List of Ancient Cities in the WorldList of ancient cities in the world
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Old Town - Encyclopedia of Antiquity
Ancient research generally defines a town as a large inhabited commercial and administrative centre with a system of legislation and usually controlled sanitary facilities. However, this is only a single demarcation, and the term "city" may be derived from the following factors: or whether a "settlement" in ancient times was referred to as a "city" and meets at least one of the above criteria.
Historically, a "city" very often described an inner cities centre with a large density of inhabitants and a particular building design extending from a main religion such as a shrine (although this might sometimes be frustrating as well for a "village" or "settlement"). Although the Roman civilitas used the term "city", the Roman evolution preceded Rome for many hundreds of years.
In The Sage Encyclopedia of Urban Studies, Professor M. E. Smith of Arizona State University wrote that "The Democratic Definitions, inspired by the Louis Wirth concept, identify cities as large, compact human settlements with heterogeneous societies " (26), which means that they are large human populations that have chosen to coexist for a shared cause under the law of all.
However, this could be as good a description for large towns as for cities. George Modelski, professor at the University of Washington, advocates a concept inspired by the work of Tertius Chandler (in his Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth), who defined a town differently from a town according to people.
There are two components to a demographic estimate: the location of the archaeologist (be it the area of the town in general or an estimation or the real number of houses) and a demographic concentration coefficient, be it "macro" for the whole town or "micro" per proportion... Micro-estimation demands a dependable counting of the number of buildings, and this is not really available for most locations.
In spite of the difficulties associated with these estimations, according to Modelski, they are still the best way to distinguish a large estate from an urban reality, as demographic densities are regarded as the most credible factors for such a decision. With Chandler's means of defining it, villages such as Tell Brak in present-day Syria (originally established around 6000 BC) cannot be regarded as cities.
Discovered for the first time by V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957 AD), the term "urban revolution" refers to a set of changes in society that led to the evolution of the first cities and states... These changes (such as the origins of societal strata and the generation of an agriculture surplus) formed the societal contexts for the first cities.
As soon as class-structured state companies became established in a given area, some cities increased and decreased in reaction to a multitude of factors (26). which today is regarded as the oldest in the world, was founded for the first time around 4500 BC. Both Chandler's and Wirth's first cities, which correspond to the definition of a "city" (and also to the early work of the archeologist Childe), originated in the Mesopotamian area between 4500 and 3100 B.C..
Uruk, now the oldest town in the world, was first populated around 4500 B.C. and defensive fortified towns were widespread throughout the entire area until 2900 B.C. Eridu, near Uruk, was regarded by the Sumerians as the first town in the world, while other cities claiming the status of "First City" were Byblos, Jericho, Damascus, Aleppo, Jerusalem, Sidon, Luoyang, Athens, Argos and Varasani.
These cities are all certainly ancient and situated in areas that have been inhabited since very early times. Uruk, however, is the only candidate for the status of the "oldest city", which has at its disposal tangible proofs and documents in the shape of wedge script dated from the early days of the community's work.
Locations such as Jericho, Sidon and even Eridu, which were undoubtedly located before Uruk, are lacking the same kind of document. They were measured in terms of their ages and continuities using the foundation of structures uncovered during archeological digs rather than using local foundational records. According to the definitions of "city" used, the populations of old cities varied greatly from what could be considered a right place today.
Prof. Smith claims: "Many ancient cities had only a humble populace, often less than 5,000 people" (26), while other scientists, such as Modelski, quote higher demographic opportunities in the order of 10,000 to 80,000 over time. Modelski quotes, for example, the people of Uruk with 14,000 in 3700 BC, but 80,000 in 2800 BC (12).
This compares to the 495,360 residents of the town of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2011 and the 8 residents of London, England. There were 174 million in 2011CEE, and the populace of New York was 8 in the United States of America was 337 million in 2012CEE. However, Lewis Mumford states that " probably no ancient town had a populace of well over one million, not even Rome; and apart from China, there were no later "Roms" until the 19th century" (6).
Mumford's point emphasizes the issue of using people as a means of identifying an ancient town, since it has been shown that municipal centres referred to as "settlements" (such as Tell Brak) had a greater people than many contemporary cities do today. Bringing the people of a given area together into an urbane centre became increasingly frequent after the cities of Mesopotamia rose and, once trapped within the boundaries of a town, the people grew, or at least such an expansion became quantifiable.
The growth in populace resulted in the suburbanisation and expansion of the settlements beyond their former borders. Contemporary scientists then face the further challenge of further urbanizing, with some claiming that urban subspace should not be taken into account, while others insisting that it must be. Like so many others, this is the most obvious issue in the way a town is defined, as in the case of Tell Brak.
Although the initial village may have been smaller than Uruk, it had increased in volume to more than 130 ha by the 2. century B.C., and since its foundation it has been a testament to its status as the oldest town in the world. The fact that it is not seen as a town by so many specialists in the subject illustrates the contemporary scientific discussion about the definition of old town centres as "cities" or "settlements".
Moored cities were widespread throughout Mesopotamia. Babylon was the most celebrated and today probably most disputed ancient town. For the same reasons as its glory, it continues to be disputed because the town is portrayed in so many Bible stories in a prominent - and negative - manner.
However, far from being a "city of evil", Babylon was a large and wealthy center of culture and intellect which, among other things, was the first to perfectionize the fine art of glassmaking around 1500 B.C. and to develop the fine arts and science now known as the astronomical, astrological, early physical, mathematical, legal, literary, architectural and sculptural world.
Hammurabi, the great Hammurabi kings, first surrounded Babylon with ramparts in 1792 B.C. and constructed the first holy shrine for Marduk, the Esagila gods, with the Ciggurat, a high-stepped steeple (which may have produced the celebrated Bible report on the steeple of Babel), all around the Euphrates stream.
However, Babylon culminated under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II (who was 634-562 B.C. and ruled 605-562 B.C.), who surrounded the ancient capital three full days with 40-foot thick walled enclosure enclosing the capital so that chariots were raced on it. Babylon's ramparts, and especially the great Ishtar Gate, emerged on some list of the seven marvels of antiquity and were regarded as a miracle that surrounded the town for ten leagues.
Messopotamian and later Greek and Latin cities were marked by their ramparts, and this also applied to other civilisations. It was the wall of the town known as the Great Zimbabwe (in today's Zimbabwe) that defines it and the wall of the town of Benin (in today's Nigeria) that was the trademark of this place.
Mesopotamia is unlikely to have directly affected these other civilizations, and it seems more likely that barriers were built around the world without the impact of culture transfer and in simple terms as a physical reaction to the potential for attacks by neighbouring cities and the insecurities of the world. China continues the traditional practice of building ramparts around a town ( except in Angyang, which was never walled).
Nevertheless, there were civilizations that built cities without a wall or at least without a wall of great length or heigh. Mesoamerican Mayan cities had no significant wall (though they had gates) and the Egyptians seem to have abandoned the idea of the enclosed town.
As Smith writes: "Because archeologists missed finding major cities in Egypt before the Amarna city of Akhenaten in the time of the New Kingdom (1350 BC), Egypt was sometimes compared to Mesopotamia as a "civilization without cities. Whilst it is possible that floods on the Nile once devastated large major cities, it seems more likely that the Egyptians were forging a scattered type of town planning characterised by smaller, more specialised towns (25).
However, the fortified cities were the centers of ancient Mesopotamian living, and the people of Babylon (200,000 during the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II) did not differ from the other urban states in their confidence in the ramparts of the town, separating them from the insecurity and peril of the outside world.
Outside the ramparts were the long pastures for the growing and pasturing of livestock, but also the unmanageable natural features and hostility of those who are enemies of their own town. Though a significant proportion of the population daily moved from the borders of the town to cultivate land, cultivate beef and take part in commerce, the life of the inhabitants developed mainly behind the ramparts.
Eridu's idea of the town was so important to the Mesopotamian population that they considered Eridu to be the place where mankind was born rather than the Eden of the Genesis Bible. There is no scientific agreement as to why urbanisation began in Mesopotamia, and speculations range from the scarcity of rain in the area, to environment determinants such as the long, open plain that exposed the residents to the grace of the element (and with the times of the invaders) without enclosed cities, to the mere statement that affluent communities drew more crowds and continued to grow into urbane centres.
The two major contributors to the urban development were physics and societal stability. By storing, channeling and irrigating it, the ancient Middle Eastern origins of the commune were used to justify its survival, freeing the commune from the whims and violence of the natural world - although no small part of this ability was destroyed by the further effect of placing the commune more under the whims and violence of humanity (5).
Separating man from his surroundings led to an artifical world in which man no longer had to deal with the cycle of life to live. With the increasing sizes of cities, they also increased in strength and, as Smith remarks, "the sovereigns used municipal arquitecture to convey message about might, riches, legitimacy, as well as other ideas" (27).
With the advent of urbane centres, the old system of countryside life, in which humankind's community depended on a relation to the countryside, began to change; now man was controlling the physical surroundings and bending the countryside to his will. As Mumford states, "under the protecting cover of the town, which seems so durable, these delusions promoted practices of robbery and para-sitism that ultimately undermine the entire socioeconomic fabric after working in ruins in the countryside around and even in remote areas.
There were many natural features that are necessary for both good physical condition and spiritual equilibrium missing in the city" (6). However, this does not mean that the town and the urbanisation processes had no long-term advantages. Along with the town came the centralised state, the hierarchies of the strata of society, the distribution of labor, organised religions, monuments, architecture, correspondence, letters, literature, sculptures, arts, music, culture, maths and justice, not to speak of a multitude of new invention and discovery, from such simple things as wheelers and sailboats to the pottery oven, the metallurgical industry and the manufacture of plastics.
In addition, there was the vast body of concepts and concepts that are as basic to our view of the world as the notion of numbers or weights, regardless of the objects actually measured or weighted - the number ten or one kilogram - that we have long since forgot they had to be found or invent (20-21).
Nevertheless, the man-made natural beauty of the metropolitan landscape is the cause that so many ancient cities that were not conquered were demolished or left by their people. Many of the great Maya city centers were derelict before A.D. 900, and many of the most important towns in Mesopotamia, such as Uruk and Eridu, were empty long before that.
Overpopulation and resource scarcity have resulted in the demise of many old cities, and Mumford maintains that this happens to metropolitan centers "when a town no longer has a symmetrical relation with its hinterland; when further expansion overwhelms and precariosizes indigenous sources such as utilities such as water; when, in order to sustain its expansion, a town must extend beyond its immediate boundaries for utilities such as utilities such as water, fuels and construction materials" (6).
Exactly this has occurred with the Mayan town of Copan and many others in antiquity. At Copan and many other Maya centres the shortage of drinking mains became a serious issue. It is the same dilemma, be it the scarcity of food, drink or other natural resource, that caused the demise of other great cities in other ancient lands and is still practiced today.
Today, the fruitful crescent moon is anything but fruitful in the area from which the first cities originated. Man used to create man-made surroundings, cities to keep them secure and give them the appearance of controlling their lives, distancing himself from the physical surroundings he needed to live, so in the case of many old cities neither the surroundings were lasting nor both were destroyed.