How Much Do You Know About the Ancient Cities of the World?

Zoe Samuel

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Human civilization is about 10,000-15,000 years old, from the first day that a hunter-gatherer society decided that they'd had enough hunting and gathering but never being able to store anything against lean times, and decided to put up a permanent stone dwelling. This led to the development of farming, which led to the invention of wealth. While the downside of this was that inequality of gender was invented this way - women in previous times did most of the hunting and weren't considered property, as studies of such societies have shown - one of the upsides was that enough surplus was generated to allow for two key developments: leisure and specialization. If you were one of the lucky people afforded that leisure and the education necessary to specialize, this meant that you could set about building cities - and so people did.

Contrary to bad teaching that too many of us receive, civilization appeared in parallel all over the world, with magnificent cities on every continent trading ideas and inventions back and forth. Some of these are still with us. Others fell, but new ones rose on the same sites. Still others disappeared and left only traces. How well do you know them? It's time to find out!

What is the capital of Assyria?

Assyria was a regional empire whose power was displaced by that of Babylon. It features strongly in the Bible.

What wonder of the ancient world was in Babylon?

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the great wonders of antiquity and would have been dazzling even by today's standards. Sadly, Babylon was destroyed when Cyrus the Great of Persia took over.

Which Yemeni city noted for its magnificent old buildings of stone and white gypsum is a modern capital at an elevation of over 7,000 foot?

Sana'a is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Yemen was once very prosperous, but sadly now it is the site of an intractable war.

Which ancient city was the home of a library that may very well have contained instructions for a steam engine?

The Great Library was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and probably contained instructions for proto-computers and proto-steam engines. Alexandria was also home to the Great Lighthouse.

Which modern city is the longest continuously inhabited city in the world?

Damascus, capital of Syria, has been a city since before cities were a thing: It is at least 10,000 years old, and possibly older. That means it is pretty much the same age as civilization.

Which city in the Holy Land was the site of a battle fought by Joshua and Caleb against its residents?

Jericho was where Joshua and Caleb, lieutenants of Moses, fought a battle so the Hebrews could enter the Holy Land and finally stop wandering in the desert.

Which ancient city was part of the Songhai and Mali Empires, and later of Morocco?

The Songhai and Mali Empires were each enormously powerful and important West African civilizations, whose history is sadly very poorly taught in the West, despite the fact that they were as advanced as their more northerly counterparts.

Which ancient British city was founded on seven hills around AD43?

Londinium is now known as London, and it is very old. There were seven villages there before the Romans showed up and they melded together to become the city.

Which ancient city was founded by Dido, also known as Elissa?

Carthage was founded by Dido, who came up with a clever trick to claim the maximum amount of land. Sadly the city was later destroyed, but the ruins have been identified. It was one of many great North African civilizations.

Which city in Syria is one of the top five longest-inhabited in the world and is the end of the ancient Silk Road?

Aleppo is a very ancient city but sadly has recently suffered from a war in which a great many parts of it were bombed.

Which city, home to the Acropolis, is 7,000 years old?

Athens is the home of one of the great Greek city-states and has been inhabited for 7,000 years.

Which city rivals Athens' claim to be the oldest in Europe?

Argos is where the famous Argonauts come from, and in a display of multiculturalism, is also the site of Greek pyramids.

Which ancient Thracian city is now the second largest in Bulgaria?

Plovdiv is many thousands of years old and was once home to the Roman theater of Philippopolis, which seated a remarkable 6,000 people, in a testament to Roman acoustic engineering.

Which ancient city through which papyrus was exported to Greece is the origin of the world "Bible"?

Byblos is in Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast, and you can still visit it.

Which ancient city was named for the beloved steed of Alexander the Great?

Bucephalus was the beloved steed of Alexander, and a city was founded to honor him when he died.

To which of the following ancient empires did Sidon in Lebanon NOT belong?

Sidon belonged to Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Ottoman Empires.

Which ancient city is home to the Gebri castle and sacred to the Zoroastrians?

Ray has been inhabited for 8,000 years and is in modern day Iran.

Which city in Montezuma County, Colorado, contains some of the finest Ancestral Puebloan architecture?

Mesa Verde is a beautiful example of pre-colonial Native American building and proves definitively that the historical notion of America as an empty space to be settled or a primitive pack of tribes to be conquered is revisionism at its worst.

Which ancient city is known today as Mexico City?

Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec Empire which predated the European arrival in Central America. The Aztecs were an advanced civilization built around the alliance of three city-states: Tenochtitlan, Tlacopan, and Texcoco. Modern Mexico City stands where Tenochtitlan did, and all sorts of ruins may be found there.

Which city, one of the Seven Ancient Capitals, is considered to be the geographical center of ancient China?

It sits on the great central plain of China where the Luo and Yi rivers meet.

Which city, inhabited for between 3,000 and 5,000 years, is the holiest city in Hinduism?

Varanasi is on the banks of the holy River Ganges and is sacred in Hinduism.

Which city that has been the centers of one war or another for about 5,000 years is sacred to all three Abrahamic faiths?

Jerusalem has basically been at war since the dawn of civilization, sadly, but it's a beautiful and historic city well worth a visit. Most of the time, most of it is peaceful.

Which city in Myanmar was capital of the Pagan Kingdom from the 9th to the 13th centuries?

Bagan is insanely beautiful, with about 2,000 Buddhist temples dating back millennia.

Which crucial Arab port city has a harbor that lies in the crater of a dormant volcano and is home to the famous Cisterns of Tawila?

Aden has switched hands many times. It is one of the most important ports in the Arabian peninsula and benefits from overlooking the most important trade route in the world, through Suez.

What Chinese city is 1800 years old and was the capital of five Chinese dynasties as well as the Mongol Empire?

The capital of China today has been its capital on and off, as well as also being the capital preferred by Kublai Khan, the Mongol conqueror.

Which 2,500-year-old city was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire?

Persepolis is sadly no longer around but it is near Shiraz in Iran and you can visit the ruins.

Which city in modern day Benin was the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey?

Dahomey is modern day Benin. People from further inland were sadly often kidnaped by Dahomey's soldiers, who sold them as slaves to Arab and European powers.

Which city in the Guayllabamba river basin, now capital of Ecuador, was formerly an Incan city?

Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world after La Paz.

Which city near Samawah, Iraq, was a Sumerian city on the now dried-up Euphrates River?

The Sumerians built the first civilization of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and surrounds) and Uruk was one of their cities.

Which city, home to the Temple of Bel (also known as the pagan deity Baal), contained one of the oldest stone arches known to human history?

Palmyra's beautiful ruins were blown up by ISIS, who plan to destroy all pre-Islamic architecture. The arch has been recreated in the UK.

Which city is the setting of Aeschylus' play "The Persians"?

Susa is mentioned in the Biblical books of Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel. It is where King Ahasueros, the husband of Esther, reigned.

Which Egyptian oasis city once known as Shedet to its founders was known by the Ancient Greeks as "Crocodilopolis"?

Faiyum, formerly Shedet, was where the sacred crocodile Petsuchos was worshiped, hence the Greek nickname.

Which 2300-year-old city on the River Vaigai is in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu?

Madurai was part of the Mauryan Empire which once ruled most of India.

Of which empire was Karakorum the capital?

Karakorum is a city that was once heart of the Mongol Empire and is at high elevation on the steppe.

What wonder of the ancient world was in Rhodes?

The statue Colossus stood over the harbor like a mighty guardian, but sadly it was destroyed.

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