The Difference between Retirement and Vacations

Dio Chrysostom, 20th Discourse, on Retirement

“What then do we call retirement and what people is it right to call retired? Should we call those people retiring who have stepped away from their appropriate work and actions? For example, if someone is Athenian and it is necessary that he join the army to defend the country when the Spartans are invading Attica or because Philip or other enemies are coming but he leaves for Megara or Aigina because he does not want to join the army or risk his life—should this person be called retired?

Or if someone who has acquired great wealth leaves the city in order to avoid paying taxes? Or what if someone who is capable of healing the sick, when his friends and neighbors are ill, leaves them and goes to some other country so that he might avoid getting ill and having the work of assisting them?

Or, if some other person, when it is necessary that he perform a duty for the city, to govern, or help the governors, or to act as a guard, does not want to lose sleep but, so that he will be exempt from all of them and no one will rebuke him or stop him from drinking and sleeping and taking it easy, he goes somewhere else too. Should this person be called retired? No, it is clear that these people are fleeing and running, and there is no excuse or forgiveness for this kind of leisure and vacation.

Instead, then, perhaps we must call “retiring” those who leave unprofitable matters or wastes of time which are not their concern and who provide themselves some kind of leisure from annoying frivolity. And yet, were that the case, the person who moves from one city to another or from one place to another should to be said to “retire”. For wherever this person goes there will be many obstacles which prevent proper accomplishment.

The truth is that being around someone too much either drinking or playing games or wasting time in the kinds of harmful and disadvantageous pastimes people find everywhere are these kinds of things—hanging around every person you meet chatting on and listening to worthless ideas, blathering on about the emperor’s concerns or those of that terrible person whoever he is. For the fool is not in control of his own mind, but he is bounced and led easily around by any random excuse or meeting.”

Τί γάρ ποτε τὸ τῆς ἀναχωρήσεώς ἐστι καὶ τίνας χρὴ τιθέναι τοὺς ἀναχωροῦντας; ἆρά γε τοὺς ἀπὸ τῶν προσηκόντων ἔργων αὐτοῖς καὶ πράξεων ἀφισταμένους, τούτους χρὴ φάσκειν ἀναχωρεῖν; οἷον εἴ τις Ἀθηναῖος ὤν, δέον αὐτὸν στρατεύεσθαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος Λακεδαιμονίων εἰσβεβληκότων εἰς τὴν Ἀττικὴν ἢ Φιλίππου ἐπιόντος ἢ ἄλλων πολεμίων, ὁ δὲ ἀναχωρήσειεν εἰς Μέγαρα ἢ Αἴγιναν ἕνεκα τοῦ μὴ στρατεύεσθαι μηδὲ κινδυνεύειν, οὖτος ἂν ἀνακεχωρηκέναι λέγοιτο; ἢ εἴ τις συχνὴν οὐσίαν κεκτημένος ἕνεκα τοῦ διαφυγεῖν τὰς λειτουργίας ἀπέλθοι ἐκ τῆς πόλεως; ἢ εἴ τις ἰᾶσθαι τοὺς νοσοῦντας ἱκανὸς ὤν, καὶ φίλων δὴ καὶ ἐπιτηδείων αὐτῷ καμνόντων, ὅπως μὴ κακοπαθῇ καὶ πράγματα ἔχῃ τούτους θεραπεύων, ἀπολίποι τε αὐτοὺς καὶ ἀποδημήσειεν εἰς ἕτερον τόπον; ἢ εἴ τις ἄλλος, ἐν πόλει δέον ἐξετάζεσθαι καὶ αὐτόν, ἄρχειν καὶ ἀρχαῖς ὑπηρετεῖν καὶ φυλακάς τινας φυλάττειν, ἀγρυπνῶν μὴ βούλοιτο, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως τούτων ἀπηλλαγμένος ἁπάντων ἔσται καὶ μηδὲ εἷς αὐτὸν ἐξελέγξει μηδὲ κωλύσει πίνοντα καὶ καθεύδοντα καὶ ῥᾳθυμοῦντα, ἑτέρωσε ἀποχωροῖ ποι—ἆρα τούτους ἀναχωρεῖν ῥητέον; ἀλλ᾿ οὗτοι μὲν δῆλον ὅτι φεύγουσί τε καὶ δραπετεύουσι, καὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴη πρόφασις αὐτοῖς οὐδὲ συγγνώμη τῆς τοιαύτης σχολῆς τε καὶ ἀποδράσεως.

Μὴ οὖν τοὺς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν πραγμάτων καὶ τῶν οὐ προσηκουσῶν αὐτοῖς ἀσχολιῶν ἀπιόντας καὶ σχολήν τινα πορίζοντας αὑτοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἐνοχλούντων μάτην ῥητέον ὡς ἀναχωροῦντας. ἀλλ᾿ οὕτως μέν, οὐχ ὁ μεταβὰς ἐκ πόλεώς τινος εἰς ἑτέραν πόλιν ἢ ἐκ τόπου εἰς ἕτερον τόπον ἀναχωρεῖν λέγοιτ᾿ ἄν· ὅπου γὰρ ἂν ἀφίκηται, πολλὰ ἂν εἴη τὰ ἐμποδὼν αὐτῷ γιγνόμενα καὶ οὐκ ἐῶντα τὰ προσήκοντα ποιεῖν. καὶ γὰρ τὸ ἐπὶ πολύ τῳ ξυνεῖναι καὶ τὸ πίνοντα ἢ κυβεύοντα ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν βλαβερῶν καὶ ἀσυμφόρων πράττοντα διατελεῖν, πανταχοῦ τοιαῦτά ἐστιν, καὶ τὸ συνδιατρίβειν ἀεὶ τῷ ἐντυχόντι ἀδολεσχοῦντα καὶ ἀκούοντα λόγων οὐδὲν χρησίμων ἢ περὶ τὰ βασιλέως πράγματα διατρίβειν ἢ τὰ τοῦ δεῖνος, ὡς ἔφη τις. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνόητος τῆς αὑτοῦ ψυχῆς κύριος, ἀλλὰ ῥεμβόμενός τε καὶ ἀγόμενος ῥᾳδίως ὑπὸ τῆς τυχούσης προφάσεως καὶ ὁμιλίας.

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