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List of oldest continuously inhabited cities (wikipedia.org)
323 points by ag8 on April 22, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 214 comments

What interests me the most is not so much the #1 oldest, but more those cities where the past is still visible, or the city is similar to the same one that stood there thousands of years ago.

Specifically, I find Yerevan very interesting. If someone from 2,000 years ago stood there today, they'd certainly realize it was the same city: the same Mount Ararat towering over the city, the same river Hrazdan running by the city, the name is pronounced very similar (pronounced Erebuni vs. now pronounced Erevan.) If you traveled a bit forward in time, to 400-something CE, then a modern inhabitant of Yerevan could even read the ancient writing in the city!

Compare that with cities like Puning, China (to quote Wikipedia: "The history of human settlement in Puning can be traced back to the Neolithic Age".) Rich history, but I guarantee that someone from 2,000 years ago would have no idea where they are. (That's certainly not all of China, though, many places haven't experienced that much change.)

Anyone know more of these cities, where it'd be obvious to the ancient inhabitants that it was the same city?

Born and raised Athenian here, oldest capital of Europe.

Downtown Athens and most of the suburbs are filled with ancient and byzantine ruins, despite the damage that wars, christians and muslims did.

I've watched plays in millennia old theaters. This is damn powerful.

Even in Athens I can imagine an ancient inhabitant being lost and confused amongst a grid of midrise concrete buildings. Then they'd turn a corner and catch a glimpse of the Acropolis...

London, sort of continuously inhabited since Roman times, wouldn't pass the test even if an ancient Roman inhabitant was standing on a street following the line of a Roman road and looking direct at the foundations of the London wall. Even the river course would be unfamiliar.

Slightly off topic, but playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey brought out an infatuation with Greece within me. I am truly envious of your Greek heritage and that you get to enjoy such a rich history, a relatively secular society, and gorgeous scenic areas. I am actually Persian and although we also have a rich history and scenic lands, I find Greece and Greek history far more appealing. Getting to explore many facets of ancient Greece in Assassin's Creed Odyssey has been an absolute treat.

EDIT: a word

Well heritage is a double edged sword. From one hand you do feel proud and blessed to live in a place so rich in history because it's everywhere around you. But in the same time it's kind of a burden that drags society in worshiping the past. A lot of fellow Greeks live on the premises that because our past was so glorious everyone else is dipshit and we shouldn't even bother finding our place in the modern world.

Well said! I would also like to add that history is also (in part) a construct of the times you live in. Greece post-1830 looks back at the ancient times while all but forgetting the centuries of Ottoman rule that also shaped the current culture (especially cuisine). Bulgaria, while having a similar history (the Thracians instead of the Greek and Macedonians, also Orthodox, also Ottoman) prefer to trace their mythical history back to the Bulgarians of the Volga rather than calling ancient Thracia the cradle of Western Civilization.

I'm from Italy and here we are taught a linear history shooting like a bullet from the Romans to Renaissance (mostly glossing over the Middle Ages), and that has important political consequences in what it means to identify as an Italian.

In other words one can say that history, as it is taught in school, is instrumental in constructing a national identity and as such it is wielded as a tool by the political and cultural élites.

>I'm from Italy and here we are taught a linear history shooting like a bullet from the Romans to Renaissance (mostly glossing over the Middle Ages), and that has important political consequences in what it means to identify as an Italian.

As a Frenchman I have always found Italians identifying so strongly to Romans a bit creepy. I've had very heated conversations with people who wouldn't balk from the notion that « they » had conquered Europe at a time « we » lived in trees (notwithstanding Gaul having cities upwards of 40k inhabitants). Italy hasn't been Roman for much longer than Spain or Gaul and the entire peninsula nearly had a civilization « hard reset » with the utter ravage of the Gothic wars and Justinian's plague.

Things might have been simpler if we had kept the medieval demonym and referred to Italians as « Lombards ».

Yep, you're right. We were taught tiny details of the rise of Rome, when it was a little village, and Julius Caesar was a hero. Then I grew up and realized that nowadays he would be a war criminal and at best one of those guys longing to be president for life. For sure the ancestors of the people living in today France were not happy to have his armies in their country back then.

And most French I know have this weird notion they somehow won WWII because the true French government was in London ;)

I am French and I don't think that at all, nor do I know anybody who thinks like that.

First of all there is a winky face in my message, it's interesting how a message in jest can trigger nationalistic sentiments (downvotes in this case).

In all seriousness though, the 8th of May is still celebrated with victory parades throughout the country.

You can't just deny France also has some trouble remembering their history. Think of how long Kubrick's Paths of Glory was banned...

First, I am not the one who downvoted you. My reply was more about giving an anecdote countering yours, than being a nationalist.

About France remembering its history, it's true that for a long time some things were hidden, but in 1995 (I think) the then President Jacques Chirac said that France should own the crimes commited by the Vichy government.

I am not saying that every bad deed done by France is not hidden somewhere, but some efforts were made by the French to reconcile with their history.

I didn't say you downvoted me and I'm sure you didn't, though a couple of people must have...

Thus said I'm not denying that in most places a decently educated person knows about the darker side of history of their country. My point is just that history as it is taught in high schools is a narrative that is (also) used to justify a sentiment of national pride.

Italy has ancient Rome and the Renaissance, Greece has ancient Greece, Ukraine has Kievan Rus', and just like those France has its own founding myths, be it Charlemagne, Napoleon, De Gaulle, or the Republican ideals...

Mmm. I’ve only seen one country that doesn’t collectively see its history with gold-tinted glasses — yet even here, there are people like my landlord, who has told me he didn’t understand why the DDR fell despite being a student in it.

Having conversations with people in South Africa, Ghana, and Rwanda about their country's history felt a lot like talking to Germans.

Lots of nuance.

Kinda depends who you talk to. For many americans, the slave trade and genocide of indigenous peoples are key, and embarrassing, chapters of our history. American children are taught very differently, largely according to the ruling party in their state.


Don't feel envy about such generalities. To give you an example, my hero and fellow Athenian, Socrates, was killed by his own people.

DNA doesn't matter. How you choose to live your life does.

Nitpick. Socrates was given a choice. His decision to kill himself was his own. I'd probably do the same. He was 70+ anyway. A lifetime of annoying dialectic tends to make lots of enemies quickly.

You are right. My point was that there is nothing magical in Greek ancestry, but a mixture of great and stupid individuals, as in all societies.

What was the choice? Wasn’t he sentenced to death?

They sentenced him to death to force him to leave the city. No one expected him to decide to die rather than leave.

I thought they literally sentenced him to death, and he had the opportunity to escape but refused to take it?

Yes! The point is that everyone, friends and enemies, wanted and expected him to take it.

I've always wondered how super old cities like Athens and Rome deal with infrastructure. I mean, if you need to install new sewer or cabling systems underground you're dealing with literally thousands of years of stuff under the city, and I'm guessing there is no good documentation for what's there. How do civil engineers know where it's safe to build?

It's typical to see displays such as [1], even in the basements of cafeterias in Athens. This one is from the Syntagma metro station.

By the way, in settlements were people are living for thousands of years, they usually build on top of what there was already there.

[1] - https://cdn.theculturetrip.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/10...

That's a great example.

There is a museum near the Acropolis where they put a glass floor in and you can look down and see the ruins they've uncovered.

It's really remarkable. Buildings from the past were demolished and new buildings were built on top. It's interesting to look around and realize that you're walking over 30 ft worth of ruins everywhere.

They have to have archaeologists dig it all up first.

Jericho might interest you then. It's an oasis city, with a very distinctive view of surrounding hills.

The most ancient structures are from 9kya, and the city existed in a lot of forms since that point. I believe the current city streets are from the Roman period, and probably date to the iron age or older.

What fascinates me about the site is the architectural similarity between the oldest city (the 9kya, neolithic city) and Çatalhöyük of the same period. These are the oldest known cities, and predate the oldest known "empires" by a lot.

This hints at a neolithic (and perhaps even ice age) cultural exchange over very large distances.

Jericho even had town walls complete with a tower at 9kya. Absolutely astonishing, because they were even pre-pottery.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jericho it looks like the city has moved around a bit (not a huge amount, but a few kilometers) over time. It looks like the modern city's location was finally decided in the 4th century AD. Also it seems to have been razed and rebuilt quite a few times. Given that many structures from the Byzantine period had to be excavated (as in they were buried beneath the ground), I suspect the current city streets are quite a bit younger than dating from the Romans.

Xi'an (on this list as one of the oldest cities) has a fully preserved (but often refurbished) city wall: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortifications_of_Xi%27an

It's complete so you can still walk the entire 4 sides of the wall in one hike, or rent a bike and circle the entire city in ~1 hour or so.

When you're atop the city wall, there's definitely a sense of being in two different times, both ancient and modern, at the same time as the modern Xi'an skyline makes up the background while you trek on stones that are hundreds (thousands?) of years old.

The current Xi'an walls were built in the 1370 during the Ming dynasty.

Quite a few of the cities of Ancient Greece and its colonies have survived to this day. Obviously Athens and many places in Greece but not only.

For example in France, Marseille and Nice (both Greek colonies) are 2,600 and 2,300 years old, respectively. The first inhabitants would definitely recognise them immediately today from the unique landscape (like Yerevan).

As for Puning, it's not so much related to China's recent changes but to the landscape. Mountains are unique and don't change much or at all in 2,000 years. But in a plain there is nothing to distinguish the landscape apart from buildings.

>The first inhabitants would definitely recognise them immediately today from the unique landscape (like Yerevan).

I doubt someone would recognize Marseille at first sight. If they looked hard enough they might recognize the harbour having vaguely the same shape and some mountains outside the city being the same.

I actually annotated a drawing of Roman-era Marseille with the names of modern features a few years back [1].

The natural features were massively overbuilt or even erased (like during the 19th c. to make way for avenues), which made things level off somewhat. The same goes for every city. Go to Rome someday. The famed hills are now invisible, expect for the Capitol (although it would look far less remarkable if the Forum hadn't been excavated).

[1] https://i.imgur.com/zsc0Zz1.jpg

The islands, hill next to the harbour, and hills around the city are quite unique and as visible now as they were then. The major change that has happened is that the trees are now all gone.

I'm thinking that the view looking to the south end of the city, with its striking hills, would be instantly recognised by any local from the Greek period.

I agree, though, that the harbour itself would most likely be unrecognisable, not only because of the extensive urbanisation but because the shape has been seriously remodelled.

Mm, but it's not just the towering Mount Ararat and the river of Hrazdan that make Yerevan obviously Yerevan. The name of the city has remained extremely similar for about 2,000 years, the language, the writing...

Nice, in my opinion (I've only been there twice) has very little connection to the Nice of old. The geography is not very unique (travel the Mediterranean coast and I promise you you'll find plenty of places that look nearly identical.) It's cycled through plenty of languages and was even originally 2 different cities (Cemenelum and Nikaia.) Put an occupant of Cemenelum in modern day Nice and I doubt they would know it was the same place. The once large river Paillon is dried to a part of what it once was and covered up by concrete; the language is completely different (and has changed many times) - hell, Nice wasn't even part of France until the late 1800s!

In Marseille, sure, an ancient inhabitant would recognize it due to the islands if nothing else. But as much as I love Marseille (one of my favorite places in the world, actually) - I get much less of an "ancient" feeling there than anywhere in Armenia or Iran, for example.

Language is constantly changing. No one alive 2000 years ago would be able to readily communicate in a modern vernacular, so I don't think that's a good standard on which to judge.

That's one reason why I chose Yerevan, actually! Old Armenian (1600 years old) and modern Armenian are fairly similar! Same writing system with only small changes, and modern Armenians (or at least the handful of random Armenians I've asked) can understand old Armenian. It takes a good bit of extra effort, but it's definitely possible.

Fascinating language (and alphabet) by the way.

iirc modern Icelandic is somewhat mutually intelligible with old Norse, to the point where students can read 1200+ year old Viking writings with only a gloss, like we might read Shakespeare. Icelandic is unusual among languages for this though.

Part of that is due to the writing system - Icelandic has an unusually wide gap between spelling and actual pronunciation (as does English). The spellings often reflect older pronunciations, so it'd be easier for a modern Icelander to read the Eddas than to understand casual speech of their era.

(Again, similar things are true of English to a less extreme degree: The Canterbury Tales are a struggle to understand, but I can plod my way through them with the aid of heavy glossing. But I doubt if I could have a conversation with a time-traveling Geoffrey Chaucer.)

Persian (Farsi) is another example.

>I get much less of an "ancient" feeling there than anywhere in Armenia or Iran, for example.

All the old town was blown up with dynamite within a few days during the 1940's...

Yeah, and it shows. Marseille feels more old fashioned, romantic, 1960s. If you take the TGV from Paris to Nice, Marseille is where you meet the beautiful Mediterranean and the train slows from 320km/h down to an average of 57 km/h.

Yerevan feels like 70% 1970s Soviet life, 20% ancient civilization, and 10% 2050 futurism. I'd love to find more places like it.

> Marseille and Nice (both Greek colonies)

No shit?! I had no idea the greek empire(s) stretched up this far. Was it a peaceful colonisation?

The colonies were started by individual city states.


They were in constant conflict with the surrounding Gaulish tribes. In fact the invasions of Gaul (plural, Caesar only finished it) started by Marseille asking help from its Roman ally.

If I'm remembering my history:

Athens founded Phocacea (in modern day Turkey), which founded Marseille, which founded Nice. All were independent Republics.

My understanding is that it was peaceful, or mostly peaceful. The aim was settling a city to further trade, not military conquests. That came later with the Romans.

With your criterion cities on mountainous regions have a bit of unfair advantage.

Another Armenian city https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van,_Turkey, which is older than Yerevan, would match it too, but it's not included in the list on wikipedia. (Maybe because a large part of Van have been ruined and left uninhabited in ~1920s).

My favorite in this category is Damascus. What makes it special is that the old city is mentioned in the Bible, including the "street called Straight." That street still exists.


On a tangent: I love it when an article shows up on HN that is already greyed out, meaning I've seen it before.

Madurai in Tamil Nadu state, India, may be one, I think - partly. Area of lanes around the Meenakshi temple probably look somewhat like they must have n000+ years ago. Flower, idli, dosa, parotta, sari, clothes, etc. shops, knick knacks, man-powered rickshaws, tame temple elephants blessing humans with trunks, etc.

Well, Belgrade is not nearly that old as Yerevan, although in its broader area were some of the oldest settlements in Europe, more than 7000 years old. However todays Belgrade fortress (called Kalemegdan) sits on the very same place where Celts built their fortification around 300 BC. In 2nd century BC Romans turned it into their city called Singidunum. Most of the today's fortress walls are from the medieval and later times, but some parts of the Roman walls are still visible today, and the big Roman well that was used to supply the city with water still exists and it's open to tourists. Unfortunately most of the roman structures outside the fortress are nowadays under the modern city of Belgrade, but the position and the layout of the fortress didn't change much. Danube and Sava rivers still run under it and the hill looks the same, so I presume that some ancient tourists wouldn't have hard time to recognize it immediately.

Trier on that list still has a lot of Roman architecture standing around, a time-traveling Roman would have no problem finding their way.

One of the city gates still stands, the throne hall of Roman Emperor Constantine (Basilica), the Amphitheater ruins, the large Roman baths (ruins), even the large Dome is built on top a structure Emperor Constantine built.

Rome, Jerusalem, Athens, maybe Istanbul.


It's a funny table. A mix of historic record (indicating eg most of the Greek cities) Vs archeological evidence of some kind of habitation Vs some myth/oral history. Overall very arbitrary what is and is not considered a city or at starting point.

> Anyone know more of these cities, where it'd be obvious to the ancient inhabitants that it was the same city?

According to your definition if there are recognizable major natural landmarks ( "Mount Ararat", "river Hrazdan" ), then it means nothing has changed since people in the past would recognize it and be able to place themselves. So using your logic, any city near a major mountain, river, etc would be recognizable. So tokyo ( visible from Mt Fuji ) hasn't changed, manhattan hasn't changed ( hudson/east rivers ), seattle hasn't changed ( Mt Rainier ), etc.

Mt. Rainier is only visible from Seattle on exceptionally clear days.

I'd say it's visible from Seattle on any clear day, it's just clear days are exceptional (outside of summers).

It's out most of the summer.

Acoma is still very much like that. They now have a road so you don't have to hike up the mountain to get to it, but not much else has changed in 2000 years. It's a wonderful place to visit any time but especially on Christmas Eve. [0]

Santa Fe also nearby and on the list but it's quite a bit more modern. Still it's the oldest capital city in the continental US.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoma_Pueblo

Yeah, Georgia has way better artifacts than Armenia, for example: Vani, Mtskheta, Kutaisi, etc. For some reason Poti is missing from the list too.

Way better? I spent a week in both Georgia and Armenia recently and although I think the two counties are some of the coolest places I've been I found Armenia to be more interesting. That may have been because I had a local guide in Armenia though. (I like to travel with Couchsurfing as you get to meet and stay with locals, and for whatever reason Georgia is the only country I've visited where I couldn't find a host.)

In particular, I spent a day in Kutaisi and although it was a lovely little place I didn't find it super interesting.

I'll definitely be back though, I hadn't heard of Mtskheta and it seems really interesting, I'd like to check it out.

I assume you're Georgian, from the name :) Any other places you'd suggest to visit in Georgia? I personally prefer the really unusual/out of the way stuff myself.

I would recommend Vardzia (Cave city), Mestia for Svan towers and obviously Tbilisi sulfur baths, as for Kutaisi, go to Sataplia Nature Reserve.


Indian history hasn't been well researched because of various reasons. However, recent efforts are pushing back continuous settlement dates by multi-thousand of years. For instance: Varanasi is in above wiki link with 1200 BC as inhabited since. However [0] pushes it back to at least 4500 BC.

0: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Varanasi-is...

>>> The results that have come from a detailed geo-exploration (exploration conducted through GPS technology) conducted by seven IIT-Kgp departments, tracing the different stages through which civilization progressed, and how Varanasi has been able to maintain continuity as a living civilization, unlike comparable seats of human settlement in the world. The researchers have dug 100-metre-deep boring holes all over Varanasi to conclude that there is evidence of continuous settlement at least till 2000BC. There are enough indications that by the time the data collection is over, there would be enough to prove that this date can be pushed back to about 4500BC.The oldest part of this civilisation has been traced to the Gomati Sangam area of Varanasi, as indicated by the underground layers that have already been tested.

We need more than a single, probably biased and non-peer-reviewed study in an unreliable newspaper and without any references for such claims, especially given the nationalistic propaganda being pushed throughout India right now.

If there is a peer-reviewed article, this newspaper article does not link to it.

Edit: This article is speculating what might be discovered even before the people doing the research have found something:

>... by the time the data collection is over, there would be enough to prove that this date can be pushed back to about 4500BC.


Edit 2: For context: The era of the proto-indo-european language family is dated to start around 4500 BC somewhere near the Pontic-Caspian Steppe.

4500 BC would imply a culture that co-existed with the Harappa civilization. Such a discovery would have made news all around the world. This newspaper article would not be the first place to mention it.

I'm not convinced by any claim made by this article.

I agree with you on the main points. However, the reasoning behind proto-indo-european language family is weak, as it is not the only language family in India.

Oh I agree! If we assume the proto-zagrosian hypothesis is true and then assume that the munda language family existed in India along with the later dravidian languages or maybe even prior to that - there is no reason to believe that these account for all languages spoken in India around 8000BCE - 4000BCE.

Afaik, it’s still very possible that entire language families that were even older have now gone extinct.

My point was to show how old 4,500BCE was. As you point out, that alone doesn’t rule out a city at Varanasi around 4500BCE.

Why hasn’t Indian history been better researched as you say? Curious about this.

Can't say much about recent history, but the deep archaeological past of India (>~5kya) is difficult to study in part because of the environmental conditions. The heat and humidity make preservation of artifacts over long periods of time nearly impossible, meaning that even though the Gangetic plain was one of the most populated regions on the planet for millennia in the past, there's minimal trace of this civilization left. Ancient tools, shelters, and human remains just decompose in that type of climate rather than being preserved like in the deserts of the Middle East or the cold regions of Northern China and Europe.

It’s often because of political influence campaigns that history is actually destroyed, and in such periods there is no appetite for objective historical research. If you are a Muslim ruler trying to convert your subjects and the Sun Worshippers are leading a resistance then destroying their 700 year old temple that reinforces their identity is a no brainer.

This type of thing is widespread throughout the world [1] so there’s no reason to doubt it has a much longer history than records can follow.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_destroyed_heritage

I started studying Indian history and I immediately ran into problems.

The first one is language - in the region I am interested in (the southern parts of India) - primary sources appear in several different languages. It's not sufficient to have passing familiarity with a language - a ton of these ancient writers were poets trying to out-do each other with their skills at crafting verses. To research Indian history, one must learn several languages.

As someone who isn't trying to actively research history, secondary sources suffice for me. But then, one runs into the next big hurdle there. There have been very few authors writing about south Indian history post Independence. In 1928 (if I recall correctly), someone at the University of Madras wrote a PhD thesis on the Pallavas. I haven't been able to find any other material focused on the Pallavas published since then. Oh, and the 1928 PhD thesis - there's only a handful of those copies in the really large libraries around the world. A low quality scan of one of these copies has made it to the internet - and that remains my best source of information on the Pallava dynasty.

Then there are people like the Khalbaras - a bunch of rulers who came out of nowhere and ended up dominating 3 superpowers in that region. Yet, these guys didn't leave behind any historical record and only passing references to them as "the imprisoners of 3 crown princes" remain as tombstones and signposts for a group of rulers who would have to take down armies of war elephants multiple times to get to that point.

There are also open problems of Chronology in several important periods (for example, the era covered by the Sangam literature - Karikala and all those guys). This is basically a group of poems that record history in disconnected joints. (It's not known how much of this is real history and how much is invented by poets). We have the pieces of a puzzle, with possibly some fake pieces, but we don't know how you'd arrange them in a timeline.

And then, there's the wars. Anyone who studies Indian history will quickly realize that Gandhi is an extreme anomaly. In southern India, it was a matter of pride for a king to die in battle. Imagine a culture where the rulers have cultural incentives to be suicidally belligerent (with War Elephants!!!). Now imagine a world where that is the cultural norm for over a thousand years. These rulers were warriors and the literature that they encouraged were mostly poets who wrote verses praising various military exploits. Several of these kingdoms emerge and disappear all the time - and they all chose different languages as the court language, several of them invented their own alphabets (looking at you Pallavas), they all straight up lied in several records. It's a lifetime's task to sort out 300 years of history for an area half the size of Germany.

Then, to make matters worse, almost all historical artifacts from south India were removed from the temples and forts that they have been found and made their way to various collectors and museums in Britan during the Britsh Raj. If you want to study south Indian history, a trip to a museum in London will give you a lot more than walking around endlessly in South India.

Then there's the lack of funding. It's absolutely embarrassing how little the various historians in India earn. Lately, I've been finding more books by historians in America (and even Japan) than those written by people in India.

Then you have the frauds like Sanjeev Sanyal who destroy history by mixing up well established history and his own opinions on history and using the authenticity of the accepted history to add credibility to his baseless opinions.

Studying Indian history is hard.

> Studying Indian history is hard.

But the way you write about it makes it sound fascinating, too! Could you recommend a couple good books in English?

> good books

Unfortunately, I don't know any that I can recommend as being a "good" book (which is again part of the problem).

There are a couple of really dry academic books that you can read if you're sufficiently motivated -

1. The Cholas by K. A. Nilakanta Sastri https://www.amazon.com/Colas-Most-Comprehensive-Written-Chol...

2. Politics, Kingship and Poetry in Medieval South India by Whitney Cox https://www.amazon.com/Politics-Kingship-Poetry-Medieval-Sou...

3. South India under The Cholas by Y. Subbarayalu https://www.amazon.com/South-India-Under-Cholas-Subbarayalu/...

4. A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar by K. A Nilakanta Sastri https://www.amazon.com/History-South-India-Prehistoric-Vijay...

I don't know what OP of this comment (dilippkumar) thinks of Manu Pillai's various books but he is another author/historian whose book I would recommend - I got the same feeling of awe reading his books that I got from dilippkumar's comment here.

I recently read "Kerala History and Its Makers" by Sreedhara Menon. It focuses on the southern state of Kerala, as the name suggests. A relatively light read and probably good for beginners. It covers a broad range of time quickly. The author also comes across as unbiased and there is little to no speculation, which I like very much in non-fiction books.

Because there's definitely a Western/European bias in the study of history, I recommend Jack Goody's "The Theft of History" [1]

> Professor Jack Goody builds on his own previous work to extend further his highly influential critique of what he sees as the pervasive eurocentric or occidentalist biases of so much western historical writing. Goody also examines the consequent 'theft' by the West of the achievements of other cultures in the invention of (notably) democracy, capitalism, individualism, and love.

[1] https://books.google.ro/books?id=jo1UVi48KywC&redir_esc=y

The unbridled truth is that marxist communist and socialist thought dominated the Indian establishment - polity, academia, media - close to a century and still is well entrenched. Their portrayal of history is nothing but dark ages then glorious Islamic rule. And the hostile Islamic neighbour controlling many of the politicians like their puppets using many strategies didn't help either. And the religious conversion lobby were unfettered in creating atrocity literature and demonisation of native culture, mostly with help from enormous foreign aid.

All other reasons people give here are mere technicalities.

As a Tunisian, I'm confused by why Carthage is not on the list. Yes, it was destroyed and rebuilt by the Romans, but the general vicinity has been continuously inhabited ever since.

Actually, a few other Tunisian cities are missing that trace their origins back to late B.C./early A.D., such as Monastir, Mahdia, and El Jem.

Any thoughts on this?

Marhabat. This particular list is pretty strict on the "continuous" criteria. I guess when the Romans plowed salt into it, continuity was broken, for the purposes of this list.

Carthage does make this list. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_cities_through...

It was the world's biggest city circa 300BC.


Yeah, it's either that, or the fact that Tunis (the new capital) was founded 10 miles away after the Umayyads took Carthage from the Byzantines (mentioned by u/scythe).

incidentally, the ancient harbor is now a part of the modern tunisian suburbs: https://goo.gl/maps/bFty3LBqkJ5DTdG88

Ah. makes sense.

I don’t think that the ‘ploughed salt’ approach is considered true anymore. The articles I want to link to are paywalled but there is a good discussion in the below reddit thread. The tldr is the salt was very expensive.



Do you mean the literal salt, or the destruction?

I've often wonder about the salt. The salt ritual (or figure of speech) originates in the eastern Mediterranean, which is why it features in the bible. Being Israeli, I always figured the dead sea inspired the idea. I think you'd need a lot of salt to do it literally though.

I wonder how the expression got to Rome? Punic culture & language came from Lebanon, and was similar to biblical Hebrew. It makes sense they used the same metaphors & rituals. Rome though? Was Scipio using a Carthaginian expression? Did he do their own ancient victory ritual to them?

I meant the literal ploughing in of salt crystals seems not to have happened. The destruction doesn’t seem to be disputed. You have given me a new angle to think on though as maybe that is what was meant? Presumably the concept of salting came from somewhere, but short of breaching sea dykes, I can’t see how it could be done easily.

It appears that the original site of the city was abandoned for centuries after the Umayyad conquest of Tunisia:


Tunis was founded across the lake as a replacement shortly thereafter, and development shifted there probably for land availability and protection from naval attacks.

Hmm, that makes sense. I suppose a 10 mile move was significant pre-industrialization.

I think it "continuously inhabited" is a blurry line. Jericho (listed) has notes about how it was destroyed a number of times, and lists the time it has been definitely continuously inhabited since.

But I'd certainly expect Carthage to be listed with notes about it's destruction and reconstruction - although I'd note there must be lots of cities founded ~500BCE+ that have been continuously inhabited.

you can probably add them? it's wikipedia after all

Carthage is listed as "Tangier"? Unless it was just added.

The note there lists that Tangier was founded by the Carthaginians. But Carthage itself was located near modern-day Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.

I wonder what their definition of "city" is ... it seems to differ from just "inhabited". They make a distinction somewhere between villages and cities.

Splitting these by continent is somewhat disingenuous since many of the oldest civilizations and settlements are at the intersection of Africa, Asia and Europe.

There are many awful lists like this on Wikipedia as it seems the criteria for them are a lot less strict than for articles.

I guess whoever creates the list can argue that each individual item is sourced, even though the selection of items and their organisation is original research [0], and thus should not be allowed.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:No_original_research

I agree, I don't mind lists like "Largest countries" as that is fairly definitive but when you get into subjective lists of things that are hard to properly define, measure or record like "costliest hurricane damage"[1], "longest-living organisms"[2] or "deadliest animals"[3] then the articles become a joke.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Atlantic_hurricane_rec...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-living_organis...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deadliest_animals_to_h...

How would you approach those things? Do we altogether avoid making those lists because they don't fit a strict criteria? I think they serve a very useful purpose and taken in the correct context, are incredibly informative. At the very least it stimulates curiosity which is a positive effect in itself.

I think your analysis is overly critical. The stated purpose of Wikipedia's no-OR policy is not to "reach or imply a conclusion not stated by the sources". The only novel conclusion being drawn here is that one can conceive of a list of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Wikipedia policy also notes that "The potential for creating lists is infinite." and prohibits lists that do not comply with Wikipedia's overall content policy as being "trivial, non-encyclopedic, or not related to human knowledge". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Stand-alone_lists#Ap...

I personally think that this list is really interesting and does in fact advance the state of human knowledge. The fact that it's currently at the top of HN and has garnered comment interest shows that you're probably in the minority in your disagreement.

If you feel strongly that this list is trivial, poorly organized, or simply "awful" you're absolutely free to join the discussion and contribute edits at Wikipedia.

I dunno if it's disingenuous, but it is kinda clunky.

I had the opportunity to visit Byblos, Lebanon and spend a few hours walking around. It was fascinating to me how many different civilizations had left physical imprints: Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, European Crusaders.

I highly recommend a visit to any city on this list.

I’m from a town nearby. It’s a shame how the ruins have been left filthy and unattended. A Phoenician king’s tomb from multiple millenia BCE is littered with cans of soda and plastic bottles.

When I brought friends from Europe to see Lebanon, we saw, I kid you not, the tour guide throwing an empty plastic water bottle down the crater that held sarcophagi.

Phoenicians as well. And the Canaanites [1] before them. Byblos is indeed an ancient city. It's believed that the first inhabitants were there around 8000BCE. Today's vestiges in Byblos are maybe younger than 500BCE though..

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan

as a native German, I can say you might want to skip Neuss, you won't miss out on a lot :P

Don't forget Phoenicians, Assyrians & such. They were the local cultures. Those others were imperial rulers.

While I don't see any examples of on this list, except perhaps for Pula, emerging archaeological evidence indicates that in the Balkans region around 7000 years ago massive towns (cities?) began emerging with up to 40,000 people living in some settlements. The homes were arranged in tight lots next to one another, with evidence for some homes even being 2 story structures.

The inhabitants of these communities were the same Neolithic farmers who crossed from the Near East, over Anatolia into Greece and then up into the rest of Europe around 8000 years ago.

They not only introduced farming to Europe, but also herding and domesticated cows and sheep. There is some linguistic evidence that the word Taurus (representing the bull in the Zodiac) is a remnant of the language these people spoke, which would make sense as they were the ones to introduce the bull to the ancestors of the Proto-Indo-European speakers.

The famous Pelasgian civilization, that we don't know much about....

I guess that the criterion for inclusion is "does anyone have a vested interest in including their own city and is persistent enough to fight their way through edit wars." That is, it's a fun list, but shouldn't be considered authoritative of anything.

E.g., Seoul shouldn't be there. The ancient capital of Wiryeseong was a separate city that was abandoned in the middle ages (in fact we aren't even sure exactly where it was), and the most likely location is on the other side of the river from Seoul's old city area: the (suspected) Wiryeseong area wasn't part of Seoul until 1963.

What is most striking to me about this list is how you can use it to trace the broad sweep of human habitation on the planet. The oldest continuously inhabited cities date back 5000 years and the youngest (in Oceania) only a few hundred. So for 5000 years humanity lived on a planet with unexplored and unexploited regions. That's all done now. The entire planet is now completely overrun with homo sapiens, but that project wasn't completed until very recently. Sydney only goes back to 1788 and Canberra to 1913, almost within living memory. I don't think humanity is anywhere near coming to grips with this new reality.

I don't get that impression. The cities listed fall into two required criteria: documented history and civilization. This does not account for neolithic settlements of which some grew quite large for their respective lack of centralized management. This is qualified by the list mentions some cities were neolithic settlements before they qualified for the status of "city" and some cities existed far earlier than the history available, as far back as 7000 BCE the theorized start of civilization. This does not account for civilizations that may have appeared earlier but failed before historical documents were written.

People were all over the world at this time leaving in various states of habitation. The earliest surviving civilization was Mesopotamia at around 7000 BCE but the earliest known neolithic settlements were in the area of modern Czech Republic circa 45000 BCE. By the time civilian began to flourish there were neolithic settlements in many unrelated places of the world. People have been living in the northern polar region since well before the earliest neolithic settlements and did not civilize until recently and some remain uncivilized.

I think if you downgrade the definition of city to any grouping of animal skin tents, then the entire exercise loses meaning because those were everywhere.

On the other hand, before 3-4000 years ago, the largest "city" in the world probably wasn't even 100,000 people. So you go back far enough anywhere and the cities were more like villages if that.

It's interesting that the biggest cities plateaued at about 1 million from about 100 BCE to 1800 CE, until the industrial revolution kicked in.

Unexplored by whom though? The Americas are a great example of places that might have made the list in greater numbers if history had gone a little differently, but those settlements were wiped out except for a handful of prominent ones. Then suddenly in the 1500s you get a lot of new Spanish settlements making the list.

It doesn't qualify as continuously inhabited, but that doesn't make it unexplored. In many cases I'm sure one can consider it more or less a coincidence that one town happened to be conquered while inhabited and another might've had the whole town die of smallpox or whatever.

I probably should have used a different word. What I meant was that the last 200 years or so is the first time in history that human civilization has extended across the entire planet simultaneously.

I still think this is unfairly discounting the native populations, because this thread is talking about Australia and Polynesia. Australia had been settled for 10s of thousands of years, and Polynesia for thousands of years, perhaps down to 1000 for the last islands to be settled.

I do think the concept of "continuously inhabited city" is interesting, but ultimately distorting in several ways, especially in the Americas. Adding the loaded word "civilization" just further muddies the waters.

However, if you consider that Antarctica was finally sighted in 1820, your figure of 200 years is very accurate.

That said, I think it is interesting that there are probably islands on which no human has ever set foot. At least I think that's the case, I don't have proof. Large swaths of ice as well, but islands are easier to think about.

In Australia 200 years ago that “human civilization” perpetuated genocides against the “uncivilized” humans there. Not sure if are the words used the problem here... sure this is a sensitive topic.

I didn't intend to imply any kind of value judgement on whether or not the spread of "civilization" (or whatever you want to call the present state of affairs) is good or bad.

> The entire planet is now completely overrun with homo sapiens

Eh, not precisely. Most of the earth is still empty of human life or very sparsely populated.


I didn't mean that the entire earth is as dense as a city. I meant that there are very few places you can go and not be within (say) a day's walk of another human. It's kind of like saying that the world is overrun with ants. That is plausibly true, notwithstanding that there are still a few places that are devoid of ants.

> I didn't mean that the entire earth is as dense as a city. I meant that there are very few places you can go and not be within (say) a day's walk of another human.

I mean, isn’t that true for most of Canada, Russia, Antarctica, central Australia, Mongolia, and even large parts of the American West?

You'll be surprised. You can actually use Google earth to explore these regions. Even in what seems at first to be empty space you will find little towns, military installations, vacation lodges. Yes, there are still a few remote regions that are truly untouched by humans, but they are quite rare. Extreme latitudes (Antarctica, Siberia, northern Canada) and the Amazon are probably about it. Numbers are hard to come by but I'd be surprised if more than 20% of the earth's land area was more than a day's walk from civilization.

It's somewhat misleading to base the spread of humans on the age of cities. There were homo sapiens in Canberra, for example, for at least 20,000 years before Europeans came and built a city on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canberra#The_first_inhabitants

Good point. I guess I should have said "modern technological civilization" or something like that rather than "homo sapiens", although MWC is not quite right either. What I was trying to get at was whatever quality it is in humans that moves them to build cities. Whatever that is, the humans in Canberra in 20000 BCE didn't have it. (That's not meant to be a value judgement, just an observation.)

In the '70s and '80s when Japan was booming there was a popular meme that they were advantaged by having their cities destroyed in the war so were able to rebuild them along more modern lines. I don't know if it's true but it seems plausible.

In Stranger in a Strange Land, Michael Valentine Smith talks about the Martian habit of abandoning places when the memories became too intense to tolerate.

If we earthlings were repulsed by places with too much history such old places would have a limited lifespan. While we'd lose out on the context of history, we'd escape some of the deep ruts of blind tradition and be less buried by sedimentary layers of "that's how we've always done it."

War is a terrible evil, but at least it tends to breaks up such ossified remains. If we defeat war, we should look for other mechanisms to till the soil to promote new growth.

For unknown reasons, the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture used to burn down their settlements every 75-80 years: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burned_house_horizon

What if the opposite is true?

Somewhere roundabout EC2 is the remains of some religious building, with an office built over it. Walk past the big glass windows, double-take then blag your way in politely and admire it. It's a serious chunk of stonework that's literally been built around. It's so peculiar to see the juxtaposition. I think it's related to henry 8th's destructions. Does anyone know it?

I did a search but couldn't find it, what I did find is quite interesting. Take a look at the top picture here https://symbolsandsecrets.london/page/21/

Scroll down for some more of londinium and assorted london relics.

Since Damascus is on the list, it's worth noting that some of the building techniques that possibly originated thousands of years ago are still in use in some remote Syrian villages.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_roof_shapes#/media/Fil...


Thats nice. What about the oldest school, though?



28,000 years of teaching the next generation agriculture and animal husbandry.

Reading through the comments I see people from all over the world offering insights about various places. Then I realised all the comments here are in English. There must be an equivalent for languages continuously spoken over time.

Languages change -- sometimes dramatically -- over the course of centuries. English wasn't even a thing until the 1100s or so (Middle English). It would be very hard to exchange thoughts and ideas with the people of this time -- not only because of the different cultural and technological contexts but also because of its pronunciation and phonology.

Its predecessor: Anglo Saxon is even more distant from it. Try to read the passages here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English#Beowulf

Latin (as an artificially conserved language) has not changed that much since Roman times, but it isn't a language that is actively used in everyday life -- so you cannot claim it is: "continuously spoken over time".

Hebrew and Arabic could be interesting cases -- maybe someone more knowledgeable than me can chime in on these... But I assume ancient Hebrew and Arabic are also not mutually intelligible with the corresponding languages today.

Even for Latin, apparently Ecclesiastical (Church) Latin, which is more familiar to most people today, differs in pronunciation from Classical Latin. For example, Ecclesiastical Latin uses a soft 'c', where the ancient Romans would have used a hard 'c' -- Cicero's name would have been pronounced like "keekero" in his day, whereas most people now think of him as "Sissero". Although the Roman empire was large and diverse enough that Latin probably had quite a variety of dialects and maybe Ecclesiastical Latin was one of them.

Hebrew is an unusual case because, like Latin, it was mostly a dead language that for centuries only continued to be used in religious and a few other contexts. It was revived in the 19th century. Because of its long period of cryostasis the parts that were preserved probably haven't changed that much, although necessarily it's expanded greatly into a living language.

Farsi (Iranian) is another one that lasted a long time without too many mutations as far as I know.

Arabic is divided into "proper, classical" Arabic which is used for religious purpose (and maybe some other "official" things), a bit like Latin in the middle ages; and various mostly unintelligible dialects used day to day.

If I remember correctly, modern Hebrew is pretty much the same as old Hebrew, with various additions to fit the current world. It's somewhat artificial in that it wasn't really spoken before, and was the chosen as the official language in the early 20th century. It's like if someone decided nowadays to use Latin as the official language.

I like how Rome is listed as 753 BCE.

A lot of guess work on these dates

The age claims listed are generally disputed. Differences in opinion can result from different definitions of "city" as well as "continuous habitation" and historical evidence is often disputed. Caveats (and sources) to the validity of each claim are discussed in the "Notes" column.

Literally the introduction.

Not only that, it's precisely the 21st of April, Rome's birthday just went by :)

Turns out Rome was built in a day. Specifically, the 21st of April.

No, that was the date of launch, along with a keynote from the caesar.


Best estimate, until the next archaeological discovery.

As long as we don't equate estimates with facts, we're good.

That's not an estimate based on archaeological discovery, it's the classical date given by Varro Reatinus, which he took from Titus Atticus (I'm mentioning Varro Reatinus simply because this timeline is now called the "Varronian timeline"). Titus Atticus came up with it based on various traditions and works available to him, but it's really just one of the dates that have been proposed by people in that age. It's the most common traditional date today largely because of a pretty complicated tradition of politics, and of legal and written works, that ends with Joseph Scaliger in the 16th century. It became, more or less, the "official" chronology used by the Roman state at one point, and it ended up inscribed on Augustus' Arch and on the Fasti Capitolini. But that's about it. In fact, it's likely that everyone even back then knew at least a good part of it was made up, since it was based on a bunch of traditional dates that didn't quite add up, and Tittus Atticus (edit: or Varro Reatinus? I don't remember which one) had to insert various "dark years" and "anarchic periods" in-between so that his chronology would match the timeline of consulships.

It's hard to put a date on it, because Rome likely developed out of several villages in the region. The oldest arcaheological evidence from the area is way older than the 8th century BC. The Romans themselves didn't have anything other than a best guess about it, either (and several were put forth, not just this one).

Edit: yep, I'm really fun at parties!

The column next to that date notes that there is village structure dated to the 9th century BC; the 753 date is actually downright mythical rather than archeological, but where some mythical dates exaggerate antiquity (e.g. lists of Sumerian kings) this mythical date cuts antiquity short to give city founding credit to the (probably entirely mythical?) Romulus rather than give recognition to the prior Greek settlement on the Palantine Hill (which Roman sources mentioned, while still claiming to be only as old as Romulus' city). It's an odd cultural carry over from Roman times to see in a wikipedia page, recognized in one column and ignored in the one prior.

much of rome's ancient history is "mythical" in that it the only historical evidence we have are the legends handed down from that time. many of them appear to be attempts to reconcile the status of the early republic with the foundational history of the village/town/location of rome.

i loved reading the rise of rome, by anthony everitt.


If you're suggesting that the 753 BC date is archaeological, you're incorrect. 753 BC is the legendary date. There's archaeological evidence of habitation on the hills of Rome earlier than that.

Yes but when did it become a "city" versus just a caveman camp?

When do you have a handful of sand? If you take 1 grain of sand and put it in your hand, that's not a handful. Same with 2, 3. How many grains of sand constitutes a handful?

In the example of a handful: the average "handful" is around 100-50mL. Say we define a "handful" as 50mL +/- 1 order of magnitude. On the high end, you have Andre the Giant, who could easily fit a 12 oz beer in his hand no problem (354 mL.) On the low end, you have children; even kids with small hands can hold 5mL.


Sure, there's some ambiguity, and of course there's not a hard number on it. But that doesn't mean you can't tell if something is a city. Nobody would argue that, for example, NYC isn't a city, or London or Amsterdam or whatnot.

As the world population grew, so did the definition of "city". 12,000 years ago, there were somewhere around ten million people in the entire world, so a definition of somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.1% of the world population (10,000 people) for a city seems reasonable, plus or minus one order of magnitude. I'll call it Owen's Law :) That holds for today: 0.1% of the world population is 7.8 million, plus or minus 1 order of magnitude - I'd say that's a fine definition for a city. In any case, it works very well today: at the large end you have cities like Chongqing with 30+ million in the municipality, and at the small end you have cities like Rotterdam with around 700k people in the city proper.

To check if my rule of thumb worked: At the year 1, assuming 200 million people in the world, that's setting a city around 200,000 people, plus or minus 1 order of magnitude. The largest city in the world was Rome, between 1MM-400k people; all the top 10 largest cities fell within the rule.

- It holds at the year 1000 (world pop. ~300MM, largest city Córdoba with 400k, smaller cities like Nimes with 56k.)

- It holds at the year 1500 (world pop. 500MM, largest city Constantinople 250k, smaller cities like Palermo, Florence, Madrid, Moscow with ~70k.)

- It holds at 1800 (world pop. ~1 billion, largest cities Vienna and London ~1MM, smaller cities like Berlin, Lyon, Venice 150k.)

- It holds at 1900 (world pop. 1.6 billion, largest city London 5.5MM, smaller cities Naples, Madrid, Amsterdam ~500k.)

Sorites Paradox.

The fallacy lies in the question, that a collection of sand is either individual grains aggregated, or a heap. One response is that "heap" describes not quantity but behaviour, or even more crucially, useful mental models.

The old parable of grains of rice doubled on successive squares of a chessboard gives a useful visual image, here: http://all-funny.info/rice-chessboard-story

I'd argue that the transition between "grains" and "heap" occurs somewhere between 16 and 128 grains, the 6th to 8th squares (2^5 to 2^7). Sixteen grains is still, mostly, individual grains. 128 grains is almost certainly a heap.

In urban geography, urbanisations are virtually always classed by the log, usually base ten, of their population. This gives settlements of class 0 (one inhabitant) to about class 7.6 (roughly 40 millions of souls, greater Tokyo). Distribution nearly perfectly follows a power distribution -- frequency distribution is linear with the log size.

Going back through human history, the first settlements we might have termed "cities" may well have been only a few hundreds of inhabitants, but they would have dominated their regions. Anthropologists typically identify Uruk as the first settlement recognised as a city. "Many ancient cities had only modest populations, often under 5,000 persons."


A city is a permanent settlement of size and complexity which acts as a city.


My actual point is that archaeological estimates are like epidemiological models: smart folks offering a snapshot of what they know.

Until that knowledge is over-written.

With the world explored and mapped, it is hard to fathom new cities being built. Nevertheless, that will certainly happen in the future.

What will the catalyst be? Will it be nuclear war, which devastates and contaminates an area for decades? Will it be disease that makes existing urban areas less desirable to live in? Will it be economic opportunity, as we discover new uses for land or a new way to use land? Space Travel?

I see a small parallel to startups: it is easy but dangerous to say "there are no new ideas in that industry". Yet often some of the primary companies are those that survived the early "land grab" of customers.

"Continuously" is a word that lets a lot of institutions claim to be the oldest or longest running thing. I feel like I've been to a dozen restaurants that make this claim.

Wow, this is a great example of a rather terrible wikipedia page. Grouping it by continent. No mention of the Middle East at all (Erbil anyone?). Oceania is just a list of every major city in AUS/NZ, even listing 1913s Canberra while omitting basically every other country in the region.

Not trying to diminish the work that went into it so far, but it is a great example to always keep in mind how wikipedia works, how its content is built and to never trust it as a source in itself.

And on the NZ side, it calls Bluff a city. It's a town (whose population peaked at 3000) near Invercargill, which is itself, only just a city.


In the UK there's a common derision of tourists from (sorry but) the USA who find themselves dumbfounded by the age of some rickety old pub from the eighteenth century they've tracked down. This Wikipedia page emphasises how little this old rock's got on the rest of the world.

Apart from Australasia.

Though seriously, I appreciate that Oceana's indigenous peoples are highly nomadic, but is it really the case that there's no continuous settlement there until European colonisation?

Yes I think the idea here is that the distances over seas to reach islands took many many years until Polynesians delevoped the necessary skills and tech were able to navigate them and settle the lands. I don’t think any archeological evdince have been found otherwise.

> is it really the case that there's no continuous settlement there until European colonisation?

Settlement yes, city no.

So, Lisbon is older than Rome, TIL!

It is very common, in downtown Lisbon, when doing some escavations to renovate some building foundations to find traces/layers of older civilizations. A famous case was in the 90's when renovating the headquarters of Millenium Bank. The remains were preserved (under the building) and you can actually visit them nowadays[1].

[1] https://www.lisbonlux.com/lisbon/nucleo-arqueologico.html

I found it to be a really interesting tour. I think it's free, as well.

But it was severely devastated by 2 earthquakes. The first was in 1531. The worst was in 1755, an huge tragedy that left marks in European culture (creation of seismology, a bit discussion on the vindication of God within the Enlightenment,...)

Yeah in 1775 it happened during All Saints Day, and I think they still say "Todos os Santos não chegaram"which translates to something like "All saints were not even enough to save us"

From a Middle-Eastern perspective, Rome has just recently been settled.

There is some definite bias here. I can assure you that San Diego was inhabited by the native people long before 1789. They might not have called it San Diego, but they certainly had a concept of settlement.

1789 is more like their colonization year, not their settlement year.

This list seems quite incomplete. Check for example:


There are probably more cities like this.

Jesus folks are getting owly. Yesterday I mentioned here, that in addition to inhabited cities there are very old nomadic populations, some very much older that the oldest continuously inhabited city.

And got totally smashed by bad feedback, and eventually flagged (?!) for saying this.

What gives? HN is normally such a tolerant place, full of curious people. Is this topic so emotionally toxic that no alternate dialog is tolerated? I'm honestly confused.

I live in one of the cities mentioned on this page (Augsburg), I think it's pointless to argue of how much is still around from the old ages and if people respect it. The age of a city builds a certain character on a city, the quirks and things that go on for some reason that has been forgotten since before America was discovered.

Puts some perspective into "for an american, 200 years is a long time", doesn't it?

If you ever go to Pula, make sure to visit the Arena (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pula_Arena) and pass by Zlatna Vrata (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_the_Sergii) both are ~2000 year old

Also interesting (from the "See also" section) -- List of oldest known surviving buildings[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_known_surviving...

Stupid comment maybe but I wished there was a global list.

I was surprised though at the limited number of sites inhabited continuously since earlier than 2000BCE. I would believe that good natural sites (natural harbors with a river) would have been continuously inhabited since neolithic.

TIL San Diego is the oldest city on the West Coast and the birthplace of California!

Interesting that Marakkesh is listed as 1070CE. Marakkesh is where the 'gladiator' Maximus fights, and moves to Rome from, in the movie. That's during the reign of Commodus, which places it at around 190CE.

This list seems hardly complete. There’s no mention of Central Asia for instance.

I spotted Afghanistan which is pretty damn Central Asian.

Do you have a city to propose? Feel free to add it to the list, especially as it shouldn't be too hard to check the age using the Wikipedia article on the city.

Cholula FTW! Oldest still inhabited city in the Americas and best hot sauce.

We have a tendency to group all ancient cities together in our minds, but the difference between Luxor/Thebes(3200BC) and Rome(753BC) is about the same as between Rome and New York City(1624).

I'm incredibly impressed to find that Tangier is ther third oldest continously inhabited city in Africa, I go through it almost every year to visit Morocco, such a beautiful country.

This map is a nice visualization of the oldest cities: https://i.redd.it/qc23w3nl85u31.png

Aztec and Taos in New Mexico have been inhabited since 1000ad. They are considered cities, despite how small they are

What about London?

Interestingly, London wasn't continuously inhabited since the founding by the Romans, so it wouldn't make this particular list. I was quite surprised when I learned this fact recently, visiting the Museum of London.

"By the 5th century, the Roman Empire was in rapid decline and in AD 410, the Roman occupation of Britannia came to an end. Following this, the Roman city also went into rapid decline and by the end of the 5th century was practically abandoned."


Wikipedia’s date for that is 43 AD, there’s a long list of European cities that stops a lifetime before that.

By splitting into different regions it masks the difference in numbers and age across the world.

A list of "oldest cities" which contains places like Canbera and Detroit, but not places like London and Venice, seems very odd

> "Wikipedia’s date for that is 43 AD"

There was a story a couple of weeks ago[0] about pottery dating from around 3600BCE being found at a site in Shoreditch (which was being excavated for the new Amazon HQ), suggesting London may have been inhabited considerably longer than previously thought.

[0] https://www.mola.org.uk/blog/largest-group-early-neolithic-p... & https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2178-z

That wouldn't be "London city" that would be "a village which the latter settlement of London expanded to encompass"; which is significantly different. Not longest inhabited areas, but continuously inhabited city.

It’s odd that London isn’t listed yet there are a bunch that are only a couple of hundred years old

Nothing in Europe north of Belgium and the Netherlands made the cut. It is kind of weird that there isn't several lists for Europe. When there is for several other geographic regions.

I happened to be born in one of those cities. AMA :)

Have you lived in much younger cities? How does the weight of history in the old city compare? Do you prefer to live in a younger city, or an elder one, and why?

I grew up in New Orleans and every other US city I’ve lived in has felt kind of... unmoored... in a certain way, what history there is in much of the rest of the country has been thoroughly torn down, and it’s not like there’s much history in a 1940s building yet anyway.

Have you lived in any of the older cities on the East Coast? The Philadelphia and Boston areas have an enormous amount of history still present and visible, especially in the outskirts that haven't faced as much commercial pressure. Even downtown in both cities there's quite a lot that's been maintained from the colonial era.

I do feel that America makes a much bigger thing about recent history than the rest of the world - there feels far more history in Boston and New York than in Chester (my nearest historical towns), despite the latter being founded in AD79.

The local cafe I (used to) go to for lunch at weekends was built in 1583 (the building on that site had burnt down in a fire). There's some history at the start of the menu, and sure it's older than most of the houses in town, but it's no means unique and there are older buildings in town (not many as most burnt down in the 1583 fire)

I was in Boston for a while. I think I am allergic to its Puritan history. :)

Yes. Mostly North American, but also UK ones. Older cities definitely have more history to explore (our town had medieval fortress and original Ancient Greek colony ruins).

But quality of life matters more. This is the defining charasteristic of the city for me to live in.

OK. First question: which one?

Where: Belgorod-Dnestrovsky (ex Ancient Greek colony) on the Black Sea coast.

Are you more than 2,000 years old?

which one?

These cities are beautiful open air museums

missing taos nm


> militant ... passionate ... owly

I don't think that accurately describes anyone else's comments in this subthread.

People are just pointing out that the article is clearly about cities, not nomadic tribes, but that doesn't at all mean anyone (the article writer or any commenter) is suggesting nomadic tribes don't matter.

They're just different topics is all.

Yes, the list of cities does not include nomads. Also, this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apple_cultivars does not include Valencias.

> populations that have had continuous populations

This misses the point because this isn't about continuity of population in terms of lineage, just perpetual inhabitation. A city such as Sicily over time has exchanged hands and transformed culture many, many times. Cities are cosmopolitan. Demographics change, and culture is not static. It was not for nomadic tribes either. What we can find for them, however, are relics tied to a certain point in time, to a certain place, describing a certain nomadic culture. They are certainly not the same as those persisting today, whether there is some lineage or otherwise.

It also reads funny; what makes them continuous, you mean they did not partake in interracial mingling? We don't know how continuous they really were. We only know that nomadic lifestyle existed a long time, and ultimately is the precursor of settlements; humanity was of course once entirely nomadic, therefore we all have nomadic ancestors. Fukuyama would suggest that centralized agriculture was developed to increase population in order to wage war, which eventually grew enough to necessitate bureaucracy.

> mere mention of nomads would create such a passionate backlash!

I don't see any. Maybe it's something you're feeling?

Nomads, practically by definition, do not continuously inhabit cities for long periods.

Depends on which nomads, Mongols can be considered nomads but records most from the human remains of that era show they were importing grains from some of the remote places as the grains they were consuming could not have been grown nearby.

...and because they don't have a pin on the map, are ignored. As was my point.

No worries; being ignored and marginalized is among the least troubles they have.

Does that mean that we have to force them into any list even if they don't belong there, just to be politically correct?

This is a list about cities, not civilizations. Nomadic populations can be included in lists that talk about those topics. There can also be a list of "oldest nomadic populations" from which cities are excluded.

It's a list of old cities. Of course it's not going to mention a people who didn't have cities. It doesn't mention stone age European or Asian nomads either.

I'm also confused at your 14,000 years comment... this isn't the age of any particular polity or ethnic group; just the amount of time since people settled North America. Across the old world, comparable tribes lived for much, much longer. And in Africa you can go back even further.

What exactly do you think should have happened here? Simply not allow lists of old cities? Or perhaps put in special entries for nomad tribes even though they're not, you know, cities? What's the goal that would have made sense but also made you happy?

(Dons owly mask) Wikipedia has you covered:


the space they occupy can be conceptualised as a city

The list doesn't seem to be complete, Shiraz has been inhibited since 2000BC and it's not listed on the page.


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