The City of the Sun

by Tommaso Campanella

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The principal characters of The City of the Sun are:

The Captain. The man who has visited the titular city is a Genoese ship-captain. He says he has wandered all over the earth and arrived in the coast of Taprobane, south of India. (It is part of present-day Sri Lanka.) His hailing from Genoa connects him symbolically with the most famous Genoese navigator of history, Christopher Columbus.

A Grand Knight of the Hospitallers. This is the man to whom the Captain narrates the story.

The inhabitants of the City of the Sun.

Hoh. The chief priest and ruler of the city. His name, we are told, translates as "Metaphysic." Though Hoh is head of all matters "temporal and spiritual," there are three others princes of equal power who assist him. They are:

Pon. This prince, whose name means "Power," is in charge of military matters, of "war and peace."

Sin. His name translates as "Wisdom." This is the prince in charge of liberal arts, mechanics, science, and medicine.

Mor. This prince's name means "Love." He is the one responsible for "managing" the relations between men and women. In some ways his domain is the most significant, because, we are told, the City uses a kind of eugenics or selective breeding to maintain the stability of its populace. The Captain explains that the inhabitants of the City believe it irrational for most of the earth's population to care about the breeding of horses and dogs, but not of human beings. This is the aspect of the story which, in my view, bears some resemblance to a modern dystopia such as Huxley's Brave New World.

The Magistrates. Each of the princes, Hoh, Pon, Sin and Mor, has subordinate officials, magistrates, who carry out their orders. We are told that the magistrates are descended from people from India who fled a warlike group of plunderers called Magi, who had devastated their country. The magistrates have names or identities that correspond to human virtues, such as Magnanimity, Fortitude, Chastity, Liberality, Criminal and Civil Justice, Comfort, Truth, Kindness, Gratitude, and so on.

The Four Leaders. These are men who "direct" the children of the City in the learning processes.

The Four Elders. These are the teachers of the children.

In addition there are, of course, subordinate officials who assist these leaders in the organization and maintenance of the society.

The Captain seems to take on the role of propagandist for this utopian society, describing it in glowing terms and in obsessive detail, while the Grand Knight gives him his rapt attention. Perhaps we should identify a last character, the rest of humanity collectively who are ignorant of the "wondrous" society depicted here. If such a society were to exist, what would that tell us about its attitude to the rest of the world? What does this say about the "characters" listed above who people the City?

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