Some sources cite the tiny nation of San Marino as the oldest country in the world. According to tradition, San Marino declared itself a constitutional republic in 301 AD. Founded by a Christian stonemason (Marinus of Rab) fleeing persecution, San Marino declared itself a constitutional republic in 301 AD.
San Marino lies entirely within Italy.
The secret to San Marino’s longevity? It takes soothing milk baths and does not engage in Middle-East land wars. It also helped that during the tumultuous Italian unification period in the 19th century, San Marino granted asylum to commander Giuseppe Garibaldi and 4000 of his men retreating from French forces in 1849. Later Garibaldi, as leader of a newly unified Italy, returned the favor by granting San Marino’s wish to remain independent.
The country’s official name is the “Most Serene Republic of San Marino”. [Makes one wonder if there are other, less serene republics of San Marino?] At 24 square miles, it’s the fourth smallest nation in the world (About 1/10th the size of Charlotte, North Carolina). And with only 30,000 residents, it’s got a smaller population than many universities.
But what San Marino lacks is size, it more than makes up for in tourists. 3.5 million people visit the ancient locale each year, enjoying its breathtaking views of the Adriatic (San Marino itself is landlocked) and its scenic medieval mountaintop fortifications. Its location high atop Mount Titano is one of the reasons it was only overrun twice in its recorded history, briefly in 1503 and again in 1739, though the neutral country was bombed once by the Allies during World War II, believing the Germans had taken it.
San Marino is also one of the oldest countries in the world in another respect…its average life expectancy is 81 years.
Today, September 3, is celebrated as the Feast Day of its patron and founder, St. Marinus of Rab.