Before the modern state came into being in the 17th century, human societies were mainly nations: cultural and social communities of people who share a common language, identity, territory, heritage and/or origin. Though various legal or social constructs such as empires, sultanates, or kingdoms claimed to rule the nations’ territories and peoples, the cultural and social communities remained distinct and separately identifi able. Over the last 6,000 years, many empires rose and fell, each extending military, economic or social power over diverse populations.