previous next

The Computation of the Size of Cities

Most people calculate the area merely from the
Sparta and Megalopolis.
length of the circumference [of towns or camps]. Accordingly, when one says that the city of Megalopolis has a circuit of fifty stades, and that of Sparta forty-eight, but that Sparta is twice the size of Megalopolis, they look upon the assertion as incredible. And if one, by way of increasing the difficulty, were to say that a city or camp may have a circuit of forty stades and yet be double the size of one having a perimeter of a hundred, the statement would utterly puzzle them. The reason of this is that we do not remember the lessons in geometry taught us at school. I was led to make these remarks because it is not only common people, but actually some statesmen and military commanders, who have puzzled themselves sometimes by wondering whether it were possible that Sparta should be bigger, and that too by a great deal, than Megalopolis, while having a shorter circuit; and at other times by trying to conjecture the number of men by considering the mere length of a camp's circuit. A similar mistake is also made in pronouncing as to the number of the inhabitants of cities. For most people imagine that cities in which the ground is broken and hilly contain more houses than a flat site. But the fact is not so; because houses are built at right angles not to sloping foundations but to the plains below, upon which the hills themselves are excrescences. And this admits of a proof within the intelligence of a child. For if one would imagine houses on slopes to be raised until they were of the same height; it is evident that the plane of the roofs of the houses thus united will be equal and parallel to the plane underlying the hills and foundations.

So much for those who aspire to be leaders and statesmen and are yet ignorant and puzzled about such facts as these. . . .

Those who do not enter upon undertakings with good will and zeal cannot be expected to give real help when the time comes to act. . . .

The Hannibalian War, B.C. 211

Such being the position of the Romans and Carthaginians, Fortune continually oscillating between the two, we may say with the poet

"Pain hard by joy possessed the souls of each."1 . . .

There is profound truth in the observation which I have often made, that it is impossible to grasp or get a complete view of the fairest of all subjects of contemplation, the tendency of history as a whole, from writers of partial histories. . . .

1 Cp. Homer, Odyss. 19, 471.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Theodorus Büttner-Wobst after L. Dindorf, 1893)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Megalopolis (Greece) (4)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
211 BC (1)
hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 34.34
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MEGALO´POLIS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SPARTA
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: