Bodin – Difference between the City and the Town

Jean Bodin, in The Six Books of the Republic (1583), speaks of the difference that can be established between town and city.

This is the occasion for a little historical journey on the meaning of the city, the town, the civil, the citizen.

Aristotle defined the city as a company of citizens, who have everything they need to live happily, making no difference between Republic and city; and he even says that it is not a city, if all the citizens do not live in the same place, [which] is an incongruity in matters of Republic, as Julius Caesar shows it well in his memoirs, saying that all the city of the Helvetians had four boroughs, or four cantons. Where it appears that the word of city, is a word of right, which does not mean a place, nor a place, like the word of city, which the Latins call, Urbem, ab Urbo, id est aratro, because one traced, says Varron, the circuit and pourpris of the cities with the plows. It is therefore quite certain in terms of law that anyone who has taken outside the city what was forbidden to be taken outside the city, having taken it to another city in the same province, has not contravened the prohibition. The doctors go further, for they say that the one who has not contravened the law by taking it to another city subject to the same prince has not done so. The Hebrews have kept the same property and difference of city and town, because they call the city, [in Greek] that is to say the walled: and the town [in Greek]. And although they sometimes take the one for the other, as the Greeks often use the word [in Greek], and the Latins the word civitas, pro urbe, oppido, et jure, because the general, which is the city, includes the particular, which is the town; if they do not abuse the word [in Greek], as we see that Cicero has kept the property of the one and the other, for the word means city properly, inde Astuti, which means as much as urbani, because the inhabitants of the cities are more accustomed, and more gracious than the peasants. But the word civilis, which we call civil, was not received from the ancient Latins pro urbano. And to show that the difference does not lie in words alone, it may be that the city will be well built and walled. And, what is more, it will be full of people, and yet it is not a city, if there are no laws and magistrates to establish a right government there, as we said in the first chapter, [but] it is pure anarchy.

Jean Bodin, The Six Books of the Republic, (1583)