Tell Me Ancient Sages: Should I Take a Nap?

Democritus D183 [(B212) Stob. 3.6.27]

“Sleeping in the day is a sign of trouble in the body or else anxiety, laziness or ignorance of the soul”

ἡμερήσιοι ὕπνοι σώματος ὄχλησιν ἢ ψυχῆς ἀδημοσύνην ἢ ἀργίην ἢ ἀπαιδευσίην σημαίνουσι.

But Cicero did it!

Cicero, De Divinatione 2. 142 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“With the exception of that dream about Marius, I don’t remember any one clearly. How many of the nights during my long life have been useless! Now too, thanks to a break in my political work, I have stopped studying at night and I have added daytime napping—which I never used to do at all. But I am neither bothered by any dream in so much sleep—and certainly not concerning these great affairs, and nor do I ever think more to myself that must be dreaming when I actually see the magistrates in the forum and the senators in the senate.”

Mihi quidem praeter hoc Marianum nihil sane, quod meminerim. Frustra igitur consumptae tot noctes tam longa in aetate! Nunc quidem propter intermissionem forensis operae et lucubrationes detraxi et meridiationes addidi, quibus uti antea non solebam, nec tam multum dormiens ullo somnio sum admonitus, tantis praesertim de rebus, nec mihi magis umquam videor, quam cum aut in foro magistratus aut in curia senatum video, somniare.

Theocritus, Epigram 19

“Be bold and sit down—if you want, take a nap”

θαρσέων καθίζευ, κἢν θέλῃς ἀπόβριξον

Philostratus, Heroicus 16

“For he happened to be sleeping there at midday…”

ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἔτυχε καθεύδων μεσημβρίας ἐνταῦθα


Apuleius, Metamorphoses 4.27 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“To start with, only false dreams accompany naps during the day and, in addition, even nighttime dreams often prophesy the opposite facts. For example, crying, being beaten or even sometimes having your throat slit in dreams actually predicts profitable or prosperous futures. Laughing or scarfing down honey-sweet treats or having sex, on the contrary, will foretell someone being troubled by depression, physical exhaustion and other kinds of curses.”

Nam praeter quod diurnae quietis imagines falsae perhibentur, tunc etiam nocturnae visiones contrarios eventus nonnumquam pronuntiant. Denique flere et vapulare et nonnumquam iugulari lucrosum prosperumque proventum nuntiant; contra ridere et mellitis dulciolis ventrem saginare vel in voluptatem Veneriam convenire tristitie animi, languore corporis, damnisque ceteris vexatum iri praedicabunt.

Martial, Epigram 3.44.16 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Exhausted, I am trying to sleep—you keep waking me when I lie down.”

lassus dormio: suscitas iacentem.

Lucian, A True Story 2. 26 (Full Greek text on the Scaife Viewer)

“I was not there for I happened to be taking a nap at the dinner party”

ἐγὼ μὲν οὐ παρῆν· ἐτύγχανον γὰρ ἐν τῷ συμποσίῳ κοιμώμενος

Varro did it too!

Varro, On Agriculture 2.6 (Full text on LacusCurtius)

“I would not be able to live here, where the night and day return and depart in equal turn, if I did not split the difference with my customary midday nap.”

Ego hic, ubi nox et dies modice redit et abit, tamen aestivo die, si non diffinderem meo insiticio somno meridie, vivere non possum. Illic in semenstri die aut nocte quem ad modum quicquam seri aut alescere aut meti possit?

Give me a verdict, Horace….

Horace, Epistle 2.31-36 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Come now, what disturbs the sound of our shared song?
One who once wore finely made and beautiful hair
One you know was pleasing to thirsty Cinara,
And who would drink bright Falernian in the middle of the day,
Now a small meal pleases him followed by a nap in the soft plants by a river–
It is not shameful to have been a fool, but only not to stop being one.”

Nunc age, quid nostrum concentum dividat audi.
quem tenues decuere togae nitidique capilli,
quem scis immunem Cinarae placuisse rapaci,
quem bibulum liquidi media de luce Falerni,
cena brevis iuvat et prope rivum somnus in herba;
nec lusisse pudet, sed non incidere ludum.

Image result for medieval monk napping
British Library Royal 10 E IV f. 221

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