Don’t Work (or Rest) Too Much!

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, On the Education of Boys:

One must not always press on in literature and serious affairs, nor should young students be tasked with immense labors, under which they lapse under exhaustion and find themselves oppressed by the burden of their grievances, such that they understand their studies with less ready facility. Just so, plants may be nourished by seasonable applications of water, but drowned by an excess of the very same. We should remember that our life is divided into two parts: study and relaxation. Just as there is waking and sleep, war and peace, summer and winter, work days and holidays, so is leisure the condiment of labor. And so, one should neither take on too much work, or indulge in excessive leisure. For as Plato says, the enemies of learning are work and sleep.

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Non est semper litteris seriosisque rebus incumbendum, nec immensi labores sunt pueris adiiciendi, sub quibus defessi corruant et alioquin pondere molestiarum oppressi, doctrinam minus mansuete percipiant. Plantae namque cum modicis alantur aquis, quae multis suffocantur. Nosse oportet vitam nostram in duas partes esse divisam: in studium ac remissionem. Sic vigiliae somnus, pax bellum, aestas hiems, operosi festique dies, laboris condimentum est otium. Itaque nec laborem sumere nimium nec otio nimis indulgere oportet. Hostes enim disciplinarum, ut a Platone dictum est, labores atque somni.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Work (or Rest) Too Much!

  1. Great post. I’m doing research right now on Renaissance/Reformation health regimens for scholarly individuals. Since you brought this passage to my attention, I’ll trade you one of mine from the Studiorum ratio of Heinrich Bullinger, a humanist and early Reformed pastor.
    Postea [id est, post cenam] vero si ad mediae horae spatium deambulaveris, concoctionem iuvabis. Et hora exercitatione ad hunc modum transacta, exercitatione inquam, quae & animum & corpus reficiat, redibis ad studia. Locarem ego huic horae Grammaticas, Rhetorum, Dialecticorum & aliarum artium canones: Gellii, Fabii, Agricolae, Tullii, aliorumque lectionem puto, sed cave ne ultra horae circulum ingenium fatiges. Nocent enim nocturna studia plurimum. Nam generant insomnia, somnum turbant, ingenium, memoriam, & visum hebetant. Ubi itaque nonam gnomo attigerit, tum ad somnum te compone, aut si libeat citius quietem adeas licet, at studia in multam protrahere noctem, id demum pestilentissimum.
    Then after dinner, if you spend half an hour taking a walk, it will aid your digestion. Once an hour has passed in exercise of the kind that refreshes both mind and body, you will return to your studies. I personally reserve this hour for the precepts of grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, and the other arts, e.g., Gellius, Quintilian, Agricola, and Cicero. But take care not to fatigue your mind by pressing beyond a full hour. After all, studying at night is quite harmful. It triggers insomnia, disturbs sleep, and weakens your intellect, memory, and sight. So then, at 9:00, get ready for bed. You can turn in even earlier if you like, but prolonging your study deep into the night is extremely harmful.

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