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Great cities are not like towns, only larger. They are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of them is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers.

Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) American-Canadian journalist, author, urban theorist, activist
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Part 1, ch. 2 (1961)
Added on 5-Feb-24 | Last updated 5-Feb-24
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Perish all they who love to dwell in cities
subject to Kings, or to the mighty few,
For Freedom’s an invaluable name,
and he who hath but little, here is rich.

[κακῶς δ’ ὄλοιντο πάντες οἳ τυραννίδι
χαίρουσιν ὀλίγῃ τ’ ἐν πόλει μοναρχίᾳ·
τοὐλεύθερον γὰρ ὄνομα παντὸς ἄξιον,
κἂν σμίκρ’ ἔχῃ τις, μεγάλ’ ἔχειν νομιζέτω.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Auge [Αὐγῃ], fr. 275 (TGF) (c. 408 BC) [tr. Wodhall (1809)]

Nauck frag. 275, Barnes frag. 10, Musgrave frag. 7. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Pray that all who rejoice in tyranny,
Or in some small monarchy in their city, die terribly.
The name "freedom" is worth everything --
Even if he possesses a little, a man who has this is considered great.
[@sententiq (2015)]

Worth above all is a name fit for the free.

Added on 9-Jan-24 | Last updated 9-Jan-24
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Others lash the unknown seas with oars,
Rush at the sword, pay court in royal halls.
One destroys a city and its homes
To drink from jewelled cups and sleep on scarlet;
One hoards his wealth and lies on buried gold.
One gapes dumbfounded at the speaker’s stand;
At the theater, still another, open-mouthed,
Reels before crescendos of applause
From the tiers where mob and dignitaries sit.
Others are keen to drench themselves in blood,
Their brothers’ blood, and, exiled, change their homes
And winsome hearths, to range abroad for room
To live in, underneath a foreign sun.

[Sollicitant alii remis freta caeca ruuntque
in ferrum, penetrant aulas et limina regum;
hic petit excidiis urbem miserosque Penatis,
ut gemma bibat et Sarrano dormiat ostro;
condit opes alius defossoque incubat auro;
hic stupet attonitus rostris; hunc plausus hiantem
per cuneos — geminatus enim plebisque patrumque —
corripuit; gaudent perfusi sanguine fratrum,
exsilioque domos et dulcia limina mutant
atque alio patriam quaerunt sub sole iacentem.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
Georgics [Georgica], Book 2, l. 504ff (2.504-513) (29 BC) [tr. Bovie (1956)]

Virgil contrasting violent, ambitious, vain, and rootless life of city folk (evoking the Roman civil wars), in contrast to the bucolic peace and sense of home enjoyed by farmers.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Some vex the Sea, and some to war resorts,
Attend on Kings, and waite in Princes Courts.
This would his Countrey, and his God betray
To drink in Jems, and on proud scarlet lye.
This hides his wealth, and broods on hidden gold,
This loves to plead, and that to be extold
Through all the seats of Commons, and the sires.
To bathe in's brothers blood this man desires.
Some banish'd, must their native seats exchange,
And Countries, under other Climates range.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

Some to the Seas, and some to Camps resort, ⁠
And some with Impudence invade the Court.
In foreign Countries others seek Renown,
With Wars and Taxes others waste their own.
And Houses burn, and household Gods deface,
To drink in Bowls which glitt'ring Gems enchase:
⁠ To loll on Couches, rich with Cytron Steds,
And lay their guilty Limbs in Tyrian Beds.
This Wretch in Earth intombs his Golden Ore,
Hov'ring and brooding on his bury'd Store.
Some Patriot Fools to pop'lar Praise aspire, ⁠
By Publick Speeches, which worse Fools admire.
While from both Benches, with redoubl'd Sounds,
Th' Applause of Lords and Commoners abounds.
Some through Ambition, or thro' Thirst of Gold;
Have slain their Brothers, or their Country sold: ⁠
And leaving their sweet Homes, in Exile run
To Lands that lye beneath another Sun.
[tr. Dryden (1709), l. 720ff]

Some rush to battle, vex with oars the deep,
Or in the courts of Kings insidious creep;
For cups of gem, and quilts of Tyrian, die,
Others remorseless loose each public tie:
On hoarded treasures these ecstatic gaze,
Those eye the Rostra, stupid with amaze:
This for the theatre's applauding roar
Sighs: with the blood of brothers sprinkled o'er
From their dear homes to exile others run,
And seek new seats beneath a distant sun.
[tr. Nevile (1767), l. 565ff]

Some vex with restless oar wild seas unknown.
Some rush on death, or cringe around the throne;
Stern warriors here beneath their footsteps tread
The realm that rear'd them, and the hearth that fed,
To quaff from gems, and lull to transient rest
The wound that bleeds beneath the Tyrian vest.
These brood with sleepless gaze o'er buried gold,
The rostrum these with raptur'd trance behold,
Or wonder when repeated plaudits raise
'Mid peopled theatres the shout of praise;
These with grim joy, by civil discord led,
And stain'd in battles where a brother bled.
From their sweet household hearth in exile roam,
And seek beneath new suns a foreign home.
[tr. Sotheby (1800)]

Some vex the dangerous seas with oars, some rush into arms, some work their way into courts, and the palaces of kings. One destines a city and wretched families to destruction, that he may drink in gems and sleep on Tyrian purple. Another hoards up wealth, and broods over buried gold. One, astonished at the rostrum, grows giddy; another peals of applause along the rows, (for it is redoubled both by the people and the fathers,) have captivated, and set agape; some rejoice when stained with their brother's blood; and exchange their homes and sweet thresholds for exile, and seek a country lying under another sun.
[tr. Davidson (1854)]

While others vex dark Hellespont with oars,
Leap on the sword, or dash through royal stores,
Storm towns and homesteads, in their vile desire
To quaff from pearl, and sleep on tints of Tyre;
While others hoard and brood on buried dross,
And some are moonstruck at the pleader's gloss;
While this man gapes along the pit, to hear
The mob and senators renew their cheer;
And others, reeking in fraternal gore,
With songs of triumph quit their native shore,
Abjure sweet home for banishment, and run
In quest of country 'neath another sun --
[tr. Blackmore (1871), l. 602ff]

Others are startling the darkness of the deep with oars, rushing on the sword's pint, winning their way into the courts and ante-chambers of kings; another is dooming a city to ruin and its homes to misery, that he may drink from jewelled cups and sleep on Tyrian purple; another hoards his wealth, and broods o'er buried gold; this man is dazzled and amazed by the eloquence of the rostra; that man the applause of commoners and senators, as it rolls redoubled through the benches, transports agape with wonder; they steep their hands in brothers' blood and joy, they change their homes and the thresholds of affection for the land of exile, and seek a fatherland that lies beneath another sun.
[tr. Wilkins (1873)]

Others vex
The darksome gulfs of Ocean with their oars,
Or rush on steel: they press within the courts
And doors of princes; one with havoc falls
Upon a city and its hapless hearths,
From gems to drink, on Tyrian rugs to lie;
This hoards his wealth and broods o'er buried gold;
One at the rostra stares in blank amaze;
One gaping sits transported by the cheers,
The answering cheers of plebs and senate rolled
Along the benches: bathed in brothers' blood
Men revel, and, all delights of hearth and home
For exile changing, a new country seek
Beneath an alien sun.
[tr. Rhoades (1881)]

These dare the ocean, and invite the storm,
This rage, and this the courtier’s wiles deform;
All faith, all right the traitor’s acts defy,
From gems to drink, on Tyrian purple lie;
One broods in misery o’er his hoarded gold.
And one in chains the people’s plaudits hold.
There stains of blood pollute a brother’s hand,
And he in terror flies his father’s land.
[tr. King (1882), l. 514ff]

Some vex the dangerous seas with oars, or rush into arms, or work their way into courts and the palaces of kings: one marks out a city and its wretched homes for destruction, that he may drink from jewelled cups and sleep on Tyrian purple. Another hoards up wealth, and lies sleepless on his buried gold. One, in bewildered amazement, gazes at the Rostra; another, in open-mouthed delight, the plaudits of the commons and the nobles, redoubled along benches, have arrested: some take pleasure in being drenched with a brother’s blood; and exchange their homes and dear thresholds for exile, and seek a country lying under another sun.
[tr. Bryce (1897)]

Others vex blind sea-ways with their oars, or rush upon the sword, pierce the courts and chambers of kings; one aims destruction at the city and her wretched homes, that he may drink from gems and sleep on Tyrian scarlet; another heaps up wealth and broods over buried gold; one hangs rapt in amaze before the Rostra; one the applause of populace and senate re-echoing again over the theatre carries open-mouthed away: joyfully they steep themselves in blood of their brethren, and exchange for exile the dear thresholds of their homes, and seek a country spread under an alien sun.
[tr. Mackail (1899)]

Others may tempt with oars the printless sea, may fling
Their lives to the sword, may press through portals and halls of a king.
This traitor hath ruined his country, hath blasted her homes, thereby
To drink from a jewelled chalice, on Orient purple to lie;
That fool hoards up his wealth, and broods o'er his buried gold;
That simple-one gazes rapt on the rostra: the loud cheers rolled
Down the theatre-seats, as Fathers and people acclaiming stood,
Have entranced yon man; men drench them with joy in their brethren's blood;
Into exile from home and its sweet, sweet threshold some have gone
Seeking a country that lieth beneath an alien sun.
[tr. Way (1912), l. 503ff]

Let strangers to such peace
Trouble with oars the boundless seas or fly
To wars, and plunder palaces of kings;
Make desolate whole cities, casting down
Their harmless gods and altars, that one's wine
May from carved rubies gush, and slumbering head
On Tyrian pillow lie. A man here hoards
His riches, dreaming of his buried gold;
Another on the rostrum's flattered pride
Stares awe-struck. Him th' applause of multitudes.
People and senators, when echoed shouts
Ring through the house approving, quite enslaves.
With civil slaughter and fraternal blood
One day such reek exultant, on the next
Lose evermore the long-loved hearth and home.
[tr. Williams (1915)]

Others brave with oars seas unknown, dash upon the sword, or press their way into courts and the chambers of kings. One wreaks ruin on a city and its wretched homes, and all to drink from a jewelled cup and sleep on Tyrian purple; another hoards wealth and gloats over buried gold; one stares in admiration at the rostra; another, open-mouthed, is carried away by the applause of high and low which rolls again and again along the benches. They steep themselves in their brothers’ blood and glory in it; they barter their sweet homes and hearths for exile and seek a country that lies beneath an alien sun.
[tr. Fairclough (Loeb) (1916)]

Other men dare the sea with their oars blindly, or dash
On the sword, or insinuate themselves into royal courts:
One ruins a whole town and the tenements of the poor
In his lust for jewelled cups, for scarlet linen to sleep on,
One piles up great wealth, gloats over his cache of gold;
One gawps at the public speakers; one is worked up to hysteria
By the plaudits of senate and people resounding across the benches:
These shed their brothers’ blood
Merrily, they barter for exile their homes beloved
And leave for countries lying under an alien sun.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1940)]

Others churn blind straits with their oars, and rush to the sword, force their way across the thresholds and into the courts of kings; [...] They rejoice, soaked in their brothers’ blood, exchange their own sweet thresholds for exile and seek a fatherland under another sun.
[tr. Miles (1980)]

Some vex with oars uncharted waters, some
Rush on cold steel, some seek to worm their way
Into the courts of kings. One is prepared
To plunge a city's homes in misery
All for a jewelled cup and a crimson bedspread;
Another broods on a buried hoard of gold.
This one is awestruck by the platform's thunder;
That one, enraptured, gapes ad the waves of applause
from high and low rolling across the theater.
Men revel steeped in brothers' blood, exchange
The hearth they love for banishment, and seek
A home in lands benath an alien sun.
[tr. Wilkinson (1982)]

Others trouble unknown seas with oars, rush on
their swords, enter the gates and courts of kings.
This man destroys a city and its wretched houses,
to drink from a jewelled cup, and sleep on Tyrian purple:
that one heaps up wealth, and broods about buried gold:
one’s stupefied, astonished by the Rostra: another, gapes,
entranced by repeated applause, from people and princes,
along the benches: men delight in steeping themselves
in their brothers’ blood, changing sweet home and hearth for exile,
and seeking a country that lies under an alien sun.
[tr. Kline (2001)]

Others slap their oars on dark, unknown seas, fall on their swords,
or thrust themselves into royal courts and palaces.
One man aims to destroy a city and its humble homes -- just
to drink from a jeweled goblet and sleep on Tyrian purple;
another stores up treasures and broods on his buried gold.
Wide-eyed, one gawks at the forum's speakers; another,
mouth agape, is swept away when lower class and upper both
applaud a statesman. Dripping with their brothers' gore,
they exult, exchanging familiar homes and hearths for exile,
they seek a fatherland that lies beneath a foreign sun.
[tr. Lembke (2004)]

Others fret with oars uncharted seas, or rush
upon the sword, or infiltrate the courts and vestibules of kings.
One visits devastation on a city and its wretched hearths
that he may slurp from a jewelled cup and snore on Tyrian purple.
Another hoards treasure and broods over buried gold.
One wonders thunderstruck at the podium, one gapes
transported by the applause of senators and commonfolk
resounding through the galleries. Drenched in their brothers' blood
they exult, and trade exile for their homes and sweet porches,
and seek a homeland under an alien sun.
[tr. Johnson (2009)]

There are those who with their oars disturb the waters
Of dangerous unknown seas, and those who rush
Against the sword, and those who insinuate
Their way into the chamber of a king:
There's one who brings down ruin on a city
And all its wretched households, in his desire
To drink from an ornate cup and go to sleep
On Tyrian purple coverlets at night;
There's the man who heaps up gold, and hides it away,
There's he who stares up stupefied at the Rostrum;
There's the open-mouthed, undone astonishment
Of the one who hears the waves and waves of the wild
Applause of the close packed crowd in the theater;
There are those who bathe in their brothers' blood, rejoicing;
And those who give up house and home for exile,
Seeking a land an alien sun shines on.
[tr. Ferry (2015)]

Added on 27-Sep-23 | Last updated 4-Oct-23
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More quotes by Virgil

Children can be taken occasionally to the country to see what the sun looks like as they are taken now to see a hill or a mountain. Probably many of them will not want to go anyway, for the country will be to them only what it was to the London club man: “A damp sort of place where all sorts of birds fly about uncooked.”

Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970) American educator, writer, critic, naturalist
The Twelve Seasons, “June” (1949)

The comment at the end is sometimes misattributed to Oscar Wilde. Further discussion of this quotation here: The Country: A Damp Sort of Place Where All Sorts of Birds Fly About Uncooked – Quote Investigator.
Added on 31-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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Thou morning client, this is my retreat:
Go to the town and palace of the great.
No lawyer I, nor can your cause defend;
But old, and idle, and the muse’s friend.
Ease and repose I love, but if in vain
I seek them here; why not to town again?

[Matutine cliens, urbis mihi causa relictae,
Atria, si sapias, ambitiosa colas.
Non sum ego causidicus, nec amaris litibus aptus,
Sed piger et senior Pieridumque comes;
tia me somnusque iuvant, quae magna negavit
Roma mihi: redeo, si vigilatur et hic.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 12, epigram 68 (12.68) (AD 101) [tr. Hay (1755)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Whoe'er in town dist morning-homage pay,
And wast one cause, why thence I win'd my way;
Hunt now ambition's hants, let me advise;
And learn, at least in this, learn to be wise.
I am no brangler, nor can hairs untwine:
My growing age asks ease, yet woos the Nine.
Scenes are my joy, for which at Rome I sigh'd:
But thither I return, if here deni'd.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 2, ep. 136]

O clients, that beset me in the morning, and who were the cause of my departure from Rome, frequent, if you are wise, the lordly mansions of the city. I am no lawyer, nor fitted for pleading troublesome causes, but inactive, somewhat advanced in years, and a votary of the Pierian sisters. I wish to enjoy repose and slumber, which great Rome denied; but I must return thither, if I am to be equally hunted here.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Morning client, the cause of my leaving Rome, you would court, were you wise, the halls of greatness. No pleader am I, nor fitted for bitter lawsuits, but an indolent man and one growing old, and the comrade of the Muses. Ease and sleep attract me, and great Rome denied me these; I return if I am sleepless even here.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

I fled from Rome and early calls,
So, Spanish friends, I pray you,
Be wise and seek the lordly halls
Of those who can repay you.
I hate the courts, and legal strife
My lazy mind refuses,
For I am getting on in life
And love to serve the Muses;
Unbroken sleep I love; the stir
And din of Rome destroy it;
But I am going back to her
If here I can't enjoy it.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

Poor morning client (you remind me
Of all I loathed and left behind me
in Rome), if you had any nous
Instead of calling on my house
You'd haunt the mansions of the great.
I'm not some wealthy advocate
Blessed with a sharp, litigious tongue,
I'm just a lazy, far from young
Friend of the Muses who likes ease
And sleep. Great Rome denied me these:
If I can't find them even in Spain,
I may as well go back again.
[tr. Michie (1972)]

Morning client, reason why I left Rome, if you were sensible, you wuiold dance attendance on pretentious halls. I am no advocate nor apt for bitter lawsuits, but lazy and elderly and a companion of the Pierian maids. I am fond of leisure and sleep, which great Rome denied me. If I'm kept awake here too, I go back.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

You want a patron, and you pester me --
Exactly what made me the City flee.
You're not at some ambitious lawyer's door.
A poet now retired, I'd rather snore.
If Rome you are inflicting on me here,
Then backward to the real one I must steer.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

You early-morning client -- you're the reason I left Rome. If you had sense, you'd hang around the lobbies of people who care about appearances. I'm no barrister, I've no head for bitter litigation: I'm sleepy, I'm getting old, I hang out with the Muses; what I like is free time and sleep, the very things that mighty Rome wouldn't let me have. If there are early mornings even here, I'm going back.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Morning appointment -- my reason for leaving the city --
If you knew better, you would visit more ambitious homes.
I am no lawyer, no man prepared for harsh suits,
I am a lazy and aging friend of the Muses.
Sleep and leisure make me happy -- the very things
Which Rome denied me. But I’ll go back if I can’t sleep here.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

Added on 17-Dec-21 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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He used to say that states fail when they cannot distinguish fools from serious men.

[τότ’ ἔφη τὰς πόλεις ἀπόλλυσθαι, ὅταν μὴ δύνωνται τοὺς φαύλους ἀπὸ τῶν σπουδαίων διακρίνειν.]

Antisthenes (c. 445 - c. 365 BC) Greek Cynic philosopher
Fragment 103, in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book 6, sec. 11 [tr. @sentantiq]

Alt. trans.:
  • "He used to say too, 'That cities were ruined when they were unable to distinguish worthless citizens from virtuous ones.'" [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "He said that cities are doomed when they cannot distinguish good men from bad." [tr. Mensch (2018), Book 6, sec. 5]
Added on 22-Jun-20 | Last updated 22-Jun-20
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Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it’s the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it’s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let’s just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colorful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
Added on 13-Apr-18 | Last updated 13-Apr-18
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A city is in many respects a great business corporation, but in other respects it is enlarged housekeeping. … May we not say that city housekeeping has failed partly because women, the traditional housekeepers, have not been consulted as to its multiform activities?

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Newer Ideals of Peace, “Utilization of Women in City Government” (1907)
Added on 30-Aug-16 | Last updated 30-Aug-16
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Landscaping is the great cardinal sin of modern architecture. It’s not your garden, it’s not a park — it’s a formless patch of grass, shrubbery and the occasional tree that exists purely to stop the original developer’s plans from looking like a howling concrete wilderness.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Broken Homes (2013)
Added on 20-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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From these things therefore it is clear that the city-state is a natural growth, and that man is by nature a political animal, and a man that is by nature and not merely by fortune citiless is either low in the scale of humanity or above it, like the “clanless, lawless, hearthless” man reviled by Homer, for one by nature unsocial is also ‘a lover of war’ inasmuch as he is solitary, like an isolated piece at draughts.

[ἐκ τούτων οὖν φανερὸν ὅτι τῶν φύσει ἡ πόλις ἐστί, καὶ ὅτι ὁ ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷον, καὶ ὁ ἄπολις διὰ φύσιν καὶ οὐ διὰ τύχην ἤτοι φαῦλός ἐστιν, ἢ κρείττων ἢ ἄνθρωπος: ὥσπερ καὶ ὁ ὑφ᾽ Ὁμήρου λοιδορηθεὶς “ἀφρήτωρ ἀθέμιστος ἀνέστιος:” ἅμα γὰρ φύσει τοιοῦτος καὶ πολέμου ἐπιθυμητής, ἅτε περ ἄζυξ ὢν ὥσπερ ἐν πεττοῖς.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 1, ch. 2 / 1253a.2 [tr. Rackham (1932)]

See Homer. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

From these considerations, therefore, it is clear that the State is one of Nature's productions, and that man is by nature a social animal, and that a man who is without a country through natural taste and not misfortune is certainly degraded (or else a being superior to man), like that man reviled by Homer as clanless, lawless, homeless. For he is naturally of this character and desirous of war, since he has no ties, like an exposed piece in the game of backgammon.
[tr. Bolland (1877)]

Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the "tribeless, lawless, hearthless one," whom Homer denounces -- the natural outcast is forthwith a lover of war; he may be compared to an isolated piece at draughts.
[tr. Jowett (1885)]

Hence it is evident that a city is a natural production, and that man is naturally a political animal, and that whosoever is naturally and not accidentally unfit for society, must be either inferior or superior to man: thus the man in Homer, who is reviled for being "without society, without law, without family." Such a one must naturally be of a quarrelsome disposition, and as solitary as the birds.
[tr. Ellis (1912)]

From these things it is evident, then, that the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. He who is without a city through nature rather than chance is either a mean sort or superior to man; he is "without clan, without law, without hearth," like the person reproved by Homer; for the one who is such by nature has by this fact a desire for war, as if he were an isolated piece in a game of backgammon.
[tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 20-Dec-10 | Last updated 26-Jul-22
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More quotes by Aristotle

Leisure is the mother of Philosophy; and Common-wealth, the mother of Peace, and Leisure: Where first were great and flourishing Cities, there was first the study of Philosophy.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 4, ch. 46 (1651)
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CREON: Am I to rule for others, or myself?
HAEMON: A State for one man is no State at all.
CREON: The State is his who rules it, so ’tis held.
HAEMON: As monarch of a desert thou wouldst shine.

Κρέων: ἄλλῳ γὰρ ἢ ‘μοὶ χρή με τῆσδ᾽ ἄρχειν χθονός;
Αἵμων: πόλις γὰρ οὐκ ἔσθ᾽ ἥτις ἀνδρός ἐσθ᾽ ἑνός.
Κρέων: οὐ τοῦ κρατοῦντος ἡ πόλις νομίζεται;
Αἵμων: καλῶς γ᾽ ἐρήμης ἂν σὺ γῆς ἄρχοις μόνος.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 736 ff (441 BC) [tr. Storr (1859)]

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

CREON: Shall other men prescribe my government?
HAEMON: One only makes not up a city, father.
CREON: Is not the city in the sovereign's hand?
HAEMON: Nobly you'd govern as the desert's king.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

CREON: Am I to rule this land by the will of another than myself?
HAEMON: That is no city, which belongs to one man.
CREON: Does not the city by tradition belong to the man in power?
HAEMON: You would make a fine monarch in a desert.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

CREON: My voice is the one voice giving orders in this City!
HAIMON: It is no City if it takes orders from one voice.
CREON: The State is the King!
HAIMON: Yes, if the State is a desert.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

CREON: No, I am king, and responsible only to myself.
HAEMON: A one-man state? What sort of state is that?
CREON: Why, does not every state belong to its ruler?
HAEMON: You’d be an excellent king -- on a desert island.
[tr. Watling (1947), ll. 632 ff]

CREON: Am I to rule by other mind than mine?
HAEMON: No city is property of a single man.
CREON: But custom gives possession to the ruler.
HAEMON: You'd rule a desert beautifully alone.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

CREON: Am I to rule for them, not for myself?
HAEMON: That is not government, but tyranny.
CREON: The king is lord and master of his city.
HAEMON: Then you had better rule a desert island!
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

CREON: Am I to rule this land for others -- or myself?
HAEMON: It's no city at all, owned by one man alone.
CREON: What? The city is the king's -- that's the law!
HAEMON: What a splendid king you'd make of a desert island --
you and you alone.
[tr. Fagles (1982)]

CREON: So I should rule this country for someone other than myself?
HAEMON: A place for one man alone is not a city.
CREON: A city belongs to its master. Isn't that the rule?
HAEMON: Then go be ruler of a desert, all alone. You'd do it well.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

CREON: Should I govern the city for others and not for me?
HAEMON: There is no city that belongs to one man.
CREON: So a city does not belong to the man who governs it?
HAEMON: One man alone can only govern an empty city.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

CREON: Am I to rule this land at someone else’s whim or by myself?
HAEMON: A city which belongs to just one man is no true city.
CREON: According to our laws, does not the ruler own the city?
HAEMON: By yourself you’d make an excellent king but in a desert.
[tr. Johnston (2005)]

CREON: Should I rule the land for anyone other than myself?
HAEMON: There is no city that is one man’s.
CREON: Is not the city considered to belong to the ruling man?
HAEMON: Nobly you could rule an empty land, alone.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

  • "The state which belongs to one man is no state at all." [tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
  • "A state is not a state if it belongs to one man."
Added on 5-Jan-09 | Last updated 22-Dec-20
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