People have congregated in cities for thousands of years. Of the world’s ancient cities, some continue to house thousands or even millions of people, while others have been forgotten and have fallen into ruin. Here are some facts about 7 of the oldest cities on earth.
Istanbul Was Constantinople Was Byzantium (Turkey)
The modern day city of Istanbul has a long and complicated history. It was originally founded in 657 BC by Greeks and called Byzantium. Then, hundreds of years later, the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of his empire there and it became the largest and most important city in Europe. After he died, the city was renamed Constantinople. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the city came to be called Istanbul.
Marathons Are Named After Marathon (Greece)
Ever wonder why a marathon is 26.2 miles? Well, in 490 BC, the ancient Greeks won a battle against the much larger forces of the Persian Empire near a small city called Marathon. As the legend goes, after the battle a messenger ran all the way to Athens to tell the city of the victory and to warn them about the Persian Fleet, a distance of 26.2 miles. The Greeks held races from Marathon to Athens to commemorate him, and the marathon was born.
Thebes is Probably the World’s Oldest Continually Inhabited Major City (Egypt)
Not to be confused with its Greek namesake, Thebes, Egypt was a huge and important city in its own right. Now known as Luxor, people have lived there since 3200 BC, making it the oldest continuously inhabited major city in the world. It’s home to Karnak, a massive and world famous temple complex that, in its time, was like the Vatican for ancient Egyptians.
Some Really Famous Heroes Were From the Other Thebes (Greece)
Thebes, Greece was relevant much later in history than its Egyptian counterpart, peaking in the 4th century BC. Its influence briefly rivaled the other two big Greek states, Athens and Sparta. Thebes was also famous for being the birthplace of the mythical heroes Hercules and Oedipus.
Memphis Isn’t Just a City In Tennessee (Egypt)
Did you know that the city of blues was named after a city that’s 5000 years old? Memphis, Egypt was allegedly founded by King Menes in 3150 BC, and it played a huge role in the ancient world. In fact, the famous Rosetta Stone is actually just another name for The Memphis Decree, issued in the city in 196 BC, which allowed us to finally decipher Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
Barcelona Reached Its Stride Under Roman Rule (Spain)
Ruins of settlements have been found in the Catalonian capital reaching back as far as 5000 BC. It’s most likely that Barcelona was home only to a small town until the Roman era, when the city began to grow under the reign of emperor Augustus, around the first century AD.
Palmyra is A Jewel In the Desert (Syria)
Not too many people know about Palmyra, but it was once an extremely vibrant ancient city. Located in a desert oasis in Syria, it was an important stop on the trade route that connected the east to the west, and today it’s famous for its spectacular ruins.