Which are the oldest cities in the world? – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted By on January 23, 2020

Of all the sorts of travel available these days - slow, fast, staycation, voluntourism, and the rest - there remains one format all but out of reach.

Time travel.

It will likely never be possible in the HG Wells sense - turning back the centuries to explore societies past - but below is a list of 20 cities that may offer a similar experience.

The definitive ranking of the worlds oldest cities is one of the great controversy, with the exact timings of habitation and definitions of cities at the heart of much debate.

With that in mind, we have sourced if not the worlds 20 oldest cities, then 20 of the worlds oldest cities. To add a little literary context, weve added a quote from a famous writer or diarist to each inclusion.

Would-be time travellers step this way.

Some of the below are subject to Foreign Office travel restrictions. Please check its advice before travelling.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,000 BC

Found on the west bank of the Ganges, Varanasi - also known as Benares - is an important holy city for both Hindus and Buddhists. According to legend, it was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva 5,000 years ago, though modern scholars believe it to be around 3,000 years old. Our expert Gill Charlton says: "Varanasi is India for the experienced."

Author Mark Twain said of the city: Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,100 BC

On a narrow spit of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cdiz has been the home of the Spanish navy since the 18th century. It was founded by the Phoenicians as a small trading post and fell to the Carthaginians around 500BC, becoming a base for Hannibals conquest of Iberia. It then came under Roman and Moorish rule, before experiencing a renaissance during the Age of Exploration.

Robert Browning, the English poet and playwright, wrote: Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-west died away/ Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into CdizBay.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,400 BC

A major rival of ancient Athens, Thebes ruled the Boeotian confederacy and even lent assistance to Xerxes during the Persian invasion of 480 BC. Archaeological excavation has revealed a Mycenaean settlement dating back even further. Today, Thebes is little more than a market town.

John Milton, English poet, said: "Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy/ In sceptred pall come sweeping by/ Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line/ Or the tale of Troy divine."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,400 BC

Founded as 'Citium' by the Phoenicians, Larnaca is well-known for its pretty seafront lined with palm trees. Larnaca is seen as a sleepier alternative to high-living Limassol on the island, and archaeological sites and numerous beaches attract modern visitors.

Robert Byron, poet and travel writer, said: "History in this island is almost too profuse. It gives one a sort of mental indigestion".

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,400 BC

The cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Athens's heritage is still very evident. It is filled with Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments and remains a hugely popular tourist destination. Telegraph Travels expert Rachel Howard says: For a city with so much mythical and cultural baggage, Athens is surprisingly modern. Sure, there are Byzantine churches tucked among the tightly knit apartments and the Parthenon looms into view around nearly every corner. But come expecting a living postcard and youll be in for a shock. Three million people are crammed into this hectic, 24-hour city. Yet theres an intimacy to the way life is lived outdoors in neighbourhood squares, rooftop bars, and balconies where neighbours gossip in their nighties. And theres an irrepressible energy that has propelled Athens through a decade of austerity to become southern Europes most happening cultural capital.

Alexander the Great once said: "How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,500 BC

Known as Bactra to the ancient Greeks, Balkh is found in northern Afghanistan and is described as the 'Mother of Cities' by Arabs. It reached its peak between 2,500 BC and 1,900 BC prior to the rise of the Persian and Median empires. Modern Balkh is home to the region's cotton industry.

W.C. Fields, American actor and writer, wrote: "During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. We were compelled to live on food and water for several days."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2,200 BC

Located around 150 miles north of Baghdad, Kirkuk stands on the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Arrapha. Its strategic importance was recognised by the Babylonians and the Media, who have also controlled the city. The ruins of a 5,000-year-old citadel are still visible, while the city is now the headquarters of Iraq's petroleum industry.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2,300 BC

North of Kirkuk lies Arbil, ruled at various times by the Assyrians, Persians, Sasanians, Arabs and Ottomans. It was a major stop on the Silk Road while its ancient citadel - which rises 26 metres from the ground - still dominates the skyline.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2,750 BC

The legendary birthplace of Europa and Dido, Tyre was founded around 2,750 BC, according to Herodotus. It was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC following a seven-month siege and became a Roman province in 64 BC. Today, tourism is a major industry: the city's Roman Hippodrome is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Foreign Office does not advise against travel to Tyre (Sour), but has issued restrictions to nearby territory.

The Bible mentions the city: "Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2,800 BC

The spiritual centre of the Jewish people and Islam's third-holiest city, Jerusalem is home to several key religious sites, including the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the al-Aqsa Mosque. During its history, the city has been besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured 44 times and destroyed twice.

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield; former prime minister, said: "The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 3,000 BC

Lebanon's capital, as well as its cultural, administrative and economic centre, Beirut's history stretches back around 5,000 years. Excavations in the city have unearthed Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman remains, while it is mentioned in letters to the pharaoh of Egypt as early as the 14th century BC. Since the end of the Lebanese civil war, it has become a lively, modern tourist attraction.

Jan Morris, Welsh historian and travel writer, said: "To the stern student of affairs, Beirut is a phenomenon, beguiling perhaps, but quite, quite impossible."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 3,650 BC

Found in southern Turkey, close to the border with Syria, Gaziantep's history extends as far back as the Hittites. The Ravanda citadel - restored by the Byzantines in the sixth century - is found in the city centre, while Roman mosaics have also been discovered.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet and philosopher, said: "They have no past; they are not an historical people; they exist only in the present."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4,000 BC

The second-largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv was originally a Tracian settlement before becoming a major Roman city. It later fell into Byzantine and Ottoman hands, before becoming part of Bulgaria. The city is a major cultural centre and boasts many ancient remains, including a Roman amphitheatre and aqueduct, and Ottoman baths.

Roman writer Lucian said: "This is the biggest and loveliest of all cities. Its beauty shines from faraway."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4,000 BC

Around 25 miles south of Beirut lies Sidon, one of the most important - and perhaps the oldest - Phoenician cities. It was the base from which the Phoenician's great Mediterranean empire grew. Both Jesus and St Paul are said to have visited Sidon, as did Alexander the Great, who captured the city in 333 BC.

French artist Charles Mryon said: "Few persons new to the climate escape a rash of some description."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4,000 BC

Southwest of Cairo, Faiyum occupies part of Crocodilopolis - an ancient Egyptian city which worshipped Petsuchos, a sacred crocodile. Modern Faiyum consists of several large bazaars, mosques and baths, while the Lehin and Hawara pyramids are found nearby.

Greek historian Herodotus wrote: "Egypt is an acquired country, the gift of the river."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4,200 BC

Susa was the capital of the Elamite Empire before being captured by the Assyrians. It was then taken by the Achaemenid Persian under Cyrus the Great and is the setting of The Persians, an Athenian tragedy by Aeschylus and the oldest surviving play in the history of theatre. The modern city, Shush, has a population of around 77,000.

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban; English philosopher and author, said: "Persia, a country imbarred with mountains, open to the sea, and in the middle of the world."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4,300 BC

Cited by some sources as the world's oldest inhabited city, Damascus may have been inhabited as early as 10,000 BC, but this is debated. It became an important settlement after the arrival of the Aramaeans, who established a network of canals, which still form the basis of its modern water networks. Another of Alexander the Great's conquests, Damascus has since been in Roman, Arab and Ottoman possession. Its wealth of historical attractions made it a popular tourist destination, until recent unrest struck.

Hilaire Belloc, English-French writer and historian, wrote: "Damascus is... a symbol. One might call it a bunch of symbols. It is a symbol of the permanent physical conditions that run throughout history; the permanent geographical limits of human settlement, government and war."

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4,300 BC

Syria's most populated city, with around 4.4 million citizens, Aleppo was founded as Halab in around 4,300 BC. As the ancient site is occupied by the modern city it is barely touched by archaeologists. The city was under Hittite control until around 800 BC, before passing through Assyrian, Greek and Persian hands. It was later occupied by the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs, besieged by the Crusaders and then taken by the Mongols and Ottomans. Many of the city's architectural gems have been devastated by recent conflict.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 5,000 BC

Founded as Gebal by the Phoenicians, Byblos was given its name by the Greeks, who imported papyrus from the city. Hence the English word Bible is derived from Byblos. The city's key tourist sites include ancient Phoenician temples, Byblos Castle and St John the Baptist Church - built by crusaders in the 12th century - and the old Medieval City Wall. The Byblos International Festival is a more modern attraction, and has featured bands such as Massive Attack, John Legend, and Patti Smith.

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 9,000 BC

The world's oldest continually-inhabited city, according to sources, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of 20 successive settlements in Jericho, dating back 11,000 years. The city is found near the Jordan River in the West Bank, as well as the Monastery of the Temptation, where Jesus is believed to have fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and is today home to around 20,000 people.

For the record, Europe's other oldest cities include Lisbon (ca. 1000 BC), Rome (753 BC), Corfu (ca. 700 BC) and Mantua (ca. 500 BC). London was founded in 43 AD.

Sign up to Telegraph Travel's new weekly newsletterfor the latest features, advice, competitions, exclusive deals and comment.

You can also follow us onTwitter,FacebookandInstagram.

Read more:
Which are the oldest cities in the world? - Telegraph.co.uk

Related Post

Comments

Comments are closed.