Despite being the second smallest of the seven continents in the world covering about 2% of the Earth’s surface, the European Continent is well-known for its rich histor y and cultural heritage. Europe has played a great role in revolutionizing the culture, politics and economy of the world. In fact, as the birthplace of Western Civilization, Europe has undergone several milestones of paramount historical importance. The rise and the fall of the Greek and Roman Empire, the period of Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, the Age of Enlightenment, French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars and the Industrial Revolution are some of the historical phases and incidents that contributed in shaping not only the European history, but also the entire world history. Europe is also home to some of the oldest countries in the world.
List of Oldest Countries in Europe
1. San Marino
The Republic of San Marino which was founded in 301 AD is one of the oldest countries in Europe. It is also the oldest constitutional republic in the world. It is said that the country was named after a stonemason called Marinus who fled from a Roman Colony in fear of religious hostility and ultimately settled on Monte Titano, a mountain of the Apennines and founded the city and state of San Marino. Its capital is San Marino and the official language is Italian. The country’s economy which is one of the highly stable economies in Europe depends mostly on industry, service, finance and tourism. The major industries are electronics, banking and ceramics. Wine, cereals and cheese are the key agricultural products of San Marino. The country is also known for its relatively low unemployment rate when compared with the other nations in Europe.
Next on our list of oldest countries in Europe is France. The beginning of the modern state of France can be traced back to the Treaty of Verdun signed in 843 AD which resulted in the split of the Carolingian Empire into three parts. The kingdom of France emerged from the western part of the Carolingian Empire known as West Francia. France is a republic that lies at the heart of Western Europe. Paris is the capital of France and the official language is French. France is a developed nation with the world’s seventh-largest economy. The wide range of climates makes it possible to grow a variety of crops including wheat, maize, peaches, apples and grapes. French vineyards produce many of the world’s finest wines. France is also a major industrial power, specializing in building cars, trains and air crafts. French fashions and perfumes are famous around the world. France is a leading member of the European Council and one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
The Kingdom of England which emerged in 927 AD as a result of the gradual unification of the early medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is the largest country within the United Kingdom, covering an area of 130,420 square kilometres. This marks the beginning of one of the oldest countries in Europe. The inhabitants here are descended from Angles, Saxons, Celts, Vikings and Normans as well as from Afro-Caribbeans and Asian families who were members of Britain’s former empire. Since the Age of Discovery which followed the Period of Renaissance, England has been heavily influential to shape the socio-cultural, political, legal and economic sectors of many other nations in the world. The English language, the Anglican Church, the English Law and the English Parliamentary System are some of the legacies received by many nations in the world as a result of their encounter with England. Its capital, London is also the largest metropolitan centre of the country.
Denmark which was unified into a single kingdom in 965 AD is the southernmost region of Scandinavia. The Capital of Denmark is Copenhagen and Danish is the official language. As the eleventh-most developed country in the world, Denmark ranks high in its economic and social development. It is now named as the world’s happiest country owing to the high standard of living enjoyed by the Danes and the country’s incomparable performance in several sectors such as education, health, governance and human development. Denmark is one of the oldest countries in Europe.
The Portuguese Republic which gained its independence in 1143 AD is a large republic on the Atlantic Coast. Portugal is the oldest out of the three Iberian nations, Andorra, Portugal and Spain. Portugal is renowned for building the first global empire in the 15th and 16th centuries, during the Age of Discovery. Portuguese explorers were able to find new naval routes and discover new territories. Vasco da Gama discovering the sea route to India is one of the best-known examples. The Capital of Portugal is Lisbon and Portuguese is the official language. Portugal ranks high in the world in its advanced economy, high living standards, peacefulness, democracy and rich cultural and architectural heritage.
Formed in the 12th Century, the Kingdom of Sweden -also known as the heart of Scandinavia- is the fifth largest country in Europe by area. The Capital and the largest city is Stockholm and the official language is Swedish. Very high standard of living, advanced economy, high prosperity, outstanding education system, human development and gender equality are some of the factors that have contributed to make Sweden a developed nation in the world. Sweden is also widely known for its natural landscapes which make it a popular tourist destination.
Next on our list of oldest European countries is Switzerland. Established in 1291 AD, Switzerland is a small country divided into 26 districts called cantons. The capital of Switzerland is Zurich and the widely used languages are French, German, Italian and Romansh. Although the country has few natural resources apart from hydroelectric power, it has become wealthy through the manufacture of clocks, watches and precision instruments. The spectacular mountain scenery, lakes, waterfalls and enchanting village settings in Switzerland attract tourists from all over the world. Geneva in Switzerland is the headquarters of some International Organizations such as the International Red Cross and the World Health Organization.
The Netherlands, also known as Holland or The Dutch Republic was formed in 1581 AD after gaining independence from Spain, which makes Netherlands the eighth oldest countries in Europe. Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city in Netherland. While Dutch is the official language in the country, English, Papiamentu and West Frisian are also extensively used by the Dutch people. The Netherlands means “lowlands” and much of this country lies below the level of the North Sea. Dutch engineers became experts at flood control and at reclaiming land from the sea. The Dutch were also great seafarers and during the 1600s, their foreign trade brought wealth to cities such as Amsterdam. Today, the country is famous for its electrical and chemical industries, dairy products, vegetables and flowers. Rotterdam in the Netherlands is the world’s largest seaport. One of the most significant aspects of Dutch society is its liberal attitude towards abortion, prostitution and human euthanasia.
With the rich history and the emergence as globally powerful nations, the oldest countries in Europe have imprinted their historical, cultural and political influence not only within the continent itself, but also all over the world.
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