For Resolution Season: Galen on the Importance of Delighting the Soul During Exercise

Galen, On Exercise with A Small Ball, 1-2

“My Epigenes, how important for health exercise is—and how it is right to engage in it before good—has been sufficiently explained by much earlier men, the best of the philosophers and doctors. But no one before has sufficiently explained how much exercises with a small ball are better than the others. It is right, for this reason, for me to explain what I know so that you may evaluate it as someone who is of all men most well practiced in these arts and also so that it may be useful for others—should you truly believe that they have been elaborated sufficiently—when you share the work with them.

For I say that he best of all exercises are not only those which thoroughly wear out the body, but can also delight the soul. Men who invented the practice of hunting with dogs figured out how to combine hunting with pleasure, delight, and competitive spirit—they were wise in respect to human nature. The soul may be moved so much in this activity, that many people are freed from disease because of pleasure alone while many others who felt sickness coming on were relieved of the pressure.

There is nothing of the experiences of the body which is so strong that it completely overpowers the soul. Therefore, we should not neglect the movements of the spirit—whatever kind they are—but, instead, we should make a greater consideration of it than of the body because it is that much more powerful. This is certainly a shared quality of all exercises which happen pleasurably, but it is a choice quality of those performed with the small ball, which I will now explain.”

Πηλίκον μὲν ἀγαθόν ἐστιν, ὦ Ἐπίγενες, εἰς ὑγίειαν γυμνάσια, καὶ ὡς χρὴ τῶν σιτίων ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτά, παλαιοῖς ἀνδράσιν αὐτάρκως εἴρηται, φιλοσόφων τε καὶ ἰατρῶν τοῖς ἀρίστοις· ὅσον δ’ ὑπὲρ τἄλλα τὰ διὰ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας ἐστί, τοῦτ’ οὐδέπω τῶν πρόσθεν ἱκανῶς οὐδεὶς ἐξηγήσατο. δίκαιον οὖν ἡμᾶς ἃ γιγνώσκομεν εἰπεῖν, ὑπὸ σοῦ μὲν κριθησόμενα τοῦ πάντων ἠσκηκότος ἄριστα τὴν ἐν αὐτοῖς τέχνην, χρήσιμα δ’,3 εἴπερ ἱκανῶς εἰρῆσθαι δόξειε, καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις, οἷς ἂν μεταδῷς τοῦ λόγου, γενησόμενα.

φημὶ γὰρ ἄριστα μὲν ἁπάντων γυμνασίων εἶναι τὰ μὴ μόνον τὸ σῶμα διαπονεῖν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν τέρπειν δυνάμενα. καὶ ὅσοι κυνηγέσια καὶ τὴν ἄλλην θήραν ἐξεῦρον, ἡδονῇ καὶ τέρψει καὶ φιλοτιμίᾳ τὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς πόνον κερασάμενοι, σοφοί τινες ἄνδρες ἦσαν καὶ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ἀκριβῶς καταμεμαθηκότες. τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ δύναται ψυχῆς κίνησις, ὥστε πολλοὶ μὲν ἀπηλλάγησαν νοσημάτων ἡσθέντες μόνον, πολλοὶ δ’ ἑάλωσαν ἀνιαθέντες. οὐδ’ ἔστιν οὐδὲν οὕτως ἰσχυρόν τι τῶν κατὰ τὸ σῶμα παθημάτων, ὡς κρατεῖν τῶν περὶ τὴν ψυχήν. οὔκουν οὐδ’ ἀμελεῖν χρὴ τῶν ταύτης κινήσεων ὁποῖαί τινες ἔσονται, πολὺ δὲ μᾶλλον ἢ τῶν τοῦ σώματος ἐπιμελεῖσθαι τά τ’ ἄλλα καὶ ὅσῳ κυριώτεραι. τοῦτο μὲν δὴ κοινὸν ἁπάντων γυμνασίων τῶν μετὰ τέρψεως, ἄλλα δ’ ἐξαίρετα τῶν διὰ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας, ἃ ἐγὼ νῦν ἐξηγήσομαι.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5715834