Breaks and Games in Education

Quintilian  1.3

“Everyone still needs some kind of break, not only because there is no material which can endure endless labor—and even those things which lack perception or life must be guarded in turns of rest in order to protect their strength—but also because studying requires a desire to learn which cannot be compelled.

Once renewed and made fresh, students who often bristle at what is compulsory bring a greater intensity and a sharper mind to learning. Games do not bother me in young students—for this is also a sign of an excited mind—and I do not hope that a sad and always downcast child will come to studies with a sharp mind when the natural energy customary to that age is missing.

But, still, there should be a reasonable balance to breaks so students might not hate their studies when breaks are denied nor get too accustomed to leisure. There are even some games which are helpful for sharpening the wits of students—such as when they compete by asking each other little questions of any kind. Characters also unveil themselves more simply during games. But, no age seems to be so infirm that it cannot learn immediately what is right and wrong and the age especially good for shaping a character is before children know how to dissimulate and still yield to their teachers most easily. For it is faster to break things that have hardened into evil than it is to correct them.”

Danda est tamen omnibus aliqua remissio, non solum quia nulla res est quae perferre possit continuum laborem, atque ea quoque quae sensu et anima carent ut servare vim suam possint velut quiete alterna retenduntur, sed quod studium discendi voluntate, quae cogi non potest, constat. Itaque et virium plus adferunt ad discendum renovati ac recentes et acriorem animum, qui fere necessitatibus repugnat. Nec me offenderit lusus in pueris (est et hoc signum alacritatis), neque illum tristem semperque demissum sperare possim erectae circa studia mentis fore, cum in hoc quoque maxime naturali aetatibus illis impetu iaceat. Modus tamen sit remissionibus, ne aut odium studiorum faciant negatae aut otii consuetudinem nimiae. Sunt etiam nonnulli acuendis puerorum ingeniis non inutiles lusus, cum positis invicem cuiusque generis quaestiunculis aemulantur. Mores quoque se inter ludendum simplicius detegunt: modo nulla videatur aetas tam infirma quae non protinus quid rectum pravumque sit discat, tum vel maxime formanda cum simulandi nescia est et praecipientibus facillime cedit; frangas enim citius quam corrigas quae in pravum induruerunt.

Image result for medieval manuscript student and teachers
From the British Library

Whistleblower in Ancient Greek

For no particular reason. This list may develop….

Treason: A Theme for Every Season

Some Greek Words for Treason Just in Case You Need Them

ἀπιστία, “treachery”
προδοσία, “high treason”, “betrayal”
προδότης “traitor”
ἐπιβουλή, “plot”

From the Twelve Tables

“The Law of the Twelve Tables commands that anyone who has conspired with an enemy against the state or handed a citizen to a public enemy, should suffer capital punishment.”

Marcianus, ap. Dig., XLVIII, 4, 3: Lex XII Tabularum iubet eum qui hostem concitaverit quive civem hosti tradiderit capite puniri.

Cicero, De Legibus 3.2

“[Cases concerning] death and citizenship must not be pursued except before the greatest assembly and those whom the censors have recorded in the rolls of the citizens.”

de capite civis nisi per maximum comitiatum ollosque, quos censores in partibus populi locasint, ne ferunto.

Xenophon, Apology 25

“These opponents have not said that I am guilty of any of the actions for which the established penalty is death–robbing a temple, theft, enslaving someone, betraying the state…”

ἐφ᾿ οἷς γε μὴν ἔργοις κεῖται θάνατος ἡ ζημία, ἱεροσυλίᾳ, τοιχωρυχίᾳ, ἀνδραποδίσει, πόλεως προδοσίᾳ, οὐδ᾿ αὐτοὶ οἱ ἀντίδικοι τούτων πρᾶξαί τι κατ᾿ ἐμοῦ φασιν.

Plato, Laws 856b-d

“Whoever raises a human being into power and thus enslaves the laws, whoever makes the state subordinate to his petty faction and transgresses what is right by doing all of this violently and stirring up civil strife, he should be considered the most inimical to the whole state.

And the kind of person who does not share these actions, but does occupy some of the most important offices of the state and either fails to observe them or does not fail but will not avenge his country because of cowardice, he should be considered as a citizen at a second degree of evil.

Let each person whose worth is small bear witness to the officers of the state by bringing this person to court for his plotting violent and unconstitutional revolution. Give them the same charges we have for temple robbery and run the trial as it is in those cases where the death penalty comes by majority vote.”

ὃς ἂν ἄγων εἰς ἀρχὴν ἄνθρωπον δουλῶται μὲν τοὺς νόμους, ἑταιρείαις δὲ τὴν πόλιν ὑπήκοον ποιῇ, καὶ βιαίως δὴ πᾶν τοῦτο πράττων καὶ στάσιν ἐγείρων παρανομῇ, τοῦτον δὴ διανοεῖσθαί δεῖ πάντων πολεμιώτατον ὅλῃ τῇ πόλει. τὸν δὲ κοινωνοῦντα μὲν τῶν τοιούτων μηδενί, τῶν μεγίστων δὲ μετέχοντα ἀρχῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει, λεληθότα τε ταῦτα αὐτὸν ἢ μὴ λεληθότα, δειλίᾳ δ᾿ ὑπὲρ Cπατρίδος αὑτοῦ μὴ τιμωρούμενον, δεῖ δεύτερον ἡγεῖσθαι τὸν τοιοῦτον πολίτην κάκῃ. πᾶς δὲ ἀνὴρ οὗ καὶ σμικρὸν ὄφελος ἐνδεικνύτω ταῖς ἀρχαῖς εἰς κρίσιν ἄγων τὸν ἐπιβουλεύοντα βιαίου πολιτείας μεταστάσεως ἅμα καὶ παρανόμου. δικασταὶ δὲ ἔστωσαν τούτοις οἵπερ τοῖς ἱεροσύλοις, καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν κρίσιν ὡσαύτως αὐτοῖς γίγνεσθαι καθάπερ ἐκείνοις, τὴν ψῆφον δὲ θάνατον φέρειν τὴν πλήθει νικῶσαν.

Lycurgus, Against Leocrates, 126-7

“It is right that punishments for other crimes come after them, but punishment for treason should precede the dissolution of the state. If you miss that opportune moment when those men are about to do something treacherous against their state, it is not possible for you to obtain justice from the men who did wrong: for they become stronger than the punishment possible from those who have been wronged.”

τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἄλλων ἀδικημάτων ὑστέρας δεῖ τετάχθαι τὰς τιμωρίας, προδοσίας δὲ καὶ δήμου καταλύσεως προτέρας. εἰ γὰρ προήσεσθε τοῦτον τὸν καιρὸν, ἐν ᾧ μέλλουσιν ἐκεῖνοι κατὰ τῆς πατρίδος φαῦλόν τι πράττειν, οὐκ ἔστιν ὑμῖν μετὰ ταῦτα δίκην παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀδικούντων λαβεῖν· κρείττους γὰρ ἤδη γίγνονται τῆς παρὰ τῶν ἀδικουμένων τιμωρίας.

Plato, Laws 881a-b

“Death is not the most extreme penalty–there are those described in Hades for offenses like this which are beyond death and are truly described, but they are useless in deterring some kinds of minds from their crimes.”

θάνατος μὲν οὖν οὐκ ἔστιν ἔσχατον, οἱ δὲ ἐν Ἅιδου τούτοισι λεγόμενοι πόνοι ἔτι τε τούτου εἰσὶ μᾶλλον ἐν ἐσχάτοις, καὶ ἀληθέστατα λεγόμενοι οὐδὲν ἀνύτουσι ταῖς τοιαύταις ψυχαῖς ἀποτροπῆς·

From Brill’s New Pauly on the death penalty in Greece and Rome by Gottfriend Schiemann:

“In Athens not only premeditated killing (phónos) and sedition and high treason (katálysis toû dḗmoû, prodosía ) resulted in the death penalty, but also religious offences such as desecration of the temple (hierosylía) and (cf. in particular the case against Socrates [2], 399 BC) publicly taught godlessness (asébeia). In a similar way, in Rome there was provision for the state death penalty for sedition and high treason (perduellio) by beheading (decollatio , in Greece apokephalízein) with an axe, later a sword. In the Roman Imperial period this was the typical death penalty for honestiores , but now sometimes also for homicide.”

The death penalty is not the enactment of justice, it is the execution of vengeance when justice is impossible or not actually desired. It does not function as a deterrent. It is meted out disproportionately to people without financial and social capital, which in the United States means that people of color face capital charges and are executed at far higher rates.  The moral peril is compounded by the imperfection of our criminal system where at least 1 in 25 people on death row are actually innocent. The death penalty is not part of a justice system, it is part of a vengeance system.

Note the connection in several passages between the sanctity of the state, the power to end a life, and citizenship.

Bonus Content on treason: 

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 10.1

“Look, I have letters here which are obvious proof of treason and have the plans of the enemy.”

teneo ecce epistulas, in quibus manifesta proditionis argumenta sunt, in quibus hostium consilia

Polybius, Histories 5.59.2

“…because of the style of his life and his treason against his country I believe he is worthy of the greatest punishment.”

….κατά γε τὴν τοῦ βίου προαίρεσιν καὶ τὴν εἰς πατρίδα παρανομίαν τῆς μεγίστης ἄξιον κρίνω τιμωρίας

Cicero, De Senectute 12.39–40

“He used to say that no plague is more fatal than the bodily pleasure which has been given to human beings by nature. Zealous lusts for this kind of pleasure compel people toward pursuing them insanely and without any control. From this source springs treason against our country, coups against the legitimate government, and from here secret meetings with enemies are born.”

Nullam capitaliorem pestem quam voluptatem corporis hominibus dicebat a natura datam, cuius voluptatis avidae libidines temere et ecfrenate ad potiendum incitarentur. Hinc patriae proditiones, hinc rerum publicarum eversiones, hinc cum hostibus clandestina colloquia nasci

But Wait! There’s More!

Some Greek Words for Perjury

ἐπιορκία, ἡ: perjury
ἐπίορκος, ὁ: Perjurer
ἐπιορκέω: to commit perjury
ψευδορκεῖν: to make a false oath

Plato, Republic 334b (referring to Od. 19.395)

“He bested all men in theft and perjury.”

αὐτὸν πάντας ἀνθρώπους κεκάσθαι κλεπτοσύνῃ θ’ ὅρκῳ τε.

Thales (according to Diogenes Laertius)

“Isn’t perjury worse than adultery?”

οὐ χεῖρον, ἔφη, μοιχείας ἐπιορκία

Plautus, Curculio 470

“Whoever wants to find a perjurer should go to the public assembly”

qui periurum conuenire uolt hominem ito in comitium

Cicero, De legibus  II.22

“For perjury the divine punishment is destruction, the human punishment is shame”

Periurii poena divina exitium, humana dedecus.

Image result for medieval manuscript traitor
Jacob van Maerlant, (The traitor Ganelon drawn and quartered)., Spieghel Historiael, West Flanders, c. 1325-1335


A reminder:

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.47

“So one thing is worth much: to keep on living with truth and justice and in good will even among liars and unjust men”

Ἓν ὧδε πολλοῦ ἄξιον, τὸ μετ᾿ ἀληθείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης εὐμενῆ τοῖς ψεύσταις καὶ ἀδίκοις διαβιοῦν.

Harming the Athenians

Thanks to Dimitri Nakassis for sending me this passage

Thucydides. 7.27

“Thirteen hundred peltasts, Thracian swordsmen from the Dii tribe, also came to Athens the same summer. They were supposed to have traveled to Sicily with Demosthenes. Because they were rather late, the Athenians decided to send them back to Thrace where they came from. For it seemed too expense to retain them for the Decelean War since they each were earning a drachma a day.

Since Decelea was first invested by the whole enemy army in that summer and later was held by the garrisons coming from different cities coming in turn to ravage the land, it was causing great harm to the Athenians. Indeed, this undermined Athenian affairs first by loss of property and then by the death of men.

Previous attacks were brief and did not keep the Athenians from deriving benefit from their land the rest of the time. But once they were continually invested in Attica and they were sometimes attacking in force and at other times using a single garrison attacking the country and pillaging to supply itself. The Spartan king Agis was also present and he was no slacker in prosecuting the war.

The Athenians were greatly harmed; they were deprived of their whole land. More than twenty thousand slaves freed themselves and a great number of these were craftspeople. All of the sheep and pack animals perished. And the Athenian horses, because the cavalry was deploying every day to attack Decelea and guard the land, either went lame because of working on rocky ground or they were wounded.

ἀφίκοντο δὲ καὶ Θρᾳκῶν τῶν μαχαιροφόρων τοῦ Διακοῦ γένους ἐς τὰς Ἀθήνας πελτασταὶ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ θέρει τούτῳ τριακόσιοι καὶ χίλιοι, οὓς ἔδει τῷ Δημοσθένει ἐς τὴν Σικελίαν ξυμπλεῖν. [2] οἱ δ᾽ Ἀθηναῖοι, ὡς ὕστεροι ἧκον, διενοοῦντο αὐτοὺς πάλιν ὅθεν ἦλθον ἐς Θρᾴκην ἀποπέμπειν. τὸ γὰρ ἔχειν πρὸς τὸν ἐκ τῆς Δεκελείας πόλεμον αὐτοὺς πολυτελὲς ἐφαίνετο: δραχμὴν γὰρ τῆς ἡμέρας ἕκαστος ἐλάμβανεν. [3] ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἡ Δεκέλεια τὸ μὲν πρῶτον ὑπὸ πάσης τῆς στρατιᾶς ἐν τῷ θέρει τούτῳ τειχισθεῖσα, ὕστερον δὲ φρουραῖς ἀπὸ τῶν πόλεων κατὰ διαδοχὴν χρόνου ἐπιούσαις τῇ χώρᾳ ἐπῳκεῖτο, πολλὰ ἔβλαπτε τοὺς Ἀθηναίους, καὶ ἐν τοῖς πρῶτον χρημάτων τ᾽ ὀλέθρῳ καὶ ἀνθρώπων φθορᾷ ἐκάκωσε τὰ πράγματα. [4] πρότερον μὲν γὰρ βραχεῖαι γιγνόμεναι αἱ ἐσβολαὶ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον τῆς γῆς ἀπολαύειν οὐκ ἐκώλυον: τότε δὲ ξυνεχῶς ἐπικαθημένων, καὶ ὁτὲ μὲν καὶ πλεόνων ἐπιόντων, ὁτὲ δ᾽ ἐξ ἀνάγκης τῆς ἴσης φρουρᾶς καταθεούσης τε τὴν χώραν καὶ λῃστείας ποιουμένης, βασιλέως τε παρόντος τοῦ τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων Ἄγιδος, ὃς οὐκ ἐκ παρέργου τὸν πόλεμον ἐποιεῖτο, μεγάλα οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἐβλάπτοντο. [5] τῆς τε γὰρ χώρας ἁπάσης ἐστέρηντο, καὶ ἀνδραπόδων πλέον ἢ δύο μυριάδες ηὐτομολήκεσαν, καὶ τούτων τὸ πολὺ μέρος χειροτέχναι, πρόβατά τε πάντα ἀπωλώλει καὶ ὑποζύγια: ἵπποι τε, ὁσημέραι ἐξελαυνόντων τῶν ἱππέων πρός τε τὴν Δεκέλειαν καταδρομὰς ποιουμένων καὶ κατὰ τὴν χώραν φυλασσόντων, οἱ μὲν ἀπεχωλοῦντο ἐν γῇ ἀποκρότῳ τε καὶ ξυνεχῶς ταλαιπωροῦντες, οἱ δ᾽ ἐτιτρώσκοντο.

It would be edifying to write a history of the Peloponnesian War from the perspective of the slaves on either side. At the very least, a selection of all the passages which mentioned slavery and enslaved peoples would change the way we think of the war.

Note from Charles F. Smith on

πλέον  δύο μυριάδες : Boeckh, P. E. p. 55, reckons the number of slaves in Athens in the most flourishing period at 365,000, so that the number here given does not seem incredible.

From wikipedia



Scholarship and Superfluous Detail

Ah, pedantry. I may have had some thoughts about it….

Artemon of Pergamon (New Jacoby: BNJ 569 F 3 [=Schol. on Pind., Pyth. 1, inscr. a])

“Golden Lyre”: The poem has been written for Hieron; Pindar allegedly said this according to the historian Artemon because Hieron promised him a golden lyre. But these kinds of things are full of superfluous detail”

Χρυσέα φόρμιγξ] γέγραπται μὲν ὁ ἐπίνικος ῾Ιέρωνι, λέγεται δὲ ὁ Πίνδαρος οὕτως ἐπιβεβλῆσθαι κατὰ ᾽Αρτέμωνα τὸν ἱστορικόν, ὅτι δὴ αὐτῶι ὁ ῾Ιέρων χρυσῆν ὑπέσχετο κιθάραν . τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα περιεργίας πεπλήρωται.

From LSJ 1902

περιεργαζόμαι, “to take more pains than enough about a thing, to waste one’s labor” 2. “to be a busybody”

περιεργία: “over-exactness” II. “officiousness” III. “curious arts”

περίεργος: “careful overmuch” II. “done with especial care”; “overwrought, too elaborate, superfluous”

περιεργοπένητες: “poor scholars”

Suda, Kappa 504

Kataglôttismata: “tonguing-down”: all sorts of kisses. Fabrications. All kinds of massages with sweet oils. Also, superfluous words. Or the “tonguing-down” is a rather excessive kiss. Or, it is flattery”

Καταγλωττίσματα: περίεργα φιλήματα. καταπλάσματα, παντοῖαι μυραλοιφίαι, ἢ περιλαλήματα. ἢ εἶδος φιλήματος περιεργότερον τὸ καταγλώττισμα: ἢ κολάκευμα.

Breviary of Renaud de Bar, France, 1302-1303:

Four Proverbs for Fools

Go here for more information about Ancient Greek collections of proverbs.

Arsenius, 5.29b

“A fool laughs even when nothing is funny.”

Γελᾷ δ’ ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ.


Michael Apostolios 3.87

“You are considering ancient history.” A proverb applied to fools and simpletons.

᾿Αρχαϊκὰ φρονεῖς: ἐπὶ τῶν μωρῶν καὶ εὐηθῶν.


Michaelos Apostolios 11.92

“A fool can’t keep quiet”

Μωρὸς σιωπᾷν οὐ δύναται.


“He will blame instead of imitate”: a proverb applied to the uneducable and because it is easier to criticize than emulate.”

Μωμήσεται μᾶλλον ἢ μιμήσεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων, καὶ ὅτι τὸ ψέγειν τοῦ μιμεῖσθαι ῥᾳότερον.


Roman comments on fools.

Also: μωρολογία: properly, “stupid-talking” or “the talk of fools”. But why not: “the science of stupidity”?

Related image
Miniature from the Bute Psalter; c. 1270-80

A bonus anecdote for this evening;

Stobaeus 3.34.15

“Solon, after he was asked by Periander over drink—when the former happened to be quiet—whether he was silent because of a loss of words or foolishness, said “No fool could ever be quiet at a drinking party.”

Σόλων ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπὸ Περιάνδρου παρὰ πότον, ἐπεὶ σιωπῶν ἐτύγχανε, πότερα διὰ λόγων σπάνιν ἢ διὰ μωρίαν σιωπᾷ, ‘ἀλλ’ οὐδεὶς ἄν’ εἶπε ‘μωρὸς σιωπᾶν ἐν συμποσίῳ δύναιτο’.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Aristophanes, Assemblywomen 363-371

“Who can get a doctor for me and which one?
Who is an expert in the art of assholes?
Is it Amunôn? Perhaps he will decline.
Have someone call Antisthenes by any means.
For this man knows why an asshole wants
To shit thanks to the groaning.
Queen Eleithuia, don’t you ignore me
When I am breaking but all stopped up,
Don’t let me be the comic chamberpot!”

τίς ἂν οὖν ἰατρόν μοι μετέλθοι, καὶ τίνα;
τίς τῶν καταπρώκτων δεινός ἐστι τὴν τέχνην;
ἆρ᾿ οἶδ᾿ Ἀμύνων; ἀλλ᾿ ἴσως ἀρνήσεται.
Ἀντισθένη τις καλεσάτω πάσῃ τέχνῃ·
οὗτος γὰρ ἁνὴρ ἕνεκά γε στεναγμάτων
οἶδεν τί πρωκτὸς βούλεται χεζητιῶν.
ὦ πότνι᾿ Ἱλείθυα μή με περιίδῃς
διαρραγέντα μηδὲ βεβαλανωμένον,
ἵνα μὴ γένωμαι σκωραμὶς κωμῳδική.

By Autor: Dr.Rudolf Schandalik. – Own work Eigenes Foto, Public Domain,