Discover the Oldest Countries in the World

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: April 20, 2023
© gyn9037/
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Key Points

  • The evolution of humans led to the formation of early civilizations.
  • Two major criteria used to determine the age of countries are the dates of earliest organized government and self-sovereignty.
  • Many current countries existed long before modern civilizations.


Scientists can’t tell for certain when the first humans appeared, but they can tell that it was more than 2.4 million years ago, according to History. The evolution of humans led to the formation of early civilizations, which later evolved into countries.

Many current countries existed long before modern civilizations. We cannot give an accurate day or year of formation but we can safely approximate just how old some civilizations are. Here are seven of the oldest countries in the world.

The 7 Oldest Countries in the World: Ranked by Date of Self-Sovereignty

World Map
An illustration of a vintage world map.


According to the World Population Review, two major criteria are used to determine the age of countries: the dates of earliest organized government and self-sovereignty. This is because some countries have undergone different changes over the centuries, such as government type, independence, absorption of other countries, etc. Based on the dates of self-sovereignty, the seven oldest countries in the world are:

1. Japan – 660 BCE

Japan snow
Japan was established in 660 BCE by Emperor Jimmu.


Emperor Jimmu, the grandson of Amaterasu, established Japan in 660 BCE. The time that people settled on Japanese soil isn’t known, but the earliest era recorded in the country’s history is the Jomon Period which began about 13,000 BCE.

Located on the Asian continent, and with a current population of 125.7 million, Japan is the 11th most populated country in the world. One fun fact about Japan is that it is an archipelago consisting of 6,852 islands. The country is known for its history, culture, food, manga, and anime.

2. China – 221 BCE

China Dongguan Nancheng CBD night city scenery
The Qin Dynasty from which China was derived began in 221 BCE.

©HelloRF Zcool/

Although China has existed for more than 3,500 years, it was Qin Shi Huang who officially began the Imperial China dynasty in 221 BCE. It is believed that China only became a country in 1911-1912 when the last dynasty was replaced by a republic. Modern-day China is located on the Asian continent and is known for its culture. It is also the factory capital of the world.

China, the most populated country in the world, has a population of more than 1.4 billion. This is more than 18% of the world’s total population. Its capital is Beijing, one of the most populated cities in the world.

3. San Marino – 301 CE

San Marino was founded by a Christian stonecutter named Marino in 301 AD.


The fifth smallest country worldwide, San Marino is about one-third the landmass of Washington D.C. in the United States. The hilly country is landlocked and enclaved in northeastern Italy. According to reports, the country was founded by a Christian stonecutter named Marino in 301 AD. The small country claims to be the World’s Oldest Republic, with a constitution that dates back to October 1600.

The country remained independent of Italy for so long because it was once a refuge for supporters of Italy’s unification. In 1862, a treaty was signed that left San Marino independent of Italy despite its location within the larger European country. San Marino exists around Mount Titano, which is one of the peaks of the Apennine Mountain Range.

4. Bulgaria – 681 CE

Plovdiv ,Bulgaria
Plovdiv, Bulgaria is one of the oldest cities in the world.

©Sergej Razvodovskij/

Covering a territory of 42,855 square miles and the 16th largest country in Europe, Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with a rich heritage of traditional dance, music, costumes, and crafts. It was founded in 681 CE when the Bulgars invaded and conquered the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula and organized the Slavic population into a state.

5. France – 843 CE

West Francia, which would eventually become the Kingdom of France, came to be in 843.


With a popular history of wars, art, and wine, France is one of the oldest countries worldwide. France is a transcontinental country that extends from Western Europe to overseas territories in other continents, such as South America and Oceania. In 843, the Treaty of Verdun partitioned the Francia Empire, with West Francia eventually becoming the Kingdom of France in 987. By 1958, France had a presidential democracy.

According to reports, the people now known as the French were initially made up of Celtic, Teutonic, and Latin ethnic stocks, as France was a place for trade and travel. The people, the economy, and magnificent sights like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum, are why the country is one of the most visited countries worldwide.

6. Austria – 976

Austria was given to the Babenberg house in 976.


Before it got its name Austria it was part of the Roman Empire. After the empire’s fall, Bavarian, Avars, and Slav invaders stormed the land. However, they were defeated by the King of the Franks in AD 788, making the land part of Eastern Francia. The area known as Austria was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.

Currently, Austria is a landlocked country located in the center of Europe, with a population of about nine million people. As stated in Nations Online, Austria signed a state treaty on the 26th of October 1955 to be permanently neutral, and this day is celebrated as the country’s National Day. 

7. Denmark – 10th Century

Denmark’s monarchy dates back to the 10th century.

©Dmitry Pistrov/

A remarkable piece of history about Denmark is that it was once the seat for Viking raiders. The country has been inhabited since 12,500 BC. However, the living Danish monarchy traces back to “Gorm the Old” in the early 10th century. The first recorded use of the country name “Denmark” was on two rune stones believed to have been erected in 955 and 965, respectively.

In the present day, Denmark is a Nordic country with 443 named islands, and the North European country is bordered by Germany, Sweden, and Norway. According to CNN, Denmark was ranked the second happiest nation in the world in 2022. This ranking was influenced by social trust, GDP, and low corruption, among other factors.

The Youngest Country in the World

Aerial of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, with the river Nile running in the middle. Juba downtown is upper middle close to the river, and the airport can be seen upper left. The picture is from the south to the north.
The youngest country worldwide is South Sudan which gained its independence in 2011.


As reported, the youngest country in the world is South Sudan which gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Before its independence on the 9th of July, Sudan, which included South Sudan, was the largest country in Africa. However, after the separation, Algeria became the largest on the continent.

South Sudan has a population of over 12 million people and is bordered by six countries, including Sudan. Some animals found in the young country include elephants, antelopes, and rhinoceroses.

Summary of the 7 Oldest Countries in the World

Here is a list of the seven oldest countries in the world – ranked by date of self-sovereignty:

1Japan – 660 BCE
2China – 221 BCE
3San Marino – 301 CE
4Bulgaria – 681 CE
5France – 843 CE
6Austria – 976
7Denmark – 10th Century

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