The Oldest Cities in the World

An overview of the city of Byblos, Lebanon today.

There are some cities across the world that have been a part of human civilization for centuries. These cities have religious, cultural, and economic significance both in the past and presently. They mostly flourished as centers of trade being strategically placed as meeting points of various trade routes. Most of these cities are major tourist attractions in contemporary age and boast monuments that attest to ancient civilization. Some of the oldest cities, which have been consistently inhabited perpetually for three millennia or longer each, are looked at below.

Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos, Lebanon has existed since 5000 BC, which puts it among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. The city started out as a fishing village named Gubal. It grew in strides to become a major commercial establishment especially because of its busy port. It was particularly important for maritime with the Egyptians where cedar and other types of wood were exported in exchange for papyrus and other commodities.The Greeks gave it the name Byblos to mean papyrus since a lot of it was traded on the port. The Bible would later be named after Byblos because of the use of papyrus to write it.

The people of Byblos were famed for their excellent skills in making ships. Byblos became a colony of Egypt, adopting elements of region and culture from Egyptians. The Phoenician tablet, which had 22 characters of the alphabet was made in Byblos and eventually spread to other cities through Greek traders. Today Byblos is a cultural city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is situated around 26 miles (42 kilometers) to the north of Beirut.

Argos, Greece

Argos in Greece is estimated to have been continuously inhabited since 5000 BC. Argos was believed to be the son of Zeus, a god in Greek mythology. Argos is famed for the introduction of measures that set the standards for an accepted system. These measures are called the Pheidonian measures after King Pheidon, under whose leadership the use of silver coins was also introduced. Argos was the most prominent city in the Peloponnese until its defeat by the Spartans. The city rose to prominence again during the Byzantine period but was finally destroyed by the Turks. Excavations on the ruins have led to the discovery of temple remains, sculptures, theaters, and pottery remains. These remains attest to the religious and cultural significance of Argos in ancient Greece.

Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo is one of the oldest cities in Syria as well as one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 4300 BC. It began as a small village called Halab and eventually grew to become a hub of garments and cloth manufacture. Its position was strategic such that the Mediterranean Sea was to the West, and river Euphrates to the East. Aleppo flourished and became a wealthy city due to its position as a middle point of ancient trade routes. The present architecture is a result of several invasions. The Arab built the Citadel, a testament to their military strength and a prominent monument that still stands to date. The Great Mosque and the Church of St. Simeon tell of the religious significance of ancient Aleppo. Aleppo prospered most in the 16th and the 17th Centuries during the occupation of the Ottoman Empire. It rose to become a major industrial economy and became extremely populous in the 20th Century.

Susa, Iran

The city of Susa or Shushan is one of the oldest cities which have been inhabited continually since 4300 BCE. It was one of the most important towns of the ancient world, and its location is in the lower Zagros Mountains at a distance of approximately 160 miles (250 kilometers) to the east of the famous Tigris River. The modern city of Shush in Iran is the location of the ancient Susa town, and it is the administrative capital of the Shush County in the province of Khuzestan. The city has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its history. Shushan has been mentioned in the Bible and other Jewish religious texts, such as when Queen Esther saved the Jews from imminent genocide. Between 645 BCE and 640 BCE, the city was invaded by Assyrians and destroyed, but later rebuilt by Cyrus, the Persian king when he attacked and conquered the Assyrians in 538 BCE. It was the capital and commercial city during the reigns of Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, both of the Persian Empire.

Sidon, Lebanon

Sidon in Lebanon is among the oldest cities that have been inhabited continuously from 4000 BC to date. It was a Phoenician city that grew and flourished in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC and has been mentioned severally in the Old Testament of the Bible and the writings of Homer, the great Greek poet. The city was ruled successively by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Medes, the Seleucids, the Ptolemaic, and the Romans. Sidon changed numerous times over time and was destroyed during the period of crusaders and was later rebuilt. During the period of the Ottoman Empire rule, the city flourished again continuously starting in 1517, and lasting for around 400 years thereafter. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the French the developed the city and it became an important port for Damascus, but in 1791 the governor of Lebanon under the Ottoman Empire drove out the French and the commercial and trade activity almost ended. In 1837 the city was hit by a major earthquake but was later rebuilt.Presently the city of Sidon is under the municipality of Sidon that has 21 members of the council including the mayor of the city and the deputy.

Athens, Greece

The city of Athens in Greece dates back to 4000 BC. Athens started as a small settlement in the Mycenaean age. It was hardly an agricultural city and relied on sea trade for agricultural products through which it developed a reputation for excellent trade and maritime skills. Athens established itself as a hub for trade, arts, architecture, and education. Athens attempted at establishing democracy and finally succeeded under the ruler Cleisthenes. Athens is most famed for setting the standards for democracy as used today. An invasion by Persia destroyed Athens, but it was later rebuilt. Athens had a marketplace called Agora which attracted great thinkers and philosophers such as Socrates and Hippocrates. Parthenon, an ancient temple is the most notable monument from ancient Athens.

What is the Oldest City in the World?

RankCityDate of Settlement (BCE, Approx.)
8Gaziantep 3650
15Kirkuk 2600

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