A Tutankhamun mask
Empires rise and fall in history, but many like the Egyptians lasted far longer than 250 years. Image by EPA

Empires strike back against false 250-year claim

Meghan Williams April 20, 2022

No empire in history has existed for more than 250 years.


False. Many have lasted much longer than 250 years, including the Roman, Egyptian and Ottoman empires.

A social media video claims no empire in history has existed for longer than 250 years.

The claim is false. The Egyptian, Roman and Ottoman empires – to name a few – all lasted longer than 250 years, with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) existing for at least 1000 years.

Motivational speaker Espen Hjalmby makes the claim in a Facebook video posted to his 24,000 followers promoting his upcoming “Quantum Wealth Mastermind” event – a “one-day money mastery event” in which he plans to tell his audience when the next recession is likely to begin.

In the video, he predicts that “we’re in for a huge financial recession” based on his belief the “US empire” is in decline.

“It’s the end of a 250-year cycle, and … no empire in history, as far as I’ve studied, has ever lasted any longer than that 250-year cycle, from its initiation or its first rise of power, to the decline,” Hjalmby says (video mark 6min 10sec).

However, history experts say many empires lasted far longer than 250 years, with one describing the claim as “pure fantasy”.

Stuart Tyson Smith, a professor of archaeology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told AAP FactCheck that he could “unequivocally say that Egypt contradicts the idea empires only last 250 years and cycle, especially the New Kingdom empire in Nubia.”

Professor Smith said the Egyptians conquered Nubia between 1550 and 1502 BCE, with parts of the empire lasting almost 500 years, and others lasting about 400 years.

“The southern empire in Nubia lasted until 1070 BCE, when the colony split away from Egypt … so around 500 years in Lower Nubia and over 400 in Upper/Sudanese Nubia,” he said in an email.

“The empire in the Levant was a bit less stable, but strong control especially in the south (Israel/Palestine) lasted from around 1550 through at least 1150 (BCE), so around four hundred years.”

The longevity of the Western Roman and Eastern Roman empires also disprove the “250 years” claim.

Peter Sarris, professor of Late Antique, Medieval and Byzantine Studies at the University of Cambridge, described the 250-year empire claim as “pure fantasy”.

Professor Sarris told AAP FactCheck the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) continued for “a thousand years after the demise of the Roman Empire in the West”.

“The only debate is whether we should think of it as an empire that lasted for fifteen hundred years (as the Roman Empire) or a thousand years (after the demise of the Roman Empire in the West),” he said via email.

The Sasanian Empire is considered to have existed for more than 400 years, from 224 AD to the mid-600s AD, and the Ottoman Empire is considered to have existed for approximately 600 years, from 1300 AD to 1922 AD. The British Empire is thought to have existed for at least 400 years.

Dr Stephen Tuffnell, associate professor of Modern US History at the University of Oxford, said Hjalmby’s assumption that empires are cyclical is also questionable.

“Most empires conceive themselves as the empire rising while another falls and hopes to avoid the ‘decadence’ of past empires by learning from them, so that type of imperial comparison itself has a long imperial pedigree,” he told AAP FactCheck in an email.

While Hjalmby does not say how he arrived at the “250 years” claim, the time frame has been used by some commentators to ask whether the United States – approaching 250 years of independence – is at “death’s door“.

An article in the American Conservative magazine credits a former British army officer named Sir John Glubb and his essay The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, for the idea that the average lifespan of an empire is 250 years. In the essay, Sir John argued it was the “average length of national greatness” and that the average had not varied for 3000 years.

AAP FactCheck previously debunked Hjalmby’s claims on bank deposits.

The Verdict

The claim no empire in history has lasted longer than 250 years is false. Historians told AAP FactCheck the Egyptian, Ottoman and Roman empires existed for longer than 250 years, the longest being the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, which lasted about 1000 years. The Sasanian, Ottoman and British empires also survived longer than 250 years.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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