The Qin Dynasty begins in 221 BC when Qin Shi Huang succeeds in conquering all of China. He becomes the first emperor of China. This is the beginning of Imperial China. The dynasty comes to an end around 207 BC when the Qin are defeated in the Battle of Julu. The emperor Huhai is forced to kill himself.

36. Han Dynasty (China)

In 206 BC, the Kingdom of Han is established. The Han Dynasty begins officially with the rise of Liu Bang. This is the when the Silk Road was established. The first period of the Han Dynasty is called the Westen Period and it lasts until 9 AD. At this time, Wang Mang successfully led a revolt against the Han which lasted 15 years (9 AD - 24 AD).

In 25 AD, the Han are able to take back their power. This period is called the Eastern Han Dynasty. The Eastern Han Dynasty lasts until 220 AD when with the rise of local overlords, the Han effectively lost their power.

Remains of the Minoan Palace at Knossos
Remains of the Minoan Palace at Knossos
The Parthenon, a symbol of Classic Greek civilization
The Parthenon, a symbol of Classic Greek civilization
Roman Senate
Roman Senate

Europe (3000 BC - 0 AD)

37. Minoan Civilization (Greece)

It is believed that Minoan Civilization began roughly around 2200 BC. This is the time when the Palace at Knossos is believed to have begun. Around 1700 BC, the entire center was destroyed. It is believed that this may have been caused by a natural disaster or a successful invasion. Historians call this the Protopalatial Period.

After this sudden change, the civilization is rebuilt. Around 1700 BC begins the next period which is known as the Neopalatial Period. Then, in 1500 BC, there was perhaps one of the largest volcanic explosions of all time at Thera. it is believed that this had a major impact on the Neopalatial Minoan society. By 1450 BC, the Mycenae have conquered Crete.

38. Mycenae (Greece)

Mycenae is an early Greek civilization that lasted from 1600 BC to 1200 BC. From 1200 BC, the Mycenaean Civilization has been destroyed. According to legend, this came from a Doric Invasion from Persia but there is little evidence to support this. There is evidence that the palace was burned down around 1250 BC. From this point, Greece enters into a Dark Age.

39. Classical Greek Civilization

Ancient Greece emerges from its dark ages around 776 BC. The Classical Period lasts from 776 BC to 323 BC. From the view of historians, it ends with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. So, it lasts roughly 350 years.

40. Hellenistic Civilization (Greece)

The Hellenistic period begins with the death of Alexander the Great. During this type Greece was ruled by the Antigonid Dynasty started by Antigonus I "the One-Eye" who was one of Alexander the Great's generals. The period lasts until the Battle of Pydna in 146 BC when the Roman Republic decisively defeats the forces of the Antigonid Kingdom. So, it lasted roughly 180 years.

41. Ancient Rome (Italy)

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by twin brothers Romulus and Remus after escaping the Trojan War. Archeological evidence supports this date as the founding of Rome. This earliest period lasts until 510 BC when the king, Tarquin the Proud was ousted from power. So it lasted roughly 140 years.

42. Etruscans (Italy)

The origins of the Etruscans is not well known but it is believed that they began around 800 BC and were prior to Rome, the major power in the region. The Etruscan Civilization lasted until 396 BC when they were conquered by Rome. So, they lasted for roughly 400 years.

43. Roman Republic (Italy)

The Roman Republic begins in 510 BC with the ouster of King Tarquin the proud and the establishment of a republic based on a constitution. The republic lasted until 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. It lasted for roughly 450 years.

44. Roman Empire (Italy)

The Roman Empire begins in 44 BC when Augustus takes absolute power. Romes starts to greatly decline in power around 330 AD when Constantine made Constantinople the new capital of Rome. In 410 AD, the Visigoths successfully destroyed much of Rome. The empire formally ends in 476 AD with the abdication of the last emperor Romulus Augustus to the Germanic chief Odoacer. So, it lasted for roughly 520 years.

Artaxias, founder of Armenian Kingdom
Artaxias, founder of Armenian Kingdom

Armenia (3000 BC - 0 AD)

45. Urartu (Armenia)

The kingdom of Urartu begins in 860 BC when King Aramu unites the tribes of the region. Its capital is at Arzashkun. The kingdom is able to resist Assyrian attacks until 714 BC when it falls to the armies of Sargon II. Urartu still continues until 635 BC when it is effectively part of Assyria.

46. Orontid Dynasty (Armenia)

The Orontid Dynasty begins around 612 BC after the fall of Urartu to the Medians and the Scythians. It ends in 72 AD when it becomes part of the Roman Empire. So it lasted roughly 500 years.

47. Kingdom of Armenia

An independent Armenian Kingdom was founded by Artaxias in 190 BC. This was a kingdom that lasted from 190 BC until 252 AD. For the most part, it was a buffer zone between Rome and Persia, In 252 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia was conquered by the Sassanid Persians.

An Ancient Phoenician Coin
An Ancient Phoenician Coin
Scythian Crown
Scythian Crown
Bulguksa Temple in Korea
Bulguksa Temple in Korea

Asia (3000 BC - 0 AD)

48. Phoenicians (Middle East)

The Phoenicians were a maritime culture whose central period was 1200 BC to 539 BC. Around 1200 BC, for reasons that are currently unknown, the people of the Canaan area took the the seas. Their capital was Byblos. By 1000 BC, the cities of Tyre and Sidon had taken center stage. The Phoenicians were conquered by Cyrus the Great in 539 BC.

49. Kingdom of Israel and Judah

According to the Bible, the Kingdom of Israel begins with King Saul around 1020 BC with Jerusalem as its capital. Around 930 BC, the kingdom breaks into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. The Kingdoms of Israel and Judea fall to the Assyrians around 722 BC.

50. Scythians (Central Asia/Eastern Europe)

The Scythians were a group of nomadic tribes that settled into a kingdom around the time of Herodotus. The Scythians migrated from the Steppes of Central Asia to Southern Russia. They form a loose kingdom called Scythia around 600 BC. Their kingdom lasted until 200 AD when they were defeated by the Sarmatians.

51.  Xiongnu Empire (Mongolia) 

The Xiongnu Empire begins around 220 BC with the reign of Touman.  The earliest records of the Xiongnu Empire comes from Chinese records.  The empire begins to weaken around 127BC.  There is a major rebellion in 85 BC and by 36 BC, they are conquered by the Han Dynasty. 

52. Three Kingdoms of Korea

The Kingdom of Silla according to legend was started in 57 BC by Bak Hyeokgeose. The Kingdom of Goguryeo was founded by Jumong in 37 BC. The Kingdom of Baekje was founded in 18 BC by King Onjo. These three kingdoms dominated ancient Korea from 57 BC until 668 AD and for this reason this time is known as the Three Kingdoms Period. The period comes to an end in 668 AD when Silla is able to conquer Goguryeo.

One of four very large Olmec heads at La Venta
One of four very large Olmec heads at La Venta
Avenue of the Dead of the Teotihuacans in Mexico
Avenue of the Dead of the Teotihuacans in Mexico

Ancient Americas (3000 BC - 0 AD)

53. Olmecs (Mexico)

The Olmecs began in San Lorenzo around 1200 BC. Around 900 BC, San Lorenzo has greatly declined.

A second center emerges at La Venta around 900 BC. By 400 BC, La Venta has lost its importance. Indeed, Olmec civilization seems to come to an end around this same time.

54. Teotihuacans (Mexico)

The first building of the Teotihuacans were built around 200 BC. The Pyramid of the Sun was finished in 100 AD. It is believed that their culture came to an end around 535 AD as the result of climatic changes including droughts and internal unrest.

55. Norte Chico Civilization (Peru)

The Norte Chico Civilization is a very early civilization that left no artifacts of ceramics or art. The knowledge of this civilization is still at its earliest stage. It is believed that the society may have been founded around 2627 BC in the north-central coast of Peru. It seems to have declined around 1800 BC.

56. Chavin Culture (Peru)

According to the archeological record, the Chavin Culture emerges around 900 BC in the Andean highlands of Peru. The evidence indicates that this culture declined around 200 BC.


So, what does this survey tell us?

When I break the 56 civilizations down into phases (for example, Ancient Egypt has three phases), the total number of "distinct" civilizations is 74. The average length of time that a civilization lasts is 349.2 years. The median is 330 years.

The civilizations that lasted the longest seem to be the Aksumite Empire which lasted 1100 years and the Vedic Period of India which lasted 1000 years. The shortest period of time is the Third Dynasty of Ur at 50 years, the Qin Dynasty at 14 years, and the Kanva Dynasty at 45 years.

So, how did I do in my estimate? It seems that I was correct in saying that most civilizations do not last more than 500 years. In fact, if these 40 civilizations are representative of all civilizations, then it seems that civilizations usually don't last 400 years.

This of course raises additional questions:

  • Do these number holds for other periods of time?
  • What are the reasons for collapse of these civilizations?
  • Do these trends reveal an underlying dynamic for the concept of a civilization lifecycle?

More by this Author

Comments 95 comments

budwood profile image

budwood 8 years ago from Southern Nevada

Very good.  You listing is awesome.  I hope that it's somewhat accurate, as you've included some societies that are not readily apparent.

From more recent data, seems that 200 years of success is about all that current societies can put together at this point.   . . . And, as I recall, the USA had a 200th year celebration about 30 years ago.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 8 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Budwood,

Thanks for the comment. My data comes from Wikipedia and any other references that I could find.

It's a work in progress so I will be adding additional civilizations and updating information over time.

If I have time, I will put together a similar list for more recent societies. It will be very interesting to see if you are right about the 200 years being the typical lifetime of modern societies.



budwood profile image

budwood 8 years ago from Southern Nevada


My avocation is making charts ( If all this data on ancient civilizations are accurate, it would make a suberb time time chart! Could make you somewhat famous!

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 8 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Budwood,

Thanks for the suggestion. I'm glad you like the data I am providing.


Mfkzt 7 years ago

Great post!

bob phillips 7 years ago

none of this is really acurate ancient greece lastad almost 2630 years but thats all of the different time periods like hellenistic age and minoan age combined.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 7 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Bob,

I am not clear on your point. The purpose of this hub is to identify the length of time that a "civilization" lasted.

I divide up Ancient Greece into the different "civilizations" and cite how long each one lasted.

If you could provide your definition of "civilization" or more details on why you feel my hub is inaccurate, then I am very glad to discuss your views.


bob phillips 7 years ago

Civilization is the advanced state of human society, so when i say Greece lasted 2630 years i mean when they were sophisticated enough to have a specific religion and to fight, for instance when the city-states united to fight the Persian army they won and eventually came to conquer the Persians.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 7 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Bob,

Thanks for clarifying. As you can tell by my analysis, I use a different definition. I think that your definition is what is conventionally used when we talk about ancient cultures but does not answer my central question: how long does a given "political culture" last. My goal here is to analyze ancient cultures the same way we analyze more recent political cultures. If we applied the "ancient culture" perspective to the US, then in theory, the American Revolution was not a change in culture since West-European culture was in charge before the revolution and after the revolution. If you apply my definition (as we routinely do in analyzing more recent history), then it is clear that there was a significant change in political culture.

While Sparta, Athens, Macedonia, etc. all represent the same "ancient Greek society", from my view, they all represent different political cultures. I hope that clarifies my approach.

Thanks very much for your comment.

bob phillips 7 years ago

When i said it was not accurate it was an exaggeration [ its easier to type that...]

bob phillips 7 years ago

also when i said it lasted 2630 years that's the Minoan age and all the other ages added together to get 2630 if my math is correct. sorry for the duplicates.

Leon Elijah profile image

Leon Elijah 7 years ago from The Household of Sam Soleyn - Durban - South Africa

Hi Larry, I could not past up on reading you post as I am a Kingdom fan too but am sad to say that you left out the most important Kingdom of all. It was prophesied by Daniel during the rule of the Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empires. He served in the courts of this Kingdom as Chief Administrator and foretold of the subsequent Kingdoms that will follow, he was on the nail with his predictions and even saw the Greece and Rome Empires in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar. But he spoke of a Kingdom that would come it the midst of the early Roman Empire, He said it was the Kingdom of God and that after this Kingdom no other Kingdom will rise to overthrow it. He sent His Viceroy, His son Jesus Christ to declare that this Kingdom as come to the earth but it was an invisible Kingdom and can only be seen if you are born of the spirit to see it and enter it. This Kingdom does not operate like other Kingdoms its King is Righteous and His rule is Just, peaceable and full of love. he said that if you seek after this Kingdom and find it you would never have to worry about what you will eat, what you will drink and what you will wear, for this King will give all these things to you. I stopped searching for another Kingdom when I found this one, I sold all that I posessed to enter this Kingdom, and I must say, everything that the Viceroy said about this Kingdom is true. This Kingdom is Righteous, peace and Joy in the Spirit. I invite you to explore this Kingdom and its King you will not be disappointed. To this Kingdom there is no end, for it is an ever increasing Kingdom.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 7 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Leon,

This is not a hub about religion.


kidmcool 7 years ago

Daniel did prophesy that medo persia greece Rome and the Anglo American world power would come in to existence

MISTER 7 years ago


Jean W profile image

Jean W 7 years ago

Great stuff, Larry!

sarh 7 years ago

you forgot aksum

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 7 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Sarh,

See #7


Faith 6 years ago

This is great! Thank you Larry! The only other thing I needed from this was the Nubian empire, and I didn't see that.

Blair 6 years ago

I like this time line. But I don see the Mauryan empire anywhere =[

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 6 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Blair,

Maurya Empire is #21.


larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 6 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Faith,

Isn't the Nubian Empire the same as the Kushite Empire (#3)?

Please let me know if I am wrong.


Jordan 6 years ago

B.C. in not proper anymore. That used to stand for Before Christ, but now it should be B.C.E. for Before Common Era.

motricio profile image

motricio 6 years ago from Bogota DC, Colombia

Awesome Larry!

I didn't know that you where an Ancient History researcher as well, and also a great hand on the Hubpages Team side.

Hope to get more hubs like this one from you in time.

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platinumOwl4 6 years ago

I enjoyed this hub and had hope there was more on the Etruscan whom I believe Romans slaughter after draining them of information.

Eric 6 years ago

Larry you forgot about ancient Native American civilizations that were located in what is now the USA. One of the most notable were the Mississippian mound builders the culture lasted from 1500 C.E. - 800 C.E. Their biggest city was called Cahokia which was located in what is now the Illinois. There are also more for example the cliff dwellers in Arizona and New Mexico.

Sharon Crawford 6 years ago

As far as any A.D. civilizations go the two most influential were the, "Holy Roman Empire," and the, "Byzantine Empire," both of these empires lasted 1000 years. These two christian empires more or less existed simultanously on planet earth, roughly speaking.

Emily Blair 6 years ago

Great post,

All questions at the end are very interesting to think and ponder on. I just did a class project/documentary film that talks about how today...the time for empires is over.

As an example from Multitude by Hardt and Negri -

"The contemporary global order can no longer ne adequately understood in terms of imperialism, (etc.)

Instead, a network power, a new form of sovereignty, is now emerging, and it includes the dominant national states along with supernational institutions, major capitalist corporations, and other powers"

But of course this is another discussion all together.

Great time line, thank you for putting it together and I can't wait for the more current empire time line!!


kayla an 8th grader 6 years ago

great timeline

Gabe 6 years ago

One thing i'd like to point out is that the definition for "Civilization" is a little different that "Nation" or even "Government', If you take into account the fact that the Roman Republic was effectively the same Civilization as the Roman Empire, it really is one civilization and thus lasted around 1,000 years in all. If you tack the Eastern Roman Empire onto there, you get around 2,400 years of Roman History.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 6 years ago from Fremont, CA Author


I think that you make a good point. Determining what constitutes a unique civilization is difficult. I would encourage you to write a hub on what you consider to be the best definition of a civilization.

Jesse 6 years ago

very interesting. i've always wondered how some civilisations lost their power after so many years being the rulers of the times.

GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

I was wondering this just the other day - and you put it in perspective complete with statistics. 330 years - hmmmm. Gabe makes an important point - government is completely different. Excellent hub - very well researched! Very thought provoking.

William R. Catton, Jr. 6 years ago

The more significant question: How long will the present civilization last? For some perspective see the HUB: Understanding the world ecologically.

Averd 6 years ago

Hi, I very much like your analysis. I wonder if it would be possible to set up an actual time line model of may be too complex come to think of it with all the overlaps. Perhaps several models. Just a thought.

What about another hub on modern empires; Are you going to create one for those as well?

Really enjoyed this, Thanks

lkg64ue9yu528854 6 years ago

hey thank for the info it suree help my projet:)


history is for owner who did it. so the city of babylonian empire was Axum

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 5 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Fiseha Asfaw Kelele,

The capital city of the Babylonian Empire was Babylon.

Axum was the capital city of the Aksumite Empire (see #7 above)


in ourresearch we got evidences as Axum the capital city of babylonian empires until 700 bc from 7oobc-1100 ad was axmite empire

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 5 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Fiseha Asfaw Kelele,

Feel free to post a link to the research. I'll be glad to check it out.



T. Wong 5 years ago

Very impressive + comprehensive listing of 'B.C.' civilizations. Chanced upon your page while researching the general pattern of incline and decline of Chinese dynasties.

There appears to be some universal shelf-life to all civilizations. For the Chinese however, our civilization is measured in the success of dynasties which following the Qin Dynasty had the uncanny expiration date of some 300 years. (Tang, Song, Ming and Qing)

Natural disasters notwithstanding, all pursued similar social, fiscal, foreign policies that led to their relative success and but also eventual demise.

Given China's historical constants and variables, I believe we can timeline the shelf-life of the Communist Party of China which, in my opinion, has always been just a 'modern' iteration of past imperial dynasties (with its characteristic authoritarian rule, burgeoning commerce, submissive but materially placated and affluent populace).

Of all the Dynasties, I would wager that modern China's ascent (and future decline) resembles most to the Ming Dynasty.

Yoni 5 years ago

Great job. However, the Aksumite Empire was not only located in today's Ethiopia but also in Eritrea where pre-Aksumite civilization existed. There are about 40,000 archeological sites there.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 5 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

@Yoni, I'm glad that you enjoyed this hub. If you can post a link to your information about the 40,000 archeological sites found in Eritrea, I'll be glad to confirm the information and update the article.



christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Very interesting, and quite comprehensive, But why do you divide Egypt into several different civilisations, based on rise and fall of groups of rulers? If you take the idea that the hallmarks of a civilisation is to do with common culture, rather than the vagaries of war and politics, then The Egyptian Civilisation lasted for millennia. The same could be said about China as well.

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 5 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Christoper,

You have put your finger on one of the challenges. I divide up Egypt and China because historians divide up Egypt and China.

If you believe that the cultures are the same, I would encourage you to write a hub where you put forth your reasoning. I would be very glad to hear your point of view.

Loren 5 years ago

I commend you for this great timeline and it's been going for two years! My dad has always taught me history of the world and the '500' year thing. Its so interesting and you did a very good job portraying the theory.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

This is an awesome hub about a fascinating subject and I have voted up!

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 5 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Thanks, Bard of Ely! I'm glad that you enjoyed the hub. :-)

Yoni 5 years ago

Hi Larry,

Sometime ago you asked me to post a link to my sources. The number of sites has gone over 80,000 now. I would like to go and visit myself. Can you help with more infos? Anyways you can google the National Museum of Eritrea - University of Asmara or read the following article: "Outside of Egypt, Eritrea holds the most archeological finds - Over 80,000 and still counting, in fact, it is believed Eritrea will surpass Egypt this decade."

Thanks. (I enjoy this site)

Yoni 5 years ago

Larry, I heared that progress is being made to excavate the ancient Axumite port city of Adulis which is located in Eritrea. You cand follow about that story and I hope it will help you to confirm the information and update the article. Thanks.

Emilio Joubert  5 years ago

Thank you Larry, for this wonderful hub. I was browsing around, looking for some type of starting point for my advanced humanities class (8th grade) and just happened to stumble across this. This is certaintly going to help with it, as we need to do a large portion of research on many of the ancient civilizations. Also, yes being Nubian is the same as being a Kushite.

-Emilio Joubert

holidser 5 years ago

Hi! its good work but im actually looking for the dates they began their civilisation.........

Jorge de Caires 5 years ago

I would like to know what makes these world powers standout amongst the rest?? Egypt, Assyria, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and Anglo-America

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 5 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Jorge de Caires,

I think that you ask a great question. I think that the best analysis that I've seen is found in the book Guns, Steel, and Germs by Jared Diamond.

me 5 years ago

good information!! thanx! :D

rythnace 5 years ago

It was a great effort!

Currently I’m searching for Elam Civilization, Elamite Empire and Parthian Empire. The information at browser is not clear as we know; If you got any information about Elam or Parthian Empire or you know where to get all the information please advice me..!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 5 years ago from California

This is a tremendous hub! I just love ancienty history, though keeping track of the dates gives me some trouble. I suppose all I need to do now is read your list whenever I need help! Incidentally, if you include the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) with the Western Roman Empire, the Roman Empire lasted nearly 2,000 years! Let's say 500 B.C.E. (the dawn of the Roman Republic) until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Thanks for the licks. Later!

princess mandy 5 years ago

thanks soooo much for all this info i just hope it's accurate because it a homework assignment :))))

ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

Great hub. I do wonder if you could visit the three separate kingdoms of egypt would the lives of the common people be much different?

T. Xiong 4 years ago

What about the Hmong people??? Is there anything??

Alex 4 years ago

guys seriously, but still it was fun to read

marcus 4 years ago

I have a question,if Israel and Judea fell to the Assyrian empire how did Judea become a roman province

Jennifer Lawrence 4 years ago

Thanks!I have a test on this soon i'll tell you if I pass

all the credit goes to you once again THANKS!!!!!

William 4 years ago

What I dont understand is how do you define the end of civilization? For example the Chinese Civilization has never ended. It has the same people, same culture, same language. The writing system used now was used thousands of years ago .. so people now can read ancient texts without difficulty.

Hawj Lauj 4 years ago

One of the few civilizations that left behind breathtaking architectural achievements beyond roughly 90% of the rest of the other civilations --- in addition to the Ancient Egyptians, the Mayans, Classical Greece, and a few Indian dynasties --- was the Khmer Empire in Cambodia, lasting from around the 9th century to around the 15th century.

Both historian and engineers who surveyed the Khmer's architectural and engineering feats could not but marvel at the Khmer's level of accomplishment, in size/scale and in technical feats. Especially to build, in those days, on such a geologically hazardous topography and climatology.


The other point made by "William", one of the last posters, was absolutely correct, too. And that although it is always a difficult debate for many people to agree on exactly when some empire/dynasty started and/or ended --- and how many sub divisions or groups rose and fell within a major empire, like the Indians, the Egyptians, and the Chinese --- one thing we can say for sure is:

The Chinese civilization --- UNLIKE the Persians, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Mayans, the Romans --- NEVER ended completely.

It went into a steep decline from the time of Columbus (500AD) to the early 20th century (a span of 500 years!); and it also suffered some major bruises from far and near .... but from Shi Huangdi's time all the way to the present time, "the Chinese civilization" persists.... and its trajectory SEEMS to be on a rapid rise again, a rise that would over-take America as being the biggest ECONOMY in the world in about 35 years, although militarily, it will take China a bit longer than 35 years to over-take the USA...

Yes, ANY number of things could go wrong, between now and 2050 and beyond; but tentatively, it is projected that China will rise again to dominate much of the world.

Drake. 4 years ago

Your info comes from wiki..LOL!

William 4 years ago

economically they say the real econ power of china will pass U.S by 2016.

didi 4 years ago

you have very good imformation

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 4 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

I mean that the system of government changed. It is completely arbitrary and as you accurately point out may not be a valid indication of an "end" of a civilization.

jainismus profile image

jainismus 4 years ago from Pune, India

Great Hub. Useful for students of ancient History and prehistory.

meeeee 4 years ago

do yo know the answer to the following question:


if so please answer it 4 years ago

can any one tell me who the leader of Rome was that killed his mother

Dean 4 years ago

Thank you for the work you've done. Much appreciated.

Brett 3 years ago

From your survey, the question "What are the reasons for collapse of these civilizations?" is answered. Over 80% of the regimes listed were destroyed by invasion.

John 3 years ago

I must say, this is based far to much on a mix of extrapolation and assumption. It would be like watching 3 lotterys, and in those 3, one number comes out twice. You than declare that number will come out more than any other number.. The scope is far to wide with many many variables. Add to that how small the sample size is, to call this even potentially scientific or accurate would truly be absurd.

Jim E in FL 3 years ago

Only one correction: there was no year "zero" the calendar goes from 1BC to 1AD with no gap between.

Alain 3 years ago

Kerma lasted 2500bc-1500bc.

Kush lasted 1050bc-300ad

Axum lasted 100 ad - 900 ad

Alex 3 years ago

Your listing is not exhaustive, there are several civilisations that lasted longer than 500 years. A few have already been named in the comments above. Also, you seem to have mistaken dynasties and civilisations. For instance, the roman republic and the roman empire are the same civilisation. The same goes for many of the dynasties from India and China that you have listed.

Robin 3 years ago

I enjoy any discussion of history, but the author seems to have an agenda. I note that there are significant numbers of people on the internet that want to use cycles of civilization to prove that the USA is doomed to fall soon.

While it may be true, we may indeed be doomed, I find it disingenuous to parse civilizations into "dynasties" in order to fit the data into this pre-conceived ideology.

Using the author's data, it would be just as logical to argue that a reorganized US government will soon rise to new heights of global domination, soon to be followed by yet a third US dynasty.

I love history, but I'm always disappointed when people try to force data to reflect a pre-existing idea. The author all but tells us in the introduction that the idea pre-dates the research, then he parses civilizations into pieces that fit said idea.

I applaud any effort to understand how human societies organize, but I am disappointed that this author fell into the oldest academic trap known to man.

AnaMiller 3 years ago

Hi Larry, I wrote twice already. I am not sure if you have received my comments. You wrote that the Aksumite Empire lasted from 100 BC to 1000 AD, and thus was an empire of 1100 years. Well I looked on the internet and have 2 different dates. 1) from 100 AD -940 AD and 2) 100 AD - 700 AD. I am hoping that you are correct. Can you please confirm the dates you used and please cite the source? I really need this information. I would appreciate it, if you would let me know.

Thank you so much,

Ana Miller

larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 3 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

My dates are from Wikipedia and some books I own. I'll verify it when I can. Thanks for your comment.

AnaMiller 3 years ago

Larry Freeman, thank you so much for responding. I really need concrete dates for the Aksumite Ethiopian Empire. Sorry for bothering you with this. I do hope you are right. I will be looking forward to your reply. Again, thank you so much.

Ana Miller

Dr Shailesh Gupta 2 years ago

Where's the Gupta empire which laid down India's biggest empire having biggest impact over world and which destroyed much of then existing empires.. your list is biased and incomplete..

Stu14nmUD64bit 2 years ago

As to the fall or rise of the American Empire, verses the Chinese, whereas the US has been in decline for the entire 4 decades of the Great Stagnation. Culminating in the Global Financial Crisis, with the Chinese civilization rebooting, a couple of factors are worth noting, energy and transportation. During the stagnation, the US was highly dependent on foreign oil for transport, there was negligible advance in electricity generation. Now the US has halved its energy imports, this will be down to 1/3 in 2016, the price of solar electricity per Kilowatt hour halves every 5 years. Earlier estimates said price parity between solar and standard electricity would be reached in 2020. Recently the price per kilowatt hour for solar halved in one year, anyway if we are conservative and take the earlier guestimate, then in 2025 with solar half the price of standard electricity it will even justify changing the installed base.

Therefore labor costs will not be such a great advantage, if the US moves to more elaborately transformed manufactures, as seems likely, then the evil empire (lol,) could strike back. For while China has rocketed to 7.5 years education, the US is at a critical 10 years education. The US has large capital flow, technological advantages, whilst it is true that the US stock market, has an enormous capacity to destroy advantage. However the US could conceivably catch Chinese, Indian, Latin American, African markets, so don't count the sleeping dragon out yet, many times an empire has been on the ropes, only to roar back to power. After the US civil war you might have thought they'd had it, and others would prey on the carcass, a rotting mess of a country. Yet the golden years of the 20s and of equal importance 50s/60s lay ahead of them, a reviving US wouldn't be a bad thing for China, or India as the US could possibly pay its bills. Just technobabling on, for your amusement, the 7" UD 14 nm, 64 bit tablet will change the world more than the printing press, telegraph, telephone, radio, TV, computer, put together, hopefully. ;-). Probably not as much as the steam and internal combustion engines though, after all its not the invention of fire.

Nader Nazzal 2 years ago

There is no hint about the Arab Muslim civilization which lastet 750 years and extended from far east to Andalusia with a clear evidence to any blind. Is it possiple to skip that cvilization?? I believe it is not fair to ignore 750 years of the muslim contribution of the human civilization.

Stu14nmUD64bit 2 years ago

The reason that the author skips Muslim 'civilization' is that there was no single ruling family. Note these are generally ancient civilizations too, there is no mention of the British, American, French, Japanese, pre and post industrial civilizations. It ought however to be noted that without the library of Cordoba, allowing the Latin scholars to translate the Arabic texts then the Renaissance would be much later, or starting elsewhere than Italy. Perhaps India, China, Arabia, even Central Asia. In fact the entire article was about, Ancient Empires, no Mohammed, 600 AD, Christ 0 AD. I think he entirely skipped the Dark Ages, Renaissance, the industrial revolution, the modern era. The only civilization he mentioned, that lasted to Mohammed's day was, the 3 kingdoms of Korea.

henry mayer 2 years ago

we came to this planet -1. 350 000 years ago. that was black people with a chinese people. at that time they were very inteligent, all of them were psychic. no money at that time!!! we lived a super life. today, we are so primitive, and calling our self a civilize people. what a joke!!!!!!

Anonymous 2 years ago

A lot of good information.

In the 5th century B.C. When Herodotus visited Egypt, it's civilization was already more than 10,000 years old! 2 years ago

In the 5th century B.C. When Herodotus visited Egypt, it's civilization was already more than 10,000 years old!

George Greaves 23 months ago

didn't help

Thom MCCann 21 months ago

What about the Hebrews whose acceptance of The Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai took the world out of savagery and barbarism?

There were kingdoms of David and Solomon, etc.

The first and second temples lasted about 400 years each.

Bernard 15 months ago

How long will this present Western civilisation last? Any guesses?

It got off to a roaring start, but looks like it's kinda wobbling right now.

Length of Civilization 3 months ago

Hi, what you are looking is probably Glubb Pasha’s monograph over this which states the duration of prosperity of a civilization is to the tune of 250 years. How long does a civilization last, we can’t tell simply because one civilization may take a thousand years to mature, another, like the Mongols, only a few decades. And then, it may cling to life for hundreds of years before being formally extinguished. Should we call the end of Ottoman Empire a decade or so after the loss of Budapest/Belgrade or 1918 Treaty of Serves?

Freeda 7 weeks ago

Thanks so much for your post. It is very enlightening. Human nature is so interesting...reading some of the comments, so many people want to make sure their opinion (culture/agenda) matters. For heaven's sake don't leave anyone out... So silly.

xx_mlgquikscoper_xx 2 weeks ago

thx m8 u halp much :DDDDD

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