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Resurgent Empire

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This superpower which was once on the rise went through decline after a period of time. Once controlling large swathes of territory, now it could only charitably described as a rump state with only nominal command over its former provinces that have broken away. One supposes this is how The Cycle of Empires go: expansion, followed by stabilization and finally decay. After dying such a long death, those who have stopped grieving now hope they are put out of their misery as quick as possible... But then something unexpected happens. They are Back from the Brink and rapidly regain their lost prestige and power. Or they actually do die, but someone comes along with the intent (and the means) of getting this empire back to their feet. We have something that defies the natural order of things: a Resurgent Empire

Nations seeking to restore their lost prestige and and revive themselves isn't new. As long as there has been an empire on decline and those that remember how great they used to be, this has been a motivation for both heroes and villains. On one hand, you have a protagonist who sees his nation occupied by foreigners and he wants to reassert their right to exist by preserving their customs. On the other hand, you have an Visionary Villain who inherits an empire in shambles and observes that territories that once under their rule are thriving, they believe that these lands are rightfully theirs and gives them an excuse to invade and claim their prosperity, which will serve as a stepping stone for continue their expansionist campaign. If successful enough, the empire will become more powerful than the previous one if the ruler avoided the same mistakes that led to their predecessors' decline. Of course, heroic examples will avoid bloody conquest like their Evil Counterpart to preserve the audience sympathy. What really makes this trope is the intention of reviving their lost and prestige back - the difference between a succeeding state or dynasty and this trope is that the new state sees itself as an heir whose duty is restore the Good Old Ways. As such, expect it to be called New/Neo X Empire.

In real life, this is considered part of irredentism, which refers to any political movements that seek to regain any lost territory that the movement's members feel it belongs to them. The term was coined in the 19th Century from Italia irredenta ("unredeemed Italy"), referring to Italian territories that were under Habsburg control. The reality is more complicated than that: not all irredentist movements are aspiring Resurgent Empires - many are/were functioning societies that are fine remaining the way they are without bringing some old regime back, thank you very much. That doesn't stop some people of accusing certain governments of wanting to establish a "Greater X" country. The straighter examples that resembled fiction didn't last long and some didn't really amount to anything more than a claim that never came close to reality.

Compare this trope with Vestigial Empire (when it manages to get its act together) and Rising Empire (what it aims to do it again). For an organization rather than a entire nation being revived, check Order Reborn. See also Rightful King Returns and Fighting for a Homeland.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: The Frieza Empire can be considered this. After Frieza, his officers, and hundreds of foot soldiers were slain by Goku, Vegeta, and Trunks, the organization fell into disrepair for over fifteen years. It became even more run down after Frieza was revived and killed a second time and his remaining soldiers were wiped out. It's only after the Tournament of Power does it get back on its feet, though it does not have anywhere near as big of a fighting force as it did before.

     Fan Works 
  • Earth's Alien History: Following the Reaper War, Marshal Daena T'Drak seeks to reverse the Asari Republics' cultural stagnation and decline in importance on the galactic stage, by means of seizing power from the Matriarchs and reforging the Republics into the Asari Empire, with her as the first Empress. She then takes steps to build up the economy and military, joining the Romulan-led Pact of the Raptor and quickly making the Asari one of the bloc's most prominent members.

  • Man of Steel: General Zod intends to revive Krypton and bring it's glory back at Earth's expense by transforming it into a new Krypton.
  • Star Wars: The First Order is the successor state of the Galactic Empire ruled by Palpatine, which fell in disarray following his death and reorganized itself while hiding in the Unknown Regions. In The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine is revealed to have survived and vows to restore his old empire as the Final Order which incorporates the First Order with his own forces, albeit as true Sith empire in the days of old.

  • The Wellsians of The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids were reduced to just seven survivors hibernating on Venus following the debacle that was their invasion of Earth. However, access to one of the Cupids' Void Ships soon leads to the survivors (albeit reduced to five) becoming a major interdimensional threat and taking over a new planet to oppress.
  • Played with in the Discworld when, in Making Money, an army of several thousand unstoppable super-golems is revived and brought to Ankh-Morpork. Romantic and somewhat reactionary thinkers, nostalgic for the Good Old Days, speculate about how this new asset could be weaponised and used to make the rest of the Discworld take Ankh-Morpork very seriously indeed. Lord Vetinari, who is happy to preside over a state consisting only of the City and its immediate environs, squelches this idea.
    We're not having another Empire. We've only just recovered from the last one.
  • Empire from the Ashes has an empire that fell 50,000 years ago brought back to fight the genocidal Achuultani when this turns out to be the only way to save humanity.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation: In "The General", the titular character is General Riose (based on Flavius Belisarius), working to expand the Empire. For almost two centuries, their government has been losing control over the Periphery, regressing to the galactic core. General Riose has heard rumours of the Foundation rising to take their place in the galaxy. In the name of the Emperor, he leads a fleet of ships against the Foundation to bring their territory back under Imperial command. He's incredibly successful, but the Emperor (used to the political infighting of their Decadent Court) demands their return, executing them on charges of treason (he assumes a popular General would want to rule, since everyone else at court is trying to do the same thing). This accelerates the Empire's death from political in-fighting.
  • Talig from Reflections of Eterna is the successor state of the decrepit Taligoia (itself a successor of the Golden Anaxia). Talig was formed 400 years ago when Francis Ollar demolished the failing Taligoian empire, reunited most of its seceding provinces under his rule, and thoroughly reformed all institutions, from the royal ministries to the church.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Robb Stark is proclaimed King in the North by his bannermen after his father's unjust execution, which effectively turns the North an independent kingdom from the Iron Throne. They argued that since they only bent the knee to the Targaryens, they have no reason to swear fealty to the current regime. It also helps that Robb goes out of his way to emulate the previous Kings of Winter by wearing a crown made of iron and bronze.
    • This has been the Ironborn's dream for ages ever since Harren the Black, who governed a massive empire that stretched across the Riverlands until he was charbroiled inside his castle by Aegon the Conqueror. They have launched a series of rebellions from time to time, though none of them managed to restore the old ways. Even when Balon Greyjoy enters the fray in the War of the Five Kings, he is largely ignored by the other parties though he manages to sabotage any chance of the Starks winning by occupying the North. Only when Balon is out of the picture and his psychotic brother Euron returns with the promise of conquering Westeros, it seems like the prospect of the Ironborn restoring the old ways back seems very likely and dangerous...
  • This is the ultimate culmination of The Lord of the Rings: The defeat of Sauron and ascension of Aragorn allows Gondor to reunite with the lost northern provinces, and reestablish the historical bounds of the Númenorean kingdom in exile. Aragorn even manages to expand the boundaries beyond their height. Subverted in that it's acknowledged that in spite of this, the new Reunited Kingdom is still just a shadow of the glory of Gondor at its height.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: As the series begins, the Centauri Republic is a Vestigial Empire with much less power and territory than it had in its glory days. Londo's machinations and dealings with the Shadows result in the re-conquest of the Narn and a series of other expansionist wars. However, it does not end well for either the Centauri generally or Londo in particular.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Orcs led by Morgoth lost the war against the alliance of Men, Elves and Valar. Galadriel mentions in her Opening Monologue that with the help of Sauron they multiplied in the dark again. Yet, nobody can find their whereabouts, and Galadriel herself spends centuries trying to find them and Sauron, while in the Southlands, Gil-galad has a faction of Silvan Elves watching of the Southlanders to make sure that this trope doesn't happen. Everybody's efforts are rendered to nothing, because the Orcs manage to build their strength back anyway and turn the Southlands into their homeland without Sauron's help.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Cardassians in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine attempt to recover from a series of devastating blows from the Klingons and the Maquis by allying with the Dominion and waging war on the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. This goes horrifically for them: the Dominion uses them primarily as cannon fodder, trades away large swathes of their territory to the Breen, and eventually attempts to exterminate their entire population when the Cardassians finally recognize their mistake and try to help the Federation Alliance.
    • Star Trek: Discovery:
      • T'kuvma seeks to reunite the Great Houses of the Klingon Empire, which has long been fractured. Though he dies very early into the series, his death inspires others to carry his legacy on.
      • Season 3 takes place in the year 3189, after a cataclysm called The Burn led to the near-collapse of The Federation from 350 members to 38 and the rise of the Emerald Chain from The Syndicate to an N.G.O. Superpower. The season ends with the cause of The Burn becoming known and the Emerald Chain fracturing, leading to the rebuilding of the Federation; with the re-admission of Ni'Var (formerly known as Vulcan), the number is back up to 60.
    • The Star Trek: Voyager two-parter "Year of Hell" features an alien commander using a ship capable of manipulating time to wipe out his people's enemies and restore the Krenim Imperium to a system-spanning superstate. However, because time is a harsh mistress, any change he makes has dire unforeseen consequences.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Downplayed, but present as of Gathering Storm, the most crucial of which are the return a loyalist Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, the influx of next-gen Space Marines, the Primaris Marines. Sure, things also get worse at the same time, with Cadia destroyed and the Daemon Primarchs finally getting off their asses to take matters personally, but there's a glimmer of hope for The Imperium with the return of a rightful heir to Imperial authority who's determined to turn things around.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Mythology: In the Titans Campaign, Atlantis is rebuilt and remade into its own civilization after it's utter destruction by Gargarensis and Poseidon.
  • Dragon Age: The Tevinter Imperium used to govern the entire world - in fact, the name of the setting Thedas translates to "outside of Tevinter domain", which referred to the rest of the continent as their empire shrank. It has become a shadow of its former self after being hit by the Blights, Exalted Marches from the South and being locked in a Forever War with the Qunari. By the time the series takes place, the Orlesian Empire has replaced Tevinter as the current richest and most powerful nation. However, in Dragon Age II, Fenris alleges that they slowly but surely have recovered from their losses and they might represent a threat to the world again. This is questionable given Fenris is biased (though with good reason) and in the following game Dragon Age: Inquisition, it's stated that Tevinter doesn't really have the time or the interest to Take Over the World, since it's not the same nation as it used to be. With that in mind, one of the factions that serves the Elder One are the Venatori, a Tevinter extremist group with the explicity goal of restoring the Imperium to its former glory, or as one of their members put it "Rule it from the Boeric Ocean to the Frozen Seas", covering the entirety of Thedas once again.
  • In early date starts of Crusader Kings, the Byzantine Empire is reduced to swaths of lands around Constantinople (and an update even made several countries simply being tributaries instead of outright sovereign). Successfully conquering holy lands would cause Byzantine to reform the Church back to the Orthodoxy, make Catholicism a heresy, and push Byzantine as the Christian superpower. Conquer more of Italy and Byzantine can declare themselves the Roman Empire, denounce the Holy Roman Empire a pretender, gain casus belli to conquer historical Roman Empire borders, and go even further than Alexander the Great by invading India.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: The New United States of America is attempting to fully restore the continental United States, though they reached a stalemate with the Republic of Texas and Night City is under Arasaka's thumb. In Phantom Liberty, you have the opportunity to play kingmaker - but the risk is extremely high; By returning Songbird to the NUS and partaking in an experimental operation to get your chip removed, you effectively hand Rosiland the keys to retaking America for good, and even expanding it. However, you also open a backdoor in reality itself to the Blackwall AIs (particularly the Kill All Humans A.I. Is a Crapshoot faction), meaning the fully-restored United States could effectively be hijacked by homicidal robotic rule.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Third Tamriellic Empire present throughout the main series is so called because it is the third empire of Men to conquer most or all of Tamriel based out of the central province of Cyrodiil. This First Empire, also known as the Alessian Empire, was founded by the "Slave Queen" Alessia following her successful uprising against the Ayleids who enslaved her people. Eventually, it would dissolve following significant infighting and religious unrest. Centuries later, the Second Empire, also known as the Reman Empire, was founded by Reman Cyrodiil, who claimed metaphysical descendance from Alessia. He reunified the fractured empire and his dynasty would conquer nearly all of Tamriel. However, his final direct descendant was killed without an heir, though the empire survived several more centuries under the leadership of the Akaviri Potentates before they too were assassinated. Following a 400+ year period known as the Interregnum, Tiber Septim would rise to power and become the first person to conquer all of mainland Tamriel, establishing the Third Tamriellic Empire.
    • Skyrim:
      • The Thalmor restored the Aldmeri Dominion, which was defeated by Tiber Septim and incorporated into the Third Empire until the Oblivion Crisis allowed the Altmer to break away and form their own nation. By the time of the game, they are significantly weakened in the Great War aftermath, but they are in a better position than the Empire since the Khajiit and the Bosmer are firmly within their grasp (while the Empire lost all of their provinces except High Rock and Skyrim, the latter being torn apart by Civil War) and they are just biding their time and regain their strength to resume hostilities while encouraging the Skyrim Civil War however possible to drain the Empire's resources.
      • Depending on your actions, the Empire of Cyrodiil is poised to regain its strength if you finish the Civil War questline on the side of the Imperial Legion and destroy the Dark Brotherhood. Alternatively, their fate might apparently be sealed if you side with the Stormcloak rebels (putting Skyrim out of their influence and potentially isolating High Rock as well) and join the Dark Brotherhood, which will inevitably end with the Emperor Titus Mede II being assassinated.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Fates:
      • In Shura's ending in all three routes, his homeland of Kohga, which was destroyed by the kingdom of Mokushu under Kotaro, is rebuilt, with Shura becoming its new governor in his solo ending.
      • In the Revelations route, Valla is able to be rebuilt after Corrin kills Anankos, who destroyed the kingdom and turned most of its citizens into his undead servants.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, completing the Crimson Flower route ends with the Adrestian Empire successfully unifying Fódlan once again by conquering the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus and the Leicester Alliance, states which had previously seceded from the empire over the course of the past thousand or so years, thus restoring the empire to its full glory.
  • Common in the Fallout series, given the series's "war never changes" theme:
    • Fallout 2 introduces the Enclave, remnants of a secret faction of government elites that, after the bombs fell, hurriedly transported themselves from DC to an oil rig off the coast of San Francisco. The game also introduces the New California Republic, a fledgling nation attempting to restore some semblance of order and peace to the chaotic wasteland that fashions itself off of pre-war governments.
    • Fallout 3 reintroduces the Enclave, or rather, what's left of the Enclave - those members who didn't make it out of Washington, DC before the bombs fell. They're led by President John Henry Eden, who claims to have been a member of the President's cabinet before the war and is therefore eligible for the presidency.
    • Fallout: New Vegas: all of the game's main factions, except for Independent Vegas, are some form of this. There's the aforementioned NCR, which has incorporated large parts of California, Oregon, and Nevada, and is by now suffering some of the natural consequences and corruption of an empire that large. The main antagonists are Caesar's Legion, led by Caesar himself, a conquering nation of dozens of unified tribes that have fashioned themselves after the Roman empire (or, rather, Caesar's bastardization of the Roman empire). Last is Mr. House, a pre-war capitalist who wishes to re-establish New Vegas as the glitz and glamour that it was pre-war - with him at the helm.
    • Fallout 4 has the Commonwealth Minutemen, a loose confederation of farms and settlements who help and protect each other, roughly fashioned after the colonial Minutemen. In their case, they are likely to fit even discounting associations with Old America — the Minutemen were once one of the most powerful forces in the ruins of Massachusetts, but a series of events weakened them until by the time the game starts only one person still self-identifies as a Minuteman. Then the Sole Survivor encounters him, and a questline about reforming the Minutemen starts with the potential to lead them into becoming the most powerful faction in the Commonwealth (and if not still a major force).
  • League of Legends gives us Shurima - a sun-worshipping empire in the middle of a Thirsty Desert that was destroyed following a sabotaged Ascension Ritual. When a tomb-robbing team was led into the tomb of Shurima's last emperor, Azir, they betrayed their mercenary guide after she had outlived her usefulness, but the traps of the tomb drove them off while the guide's blood leaked into the sand. it turned out that the guide was a descendant of the long-dead emperor, and through Blood Magic, the Emperor was resurrected, using his newfound lease of life to save his descendant and accidentally triggering the ascension ritual for the first time in centuries. With his newfound power, he literally raised the empire from the sands.
  • Stellaris:
    • A Fallen Empire is an extremely powerful and technologically-advanced AI-controlled empire that fell into decay before the game began. They can re-awaken if they are provoked or decide that a nearby empire poses a significant threat to them. They can also re-awaken to help defend the galaxy against an endgame crisis, and there is a special event called the War in Heaven where two re-awakened Fallen Empires will declare war on each other.
    • With the Remnants Origin, the species once ruled an interstellar empire which eventually collapsed. The surviving members of the race now occupy a Relic World, the destroyed remains of what was once an ecumenopolis. Having relearned spaceflight, the species sets out to build an empire again.
  • Vampyr (2018) downplays this: While the British Empire suffered some hard blows during World War I and is still kicking, if Jonathan asks Aloysius Dawson about the Ascalon Club's goals, he reveals they plan on retaking their lost colonies, which would be United States. You only find this out if Dawson has been turned into a vampire and no other member ever confirms if this is true.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe:
    • If a socialist warlord reunifies Russia, it can restore the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (and depending on the unifier, it can actually stay true to its founding ideals this time).
    • If Vyatka under Tsar Vladimir III or Chita under Tsar Mikhail II unites Russia, it can restore the Russian Empire. This is also what Sergey Taboritsky of Komi attempts to do, but it backfires in the worst possible waynote .
    • Most dramatically, if Rurik II of Kemerovo reunifies Russia, it can establish the Kingdom of Rus, effectively reviving the ancient Muscovite/Kievan Rus culture.
  • Anbennar: If one of the shards of the Phoenix Empire refounds itnote , this trope becomes part of the ideological underpinning of the Empire: the Phoenix Empire is seen as eternal not because it can't fall, but because even if it falls it will like its namesake inevitably eventually rise again (helped by the fact that the Empire had already gone through a cycle of rise-fall-rise-fall in the backstory).

    Real Life 
  • The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I wanted to reunify the lost Western territories into proper Roman rule after the Western half of The Empire fell when the warlord Odoacer overthrew Romulus Augustulus. He only managed to take Italy, Northern Africa and parts of Spain for a short period of time, but France, Germany and Britain would never be under Roman rule again.
    • A very common theme in Byzantine history is a cycle of decline and loss of territory followed by a strong emperor causing a revival in prestige and reconquest.
  • Holy Roman Empire is a subversion of the trope in that it considered itself the resurgent Western Roman Empire, but their claim was flimsy and dubious at best. It was established when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as an insult to Empress Irene of the Byzantine Empire. However, since the Papacy was never given any legal authority to decide the emperor back when Rome was around, the Pope's recognition didn't carry much legal value. Confounding the matter further is the fact that the Roman Empire was still going strong as the Byzantine Empire at the time, so the HRE was basically claiming itself to be the successor to an empire that still existed.
  • Tsarist Russia viewed itself as the successor to the Byzantines and by extension Rome, due to having become Eastern Orthodox due to Byzantines and the Tsars were descended from the Last Emperor's niece. Although their fights with the Western European powers would distract them, a pet project of the Tsars was to defeat the Ottoman Empire and reclaim Constantinople and the other Byzantine lands such as Egypt. They never managed to claim the City of Tsargrad as the Russians called it, but their efforts did lead to the Balkans and Greece's independence from the Ottomans. Modern Russia is itself one, with the debate being if they are one for Tsarist Russia or Soviet Union, which is partly why Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
  • The Second French Empire established by Napoleon III. The first one was established and ruled by his uncle Napoleon Bonaparte until his eventual defeat in Waterloo and the Bourbon monarchy being restored. After another French Revolution overthrew that monarchy and established a second republic, his nephew Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected president and launched a coup d'état in 1851 that eventually allowed him to become the new Emperor (he styled himself as the Third because he acknowledged his cousin Napoleon II's term, even though he never ruled France and died very young). It was in his interest to reassert French influence in Europe and throughout the world (such as Mexico and Lebanon) via diplomatic relations and relying less on the strength of arms like his uncle had done. Needless to say, it went poorly for him in the Franco-Prussian War.
  • Timur the Lame saw himself as Genghis Khan's successor (despite not being related to him by blood) and wanted to revive the Mongol Empire by retaking the lands he saw being occupied by "usurpers" such as the Ottomans, Persians, Mamluks and Indians. While he succeeded in crushing nearly all enemies he faced while he was alive, his empire never managed to unite with the fragmented Mongols and went into decline after his death.
  • Adolf Hitler wanted to restore Germany's lost prestige with the Third Reich (he most certainly didn't want the Kaiser back in power) and eventually assimilate all Germanic and Scandinavian peoples into a single state which would be the Greater German Reich.
  • His Axis partner Benito Mussolini was even more blatantly about wanting to rebuild The Roman Empire by taking its former Northern African provinces in Libya, and attempted to occupy the Balkans region. It went poorly for him, requiring the Nazis to bail him out.
  • During the mid-2010s, the Islamic State was an infamous militant group who fancied itself to restore the Caliphate which existed in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and Central Asia during medieval times (a category that includes places such as Spain, Portugal, and Israel), plus ones that Muslims significantly populate now (such as the Philippines and Nigeria). There was even a map showing how far their aims spread. Needless to say, that didn't happen, and the IS is now reduced to a bunch of insurgents in the deserts of Iraq and Syria, staging petty attacks against the countries' governments but otherwise considered irrelevant in the politics of the area.
  • The (retroactively named) Neo-Assyrian Empire may have been the closest to this trope in history: the Bronze Age Collapse had put enough stress on the Middle Assyrian kingdom that it contracted until by 1020 BC it only controlled the core Assyrian territories, and there Assyria would remain as a small portion of its old empire... until 911 BC, when king Adad-nirari II rose to power and set in motion a series of conquests that would restore the territories of old empire at its height, and then take advantage of the power vacuum left behind by the Bronze Age Collapse to go beyond even that, forging the iron age Neo-Assyrian Empire that would remain one of the most powerful states in the world for almost three centuries.


Video Example(s):



Frozen in the ice for millennia, Atlantis, led by Lady Helena, seeks to restore their Empire in the now flooded world.

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