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What does the sun never set empire mean

The empire on which the sun never sets (Spanish: el imperio en el que nunca se pone el sol, Portuguese: o império no qual o sol nunca se põe) means that the sun will always be The empire on its territory is usually used to describe an empire that is prosperous and powerful, has colonies on the seven continents of the world, and holds the hegemony of the time.

Nowadays, the term is used to describe imperialism on certain occasions but does not necessarily refer specifically to a unified national government. In history, two countries have been called empires without setting sun. They are the Spanish Empire and the British Empire.

The saying that the sun never sets can be traced back to a historical speech by the ancient Greek writer Herodotus. In the Old Testament, a similar concept may predate Herodotus, in which the psalm talks about the Messiah King: “He shall be in power from this sea to the sea, from the river to the end of the earth.”


The term “sunless empire” was first used to describe the Spanish empire in the 16th century. It was derived from a statement by the Spanish King Carlos I (also known as the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V): “In our territory, the sun Never fall.”

In the 19th century, this term was commonly used as another name for the British Empire, especially in the Victorian era, when the world map published by the United Kingdom marked the British Empire in pink, which vividly showed the British hegemony on a global scale.

Spanish Empire

The Spanish Empire was one of the first global empires in the world and the first country to be dubbed the “Empire of the Sun Never Set”.

At the end of the 15th century, after the successful movement to regain lost land, Spain was unified and quickly moved towards overseas expansion. In the 16th century, Spain and Portugal were the pioneers of great geographic discoveries and colonial expansion, and they opened up trade routes in the major oceans, making trade prosperous. Spain spanned the Atlantic to the Americas, from Mexico across the Pacific, via the Philippines to East Asia. The Spanish conquistadors overthrew the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations and claimed sovereignty over large areas of North and South America.

The Spanish royal family married various European royal families and obtained the right to inherit a large territory. During the time of Carlos I, the Spanish throne and the Holy Roman Empire became one, which rapidly increased Spain’s influence in Europe. Carlos I even defeated or blocked the most powerful enemies, France and the Ottoman Empire, and Spain began to dominate Europe. This was manifested in the battle of Pavia, which captured the King of France in 1525, and the Roman catastrophe when the Pope was captured in 1527, establishing Spain’s hegemony in Western and Southern Europe.

Beginning in the mid-16th century, the Spanish Habsburgs used the gold and silver obtained from mining in the Americas to obtain more military expenditures to cope with the long wars in Europe and North Africa. During the period of Philip II (reigned 1556-1598), although Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were divided, the power of the Habsburgs did not weaken. Instead, they annexed the Portuguese Empire in 1580 (lost in 1640). In 1582, the Battle of Ponta Delgada became the undoubtedly strongest overlord of the sea.

Soon he acquired a vast colony of Portugal, including half of the Netherlands, half of the Apennines, the entire Iberian Peninsula, and almost the entire Central and South America, including the Philippine Islands in Asia, and even Taiwan at one time. . Since then, Spain has maintained the largest empire in the world.

British Empire

After the Spanish Empire was weakened, the British Empire was the second to receive the title of “The Empire That Never Sets”.

In the long Middle Ages and the early modern period, Britain has always been a major country in Europe and has experienced many glories. But what is strange is that Britain’s national fortune has shown a clear wave-shaped trend. After every glorious time, it will always fall into the trough of decline and become a second-rate country. While the mainland countries were struggling for European hegemony (the “Thirty Years’ War” from 1618 to 1648), Britain was busy with internal struggles, which was almost ignored by other countries. As the Venice ambassador said in 1640, “in the eyes of all countries in the world” The United Kingdom is just an unremarkable nation and therefore insignificant.”

After the Glorious Revolution, Britain challenged the hegemony of Louis XIV, the number one power in Europe, with a new attitude, and invested in two consecutive wars to contain Louis XIV’s dominance in Europe. Namely the Nine Years War (1689-1697) and the Spanish Succession War (1701-1713), and achieved great success. After that, while ensuring that the power structure of the European continent was basically balanced, the United Kingdom steadily expanded its power mainly through successful overseas expansion, and its power tentacles greatly exceeded the scope of Europe. When the situation in the European continent reappeared around 1740, Britain returned to Europe and again resisted the revival of France’s ambition to dominate the continent.

In the Austrian Succession War (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the wars between Britain and Spain and France broke out before the start of the war in Europe, and the resulting results naturally exceeded Europe. Expand to the whole world. The United Kingdom not only maintained the stability of the balance of power in the European continent through the Seven Years’ War, it also destroyed the maritime power of France and Spain again, and seized almost all French colonies in North America and India (seizing world maritime hegemony, world colonial hegemony, and Britain became The biggest winner, began to move towards the legend of the sun never set empire).

Churchill said that after the Seven Years’ War, “Britain became the master of the sea and land outside Europe.” He cited the comments of the British politician Horace Walpole at the time to exaggerate Britain’s prominent status as a great power: “The Romans used the world to conquer the world. In three hundred years, we have conquered the world only after three battles, and the current world has doubled the size of the Roman era.”

That is, in 1763, after the victory of the Seven Years’ War, Britain proudly called itself the “empire that the sun never sets” for the first time. However, two decades later, because of the failure of the American Revolutionary War, Britain was forced to put aside its pride and temporarily canceled its claim to be an empire.

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