When did the concept of countries first come about?

Jul 2017
If your definition of a country is just 'a piece of territory that is inhabited by the same group of people for more than one generation' then the concept of a country is pre-historic, probably Stone Age.
It is. Gobekle Tepe was a civilization, a country. They knew who they were and where they lived, and they organized life, and built cities, settlements. If you went there during stone age, they would tell you this is their country, and they would tell you what it was and where the boundaries are and who lived there and who ruled there, and what the rules are.



Forum Staff
Aug 2016
When did the concept of countries first come about? I had a debate with @Menshevik yesterday about this topic and we were both curious as to when exactly the concept of countries developed. For instance, I know that Philip II of France (ruled 1180 to 1223) was the first French ruler to be styled King of France--which got me wondering as to when exactly territories under the rule of a particular monarch stopped being viewed merely as fiefdoms, appendages, and tributaries and instead began being viewed as independent countries.
I suppose that another way to view this question would be to ask when educated people in various territories began having the view that they live in a particular country as opposed to merely in a particular village, city, town, province, or territory.
I still think this definition is quite old. Both the Ancient Greeks and Romans drew lines between themselves and the barbarians. Both groups recognized differences between themselves and other civilized peoples. For instance the Greeks definitely saw the Persians as separate from themselves.

It didn't take long after the breakup of the Western Roman Empire for different countries to emerge - the Franks in Gaul, the Visigoths in Hispania, the Ostrogoths and Lombards in Italy, various Anglo-Saxon and Welsh kingdoms in Britain, etc. Even though the barbarian kingdoms were crude compared to the Roman Empire, they were able to defend themselves, enforce the laws, etc. By Futurists definition above, a country defined by loyalty to the local strongman is still a country even if the subjects of that country speak different languages and have other cultural differences.

Another way of answering the question is to point to 19th century nationalism and the unification of Germany and Italy and the refusal of the US to break up in the 1860s.
Likes: Futurist

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