Which Is the World’s Oldest Capital City?

There are several contenders for the title of the world’s oldest capital city, and all of them are in the middle East and Mediterranean area. This is about cities that were continuously inhabited for thousands of years.

According to Wikipedia, the oldest continuously inhabited capital cities are Athens, the capital of Greece, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, Damascus, the capital of Syria, and Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

These cities are so old that it is clearly very difficult to establish a clear fact which of them is the oldest.

All these cities are marked in the interactive map below. It is zoomable so you can see details:


This city is in my list of the oldest capital cities in Europe, and it is on the first place in this list here. From the data on Wikipedia, it appears that it has been around since 5000 years BC.

But from the same list you will realize that Argos in Greece is even older.



This is both the capital and the largest city of Lebanon. It appears that it has been inhabited for more than 5000 years. This was one of the most important cities of the ancient Phoenicia.

The first written document about this place is in the Amarna letters from the New Kingdom of Egypt, and this means 14th century BC.


This is the holy city for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But in spite of such an important status, my main impression when I visited it was that this is a city of hatred and incredible religious fanatism. Nevertheless, I am impressed with the city just like everybody else.

Currently, this is a capital both for Israelis and Palestinians, both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital. From the data available on Wikipedia, it has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. Quite remarkable.

Apparently, this place has been inhabited for around 5000 years already, i.e., since 3000 BC. So it is at the same rank as Beirut mentioned above.



So, according to Wikipedia, Damascus (the top picture above) has been continuously inhabited since early 2nd millennium BC.

On the other hand, if you check on History channel, they put Athens, Beirut, and Jerusalem as the top three, and Damascus is on the sixth place there behind Ankara and Lisbon. But even they mention that “the Syrian capital is often touted as the world’s oldest inhabited city”.


Ankara is also known in history books as Angora, and it is located in the central Anatolia. This is a multi-million city, and the second largest in Turkey.

It used to be a city in the ancient Celtic state of Galatia, but its history goes back to 2000 BC. It was under Roman rule for more than 700 years. Ankara is also the westernmost capital city in Asia

So these are the oldest capital cities in the world, and all of them in the list have been continuously inhabited for thousands of years.

There are even older cities, but they are not capitals, and many of them have not been continuously inhabited. These are Argos in Greece, Byblos in Lebanon, Tyre in Lebanon, Tarsus in Turkey, Kirkuk in Iraq, Multan in Pakistan, Kandahar in Afghanistan, etc.

Let me know if you have questions, there is a comment box below. Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

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