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Historically, city-dwellers have been a small proportion of humanity overall, but following two centuries of unprecedented and rapid urbanization, roughly half of the world population now lives in cities, which has had profound consequences for global sustainability.

Present-day cities usually form the core of larger metropolitan areas and urban areas - creating numerous commuters traveling towards city centers for employment, entertainment, and edification.

Urban structure generally follows one or more basic patterns: geomorphic, radial, concentric, rectilinear, and curvilinear.

Physical environment generally constrains the form in which a city is built.

Town siting has varied through history according to natural, technological, economic, and military contexts.

Access to water has long been a major factor in city placement and growth, and despite exceptions enabled by the advent of rail transport in the nineteenth century, through the present most of the world's urban population lives near the coast or on a river.

(This arrangement contrasts with the more typically horizontal relationships in a tribe or village accomplishing common goals through informal agreements between neighbors, or through leadership of a chief.) The governments may be based on heredity, religion, military power, work projects such as canal building, food distribution, land ownership, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, finance, or a combination of these.The ancient Greek city of Priene exemplifies a grid plan with specialized districts used across the Hellenistic Mediterranean.Urban-type settlement extends far beyond the traditional boundaries of the city proper Decentralization and dispersal of city functions (commercial, industrial, residential, cultural, political) has transformed the very meaning of the term and has challenged geographers seeking to classify territories according to an urban-rural binary.Societies that live in cities are often called civilizations.The word city and the related civilization come, via Old French, from the Latin root civitas, originally meaning citizenship or community member and eventually coming to correspond with urbs, meaning city in a more physical sense.

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