The urbs or the polis starts by being an empty space, the forum, the agora, and all the rest is just a means of fixing that empty space, of limiting its outlines. (...) The city is not built, as is the cottage or the domus, to shelter from the weather and to propagate the species- these are personal, family concerns- but in order to discuss public affairs. Observe that this signifies nothing less than the invention of a new kind of space, much more new than the space of Einstein. Till then only one space existed, that of the open country, with all the consequences that this involves for the existence of man. The man of the fields is still a sort of vegetable. His existence, all that he feels, thinks, wishes for, preserves the listless drowsiness in which the plant lives. (...) Socrates, the great townsman, quintessence of the spirit of the polis, can say: "I have nothing to do with the trees of the field, I have to do only with the man of the city." What has ever been known of this by the Hindu, the Persian, the Chinese, or the Egyptian? Up to the time of Alexander and of Caesar, respectively, the history of Greece and of Rome consists of an incessant struggle between these two spaces: between the rational city and the vegetable country, between the lawgiver and the husbandman, between jus and rus. (...) The city is the super-house, the supplanting of the infra-human abode or nest, the creation of an entity higher and more abstract than the oikos of the family. This is the res publica, the politeia, which is not made up of men and women, but of citizens.
Ortega y Gassett
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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome
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