In our global age, many cities around the world are richly diverse in culture, language, religion, and traditions. But, although our contemporary globalized, yet still discordant, society has vastly accelerated the interconnections of peoples and places, let us not imagine that much older cities were not also mixing pots for a rich cosmopolitan interplay of ideas, people and cultures. To be human is to move, or be moved, to intermingle and connect. That is a story as old as humanity itself.
Three Ancient Cities That Rival London, Paris, and New York - Although these three ancient cities don't get much attention, they were cosmopolitan powerhouses: Nineveh, Antioch, and Lepcis Magna. Each was a thriving, cosmopolitan place, where people from around the world gathered to exchange ideas, build their wealth and seek fame and fortune, just as in today's great multicultural cities.
The Cosmopolitan City of Chang’an at the Eastern End of the Silk Roads- This UNESCO feature introduces another of the most cosmopolitan cities of the ancient world. During the Tang dynasty (618 -907 CE) in particular, a surprisingly diverse group of people made this major trade hub their home. At its peak, the city was home to as many as 3 million inhabitants from across China as well as other regions along the Silk Roads, making it one of the largest and most diverse populations of the time. Here is a link to documentary about the Daming Palace and the Tang Dynasty, both associated with Chang'an..
Alexandria - This excerpt from Carl Sagan's book, Cosmos, introduces ancient Alexandria (now in Egypt) through looking at its astonishing library. People of all nations came to Alexandria to live, to trade, to learn. On any given day, its streets and harbors were thronged with merchants, scholars and travelers. This was a city where Greeks, Egyptians, Arabs, Syrians, Hebrews, Persians, Nubians, Phoenicians, Italians, Gauls and Iberians exchanged merchandise and ideas. The city itself, beyond the library, was an intellectual juggernaut, as explored in greater breadth here.
Córdoba: Medieval Europe's Greatest City - During the 9th and 10th centuries, Córdoba was Europe’s most sophisticated and cosmopolitan city. It was a place where Jews, Arabs and Christians all practiced their beliefs without persecution and in which remarkable advances were made in virtually every area of human endeavor.
Did Multicultural Societies Become Widely Accepted in Ancient History? - Multicultural societies have existed for millennia. However, how societies have adapted to multicultural realities has varied across time. In particular, the key shift we see in history is societies emphasizing one vs. multiple identities. In essence, populations saw the benefits of societies that were integrated while also maintaining their ethnic identities, where trade and economic benefits and linguistic commonality facilitated large, multicultural states to emerge and persist long after any particular state fell.
Persepolis: The Rise of the Persian Princes - The Achaemenid kings of ancient Persia saw their realm as a cultural coalescence, and they showcased its diversity by creating a capital that integrated people, resources, and styles from their many conquered lands.