8 Oldest Cities in the World

The very first cities in the world developed during the Neolithic period in ancient Mesopotamia. Although many of these early cities are no longer around, there are a few that still exist and have developed into modern cities. At one point, these ancient cities were the capital of major civilizations and a few of them still are today. All of these cities have rich histories and many ruins and monuments continue to stand and are visited annually by thousands of tourists.

8. Luxor, Egypt

 Year Established: c.3200 BCE as the ancient city of Thebes
 Current Population:  ~506,588  

Luxorphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Luxor sits on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, which was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom. The city was established around 3200 BCE and started out as a small trading post and eventually became the center and one of the wealthiest cities of the Egyptian Empire during its peak.

Many ancient structures and ruins still exist in the city today including the Karnak and Luxor temples, several monuments and statues, and the Theban Necropolis – which includes the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. In 1979, the ancient ruins of Thebes became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thousands of tourists come to the city every year to visit the ancient monuments.


7. Athens, Greece

 Year Established: c.4000 BCE
 Current Population:  ~664,046   

Athensphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Athens is one of the oldest and most important cities in western civilization. The city has been inhabited since Neolithic times, around the the end of the 4th millennium BCE. By the first millennium BCE, Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece.

According to Greek mythology, Athens was named after its patron goddess Athena after she won the honor against Poseidon for gifting the city an olive tree, which symbolizes peace and prosperity. Athens reached its peak in the fifth century when it developed several cultural achievements that would lay the foundations for western civilization – this time period became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy.


6. Susa, Iran (modern-day Shush, Iran)

 Year Established: c.4200 BCE
 Current Population:  ~106,815   

Susaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The ancient city of Susa (modern-day Shush) was home to the Elam civilization. There is evidence that people have inhabited the area since 7000 BCE, but the earliest settlement was established around 4200 BCE. Evidence suggests that the city was founded around the time that nearby villages were abandoned including Chonga Mish, which was the cultural center of the region prior to Susa.

The city’s history is split up into three periods: Susa I, when the earliest inhabitants lived in the area; Susa II, which was influenced by the Uruk culture – the people of Mesopotamia prior to the Sumerians; and Susa III, when the city became the center of the Elam civilization.


5. Byblos, Lebanon

 Year Established: c.5000 – 4000 BCE
 Current Population:  ~140,000 

Byblosphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

According to archaeological research, Byblos has been occupied since the Neolithic Period between 8800 – 7000 BCE and its oldest settlement developed around the 4th millennium BCE. According to myth, Byblos was built by Cronus as the first city of Phoenicia. During the ancient Egpytian period, Byblos became a major trading hub as the city was the main exporter of cedar and valuable wood to Egypt. The Phoenician Alphabet was developed in the city and almost all of the known early Phoenician inscriptions come from the area. Byblos was first excavated by Pierre Montet in 1921 and it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.


4. Argos, Greece

 Year Established: c.5000 BCE
 Current Population:  ~24,700 

Argosphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Argos has been continuously inhabited for the past 7,000 years and was used as a major stronghold during the Mycenaean era. The city was the dominant power of the Peloponnese until the rise of Spartan power. The two city-states battled for control of the Peloponnese, but sided with each other to fight common enemies. Under Roman rule Argos became important again and flourished during the Byzantine era.

At one point the Greek government considered moving the capital to Argos, but eventually chose Athens in 1834. The city of Argos is featured throughout several Greek myths and is believed to be the birthplace of Perseus, the son of the god Zeus.


3. Aleppo, Syria

 Year Established: c.5000 BCE
 Current Population:  ~1,800,000 

Aleppophoto source: Wikimedia Commons

In recent history, the city of Aleppo has become known as being the center of the Syrian Civil War; the city has seen massive destruction and is the worst hit by the war. Despite its current circumstances, Aleppo is a great city of antiquity with a rich heritage – it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Although the city’s exact age is unknown, the area has mostly likely been inhabited since 5000 BCE; due to the city’s continuous occupation, it has been hard for archaeologists to excavate the region. The first recorded mention of Aleppo comes from the Ebla tablets, which date to 3000 BCE.


2. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

 Year Established: c.6000 – 5000 BCE
 Current Population:  ~341,567 

Plovdivphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Plovdiv, which is often cited as one of the oldest cities in Europe, was first settled during the Neolithic era around 6000 BCE. Throughout the city’s long history, it has been conquered by several different peoples including the Thracians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, and Ottoman Turks – all of these conquests have led to the city’s diverse culture and historical heritage.

The city has always served as an important center to its various inhabitants: it was a Greek and Thracian polis, the pride of Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great), a cultural center for the Byzantine Empire, the capital city of Thrace under the Romans, and a Bulgarian stronghold.


1. Jericho, West Bank

 Year Established: c.9500 – 9000 BCE
 Current Population:  ~20,000 

Jerichophoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although the exact date of Jericho’s founding is unknown, it is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Evidence, through extensive archaeological excavations, show that the earliest settlement in the area dates back sometime between 9500 – 9000 BCE, or even earlier. The Wall of Jericho is one of the greatest archaeological finds in the city and is considered to be the oldest city wall in the world as it was built around 8000 BCE. Throughout its history, Jericho has been occupied and settled by several different groups of people and it is even talked about in the Bible.

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