Pericles ca. 495 BC – 429 BC implied that all good things flow into the city. Since the days of Athens, that has been the case. Cities have been at the vanguard of much of human progress and have been characterised by deep rich flows of –goods, water, money, ideas and most importantly people. So how did cities develop and what is a City?
History is awash with various versions on how cities developed. Some historians are of the opinion that the earliest cities were born out of developments in agriculture and warfare. This theory is hinged of the opinion that because agriculture became of sustainable way of life, people began settling in groups, some unsurprisingly became richer and this led to new ways to organise society – protect themselves from possibly aggressive neighbours. This organisation led to the emergence of new leaders in the form of Kings and Pharaohs.
However, disputing this version, your blogger has learned that even though warfare and agriculture were characteristics of the growth of early cities, radiocarbon dating of earlier discovered urban centres in Çatalhöyük, in present day Turkey, have shown that there is no evidence to suggest an engagement in warfare, but pottery and craftsmanship were the first things that kept people in one place for a long time. It can be concluded that not everyone born at the earliest found centres lived or died there. The search for better lives led most of the inhabitants to leave Çatalhöyük. Your blogger , however, concedes that there is no direct link between an exodus from Çatalhöyük and the world’s first true city in Sumer, in present day Iraq.
These historical perspectives still don’t say what a city is; neither do current descriptions, because the meaning of cities around the world differs. In the United Kingdom, city status was awarded to places with cathedrals. However, in more recent times, towns (large settlements) could formally apply and receive city status, especially in times of celebration.
In more general terms, your blogger reckons that a city could be referred to an agglomeration, which includes suburban areas and satellite towns. What these differentiations imply is that a city does not depend on size or the amount of people in geographic location. This is also in line with view taken by archaeologists and historians in distinguishing between cities and towns (even villages), because it is a measure of economic and social differentiation.
In Science, a journal, Balter (1998) with reference to Çatalhöyük, concluded that a city was a place where people left to take up full-time professionalised trades (craftsmen, priests, civil servants etc.). The basis for this conclusion was that “a key defining feature of a town or city is that farmers don’t live in them” (p.1443). Balter adds that at Çatalhöyük, there was no evidence of craftsmen, priests or civil servants. The inhabitants lived subsistent lives, there is no evidence of temples or public buildings that could be interpreted as some sought of centre for communal activity. Çatalhöyük was not hierarchical; it consisted of extended families that lived autonomously. Thus they were homogeneous and egalitarian. Even though Çatalhöyük possessed the feature of a city (in terms of size and possibly population), it possessed the ingredients of a village.
Given the scheme of things, your blogger operationalizes a city to be an agglomeration that has a significant measure of economic and social density. The economic and social measures are based on if people go there to live or work (or both).