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[[quoteright:350:[[Magazine/LePetitJournal http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ottoman_empire_2.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:The sick man of Europe is divided against itself.]]

->''"There was a time when this whole quadrant belonged to us! What are we now? Twelve worlds and a thousand monuments to past glories. Living off memories and stories, and selling trinkets. My god, man! We've become a tourist attraction. 'See the great Centauri Republic--open 9 to 5--''Earth time''.'"''
-->-- '''Londo Mollari''', ''Series/BabylonFive -- [[PilotMovie "The Gathering"]]''

This nation used to [[TheEmpire rule the known world, or at least a sizable chunk of it]]. Unfortunately, for the last ''n'' years, its influence has been declining and its territory shrinking.

Vestigial Empires tend to leave behind still-working infrastructure (especially roads or the nearest space-operatic equivalent) as they shrink; frequently, they also leave behind a common language. Generally their remaining bits are a hotbed of cutthroat politics, ruled by [[AristocratsAreEvil decadent nobles with superiority complexes]] and [[DeadlyDecadentCourt equally decadent and morally challenged courtiers]]. In Space, may result from an UngovernableGalaxy.

The protagonist is rarely actually from the Vestigial Empire--any time one is involved in a setting, it's usually it's either a source of villains, or a setting whose politics need to be navigated in order to obtain allies. Quite often, the only mention of them may be in a CrypticBackgroundReference. However there are exceptions; if a protagonist IS part of a Vestigial Empire then expect him to die in a LastStand, lead TheRemnant to found a successor state, or simply try to protect himself and his family as civilization falls apart.

Being a FantasyCounterpartCulture to late [[SpaceRomans imperial Rome]] or [[UsefulNotes/ByzantineEmpire Byzantium]] isn't required, but it's definitely a bonus.

Contrast with {{Precursors}}--an entire species of Vestigial Empire which tends to leave little to no working infrastructure and is also long gone by the time the story takes place. All or part of the VestigialEmpire may be TheRemnant if they're still fighting for the (usually) lost cause of restoring their former glory.

If a Vestigial Empire actually DOES succeed in restoring itself to it's former glory, than that counts as BackFromTheBrink.

An inversion is a RisingEmpire.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Franchise/LyricalNanoha'', Ancient Belka was a powerful empire that spanned many dimensions, a mighty civilization that conquered every world that came its way with its superior magic and technology. However, infighting mixed with the LensmanArmsRace and widespread pollution have destroyed the empire from the inside until it finally fell apart after the self-sacrifice of the last Saint King, Olivie Segbrecht. All that's left of the Belkan Empire in modern times is the Saint Church Autonomous Region in the Northern Mid-Childa, although the Saint Church focuses more on the religious than political power (their doctrine is based around [[CrystalDragonJesus Olivie as the messianic figure]]) and preservation of the Ancient Belkan cultural and magical heritage. [[VideoGame/AceCombat Setting a number of nuclear bombs off on themselves didn't help.]]
* The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Britain during ''Manga/VinlandSaga'', being constantly invaded by various Norsemen. Askeladd even discusses this with Thorfinn, bringing up the Roman Empire and all it's glory and advancement that led it ultimately into destruction, saying that it is the same now for the Kingdom of the British who contributed to the Roman downfall. Neatly enough, Thorfinn chucks away a Roman coin he picked up in the ruins (naturally Roman) they were standing in, since it was worthless to him.
* The Earth Federation from the Universal Century universe of ''Franchise/{{Gundam}}'' is this, in a pattern that echoes Gibbon's ''Decline and Fall''. The Federation won the One Year War in ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam'' through superior power and production capability, but at the cost of half of the world's population. Seven years later, in ''Anime/MobileSuitZetaGundam'' the Earth Federation has weakened to the point that {{the remnant}}s of Zeon are still a serious threat, and a StateSec organization is intentionally sabotaging the Federation from within so that they can take over. Afterwards, in ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamCharsCounterattack'', even though Zeon has been defeated twice already, the Earth Federation is so weak that the Neo-Zeon nearly make the Earth uninhabitable and only [[spoiler:a miracle caused by Amuro's death stops it]]. By the time of ''[[Anime/MobileSuitVictoryGundam Victory Gundam]]'' (60 years after ''CCA''), the Federation is so weak and ineffectual that it falls to a militia to oppose TheEmpire. Despite all of this, however, the Earth Federation is the eventual victor in each of these conflicts, if only through outlasting the various threats to its survival. If the live-action film ''G-Saviour'' is canon, then the Federation finally collapses around UC 200, when the Colonies finally achieve independence and form a new government together with the Earth, but this time with the Colonies (renamed "Settlements") as equal diplomatic partners. [[TheEmpire Not that this new government is any better than the Federation ever was.]]
* In ''Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia'', the now dead countries of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Germania play this role, with Rome being the prominent one. He left two (idiotic) grandsons behind who are constantly being fought over because of their grandfather's inheritance, Germania is the father/grandfather of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany, and Prussia, and Ancient Greece and Egypt each left behind a son who spend a great deal of time discovering and researching the ruins of their mothers' kingdoms. Rome even comes back from heaven occasionally to check up on N. Italy and bother Germany. And if history's any indication, this may apply to Austria as well, who, as both the Austrian Empire and (one half) of Austria-Hungary, served as a remnant of the Holy Roman Empire.
* The Galactic Empire in ''Anime/LegendOfGalacticHeroes'', as not only the government's influence is waning due the conflicts among the [[DeadlyDecadentCourt High Nobles]], but a string of incompetent military commanders led to multiple defeats against the [[TheFederation Free Planets Alliance]], that at one point would have been able to ''march all the way to the Imperial capital'' (the one thing that saved the Empire was the death of the Alliance admiral who inflicted that defeat, as his subordinates couldn't agree with each other long enough to do it and the Alliance government lacked the political will, giving the Empire time to rebuild their military and put a [[ThatsNoMoon gigantic space fortress]] on the invasion route). By the time of the series, the Imperial government is so weakened that Reinhard von Lohengramm was able to wipe out the High Nobles and impose himself as the Prime Minister [[spoiler:and then become emperor]], at which point the Empire is reformed and enters a new golden age.
* The Beelzenian Empire in the Franchise/EvilliousChronicles franchise is an example of this as the centuries go on, losing larger and larger chunks of territory until it's only a shell of its old self. Before its decline it had also conquered pieces of the (offscreen) Tasan Empire, a second example of this trope.
* ''Manga/AttackOnTitan'' has revealed that [[spoiler: the Walls are in reality the last bastion of the once proud Eldian Empire, formed by Eldians led by the royal family, they settled on the island of Paradis as the Marleyan rebellion overthrew and exiled them]].

[[folder:Fan Fic]]
* In the ''Webcomic/GeneCatlow'' fanfic ''The Basalt City Chronicles'', the Empire of Smilodons once ruled an empire spanning from Burma in the southwest and Chile in the southeast, to the Bering Strait in the north. They're now down to a group of islands in the Bering Strait, though they've still got plenty of their ancient national treasure...
* In the ''Fanfic/NineteenEightyThreeDoomsdayStories'' for ''Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia,'' there are nods to Austria still feeling this despite being one of the core members of the [[TheFederation Alpine Confederation]], though with painful justification. Having been reduced to a neutral UsefulNotes/ColdWar buffer by the time [[UsefulNotes/WorldWarIII Doomsday]] came, he was powerless to stop the bloodshed [[spoiler:and save Hungary, which would come to haunt him in the years to come]].
* ''FanFic/ABriefHistoryOfEquestria'': By the time of [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E13HearthsWarmingEve Hearth's Warming]], this is the fate that had befallen both [[TheHorde the Mongrellian Horde]] ''and'' [[TheEmpire the Griffin Empire]], which had collapsed in ways similar to the Mongols and the Roman Empire, respectively (fittingly, as they are presented as [[{{Expy}} expies]] of those nations).
* The Griffon Empire of FanFic/RainbowDoubleDashsLunaverse offers an interesting twist on this trope. Instead of the Empire shrinking, it shattered into dozens of feuding kingdoms. Collectively, the Kingdoms still control about as much territory as the old Empire, and represent comparable amounts of military and economic power, but it would take something truly drastic to unify them again.
* FanFic/ShatteredEmpire focuses on the Imperial Remnant of Star Wars legends and mentioned below in the literature section as the main protagonist. Like in the source material they used to be Palpatine galaxy spanning Empire before being reduced to a mere eight sectors by the New Republic. They however seek to restore their status to how it was during Palpatine's reign.

* At the beginning of ''Film/ManOfSteel'', Kryptonian civilization is a shade of its former self, with its past glory of space exploration and colonization long gone.
* ''Film/StarWars'': The Republic as seen in the Prequel trilogy is a shadow of its former self with the system being controlled by corrupt senators. By Episode II, it's a democracy in name only and by Episode III, it's a fully-fledged military dictatorship until Palpatine officially renames it the Galactic Empire.
** Its successor state the Galactic Empire continued to crumble and shrink after Episode VI, losing territory to the New Republic and in internecine fighting. After its final defeat at the Battle of Jakku the surviving Imperial Warlords signed a treaty with the New Republic, officially ending the Galactic Empire. However, the Warlords escaped to the Unknown Regions, building the new successor state to the Empire, The First Order.

* The TropeNamer is ''Literature/TheToughGuideToFantasyland'' by Creator/DianaWynneJones, which describes the Vestigial Empire as being part of the standard fantasy setting.
* The Galactic Empire from Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''Literature/{{Foundation}}'' novels turns into this over the course of the series, and the Roman parallels are many and explicit, including a Justinian-like reconquest that collapses in on itself. By the time of the Mule, the Empire controls only twenty agricultural worlds, having abandoned its original capital planet of Trantor after the Great Sack. When the story's protagonists visit Neotrantor, the new capital, the senile Emperor is under the impression that the Empire is as strong as ever, treating the Foundation as just another world within the Anacreon Province of the Empire.
* A slightly odd example which nonetheless fits all the above criteria is the U.S. government in ''Literature/SnowCrash'', although in this case the "cutthroat politics" are office politics between software engineers. Power, influence and respect all withered away, so they fill the void with bureaucracy.
* Similarly, the U.S. in Creator/OctaviaButler's ''[[Literature/ParableOfTheSower Parable]]'' series looks a lot like this.
* Gondor from ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' has been in decline for the past one and a half thousand years, with its throne vacant, its borderlands constantly threatened by invasion, its former capital reduced to a GhostCity, and the White Tree (a quasi-religious symbol of the empire's health and favor with the [[note]]''de facto''[[/note]] gods) dead. Its sister kingdom Arnor went through a centuries-long decline in the backstory until its last remnant, Arthedain, was overrun and destroyed by the [[TheDragon Witch-king of Angmar]], though its royal line survived in obscurity. This reinforces the parallelism with the ancient Roman empire: one part (Arnor = Western Roman Empire) has collapsed under attack, the other (Gondor = Byzantine Empire) subsists as a beacon of civilization built around a borderline impregnable city (Minas Tirith = Constantinople), but is shrinking and weakened by devious politics. In a bit of a subversion, the appendices cite that after the War of the Ring, Gondor grew back into power under King Elessar (Aragorn), a descendant of the kings of Arnor and Arthedain. An alliance with Rohan led by Éomer also sturdied the emerging Dominion of Men (including Arnor's old lands) as well. Where this re-emergence of power goes following Elessar's death at the end of the appendices' timeline, no one is certain.
** [[WeAreEverywhere To Us.]]
** The Elves of Middle Earth also qualify, having been the dominant race of Middle Earth prior to the wars against the forces of darkness (Morgoth and later Sauron) and the rise of men resulted in them diminishing in both number and power. However, Middle Earth had been little more than an outpost for their civilization for most of their history; when their control slipped away they simply returned to the Undying Lands where the bulk of them had long lived.
* Ergoth in the ''Literature/{{Dragonlance}}'' books. Solamnia too, though its decline is eventually reversed.
* In the Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse:
** The post-Endor Empire is like this, getting progressively more so as time passes. Various defeats actually led to factions led by formerly-Imperial warlords splintering off. Now and again it surges back somewhat, like under [[Literature/TheThrawnTrilogy Grand Admiral Thrawn]] or the [[ComicBook/DarkEmpire Emperor Reborn]], but since the people behind these surges are inevitably killed, these are temporary. The one good thing [[Literature/JediAcademyTrilogy Daala]] did was to reunite the forces under the warlords; she promptly [[GeneralFailure killed off]] a good portion, but she did leave the still-united remains in the command of someone who knew their limits. By the time of the Literature/HandOfThrawn duology, [[http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Gilad_Pellaeon the weary Supreme Commander]] looks at the eight sectors and thousand systems they still command, the two hundred Imperial Star Destroyers, the "Preybird" class fighters they buy from he knows not where, and thinks about how the Empire once ruled a million systems, had twenty-five thousand Star Destroyers, and could afford more than one surviving major shipyard which couldn't keep up the demand for capital ships, let alone starfighters. He believes that the only way it can survive is for him to [[PeaceConference make peace]] with the New Republic. And he does. When, while pushing for the Moff Council to support his peace treaty, he's told that the Empire still has significant military power, Pellaeon's response is that they have ''just enough'' power for the New Republic to consider them worth destroying if peace is not achieved. Fittingly, this territory is called [[TheRemnant the Imperial Remnant]] by the rest of the Galaxy.
** A century or so afterwards, it's the republican government that replaced it (The Galactic [[TheFederation Federation]] of Free [[TheAlliance Alliances]]) that crumble and survive only as the [[LaResistance Galactic Alliance Remnant]]. ''Star Wars'' is cyclic about these things.
** Replacing the Galactic Alliance? A resurgent Empire, partially subverting the trope. But when the Sith overthrow Emperor Roan Fel, he escapes to lead ANOTHER remnant, and the cycle continues...
** The ''Star Wars'' Empire was inspired by the ''Literature/{{Foundation}}'' Empire, above.
* Melniboné from Creator/MichaelMoorcock's ''Literature/TheElricSaga'' is like this, having ruled over the entire world for almost ten thousand years under the blessing of [[GodOfEvil the Lords of Chaos]]. It is noted that its latest emperor (and series protagonist) Elric could restore much of its former power [[DefectorFromDecadence if he had a mind to]].
* Tolnedra from the ''Literature/{{Belgariad}}'' (although most of the countries around it were never really under its political influence, they still ''act'' as if they controlled the whole continent once upon a time). They are a greater force for law and order in large portions of Arendia than the Arendians are, and the backstory details how they basically forced the other countries to create Sendaria at one point.
* Literature/{{Discworld}}:
** Ankh-Morpork is a rare example of a VestigialEmpire where main characters not only come from the corrupt and decadent city, but often spend the entire book there. Also notable in that while the actual empire is long gone, and the Patrician expresses distaste with recreating the idea ("We are ''not'' having another Ankh-Morpork empire; we've only just got over the last one"), the Pax Morporkia is still in effect in many places due to Ankh-Morpork's economic and cultural dominance, only now instead of 'Do not fight, or we will kill you' it is 'Do not fight, or we will call in your mortgages.' In this case, the closest historical parallel would probably be London.
** Another example from Discworld would be Djelibeybi, Pratchett's analogue to AncientEgypt in ''Pyramids''. They only control a tiny stretch of river by the events of the book, but it's stated that they used to control most of the continent before they sold it all to pay for pyramids. They still serve a vital role, since it means the two local powerhouse nations don't actually share a border and have an excuse not to go to war.
* In S.M. Stirling's novel ''[[Literature/TheLordsOfCreation In the Courts of the Crimson Kings]]'', the Tollamune emperors once ruled all of Mars. By the time of the story they are reduced to ruling the territory around their capital at Olympus Mons, where all the old court officials and functionaries continue, though largely without actual functions.
* Almost every nation in ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' is this, at least on the continent where most of the story takes place, due to a mysterious depopulation and the effects of repeated wars. Even the tiny city-state of Mayene claims to be ruled by a descendant of Artur Hawkwing's continent-spanning realm, and there were entire kingdoms swallowed by [[GardenOfEvil the Blight]] that were supposed to be very strong. Much of the depopulation since then could be attributed to people being killed/enslaved by raiding from the Blight. All of the major southern cities are indicated to be very large, as they have never been attacked and some (at the beginning of the series, at any rate) did not even believe that [[GoddamnOrcs Trollocs]] existed.
* The [[{{Precursors}} Elder Things]] in the Franchise/CthulhuMythos were this for a significant time. They used to rule all of Earth when the world was still young, but over the aeons various cataclysms and wars with younger species and other extraterrestrial beings (including [[EldritchAbomination Cthulhu himself]]) caused them to lose most of their territories, until they only held [[MysteriousAntarctica a single city in the Antarctic]]. Then the continent got covered in ice, destroying the city, and [[TurnedAgainstTheirMasters the survivors got killed by their servitor race that turned againt them]].
* Harry Turtledove's ''Literature/{{Videssos}} Cycle'' doesn't even [[SerialNumbersFiledOff file all the serial numbers off]] the late and declining Byzantine Empire, to the point of including historical names, places, battles and personas from the Empire and its neighbours, and adding a cohort from Caesar's Imperial Legions. To be fair, [[WriteWhatYouKnow the author has a degree or two in the subject]]...
* In Fritz Leiber's ''Literature/FafhrdAndTheGrayMouser'' series, Quarmall used to be a large kingdom, but by the time the eponymous pair see it, it's a single city that's almost all underground.
** Likewise Lankhmar itself; in ''The Swords of Lankhmar'', Kreeshkra mentions that "Lankhmar's empire stretched from Quarmall to the Trollstep Mountains and from Earth's End to the Sea of Monsters".
* The Commonwealth in ''Literature/BookOfTheNewSun'' claims to be the successor state to the monarch's interplanetary empire, but in actual fact they only control part of one continent on Earth. Still, the interplanetary civilization recognizes the Autarchs of the Commonwealth as the legitimate spokesmen for Earth, [[spoiler: which drives the entire plot of]] ''[[spoiler:The Urth of the New Sun.]]'' Bonus points because the Commonwealth is an Expy of the Byzantine Empire [[InSpace in South America]].
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's "The Hyborian Age", the BackStory to Franchise/ConanTheBarbarian's world, the oldest known history begins with an era with one of these.
-->''[[JustBeforeTheEnd The Thurian civilization was crumbling]]; their armies were composed largely of [[BarbarianTribe barbarian]] [[HiredGuns mercenaries]].''
** Literature/{{Kull}}'s kingdom (Valusia, part of said Thurian civilization) is also this. He is told he can restore some of its lost glories.
** By Conan's time there are a few as well, such as Stygia (AncientEgypt but filled with shadowy evil) and arguably Koth (UsefulNotes/TheRomanEmpire, but with less of the "powerful, disciplined legions" part and more of the "ludicrously decadent rulers" part). Then there is dreaded [[IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace Acheron]], which, despite having been destroyed almost three millenia ago, has left remnants that are still deadly to those unlucky of stupid enough to stumble on them, as ''The Hour of the Dragon" demonstrates.
* The Creator/StrugatskyBrothers' ''Literature/HardToBeAGod'' is set in one of those - significant portions of the the empire are independent states in all of the ways that matter, something which the Imperial nobility loathes to acknowledge.
* The Empire of Humanity gradually becomes this during the course of the ''Literature/{{Genome}}'' trilogy, transforming from a strong star-faring empire to a weak shadow of its former self.
** The Taii to an even greater extent. Once rulers of most of known space, they have been reduced to a few dozen worlds and are hopelessly behind the younger races which have arisen after the Taii Empire's collapse. Unlike the human example, the current state of the Taii is due to a devastating interstellar war fought against an equal galactic power. As the author maintains, such a conflict will inevitably result in the destruction of one of the powers and a PyrrhicVictory for the other, for it will have lost much in the war. The once-mighty moon-sized Taii battleships still patrol much of what used to be theirs. However, this is only because the current rulers of that space allow the Taii this small favor as a testament to their former glory. Those battleships are escorted by modern warships a tiny fraction of their size but which can blast the massive Taii relics with a single volley. The author uses this as a clear example of what will happen to humanity should they enter into a such a conflict with the [[BeePeople Czygu]], an equally strong empire.
*** Even moreso, if the human-Czygu war breaks out, the Emperor will be forced to lift the quarantine of Ebon, a world of [[KnightTemplar religious fanatics]] who absolutely hate all aliens and have built up a massive war machine dedicated to eliminating all those who are not true children of God. This will cause all aliens to band together against the humans and result in mutual destruction of everyone involved. Anyone who remains will be a clear example of this trope.
* In ''Literature/TheLegendsOfEthshar'', Old Ethshar became this after a time. It once controlled a sizable continent to the south but the centuries of war against their enemy led to the original empire fracturing into dozens of squabbling countries, each claiming legitimate rule to the whole empire. The army fighting in the north decided to just use the newly captured lands to found a new nation rather than deal with that.
* Subverted with the Fjordell Empire in ''Literature/{{Elantris}}''. On a map, Fjorden appears to be only a shadow of its once continent-spanning might, but it's far from in decline. Rather, it's leaders recognized that attempting to ''millitarily'' reconquer their old lands would be unfeasible, and so made an alliance with [[CorruptChurch the Shu-Dereth]] religion. The "new" Fjordell Empire fused its own political hierarchy with the Derethi religious hierarchy, and as a result it's actually far ''more'' powerful than it was in its heyday through the Derethi religious sphere of influence. Anyone who is politically aware in this world knows that Fjorden is ''far'' from the VestigialEmpire it appears as at first glance.
* The Romulan Star Empire of the ''Franchise/StarTrek'' universe seems destined to become this in all realities - note that this was even the case before its destruction in [[Film/StarTrek the 2009 film]].
** In the Franchise/StarTrekNovelVerse, post ''Film/StarTrekNemesis'', the Star Empire [[BalkaniseMe fragmented into factions]]. Praetor Tal'aura and Proconsul Tomalak ''were'' able to reunite most of them, as the Federation sought to maintain peace along the borders (the Klingons "helped" by making Remus a protectorate). Commander Donatra, however, declared the worlds and fleets loyal to her independent. Between losing territory to Donatra, uprisings on the outworlds, and the damage from the [[Literature/StarTrekDestiny Borg Invasion]], the Empire was less than half its former size. It was explicitly stated in ''Literature/StarTrekArticlesOfTheFederation'' that the Romulans were no longer a superpower. They bounced back thanks to [[VillainTeamUp membership in]] [[Literature/StarTrekTyphonPact the Typhon Pact]]...only for the empire to presumably collapse again when Romulus was destroyed (though we're still a few years short of that in the current timeframe...)
** In ''Literature/StarTrekMirrorUniverse'', it happens sooner, after Romulus is destroyed early by a weapon of mass destruction. The core forces of the empire are reduced to joining forces with anti-Alliance freedom fighters in order to survive. [[spoiler: The Star Empire is restored towards the end of ''Rise Like Lions'' following the collapse of the Alliance.]]
** In ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'', the empire is also a shadow of its former self following the loss of Romulus. By ''Delta Rising'' it has been reduced to a handful of colonies. On the other hand, the Romulan ''Republic'' is doing very well.
* In Creator/DavidWeber's ''Literature/HellsGate'' series, the [[TheKingdom Ternathian Empire]] was previously a massive empire spreading across most of the planet of Sharona (essentially an AlternateUniverse of Earth). Unlike most examples, the empire was not established out of a desire for expansion but instead to secure their borders against lawless brigands and organized raiders - and every time the new borders were stabilized, more cross-border raiders and brigands appeared, forcing the empire to expand to destroy them as well. Ternathia eventually withdrew from many of its outer territories when they became too expensive to maintain control of, turning them over to local governments in an orderly, controlled contraction of their borders.
* Nabban from ''Literature/MemorySorrowAndThorn'' is what happens when you go the next step beyond this- once a Rome-esque superpower, it had been in decline for some time and controlled only the core of its former territories, and ''then'' about a generation before the novels High King Prester John showed up and conquered it, making it only one province of his own empire. It's still the headquarters of the continent's dominant religion, though, and its greatest knight went on to become John's NumberTwo.
* ''Literature/TheReynardCycle'': The Kingdom of Aquilia has shrunk down to one third of its size, and isn't even called the Kingdom of Aquilia any more due to the fact that the remaining third split into two warring halves long before the events of the first novel. One of the antagonist's primary motivations is a desire to reunite the Kingdom, and restore the Empire.
* The Nansur Empire in the ''Literature/SecondApocalypse'' series, which has been steadily losing territory to Fanim jihads for centuries and retains only a shadow of its former glory.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' is full of these:
** Slaver's Bay consists of three allied city states that are the remnants of the Ghiscari Empire, which was conquered millenia ago by the Valyrian Freehold. There is also the island city of New Ghis, which has a trading arrangement and military alliance with the three but is otherwise independent.
** The Valyrians who crushed the Ghiscari were wiped out by a cataclysm known as the Doom of Valyria, leaving behind a handful of city-states to squabble over their legacy.
** The once widespread nations of the Sarnori and Qaathi peoples are reduced to a single city each (Saath and Qarth, respectively).
** The Patrimony of Hyrkoon was consumed by an expanding desert until only three cities remained.
* In ''The House Left Empty'' by Creator/RobertReed, a series of EMP blasts and viruses crippled the worldwide communication grid and corrupting most databases, causing governments to effectively cease to exist, with [[BalkanizeMe millions of self-governed micronations popping up in their wake]]. The United States government still exists - the postal service is still around albeit very crippled, and people still pretend to pay taxes and file IRS reports.
* In ''Literature/TheScar'', agents from Armada visit a tiny island where a tiny handful of the DyingRace of anophelii -- mosquito-people -- are being kept isolated by the region's naval powers. Previously, the anophelii had reigned over the horrific Malarial Queendom, dominating and preying upon every race that had blood in their bodies.
* The books of the Literature/TortallUniverse by Creator/TamoraPierce have the old Thanic Empire, which turned into the sovereign nations of the Eastern Lands (Tortall, Galla, Tusaine, Tyra, and Maren).
* Also by Creator/TamoraPierce, the Pebbled Sea states of ''Literature/CircleOfMagic'' arose from the old Kurchal Empire, which gave them a common language and a calendar. It may also have been a bit Roman, as one character references its coliseum fights.
* In the ''Literature/PerryRhodan'' series the Arkons are this at the beginning of the series. Several systems still pay lip service to their dominance but in reality they control only their own system. Then they are absorbed by the Terrans.
* Many governments and their militaries in the ''Literature/BlackTideRising'' ZombieApocalypse series, after the HatePlague hits them, are almost totally destroyed, the surviving rulers controling only a relatively small part of their original territory.
* In Creator/VladimirVasilyev's ''Treasure of the Kapitana'', the Empire of [[IstanbulNotConstantinople Albion]] nominally controls much of its far-off lands. In practice, the local rulers pay lip service to the Empire, although they're a little more compliant if an Imperial [[WoodenShipsAndIronMen frigate]] shows up in their port. One of the main characters is the youngest son of the current King of Albion, who is sent to the Euxine (Black) Sea to find the legendary treasury that was reportedly aboard the titular Turkish flagship sunk in a [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tendra battle long ago]]. Supposedly, the treasure will replenish the Empire's coffers, allowing Albion to return to greatness. The King then sends his oldest son, the Crown Prince, with a fleet to find the true treasure - the secret to eternal life.
* In ''Literature/ForgingDivinity'', the Xixian Empire once ruled much of the continent, but most of their lands have now been conquered.
* In Literature/SixteenThirtyTwo the Holy Roman Empire is this for a short time before being officially dissolved about two hundred years ahead of schedule. With the Habsburg line [[spoiler: split into ''three'' branches]] this may also happen to the "Empire where the sun never sets" within the course of the series.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* The Centauri in ''Series/BabylonFive'', at least as the series is starting. The Shadow War causes them to briefly enter a new expansionistic phase.
** Differently from most examples, they are arguably ''more'' powerful than in their heyday: the ExpandedUniverse shows they invented artificial gravity and antimatter-fueled reactors just in time for a civil war to force them to abandon most of what is now the League of Non-Aligned Worlds (with one of their former subjects developing the technology well beyond what the Centauri can do with it), and by the time the contraction stopped they had developed the ships, infrastructure and high-powered weapons to actually make use of that technology. The only thing that kept them from overwhelming the League of Non-Aligned World was a lack of will, and when the Shadow War caused the expansionist factions to come into power they first ''crushed'' the Narn (with some help from the Shadows, but it's shown the Centauri did a large part of the work), and then started twelve wars at the same time and were ''winning'' (albeit precariously, and again with crucial--and ultimately pricey--support from the Shadows) when Londo managed to force a stop.
* In the ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' episode "Dragon's Teeth", the crew awakens several hundred members of a species that used to rule the quadrant, who find that their enemies have overrun their old empire and that the name of their species is now a synonym for "foolish."
** The Krenim Imperium in "Year of Hell", before Annorax started wiping out entire species with his giant spacefaring {{RetGone}} cannon in an attempt to restore the Imperium to its greatest glory. Unfortunately, he didn't take certain side-effects into account - wiping out their first race also wiped out a key antibody that had prevented a vicious plague from nearly wiping out the Krenim. His attempt to fix that cost him his home colony, and he spends the next two hundred years trying to restore that colony, while also nominally restoring the Imperium. It takes Janeway crashing ''Voyager'' into the time ship to hit the ResetButton, sending the Krenim back to vestigial status (and resetting ''Voyager'' so that the eponymous Year of Hell fighting the Krenim never happened).
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** "The Space Museum" features the Moroks, a race hung up on past glories and conquests. Their influence has declined and all that is really left of their empire are museums full of the spoils of war that no-one ever visits.
** "The Dominators" features the Dominators, a race that has conquered the Tenth Galaxy but has spread itself far too thin as a result. The result of this is that the Dominator invasion fleet bound for Dulkis that we see in the story is limited to two rather gullible officers (one of whom is a {{Jerkass}} PsychoForHire the other can't even stand) and a gaggle of {{Killer Robot}}s with limited power reserves, because there isn't any infrastructure for having any more ships. They lack any sort of intelligence about the world, know nothing of the inhabitants and don't seem to realise they're invading a nuclear testing island containing only a handful of students studying it and the Doctor's party. Their plan is to convert Dulkis into a sort of giant geothermal furnace with which to power their dying fleet.
* ''Literature/TalionRevenant'': The Shattered Empire, whose provinces became independent kingdoms but still have a common history and ties. [[TheOrder The Talions]] were formed by one of the Emperors, and remain an international force in the wake of its fall even centuries on.
* In ''Series/{{Andromeda}}'' Tarazed was an isolated colony founded by Captain Hunt's ex-fiance and a group of humans and loyalist Nietzscheans she organized when he briefly went back in time and told her the Commonwealth was going to fall but he would attempt to restore it in 300 years. They managed to keep alive the traditions of the Commonwealth, short of having an actual Vedran Empress, and became the Restored Commonwealth's capital. Prior to the restoration, Tarazed's SpaceNavy mainly consists of slipfighters, and no capital ships are seen. The only reason the planet escaped the notice of the Nietzscheans and the Magog is thanks to its out-of-the-way location. Even the Restored Commonwealth is hardly the same Systems Commonwealth that once spanned ''three galaxies'', its initial membership being only 50 worlds. [[spoiler:The Commonwealth fleet is later all but wiped out in an ambush]].
* The Federation in ''[[Series/BlakesSeven Blake's 7]]'' ends up as one of these in the last two seasons. Invaded by aliens from Andromeda, they achieve a pyrrhic victory in which they only survive at all through sheer force of numbers. In the early part of the third season, they seem to have pretty much ceased to exist, with Servalan facing rebellion on Earth and many worlds free of Federation influence. Although the fourth season sees them rebuilding, they still don't have the resources for conventional military conquest, relying on mind control drugs for which the resistance have a vaccine.
* ''Literature/TheSilerianTrilogy'': The Kintish Kingdoms, which once ruled Sileria. In the past they were far more powerful, but have become overshadowed by the Valdani recently. [[spoiler: The Valdani eventually invade them.]]
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** The former colonies of the Valyrian Empire which became the Free Cities. Valyria was a FantasyCounterpart of the Roman Empire, and seemed destined to conquer the world until a sudden cataclysm destroyed the heart of the Empire. All that was left was a far flung group of colonies that suddenly lacked the FantasticNuke that had given Valyria so much power: [[DragonRider dragons]]. While several of these free cities (particularly Volantis) like to proclaim that they will restore Valyrian glory, everyone knows it's so much CulturalPosturing and none of them have anywhere near the ability that the Empire did.
** Dorne, after a fashion. Dorne's Rhoynar elements are descended from refugees fleeing their old homeland in Essos as it burned under the Valyrian Freehold.
** As of the end of the sixth season, [[spoiler:the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros has become this. Cersei Lannister finally managed to destroy a great number of her opponents and officially grasped the reins of power, but of the Seven Kingdoms, Dorne is openly revolting against the throne, the Vale, the Iron Islands, and the North are doing so in secret with the Reach about to join in, and YoungConqueror[=/=]DragonRider Daenerys has ''finally'' launched her own invasion to attempt to retake the kingdom. On top of all that, Cersei's house was confirmed several seasons back to secretly be bankrupt, nobody in the Court aside from a few toadies is personally loyal to her, and the Crown itself is heavily in debt to a bank with a reputation for getting rulers who don't pay back their loans overthrown and replaced by their rivals who will do so. [[PyrrhicVillainy Cersei has finally gotten her hands on the throne right when the throne lost all its power]].]]

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* The Wrestling/NationalWrestlingAlliance once had an iron grip on almost the entire industry, excepting a handful of "Independent" ([[NotWorthKilling allowed to exist]] to avoid anti trust legislation), "Outlaw" territories (who operated in defiance of it), and the whole of Europe(where promoters collectively refused to join until their own problems [[WeAREStrugglingTogether made the offer more appealing]]). After Wrestling/{{TNA}}'s exodus from NWA, maintaining tentative oversight of independent promotions across a mere six countries became a challenge. But the NWA pressed on, and remained a mostly respected presence (especially in Japan).
* Within the NWA itself, Wrestling/ProWrestlingZero1 was one of Japan's premier promotions and was in the process of expanding to other nations by setting up off shore branches in them. But it shrank to a largish "indy fed" with a few foreign affiliates after the death of its founder, Wrestling/ShinyaHashimoto. It soldiers along though and has also joined some of the other alliances that have sprung up since the NWA's decline.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}''...
** The Imperium of Man has waxed and waned over the past ten thousand years, but is now unquestionably in a state of decline, so much so that scholars refer to the current era as the Time of Ending. Whole sectors are being lost to rebellion, alien depredations, or governmental negligence, and on every front the Imperium's enemies are closing in. The words most commonly used are "decaying" and "rotting," and fearful sages worry that it will be a RisingEmpire such as the Tau that will ultimately inherit the galaxy. [[LastStand Which is not to say that Mankind plans on going down without a fight]].
** The Eldar don't have so much a Vestigal Empire as they do the bleached bones of one. Where they once ruled the entire galaxy unopposed and rearranged the cosmos at a whim, now they're reduced to a few spaceborne cities called Craftworlds, some primeval colonies on the galactic rim, and in the Dark Eldar's case a nightmare metropolis in the cancerous heart of a PortalNetwork. As such, they're frequently described as a DyingRace clinging to life as long as they can in other races' shadow.
** The Necrons ruled the galaxy before the rise of the Eldar, and have emerged from stasis to find their domain overrun by primitive upstarts. Their technology, while arguably the most formidable in the setting, has not always weathered their 60 million year nap, they can't reproduce due to being {{Virtual Ghost}}s, and many of the lords who have woken up have developed eccentricities due to a mechanical version of CryonicsFailure.
** Note that in all three cases, "vestigial" should not be taken to mean "weak". Even if their golden ages were millennia ago, these civilizations have held out for this long in one of the most ridiculously lethal settings ever imagined. There's also the simple matter of scale; even the Eldar can call on ''billions'' of soldiers, but it's nothing compared to the uncountable armies of the Imperium or the even larger forces of Orks and Tyranids.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'':
** The Dwarfs' empire first got cracked when the [[TimeAbyss Slann]] noticed that the mountains were no longer where they thought they should be, so they moved them back, without consulting the dwarfs who were living under them at the time. Since then they've been fighting a HopelessWar against an endless tide of orcish and goblin invaders, and they ''might'' have a chance at stabilizing if they weren't [[RevengeBeforeReason obsessed with settling old grudges]], and the grudges arising from attempts to settle other grudges.
** The ancient Elven empire was torn apart by civil war, splitting into the High Elves and Dark Elves, as well as the Wood Elves who stayed behind in their overseas colonies. The High Elves are slowly dying out, while the Dark and Wood Elves are stable, if prone to backstabbing or militant isolationism, respectively.
** The Lizardmen's empire is down a few cities, and has lost contact with the most distant parts of their domain, but are doing better than some of their rivals in that they're actively ''rebuilding''... just very slowly. Granted, several cities are still marked on their maps with Lizardmen equivalents for "Never Go Within Thirty Miles Of This Place Again", but it's a start.
** The giants, too, used to have a vast and glorious empire, but it was long ago wiped out by ogres, scattering the few survivors to the four winds.
* The default setting in ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' 4th edition, the ''TabletopGame/NentirVale'', is rife with these, most notably Human-controlled Nerath, Tiefling-controlled Bael Turath, and Dragonborn-controlled Arkhosia.
* Unther in the ''TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms''. Up until the Time of Troubles it was a force to be reckoned with, ruled by {{Physical God}}s. After the gods' mortal incarnations are killed, Unther becomes a shadow of its former self and is mostly annexed by its neighboring empire, Mulhorand. In 4E, Unther is one of multiple countries that was [[ThrowAwayCountry unceremoniously destroyed]] by the Spellplague.
* TabletopGame/{{Eberron}} has the goblinoid Dhakaani Empire, which was mostly destroyed 9000 years ago by an invasion from Xoriat, the plane of [[GoMadFromTheRevelation madness]], then slowly declined. Well before that was the ancient Giant empire on Xen'drik, which was destroyed by the dragons. Survivors of both occasionally attempt to restore their civilization's former glory.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Traveller}}'', the Vilani Imperium. It was superficially powerful, controlling thousands of worlds when the Terrans found it. But it was senile, indecisive, and generally a meal waiting to be snatched by whomever discovered it. [[note]] Or, as its conquerors eventually found out, a dying elephant that would crush and suffocate anyone bold or unwary enough to try to topple it under its sheer dead weight. The Rule of Man inherited all the old empire's problems, and managed to prop it up for a while, but a thousand-year Dark Age came anyway.[[/note]]
* Lookshy of ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'' fashions itself as the last remnant of the Shogunate, the worldwide Dragon Blooded government prior to the Great Contagion, reduced to a single (if securely independent) city-state.
** The Realm itself is not quite there yet, but it is a lot less strong abroad for having spent the last five years drawing the lines in preparation for civil war, and being reduced to a fraction of its former power is a noted possibility. Some Dynasts would even ''prefer'' a VestigialEmpire; it would be easier to manage, and they don't have any greater ambitions than maintaining their own tremendous wealth and luxury.
** The Lintha have been on a downward spiral since the fall of the Primordials. Depictions of the First Age show the Lintha Empire (which once ruled most of the West) to have been reduced to a small coastal state where pure blooded Lintha (the only ones able to use their magic and operate their technology) are virtually an endangered species. The default setting shows the vestigial remnant of ''that'', where the Lintha are nothing but a few criminal families (with practices of incest and self-castration/mutilation) operating off of the back of a dying monster.
* The Remanence of ''TabletopGame/MyriadSong'' is ruled by the descendants of the [[AbusivePrecursors Syndics]]' genetically engineered slave overseers and consider themselves the Myriad Syndicate, and just waiting for the Patrons to return. In the meantime, everyone else hates them.
* Khador in ''TabletopGame/IronKingdoms'' was originally the Khardic Empire which held a very large portion of Western Immoren. After the Orgoth invasion, it lost much of its original lands, which were given to the newly founded Kingdoms of Llael and Ord, leaving it severely weakened. It was not until recently that the Kingdom was able to expand and reclaim much of what it had lost, finally becoming the new Khadoran Empire.
* Abel in ''TabletopGame/AnimaBeyondFantasy''. What was once an empire that dominated the entire (known to most humans) world after the Rupture of the Heavens is now just its core regions, most territories have independized of it for one or other reason and while is still the most powerful nation of the setting its forces are spread over its domains.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The Principality of Belka from the ''VideoGame/AceCombat'' series controlled a sizable chunk of the planet until its economy collapsed and it started hemorrhaging territories until it was a quarter its original size. The plot of ''VideoGame/AceCombatZeroTheBelkanWar'' centres around its attempt to reclaim the states it permitted to secede, particularly the protagonist nation of Ustio. [[WMG/AceCombat Speculations]] are [[WMG/LyricalNanoha abound]] that AC's Belka was the inspiration for the Nanoha's one, too.
* The Azracs of ''VideoGame/AgeOfWonders'' have by the sequel's expansion been reduced to a nomadic people controlling naught but a barren desert. Worse yet, by the beginning of the campaign that introduces them they're being shaken by a civil war.
** By the beginning of the sequel, humanity could be counted as this as well as they have been weakened by dragons they once hunted and brought under the control of the wizard Yaka (Who had previously ruled the Azracs) and his Tigran followers. All this changes by the expansion, when they're once again a dominant power.
* Certainly possible in a game of ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}}'', and in the fifth game Persia is particularly prone to this. Persia's unique ability in ''Civ V'' is based around the "Golden Age" mechanic, in which a sufficiently happy population leads to a brief period of increased empire-wide income and production. In Persia's case it also gets a boost to military units' strength and speed, allowing it to quickly conquer new territory, but unless the player has timed things carefully, they runs the risk of being left with a military incapable of defending the empire's borders once the Golden Age ends. The "From Achaemenid to Safavid" achievement requires the player to earn five such Golden Ages in one game and refers to the RealLife Persians' [[HereWeGoAgain somewhat mixed history with this trope]].
* The ''VideoGame/CrimsonSkies'' universe has the United States of America [[DividedStatesOfAmerica break up]] in the 30's. One of it's successor states, Columbia, contains the remnants of the old United States' Federal Government.
* ''VideoGame/CrusaderKings 2'', thanks to covering 400 years of medieval history (going up to almost 700 years with {{Expansion Pack}}s), feature several examples of this during its historical start dates. UsefulNotes/{{Charlemagne}}'s empire is a fraction of bickering Karling states in the 867 start, the once-mighty Umayyads and Abbasids are rump states from 1066 onwards, and Byzantium gradually loses territory as time goes by and has definitively entered terminal decline by the time of the Hundred Years' War. Many of these empires still have an imperial title and ''de jure'' claims on massive amounts of land they used to own, but lack the manpower and political position to reclaim them... unless the right player takes command, of course.
* ''Franchise/DragonAge'':
** The Tevinter Imperium. The player may not visit it in the games yet, but it's a big part of the world's lore and history, and its ruins litter the game. Their decline was brought about by a congo line of disasters, starting with the emergence of Darkspawn following a failed attempt by Tevinter magisters to enter the fade and wrest control of the Golden City from the Maker (God, basically) himself. The darkspawn brought about the Blight, which raged for 200 years before finally ending, but the image of the mighty Imperium, thought invincible, weakened inspired a massive internal slave rebellion triggered by an immense barbarian invasion spearheaded by Andraste, who was a sort of fusion of Jesus and Joan of Arc who punted the Imperium right in the knockers and wrecked much of their power even as the were recovering from the Blight. Some centuries later, the Qunari showed up, settling in the northern islands, and started kicking everyone's collective asses across Thedas, including the Imperium's, until the combined forces of Thedas halted the Qunari invasions. The Imperium, rather than making an uneasy peace with the Qunari like the rest of Thedas, has been fighting a bloody and expensive and stalemated war with the Qunari ever since. In ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'', though, Fenris claims that [[spoiler:Tevinter's power is slowly returning. Since Tevinter is an EvilEmpire that relies on the worst of BloodMagic, this is a very bad thing.]]
** The Orlesian Empire is also heading this way, with its capital having already devolved into a DeadlyDecadentCourt and its land being a fraction of what the original Empire possessed under Kordillius Drakon. With the outbreak of not one but two overlapping civil wars on its territory (as of ''Literature/{{Asunder}}''), it remains to be seen whether Orlais will fare better than Tevinter did in Andraste's times.
** The Dwarven kingdoms used to extend under the whole of Thedas, but were whittled down by the Darkspawn until only Orzammar is left as a power in the world. Even Orzammar seems is failing, however, as a combination of unceasing Darkspawn attacks, the Orzammar elite's refusal to abandon their crippling traditions while the world changes around them, and the fact that many of the best and brightest dwarves are now leaving Orzammar to make (generally successful) lives on the surface means that Orzammar will either have to adapt or collapse completely in the near future.
** ''Inquisition'' gives us TheReveal that [[spoiler: while common knowledge holds that the Tevinter Imperium destroyed the ancient Elven empires, the elves had already seriously weakened themselves before that, meaning Tevinter simply dealt the death blow to an example of this trope instead of winning a glorious and bloody victory over the greatest power in the world]].
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuest'':
** The Empire in Parthenia in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIV'' is one of the more dramatic examples of this trope. Once a great nation, it is now only a single tiny village that contains a tent instead of a castle. The Emperor and his subjects are now happily making a living by growing medicinal herbs.
** ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVII'' has the Raguraz Empire, whose ambitions of conquest you hear about quite some time before you ever reach its lands. Thanks to the [[TimeyWimeyBall semi=]]TimeTravel [[TimeyWimeyBall your heroes keeps doing]], by the time you actually arrive in Raguraz, all that remains is a broken shell of a castle and its king, as they were wiped out by their [[TheDogBitesBack formerly conquered]] neighbors.
** The Gittish Empire in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIX'' embodies this trope in a particularly creepy way. Centuries before the game starts, it seems like they at least dominated over one of the world's continents, before getting obliterated in a cataclysmic war. [[spoiler:In the time of the game, an insane angel has brought back the Gittish Empire's king and army as undead monsters who have little if any awareness that they ever died. Now they just rule over a desolate and partially poisonous wasteland and a fortress full of slaves.]] You'd almost feel sorry for them if they weren't all such vicious bastards.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls''
** In each main series game, the plot is either kicked off by or revolves around the actions of the leaders of the Third Tamriellic Empire (most notably Emperor Uriel Septim VII) to protect the continent of Tamriel from various threats (both internal and external, supernatural and mundane) while holding the declining empire together in this state.
*** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsArena Arena]]'' sees Uriel VII's [[EvilChancellor Imperial Battlemage]], [[BigBad Jagar Tharn]], imprison the Emperor in Oblivion while usurping his throne. Naturally, the plot of the game involves defeating Tharn (who later works reveal is working for [[BiggerBad Mehrunes Dagon]], the [[OurGodsAreDifferent Daedric Prince]] of [[OmnicidalManiac Destruction]]) and restoring Uriel VII to his throne.
*** In ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIDaggerfall Daggerfall]]'', the hero is a "friend" of the Emperor sent to recover [[spoiler:a ForgottenSuperweapon HumongousMecha that was used to forge the empire]], though you can choose to instead side with one of many factions, all with their own intentions. Later games reveal that a TimeCrash-style DivineIntervention made ''all'' the game's endings [[MergingTheBranches happen at once]], [[BroadStrokes though none to the same extent]] as they would have individually, bringing peace and some stability to the region.
*** In ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]'', the Emperor sends the PlayerCharacter , a prisoner from the Imperial City, to the eponymous province, so that he may join the emperor's [[SecretPolice Blades]] and [[TheChosenOne fulfill a prophecy]] of the local [[OurElvesAreBetter Dunmer (Dark Elves)]]. Doing so gives the emperor a very (religiously and politically) powerful tool [[spoiler:(you, the Nerevarine)]], as well as removing forces more hostile to the Empire [[spoiler:([[BigBad Dagoth Ur]] and the [[PhysicalGod Tribunal]])]].
*** In ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]'', Uriel's scheming finally reaches its end when Cyrodiil, the very heart of the Empire, is attacked by [[TheLegionsOfHell the Daedric forces of Mehrunes Dagon]] and Uriel himself is assassinated. Fortunately, he has a HiddenBackupPrince, [[spoiler:but he quickly gives his life to stop Dagon]]. The leader of the Elder Council, [[TheGoodChancellor High Chancellor Ocato]], is appointed [[RegentForLife Potentate]], but has his hands full keeping the Empire together.
*** In the aftermath of what comes to be known as "the Oblivion Crisis," Ocato manages to keep the Empire together for a time. However, he is assassinated by the [[ANaziByAnyOtherName Thalmor]], a religious extremist sect of the [[OurElvesAreBetter Altmer (High Elves)]] who quickly reform the [[AntiHumanAlliance Aldmeri Dominion]] of old, the ancient rival to the Empires of Cyrodiil. Ocato's assassination plunges the capital province of Cyrodiil into nearly a decade of civil war, which ends when the warlord Titus Mede seizes power and is crowned Emperor. Argonia/Black Marsh (home of the [[LizardFolk Argonians]]) secedes from the Empire under the leadership of the xenophobic An-Xileel party, followed shortly by the [[CatFolk Khajiit]] of Elsweyr. Morrowind is then devastated when the Ministry of Truth, a rogue moon frozen in place in the distant past by one of their {{Physical God}}s, [[ColonyDrop resumes its descent with its original momentum]]. This causes [[ChekhovsVolcano Red Mountain]], a volcano in the heart of Morrowind, to erupt, destroying most of Vvardenfell and rendering much of Morrowind uninhabitable under a cloud of choking ash. The Aldmeri Dominion forcefully annexes Valenwood (home of the Bosmer (Wood Elves) and then [[BlatantLies claims credit]] for restoring Tamriel's moons (sacred to the Khajiit) to the sky after they mysteriously disappear, bringing them Elsweyr as a [[VoluntaryVassal client state]]. After seventy years, the Aldmeri Dominion invades the remains of the Empire in the Great War that ends in a bloody stalemate, in which the Empire is forced to cede the province of Hammerfell to the Thalmor and allow Thalmor agents to persecute worshipers of Talos, the [[DeityOfHumanOrigin deified Emperor Tiber Septim]]. The Redguards manage to drive the Thalmor out of Hammerfell, but remain independent afterward. And during all this chaos, the Breton-majority portion of Skyrim called the Reach briefly rebels from the rest of the province, but is quashed.
*** All this to say, by ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'', the Third Empire of Tamriel is down to two functional provinces, with a third, Skyrim itself, wracked by a civil war (quietly encouraged by the Thalmor) between loyalists and secessionists led by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, who objects to the terms of the treaty that ended the Great War. The player can help him wrest control of all Skyrim, side with the Imperial Legion and execute him, or broker a ceasefire so everyone can deal with [[OutsideContextProblem the dragons who have suddenly returned and are running amok.]] Additionally, the player can join the [[MurderInc Dark Brotherhood]] and [[spoiler:kill the current emperor, Titus Mede II]], or wipe out the organization, as well as rescue the Forsworn king from prison so he can continue his guerilla campaign to liberate the Reach, or kill him.
** Ironically, the various Cyrodiilic Empires were built on the remains of the ancient [[OurElvesAreBetter Ayleid]] Empire after it was overthrown in a slave rebellion. The province of Cyrodiil is loaded with ancient Ayleid ruins, and the Imperial Palace is a repurposed Ayleid fortress.
** At least as late as ''Daggerfall'' (there is no canonical evidence afterwards), the Altmer clan Direnni ruled over the Isle of Balfiera (a much smaller island than Solstheim, let alone Vvardenfell). At their height (during the First Era) they ruled over a quarter of Tamriel as the Direnni Hegemony, but losses and overextension led to a gradual withdrawal and collapse. Given that this was over two millenia ago, the Dirennis don't really have any hang-ups about their former empire.
* In ''VideoGame/EmperorOfTheFadingSuns'', the empire of Vladimir Alecto, as a state, is dead. However, the Imperial bureaucracy that he established, and the precedent that he set, still exist, and the five Great Houses that actually govern parts of the galaxy are trying to claim the throne. Byzantium Secundus, the former capital, is maintained as a TruceZone and mostly governed by the remnants of said bureaucracy.
* In ''[[VideoGame/EscapeVelocity Escape Velocity Nova]]'', the Federation is merely a pale shadow of a portion of what the Colonial Council once controlled. There is, however, one reason why the Federation is not as clear an example of a VestigialEmpire as the above would imply: the Federation is not the direct descendant of the Council, there was a period of [[AfterTheEnd utter and complete collapse of interstellar civilization]] in between... plus the Federation's ''direct'' predecessor was the Earth [[TheEmpire Empire]], which at its height was [[AllThereInTheManual precisely as large as the present day Federation]].
* ''VideoGame/EveOnline'':
** The Amarr Empire has seen better days. After the catastrophic collapse of the wormhole back to Earth, they were the first civilization to re-emerge from UsefulNotes/{{the Dark Age|of Comic Books}}, re-discover space flight and conquer most of their neighbors. But after their catastrophic campaign against the mysterious Jove Empire, the Minmatar successfully seceded from the Empire, corruption became widespread, the [[VichyEarth Ammatar Mandate]] was revealed to be throughly infiltrated by the LaResistance and the Minmatar returned with a vengeance. However, Empress Sarum has managed to stop the decline, so they're not down for the count yet.
** Meanwhile, the Jove Empire has been utterly crippled by a DespairEventHorizon-causing [[LegoGenetics genetic]] disease, preventing them from taking any overt role in galaxy-wide politics.
** Player alliances, such as Band Of Brothers, that were at one point in control of vast tracts of the map, but due to internal issues, wars, etc, were eventually crushed to nothing.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' has several, as befitting a post-apocalyptic franchise:
** A recurring villain throughout the series is [[EagleLand The]] [[ANaziByAnyOtherName En]][[DividedStatesOfAmerica cl]][[TheEmpire ave]], who consider themselves the sole and true heirs to the [[DividedStatesOfAmerica United States of]] [[CrapsackWorld America]], despite only hanging on to [[SecretGovernmentWarehouse Navarro]] and the Oil Rig in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 2}}'' (which they lost), Raven Rock in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}'' (which they lost), Mid-West holdings like Chicago ([[RuleOfThree which they've]] [[SubvertedTrope NOT lost]], [[SequelHook yet]]). Once feared for their [[PuttingOnTheReich Power]] [[PowerArmor Armor]], air force, and other pre-War technology, by ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'' only a handful of aging Enclave survivors live in the Mojave region, most of whom who are on the run and hiding from the New California Republic after the events of ''Fallout 2''.
** Another recurring faction has been hit with this as well. In the original ''VideoGame/{{Fallout|1}}'', the technology-hoarding Brotherhood of Steel used their PoweredArmor and advanced weaponry to dominate the wasteland. But a hundred and twenty years later, by the time of ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'', [[ApocalypseNot the world has rebuilt itself]] enough that even raiders have access to laser weapons, and the Brotherhood simply doesn't have the numbers to fight the NCR over things like old solar power plants. As a result, most of their chapters out west have either been wiped out or are holed up in hidden fortresses, stagnating and slowly dying out. The [[VideoGame/Fallout3 East Coast Brotherhood of Steel]], on the other hand, is thriving thanks to its more open recruitment system (and lack of any major competition), and has not only become the feudal overlords of the Capital Wasteland, but is beginning to expand into the Boston Commonwealth. In ''VideoGame/Fallout4'' the player can join them and help them secure control of the Commonwealth, or deal the Brotherhood a crushing blow from which they may not be able to recover.
** Caesar's Legion in ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'' is an aggressive, militaristic RisingEmpire with the manpower and the stones to take on [[TheFederation the New California Republic]]. However, you can set them up for this trope by assassinating [[BigBad Caesar]] and rallying other factions like the Boomers, the Brotherhood of Steel, and even the Enclave Remnants to aid the NCR in [[BigDamPlot a key battle at Hoover Dam]]. You can defeat Caesar's most dangerous general, [[TheDragon Lanius]], at the end of the battle, but even if you instead talk him into retreating, it's hinted that Lanius won't be able to hold the Legion together for much longer.
* The [[TheKingdom Dollet Dukedom]] in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'', analogous to the RealLife [[VestigialEmpire Post-WWI Imperialist states]]. Attacked towards the beginning of the game by its former territory, [[TheEmpire Galbadia]], itself similar to the RealLife Third Reich.
* San d'Oria from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXI'' was the game's original Vestigial Empire, wracked with internal strife but still fairly powerful. It now shares its former power among two other nations. Overshadowed by the Aht Urhgan empire, which fits this trope to a T. Political intrigue, encroaching hordes, you name it.
* The Lilty Empire from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyCrystalChronicles'' once almost conquered the world, but eventually ran out of materials and shrank down to its Capital City. It seems to lack the political complexities, [[spoiler:though their princess ''did'' run off after being cooped up in the castle...]]
* The empire of King Rhobar II in the ''VideoGame/{{Gothic}}'' series is going down the toilet in the first game, near collapse in the second game, and pretty much ceases to exist as a political entity in the third and the add-on, though most of the people and geography are intact.
* The human race in ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'' has gone from ruling the entirety of the known world to barely holding onto one city and a small swathe of territory around it over the course of 250 years.
* ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'': After the onset of [[CivilWar the Great Schism]] in ''VideoGame/Halo2'', [[TheEmpire the Covenant]] breaks apart into hundreds of warring factions. As an ex-Covenant mercenary notes in ''ComicBook/HaloEscalation'':
-->'''Zef 'Trahl:''' What does it mean to be 'Covenant' today? A hundred warlords claim they rule the Covenant, but each of them leads only a small faction.
** In particular, the term '[[TheRemnant Covenant remnant]]' is used to describe the various militant groups carrying the banner of the old Covenant who continue to war against both the UNSC and its newfound ex-Covenant allies. Jul 'Mdama's organization, which is encountered in ''VideoGame/{{Halo 4}}'' and ''VideoGame/Halo5Guardians'', is the most prominent of these remnants.
** We actually get a firsthand look at how the Covenant turned into this trope. We're shown that its government was an inbred DeadlyDecadentCourt, with command of the military split between various rival Ministries who spent as much time sabotaging each other as they did actually fighting their common enemies, and that the Covenant's dogmatic and hierarchical caste-based society resulted in a fairly stagnant culture and mutual distrust/distaste/hatred between their constituent species; decades before the Covenant's war with humanity began, the massive [[SlaveRevolt Unggoy Rebellion]] had sent them into their 23rd aptly named 'Age of Doubt'. All this led to boiling tensions between the two most militarily-important constituent species (the [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Elites]] and [[KillerSpaceMonkey Brutes]]) and rising doubts about the validity of the Covenant's religion and leadership, which led to the Prophet of Truth attempting genocide on the Elites and triggering the very Great Schism that shattered the Covenant once and for all. Additionally, the Covenant's religiously-induced CreativeSterility allowed the UNSC to steadily narrow the technological gap during the war, putting the latter to be in a surprisingly good position to become a RisingEmpire after the Covenant collapses.
* ''VideoGame/{{Homeworld}}'':
** The Taiidan Empire was a [[TheEmpire full-blown one]] in the times of the first game, but by the beginning of the ''Cataclysm'' expansion it's reduced to the Taiidan Republic and a bunch of splinter bandit kingdoms, strong enough to launch an occasional raid against Hiigara, but by no mean a major player on the galactic arena anymore. Similar to the aforementioned Centauri, the kingdoms are mightily frustrated with such a state of affairs and seize a reckless opportunity by striking an unholy deal with a monstrous sentient virus designated as "the Beast". [[EvilIsNotAToy It doesn't work out for them.]]
** In ''Homeworld 2'', the Taiidani remnant makes up a part of the Vaygr armada, poised to finally destroy Hiigara.
** The Hiigarans themselves can, possibly, be considered one, given that the old Hiigaran Empire was highly expansionist and was responsible for pissing off the Taiidani in the first place.
* In the first ''VideoGame/ImperiumGalactica'' game, the PlayerCharacter is tasked with restoring the once-great [[TheEmpire Galactic Empire]]. In the game, you have to fight off several powerful alien races as well as many splinter human factions. OlderIsBetter is also invoked once you reach the rank of Admiral. You are given the last of the ''Leviathan''-class flagships (you can't build more of them) built during the heyday of the Empire, which outclasses any other flagship.
** If the sequel is believed to take place in the same continuity, then the Empire is long gone by that point, having been replaced by the [[HumansByAnyOtherName Solarian]] [[TheFederation Federation]]. One of the subplots is a mad Emperor who had himself put into [[HumanPopsicle cryosleep]] to wait for the time when he is needed again. The [[ProudMerchantRace Shinari Republic]] is trying to find and revive him to plunge the galaxy into a WarForFunAndProfit. Oh, and many of the minor races in the game are actually [[LostColony Lost Colonies]] of genetically-modified humans, which also fits the trope to an extent.
* In ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'', the player eventually comes across Rakata Prime, which is all that remains of the once galaxy-spanning, trillions-enslaving Infinite Empire.
* There are hints that Ikana from ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask'' may be like this.
* The [[TheFederation Holy Celestine Empire]] in ''{{VideoGame/Lusternia}}'' used to encompass the entire Basin of Life, until the outbreak of [[TheCorruption The Taint]] - which they were [[GoneHorriblyWrong partially responsible]] for - changed the entire political landscape and created a rival in [[TheUndead Magnagora]]. Celest is now only a single city, [[TheAtoner striving to wipe out Magnagora and the Taint]].
* ''Franchise/MassEffect''
** According to the EncyclopediaExposita, the ''Batarian Hegemony'' fits this trope perfectly. Balak even laments it in the ''Bring Down the Sky'' DLC, when he embarks on a passionate, long-winded rant to Commander Shepard. Balak blames Humanity and the Systems Alliance for the abysmal state of his people and uses his arguments as justification for slamming the asteroid X57 into a planet colonized by humans under Alliance control.
*** It's even worse off in the third game. The Reapers began their invasion of the galaxy in Hegemony space, and the batarians got smashed so hard they didn't even know what hit them. [[spoiler:They'd been secretly studying a derelict Reaper that had been captured decades earlier, all to gain a technological edge to fight the human Systems Alliance. In the process, all of their best scientists and most of the leadership were indoctrinated and opened the door wide open to the Reapers.]] If he was spared in the above DLC, by the time Shepard meets up with Balak again, he is actually the highest ranking batarian military official left.
** The Reapers in ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'' threatened to turn a lot of the galaxy's civilizations into one. [[spoiler:Ironically, the Protheans' chosen successors, the asari, most closely fit the bill after the fall of their homeworld Thessia.]]
* The Empire of ''VideoGame/{{Naev}}'' was decaying even ''before'' the Incident that destroyed Earth and most of the core worlds of the Empire, and even if it ironically solved an immediate and major threat to the Empire the Empire is still on an overall downward course.
* ''VideoGame/PillarsOfEternity'' has one or two known, depending on how you see it. The clearer example is the Aedyr Empire, which is still a powerful force but has contracted in the last two centuries, losing control of its transoceanic colonies in Dyrwood (where the game takes place) and Readceras. The other, more questionable example is Old Vailia, which not only has lost control of the old colonies of the Grand Empire of Vailia, but has also itself splintered into states that has engaged in a struggle for dominance for the last two centuries or so.
* ''Videogame/{{Ravenmark}}: Mercenaries'' starts with the once-great [[TheEmpire Empire of Estellion]] barely holding its own against its former ally the [[TheKingdom Commonwealth of Esotre]] and the newly-arisen Varishah Federation. The territory making up the Federation are made up of provinces rebelling from the Empire. The Twin Cities, the cultural and economic core of Estellion, have seceded and resist any attempts to take them.
* The Vasari in ''VideoGame/SinsOfASolarEmpire'' once ruled a massive empire, but it was destroyed by... something. The Vasari in the game are the refugees from a single colony.
* The Romulan Star Empire under Empress Sela and the Tal Shiar's Colonel Hakeev starts out as this in ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'', having mostly coalesced together after Hobus destroyed Romulus but with the leading factions on the brink of falling out, their methods leading to increasing dissent and outright rebellion, and more than a few colonies still independently neutral or even leaning towards joining the Federation. Then a coalition of dissident factions sets up a rival government, the Romulan Republic, which rapidly gains support from various Romulan colonies as well as both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The ensuing events are ''not'' kind to the Empire, and by the last time they're heard of, the best they manage to gather as an escort for their empress is a refitted freighter and a single mid-size warship (the Tal Shiar, having officially gone rogue, have more warships, but what's left of them are also in conflict with pretty much ''everyone'' and got fair bits of its leadership killed ''twice'' over the course of the game).
* In ''VideoGame/{{Stellaris}}'' Fallen Empires are the remnants of {{Precursors}} who drew back to small isolationist enclaves. They're still powerful though, in one early multiplayer game every other faction in the galaxy ganged up on a Fallen Empire and the Fallen still managed to win. In later updates, Fallen Empires can actually [[BackFromTheBrink "reawaken"]] and start throwing their weight around and in the ''Leviathans'' DLC, actually fight each other (an event known as "[[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast War In Heaven]]").
** "Modern" Empires can break apart if not managed properly. Mismanaging factions could lead to several break away states forming from your territory, and wars that uses the Liberation War Goal would essentially push the victor's government ethics onto the worlds named under this goal, essentially creating a new nation from parts (or successor state, if you could do this to enough of the empire) that was friendly to the victor and much more willing to become it's vassal than the parent empire.
* In its heyday, the Holy Ryuvian Empire of ''VisualNovel/{{Sunrider}}'' ruled the galaxy for thousands of years and [[ClarkesThirdLaw wielded technologies so advanced that they were practically magic]], to the point that its emperors were worshipped as gods by the masses. By the present day, much of this technology has been lost and its territory has shrunk to a single backwater planet in the Neutral Rim.
* In ''VisualNovel/TearsToTiara'' and its sequel ''VideoGame/TearsToTiara2'', TheEmpire, modelled after AncientRome, has been in decline ever since it changed its name to [[TheTheocracy The Holy Empire]].
* Both the ARM and the CORE in ''VideoGame/TotalAnnihilation'' start their campaigns from their home worlds, having lost their galaxy-spanning empires over the last four thousand years of non-stop war. All that's left are the armies squabbling over the ruins of a galaxy. (According to the intro and manual, that is. The core at least is implied to still have digital copies of many of it's civilians.) Notably, the expansion packs make it clear that after the war finally ended, the ARM managed to build itself up into a wonderful period of reconstruction. The most important elements for their war efforts, the Commanders and Gates, are LostTechnology that they can't build anymore.
* From the ''VideoGame/TotalWar'' series:
** This is almost an {{enforced| trope}} in ''Videogame/MedievalIITotalWar''. The ByzantineEmpire is a playable faction that starts off with a very well-developed capital and a powerful army list, but said capital is surrounded by the rising powers of Hungary, Venice, Novgorod, and the Turks, and its army cannot keep pace with the other factions' advances in the endgame. It's possible to avert UsefulNotes/TheFallOfConstantinople, but doing so is usually a RaceAgainstTime.
*** Historically-minded {{game mod}}s like ''Stainless Steel'' take this even further. In a Late Start (1220 AD) campaign, the Byzantines' holdings are scattered across western Greece and Anatolia, while their capital and Greek heartland are held by Crusader forces. Then there's the 1450 AD scenario seen in ''FanFic/IAmSkantarios'', in which the Byzantines have nothing but Constantinople, a fortress at Corinth, and a horde of Turks knocking at the door.
** There are quite a few examples in ''VideoGame/EmpireTotalWar''. The Mughals, who are the last spiritual remnant of the Mongol dynasty and have dominated the entire Indian subcontinent for centuries, are in a ''really'' bad way by the game's start in 1700. Their armies are hilariously outdated and very small, and their leadership is [[TheCaligula less-than-awe inspiring to say the least]]. They exist pretty much to get subjected to a series of {{Curb Stomp Battle}}s by the Marathas and/or the British. Portugal, which was TheDreaded back in ''Medieval II'' for its mighty armies bristling with cannons and matchlocks, is now a minor power with some small colonies but really not much clout, and Venice has been reduced to... well, [[LandOfOneCity Venice]]. The worst case, though, is the [[UsefulNotes/TheKnightsHospitallers Knights of St. John]], who now control the island of Malta and pretty much just take out the occasional Barbary warship.
** In ''VideoGame/TotalWarAttila'', the Western and Eastern halves of the Roman Empire play with the trope. ''Territorially and militarily'', these are still the two mightiest powers in the world, and the Roman Empire still stretches from Britain to Egypt. However, Western Rome is a completely ungovernable mess on the verge of collapse, without enough military power to protect its own borders from the invading barbarian hordes, with Britain and Gaul on the edge of rebellion, and for the cherry on top, they're slowly losing the basic technology required to build their aqueducts and baths. Eastern Rome is not that much better-off; their land is smaller and richer, and their system is slightly less corrupt, but they're still staring down barbarian raiders and the fury of the Huns without enough legions to maintain their borders, and on their eastern border is the [[RisingEmpire Sassanid Empire]].
* The Dual Solar Empire from ''VideoGame/UrbanGalaxy'' once had a monopoly over their most valuable resource, Carble, until the emperor's death. Then all of the corporations grabbed their rights over the resource, and a recession crippled the empire.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}}'' universe is full of these.
** In antiquity, the troll empires controlled most of the world until the night elves drove them back. The Sundering and conflicts with humans, high elves, and their own people eventually reduced them to borderline barbarism. Attempts by Zul'jin and the Zandalari have been made to convert them into TheRemnant.
** The Aqir created an underground empire that nearly crushed the troll empires until they united. The mantids, qiraji, and nerubians are their scattered colonies, each of which forged its own empire.
** The night elves dominated much of old Kalimdor until the War of the Ancients, and the subsequent [[WorldSundering Sundering]].
** Many of the human Seven Kingdoms. The Empire of Arathor played this trope straight, while the Kingdoms of [[FaceHeelTurn Alterac]] and [[ZombieApocalypse Lordaeron]] went a step or two further than this trope. The Kingdom of Azeroth (later [[{{Retcon}} renamed]] Stormwind) played it straight in ''VideoGame/WarcraftOrcsAndHumans'', only to invert it in the period between Tides of Darkness and Reign of Chaos, when it was rebuilt.
** The nerubians who are not part of the Scourge are about as vestigial as you can get: [[http://www.wowpedia.org/Kilix_the_Unraveler Kilix the Unraveler]] and his two guards are the only non-undead nerubians present in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft''. He speaks of rebuilding the old Nerubian empire (with the PlayerCharacters helpfully clearing out key Scourged Nerubian strongholds), meaning he either speaks for a significant number of well-hidden Nerubian refugees who never appear in the game, or is simply deluded about his prospects.
*** Updates to the instances now show him working alongside a number of other Nerubians, indicating there remain others.
** The Arakkoa are descendants of the Apexis civilization, which once controlled an empire rivaling the Ogres. Conflict with the Ogres and other races eventually drove them out of their surface settlements to dwell on inaccessible mountain peaks, ending their dominance.
** The Ogre Gorain Empire ruled the majority of Draenor at one point, dominating the other races through their massive physical strength and brute force magic more than political savvy. Their holdings have shrunk over time, especially after the arrival of the Draenei. The rise of the Horde is the effective end of their dominance on Draenor.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* WordOfGod says that the Empire of Smilodons in the ''Basalt City Chronicles'' once ruled western coasts of ''both'' Americas, and even the North-Eastern coast of Asia, but is now relegated to a few islands off Alaska.
* ''Roleplay/CaptoIugulum'':
** The United States of America that (re-)coalesces after the collapse of the Scottist regime has lost almost half its territory. However, it remains an international presence, and in the 1930s launches a bid to regain what it has lost.
** Spain in 1900 was a world power with perhaps the greatest colonial empire on Earth. A large portion of it was lost in the Great War, then the disastrous civil war following it, and after losing a war with newly unified Germany in the 1920s, even parts of mainland Spain (the Basque Country, Catalunya, Galicia) gain independence.
** Kongo. The country itself (the former Scandinavian colonies in Africa) is where the Scandinavian Emperor fled to after the Proletarists took power back home, making it a vestigial empire of Scandinavia. Then, in the 1920s, first Abyssinia, then the entire rest of East Africa broke away in a somewhat messy collapse, leaving Kongo as the Vestigial Empire of a Vestigial Empire.
* Several in the ''Literature/ChaosTimeline,'' most notably the remaining British royal family. They flee to New Albion (New Zealand) after Britain turns republican and eventually socialist. A civil war over throne succession issues eventually rocks the country in the 1960s and effectively splits it in two, the South Island standing behind the resident CloudCuckooLander and the North Island standing behind a certain Elizabeth. Talk about the British royal family being the ButtMonkey of this timeline.
* Subverted in ''Literature/DecadesOfDarkness''. The Restored Empire, a loose union of former British colonies led by Australia after the fall of Britain itself, appears to advertise its empire-in-exile status in the title, but is actually the free-est, most vibrant, and nicest place in the southern hemisphere and possibly the world as of the timeline's end. At least for English-speaking people.
* In ''Roleplay/TheGamersAlliance'', the Yamato Empire becomes a mere [[TheRemnant shadow]] of its former self after the demons conquer it and enslave its populace in the aftermath of the Cataclysm. Four demon duchies now rule the lands of the former empire, but some Yamatian rebels still fight a guerrilla war against their new demon overlords in hopes of driving them away and restoring their homeland to its former glory.
* Taken to the extreme in ''WebVideo/HitlerRants,'' in which Nazi Germany consists entirely of a single bunker located in Berlin, not helped by the fact that members of Hitler's staff actively plot antics against him, not to mention the ''entire navy'' (which also consists of two U-Boat crews and one drunken Captain, all of whom also support antics). This also seems to be more or less the case for Gaddafi, though it is averted by Stalin and the Soviet Union, which is still extremely powerful.
* In the world of ''Literature/MotherOfLearning'', [[https://www.fictionpress.com/s/2961893/7/Mother-of-Learning some politicians insist that The Alliance of Eldemar still exists]] ... [[MetaphoricallyTrue it's just shrunk.]]
* Yaman in ''Roleplay/OpenBlue'' is suffering from decades of decadence and corruption, and can only prioritize maintaining its outward appearance. Avelia, one of the two dominant empires of TheVerse, is slowly following in Yaman's footsteps.
* ''WebOriginal/OrionsArm'': The Terran Confederacy is as similar to the [[PlanetTerra Terran]] Federation as the Holy Roman Empire was to the Roman Empire.

* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' shows us Chin Village. Three-hundred years before the series, the Earth Kingdom (except for the capitol Ba Sing Se) was grabbed under the boot heel of [[TheNapoleon Chin the Conqueror]]. When he died, his empire imploded, leaving only the teeny-tiny Chin Village.
--> "We used to be a great society! And ''now'' look at us!"

[[folder:Real Life]]
!!!Examples in this section are listed in (mostly) chronological order:
* OlderThanDirt: AncientEgypt provides two examples.
** The First Intermediate Period (2181-2055 BCE) counts as a highly restricted example. After the collapse of the Old Kingdom, the regional lords--previously the Pharaoh's governors[[note]]In older books, these governors are often called "nomarchs," as the provinces were called ''nomes''. However, this is based on Greek usage, which is understandable, as the Egyptian language was unknown to Western scholars until well into the 19th century (even after Champollion deciphered the Rosetta stone, the Ancient Egyptian language took decades to more-or-less-fully figure out--more or less, because there are ''still'' arguments, made more complicated by the fact that Ancient Egypt existed for ''three thousand-plus years'' and so changed a lot). On the other hand, the Greeks, with their [[ForeignCultureFetish collective hard-on for all things Egyptian]], had written down everything they could find out about Egypt in a language Western scholars could understand but translated the terminology.[[/note]]--took complete control of the country, but for the first part of it (the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties) there was still a Pharaoh at Memphis. However, his power was completely nominal; at best, he might have had a religious role outside his relatively small domain around the once-great capital. (Records of the period are very sketchy, seeing as it was frickin' ''four thousand years ago''--it was ancient history ''to the Ancient Greeks''.) Eventually, the Memphite pharaohs collapsed, and the lords of Heraclitopolis in Lower Egypt (the Nile Delta in the north) and Thebes in Upper Egypt proclaimed themselves Pharaohs and fought for quite some time before the Theban Eleventh Dynasty conquered Lower Egypt and established the Middle Kingdom.
** Egypt during the Twentieth Dynasty and 3rd Intermediate Period. The country was united for most of this time, but it lost control of its empire in the Levant to various independent kingdoms ([[Literature/TheBible Israel]] being the most famous), its western territories to local raiders and Greek and Phoenician settlers, and Nubia to the Nubians, who would occasionally conquer Egypt itself for good measure. When it wasn't being ruled by Nubians--and particularly in the Twentieth Dynasty--however, Egypt was very much an ex-empire in splendid isolation, cut off from the affairs of the outside world.
* [[UsefulNotes/DynastiesFromShangToQing The Eastern Zhou Dynasty]] ended up like this. After the capital was moved, the central government gradually collapsed, as regional lords began to assert their independence from the Zhou monarch and his officials. This decay started at the edges, but within two hundred years, the king had lost all his authority outside his relatively small personal domain.
** The entire history of China has been zigzagging this, alternating between world-spanning empires and domestic collapses. See below for more details.
* Iran's history is interesting. Achaemenid Persia was once a world-spanning empire, encompassing most of the civilized world and featured in the annals of most others. Alexander knocked it out while they were still at their peak. After a while under the Seleucid Greeks, the Parthians established an Iranian empire that while it was constantly at pains to maintain its western border against the Greeks and later the Romans, managed to establish a firm hold on Central Asia and the Persian Gulf that the Achaemenids never managed; this is even truer of the Sassanids, who very nearly rebuilt the empire as it was in the time of Darius under Khosrau II, when the tide of the war turned in favor of Byzantium...just as the Muslim Arabs knocked the whole empire out in one fell swoop. After that, Persia would spend a lot of time being either a province of someone else's empire (the Caliphate, the Mongols, and ''an ever-rotating cast of Turks'') or divided among squabbling warlords (often Turks); there would be one more great Persian empire (the Safavids), with subsequent dynasties leaving something distinctly to be desired.
* Alexander the Great's empire stretched from Greece and the Balkans to modern day Iran and Afghanistan. It started with him and barely outlived him, but it left behind quite a few successor states in Egypt, Persia, Greece and as far as India. Although influenced by the native cultures they ruled over, these kingdoms retained a strong Greek culture and a reverence for Alexander and his dynasty.
** Many of the aforementioned kingdoms became this themselves, notably the Ptolemaic empire (who went from ruling practically half of the Eastern Mediterranean to barely maintaining a hold on Egypt) and especially the Seleucids (who ended their dynasty as the ruler of a handful of cities in Syria taking orders from the Romans).
* The Western Roman Empire and its ever-decreasing territory during the 5th century is a rather good example. By 395, its last partition with the Eastern Roman Empire, the West included Britannia (Wales, England), Gallia (Gaul: France and certain areas of the Low Countries), Hispania (Spain, Portugal), Italia (Italy), Dalmatia (Croatia), Mauretania Tingitana (Morocco), Mauritania Caesariensis (western Algeria), and Africa province (eastern Algeria, Tunisia, Libya). Imperial troops left Britannia between 407 and 410, leaving the Romano-British to fend for themselves against invasions. Gallia and Hispania were increasingly settled by Germanic populations from c. 412 onwards. While often allied or even subordinate to the Romans, they set up regional kingdoms and eventually become fully independent. The last Roman governor in Gaul, Syagrius, fell to the Franks in 487. Most of the North African areas fell to the Vandals between 429 and 439. The Vandals use their new ports to replace the Romans as the chief naval power of the Mediterranean Sea. Italia fell to its own Germanic mercenaries in 476. Dalmatia followed it in 480. By the end of the century what was left of Roman rule in the west was an independent but isolated Mauretania Tingitana. Eventually Belisarius took it back for the East, but then the Arabs [[OhCrap came along]]...
* The so-called UsefulNotes/ByzantineEmpire, the Roman Empire's eastern half, centred around Constantinople/Byzantion, lingered for just under a thousand years after the better known fall of the western half. It spent most of that time gradually losing territory, power and influence, though it also had several resurgences -- one under Justinian and Belisarius, one under the Macedonian dynasty, and one under the Komnenoi emperors. It spent the last century or so of its existence as a few disconnected regions and cities around the southern Balkans, until the Ottoman Turks put it out of its misery in 1453; technically, though most forget it, the last vestiges of Roman power were not Byzantium, but the small Empire of Trebizond, which did not fall until 1461, and the Despotate of Epirus, which survived until 1479. And then you had the fact that as soon as Constantinople fell, Ivan III of Russia immediately emphasised Moscow's position as 'the Third Rome' (Constantinople having been second), something helped by the fact that his wife was the niece of the last Byzantine Emperor, and then he and his successors spent the next 460 years trying to get hold of Constantinople (and on occasion, coming very close to succeeding) until the Russian Revolution of 1917. This example is probably closer to fictional portrayals than most others on this list, in that for a long time Constantinople's wealth and glory lingered (and both were often used, along with a ruthless grasp of ''realpolitik'' to either court new allies or divide and conquer), even if they could never recover the direct political or military power of the old empire. In fact Basil II 'the Bulgar Slayer', who ruled in the late 10th and early 11th century, is believed by some estimates to have been worth almost 170 ''billion'' in modern US dollars, placing him among the top ten richest men to have ever lived. That last century or two, however, it was simply a shadow of its former self, barely holding on - though some scholars have argued that if they'd played their cards a little better in dealing with the Ottomans, they might well have succeeded in resurrecting themselves again.
* The Byzantine Empire was the VestigialEmpire of UsefulNotes/TheRomanEmpire making this perhaps the most spectacular example in history. And then the VestigialEmpire retreated to ANOTHER Vestigial Empire in the form of the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_of_Nicaea Empire of Nicaea]] (1204-1261), which was formed by refugees of the Imperial court and aristocracy after Crusaders occupied Constantinople. It managed to reconquer its old capital after more than half a century. The restored empire then had [[SerialEscalation yet another vestigial empire]] in Trebizond, above.
** Bear in mind that it's hard to call Byzantine decline terminal before the Sack of Constantinople in 1204, since all empires fluctuate in power to some extent, especially on their frontiers. Indeed, it has been argued that were it not for the unexpected rise of the Ottomans to power following the collapse of the Seljuk Empire, the Byzantines might once again have played their usual game of divide and conquer and come back from the brink once more. They were kind of good at it.
* Brunei once had an empire throughout most of the Borneo Island and other islands, like parts of the Phillipines, as well. It is now a small enclave of Malaysia in Borneo. Made more jarring because Borneo is [[ArtifactTitle named as such because of Brunei]]. The nation's substantial oil wealth helps cushion the blow, though.
* The 12th century Fatimids and post-11th century Abbasids are also good examples of this trope. The former went from a vast empire that spanned from northern Morocco to Syria to a rump state that was restricted to Egypt in about a century, while the latter went from dominating most of the Muslim world during the late 9th century to a remnant that had no real power outside central and southern Mesopotamia in about two centuries.
** The Caliphates in general. The Rashidun Caliphate expanded from the city of Mecca to swallow up all of Arabia, North Africa, the Middle-East and Persia, before it was internally dismantled by the Umayyads. The Umayyad Caliphate was one of the largest contiguous empires in history, spanning from Persia to Spain. It was then overthrown by the aforementioned Abbasid dynasty, and the Umayyad dynasty fled to Spain and established a new Caliphate at Cordoba, which later disintegrated into warring factions which were all annexed by Portugal and the Spanish kingdoms following the Reconquista.
* The Mongol Empire. It used to be one of the largest empires ever, conquering many well developed societies under it, till it stretched all across Asia, from the Caspian to China. Now, its back at former position as a swath of desert, and a bunch of nomads. It has the lowest population density (people per square mile) in the world. And it was the largest empire ever up till its time by far, and no empire since--[[UsefulNotes/TheBritishEmpire save one]]--has ever matched it.
** This is also one of the quicker examples of this trope happening; UsefulNotes/GenghisKhan's empire barely lasted 12 years after his death. Upon the death of Ögedei Khan without a clear heir, a massive SuccessionCrisis split the empire into a succession of khanates (and the [[UsefulNotes/DynastiesFromShangToQing Yuan dynasty]]) that increasingly went native. The last khanates (which at that point were mainly Turkic) fell to [[UsefulNotes/TsaristRussia Russia]] in the mid-19th century.
* The Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee (The Longhouse Builders), a league of nations formed somewhere between 1450 and 1600, whose last remnants were swept up in the United States and Canada in the 20th century. [[note]]A few historians even argue for dates as early as 1142 based on astronomical details in oral tradition, though this is not widely accepted. The earliest records of them acting as a state with regards to European powers dates to 1643.[[/note]] Early on, the leadership of each of the six nations was determined by the highest-ranking woman within the hereditary lineage in consultation with other (primarily female) tribal members. Later on they became a loose democracy, with popularly elected tribal representation on the governing committee and widely distributed local decision-making, where decisions were arrived at by consensus of local men and women. They reached their height in the late 1600s, when they controlled most of the region east and south of the Great Lakes, though most of their claimed territory was sparsely settled at best, and contained more French colonists than Iroquois (which lead to a war when the Iroquois "ceded" much of this land to the British in 1701). The [[UsefulNotes/TheAmericanRevolution American Revolution]] split the Iroquois - four of the six nations sided with the British, while two sided with the colonists. After the war, the British ceded Iroquois land to the US without consulting the locals, resulting in many Iroquois hostile to the colonists fleeing to Canada, and the remaining land in the United States being very sparsely populated. Eventually, the Iroquois were limited to limited reservation lands in the US and Canada. In the 20th century the Iroquois formally became part of the United States and Canada and gained citizenship the respective countries; while they retained nominal sovereignty over limited reservation land, the Iroquois are subject to most national laws and are now considered to be part of those countries rather than independent states.
* The UsefulNotes/SengokuJidai came about due to the decline of the Ashikaga Shogunate. In this case, the decline of the Shogunate's power was not a result of Japan as a whole weakening, but of the growth of trade and wealth in the peripheral regions of Japan, and the resulting growth of power in the hands of local daimyo at the expense of the central administration. Eventually, things boiled over to the point where the capital at Kyoto itself became a battleground for warring daimyo, and this kicked off over a century of strife before UsefulNotes/OdaNobunaga put the Ashikaga out of their misery. It took a few more decades of war before UsefulNotes/ToyotomiHideyoshi put Japan back together, though he could not prevent his death from causing a SuccessionCrisis.
* The Mughal Empire, before the [[MegaCorp British East India Company]] put it out of its misery in 1858. The Mughals are the most recent example, but India is scattered with ruins of long-dead empires, like the Gupta Empire, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Maratha Empire.
** To detail on the (chronologically) last part: the Mughal Empire started out as the remnant of an empire rising up from the ashes of the Mongol Empire (thus being the ''vestigial empire of a vestigial empire''), until they overran the Delhi Sultanate and replaced it. From there, they expanded and took over most of India, taking advantage of the Vijayanagara Empire, its only possible rival, entering the state of Vestigial Empire after a fluke defeat against the Deccan Sultanates, until the rise of the Maratha Empire made their authority nominal.\\
From then on, Mughal authority was mostly nominal, with the real power residing in the hereditary governors of the Mughal territories, formally vassal kings and the [[MegaCorp various East India companies of the European nations]] (among which the British one was the one who ended up triumphing), with the Maratha themselves becoming a Vestigial Empire and a confederation formed by five mostly independent kingdoms (that would end up being absorbed by the Madras Presidency of the British East India Company), until emperor Bahadur Shah II, partly hoping to restore actual Mughal power, supported the Mutiny of 1857 (started as a mutiny in the Bengal Army of the Company's army due [[ExecutiveMeddling the Company supporting religious and secular offences to the local culture and land grabbings]] and [[IgnoredExpert ignoring the European officers' and noncoms warnings that the troops were getting enraged]], and then becoming a full-blown war against multiple Indian states) and was proclaimed Emperor of India. When the British won, the second thing the Raj that replaced the Company rule did was to depose him (the first being eliminating the causes of the rebellion), with UsefulNotes/QueenVictoria being proclaimed Empress of India a few years later.
* 19th and 20th century Spain fits this trope to a tee: losing its empire and all pretensions of world power status, sinking into a deep economic decline, dominated by an over-powerful nobility, racked by constant political instability, coups, and the occasional civil war. Attempts to lord over its former South American colonies led Spain to get its ass kicked by them in UsefulNotes/TheChinchaIslandsWar. Lingering imperial delusions and hubris were finally shattered in 1898, when they were quickly and brutally defeated in the UsefulNotes/SpanishAmericanWar (mind you, the American armed forces were viewed as a joke in 1898, making this especially humiliating), but not much changed after that.
** Spain annexed Spanish Morocco (mostly present-day Western Sahara and coastal territory around Tangier) in 1912, hoping to recover their international prestige. Instead they almost immediately fell afoul of hostile Riffian tribes. From 1921 to 1926 they fought a bloody guerilla conflict with Abd el-Krim's forces, winning only after France intervened. This sliver of mountainous desert remained Spain's marginal claim to world power status until 1956.
* Portugal, similarly. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]], albeit symbolically, in its national anthem. Translated: "Heroes of the sea, noble people, valiant, immortal nation, ''raise, today, once again, Portugal's splendor''!".
** For some 20 years after they [[GovernmentInExile fled in fear of Napoleon]], the seat of the Portuguese monarchy and capital of the Empire was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, making Brazil a "united kingdom" (of Brazil, Portugal and the Algarves) and also making Brazil the only former colony to ever become the capital of the empire it belonged to. Later on, Brazil was one of the few colonies to gain independence peacefully. (And by "peacefully" we mean [[AMillionIsAStatistic "after about two years of irregular warfare with only a few dozen thousand battle deaths."]] That this was actually considered peaceful says something about the wars of independence in the surrounding Spanish colonies). This was why Brazil was an empire in its first half-century of independence, and probably would still be had it not been for some rich aristocrats declaring staging a coup and declaring a republic to protect their rights against the leveling Imperial family (Princess Isabel, daughter of D. Peter II, signed the Lex Aurea in 1888, outlawing slavery).
* The Ottoman Empire was so far gone by the 19th century that Russian Czar Nicholas I coined the term "sick man of Europe" to describe it, and further noted that it was "falling to pieces." Subverted when the Turks wised up and became strong again during the mid-19th and again early the 20th century...only to chose the losing side in UsefulNotes/WorldWarI and now Turkey only has Anatolia and Eastern Thrace left (and barely at that: all of Eastern Thrace and most of Anatolia were to be ceded or put under foreign influence, and were only recovered when the Turkish National Movement based in Ankara overthrew the emperor and won the War of Turkish Independence, forcing a new treaty). At least they still have Constantinople, [[IstanbulNotConstantinople now named Istanbul]]. And now there's been an insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers Party and various other assorted groups going on since the 70s. Many of these seek to create an independent country in the southeast for the oppressed Kurdish minority. Armenians are also sore over losing much of their homeland after the Soviets conquered Armenia and gave Turkey over 85% of their land, but their having any of it returned to them is rather unlikely unless Turkey is finally forced to pay them genocide reparations.
* Andorra is the last surviving remnant of the Marca Hispanica, a series of border states created by Charlemange as a buffer between the Carolingian Empire and the Moors. It is now represented by Andorra, a delightful little enclave between France and Spain, and the 191st country in the world by area, with a total land area of only 181 square miles and a population of 85,000.
* The Principality of Liechtenstein may not seem much today, but it is arguably the last remaining piece of the old UsefulNotes/HolyRomanEmpire. It probably helped that the ruling family possessed considerable land and clout to retain their power even after Napoleon signed its death warrant. And surprisingly enough, prior to UsefulNotes/WorldWarI the Principality was somewhat ''larger,'' having included properties scattered across Austria-Hungary.
** Andorra identifies itself with the Holy Roman Empire as well.
* [[UsefulNotes/TheSoundOfMartialMusic Austria under the Habsburgs]] once held hegemony over pretty much all of Central and Eastern Europe, especially during the 16th-17th Century. But by 1914, the Dual Monarchy had long become (perhaps not ''fully'' justifiably) the basis of {{Ruritania}} for much of Europe. The next decades would see the country dismembered, absorbed into Germany, and ultimately reduced to only a fraction of its former territory. Indeed, given their shared history, much of that could be said of Hungary, which after UsefulNotes/WorldWarI had to cede territory to every neighboring country; a quick look at the complete lyrics of the latter's national anthem ought to give it away.
** If you look closely as the Hungarian anthem, the ''Himnusz'', it's actually a surprisingly solemn hymn lamenting their lost achievements and calling on God Himself to pity their fallen glory.
** The Habsburg Monarchy also tended to see itself as one to the Holy Roman Empire.
* Where once Britain ruled [[UsefulNotes/TheBritishEmpire a quarter of the world]] and had a massive Blue Water fleet explicitly designed to take on the next two largest navies in the world at once and ''win'', she now maintains UsefulNotes/{{Gibraltar}}, UsefulNotes/TheFalklandIslands, some delightful rocks in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, some rather more windswept rocks in the Atlantic, and the headquarters of the Commonwealth, which is about as loose an organisation as it gets. One wonders if JMS had it in mind when writing Londo's dialogue quoted on this page. One notable legacy of the British Empire that is near-inescapable is English, the international lingua franca of business, science, technology and aviation. The UK, however, downplays this to the extent that, despite its dramatic territory loss, it still wields a disproportionate amount of influence and power. The UK is still a member of the G8, the 8 richest nations on the planet, retains its permanent seat in the UN Security Council, meaning it could theoretically (although this is highly unlikely) veto motions issued by such powers as the USA and the PRC. Through its membership of the Security Council, its position as current head of the Commonwealth and its various other ties with former colonies, British influence extends to a majority of the Anglosphere. The defeat of Argentina in UsefulNotes/TheFalklandsWar, accurately dubbed as [[IncrediblyLamePun "The Empire Strikes Back"]], went a long way to show that the UK had not lost its status as a major power, as arguably, did involvement in the Gulf War, the Iraq War and Afghanistan (though the latter two are generally taken as examples of Prime Minister Blair's hubris and Britain's reach exceeding its grasp). This is probably best shown in the high Euroscepticism and general mild jingoism in Britain - it may have lost its Empire, but significant parts of it haven't quite realised it yet. Inner London is a monument to this - all manner of grand Victorian palaces and state buildings fit for an Empire that dominated the world now inhabiting the capital of what, on a good day, vies with Russia and France for the tag of 'best of the rest' after the US and the PRC.
* The French also downplays this to a degree like the British do, and many of the same traits apply to it (UsefulNotes/{{NATO}} member, permanent seat in the UN Security Council, [[UsefulNotes/TheUltimateResistance nuclear weapons capability]], fourth-largest military and fifth-largest economy. They remain a powerful force in the world and in Europe and Western Africa in particular, both by themselves and through their influence with the EU. That, and they still have a number of larger overseas territories around. Not bad for a bunch of CheeseEatingSurrenderMonkeys.
** Unlike what is commonly believed, the expression "lingua franca" is ''not'' however a vestige of France's former power and influence. It actually means "language of the ''Franks''" (not the French), and arose as a result of the medieval Arabic use of "Franks" to denote ''any and all'' Western Europeans (or the Western Christians/Catholics, since at the time there wasn't any distinction between the two).[[note]]Eastern Christians were another story; Muslim Arabs were quite familiar with them, seeing as they tended to literally live next door, as Christian Arabs.[[/note]] Not at all surprising considering the Franks and the subsequent empire they founded under Charlemagne essentially re-established political order in a Europe that hadn't seen any since the fall of the Roman Empire, and one that would later evolve into the UsefulNotes/HolyRomanEmpire. The original Renaissance-era lingua franca (Mediterranenan Lingua Franca) consisted largely of ''Italian'', with a vocabulary that also incorporated many words and phrases from Turkish, French, Spanish, Greek, and Arabic. That said, French was the ''lingua franca'' for a long time, with the children of well-to-do families from Russia to the US being expected to speak French well into the 19th century, before English subsumed it.
* Germany, as with Britain and France, also downplays this. The German Empire until World War I was small and compact, but was highly organized and had one of the best-trained armies in Europe. After the war, Germany was forced to give up its African and Pacific territories and much of the land it had won from Russia, giving the rest to Poland. With the start of World War II, Germany captured Poland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Northern France, and much of the Western USSR in just two years, before being defeated and had many of its cities levelled. Today, Germany has a fraction of the territory it held at its height, but is highly influential and a leading member of the European Union, and though it's not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it is listened to and respected as much as Britain and France (possibly more than Britain these days) remains an economic powerhouse in Europe and the somewhat reluctant leader of the EU.
* Sweden was once a great power and its armies were the terror of Central and Eastern Europe in the 17th and early 18th century, before Carolus Rex, Charles XII,. Now, it is a small country in the corner of Europe best known for Music/{{Abba}}, [[Creator/IngmarBergman depressing]] [[Literature/TheMillenniumTrilogy fiction]], Ikea, [[WebVideo/RegularOrdinarySwedishMealTime some rather off-beat chefs]], and (admittedly) [[UsefulNotes/SwedesWithCoolPlanes a few cool planes]]. This is (again) reflected in the national anthem, which contains an affirmation of the ancient glory of Sweden and a rather hollow-sounding reassurance that [[BlatantLies "Nothing much changed since then. Really."]]
* The European Union itself is a quasi-[[TheFederation federation]] of many vestigial empires cited here: in fact, having the world's biggest GDP, the first millitary in terms of troops and the second biggest military expenditures, the world's second reserve currency, the world's third largest population a very respectable amount of soft power, and the fact that it one of the few polities to have known a significant expansion in the post WWII, the EU could very well be the first alliance of surviving Vestigial Empires turning into an HegemonicEmpire... That is, if it had a [[UnitedEurope strong central government]] which it still lacks.
* In the early twentieth-century, UsefulNotes/ImperialJapan was the dominant great power of the Pacific thanks to its rapid industrialization in the late nineteenth-century, holding its original islands, Korea, parts of Manchuria, and many islands in the Pacific (including Taiwan). It shocked the "civilised" Western nations by defeating the eastern Russian navy in 1904-5, and had plans to expand into China and Oceania during TheGreatDepression. Before it took pretty a significant portion of East Asia during World War 2 before being defeated, they also had significant influence in the area due to their powerful navy, leading interventions into China and Siberia, and annexing all of Manchuria before World War 2. Now, thanks to their defeat during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and their subsequent occupation by the UnitedStates, Japan consists almost entirely of just its original islands, and its military has been constitutionally neutered.
** Again, downplayed as well, considering that they re-emerged as an economic powerhouse - rivalling that of Germany (or depending on how you see it, and when it was, even the US) - and a major exporter of popular technolgies, particularly cars and consumer electronics (hence the catchphrase "Made in Japan", particularly in TheSeventies and TheEighties); for several decades in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries the largest car company in the world was Japan based. For a good deal of 1950-2000, it was the one of the very few First World countries that wasn't predomiantly Caucasian. While that is fading (first thanks to Asian Tigers South Korea and Taiwan, then later China), Japan is still the third or fourth biggest economy in terms of GDP[[note]]Depending on whether you count nominal terms or adjust for purchasing power parity, India may or may not be larger[[/note]], and its currency is still considered to be a major player in markets - investors relied on the the relatively stable yen during the 2008 financial crisis when the dollar and euro became unreliable. Also note that Japan, despite Article 9, [[KaijuDefenseForce still has the 5th-largest defense budget in the world and can be considered to be a potential nuclear state]] (if pushed, it could develop a nuclear weapon in a matter of months) - so far the only known reasons it isn't actually so is due to the constitution, public opinion, and holding nukes seen as redundant due to the Japan-US alliance.
* [[UsefulNotes/DynastiesFromShangToQing The Qing Empire]] was a shadow of its former self by the time of European (and later, Japanese) expansion into its territory, and [[RedChina modern China]] is noticeably smaller than it used to be. Mongolia is now independent, and Taiwan its own country to say the least (the details behind that are rather complicated and will be discussed below). In spite of going through a humiliating cultural and economic decline in the past two centuries, most of its key territories were intact and the country was still by far one of the largest and most (over) populated countries in the world. With the resurgence of Chinese economic and political power in the 21st century, it can be said that this trope applies to China no longer.
** It should also be noted that at various points of Chinese history, the empire has gained territory, lost territory, regained territory, or even split up and later reunited. Both the Warring States and Three Kingdoms periods follow after the fall of a major dynasty (the ancient Zhou and imperial Han respectively) and involved disparate successor states vying among each other for influence. They were succeeded by the Qin Dynasty (recognized as the first actual "Chinese" empire) and the Jin Dynasty respectively.
** And on top of that, apart from the Yuan dynasty which was part of the Mongolian Empire, the Qing dynasty had the largest territory in the history of China. Even with the loss noted above, the current Chinese territory is still larger than most of the territories in other dynasties.
** Now that we come to Taiwan, the actual title as a country is the ''Republic of China'', as opposed to the ''People's'' Republic of China that serves as the title for the mainland proper. Formerly a part of China itself, the territory developed its own distinct nationality when it became the refuge of the Chinese Nationalist government in 1949. For awhile, it continued to represent China and even retained its UN seat until 1971, when it was given to the PRC. As time went on and the government became more native, the claim to being the sole representative of China was de-emphasized to the point where it no longer exists in fact (theory is another question; see below). While relations with the mainland have thawed over the years, it is still uncertain at this point in time what Taiwan actually is: the remnant territory of the former Chinese government or an independent country in its own right? However it goes about it, declaring for one or the other has repercussions that would adversely affect the territory and its international relationships.
* The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At one point it was a Central European superpower, spanning from the Baltic Sea on the north to the Black Sea in the south. The Commonwealth managed to successfully invade what would later become the inpenetrable Russian Empire. ''Twice''. They managed to survive near-total Swedish invasion, while defending themselves from Hungary, the Cossacks and other neighbours ''at the same time''. They also saved Austria, and by extension, the rest of Europe, in 1683. Internal bickering, noble houses and confederations selling out to neighbouring superpowers, and general anarchy - all this led to the Commonwealth's three-stage partitions at the end of 18th century. Although Poland managed to rebuild some of its holdings after WWI, its current, post-WWII size is very, very unimpressive. Still, Poland's current borders are quite close to the way they used to be, pre-Commonwealth.
** Size-wise it's not unimpressive at all, Poland still grew bigger, just in the western direction. The post-WWI "rebuilt Polish holdings" are now Western Ukraine and Western Belarus, with the terroristic LaResistance added for free! And yet, the Poles are quick to blame the Soviets for capturing "their" territories, while preferring to forget that their new post-WWII territories were mercilessly taken from Germany by Stalin and then given to the "friendly people of Poland" by the same Stalin, with all the Germans deportated so that a new LaResistance wouldn't rise in Poland. In the end, Poland got these new, German-free lands, for a price of losing their chance to play the Empire at the expense of Ukraine and Belarus.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQTq07gihqg The country's anthem]] speaks ''volumes'' of this trope, the lyrics beginning with the phrase "Poland is not yet lost..."
** Applies more to the Lithuanian half of the Commonwealth. Before joining together with Poland, Lithuania was a vast empire stretching from the Baltic nearly to the Black Sea. Even as part of the Commonwealth, much of former Lithuanian territory was captured by the rising Russian Empire while its aristocracy largely became Polonized. It is now a tiny country on the Baltic. On the other hand, it did retake its old capital Vilnius from the Poles after UsefulNotes/WorldWarII.
* The Dutch Empire once consisted of the following: South Africa, Formosa (Currently Taiwan), Suriname, Sri Lanka and Indonesia (not including their various coastal settlements in Africa, America and Asia). The remnants of this empire are a few islands in the Caribbean and a large influences in all kinds of languages, ranging from Afrikaans, English and even Japanese.
** The Dutch Province of Friesland used to be an kingdom stretching from Belgium to Denmark and Cologne. Since the middle ages its power declined and now it's one of the least populated provinces.
* The Kievan Rus' (the original East Slavic state) used to occupy what is now Northern Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia. It was a powerful state on par with the Western kingdoms whose royalty intermarried with the West. Then the Mongols came, completely devastating the princedom. In the following centuries, the nation would never again regain the former glory, although there were several attempts, such as Galicia-Volhynia, Svitrigailo's faction in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ruthenian Cossack state (eventually annexed by the Russian Empire under UsefulNotes/CatherineTheGreat). Ukraine considers itself to be an heir to the Kievan Rus', especially since the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was originally the capital of the princedom. Interestingly, the current territory of Ukraine (the second-largest nation in Europe after Russia) is not that much smaller than that of the Kievan Rus' at the height of its power (however, only central and western Ukraine correspond to old Ruthenian core territories, while southern and eastern Ukraine was colonized much later). Military and economic power is a different story, though. It's telling that the anthem of Ukraine starts with the words "Ukraine's [glory and freedom] are not dead yet".
** Incidentally, the Grand Princes of Moscow (and later, the Tsars of Russia) were descended from a collateral line of the Kievan Rus', and they claimed to be the rightful heirs of the Roman Empire after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks by virtue of the fact that one of their rulers married a Byzantine princess. If you've been reading this list closely, you might have noticed a common theme by now.
* Yugoslavia was originally an idea by Serb nationalists to create a Serbian empire out of the dying embers of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. After UsefulNotes/WorldWarI, this was going well - Serbia was given most of the Balkan territories of the two now defunct aforementioned empires, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed. Then came UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and an Axis invasion in 1941. Two resistance movements emerged - a Serbian nationalist movement known as the Chetniks, and a left-wing front known as the Partisans led by UsefulNotes/JosipBrozTito. The Partisans won, and retained Yugoslavia as a socialist republic, but Serbia, now rather than being dominant, was one of six equal constituent republics in a federation. After Tito's death, Yugoslavia crumbled until by the late 1990s, only Serbia and Montenegro remained, continuing to call their state 'Yugoslavia' until 2003. In 2006 Montenegro seceded, and while it remains legally disputed, Kosovo has been ''de facto'' independent since 2008.
* Russia had fallen into this in the TheNineties. Under the Soviet Union, Russian influence extended from the Pacific Ocean to the Danube to the Caribbean. They were the first to send a satellite, and then the first humans, into space. In the first post-Soviet decade, its military was engaged in bloody, indecisive war in Chechnya, had to abandon its only space station and struggled to maintain influence over the other former Soviet republics and remain a major power. Subverted in the subsequent decades which saw a recovery of Russia and the return of it as a great power. How long this lasts, of course, remains to be seen as Russia's actions in Ukraine has attracted the ire of every other Western nation, leading to sanctions and international pressure.
** In some sense, Soviet Union was initially this to the Russian Empire. After defeating Napoleon, Imperial Russia dominated the stretch of territory from the English Channel in the west to the Rockies in the east, spanning most of Europe, all of Asia, and much of North America. In the hundred years afterwards, they lost influence over Central Europe, sold off Russian America, and of course fell apart completely during UsefulNotes/WorldWarI.
* At one time, UsefulNotes/{{Croatia}} was a really good example of this trope. Though not being an empire, but rather an administrative division with certain degree of autonomy within the Habsburg monarchy, the Kingdom of Croatia definitely was this in 1594, at the height of ottoman conquest of Europe. It had been reduced to but a shadow of it's former self. Fortunately it managed to pull itself from the brink due to a spectacular victory in the Battle of Sisak in which some 8.000-20.000 ottoman soldiers were either slain or drowned, whilst croats suffered a loss of mere 50 soldiers. This period also gave birth to a phrase "reliquiae reliquiarum olim inclyti regni Croatiae" ("remnants of the remnants of the once great kingdom of Croatia").
* Mexico had been a literal empire (emperor and all) for two short periods in the 19th century and for a short period of time officially governed over Central America (which would become the United Provinces of Central America, which still lives on in the flags of its former member states if nowhere else) and much of what is now the Southwest of the US. Mexico is still a big country by all accounts, but it's nowhere near "empire" big. However, in a weird inversion of this trope, the actual control of the central government is actually stronger today[[note]] If you ignore the drug war that is[[/note]] than when it nominally controlled "Alta California" And "Tejas".
* '''Belgium''' used to have an empire several times its own size when its king Leopold II managed to make what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo his personal property and Belgium later took it over as a "normal" colony. Nowadays Belgium is reduced to bickering over who gets to vote in the Brussels constituency and delicious waffles. On the other hand Belgium has mostly stopped massacring people in Africa, which is nice. In addition, Brussels serves as the headquarters for NATO and de-facto capital of the European Union.