Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You See What a City Is?

"You see what a city is?" Ghini said to him. "And if it's like this before it's even finished, imagine what will happen afterwards: it's another life. Every day you see new people -- for the merchants, just think, it's like having the Heavenly Jerusalem; for the knights, since the emperor forbade them to sell lands so as not to divide the fief, and they were bored to death in the countryside, now they command companies of bowmen, they ride out in parades, they give orders left and right. But things don't prosper just for the gentry and the merchants: it's a providence also for a man like your father, who doesn't have much land but has some livestock, and people arrive in the city and ask him for stock and pay cash; they're beginning to sell for ready money and not through barter. I don't know if you understand what that means: if you exchange two chickens for three rabbits sooner or later you have to eat them, otherwise they grow too old, whereas two coins you can hide under you mattress and they're good ten years from now, and if you're lucky they stay there even if enemies come into your house. Besides, it's happened in Milan and in Lodi and Pavia, and it will also happen here with us: it's not that the the Ghinis or the Aularis have to keep their mouths shut and only the Guascos or the Trottis give the orders. We're all part of those who make the decisions: here you can become important even if you're not a noble, and this is the fine thing about a city, and it's specially fine for one who isn't noble, and is ready to get himself killed, if he really has to (but it's better not), because his sons can go around saying: My name is Ghini and even if your name is Trotti, you're still shit" (Eco, pgs. 162-163). 

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