Quotations about   city

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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]
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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)
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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)]
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See Homer. Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

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 12-Feb-21
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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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Added on 14-Oct-10 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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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)]
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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)]

Also:
  • "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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