Over the centuries many nations and countries have come and gone. As humans have evolved over the millennia, cities have been built and destroyed and nations have risen and fallen. Only the strongest have survived and flourished as countries that still exist today. So what is the oldest country in the world?
That is a hard question to answer. It is nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact moment a country came into existence. There are many factors in play. You could judge it by the timeline of when the actual government of the country was established. Or it could be when the country is believed to have become a sovereign state. However you look at it, there are many great civilizations that have been around for hundreds of years.
While you might think the great United States or the ruling British Empire make the list, you’ll be sadly disappointed. The history of these countries pales insignificant to the other nations on this list. So take a trip back in time and discover the 10 oldest countries in the world below.
Here Are 10 of the Oldest Countries in the World
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Although it was founded in the 16th century, the country has been around a lot longer than that. Originally known as the Persian Empire, it is now called the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Achaemenid Empire was in power between 550-330 BCE and is regarded as the largest the world has ever seen. It is believed around 50 million people lived in Iran during the reign of the Achaemenid Empire.
Since those heady days, Iran has gone through many changes throughout its long history. Modern day Iran was only founded in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution. This led to the Iran-Iraq war that lasted eight years between 1980-1988 and resulted in mass casualties for both nations.
While there continues to be political upheaval in Iran and a frosty relationship with America, the country remains one of the great civilizations with the oldest population.
The great Greece civilization is certainly not the oldest country in the world but it is one of the most influential. The first evidence of people living in this area was found in a cave around 270,000 BCE. But it wasn’t until around 800 BCE after the Dark Ages that Ancient Greece became a recognized nation. The country has been through many different eras over the centuries. The Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods have all brought prosperity to this great nation.
Greece is responsible for creating the first democratic system in early 500 BCE. During the reign of Alexander the Great the Greek culture extended across Europe and Asia. It was during this time (334-323 BCE) that the Greeks became leaders in areas such as architecture, mathematics, and philosophy.
The Greek civilization is responsible for many cultural events and texts. The Olympic Games, Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, the theatre, and ancient Greek gods and goddesses were found in this country. It is a European nation steeped in a rich history that attracts history buffs from all over the globe.
China is one of the greatest countries in the world. Located in central Asia, it has remained united and strong for hundreds of years, with many different dynasties holding power. The first known is the Xia Dynasty which lasted from around 2070-1600 BCE. There are no records of this time, unfortunately. It wasn’t until the Shang Dynasty that Chinese history was written down. It was in power for an incredibly long time, from the 17th to the 11th centuries BCE.
Many different rulers have been in power during the Dynrtasy era of China’s history. This all came to an end in 1912 when the Chinese Monarchy collapsed and the country became the Republic of China. It then changed to the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This communist regime is still in power today and is known as modern China.
The Chinese invented paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder. They created the ancient belief system Confucianism and are responsible for building the famous Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall of China, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 1.4 billion people reside in China, making it the country with the world’s biggest population.
Ancient Egypt has a fascinating culture. The home of the pyramids was first settled by King Menes (also known as Narmer) in the Nile River Valley around 3,150 BCE. But even before that, tribes lived in the area dating as far back as 6,000 BCE. King Menes unified Upper and Lower Egypt, creating the first dynasty in the country.
Under his rule, the country thrived and many great dynasties would rule for centuries until Alexander the Great rocked up in 332 BCE and spoiled the party. This resulted in Egypt being ruled by many different nations, including the Romans, Arab nations, the Ottoman Empire, and the British. Egypt finally got rid of the Brits in 1922 and became its own independent nation, which we now refer to as modern Egypt.
Egypt remains high on many people’s list of places to visit. Along with the pyramids and the Great Sphinx, Egypt is an incredible country with many other sites to see. The capital Cairo is a cultural melting pot while the River Nile is considered the longest river in the world.
Not as well known as many of the other countries on this list, San Marino is surprisingly one of the oldest countries in the world. It has the world’s oldest republic and is also the third smallest country in all of Europe. The country is named after the stonemason Saint Marinus who helped build the first city around 301 BCE. Escaping Croatia for his Christian beliefs, he founded what is now known as the City of San Marino on top of Mount Titan.
Landlocked by Italy, San Marino is a unique country and one of the wealthiest in the world. It has a population of just over 33,500, has never lost an invasion, and is believed to be the first nation to establish a postal service. It also has the world’s oldest constitution, The Statutes of 1600, drafted in 1600. Despite being such an interesting destination, San Marion remains one of the least visited countries in Europe.
Founded in 868 BC, the Country of Portugal might not be the oldest country in the world, but it is one of the oldest continuously existing nation states in Europe. Despite all the upheaval that has occurred throughout European history, Portugal has managed to stay untouched. It was a major player during the Age of Discovery when it established the first global maritime and commercial empire. Trade and commerce have been the bedrock of the country, with Port wine from the UNESCO-listed Douro Valley Portugal’s number one export.
Portugal also gifted us Cristiano Ronaldo, barbecued chicken, and the Pastéis de Nata, otherwise known as the humble custard tart. It’s also home to one of the oldest universities in the world along with Bertrand Bookstore, which holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest bookstore in the world. As you can see, there are lots of old things in Portugal, making it a fantastic place to visit for those who love European history and culture.
When it comes to culture and tradition, few countries rival Japan. The population of this great nation is some of the most polite and kind-hearted people in the world. Japan is said to have been founded by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BCE. Buddhism was soon introduced as literacy, art, and architecture became part of the culture. The Feudal era of Japan, ruled by samurais and warriors, occurred between 1185-1603 CE. During this time the famous Edo and Meiji eras took place, with Japan growing as a nation in all areas of government and society.
The modern era of Japan only spans the past 150 odd years, but much has happened in that time. Japan was involved in both World War I and World War II and became the first country to suffer a nuclear attack when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. While devastating, Japan slowly rebuilt and recovered to become one of the great empires of modern times. It has the world’s third-largest economy and is known for introducing the West to sushi, anime, origami, and of course, karaoke.
Here is a country many people wouldn’t imagine being on a list like this. Ethiopia is believed to be the country where many of the first humans originated. Throughout its history, it has also managed to never be colonized by a European nation. While not confirmed, many historians believe the first people lived in Ethiopia around 3000 BCE.
The Ethiopian Empire is recognized as officially beginning around 1270, with the overthrowing of the Zagwe dynasty. This led to the Solomonic dynasty that lasted right up until 1974. The nation has been through several coupes since then and is currently overseen by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Having been through numerous governments during the centuries, Ethiopia is a very diverse country. There are many different ethnicities that inhabit the nation. While Christianity is the main religion, Islam and Judaism are becoming more prevalent. Fun fact: Ethiopia also runs on its own time and calendar and is the birthplace of coffee.
France is another nation historians have found hard to formulate a timeline for. The Celts are believed to have settled there in 800 BCE before Julias Ceaser and his Roman Empire took over in 51 BCE. Then there are three events different people point to as the formation of France as a nation.
The first is a group of Germans who settled in Gaul in 406 CE. Others point to the Franks, whose ruler King Clovis I started his kingdom in the northeast of France in 481 CE. By the time of his death in 511 CE, he had conquered much of France and declared Paris the capital. Then you have Charlemagne who took the throne of some Frankish land in 751 CE and was crowned the sole ruler some two decades later.
While the monarchy is no longer ruling thanks to the Fifth Republic, there are still thousands of people who hold titles and live a much more royal life than the average Parisian.
If you believe in the Bible, then you might be familiar with the people of Armenia. They are said to be descendants of Noah, whose great Ark finally came to a standstill on top of Mount Ararat. Historians, on the other hand, say they originated as part of the Hayasa-Azzi tribes somewhere between 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE. What is known is that the Armenian state of Urartu was established in 860 BC and the now capital, Yerevan, in 782 BCE.
It has been through many different rulers over the centuries, with the Ottoman and Persian empires ruling before the Russian Empire took control in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1991 that the Armenia population once again gained its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Armenia became the first state to adopt Christianity in 301 BC. While it has a diverse culture, Armenia has also been through some dark times, with the Armenian Genocide one of the worst atrocities in world history. This occurred during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, where 1.5 million Armenians were murdered.
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