Hippodamus of Miletus

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Hippodamus of Miletus (/hɪˈpɒdəməs/; Greek: Ἱππόδαμος ὁ Μιλήσιος, Hippodamos ho Milesios; 498 – 408 BC), was an ancient Greek architect, urban planner, physician, mathematician, meteorologist and philosopher and is considered to be the “father” of urban planning, the namesake of Hippodamian plan of city layouts (grid plan). He was born in Miletus and lived during the 5th century BC, on the spring of the Ancient Greece classical epoch. His father was Euryphon.

His plans of Greek cities were characterised by order and regularity in contrast to the intricacy and confusion common to cities of that period, even Athens. He is seen as the originator of the idea that a town plan might formally embody and clarify a rational social order.


He is referred to in the works of Aristotle, Stobaeus, Strabo, Hesychius, Photius, and Theano.

He evidently had a reputation as a lover of attention. According to Aristotle's description in Politics, "Some people thought he carried things too far, indeed, with his long hair, expensive ornaments, and the same cheap warm clothing worn winter and summer."[1]


Map of Piraeus, showing the grid plan of the city

The "Best State"[edit]

According to Aristotle (in Politics), Hippodamus was a pioneer of urban planning and he devised an ideal city to be inhabited by 10,000 men[2] (free male citizens), while the overall population including the correspondent women, children and slaves would reach 50,000 people. He studied the functional problems of cities and linked them to the state administration system. As a result he divided the citizens into three classes (soldiers, artisans and 'husbandmen'), with the land also divided into three (sacred, public and private).

Aristotle criticized the monopolization of arms bearing by a single class in Hippodamus' "Best State" writings, arguing that this would lead to oppression of the "farmers" and the "workers" by the arms-bearing class.[3] Aristotle's own concept of polity included a large middle class in which each citizen fulfillied all three functions of self-legislation, arms bearing, and working."[3]

For Pericles he planned the arrangement of the harbour-town Piraeus at Athens in the middle of the fifth century BC. When the Athenians founded Thurii in Italy in 443 BC he accompanied the colony as architect - although he was not actually an architect in the sense of a building designer. He is credited with, in 408 BC, the building of the new city of Rhodes; however, as he was involved in 479 BC with helping the reconstruction of Miletus he would have been very old when this project took place.

The grid plans attributed to him consisted of series of broad, straight streets, cutting one another at right angles. In Miletus we can find the prototype plan of Hippodamos. What is most impressive in his plan is wide central area, which was kept unsettled according to his macro-scale urban prediction/estimation and in time evolved to the “agora”, the center of both the city and the society.[citation needed]

The "Urban Planning Study for Piraeus" (451 BC), which is considered to be a work of Hippodamus, formed the planning standards of that era and was used in many cities of the classical epoch. According to this study, neighborhoods of around 2,400 m2 blocks were constructed where small groups of 2-floor houses were built. The houses were lined up with walls separating them while the main facets were towards the south. The same study uses polynomial formulas for the plumping infrastructure manufacture.


From Hippodamus came the earliest notions of patent law. Hippodamus proposed that society should reward those individuals who create things useful for society. Aristotle criticized the practical utilitarian approach of Hippodamus and implicated the inherent tension in rewarding individuals for doing good; i.e. that by rewarding individuals for doing good, the individuals will do good for the reward over the benefit of the state. The state could actually suffer because of the allure of individual rewards, since individuals may propose notions that weaken the state. Aristotle essentially foreshadowed the inherent tension between private rewards for social benefits - the potential diversion between individual and societal interests. Aristotle's greatest criticism of Hippodamus, however, is that rewarding individuals "who discover something advantageous for the city ... is not safe, though it sounds appealing." For while innovation is of great benefit to the arts and sciences, "change in an art is not like change in law; for law has no strength with respect to obedience apart from habit, and this is not created except over a period of time. Hence the easy alteration of existing laws in favor of new and different ones weakens the power of law itself."

Hippodamus does not seem to have been involved in politics, but several writings attributed to him dealt with issues of the state, including Περί Πολιτείας (On the State), Περί Ευδαιμονίας (On Happiness), Πυθαγορίζουσαι Θεωρίαι (Pythagoras Theorems).


  1. ^ Aristotle, Politics 2.1267b
  2. ^ Aristotle, Politics 2.1267b
  3. ^ a b Halbrook, Stephen P. (1984). That Every Man Be Armed: the evolution of a Constitutional Right. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-945999-28-3. 


  • Reeve, C. D. C. (1998), Aristotle's Politics. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing.
  • Robert Patrick Merges & John Fitzgerald Duffy, Patent Law and Policy: Cases and Materials (3d ed. 2002).
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.