Is Matera Older Than Rome?

By Alice Nichols

Is Matera Older Than Rome?

Matera and Rome are two ancient cities in Italy that have a rich history dating back thousands of years. While Rome is often referred to as the “Eternal City” and is renowned for its ancient ruins and landmarks, Matera holds the distinction of being one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history of Matera and compare it to Rome to determine if Matera is indeed older than the capital city.

The Origins of Matera

Matera, located in the region of Basilicata, was originally settled by a prehistoric civilization known as the Matera people around 7,000 years ago. These early inhabitants carved their homes directly into the limestone cliffs, creating a unique cave-dwelling settlement known as Sassi di Matera.

Sassi di Matera

The Sassi di Matera has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years and has served as a home for various civilizations throughout history. Over time, additional structures were built on top of the existing cave dwellings, creating a complex network of buildings that span across different historical periods.

The Ancient Roman Influence

While Rome has its well-documented Roman Empire era, Matera also experienced Roman influence during its long history. The Romans conquered southern Italy in 272 BC, including Matera. They recognized its strategic importance due to its location along trade routes between Apulia and Lucania.

Under Roman rule, Matera flourished as a thriving agricultural center. The Romans constructed important infrastructure such as aqueducts and roads that connected the city with other parts of their empire. However, it’s important to note that while Matera enjoyed prosperity during this period, Rome was already an established city and the capital of the Roman Empire.

Rome: The Eternal City

Rome, founded in 753 BC, has a history that predates Matera by several centuries. It became the epicenter of one of the most significant empires in history and witnessed numerous historical events such as the rise and fall of emperors, expansion, conquests, and architectural wonders like the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

Ancient Roman Landmarks

The ancient landmarks in Rome have become iconic symbols of its rich history. The Colosseum, built between 70-80 AD, stands as a testament to Roman engineering prowess and has become an enduring symbol of Rome’s grandeur. The Pantheon, built around 126 AD, is another remarkable structure that showcases Roman architectural brilliance.

Comparing Age

While Matera boasts a fascinating history that spans thousands of years, it is important to recognize that Rome predates it by several centuries. Matera’s origins can be traced back around 7,000 years ago while Rome was founded around 753 BC – placing it over 5,000 years after Matera’s first settlement.


Both Matera and Rome hold significant historical importance and have contributed greatly to Italy’s cultural heritage. While Matera may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and has experienced various civilizations throughout its history, Rome remains older due to its founding dating back to ancient times. Exploring both cities allows us to appreciate their unique stories and marvel at their enduring legacies.