Friday, March 11, 2022


The Origin of the City

Plato, Republic 2.11 (369b-d; tr. Paul Shorey):
"The origin of the city, then," said I, "in my opinion, is to be found in the fact that we do not severally suffice for our own needs, but each of us lacks many things. Do you think any other principle establishes the state?"

"No other," said he.

"As a result of this, then, one man calling in another for one service and another for another, we, being in need of many things, gather many into one place of abode as associates and helpers, and to this dwelling together we give the name city or state, do we not?"

"By all means."

"And between one man and another there is an interchange of giving, if it so happens, and taking, because each supposes this to be better for himself."


"Come, then, let us create a city from the beginning, in our theory. Its real creator, as it appears, will be our needs."


"Now the first and chief of our needs is the provision of food for existence and life."


"The second is housing and the third is raiment and that sort of thing."

"That is so."

"Tell me, then," said I, "how our city will suffice for the provision of all these things. Will there not be a farmer for one, and a builder, and then again a weaver? And shall we add thereto a cobbler and some other purveyor for the needs of body?"


"The indispensable minimum of a city, then, would consist of four or five men."

γίγνεται τοίνυν, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, πόλις, ὡς ἐγᾦμαι, ἐπειδὴ τυγχάνει ἡμῶν ἕκαστος οὐκ αὐτάρκης, ἀλλὰ πολλῶν ὢν ἐνδεής· ἢ τίν᾽ οἴει ἀρχὴν ἄλλην πόλιν οἰκίζειν;

οὐδεμίαν, ἦ δ᾽ ὅς.

οὕτω δὴ ἄρα παραλαμβάνων ἄλλος ἄλλον, ἐπ᾽ ἄλλου, τὸν δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἄλλου χρείᾳ, πολλῶν δεόμενοι, πολλοὺς εἰς μίαν οἴκησιν ἀγείραντες κοινωνούς τε καὶ βοηθούς, ταύτῃ τῇ συνοικίᾳ ἐθέμεθα πόλιν ὄνομα· ἦ γάρ;

πάνυ μὲν οὖν.

μεταδίδωσι δὴ ἄλλος ἄλλῳ, εἴ τι μεταδίδωσιν, ἢ μεταλαμβάνει, οἰόμενος αὑτῷ ἄμεινον εἶναι;

πάνυ γε.

ἴθι δή, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, τῷ λόγῳ ἐξ ἀρχῆς ποιῶμεν πόλιν: ποιήσει δὲ αὐτήν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἡ ἡμετέρα χρεία.

πῶς δ᾽ οὔ;

ἀλλὰ μὴν πρώτη γε καὶ μεγίστη τῶν χρειῶν ἡ τῆς τροφῆς παρασκευὴ τοῦ εἶναί τε καὶ ζῆν ἕνεκα.

παντάπασί γε.

δευτέρα δὴ οἰκήσεως, τρίτη δὲ ἐσθῆτος καὶ τῶν τοιούτων.

ἔστι ταῦτα.

φέρε δή, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, πῶς ἡ πόλις ἀρκέσει ἐπὶ τοσαύτην παρασκευήν; ἄλλο τι γεωργὸς μὲν εἷς, ὁ δὲ οἰκοδόμος, ἄλλος δέ τις ὑφάντης; ἢ καὶ σκυτοτόμον αὐτόσε προσθήσομεν ἤ τιν᾽ ἄλλον τῶν περὶ τὸ σῶμα θεραπευτήν;

πάνυ γε.

εἴη δ᾽ ἂν ἥ γε ἀναγκαιοτάτη πόλις ἐκ τεττάρων ἢ πέντε ἀνδρῶν.
Related post: I Hear America Singing.

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