Aristotle on Hippodamus, dandy and poseur

Hippodamus has a proposed Constitution. Aristotle doesn’t think much of it; he also does not seem to think much of Hippodamus, granted the description:

Hippodamus son of Euryphon, a Milesian (who invented the division of cities into blocks and cut up Piraeus, and who also became somewhat eccentric in his general mode of life owing to a desire for distinction, so that some people thought that he lived too fussily, with a quantity of hair and expensive ornaments, and also a quantity of cheap yet warm clothes not only in winter but also in the summer periods, and who wished to be a man of learning in natural science generally), was the first man not engaged in politics who attempted to speak on the subject of the best form of constitution.

(Rackham translation)

in the Greek:

Ἱππόδαμος δὲ Εὐρυφῶντος Μιλήσιος ὃς καὶ τὴν τῶν πόλεων διαίρεσιν εὗρε καὶ τὸν Πειραιᾶ κατέτεμεν, γενόμενος καὶ περὶ τὸν ἄλλον βίον περιττότερος διὰ φιλοτιμίαν οὕτως ὥστε δοκεῖν ἐνίοις ζῆν περιεργότερον τριχῶν τε πλήθει καὶ κόσμῳ πολυτελεῖ, ἔτι δὲ ἐσθῆτος εὐτελοῦς μὲν ἀλεεινῆς δέ, οὐκ ἐν τῷ χειμῶνι μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τοὺς θερινοὺς χρόνους, λόγιος δὲ καὶ περὶ τὴν ὅλην φύσιν εἶναι βουλόμενοσ’ πρῶτος τῶν μὴ πολιτευομένων ἐνεχείρησέ τι περὶ πολιτείας εἰπεῖν τῆς ἀρίστης.

Oh, those urban design hipsters never change–all black clothing and Dieter glasses, all dandied up. In Athens, long hair on a man was an affectation. Rackham simply translates κόσμῳ as “a quantity of hair”; Jewett translates it as “flowing hair”; here I think Jewett has the more apt wording, as Liddell suggests “hair hanging down the back.” Not, perhaps, an entirely fair comment on Aristotle’s part; some Greek men did wear their hair long as a matter of common fashion–I think Spartans did, and Hippodamus is not an Athenian, as Aristotle points out right away. Perhaps Milesians, too, wore their hair long, and Hippodamus did so because he was used to it. Perhaps; but Aristotle was a foreigner in Athens, too (he was from Stagira) so perhaps what we are seeing is Aristotle’s comment on a fellow metic’s unwillingness (or inability) to integrate. Either way, it seems clear, through his careful description of the accessories worn over cheap but warm clothing that Aristotle thinks this Hippodamus a bit of a poseur.

This hinting that Hippodamus is a dilettante becomes more obvious when Aristotle notes that Hippodamus attempted to speak about the best form of a constitution even though he was μὴ πολιτευομένων–not a politician. Unfortunately, as we know, there probably isn’t any more political act than dividing up land, so Aristotle probably should have been a little more inclusive in what he considered τῶν πολιτευομένων. All that said, Aristotle also seems right in the next paragraphs: although we don’t get a full recounting of Hippodamus’ argument, Aristotle’s critique makes Hippodamus’ social prescriptions seem pretty ghastly, all the same.