(Remotely related to Is there an in-universe explanation for the Roman Empire terminology used for the Romulans?)

The Romulan Empire and the Klingon Empire are led by a senate and a council with a chancellor, respectively. The position as chancellor is not inherited.

How, apart from maybe "Gene Roddenberry had no clue, but wanted something that sounds cool" do these qualify as "empire" at all? An empire should have, well, an emperor (or at least a queen, like the British Empire).

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    It may interest you to know that Britain no longer has an Empire, hence the queen is not an Empress. Her father, however was an Emperor until the independence of India, when he relinquished the title.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 21:13
  • to add to @Richard 's comment - what's left of the empire is now referred to (for the most part) as british overseas territories, there's a good writeup here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Empire#End_of_empire
    – jammypeach
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 13:09
  • 1
    Wait wait... a British Empire discusion withoout CGP Gray reference??? Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 20:00

4 Answers 4


It is a common misunderstanding that empire always implies monarchy or royalty.

The term "emperor" derives from the Latin term imperator. It roughly means "commander" or "protector". This was roughly Julius Caesar's function when he came to power in the Roman Republic circa 50 BC, under the official title dictator. It is true that his successor Octavius (later Augustus) was a blood relative of Caesar, but he did not come to power through bloodline alone. (The Battle of Actium was the deciding factor.) Augustus held the title of imperator, thereby beginning the line of Roman emperors. These emperors did not necessarily share a common dynastic origin.

In short, inheritance is not a necessary part of the ruling of an empire.

From Wikipedia:

An empire is a geographically extensive group of diverse states and peoples (ethnic groups) united and ruled by a central authority, either by a monarch (emperor, empress) or an oligarchy. The term empire is derived from the Latin term imperium (a rule, a command; authority, control, power; supreme power, sole dominion; military authority; a dominion, realm), the 'ruling’ of territories that are far beyond the homeland.

It is clear that both the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire are consistent with this usage of "empire". The leadership of both entities is oligarchical, with power concentrated in the hands of a few, and with vast Alpha and Beta quadrant territories under their control.

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    I like this answer, aside from the fact that it totally ignores the fact that both empires have Emperors.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 22:07
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    @amcintosh : I was working off of memory, but was remembering something closer to his birth date than rise to power. Corrected, thanks.
    – Praxis
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 22:18
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    @Richard : OP's main complaint regarding the usage of "empire" is that "the position as chancellor is not inherited". I have modelled my answer with that concern in mind.
    – Praxis
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 22:56
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    According to Wikipedia, the Roman Empire ("Imperium Romanum") existed before there was an Emperor ("Imperator"). So even the earliest linguistic precedence supports the premise that an Empire need not be ruled by an Emperor. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 9:39
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    Also, the Holy Roman Empire was called an empire and the emperor was elected, not inherited.
    – vsz
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 6:22

The short (and admittedly quite boring) answer is that both the Klingon and Romulan Empires are "Empires" because they're run, at least nominally by Emperors.

Romulan Empire.

Although we know that the real power in Romulan society rests with the Praetors and Senate, there are glancing references to a Romulan Empress, for example in Voy : The Q and the Grey

Q: I know that you're probably asking yourself, why would a brilliant, handsome, dashingly omnipotent being like Q want to mate with a scrawny little bipedal specimen like me?

JANEWAY: Let me guess. No one else in the universe will have you.

Q: Nonsense. I could have chosen a Klingon Targ, the Romulan Empress, a Cyrillian microbe.

Klingon Empire.

The Klingons appear to have gone through a period where there was no extant Emperor. We know from the dialogue in TNG "Rightful Heir" that they reinstated the position with the Kahless Clone:

WORF : You were right about one thing, Koroth... our people are becoming corrupt and decadent... they need moral leadership. Kahless can be that leader... as Emperor.

GOWRON : (outraged) There hasn't been an Emperor in three centuries!

Notably, there's no discussion of whether such a thing is legally possible, merely whether it's politically desirable to put someone back into the position.

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    Isn't this back to front? The rulers wouldn't be Emperors if the territory they (nominally) rule wasn't an empire. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 23:54
  • If that's the only hint about the Romulan Empress, perhaps that Empire also has not had an emperor in a long time (Q being timeless and all).
    – user15742
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 5:20
  • @fredsbend - Hint? Q is an near-omnipotent superbeing. I think we can reasonably assume that he'd know what the current state of the Romulan Empire is.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 8:16
  • @HarryJohnston - An Empire comes with an Emperor. They're a matched set, as it were.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 8:18
  • @Richard I believe to Q the distinction is irrelevant. There may very well be no current Empress and his statement is still valid because Q is timeless. His list also includes a pig and a bacterium. What can we reasonably conclude regarding that? His list was meant to show that he quite literally could have chosen anything, past or present, human or not, sentient or not. The list is meant to be ridiculous, not practical and to Q whether the Empress exists or not is irrelevant. In other words, I find it a tenuous conclusion that there is a current Empress based off just these words.
    – user15742
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 18:54

Qo'noS and Romulus have Supreme leaders (not called as such but they exist). Gowron was the supreme authority for a while for the Klingon empire and Shinzo for a while was the head of the Romulan empire. They each had predecessors and successors of course so in effect they do fall under the Empire government structure. S

  • Can you edit in some evidence for this?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 20:19
  • As per your last edit - downvotes are anonymous. Just because someone corrected spelling doesn't mean they will have DVed. As per why some people could have downvoted, I can't know for sure, but maybe they expect a bteer "backed up" answer, with quotes and stuff, explaining why it'd be the "only right answer". I suggest you browse through the tour and help center to see how stuff works! It's always great to have new people willing to contribute, hope you stay around :)
    – Jenayah
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 21:18

Well for on an "Emperor" is a retired king as in possibly non sexual status now so just good at knowing what he used to do or life expectancy oriented now normally. See Asian Empires ans such especially obvious they know how its done. Its a certain personality always that is why Europe was so plagued and held back by false crowns like Hitler. Real kings had special spiritual abilities and understandings before they became an emperor for instance. An "empire" is places that used to be "kingdoms" for instance, religiously speaking under the king of kings he was called even still. Palace level is higher than castles. Most were non official for reasons unknown depending. So in galaxies this is the case also. Corruption of em did happen, crude was a result. See the empire state of California and Empire of Japan. Benjamin Sisco of DS9s was a real king even at one time for instance too. Most if not all civilizations had to have some sort of kings involved to survive. More pagan cultures rip each other off and tend to go extinct or move. Perhaps ruled by others eventually cause of it and needed emergency help by others in know how to do it correctly that works better. A higher rank king was also involved in star trek dynamics levels even, probably HMH of the empire state, we think.

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    I can’t tell if there is an answer here or not could you edit it to be clearer?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 23:42

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