What Were Cities Like in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, cities were vastly different from what we know today. They were centers of trade, culture, and politics. However, due to lack of technology and modern amenities, life in ancient cities was challenging.

City Planning

Unlike modern cities that are designed with intricate planning, ancient cities often developed organically. The streets and buildings were not always aligned with each other and the city often grew haphazardly. Ancient cities were often fortified with walls to protect against invasions.


Ancient cities lacked the infrastructure that we take for granted today. There was no running water or sewage system.

Water had to be fetched from a nearby well or river and waste was disposed of in the streets. This led to unhygienic living conditions and diseases spread quickly.


The houses in ancient times were made of mud bricks or stone blocks. They were often small and cramped with little ventilation or natural light. Wealthy people lived in larger houses with courtyards while poorer people lived in smaller apartments.


Cities were hubs of trade and commerce. Markets were bustling with activity where people sold goods like spices, textiles, pottery, and jewelry. The barter system was prevalent in ancient times where goods were exchanged for other goods rather than money.


Religion played a significant role in ancient societies and cities often had temples dedicated to various deities. People would offer prayers and make offerings to appease the gods.


Life in ancient cities was vastly different from modern times but they still hold an important place in history as centers of culture, trade, religion, politics, and innovation. Despite their challenges, they have contributed significantly to the development of human civilization as we know it today.

  • Key Takeaways:
  • Ancient cities lacked modern amenities like running water and sewage systems.
  • Housing was often small and cramped with little ventilation or natural light.
  • Cities were hubs of trade, commerce, and religion.