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Vestigial Empire

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The sick man of Europe is divided against itself.note 

"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, Babylon 5"The Gathering"

This nation used to 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; the lands that previously were firmly under their thumbs being either snatched up by opportunistic neighbors seeing the chance to take their old enemy down a peg, or gaining independence at the hands of separatist movements smelling the weakness of their overlord and deciding that the time is ripe to claim their right to self-determination either through political means or open rebellion. The erstwhile Voluntary Vassal is now neither voluntary nor a vassal.

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 decadent nobles with superiority complexes and equally decadent and morally challenged courtiers. In Space, may result from an Ungovernable Galaxy.


The protagonist is rarely actually from the Vestigial Empire — any time one is involved in a setting, it's usually 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 Cryptic Background Reference. However there are exceptions; if a protagonist IS part of a Vestigial Empire then expect him to die in a Last Stand, lead The Remnant to found a successor state, or simply try to protect himself and his family as civilization falls apart.

Being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to late Imperial Rome or 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 Vestigial Empire may be The Remnant if they're still fighting for the (usually) lost cause of restoring their former glory.


Over a long enough time period, the Vestigial Empire is likely to result in Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!. If a Vestigial Empire actually DOES succeed in restoring itself to its former glory, then that counts as Resurgent Empire.

An inversion is a Rising Empire.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan has revealed that the Walls are in reality the last bastion of the once proud Eldian Empire, formed by Eldians led by the royal Fritz family. They settled on the island of Paradis as the Kingdom of Marley overthrew and exiled them.
    • Marley itself is slowly becoming this, as new weapon technology means that the Titan Shifters they've relied on for so long are no longer as powerful against their enemies as they once were. However, in order to get the rest of the world on their side and retain their position of power, they've declared war on Paradis Island in the hopes of wiping out the Eldians once and for all so that they're free from the threat of being overthrown, as there's been a constant power struggle between Eldia and Marley for almost two thousand years.
  • The Planet Trade Organization, Frieza's empire, has become one by the time of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and Dragon Ball Super. At its peak, it controlled about 70% of the universe. After Freeza's and Cold's deaths, the empire lost most of its territories and Sorbet is barely holding the last pieces together when he decides to revive Frieza out of desperation. When the resurrected Frieza tries to get revenge on Goku, the last remnants of the army are wiped out. After the end of the Universe Survival saga, Frieza decides to rebuild his empire.
  • The Beelzenian Empire in the Evillious Chronicles 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.
  • The Earth Federation from the Universal Century universe of Gundam is this, in a pattern that echoes Gibbon's Decline and Fall. The Federation won the One Year War in Mobile Suit Gundam through superior power and production capability, but at the cost of half of the world's population. Seven years later, in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam the Earth Federation has weakened to the point that the remnants of Zeon are still a serious threat, and a State Sec organization is intentionally sabotaging the Federation from within so that they can take over. Afterwards, in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, 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 a miracle caused by Amuro's death stops it. By the time of Victory Gundam (60 years after CCA), the Federation is so weak and ineffectual that it falls to a militia to oppose The Empire. 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. Not that this new government is any better than the Federation ever was.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, 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 Legend of Galactic Heroes, as not only the government's influence is waning due the conflicts among the High Nobles, but a string of incompetent military commanders led to multiple defeats against the 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 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 and then become emperor, at which point the Empire is reformed and enters a new golden age.
  • In Lyrical Nanoha, 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 Lensman Arms Race 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 Olivie as the messianic figure) and preservation of the Ancient Belkan cultural and magical heritage. Setting a number of nuclear bombs off on themselves didn't help.
  • The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Britain during Vinland Saga, 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: In Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #7, the United Planets collapsed after Earth was destroyed. In the 75th Century, the immortal Wildfire is the only surviving original Legionnaire. He has established a new Legion on the planet Rimbor which abides by the laws and customs of the United Planets. The former UP member states do not trust each other as a planet-sized cannon reappears to destroy a star every 100 years, which has the effect of blocking communication throughout the galaxy. Wildfire and a newly trained, highly efficient group of teenage Legionnaires are able to destroy the cannon when it appears 97 years ahead of schedule. As a result, communication is restored and the United Planets is re-established at Wildfire's urging. However, Legionnaires Annual #3 reveals that the United Planets no longer exists in the 100th Century, suggesting that Wildfire's initiative was ultimately unsuccessful.
    • DC One Million says that the United Planets has been mostly replaced with a government called the United Galaxies. The UP still exists but consists of five of its member planets moved to one solar system.
  • In Superman: True Brit, The Batman mentions working for the good of the British Empire. Colin mentions that the British Empire no longer exists but The Batman says they still own a bit of Ireland.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Gene Catlow 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 1983: Doomsday Stories for Hetalia: Axis Powers, there are nods to Austria still feeling this despite being one of the core members of the Alpine Confederation, though with painful justification. Having been reduced to a neutral Cold War buffer by the time Doomsday came, he was powerless to stop the bloodshed and save Hungary, which would come to haunt him in the years to come.
  • A Brief History of Equestria: By the time of Hearth's Warming, this is the fate that had befallen both the Mongrellian Horde and the Griffin Empire, which had collapsed in ways similar to the Mongols and the Roman Empire, respectively (fittingly, as they are presented as Expies of those nations).
  • The Griffon Empire of RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse 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.
  • Shattered Empire 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.
  • Earth's Alien History has a couple of examples:
    • The Gamilians are one of space-faring humanity's first major enemies, but after losing the Mekon War, they retreat and end up fracturing back into nation-states. Then they get invaded by the Reapers and rescued by the Romulans, to whom they become a Voluntary Vassal.
    • The Citadel races. War with the Space Pirates heavily damage their economy and infrastructure, then the Mekon and his allies invade, annexing the Batarians, damaging many of their key worlds, and detonating an Omega particle near the Citadel itself which makes FTL travel to the station difficult. They recover somewhat by offering seats on the Council to all member races, but after the Five Galaxies War, the Quarians and Krogans defect to TeTO, weakening them again. Then the Reaper War hits them even harder, with Pavalan being destroyed and the Turian Hierarchy effectively ceasing to exist. Following the war's end, the now terminally weakened Council eventually disbands out of necessity, the various members joining TeTO or the Pact of the Raptor, leaving just the Citadel itself, independent as essentially a city-state.
    • The Centauri Republic is almost completely dismantled by the Crusader Pact, with Centauri Prime and its main colony being destroyed and them then being forced to abandon all colonies that previously belonged to other races. They rebuild from this remnant, however, becoming a sort of space Switzerland in later years.
    • TeTO becomes this in the Mirror Universe after losing the Mekon War. Not only does the detonation of the Omega particles destroying their ability to use FTL in the heart of their territory heavily cripple them, but the Race abandon the alliance in order to avoid continuing conflict with the Mekon and his allies, significantly weakening them further.
    • The Klingon Empire goes into decline in the years following the Reaper War, due to being economically and technologically outmatched by all the other powers, with the societal tensions following the Praxis War not helping matters any. Following their second civil war, they're reduced to the Klingon Republic (a TeTO protectorate) and the Empire of Kahless (a hermit kingdom).
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Ankh-Morpork is explicitly an Expy of post-Imperial Britain. Due to the great conquering General Tacticus, its former colonies are everywhere. It is perhaps easiest to list those parts of the Central Continent that were not part of the Empire and which served as its rivals; Quirm being most noteable and which, in fact, left an Imperial footprint of its own. There's also the hinterlands of Far Uberwald; left to its own devices because Tacticus expressly refused to get embroiled in fighting a war with that country in the middle of one of its winters. After Tacticus, the Empire declined. today its last remnants are the Shires, the hinterland immediately surrounding ankh-Morpork, and places like the Guano Islands - which in defiance of the usual expectations, actually fought a long and bitter War of Dependence to remain an Ankh-Morporkian colony as they saw their standard of living going right down if the Morporkians pulled out - and therefore didn't have to financially support them any more. Ankh-Morpork's empire also had the usual more conventional wars of Independence at its ending; Rimwards Howondaland fought its, err, Boor War. Aceria also took the opportunity to fight a war by twilight's last gleaming and the Dawn's early light. The other half of Aceria remained broadly loyal, however and got its independence peacably.
  • With Hordak no longer leading the Etherian Horde, some members of the Horde decided to occupy Erelandia (the Fright Zone having been given back to Scorpia's family) as the New Horde She-Ra: In The Wake under a new leader. While the General sees this as the dawn of a new era for the Horde, Hordak calls the General a carrion feeder trying to make a name for themself using his accomplishments.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Apocalypse Now Redux, the declining might of the French Empire is discussed by the French plantation owner, who is ready to defy the defeat streak with a Last Stand at his home, if it comes to that.
  • At the beginning of Man of Steel, Kryptonian civilization is a shade of its former self, with its past glory of space exploration and colonization long gone.
  • Star Wars: 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.

  • The Trope Namer is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, which describes the Vestigial Empire as being part of the standard fantasy setting.
  • In 1632 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 split into three branches this may also happen to the "Empire where the sun never sets" within the course of the series.
  • Tolnedra from the 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.
  • Many governments and their militaries in the Black Tide Rising Zombie Apocalypse series, after the Hate Plague hits them, are almost totally destroyed, the surviving rulers controlling only a relatively small part of their original territory.
  • The Commonwealth in Book of the New Sun 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, which drives the entire plot of The Urth of the New Sun. Bonus points because the Commonwealth is an Expy of the Byzantine Empire in South America.
  • Also by Tamora Pierce, the Pebbled Sea states of Circle of Magic 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.
  • Also by Moorcock, Corum has a similar set up with two vestigial empires called the Vadhagh and the Nadragh who used to rule most of the world and were at constant war with each other. Now families live isolated in castles while the Mabden colonize the world. The Vadhagh are descended from the same interdimensional elves called the Eldren that the Melnibonéans evolved from.
  • The Elder Things in the Cthulhu Mythos 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 Cthulhu himself) caused them to lose most of their territories, until they only held a single city in the Antarctic. Then the continent got covered in ice, destroying the city, and the survivors got killed by their servitor race that turned against them.
  • Discworld:
    • Ankh-Morpork is a rare example of a Vestigial Empire 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 Ancient Egypt 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.
  • Ergoth in the Dragonlance books. Solamnia too, though its decline is eventually reversed.
  • Subverted with the Fjordell Empire in 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, its leaders recognized that attempting to militarily reconquer their old lands would be unfeasible, and so made an alliance with 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 Vestigial Empire it appears as at first glance.
  • Melniboné from Michael Moorcock's The Elric Saga is like this, having ruled over the entire world for almost ten thousand years under the blessing of the Lords of Chaos. It is noted that its latest emperor (and series protagonist) Elric could restore much of its former power if he had a mind to.
  • In Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser 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".
  • In Forging Divinity, the Xixian Empire once ruled much of the continent, but most of their lands have now been conquered.
  • The Galactic Empire from Isaac Asimov's 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 City Planet, Trantor, after the Great Sack. When the story's protagonists visit Neotrantor, the new capital, the senile Emperor Dagobert IX 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. Interestingly, his son has no memory of the old empire, and sees being the ruler of twenty worlds as being pretty impressive.
  • The Empire of Humanity gradually becomes this during the course of the 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 Pyrrhic Victory 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 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 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.
  • The Strugatsky Brothers' Hard to Be a God 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.
  • In David Weber's Hell's Gate series, the Ternathian Empire was previously a massive empire spreading across most of the planet of Sharona (essentially an Alternate Universe 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.
    • Specifically, the Empire's homeland is Ireland. But the traditional capital was located in a more central location, Istanbul.
  • In The House Left Empty by Robert Reed, a series of EMP blasts and viruses crippled the worldwide communication grid and corrupting most databases, causing governments to effectively cease to exist, with 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 Robert E. Howard's "The Hyborian Age", the Back Story to Conan the Barbarian's world, the oldest known history begins with an era with one of these.
    The Thurian civilization was crumbling; their armies were composed largely of barbarian mercenaries.
    • 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 (Ancient Egypt but filled with shadowy evil) and arguably Koth (The Roman Empire, but with less of the "powerful, disciplined legions" part and more of the "ludicrously decadent rulers" part). Then there is dreaded Acheron, which, despite having been destroyed almost three millennia 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.
  • In S.M. Stirling's novel 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.
  • In The Legends of Ethshar, 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Gondor 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 Ghost City, and the White Tree (a quasi-religious symbol of the empire's health and favor with the de facto 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 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.
    • 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.
    • The Dwarves of Durin's Folk have a lesser example. They were never really a empire per se, but at their height they were a extremely prosperous kingdom containing two of Middle-Earth's grandest cities and trade routes: Khazad-Dum and Erebor. Over the history of Middle-Earth they fall one by one, with Khazad-Dum falling to the Balrog and Erebor to Smaug the Golden, leaving Durin's Folk as a wandering people bereft of influence and those two cities as grim reminders of their lost glory. However, in another subversion, the efforts of Thorin Oakenshield, Dáin Ironfoot and Gimli ends up restoring Durín's Folk to their former glory over the course of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
  • Nabban from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn 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 Number Two.
  • Similarly, the U.S. in Octavia Butler's Parable series looks a lot like this.
  • In the Perry Rhodan 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.
  • The Society of Red Rising once spanned from Mercury to Pluto and ruled everything in the solar system. By the beginning of the Sequel Series, The Rising and the Moon Lords have reduced it to just Mercury and Venus. And then Iron Gold opens up with them losing Mercury to the new Solar Republic.
  • The Reynard Cycle: 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.
  • In The Scar, agents from Armada visit a tiny island where a tiny handful of the Dying Race 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 Nansur Empire in the Second Apocalypse series, which has been steadily losing territory to Fanim jihads for centuries and retains only a shadow of its former glory.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: The Kintish Kingdoms, which once ruled Sileria. In the past they were far more powerful, but have become overshadowed by the Valdani recently. The Valdani eventually invade them.
  • A slightly odd example which nonetheless fits all the above criteria is the U.S. government in Snow Crash, 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire 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.
    • The Golden Empire of Yi Ti already considers itself a remnant of the Great Empire of the Dawn which, according to legend, once ruled the whole world. Furthermore, in the present, Yi Ti is a fractured realm, with three claimants to the throne, none of whom have any real authority outside their capitals, with various princes, lesser kings, warlords, and even tax collectors having more direct power than any of them.
  • The Romulan Star Empire of the Star Trek universe seems destined to become this in all realities — note that this was even the case before its destruction in the 2009 film.
    • In the novel verse, post Star Trek: Nemesis, the Star Empire 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 Borg Invasion, the Empire was less than half its former size. It was explicitly stated in Star Trek: Articles of the Federation that the Romulans were no longer a superpower. They bounced back thanks to membership in 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 Star Trek: Mirror Universe, 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. The Star Empire is restored towards the end of Rise Like Lions following the collapse of the Alliance.
    • In Star Trek Online, 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 the old Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • 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 Grand Admiral Thrawn or the Emperor Reborn, but since the people behind these surges are inevitably killed, these are temporary. The one good thing Daala did was to reunite the forces under the warlords; she promptly 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 Hand of Thrawn duology, 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 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 the Imperial Remnant by the rest of the Galaxy.
    • A century or so afterwards, it's the republican government that replaced it (The Galactic Federation of Free Alliances) that crumble and survive only as the 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 Foundation Empire, above.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the Makabaki 'Empire' was once an actual unified empire but by the present of the story has splintered into a number of kingdoms with a shared ethnic and cultural identity. The empire still exists on paper and the Prime (ruler) of the most powerful kingdom, Azir, still technically holds the title 'Emperor of the Makabaki'; the other kingdoms respect the emperor's authority and will, for tradition's sake, comply with imperial orders — but only so far as they consider those orders to be reasonable requests. It's explicitly noted that if the Prime really tried to throw his weight around and force the rest of the Makabaki kingdoms to do things they didn't want to, he'd very quickly find out just how ephemeral his authority actually is.
  • Talion: Revenant: The Shattered Empire, whose provinces became independent kingdoms but still have a common history and ties. The Talions were formed by one of the Emperors, and remain an international force in the wake of its fall even centuries on.
  • In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Connie Sachs uses this as a reason for the betrayals and general moral decrepitude of the upper echelons of the British spy agency: "Poor dears. Born to empire, born to rule the world".
  • The books of the Tortall Universe by Tamora Pierce have the old Thanic Empire, which turned into the sovereign nations of the Eastern Lands (Tortall, Galla, Tusaine, Tyra, and Maren).
  • In Vladimir Vasilyev's Treasure of the Kapitana, the Empire of 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 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 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.
  • Harry Turtledove's Videssos Cycle doesn't even 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, the author has a degree or two in the subject...
    • Turtledove's Vilcabamba has a rump United States and Canada (combined into one country) in the Rockies, as well as a rump China, rump Russia, and rump Peru, all presumably holed up in mountain areas that the ridiculously advanced invading alien race is not interested in annexing... yet.
  • Almost every nation in The Wheel of Time 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 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 Trollocs existed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Space Navy 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. The Commonwealth fleet is later all but wiped out in an ambush.
    • The Nietzscheans have also fallen from grace since their heyday. The unified Nietzchean Empire that caused the downfall of the Commonwealth quickly splintered into warring clan-groups after the battle at Witchhead. While the Nietzscheans as a whole are the largest power bloc in the former Commonwealth and large clans like Drago-Kazov and Sabra-Jaguar are significant power players on the intergalactic scene in their own right, the clans spend more time fighting each other for resources and mating rights than doing anything else. The Nietzscheans are far too politically fractured to be any more than a shadow of their past glory, and even if they could find a leader to unite behind, they have still fallen far from the point where they could take on the Systems Commonwealth.
  • The backstory of the Centaurum in Babylon 5, with Londo recalling a time when the Centauri ships were the most feared in the sky before they started losing territory. It gives the audience an instant reason to fear their upcoming influx of technology from the Shadows.
    • Differently from most examples, they are arguably more powerful than in their heyday: the Expanded Universe 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.
  • The Federation in 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.
  • Doctor Who: In "Fugitive of the Judoon", Captain Jack Harkness, trying to warn the Doctor about a universal threat, tells the companions that the Cybermen have been reduced to this state in the future. However, that could all change if the Lone Cyberman manages to get what it wants.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The former colonies of the Valyrian Empire which became the Free Cities. Valyria was a Fantasy Counterpart 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 Fantastic Nuke that had given Valyria so much power: dragons. While several of these free cities (particularly Volantis) like to proclaim that they will restore Valyrian glory, everyone knows it's so much Cultural Posturing 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, 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 Young Conqueror/Dragon Rider 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. Cersei has finally gotten her hands on the throne right when the throne lost all its power. As of the end of the seventh season she's mostly turned it around; the Iron Islands are hers, Dorne has been neutralized by taking out its leaders, the Reach has been effectively wiped out and the money looted from there used to pay off the bank, and all her other enemies have agreed to a ceasefire to fight a greater war in the North.
  • Justified shows us that this happened to the Crowder criminal empire. A few years before the start of the series all criminals in Harlan County were beholden to Bo Crowder who got a cut of every criminal enterprise in the area with the exception of the marijuana trade which was controlled by the Bennett clan. However, a Crowder cousin kidnapped and murdered the niece of the local sheriff and Bo refused to turn him over to the police. The sheriff cut a deal with the Miami Cartel who turned over the killer to him for vigilante justice. In return he framed the guilty party and sent Bo away to prison on trumped up charges. Bo left his oldest son Bowman and trusted associate Arlo Givens in charge of his criminal operations. However, Arlo was starting to go senile and Bowman was a thug who lacked the Pragmatic Villainy favored by the rest of his family. When Bo gets out of prison, his empire is in tatters. Bowman abused his wife one too many times and was shot dead by her, Arlo is a mess and Bo's younger son Boyd is going through a weird Heel–Faith Turn. Bo tries to rebuild his criminal organization but Boyd wrecks his attempt to partner up with the Cartel and Bo is killed. Later Boyd tries to take over but is thwarted by law enforcement and rival gangs moving in. The final nail comes when he allies himself with the Detroit Mob only for that organization to implode. When Boyd finally goes to prison, the Crowders have little influence over the crime in Harlan.
    • At the beginning of the series, the Bennett clan controls all marijuana trade in Harlan County and surrounding areas and even the Crowders will not mess with them. However, Mags Bennett, the family matriarch, and her oldest son Doyle plan on retiring and going legit. Dickie Bennett tries to take over the operations but he quickly messes things up and in the ensuring conflict all the Bennetts except Dickie end up dead. Dickie attempts a comeback but he fails again and ends up in prison. The conflict in the final season is kicked off when Avery Markham returns from exile and tries to take over the Bennett's old marijuana operation. By the ends of the series the Bennett criminal empire seems to get a resurgence as Loretta McCready, a Teen Genius Mags took under her wing, is able to convince the local marijuana growers to back her against Markham.
  • Rise of Empires: Ottoman: The Roman Empire is on its deathbed, being reduced to a single city-state which, while heavily defended thanks to its walls and advantageous location, is surrounded by the Ottomans on all sides.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager 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 Reset Button, sending the Krenim back to vestigial status (and resetting Voyager so that the eponymous Year of Hell fighting the Krenim never happened).
  • Star Trek: Discovery:
    • The Klingon Empire is said to be this before the unification attempts by T'Kuvma and Kol lead to war in the first season. T'Kuvma's goal of reuniting the warring Great Houses becomes Kol's goal as well when he gets his hands on T'Kuvma's cloaking technology, and begins to trade this for the loyalty of the other Great Houses. By the time the war ends and the dust has settled, L'Rell is the last one standing to claim the Chancellorship, with the backing of the Federation.
    • In Season 3, the Federation itself has become this in the 32nd century. Following the Burn, an event which caused nearly every warp-capable vessel to explode for no apparent reason, galactic civilization collapsed and the Federation dropped to a tenth of its size. It can barely maintain its current state with its limited resources, especially with the threat that whatever caused the Burn could happen again with no warning. By the end of the season, the cause of the Burn is discovered and neutralized, a new massive source of dilithium will enable the Federation to recover, the Emerald Chain, the primary threat to the Federation, collapses after Osyraa's death, several former worlds (Trill and Ni'Var, formerly Vulcan) are already considering rejoining, and the spore drive may also allow ships to make instantaneous jumps even without the use of genetic engineering thanks to the Kwejians' empathic abilities.
  • Star Trek: Picard confirmed that the Romulan Star Empire became this after their home planet was destroyed in the 2009 movie. They were replaced with the Romulan Free State that gets on more peacefully with The Federation and got rid of The Neutral Zone between their two territories.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The National Wrestling Alliance once had an iron grip on almost the entire industry, excepting a handful of "Independent" enterprises (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 made the offer more appealing). After TNA's exodus from NWA, maintaining tentative oversight of independent promotions across a mere six countries became a challenge. But the NWA pressed on, got a temporary foothold in Europe, and remained a mostly respected presence (especially in Japan).
  • Within the NWA itself, Pro Wrestling ZERO1 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, Shinya Hashimoto. It soldiers along though and has also joined some of the other alliances that have sprung up since the NWA's decline.
  • While not as dramatic as the NWA, the Toryumon "university" system successfully bridged IWRG of Mexico and the lucharesu feds of Japan. Then a schism between headquarters of the two regions basically caused all the Japanese presence to be taken by Dragon Gate. While Toryumon Mexico stuck around and even did pretty good gates, it ended up running shows much less regularly and its students had to figure out their further education themselves as DG had little interest in them. As Dragon Gate grew, it decided to channel its expansion into the English market, but DG USA and DG UK, its foreign branches, failed to grow like the origin branch and the DG empire crumpled faster than Toyrumon's, though Dragon Gate remained stronger in Japan than Toryumon did in Mexico.

  • In the BBC series Earthsearch, the Solaric Empire is now just a few mined-out moons and asteroids populated by the descendants of the colonists who chose to remain behind when Earth was taken to another solar system to escape the sun going nova. On encountering the protagonists and being told there's an actual Earth out there (long since regarded as a myth), Grand Emperor Thorden immediately realises the potential of a resource rich planet where you don't have to live underground or in a Domed City, and starts scheming to seize their spaceship and conquer Earth for himself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Abel in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. 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.
  • The default setting in Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, the Nentir Vale, is rife with these, most notably Human-controlled Nerath, Tiefling-controlled Bael Turath, and Dragonborn-controlled Arkhosia.
  • Eberron has the goblinoid Dhakaani Empire, which was mostly destroyed 9000 years ago by an invasion from Xoriat, the plane of 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.
  • Lookshy of 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 Vestigial Empire; 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.
  • Unther in the Forgotten Realms. Up until the Time of Troubles it was a force to be reckoned with, ruled by Physical Gods. 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 unceremoniously destroyed by the Spellplague.
    • The Forgotten Realms also have Ostoria, the former kingdom of the giants, which fell due to a long war with dragons, breaking both races' worldwide influence.
  • Khador in Iron Kingdoms 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.
  • The Remanence of Myriad Song is ruled by the descendants of the 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.
  • Taldor and Cheliax in Pathfinder. The Taldan empire used to be a superpower that ruled over half of Avistan directly and exerted influence over much of the rest. Its westernmost province Cheliax broke away from Taldor during a war with Qadira and started an expansionist empire of its own, then Cheliax went through a Civil War that ended in the House of Thrune and the Church of Asmodeus taking control. Its Varisian colony Korvosa became de facto independent during the civil war, while Molthune, Isger, Andoran, and Galt broke away later. The Archduchy of Ravounel declares independence from Cheliax in the Hell's Rebels adventure path, and the subsequent Hell's Vengeance campaign deals with Queen Abrogail bankrolling an evil adventuring party to try and stop the empire from collapsing further.
  • Nyala in Spears of the Dawn used to rule all the Three Lands, until one of their defeated foes made a Deal with the Devil for survival and revenge and became the Eternal. The resulting Long War saw Nyala lose control over all its previous provinces and eventually have to formally acknowledge their sovereignty in return for their help in finally defeated the enemy. In the present day, Nyala is still culturally and technologically high-standing, but it no longer has any more military or political power than the other four of the Five Kingdoms.
  • In 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 
  • Warhammer 40,000...
    • 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 Rising Empire such as the Tau that will ultimately inherit the galaxy. 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 Portal Network. As such, they're frequently described as a Dying Race 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 Ghosts, and many of the lords who have woken up have developed eccentricities due to a mechanical version of Cryonics Failure.
    • The Orks were once the Krorks, the purpose-built Supersoldier race and final project of the Old Ones. The Beast's Waagh, little more than an echo of what the Krorks once were, brought the Imperium to it's knees and had the technology to turn entire planetoids into "attack moons" equipped with Gravity-manipulating weapons that could tear flagships apart and shift entire mountains to crush opposing armies. With no off switch and no one else to fight, the Krorks eventually fell upon each other and descended into the anarchic madness that is the modern Orks.
    • The Horde of Alien Locusts that is the Tyrannids, are in fact, little more than the few Refugees who have made it into the Milky way, running away from something even worse than they are.
    • Note that in all these 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 Warhammer:
    • The Dwarfs' empire first got cracked when the 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 Hopeless War against an endless tide of orcish and goblin invaders, and they might have a chance at stabilizing if they weren't 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 main reason the Elves and Dwarves were unable to recover was that at the height of their power they fought an utterly pointless apocalyptic war with each other. By the time it was over they lacked the numbers and surviving infrastructure to deal with new disasters.
    • 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.

    Video Games 
  • The Principality of Belka from the Ace Combat 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 Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War centres around its attempt to reclaim the states it permitted to secede, particularly the protagonist nation of Ustio. Speculations are abound that AC's Belka was the inspiration for the Nanoha's one, too.
  • The Azracs of Age of Wonders 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.
  • AI War: Fleet Command: The Fallen Spire, formerly the Spire. Unusually for the trope, they were in the apex of their power until very, very recently. Unfortunately, however, a FTL system-shattering warp speed ambush on the heartland by something like the AI, with everything it has at its disposal, can bring you from "prime" to "dying and shattered" in a matter of weeks. At least you can give them the chance to pull themselves together with the Transceiver, not that it'll be easy.
  • Certainly possible in a game of 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 run the risk of being left with a military incapable of defending the empire's new 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 Real Life Persians' somewhat mixed history with this trope.
  • The Crimson Skies universe has the United States of America break up in the 30's. One of it's successor states, Columbia, contains the remnants of the old United States' Federal Government.
  • Crusader Kings II, thanks to covering 400 years of medieval history (going up to almost 700 years with Expansion Packs), feature several examples of this during its historical start dates. 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.
  • Crying Suns: The Empire used to rule the galaxy. Then the OMNIs which managed every aspect of the Empire’s technology and infrastructure spontaneously shut down, all at once. With interstellar travel and communication rendered impossible, the Empire fell apart practically overnight, and while it still controls its heartlands, most of its former territory is now ruled by bandits and warlords.
  • Dragon Age:
    • 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 they 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 Dragon Age II, though, Fenris claims that Tevinter's power is slowly returning. Since Tevinter is an Evil Empire that relies on the worst of Blood Magic, this is a very bad thing.
    • The Orlesian Empire is also heading this way, with its capital having already devolved into a Decadent Court 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 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 The Reveal that 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.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • The Empire in Parthenia in Dragon Quest IV 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.
    • Dragon Quest VII has the Raguraz Empire, whose ambitions of conquest you hear about quite some time before you ever reach its lands. Thanks to the semi=Time Travel 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 formerly conquered neighbors.
    • The Gittish Empire in Dragon Quest IX 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. 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.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • 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.
      • Arena sees Uriel VII's Imperial Battlemage, 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 Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of Destruction) and restoring Uriel VII to his throne.
      • In Daggerfall, the Iliac Bay region is de facto independent of the Empire and divided into squabbling minor kingdoms, and the hero is a "friend" of the Emperor sent to recover a Forgotten Superweapon Humongous Mecha 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 Time Crash-style Divine Intervention made all the game's endings happen at once, though none to the same extent as they would have individually, bringing peace and some stability to the region.
      • In Morrowind, the Emperor sends the Player Character, a prisoner from the Imperial City, to the eponymous province, so that he may join the emperor's Blades and fulfill a prophecy of the local Dunmer (Dark Elves). Doing so gives the emperor a very (religiously and politically) powerful tool (you, the Nerevarine), as well as removing forces more hostile to the Empire (Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal).
      • In Oblivion, Uriel's scheming finally reaches its end when Cyrodiil, the very heart of the Empire, is attacked by the Daedric forces of Mehrunes Dagon and Uriel himself is assassinated. Fortunately, he has a Hidden Backup Prince, but he quickly gives his life to stop Dagon. The leader of the Elder Council, High Chancellor Ocato, is appointed 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 Thalmor, a religious extremist sect of the Altmer (High Elves) who quickly reform the 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 Colovian warlord Titus Mede seizes power and is crowned Emperor. Argonia/Black Marsh (home of the Argonians) secedes from the Empire under the leadership of the xenophobic An-Xileel party, followed shortly by the 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 Gods, resumes its descent with its original momentum. This causes 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. Seeing the weakening of Morrowind, several of the Argonian tribes in Black Marsh, spurred on by agent provocateurs in cahoots with the Thalmor, decide to join each other in raising a great army and invade Morrowind, pillaging the province as revenge for the Dunmers' centuries long tradition of leading massive slaving raids into the Black Mash. After everything is said and done, the Dunmer, against all odds, manage to band together and eventually stop, then mostly repel the Argonian invasion (though the southern part of Morrowind remains under Argonian control), and restore order to Morrowind. But in the aftermath, many of the Dunmer feel betrayed and abandoned by the Empire, which was too busy with its own internal strife to lend them any real aid, and the already present resentment against the Empire boils over, and unable to take their anger out on the Empire itself, they instead target House Hlaalu, the Empire's biggest supporters amongst the Dunmer's great noble houses, which ends up getting stripped of their power and most of their holdings, and Morrowind effectively becomes an Imperial province in-name-only. The Aldmeri Dominion forcefully annexes Valenwood (home of the Bosmer (Wood Elves) and then claims credit for restoring Tamriel's moons (sacred to the Khajiit) to the sky after they mysteriously disappear, bringing them Elsweyr as a 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 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 Skyrim, the Third Empire of Tamriel is on the verge of collapse and down to two semi-functional provincesnote , with a third, Skyrim itself, wracked by a civil war (quietly encouraged by the Thalmor, who hopes to further weaken the Empire by exploiting its internal divisions) 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 the dragons who have suddenly returned and are running amok. Additionally, the player can join the Dark Brotherhood and 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. On the other hand, the Dragonborn can win the civil war for the Imperials (which leaves open the possibility that they will fight for the Empire again when the second war with the Thalmor kicks off), destroy the Dark Brotherhood thus saving Titus Mede II, and help to reform the Blades, which puts the Empire of Cyrodiil in the best shape it's been in for centuries.
    • Ironically, the various Cyrodiilic Empires were built on the remains of the ancient 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 the repurposed Ayleid White-Gold Tower.
    • 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) in the Iliac Bay. At their height (during the First Era), they ruled over about a third of Tamriel's landmass 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 Emperor Of The Fading Suns, 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 Truce Zone and mostly governed by the remnants of said bureaucracy.
  • In 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 Vestigial Empire as the above would imply: the Federation is not the direct descendant of the Council, there was a period of utter and complete collapse of interstellar civilization in between... plus the Federation's direct predecessor was the Earth Empire, which at its height was precisely as large as the present day Federation.
    • Back in Override, there are hints the Voinian Empire is in the early stages of this. The Empire is still a very powerful force, but despite a technological advantage and massive fleets, they were defeated by the United Earth in the Battle of Sol, and subsequently driven back to the pre-invasion frontier, with (unbeknownst to the UE until you make contact) a Voinian slave race, the Emalgha, managing to take advantage to overthrow the Voinian occupation and reclaim independence. When the game starts the Voinians find themselves unable to break the UE frontier or gather enough forces to reliably re-conquer the Emalgha without leaving the UE frontier dangerously undermanned — and tellingly the Voinians seem unable to alter their doctrines and design philosophies to better fight the UEnote . Things only get worse in the storylines (all are canon, but not all can be done on the same character) — the Voinian storyline leads to the destruction of a minor human colony, an Emalgha support colony and the assassination of a UE admiral. The UE storyline leads to the Emalgha and UE pushing deep enough into Voinian territory to link up, with the Voinians losing further worlds to a rebel alliance of slaves called the Hinwar and the UE/Emalgha/Hinwar forming an alliance aimed against the Voinians.
  • In Europa Universalis, many empires are standing on their last legs by the 1444 start date. If you decide to play as them, it's up to you to reverse their historical fate and lead them to glory again.
    • The most well-known example is Byzantium, aka the Eastern Roman Empire. Reduced to just four provinces and a vassal, the integrality of their lands is looked at hungrily by the Ottoman Empire. Compared to them, you are outnumbered 1 to 5, and only a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits will accept being your ally.
    • In the west, the Sultanate of Granada is in a completely symmetrical position, being a weak muslim nation menaced by christian empires. Being the last remanent of the Umayyad Caliphate, you will have to battle the mighty Castile, as well as Aragon and Portugal (and quite possibly all three at once).
    • The once-mighty Timurid Empire has way too many vassals to be stable. The only thing preventing it from imploding is Shah Rukh, its charismatic emperor... who's terminally ill. It is indispensable to placate your subjects as soon as possible to prevent your collapse after Shah Rukh dies.
    • Majapahit outright starts the game with a disaster called "The Fall of Majapahit" which immediately sends your country's stability into the gutter. Worse, your country is breaking apart as internal rebellions balkanize you. It will take a lot of efforts to reclaim your title as a trading empire.
  • EVE Online:
    • 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 the Dark Age, 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 Ammatar Mandate was revealed to be throughly infiltrated by the La Résistance 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 Despair Event Horizon-causing 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.
  • Fallout has several, as befitting a post-apocalyptic franchise:
    • A recurring villain throughout the series is The Enclave, who consider themselves the sole and true heirs to the United States of America, despite only hanging on to Navarro and the Oil Rig in Fallout 2 (which they lost), Raven Rock in Fallout 3 (which they lost), Mid-West holdings like Chicago (which they've NOT lost, yet). Once feared for their Power Armor, air force, and other pre-War technology, by Fallout: New Vegas 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 Fallout, the technology-hoarding Brotherhood of Steel used their Powered Armor and advanced weaponry to dominate the wasteland. But a hundred and twenty years later, by the time of Fallout: New Vegas, 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 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 Fallout 4 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 Fallout: New Vegas is an aggressive, militaristic Rising Empire with the manpower and the stones to take on the New California Republic. However, they are also running on momentum of conquest and expansion and vulnerable to quickly becoming this trope instead if they fail to seize control of the Mojave and its resources. You can set them up for this by assassinating Caesar and rallying other factions like the Boomers, the Brotherhood of Steel, and even the Enclave Remnants to aid the NCR in a key battle at Hoover Dam. You can defeat Caesar's most dangerous general, 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 Dollet Dukedom in Final Fantasy VIII, analogous to the Real Life Post-WWI Imperialist states. Attacked towards the beginning of the game by its former territory, Galbadia, itself similar to the Real Life Third Reich.
  • San d'Oria from Final Fantasy XI 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 Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles 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, though their princess did run off after being cooped up in the castle...
  • The Adrestian Empire from Fire Emblem: Three Houses is something of a downplayed example as it is still a militarily and economically powerful nation, but in the millennium or so of its existence it has gone from dominating all of Fódlan to being confined to the south after losing territory to the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus and the Leicester Alliance. In the present day, the current Emperor Ionius IX is an Ill Boy and powerless figurehead on his deathbed while a cadre of nobles led by the Prime Minister Duke Aegir have all the real power. The "vestigial" part goes right out the window should the player take the Crimson Flower route as Byleth helps the new Emperor Edelgard, the daughter of Ionius, reclaim all the Empire's lost territory in her quest to overthrow the Church of Seiros.
  • The empire of King Rhobar II in the 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 Guild Wars 2 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.
  • Halo: After the onset of the Great Schism in Halo 2, the Covenant breaks apart into hundreds of warring factions. As an ex-Covenant mercenary notes in Halo: Escalation:
    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 '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 Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, 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 Decadent Court, 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 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 Elites and Brutes) and rising doubts about the validity of the Covenant's religion and leadership. This all came to a head when a UNSC Spartan assassinated the Prophet of Regret, a high-ranking member of the Covenant leadership whose death caused a massive uproar among the rest of the Court. In response to the perceived "failure" of the Elites to protect Regret, the Prophet of Truth attempted to genocide the Elites and triggered the very Great Schism that shattered the Covenant once and for all. Additionally, the Covenant's religiously-induced Creative Sterility (they believed that any attempt to research or improve upon the technology of the Forerunners, whom they worshiped as gods, was an act of heresy worthy of the death sentence) 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 Rising Empire after the last vestiges of Covenant collapses, implied to be helped by the fact that Humanity were intended to be the ones to "inherit" the power and technology of the Forerunners anyways, which essentially gave them a technological jumpstart.
  • Homeworld:
    • The Taiidan Empire imploded spectacularly thanks to the events of the final mission of the first game, and by the beginning of the Cataclysm expansion the new Taiidani Republic (officially recognised as the successor state) holds barely a quarter of its former territory. The rest have either broken off as independent polities or been absorbed into "bandit kingdoms" ruled by Former Regime Personnel turned warlord, strong enough to launch an occasional raid against Hiigara, but by no means major players on the galactic arena anymore. Many of these factions claim to be "Imperial Loyalists" and the true successors to the Imperium, but with no clear line of succession and several competing voices insisting that they should be the one in charge their ambitious schemes to topple the Republic and bring back the good old days tend to bog down before getting far. One of the larger and better-organised Imperialist factions gets desperate enough to try to harness the Beast to give them an edge; first they try to repurpose a sample of it as a bioweapon, but eventually they realise it's sapient and try to forge an alliance. This backfires rather spectacularly.
    • 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.
    • Zig-zagged with the Bentusi. While they're a nomadic race, calling themselves the Unbound, they were once powerful enough to wipe out the Hiigaran fleet. This very act caused them to few disgust towards violence, so they willingly demilitarized, becoming just traders. Still, their tradeships are fairly well protected and can only be destroyed by a major attack. The events of Cataclysm have them flee the galaxy en masse in fear of the Beast. Some remain due to the intervention of the Somtaaw, but by the time of Homeworld 2, only a single ship remains in the entire galaxy thanks to the Vaygr, and it ends up being destroyed.
  • In the first Imperium Galactica game, the Player Character is tasked with restoring the once-great Galactic Empire. In the game, you have to fight off several powerful alien races as well as many splinter human factions. Older Is Better 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 Solarian Federation. One of the subplots is a mad Emperor who had himself put into cryosleep to wait for the time when he is needed again. The Shinari Republic is trying to find and revive him to plunge the galaxy into a War for Fun and Profit. Oh, and many of the minor races in the game are actually Lost Colonies of genetically-modified humans, which also fits the trope to an extent.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player eventually comes across Rakata Prime, which is all that remains of the once galaxy-spanning, trillions-enslaving Infinite Empire.
  • In The Last of Us, the only city we see undisputably under the control of the rump United States government is Boston. Pittsburgh used to be controlled until a few years back, when the surviving locals rose up and took control of the city.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • There are hints that Ikana from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask may be like this, especially considering that their current King is an undead skeleton.
    • The Gerudo region in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has hints that the Gerudo people were once more widespread in the area and had accomplished many architectural marvels. In the present they are limited to a small handful of camps outside of Gerudo Town, and their massive statues and buildings elsewhere are all but forgotten. Even so, the Gerudo are arguably in better shape than the rest of Hyrule post-Calamity, as Gerudo Town still has working aqueducts, city walls, and a professionally-trained royal guard, while Hyrule proper's central government was wiped out on day one (except for Zelda, who is currently busy keeping Ganon in check) and is currently reduced to a batch of villages and outposts.
  • The Holy Celestine Empire in Lusternia used to encompass the entire Basin of Life, until the outbreak of The Taint — which they were partially responsible for — changed the entire political landscape and created a rival in Magnagora. Celest is now only a single city, striving to wipe out Magnagora and the Taint.
  • Mass Effect
    • According to the Encyclopedia Exposita, 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. This is a rather a-typical example in that the Hegemony was never all the impressive, but managed to lever its status as a Citadel member state into political power. As soon as they lost that status, the bubble collapsed.
      • 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. 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 Mass Effect 3 threatened to turn a lot of the galaxy's civilizations into one. Ironically, the Protheans' chosen successors, the asari, most closely fit the bill after the fall of their homeworld Thessia.
  • The Empire of 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.
  • Pillars of Eternity 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 first game takes place) and Readceras, and withdrawing from contesting commercial interests in the Deadfire (where the second game takes place). 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 (several of which claim succession from the old Empire).
  • Ravenmark: Mercenaries starts with the once-great Empire of Estellion barely holding its own against its former ally the 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 Sins of a Solar Empire 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 Star Trek Online, 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 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 "reawaken" and start throwing their weight around and in the Leviathans DLC, actually fight each other (an event known as "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 its vassal than the parent empire.
  • In its heyday, the Holy Ryuvian Empire of Sunrider ruled the galaxy for thousands of years and 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 Tears to Tiara and its sequel Tears to Tiara 2, The Empire, modelled after Ancient Rome, has been in decline ever since it changed its name to The Holy Empire.
  • Both the ARM and the CORE in Total Annihilation 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 Lost Technology that they can't build anymore.
  • From the Total War series:
    • In Total War: Shogun 2, the Ashikaga Shogun is the theoretical ruler of all Japan. In practice, the Ashikaga are a rump state holed up in Kyoto; the rest of Japan is warring states.
    • This is almost an enforced in Medieval II: Total War. The Byzantine Empire 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 The Fall of Constantinople, but doing so is usually a Race Against the Clock.
      • Historically-minded game mods 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 I Am Skantarios, 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 Empire: Total War. 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 less-than-awe inspiring to say the least. They exist pretty much to get subjected to a series of Curb Stomp Battles by the Marathas and/or the British. Portugal, which was The Dreaded 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, Venice. The worst case, though, is the Knights of St. John, who now control the island of Malta and pretty much just take out the occasional Barbary warship.
    • In Total War: Attila, 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 Sassanid Empire.
    • Third Age: Total War: Gondor. All of its former land east of Anduin starts off as rebel territory or controlled by Mordor, including East Osgiliath. Eriador is even worse off; that motley patchwork quilt of Breeland settlers, woodsmen, hobbits and wandering rangers is the last remnant of the Dunedain kingdom of Arnor (you can reverse Arnor's fortunes however, in a big way at that).
    • In Total War: Warhammer The Empire starts out only in control of the capital city of Altdorf. The rest of Reikland is controlled by secessionists, who are supported by Boris Todbringer of Middenland. Even when that situation is dealt with, you are still only in control of one of the eight provinces you nominally rule and even if the other Elector Counts aren't openly in defiance of you, it takes a fair amount of political and military maneuvering to take control of the lands you nominally ruled from square one. And that's saying nothing about how the wilderness is infested with Beastmen and the entire province of Sylvania (which was part of the Empire and still is nominally part of Stirland) is under the control of the Vampires, and both races want nothing but to tear down the world of men.
      • Similarly, the Dwarfs are politically shattered (not as badly as the Empire; Dwarfs don't do rebellion, but they aren't too keen about following your orders either), and several dwarfholds are overrun by Greenskins.
    • Total War: Three Kingdoms opens just as the Han Dynasty has crossed the point of no return. Though nominally under the protection of the Emperor, said kid is a puppet of Dong Zhuo. Any number of generals and warlords help themselves to its scattered, underdeveloped, and poorly-guarded provinces, leaving the last bastion of national unity picked clean by the mid-game.
  • The Dual Solar Empire from Urban Galaxy 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 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 The Remnant.
    • Speaking of the Zandalari, while they style themselves as an Empire their domain has shrunk significantly since antiquity. The Sundering restricted them to the small continent of Zandalar, two thirds of which are only nominally under their control. The Empire has maintained its position as a world power thanks to treasures accumulated over millennia, one of the most powerful fleets on Azeroth, and the protection of several loa. The Alliance steals much of the treasure and destroys half the fleet while many of the loa are now dead, leaving Zandalar greatly weakened.
    • 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 Sundering.
    • Many of the human Seven Kingdoms. The Empire of Arathor played this trope straight, while the Kingdoms of Alterac and Lordaeron went a step or two further than this trope. The Kingdom of Azeroth (later renamed Stormwind) played it straight in Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, 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 a recent and extreme version. Aside from a splinter faction in the Great Seas, Kilix the Unraveler and his small cadre of followers are the only known living Nerubians in the game. He speaks of rebuilding the old Nerubian empire while clearing Scourge from his people's fallen strongholds, but whether he has sufficient numbers to actually achieve that is unclear.
    • The Arakkoa are descendants of the Apexis civilization, which once controlled much of Draenor before the Ogres came to power. A civil war in the distant past ended with a Fantastic Nuke wiping out the majority of their population. The descendants of the survivors now live isolated on top of mountain peaks, relying heavily on creations of their ancestors.
    • 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.
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus: Between Blazkowicz gutting their science division and Set Roth tampering with the concrete formula many of their structures are built of, there are clear signs that the world Nazi regime is (quite literally) starting to crumble. At one point B.J can overhear a conversation between two Nazi soldiers salvaging a destroyed battle robot, where one points out the inconsistency of their leaders going through the trouble of salvaging a destroyed robot when they should simply be able to build more with their boasted infinite resources and industrial might, leading to the soldier to darkly conclude that all is not well within the Reich. By the time Wolfenstein: Youngblood rolls around, the Third Reich has lost all of its territory outside of continental Europe.

  • Girl Genius: After a two year Time Skip, the Wufenbach Empire, or Pax Transylvania if you prefer, is said to no longer exist, though it still holds a fair amount of territory and influence and has the area around Mechanicsburg locked down. After the disaster at Mechanicsburg, Europa is in complete chaos, various Storm King and former Storm King factions are either rebelling against them or trying to work with them to piece Europa back together, and the Other's forces are active again. Wulfenbach is still the strongest power in Europa, but how much territory they have left is unclear.

    Web Original 
  • In the world of The Anglo/American – Nazi War , the Soviet Union loses to Nazi Germany. The vicious treaty imposed upon Soviet Russia robs them of an army, as well all its territory west of the Urals. After the new capital of Krasnoyarsk is nerve-gassed by Nazi bombers in the final months of the Second World War – killing most of the government – the country collapses into civil war. By the early 1960s, European Russia, East and West Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and the Central Asian "-stans" have broken away permanently, while the Russian Far East has joined the United States as West Alaska. All that remains of the USSR is western and central Siberia.
  • An Examination Of Extra Universal Systems Of Government:
    • The Guantanamo Regime is all that is left of the United States. It controls Guantanamo Bay, after a popular uprising against the mad and tyrannical Edward Butler regime. It continues to exist because Butler was able to storm off with several nuclear ballistic missiles and most of America's gold reserves. Butler rules as eternal President, the people are under constant surveillance, children are indoctrinated to follow Butler's paranoid ideology, and the prisoners who were in Guantanamo Bay are treated as slaves.
    • The Soviet Union-in-exile consists of lunar colonies and space stations that preserve the Soviet Union and reject capitalist Russia.
    • The last remnant of the Qing Empire in the world of "The Last Emperor" rules Kowloon, where it becomes a Wretched Hive for criminal syndicates, deposed dictators, and espionage intrigue.
    • The South African Republic-in-exile largely consists of the South African Defence Force, which is made up of a 40 ship-strong flotilla, taking shelter in the Portuguese exclave of Cabinda. Although recognized by the United Nations, the SADF's diplomatic and monetary lifeline that was extended to them by the international community lasted as long as the anarchy in South Africa did. The SADF resorted to becoming a global private military contractor. The Apartheid system is still alive in the former SAR, as the non-white populace is too small to vote themselves into power and an open rebellion would be suicide. The SADF are secretly determined to reclaim their old homeland, by any means necessary; they use their vast funds from their "humanitarian" operations to destabilise the South African successor states. Furthermore, they have undeclared nuclear weapons obtained from the former People's Republic of China and are planning to use them to wipe out the successor states.
    • What is left of the Soviet Union in the world of "The Army is the Country" is Tajikistan.
  • Word of God 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.
  • Capto Iugulum:
    • 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 Chaos Timeline, 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 Cloud Cuckoo Lander and the North Island standing behind a certain Elizabeth. Talk about the British royal family being the Butt-Monkey of this timeline.
  • Subverted in Decades of Darkness. 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 The Gamer's Alliance, the Yamato Empire becomes a mere 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 Hitler Rants, 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's Libya, though it is averted by Stalin and the Soviet Union, both of which are still extremely powerful.
  • Imperial Russia in Malê Rising. Before the Great War, she was the largest contiguous land empire on Earth. When Russia lost, the Romanovs were consigned to only reign in the colony of Russian Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa. While most of the family, chiefly the daughters, married other princes to get away, one notable member became enamored with her new home, setting off a love affair that would see her spilt with her exiled father.
  • In the world of Mother of Learning, some politicians insist that The Alliance of Eldemar still exists ... it's just shrunk.
  • Yaman in Open Blue is suffering from decades of decadence and corruption, and can only prioritize maintaining its outward appearance. Avelia, one of the two dominant empires of The 'Verse, is slowly following in Yaman's footsteps.
  • Orion's Arm: The Terran Confederacy is as similar to the Terran Federation as the Holy Roman Empire was to the Roman Empire.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender shows us Chin Village. Three-hundred years before the series, the Earth Kingdom (except for the capital Ba Sing Se) was grabbed under the boot heel of 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!"

    Real Life 

Examples in this section are listed in (mostly) chronological order:

  • Older Than Dirt: Ancient Egypt 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 governorsnote  — 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 (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.
  • 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 modern Macedonia 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.
    • 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, at their peak, controlled all lands from actual Turkey and Syria to the border of actual India, and 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 came along...
  • The so-called Byzantine Empire, 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 Vestigial Empire of The Roman Empire making this perhaps the most spectacular example in history. And then the Vestigial Empire retreated to ANOTHER Vestigial Empire in the form of the 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 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 Borneo Island and other islands, like parts of the Phillipines, as well. It is now a small enclave surrounded by Malaysia in Borneo. Made more jarring because Borneo is 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. Under Genghis Khan, it conquered many well-developed societies until it stretched all across Asia, from the Caspian to China. It was by far the largest empire the world had ever seen, and no empire since — save one—has ever matched it. Now, it's right back where it was before Genghis Khan came along: a swathe of desert, and a bunch of nomads. It has the lowest population density (people per square mile) of any country in the world.
    • This is also one of the quicker examples of this trope happening; Genghis Khan's empire barely lasted 12 years after his death. Upon the death of Ögedei Khan without a clear heir, a massive Succession Crisis split the empire into a succession of khanates (and the Yuan dynasty) that increasingly went native. The last khanates (which at that point were mainly Turkic) fell to 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  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 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 in 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 Sengoku Jidai 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 Oda Nobunaga put the Ashikaga out of their misery. It took a few more decades of war before Toyotomi Hideyoshi put Japan back together, though he could not prevent his death from causing a Succession Crisis.
  • The Mughal Empire, before the 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 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 the Company supporting religious and secular offences to the local culture and land grabbings and 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 Queen Victoria 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 The Chincha Islands War. Lingering imperial delusions and hubris were finally shattered in 1898, when they were quickly and brutally defeated in the Spanish-American War (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. 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 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 "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 deserves a mention. Largely weakened by internal corruption in the 18th century, the Ottomans were constantly defeated by Russia in a string of wars in the Black Sea. Making matters worse was the loss of Greece in 1832 following the Greek war of Independence. Then there's the fact that they fell behind in the Industrial Revolution in the same period. It had gotten to the point that it became so far gone by the 19th century that Russian Tsar Nicholas I coined the term "sick man of Europe" to describe it, and further noted that it was "falling to pieces." Despite a a victory against Russia in the Crimean War, albeit with assistance from Britain and France, the Ottomans would greatly suffer once again in the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War and enter a long period of internal collapse as modernization efforts proved to be for nought in the interim. Then the 1910s hit, and the empire lost Libya to Italy and most of their remaining European territory to the Balkan States, then lost everything else to the British and Russians in World War I 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 against primarily the Greeks, forcing a new treaty). At least Mustafa Kemal Atatürk managed to make the best of the situation by finally modernizing the country, and they still have Constantinople, so the situation isn't completely bleak.
  • 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 Holy Roman Empire. 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 World War I the Principality was somewhat larger, having included properties scattered across Austria-Hungary.
    • Andorra identifies itself with the Holy Roman Empire as well.
  • 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 World War I 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 Britain once ruled 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 Gibraltar, The Falkland Islands, 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 The Falklands War, accurately dubbed as "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 a country that, on a good day, vies with Russia and France for the tag of 'best of the rest' after the US and the PRC.
    • There are some people who feel that HM The Queen is the last remnant of Britian's imperial past, not the monarchy itself, but her personally, and not for nothing. She was born during the final boom of the British Empire, during the reign of her grandfather George V, lived through World War II, and her 60+ years on the throne has overseen the transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth, which observers have opined to be very much a creature of her own making. Even her coronation has come to be regarded not as the dawn of the new Elizabethan age as it was at the time, but the swan song of Britain's Imperial Splendour. There are also observers that say republican movements of all stripes will have no success "as long as she is alive", similar to how observers said there weren't any major changes coming to Austria-Hungary as long as Franz Joseph lived. And that proved (semi) accurate as Franz Joseph who had ascended to the throne in 1848 died in 1916 with empire dissolving little over two years later. However, WW1 arguably was a more important cause of those changes than Franz Joseph's death.
  • The French also downplays this to a degree like the British do, and many of the same traits apply to it (NATO member, permanent seat in the UN Security Council, 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 Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys.
    • 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  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 Holy Roman Empire. 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.
    • Charlemagne's empire itself also provides an example. It was the first large political structure in Europe following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Yet, within a generation of Charlemagne's death, it was reduced to near impotence to the point where French kings had to buy off Viking raiders with grants of land and titles.
  • 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.
  • It's hard to believe today, but Armenia used to be a powerful regional player in the Middle East and West Asia. Oh, and it was much larger than it is today; during the reign of Tigran the Great in the 1st century BCE, it spanned from Lake Sevan in the northeast to Tyre in Lebanon, bordering both the Caspian and Mediterranean Seas. Although it was rarely completely independent, Armenians used to be one of the biggest ethnic groups in West Asia as well, with vast swathes of eastern Turkey having major Armenian populations. Then the genocide happened, which wiped out virtually all Western Armenians (who constituted more than half of all Armenians at that time, so it's a huge loss, to say the least), followed by the one-two punch of the Armenian SSR being forced by the Soviet Union, which re-conquered it after two years of independence, to cede a quarter of its land to Turkey and another quarter to the Azerbaijan SSR as part of a peace treaty, which of course meant that Armenians in those lands had to leave (though the folks at the Republic of Artsakh eventually managed to fight back). The remaining territory (estimated to be 3% of Tigran's Armenia) declared independence in 1991 as a poor, Russian-depended Ruritania, a far cry from its proud conquering ancestor.
  • 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, etc. Now, it is a small country in the corner of Europe best known for Abba, depressing fiction, Ikea, some rather off-beat chefs, and (admittedly) 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 "Nothing much changed since then. Really."
  • The European Union itself is a quasi-federation of many vestigial empires cited here: in fact, having the world's second largest GDP (after the U.S.), the second largest military in both number of troops and military expenditures, the world's second reserve currency,note  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 Hegemonic Empire... That is, if it had a strong central government which it still lacks, especially since Britain announced its exit.
  • In the early twentieth-century, Imperial Japan 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 The Great Depression. 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 World War II and their subsequent occupation by The United States, 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 — rivaling that of Germany (or depending on how you see it, and when it was, even the US) — and a major exporter of pop culture and technologies, particularly cars and consumer electronics like televisions (hence the catchphrase "Made in Japan", particularly in The '70s and The '80s); for several decades in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries the largest car company in the world was Japan based. Economically, Japan was far more powerful during and after the Cold War than it was before. For a good deal of 1950-2000, it was the one of the very few First World countries that wasn't predominantly Caucasian, before the Four Asian Tigers (South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong) got to First World level as well via market reforms and liberalization. While its status as a relative powerhouse is fading due to the rise of China, Japan is still the third or fourth biggest economy in terms of GDPnote , 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, 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.
  • The Qing Empire was a shadow of its former self by the time of European (and later, Japanese) expansion into its territory, and 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 La Résistance 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 La Résistance 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.
    • 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 World War II.
  • 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.
  • Vatican City is not this to The Papal States: they're both an Absolute Monarchy and The Theocracy ruled by The Pope, the Papal States extended for the Italian regions of Lazio, Umbria and Romagna (the eastern half of Emilia Romagna) while Vatican City is two hills and a castle in and near Rome, but if Vatican City claimed any solution of continuity with the Papal States it would reopen a political contention with Italy that neither country wants to deal with again, thus Vatican City is an entirely new creation that just happens to be easily mistaken for this.
    • If you believe some Christian fundamentalists the Vatican is the last remanent of the actual Roman Empire, as is needed for their end times prophecies that the Roman Empire is still existing in the modern times. According to thier interpretation the prophecies of Daniel in the Book of Daniel forseen four empires; Babylon, Persia, Macedonia and Rome encompass up to the end days, thus Rome can't fall completely, for them the part of the Apocalypse that says that the Beast (the last empire) was wounded and then heals is a metaphore of the Roman Empire resurrecting whether as the EU or as a World Government or as a literal restored Roman Empire with the Pope as leader. Of course other interpretations exists and some say that the continuation of Rome and fourth beast is actually Islam (the rationale is that whether Rome was continuated by the Caliphate when the Turks took Constantinople and the Sultan Mehmet II proclaim himself to be Ceasar, or that Rome was never the fourth empire but was the Islamic Caliphate since the beginning) or Russia (basically the same idea, with Moscow proclaimed as the Third Rome after the fall of Constantinople although this theory was more popular during ironically the existence of the atheist USSR and not so much nowdays when Islam is seem more as the big bad guy for Fundies).
  • 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 Catherine the Great). 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.
    • There's a micronation called "Romanov Empire" lead by a guy named Anton Bakov who have been trying for decades to purchase a piece of land to create what they consider is the legit successor state of the Russian Empire.
  • 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 World War I, 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 World War II 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 Josip Broz Tito. 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 The '90s. 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 World War I. In a way though, the Soviet Union at its peak in the Cold War had practically half of the world under its influence much like the United States. Both nations appalled to anti-colonial movements early in the Cold War when possible to buy influence at the expense of the waning European empires, but the Soviet collapse and rising anti-American sentiment has arguably lead to a multi-polar world despite America remaining the sole hyperpower.
  • At one time, 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 its 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 todaynote  than when it nominally controlled "Alta California" and "Tejas".
    • During the existence of the First Mexican Empire a civil war broke out in Costa Rica between loyalists to the Empire and republicans. The loyalists won but, ironically, for the moment they won the Mexican Empire had been abolished for months (communications were very slow back then) thus when the lovalists proclaim the loyalty of the country to Emperor Agustin de Iturbide (who was long ousted by the time) technically Costa Rica became this for a few months; the literal last vestige of the once vast Mexican Empire and the only place where Emperor Iturbide was recognized as ruler (though not for long as republicans regain power easily when the news of the downfall arrived).
  • 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.
  • Jordan is arguably an example as, while not The Remnant of a unified state/empire, it's the last state ruled by the Hashemite dynasty. The Hashemites were the rulers of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, and for centuries were vassals to the Ottomans (whose Sultan used the empire's possession of Mecca to proclaim himself Caliph up until the new Republic of Turkey abolished the Caliphate in 1924). In 1916, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali revolted against the Ottomans and, with British aid, led the Arab Revolt which liberated many Arab lands from Ottoman rule over the following two years. Sharif Hussein declared himself "King of the Arab Lands", but British and French politicking prevented a unified Arab state from forming. Instead, Hussein was allowed to rule over the newly-formed Kingdom of Hejaz (the western part of the Arabian peninsula, along the Red Sea coast), and his sons Abdullah and Faisal were granted rule over the carved-out states of the Emirate of Transjordan and Mandatory Iraq, respectively, both states under the "protection" of the British (Interestingly, Faisal attempted to declare an independent Arab state in the French Mandate of Syria, but the revolt was put down by the French and left Faisal dependent on the British, who allowed him to become the King of Iraq in recognition of his popularity among Arabs, provided he stay loyal to them). Sharif Hussein soon proved unreliable to Britain, who switched their patronage to the rivals of the Hashemites, the Saudis, whose leader, Ibn Saud, was building a state of his own in Eastern Arabia. Ibn Saud soon conquered The Hejaz (with Sharif Hussein forced into exile in Transjordan), and was eventually incorporated into the new state of Saudi Arabia. Faisal's branch of the family lasted a few more decades as Iraq was granted full independence from Britain in 1932, but Faisal's grandson (Faisal II) was killed in 1958 during a nationalist coup by military officers who felt that despite nominal independence, the Iraqi Hashemites were still in essence British puppets. Today, Jordan (which was granted full independence in 1946) is still ruled by the Hashemites, under Abdullah's great-grandson Abdullah II, in a relative contsitutional monarchy that, while still granting real political power to the monarch, is far more liberal than the other monarchies of the region.
  • In a small-scale example, countless chains of businesses, typically in the retail and/or food sectors, have fallen off the map either completely or partially as a result of changing markets, internal issues, or simple bad luck. For instance, while RadioShack used to be everywhere, thanks to their bankruptcies and sale to Sprint, only a few stragglers remain, typically independent franchisees who continue to use the RadioShack name and branding. Other places may be basically debranded versions of what they were before and may continue to offer similar products (especially in the cases of fast-food joints). Here's a blog that chronicles many of said broken chains.
  • While Egypt was falling into and then in the first century of its 3rd Intermediate Period, its fellow Bronze Age empire of Assyria was in a vestigial empire phase of its own, contracting to its core territories in the wake of the Bronze Age Collapse, and remaining so for just over a century. Unusually for this trope, it then bounced back, taking advantage of the fact that pretty much everyone around them had fared worse to found an iron age Neo-Assyrian Empire that would last for three centuries and reach farther than the Middle Assyrian Empire ever had.
  • Bulgaria, twice. The first Bulgarian empire in the early middle ages encompassed the country's modern territory plus those of Romania, Moldova, Macedonia, and parts of Greece, Albania, Serbia and Turkey. Some time after its destruction it was revived as a smaller empire, but still spanning over much of the Balkans early on before it got reduced to what is now Northern Bulgaria and Southern Romania. After it too fell, its people struggled for centuries to liberate themselves and the country was finally restored and its goals for national unity initially featured regaining all territories of the Second empire. While the third state was initially a monarchy band called itself the same as its earlier incarnations ("Tsarstvo" literally means "empire" from Tsar = Caesar = Emperor), its rulers and citizens now thought of it as The Kingdom, not The Empire.
  • Interestingly enough, Romania used to be an empire in the ancient times, called Dacia back then. Dacia (ancient kingdom comprising Romania and Moldova) used to be a powerful empire and one of the biggest threats to the Roman Republic under Julius Caesar under the rule of the mighty king Burebista (reign: 82 BC. — 44 BC.). Dacia under Burebista managed to conquer between 60BC until the king's death in 44BC many people,tribes and kingdoms such as the celtic tribes in the Balkans and Central Europe (Boii, Scordiscii; the Greek city state in the western shores of the Black Sea (from Odessa to Apollonia); the Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace; some germanic tribes(Marcomanni, Bastarnae) and some sarmatian tribes. Burebista's Dacian Empire stretched its boundaries from west, Bohemia (Czech Republic) and Bavaria (SE Germany) to east, Odessa, Ukraine and from the north, Southern Poland and Belarus and to the south, Thrace (European Turkey, Bulgaria and N-E Greece). Burebista was referred by governor of the then-Greek city colony of Dyonisopolos as "the First and the Greatest of all the Thracian kings" or the king of kings of his own empire. However, the Roman Republic under Caesar declared his empire, alongside with the Parthian Empire as the two great threats of Rome because Burebista supported Pompey during the brutal Roman civil war against Julius Caesar (49 BC — 48 BC) and was defeated in Greece and was killed in the Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt. But Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC and Burebista met the same fate afterwards in the same year. After Burebista's assassination, his empire was split in 4 and later 5 kingdoms in Dacia. After that, Decebalus (reign: 87 AD — 106 AD) unified Dacia one last time as a defensive kingdom against the rapidly expanding Roman Empire, but Decebalus' kingdom was a shadow of its former powerful self and the Dacian Kingdom was absorbed by Rome in 106 AD. Burebista's Dacian Empire (82 BC — 44 BC) is the only event in Romania's history when the state became a mighty empire which was a short lived rival of Ancient Rome.
  • The Dalai Lama currently resides in Dharamsala, a small district in Himachal Pradesh, India. The see of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the de facto capital of Tibetan Buddhism, after the Chinese takeover of the then de facto independent Tibet. This could be seen as the last vestige of the once large Tibetan Empire that actually ruled the area extending from the Tarim basin to the Himalayas and Bengal, and from the Pamirs to what are now the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Yunnan (yes, ironically the Tibetans once ruled the Chinese).


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