The world has seen the rise and fall of millions of human-made cities. Many rose to great fame and power, only to be conquered, destroyed or abandoned. With new technology, new (old!) cities are being discovered all the time.
Beneath the sands and ice and mud they are found, mere shadows of what they once were. But some rare cities stand the test of time, as do their inhabitants. The following fifteen cities have all been continuously inhabited for centuries upon centuries.
They have survived, in varying conditions, great wars and environmental catastrophes, migration of their people, and modern advances. Although many do reflect newer tendencies, they all maintain their ancient roots and historical buildings (and people). How long will they last?
Perhaps many more centuries, perhaps only a few more decades. All is dependent on how the future, and our new societies, unfold.
15. Balkh, Afghanistan: 1,500 BCE
People first settled in Balkh around 1,500 BCE. Originally known to Greece as Bactra, the city has stood the test of time. It is known as the “Mother of Cities” by the Arabic people, and indeed, many communities, industries and empires sprung from it, including the Persian empire. Between 2,500 BCE and 1,900 BCE the city flourished.
Since then, it has had its ups and downs, but it still holds the nation’s cotton industry. Today, the city is not as grand and hospitable as it may once have been, but it still holds an air of majesty and timelessness.
14. Kirkuk, Iraq: 2,200 BCE
Kirkuk was first settled in 2,200 BCE. The city has been controlled by a number of peoples, including the Babylonians and the Media. These people no doubt realized the importance of its location. Today, a 5,000 year old citadel can still be seen. It is falling apart- a ruin, yet still holds prominence on the landscape.
It is 150 miles from Baghdad and now has major stakes in the petroleum industry.
13. Arbil, Iraq: 2,300 BCE
This majestic city first came to be in 2,300 BCE. It is a great sprawling city that was once of major importance for trade and wealth. Through the centuries, the city has been in the hands of numerous peoples, including the Persians and the Ottomans. When the Silk Road was functional, it was one of the many important stops along it. One of its great citadels still rises from the ground, a reminder of its ancient and glorious past.
12. Tyre, Lebanon: 2,750 BCE
Just looking at the grand beaches and colourful buildings makes it clear why this city was, and is, so appealing. First settled in 2,750 BCE, Tyre has survived conquering and numerous leaders and warlords. Alexander the Great took the city, for instance, and ruled over it for years.
Following this, it became a Roman city in 64 BCE. It is a beautiful destination to travel to today, and has a large tourism industry. In the Bible it is mentioned as, “Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes.”
11. Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine: 2,800 BCE
Jerusalem is perhaps one of the most well known cities in the Middle East, if not the world. It was settled in 2,800 BCE and has been a prominent part of human history ever since. Seen as a religious center to the Jewish people, Jerusalem contains many ancient artifacts and buildings, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Jerusalem is currently classed by the UN as occupied Palestine territory, and is predicted to one day stand as the capital of the states of Israel and Palestine.
The city has had a rocky history, but has withstood it all. It was besieged 23 times and attacked 52. In addition, it has been destroyed and rebuilt two times. Yet, it always remains, a sure and true world for the peoples that call it home.
10. Beirut, Lebanon: 3,000 BCE
In 3,000 BCE, Beirut was first settled. Since its completion, it has been a major centre for Lebanon. In fact, it is the capital of Lebanon and boasts cultural and economic dominance. It is tourist attraction today, but also has been for many years. It has survived, and thrived, for over 5,000 years and has held Roman, Arab and Ottoman peoples (amoung others) throughout its life.
9. Gaziantep, Turkey: 3,650 BCE
Like many of the oldest cities, Gaziantep has been ruled by a multitude of different peoples. Since its creation in 3,650 BCE, the city has changed hands from the Hitties to the Babylonians, Persians, Romans and Arabs.The Turkish city holds many unique and ancient artifacts from these peoples as well, including citadels and mosaics.
8. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 4,000 BCE
Plovdiv Bulgaria has been on this earth for over 6,000 years. Settled in 4,000 BCE, the city was once Tracian owned, before switching hands to the Romans. It later became part of the Ottoman empire before finally becoming Bulgarian. Remnants of these rulers are evident in its artifacts. It holds Ottoman baths and Roman images and buildings.
7. Sidon, Lebanon: 4,000 BCE
This amazing city was also settled in 4,000 BCE.
Sidon was captured by Alexander the Great, and was also reportedly visited by Jesus and St. Paul. Because of its great and influential past, it is a major spot for archaeologists. It may be the oldest Phoenician city in existence as well as the most important.
6. Faiyum, Egypt: 4,000 BCE
This ancient city inhabits a section of Crocodilopolis, an ancient Egyptian city. Its old roots reach back to 4,000 BCE, over 6,000 years ago. The name Crocodilopolis tells of the ways of the almost forgotten city, in which a sacred crocodile called Petsuchos was worshipped by the people. There are pyramids nearby as well as a large centre. Everywhere in and around the city are signs of its ancient and prestigious heritage.
5. Susa, Iran: 4,200 BCE
In 4,200 BCE, the now ancient city of Susa was settled. Now, the city has 65,000 inhabitants, although once it may have been larger. It is now called Shush and lives on through the years with its ancient-seeming population. Long ago, it was conquered by the Assyrians and then the Persians. originally though, it was the capital of the Elamite Empire. It has a long, and often tragic past, but still remains one of the world’s oldest living cities.
4. Damascus, Syria: 4,300 BCE
Damascus holds the title of the world’s oldest living city by some historians. They believe that it may have been around during 10,000 BCE. However, many more believe it was settled in 4,300 BCE. In fact, more evidence may point toward the latter, although debate still occurs.
Regardless of its antiquity, Damascus is still one of the oldest and most important city to have ever existed. Like other ancient cities, it was once held by Alexander the Great, as well as the Arabs, Romans and Ottomans. The beautiful city holds amazing attractions for tourists, although travel is ill advised at the moment.
3. Aleppo, Syria: 4,300 BCE
Aleppo was settled in 4,300 BCE. Unlike many living cities, Aleppo remains Syria’s most populated city. It has over 4.4 million inhabitants and boasts old and new innovation. In the past, other than the usual empires that conquered most of these cities, it also was besieged by Crusaders and the Mongols. It stood against all this and has been alive and expanding for well over 6,000 years.
2. Byblos, Lebanon: 5,000 BCE
Over 7,000 years ago, Byblos was first settled as Gebal. In 5,000 BCE, the ancient city was founded by the Phoenicians. It was given its current name by the Greeks and its name. Byblos, as om “Bible”, has many attractions such as castles, churches and temples that date back thousands of years.
1. Jericho, Palestinian Territories: 9,000 BCE
Jericho is by far the oldest living city in existence. It was settled in 9,000 BCE, over 11,000 years ago. To put this into perspective, giant ground sloths were just going extinct and cattle had been domesticated only 500 years prior.
Today, the city holds a population of just 20,000 people.