Every imperial project, no matter how great, eventually meets its downfall. In fact, you may be reading this in a country that was once part of a now-vanished international superpower. Here are maps that reveal the rise and fall of the world's most ambitious empires.
The British Empire (between the late 15th century and 2007)
The Roman Empire or Imperium Romanum (West: 27 BC - AD 476, East: 330 - 1453)
The maximum extent of the Roman Empire.
Empire of the Huns (c. 370-469)
Holy Roman Empire (962-1806)
Mongol Empire (1206-1368)
(via Maps On The Web)
The Ottoman Empire (1299-1823)
The Aztec empire (originated in 1427 as a triple-alliance between three city-states named Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. It reached its maximal size in 1519 shortly before the Spanish conquistadors led by Cortes arrived.)
(via Wikimedia Commons)
French Colonial Empire (1534-1980)
(via Andrei Nacu)
Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)
Russian Empire (1721-1917)
The Austro-Hungarian Empire (or Austria-Hungary, 1867-1918)
(via Navona Numismatics)
The Empire of Japan (1868-1947)
The dark green part was the actual territory of the Empire between 1870 and 1905. The lighter areas were acquisitions between 1905-1930 (medium green) and 1930-1942 (light green).
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (known as USSR or Soviet Union, 1922-1991)
(via Ma GioZal)