Pliny’s Guidelines for A Retirement Well-Spent

Pliny, Letters 3.1 to Calvisius Rufus

“I am incapable of recalling a time I spent as pleasantly as I just did when I went to see Spurinna—and, in fact, I cannot imagine anyone I would rather imitate more in my old age, should I be allowed to grow old. For no way of living is better designed than his. A well-planned life pleases me as much as the circuit of the stars. This is especially true when it comes to the old—for while a limited amount of chaos and excitement is not inappropriate for the young, a completely calm and ordered life is better for the elderly. Their public service is over and any aims for advancement is perverse at this point.

Spurinna insistently follows this rule and even in small things—minor if they did not happen daily—he follows a plan as if an orbiting body. He lies abed a bit every morning but then asks for his shoes in the second hour and takes a three-mile walk to exercise his mind no less than his body. If his friends are present, they have the most earnest conversations. If they are not there, he has a book read—something he also does at times when his friends are there if it will not annoy them too much. Then, once he sits down, the book is read again or, even better, the conversation continues. Then he climbs into his carriage and takes his wife—a model of her gender—or some friend—recently, me!—along with him.

How fine it is, how sweet a secret! How much of the past one finds there—what deeds and what heroes you hear of! What principles you absorb! He bows to his own modesty, however, and does not seem to give orders. After he has been driven seven miles or so, he walks another mile, and then returns to sit again or he goes back to his writing. For then he writes the most learned lyric lines in both Latin and Greek—they are amazingly sweet and impressive as well for their charm, humor, and grace which the taste of the one who writes them only increases.”

Nescio an ullum iucundius tempus exegerim, quam quo nuper apud Spurinnam fui, adeo quidem ut neminem magis in senectute, si modo senescere datum est, aemulari velim; nihil est enim illo vitae genere distinctius. Me autem ut certus siderum cursus ita vita hominum disposita delectat. Senum praesertim: nam iuvenes confusa adhuc quaedam et quasi turbata non indecent, senibus placida omnia et ordinata conveniunt, quibus industria sera turpis ambitio est.

Hanc regulam Spurinna constantissime servat; quin etiam parva haec—parva si non cotidie fiant—ordine quodam et velut orbe circumagit. Mane lectulo continetur, hora secunda calceos poscit, ambulat milia passuum tria nec minus animum quam corpus exercet. Si adsunt amici, honestissimi sermones explicantur; si non, liber legitur, interdum etiam praesentibus amicis, si tamen illi non gravantur. Deinde considit, et liber rursus aut sermo libro potior; mox vehiculum ascendit, adsumit uxorem singularis exempli vel aliquem amicorum, ut me  proxime. Quam pulchrum illud, quam dulce secretum! quantum ibi antiquitatis! quae facta, quos viros audias! quibus praeceptis imbuare! quamvis ille hoc temperamentum modestiae suae indixerit, ne  praecipere videatur. Peractis septem milibus passuum iterum ambulat mille, iterum residit vel se cubiculo ac stilo reddit. Scribit enim et quidem utraque lingua lyrica doctissima; mira illis dulcedo. mira suavitas, mira hilaritas, cuius gratiam cumulat sanctitas scribentis.

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A Routine for Managing Old Age from Cicero

Cicero, De Senectute 35-36

“Laelius and Scipio, we must resist old age and counteract its weaknesses with care. We must fight against it as we would a disease. A heath regimen must be established. We need moderate exercise and only as much food and drink as is needed to replenish our abilities but not to overcome them. And we should not attend to the body alone: but much greater service is owed to the mind and soul.

For these parts flicker out from old age just as a lamps unfilled with oil waver and dim. The body, moreover, grows worn out from excessive exercise, but our minds are unburdened by working out. For, the men Caecilius calls “the comic old fools” are those he means to mark out as credulous, forgetful, and discombobulated. These are not the faults of old age altogether, but of a lazy, careless, and sleepy old age. Just as petulance and lust are more often traits of young men than old ones, yet are not present in all young men but only the corruptible ones, so too is that aged foolishness which people usually call senility a mark of those who have weak minds, not of all old men.”

Resistendum, Laeli et Scipio, senectuti est eiusque vitia diligentia compensanda sunt, pugnandum tamquam contra morbum sic contra senectutem, habenda  ratio valetudinis, utendum exercitationibus modicis, tantum cibi et potionis adhibendum, ut reficiantur vires, non opprimantur. Nec vero corpori solum subveniendum est, sed menti atque animo multo magis. Nam haec quoque, nisi tamquam lumini oleum instilles, exstinguuntur senectute. Et corpora quidem exercitationum defetigatione ingravescunt, animi autem exercitando levantur. Nam quos ait Caecilius “comicos stultos senes,” hos significat credulos obliviosos dissolutos, quae vitia sunt non senectutis, sed inertis ignavae somniculosae senectutis. Ut petulantia, ut libido magis est adulescentium quam senum, nec tamen omnium adulescentium, sed non proborum, sic ista senilis stultitia, quae deliratio appellari solet, senum levium est, non omnium.

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A New Workout Routine: Jumping Weights

Philostratus, Gymnasticus 55

“The jumping-weight [halter] was a discovery of the pentathletes—it was developed for jumping [halma] where it gets its name. The rules which render the jumping rather difficult among the competitions urge the one jumping along with the flute and lighten him additionally with the jumping-weight. For, it produces a steadfast directional for the hands and regular and clearly-marked stride along the ground. The regulations clarify how much this is worth—for they do not permit measuring of the jump unless a clear footprint is obtained.

The greater weights of jumping help to exercise shoulders and hands while round weights serve to exercise fingers too. Both heavy and light athletes should practice with weights in all their activities except for moments of rest.”

Ἁλτὴρ δὲ πεντάθλων μὲν εὕρημα, εὕρηται δὲ ἐς τὸ ἅλμα, ἀφ’ οὗ δὴ καὶ ὠνόμασται· οἱ γὰρ νόμοι τὸ πήδημα χαλεπώτερον ἡγούμενοι τῶν ἐν ἀγῶνι τῷ τε αὐλῷ προσεγείρουσι τὸν πηδῶντα καὶ τῷ ἁλτῆρι προσελαφρύνουσι· πομπός τε γὰρ τῶν χειρῶν ἀσφαλὴς καὶ τὸ βῆμα ἑδραῖόν τε καὶ εὔσημον εἰς τὴν γῆν ἄγει. τουτὶ δὲ ὁπόσου ἄξιον οἱ νόμοι δηλοῦσιν· οὐ γὰρ ξυγχωροῦσι διαμετρεῖν τὸ πήδημα, ἢν μὴ ἀρτίως ἔχῃ τοῦ ἴχνους. γυμνάζουσι δὲ οἱ μὲν μακροὶ τῶν ἁλτήρων ὤμους τε καὶ χεῖρας, οἱ δὲ σφαιροειδεῖς καὶ δακτύλους. παραληπτέοι δὲ καὶ κούφοις ὁμοίως καὶ βαρέσιν ἐς πάντα γυμνάσια πλὴν τοῦ ἀναπαύοντος

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Black Figure Vase, British Museum, 540 BCE
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Jumping Weights

It Is Good For Women to Exercise Too! (But for Predictable, Instrumental Reasons)

Philostratus, Gymnasticus 27

“And there is also a notion older than this which seemed right to Lykourgos for Sparta. Because he meant to provide warrior-athletes for Sparta, he said, “Let the girls exercise and permit them to run in public. Certainly this strengthening of their bodies was for the sake of good childbearing and that they would have better offspring.

For one who comes from this training to her husband’s home will not hesitate to carry water or to mill grain because she has prepared from her youth. And if she is joined together with a youth who has joined her in rigorous exercise, she will provide better offspring—for they will be tall, strong and rarely sick. Sparta became so preeminent in war once her marriages were prepared in this way.”

Καίτοι καὶ πρεσβύτερον τούτου, ὃ καὶ Λυκούργῳ ἐδόκει τῷ Σπαρτιάτῃ· παριστάμενος γὰρ τῇ Λακεδαίμονι πολεμικοὺς ἀθλητὰς, “γυμναζέσθων,” φησὶν, “αἱ κόραι καὶ ἀνείσθων δημοσίᾳ τρέχειν.” ὑπὲρ εὐπαιδίας δήπου καὶ τοῦ τὰ ἔκγονα βελτίω τίκτειν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐρρῶσθαι τὸ σῶμα· ἀφικομένη γὰρ ἐς ἀνδρὸς ὑδροφορεῖν οὐκ ὀκνήσει οὐδὲ ἀλεῖν διὰ τὸ ἠσκῆσθαι ἐκ νέας· εἰ δὲ καὶ νέῳ καὶ συγγυμναζομένῳ συζυγείη, βελτίω τὰ ἔκγονα ἀποδώσει, καὶ γὰρ εὐμήκη καὶ ἰσχυρὰ καὶ ἄνοσα. καὶ ἐγένετο ἡ Λακεδαίμων τοσαύτη κατὰ πόλεμον, ἐπειδὴ τὰ γαμικὰ αὐτοῖς ὧδε ἐπράττετο.

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Still Working on a Resolution? Some Exercise and Diet Suggestions from Ancient Greece

Philostratus, Gymnasticus 43-44

“Let that be enough said concerning the topic of the mixture of humors in contemporary exercise, since the ancient practice had no concept of the mixture but worked on strength alone. Ancient authors mean any type of exercise at all when they use the term ‘gymnastic’. Some people used to exercise by carrying weights which were not easy to carry; others attempted to match the speed of horses and hares; others still used to straighten and bend thick pieces of worked iron. Others  yoked themselves alongside strong, wagon-pulling oxen and others used to try to strangle bulls or even lions.

These things were the training regimen of the Polymêstors, the Glaukoi, the Alesiai, and Poulydamas of Skotussa. The hands of the boxer Tisander used to obtain their exercise by carrying him as he swam around the head of the island and deep into the sea. Rivers and springs cleansed the men of old and they were in the practice of sleeping on the ground, some making their beds from skins and others fashioning them from the meadows. Their food were barley cakes or bread which was unsifted and unleavened. They ate the meat of cows, bulls, and goats, and they oiled themselves from wild olives.

This is how they avoided sickness and grew old only late in life. Some of them even competed for eight or nine Olympiads and they were also good warriors. They fought defending their city walls and did not fall there, but were considered worthy of recognition and trophies, since they used warfare as training for sports and sports to train for war.

When the state of affairs changed and they become inexperienced of fighting, lazy rather than vigorous, and soft instead of hard, then Sicilian delicacy overpowered their diet. This is when the athletic fields were weakened and, then even more, when flattery was made part of exercise.”

Ταῦτα εἰρήσθω μοι περὶ κράσεως ἐκ τῆς νῦν γυμναστικῆς, ὡς ἡ ἀρχαία γε οὐδὲ ἐγίνωσκε κρᾶσιν, ἀλλὰ μόνην τὴν ἰσχὺν ἐγύμναζεν. γυμναστικὴν δὲ οἱ παλαιοὶ καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ ὁτιοῦν γυμνάζεσθαι· ἐγυμνάζοντο δὲ οἱ μὲν ἄχθη φέροντες οὐκ εὔφορα, οἱ δ’ ὑπὲρ τάχους ἁμιλλώμενοι πρὸς ἵππους καὶ πτῶκας, οἱ δ’ ὀρθοῦντές τε καὶ κάμπτοντες σίδηρον ἐληλαμένον εἰς παχύ, οἱ δὲ βουσὶ συνεζευγμένοι καρτεροῖς τε καὶ ἁμαξεῦουσιν, οἱ δὲ ταύρους ἀπαυχενίζοντες, οἱ δ’ αὐτοὺς λέοντας. ταῦτα δὲ δὴ Πολυμήστορες καὶ Γλαῦκοι καὶ Ἀλησίαι καὶ Πουλυδάμας ὁ Σκοτουσσαῖος. Τίσανδρον δὲ τὸν ἐκ τῆς Νάξου πύκτην περὶ τὰ ἀκρωτήρια τῆς νήσου νέοντα παρέπεμπον αἱ χεῖρες ἐπὶ πολὺ τῆς θαλάσσης [παραπεμπόμεναι] γυμναζόμεναί τε καὶ γυμνάζουσαι. ποταμοί τε αὐτοὺς ἔλουον καὶ πηγαὶ καὶ χαμευνίαν ἐπήσκουν, οἱ μὲν ἐπὶ βυρσῶν ἐκταθέντες, οἱ δ’ εὐνὰς ἀμήσαντες ἐκ λειμώνων.

σιτία δὲ αὐτοῖς αἵ τε μᾶζαι καὶ τῶν ἄρτων οἱ ἄπτιστοι καὶ μὴ ζυμῆται καὶ τῶν κρεῶν τὰ βόειά τε καὶ ταύρεια καὶ τράγεια τούτους ἔβοσκε καὶ δόρκοι κότινου τε <καὶ> φυλίας ἔχριον αὑτοὺς λίπα· ὅθεν ἄνοσοί τε ἤσκουν καὶ ὀψὲ ἐγήρασκον. ἠγωνίζοντό τε οἱ μὲν ὀκτὼ Ὀλυμπιάδας, οἱ δὲ ἐννέα, καὶ ὁπλιτεύειν ἀγαθοὶ ἦσαν, ἐμάχοντό τε ὑπὲρ τειχῶν οὐδὲ ἐκεῖ πίπτοντες, ἀλλὰ ἀριστείων τε ἀξιούμενοι καὶ τροπαίων, καὶ μελέτην ποιούμενοι πολεμικὰ μὲν γυμναστικῶν, γυμναστικὰ δὲ πολεμικῶν ἔργα.

Ἐπεὶ δὲ μετέβαλε ταῦτα καὶ ἀστράτευτοι μὲν ἐκ μαχομένων, ἀργοὶ δὲ ἐξ ἐνεργῶν, ἀνειμένοι δὲ ἐκ κατεσκληκότων ἐγένοντο Σικελική τε ὀψοφαγία ἴσχυσεν, ἐξενευρίσθη τὰ στάδια, καὶ πολλῷ μᾶλλον, ἐπειδὴ κολακευτική γε ἐγκατελέχθη τῇ γυμναστικῇ.

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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

Next Time You Feel Self-Conscious at the Gym, Remember This

Diogenes Laertius, 6.92

“Zeno of Citium writes in his Anecdotes that after Kratês unthinkingly sewed a sheepskin to his cloak, he looked absurd and was laughed at when he exercised. He was in the habit of raising his hands and saying “Be bold, Kratês, for your eyes and your body. Someday you will see these men who laughing at you worn out by sickness and envying you, criticizing their own laziness.

He used to say that we should pursue philosophy until generals seemed to be donkey-drivers. He also claimed that those who lived with flatterers were as exposed as calves among wolves—For there is no one to protect these or those, but only those who contrive against them. When he perceived he was dying, he sang to himself, saying “you are going to Hades’ home, dear hunchback”. [For he was a hunchback because of old age.”

Ζήνων δ’ ὁ Κιτιεὺς ἐν ταῖς Χρείαις καὶ κῴδιον αὐτόν φησί ποτε προσράψαι τῷ τρίβωνι ἀνεπιστρεπτοῦντα. ἦν δὲ καὶ τὴν ὄψιν αἰσχρὸς καὶ γυμναζόμενος ἐγελᾶτο. εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ἐπαίρων τὰς χεῖρας, “θάρρει, Κράτης, ὑπὲρ ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ τοῦ λοιποῦ σώματος· τούτους δ’ ὄψει τοὺς καταγελῶντας, ἤδη καὶ συνεσπασμένους ὑπὸ νόσου καί σε μακαρίζοντας, αὑτοὺς δὲ καταμεμφομένους ἐπὶ τῇ ἀργίᾳ.” ἔλεγε δὲ μέχρι τούτου δεῖν φιλοσοφεῖν, μέχρι ἂν δόξωσιν οἱ στρατηγοὶ εἶναι ὀνηλάται. ἐρήμους ἔλεγε τοὺς μετὰ κολάκων ὄντας ὥσπερ τοὺς μόσχους ἐπειδὰν μετὰ λύκων ὦσιν· οὔτε γὰρ ἐκείνοις τοὺς προσήκοντας οὔτε τούτοις συνεῖναι, ἀλλὰτοὺς ἐπιβουλεύοντας. συναισθανόμενος ὅτι ἀποθνήσκει, ἐπῇδε πρὸς ἑαυτὸν λέγων (PPF 10 B 9),

στείχεις δή, φίλε κυρτών,

[βαίνεις] εἰς ᾿Αίδαο δόμους [κυφὸς ὥρην διὰ γῆρας].

 

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