There are roughly 200 countries in the world today and each of them started off at some point in history. The first countries were unlike modern nation-states. Most of them were empires or fiefdoms. Their political situations have changed over centuries, the boundaries might have changed, the demographics might have changed, but the essence of their civilization has survived the test of time. Here we take a look at the top 10 oldest countries.
Top 10 oldest countries in the world
Even though humans have been around for millions of years, human civilizations began to take shape only a few thousand years ago when nomadic people began to settle in a specific area. Those settlements later led to the rise of villages, towns, cities, states, empires, and nations.
The evidence of human life in modern-day France dates back to 1.8 million years ago. The region was inhabited by the Gauls during the Iron Age. The Roman Empire annexed the area in 51 BC and held it for nearly 500 years until the Germanic Franks arrived in 476 CE. It was the Germanic Franks who founded the Kingdom of France. The country has a vast history full of the feudal system and wars. But it has survived the test of time, and has become one of the world’s most advanced nations today.
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9- San Marino
One of the smallest nations in Europe is also one of the world’s oldest countries. It was founded way back in 301 CE as the Republic of San Marino by a stonemason-turned saint named Marinus. Marinus had to leave his home in modern-day Croatia to escape persecution for his Christian beliefs. However, the Republic was not recognized by the Pope until 1631 AD. The Statute of 1600 acts as San Marino’s de facto constitution. It was the first such document in the world.
Armenia is a tiny country near Turkey with a history of more than 2600 years. Urartu was established in 860 BC, which was replaced by the Satrapy of Armenia in the 6th century BC. Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, was established in 782 BC. The Kingdom of Armenia reached prominence in the 1st century BC under Tigranes the Great. Armenia was also the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 CE.
7- Iran (Persia)
Iran was referred to as Persia until 1935. The Satrapy of Armenia that I mentioned above was just one of the many satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire, which was the biggest empire in the ancient history. Cyrus the Great founded the Persian Empire around 550 BC. The Achaemenids ruled Persia until Alexander the Great conquered it in 330 BC. But several groups of people lived in the area long before, including the Medes and Elamites. Modern Iran was founded in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution, which ended the monarchy and established the Islamic Republic.
Ethiopia with its long and rich history is one of the oldest countries in the world. Humans have been around in the region for millions of years. D’mt, the first known kingdom in Ethiopia, was established in 980 BC. The people of the D’mt kingdom developed farming and irrigation schemes, grew millet, made iron tools, and used plows. Ethiopia was ruled by one monarchy or another for much of its known history. It’s the only African country that was never colonized by a European power despite several attempts.
As per the Japanese history, the country was founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu. Some consider Jimmy a mythical emperor of Japan, he is recorded in Kojiki, and Nihon Shoki. The first people began arriving in Japan from the Asian mainland around 15,000 years ago. However, the Japanese culture and Buddhism didn’t start spreading across the islands until the 8th century AD. The modern Japan emerged with the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
The first known civilization emerged around 10,000 years ago, which evolved into the Indus Valley Civilization. Some of the world’s oldest religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism originated in India. Throughout history, the country has been known as Aryavarta, Hindustan, and Bharat. The first kingdoms were established around 1500 BC and lasted until the end of the Vedic period (around 600 BC). The Vedic period was followed by a phase of powerful dynasties that ruled various parts of the region for centuries. Modern India was established in 1947 following its independence from the British Empire.
The modern Greece period started in 1821 after the Greek Revolution, but the first advanced civilizations began emerging in Greece about 4,000 years ago. The Archaic period of Greece started around 800 BC after the region emerged from the Dark Ages. During this period, they developed the Greek alphabet and laid foundation to the earliest institutions of democracy. Athens adopted the world’s first democratic system in 508 BC.
The first evidence of human civilization in China could be traced back to more than 4,000 years ago. The first recorded dynasty, the Shang dynasty, was established in 17th century BC and ruled until 11th century BC. According to some historians, the Xia dynasty existed even before that, ruling the country between 2070 BC and 1600 BC. However, modern Chinese people celebrate 221 BC as the founding year of the modern country. That’s the year Qin Shi Huang declared himself the first emperor of China. The Han dynasty unified the Chinese tradition and culture in the 3rd century AD.
The first groups of hunter-gatherers settled in the Nile River Valley around 6,000 BC, laying the foundation for the ancient Egyptian civilization. According to historians, the Egypt’s first dynasty was founded around 3100 BC. Egypt was founded by a ruler named King Menes, who unified the Upper and Lower Egypt into a single kingdom. King Menes established his capital in Memphis, an ancient city near Cairo. Egypt
These are the world’s oldest countries with a long, tumultuous, and impressive history. But in the ancient times, most of them were not described as a “country.” Rather, they were empires ruled by various dynasties.