Alright, so let’s make a couple things clear. This is my <AtlantanKnight’s> list. There is not really any objective way to do this since there are so many variables at play over such a long timespan; I just figured it would make a fun post. For the purpose of this post, “Western” will be defined as “European” or “deriving from European society.” These ten cities are some of the most influential in the history of Western Civilization, and their influence continues to be felt in modern society.
10) Venice ~
As a prominent Italian city-state, the Most Serene Republic of Venice was one of the world’s longest-lived democracies. As a merchant nation, it exerted enormous influence throughout the Mediterranean and was able to hold colonies and serve as a stopping-off point for goods flowing from the Far East to Western Europe. Venice also exerted its influence by financing crusades and having a respectable navy. Now, Venice is mainly just a tourist destination, although some of the floating city’s residents have started to yearn for independence in recent years.
9) New York City ~
NYC is the center of global commerce. As the largest city in the largest Western nation, New York has a rich history as the gateway for millions of immigrants coming to the United States of America. New York is easily one of the top three most important cities in the West today, but its importance on this list is diminished by its relatively short history.
8) Paris ~
At times, France was the mightiest nation in the entire world. During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries especially, French monarchs (and later the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte) held immense power. Napoleon’s France laid waste to much of Europe during the first years of the 1800s. Paris has also been a longtime producer of culture, especially in fields like food, fashion, architecture.
7) Moscow ~
The heart of the Orthodox and Russian worlds. The capital of Russia has been a seat of power for hundreds of years. From Moscow, Communism created the Soviet Union and found its way to every corner of the globe, making Moscow one of the most influential cities for all of the 20th Century. However, even before then, Russian leaders have reigned defiantly in Moscow, usually in opposition to both Islamic and Western European powers.
6) Washington ~
The most powerful nation in the world is headquartered in Washington, DC, a city named after its first president. Washington is a relatively small city, but because it is the seat of American power (and by extension, Western influence), it gets a high spot on this list.
5) London ~
Britain is one of the world’s few perennial superpowers. Even if nations like the US and China are more powerful in modern times, Britain still holds its own with either in a historical perspective. London is the heart of the English language. It’s the home of the British Parliament, one of the oldest popularly elected legislative bodies in the world. It’s the one city in Western Europe that did not falter before a full-scale Nazi onslaught in World War II. Britain may seem to be on a decline nowadays, but surely it won’t last.
4) Istanbul ~
As Constantinople, Istanbul kept the fires of Roman civilization burning for nearly a thousand years after the last Roman Emperor reigned in Rome. The Byzantine Empire acted as a buffer between Eastern invasions and Europe, allowing for Western Civilization to continue developing unharmed. It facilitated trade between East and West. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Istanbul served as the home of the Ottoman Empire, a nation which became one of the few Westernized Islamic nations in the world.
3) Athens ~
Sometimes thought of as the birthplace of modern democracy, Athens, Greece is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Its crumbling ruins are a reminder of a Greek civilization long gone, but they also bear a striking resemblance to (and heavily influenced) the Roman civilization which ultimately formed the foundations of modern Western culture.
2) Jerusalem ~
The center of the monotheistic world. So many wars have been fought (and will continue to be fought, probably and unfortunately) because of the religions which have roots in Jerusalem. Now in the hands of the Jewish nation of Israel, Jerusalem is likely to be a flashpoint for future conflicts. However, its rich history and the billions of people on this Earth whose religions have ties to Jerusalem demand that it get a spot no lower than second on this list.
1) Rome ~
The fires of Roman civilization never really went out. Russia may claim itself to be the true successor of Rome, and Washington may grace us with its splendid Roman-inspired (as well as Greek and Egyptian) architecture, but in truth, the fires of Rome burn in every Western nation today. Rome was Western culture for a long, long time. Any nation which wasn’t Roman was seen as barbarians. Rome had the best scientists, the best engineers, the biggest and best army, the most people, the most art and literature, the largest nation. It had everything. Even as the Roman Empire collapsed, people still had a great and profound respect (and still do) for what the city has stood for. Today, Rome’s main influence on a global scale derives from the Vatican City, the small country within Rome which serves as the seat of the Catholic Church.