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How Long Did the Empires of Ancient Civilizations Last?

Larry is an experienced online writer who researches history and film.

How long did the Greek empire last? How long did the Egyptian empire last? Read on to find the answers and learn about the lifespan of over 50 other civilizations!

How long did the Greek empire last? How long did the Egyptian empire last? Read on to find the answers and learn about the lifespan of over 50 other civilizations!

How Long Does a Civilization 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 roughly 500 years, but how about the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Ottomans, etc.? I thought exploring different empires and seeing how long they lasted would be interesting.

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 from 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 I will add additional civilizations over time. In this article, I cover the following ancient civilizations:

how-long-do-empires-last

55 Ancient Civilizations Covered Here

1. Ancient Egypt

12. Chaldean Dynasty (Babylon)

23. Early Chola Empire (India)

34. Zhou Dynasty (China)

45. Urartu (Armenia)

2. Kerma Civilization (Sudan)

13. Hittites

24. Sunga Empire (India)

35. Qin Dynasty (China)

46. Orontid Dynasty (Armenia)

3. Kushite Kingdom (Sudan)

14. Lydia

25. Kanva Dynasty (India)

36. Han Dynasty (China)

47. Kingdom of Armenia

4. Ptolemaic Egypt

15. Phrygia

26. Satavahana Dynasty (India)

37. Minoan Civilization (Greece)

48. Phoenicians (Middle East)

5. Carthage (Tunisia)

16. Harappan Civilization (Indus Valley Civilization)

27. Elam Civilization (Iran)

38. Mycenae (Greece)

49. Kingdom of Israel and Judah

6. Numidia (Algeria/Tunisia)

17. Vedic Civilization (India)

28. Medean Empire (Iran)

39. Classical Greek Civilization

50. Scythians (Central Asia/Eastern Europe)

7. Aksumite Empire (Ethiopia)

18. Mahanjanapadas (India)

29. Achaemenid Empire (Iran)

40. Hellenistic Civilization (Greece)

51. Xiongnu Empire (Mongolia)

8. Akkadian Empire (Sumer)

19. Magadha Empire (India)

30. Seleucid Empire (Iran)

41. Ancient Rome (Italy)

52. Three Kingdoms of Korea

9. Third Dynasty of Ur (Sumer)

20. Nanda Empire (India)

31. Parthian Empire (Iran)

42. Etruscans (Italy)

53. Olmecs (Mexico)

10. First Babylonian Dynasty

21. Maurya Empire (India)

32. Xia Dynasty (China)

43. Roman Republic (Italy)

54. Teotihuacans (Mexico)

11. Assyrian Empire

22. First Chera Empire (India)

33. Shang Dynasty (China)

44. Roman Empire (Italy)

55. Norte Chico Civilization (Peru)

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. During this period, Djoser and Cheops built the Great Pyramid, the only remaining seven wonders of the ancient world. The capital of Egypt at this time was Memphis. The Old Kingdom fell due to the regional governors' rising power and a severe drought from 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 resulted from diminishing central power, the rise of the High Priests of Amun, and a series of droughts. So, we see that it lasted roughly 500 years.

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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 took over Upper Egypt for ten years. Their expansions ended around the 7th century BC when the Assyrians entered Egypt. The early kingdom ended around 590 BC when Egypt invaded Nepata.

Around 590 BC, the Kushite Kingdom shifted its capital to Meroe, which was more secure. The Romans invaded Nepata in 23 BC but decided to withdraw instead of colonizing. 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 roughly 300 years.

5. Carthage (Tunisia)

The Phoenicians founded Carthage in what is modern-day 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 began as a Berber Kingdom in 202 BC when Massinissa aligned himself with Rome in its war against Carthage. When Rome won, Massinissa was given Numidia as his reward. In 112 BC, the ruler Jugurtha took on Rome and lost. The Romans executed him 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 it lost its central importance with the rise of Islam.

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 began with Sumu-abum. It rose to power and influence with the rise of Hammurabi. So, how long did the Babylonian empire last? Well, the first instance of it lasted from roughly 1830 BC to 1531 BC. From 1770 to 1670 BC, its capital, 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 began 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 began with the rise of Ashur-uballit to the thrown of Assyria around 1360 BC and ended 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 of Tiglath-Pileser I. So, the middle period lasted roughly 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 dynasty, 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 began 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 began with the rise of Tudhaliya around 1400 BC. This initiated 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 emerged 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. The Persians conquered Lydia in 546 BC.

15. Phrygia

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

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 in cities and community settlements. Around 1800 BC, there were signs of a major decline, with most of the cities being 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 the Vedic Civilization is controversial, but for the purposes of this article, 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 merged into 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 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 Chandragupta 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, the empire ended with 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 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 the Satavahana Dynasty occurred as small dynasties divided up the territory. The dynasty lasted roughly 450 years.

Persia: (3000 BC - 0 AD)

27. Elam Civilization (Iran)

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

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

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

The Middle Elamite Period is from 1500 BC to around 1158 BC. The Elamite state came back around 1500 BC. It reached the peak of its power around 1200-1100 BC. The Middle Elamite empire collapsed when it was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylonia.

The Neo-Elamite Period is from 742 BC to 539 BC. In 742 BC, there was mention of a king of Elam. During this period, the Elamite region was divided into separate warring regions. The period came to an end in 539 BC when they were conquered by the Assyrian Ashurbanipal.

28. Medean Empire (Iran)

The Medean Empire was founded 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 Achaemenid Empire began 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.

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 began around 2100 BC when the ruler Shun abdicated in favor of his minister Yu. The dynasty ended around 1600 BC with a corrupt king Jie who was ousted by Tang, the head of the Shang people. So, it lasted for 500 years.

33. Shang Dynasty (China)

Tang took over the northeastern region of the Yellow River valley in 1600 BC from the Xia Dynasty. Its capital city was Yin. The dynasty came to an end in 1122 BC when the Shang lost a major battle to the Zhou, and the last Shang leader Shang Zhou committed 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 began with Ji. Its capital city was Hao. This was the time of Confucius and Lao Tzu, the founder of Daoism. The dynasty changed significantly in 771 BC when King You decided to leave his queen and marry a concubine. This first period is called the Western Zhou period.

In 771 BC, a war was fought between King You and the family of his former queen. The queen's son Ji Yijiu became king, and the capital was moved to Luoyang. This period is called the Eastern Zhou period. It ended around 441 BC when the feudal lords rose in power and were 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 lasted from 771 BC until around 260 BC. In this period, the Zhou ruling family were primarily figureheads. This was the time when Sun Tzu wrote the Art of War. The state of Qin became very powerful, and in 316 BC, it took over the Shu area. In 260 BC at the Changping battle, the Qin won a decisive victory.

35. Qin Dynasty (China)

The Qin Dynasty began in 221 BC when Qin Shi Huang succeeded in conquering all of China. He becomes the first emperor of China. This is the beginning of Imperial China. The dynasty came to an end around 207 BC when the Qin were defeated in the Battle of Julu and the emperor Huhai was forced to kill himself.

36. Han Dynasty (China)

In 206 BC, the Kingdom of Han was established. The Han Dynasty officially began with the rise of Liu Bang. This was when the Silk Road was established. The first period of the Han Dynasty is called the Westen Period, which lasted 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 were able to take back their power. This period is called the Eastern Han Dynasty. The Eastern Han Dynasty lasted until 220 AD when the Han lost their power with the rise of local overlords.