“Living in the city or the country: insulae versus villa?

The advantages and disadvantages of living in the city and the country are difficult to decide. This highly topical question was already being debated in Antiquity, and many Latin authors put forward arguments in support of this dilemma. 

The poet Tibullus, for example, advocated the rural ideal:

“I sing of the countryside and the gods of the countryside; their lessons have made man lose the habit of satisfying his hunger with the acorn of the oak (…) It is in the countryside that the light bee gathers the juice of the flowers in her spring hive, (50) careful to fill her combs with sweet honey (…)”.

 Tibulus, Elegies II, 1, (partim)

While he admits to enjoying the pleasures of the city, Horace also claims the serenity of the countryside.

“(1,14,15) Now that you are a farmer, you long for the city, the spectacles and the baths. (…) I am not ashamed to have enjoyed myself, but I would be ashamed to do it again. There, no one casts an oblique eye on my well-being and does not secretly poison me with his bite and his hatred; my neighbours laugh to see me move my earth and my stones.” 

Horace, Epistles, 1, (partim)

For the philosopher Seneca,the place is not a key factor in well-being:

“But is it really this or that place that contributes so much to tranquillity? The soul alone gives all things the value they have for it. I have seen delightful countryside inhabited by sorrowful hearts: I have seen in the midst of solitude the same turmoil as in the busiest people. So beware of thinking that if your soul is not entirely calm, it is because you are not in Campania.

Seneca, Letters to Luculius, (partim)

What do you think? 

Evocation of the Malagne villa © D. Caryn

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