In his Song of the Broad-Axe Walt Whitman declared: “A great city is that which has the greatest men and women. If it has a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the world..”
We are often reminded of the roles that great cities play in raising famed personages to greatness. But some cities owe their own renown in varying degrees to the figures of historical importance that graced (or cursed) them as their place of birth.
Would many people know or care about Bethlehem if Christ had not been born there–a place evoked and an event re-enacted for nearly two millennia. And, it was not even his hometown. Lenin was not born in Leningrad, which has returned to St. Petersburg (not the saint’s birthplace either), the name it had when Lenin was born in Simbirsk, which was re-named Ulyanovsk to honor his surname.
A surprisingly large number of influential historical figure were born in urban places with names and reputations far less grand than they themselves, although their deeds and reputations were doubtless enhanced by the great cities in which the came to power or fame.
Below is a matching test of twenty (admittedly selective) historical heavyweights, and a list of their birthplace cities and towns.
©2004, ©2015 James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 1.1.2004)