The final quality is an extension of the latter: the Greek city as a living organism. This relates to the fact of how population growth did not result in a steady increase urban sprawl, but led to the development of a new colony. (Benevolo 1980: 60) These four merits associated with Greek cities meant that the theory of human co-existence was fulfilled, and provided a suitable ideal for other urban developments.

The aforementioned colonisation process embodied this second contribution by the Greeks towards the development of urban form. Each colony was a city-state organised, “along the social and economic lines of its parents, but in contrast to the generally unplanned, uncontrolled organic growth patterns of the parents the majority of the offspring were developed along planned lines (Morris 1994: 41).” This newfound geometrical plan directed everything from the individual buildings to the scale of the city as a whole. The Greeks were not the first civilisation to plan their cities, although they did help embody the gridiron approach and use their method of city planning to affect later urban development. The Greek approach to urban planning was essentially a very practical one, which is one of the key reasons why it promoted future planners:

“The streets ran in straight lines, with a few main ones (using length as the criterion), which divided the city into a series of strips, and a larger number of secondary streets, which crossed the former at right angles. None of them had any pretensions to grandeur, being of modest dimensions: the main streets were between 5 and 10 metres wide, while the secondary ones measured between 3 and 5 metres across. The result was a grid of uniformly rectangular blocks (insulae), which varied in certain cases in order to fit in with the local terrain (Benevolo 1980: 107).”

The city boundaries and walls were flexible in the sense that they didn’t track the outline of the buildings, but instead surrounded easily defensible regions of high ground. This was upheld even when these areas of high ground were some distance away from the occupied districts, which explains the irregular city boundaries, which are apparent on Greek city plans. A further addition to the practicality of the grid was the way the structure was controlled by the needs of the houses and not the temples and palaces. This enabled the grid to be versatile and prevented a perpetuated maze pattern:

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“The fact that the distance between the rectangular blocks could be varied at will meant that every city was unique, and not tied to a single prototype. Also, the irregularity of the boundaries and the way in which the walls did not follow the outline of the inhabited areas meant that a balance was maintained between the natural and man-made environment, thereby lessening the overall contrast between the city and the surrounding countryside (Benevolo 1980: 109).” Because of this, uniformity was not used to the means of sacrificing the connection between man and nature, allowing controlled, beneficial growth. This approach affected the growth of two of Greece’s most important planned cities: Miletus and Priene.

Miletus was planned by the Milesan architect, Hippodamus of Miletus, whose work earned him the title, “Father of town planning.” There is a lot of debate regarding this title, considering Hippodamus was not the creator of the gridiron, and that there is some scope as to whether he did in fact organise the, “component parts of the new town – the central area, housing districts, commerce, cultural and leisure facilities and a defensive wall – to make an integrated planned urban entity (Morris 1980: 43).”

Despite the scope surrounding Hippodamus’ work, he did push forward the direction of urban growth towards the geometrical approach, in the same way that Ebenezer Howard was the, “recognised instigator of the garden city / new town movement, and Constantine Doxiadis as the eminence grise behind many mid-twentieth century developments (Morris 1980: 43).”


Morris A E J (1994), “History of Urban Form Before the Industrial Revolution,” Longman, London Benevolo L (1980), “The History of the City,” Scholar Press, London Owen M (2001), “Classic Periods of Greece and Rome [online],” [Accessed


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