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These Are the 7 Oldest Cities on Earth that Still Stand

From Atlantis to Pompeii and Machu Picchu, many great cities have risen in the history of humankind, and many have fallen, leaving nothing but ruins in their wake and maybe an odd poem written in their memory. But that is not the fate of all ancient cities, and some human settlements have endured for millennia, going all the way back to Biblical times and even before that. Here are some of the most ancient cities in the world where people still live.

1. Yanshi, Henan, China (4,000~ years)

Ancient Cities: Yanshi China palace
Nearly three thousand years before the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing, this city in Yellow River Valley stood as the capital of Xia Dynasty China, with a magnificent palace to match it. Constant floods might have caused a lot of damage to the once-imperial city, but the city where that palace once proudly stood is still inhabited by people and apparently produces most of China’s drums.

2. Athens, Greece (3,500~ years)

Ancient Cities: Athens Greece Acropolis Parthenon
The capital of Greece, named for the ancient goddess of war and wisdom, is widely considered as the birthplace of Western art, philosophy, and democracy. But the mighty port city was founded long before Plato established his Academia there, and many years before Greece became a major global power, as evidence of substantial habitation dates back to around 1,400 BC, though people have lived there even before that.

3. Jerusalem, Israel (4,000~ years)

Ancient Cities: Jerusalem City of DavidSource: Dennis Jarvis
Jerusalem, alternatively known as Zion in Hebrew, and Al-Quds, “the holy one” in Arabic, is somewhat of a conundrum. Located in an arid, mountainous region, with no port or access to the Jordan River, there seems to be no reason why this fortified town would thrive and rise to prominence, but it did, and then some. The city is holy to all Abrahamic faiths, being the place of Solomon’s Temple, Jesus’ crucifixion and Muhammad’s ascension to heaven. Egyptian sources mention a city by this name as far back as 1,900 BC.

4. Chania, Crete, Greece (3,600~ years)

Ancient Cities: Chania Kydonia Crete
The port city of Chania, in its former incarnation as Kydonia, was one of the most important city-states of the Minoan Culture, which is considered by some to be the first great European culture, having a huge impact Ancient Greek culture, and consequently, all of Europe. The city remained an important hub of commerce and switched hands several times over between Byzantine, Arab, Venetian and Ottoman rule.

5. Jericho, West Bank (10,400~ years)

Ancient Cities: Jericho mill excavationSource: Salamandra123
The City of Palm Trees, as it is sometimes alluded to in the Bible, is perhaps the oldest fortified settlement in the entire world. The fabled walls of Jericho which figure in the stories of Joshua’s conquest of Cana’an are dated back to the 9th millennium BC. Despite being located in the middle of the Judaean Desert, a large number of natural springs made this city into a veritable oasis and an incredibly important settlement in the ancient times.

6. Damascus, Syria (3,100~ years)

Ancient Cities: Damascus Jupiter archesSource: Ai@ce
The capital of Syria and of the Kingdom of Aram before that is one of the most important and ancient cities in the Middle East. It was built on an oasis on the banks of the Barada river, and while the settlement didn’t rise to prominence until the arrival of the Arameans around 1,100 BC, it existed as a smaller town for long before that, around 6,300 BC, and possibly before that as well.

7. Luxor, Egypt (5,200~ years)

Ancient Cities: Luxor Thebes Egypt temple
Luxor, also known in Ancient Egyptian as Waset, and in Greek as Thebes, was established as the capital of Upper Egypt on the Banks of the Nile around 3,200 BC. The southerly city (“upper” here means upstream, not north) wasn’t just a major political hub, but a temple-city dedicated to the sun God, Amun-Ra. Today, the city of Luxor houses some of the most intact remnants of ancient Egyptian architecture and art, including a majestic temple complex.
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