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

Philosophical Support for A Resolution: Plutarch on Overeating

Plutarch’s Moralia, “Advice about Keeping Well”, 10

“But, just as flowers’ scents are on their own weak but when mixed with oil they gain strength and tone, so too does an initial mass of food provide substance and body, so to speak, to the causes and origins of afflictions from outside the body. Deprived of this, none of these can be severe, but instead they wither away and decrease on their own, when simple blood and clean breath meet their entry. But in a mass and excess of food, it is just like some kind of churning mud which makes everything unclear, and dirty and hard to pass when it is stirred up.

We should not, then, be just like those praised ship captains who allow a massive cargo because of greed and are for this reason always occupied baling and pouring the sea out of their ship—no, we must not stuff our body and then apply medicine to make us purge it all, but instead we should keep our bodies slim so that if ever we are depressed, our body will rise up again because of its lightness, like a cork.”

ἀλλ᾿ ὥσπερ αἱ τῶν ἀνθέων ὀσμαὶ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὰς ἀσθενεῖς εἰσι, μιχθεῖσαι δὲ τῷ ἐλαίῳ ῥώμην ἴσχουσι καὶ τόνον, οὕτω ταῖς ἔξωθεν αἰτίαις καὶ ἀρχαῖς οἷον οὐσίαν καὶ σῶμα παρέχει τὸ πλῆθος ὑποκείμενον. ἄνευ δὲ τούτου, τούτων χαλεπὸν οὐδέν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξαμαυροῦνται καὶ διαχέονται ῥᾳδίως, αἵματος λεπτοῦ καὶ πνεύματος καθαροῦ δεχομένου τὴν κίνησιν· ἐν δὲ πλήθει καὶ περιττώματι οἷον ἰλὺς ἀναταραττομένη μιαρὰ ποιεῖ πάντα καὶ δυσχερῆ καὶ δυσαπάλλακτα. διὸ δεῖ μὴ καθάπερ οἱ ἀγαστοὶ ναύκληροι πολλὰ δι᾿ ἀπληστίαν ἐμβαλόμενοι, τοὐντεῦθεν ἤδη διατελοῦσιν ἀντλοῦντες καὶ ὑπεξερῶντες3 τὴν θάλατταν, οὕτως ἐμπλήσαντας τὸ σῶμα καὶ βαρύναντας ὑποκαθαίρειν αὖθις καὶ ὑποκλύζειν, ἀλλὰ διατηρεῖν εὐσταλές, ὅπως, κἂν πιεσθῇ ποτε, φελλοῦ δίκην ὑπὸ κουφότητος ἀναφέρηται.

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Can’t Decide on a Resolution? Do it Drunk.

Herodotus, Histories 1.133.3-4

“The [Persians] are really fond of wine. It is not permissable to puke or to piss in front of another—these things are guarded against. And they are in the custom of taking counsel about the most important matters while they are drunk. Whatever seems fit to them while they are deliberating, the housemaster of the place where they deliberate proposes to them on the next day when they are sober. If the idea is pleasing to them when they are sober too, then they adopt it. If it is not, they waive it. When they have debated an issue while sober, they make a final decision while drunk.”

οἴνῳ δὲ κάρτα προσκέαται, καί σφι οὐκ ἐμέσαι ἔξεστι, οὐκὶ οὐρῆσαι ἀντίον ἄλλου. ταῦτα μέν νυν οὕτω φυλάσσεται, μεθυσκόμενοι δὲ ἐώθασι βουλεύεσθαι τὰ σπουδαιέστατα τῶν πρηγμάτων:

[4] τὸ δ᾽ ἂν ἅδῃ σφι βουλευομένοισι, τοῦτο τῇ ὑστεραίῃ νήφουσι προτιθεῖ ὁ στέγαρχος, ἐν τοῦ ἂν ἐόντες βουλεύωνται, καὶ ἢν μὲν ἅδῃ καὶ νήφουσι, χρέωνται αὐτῷ, ἢν δὲ μὴ ἅδῃ, μετιεῖσι. τὰ δ᾽ ἂν νήφοντες προβουλεύσωνται, μεθυσκόμενοι ἐπιδιαγινώσκουσι.

Tacitus ascribes a similar process to the northern barbarians, concluding (Germ. 22):

“therefore, the mindset of everyone has been exposed and made clear and on the next day the issue is discussed again, and for each opportunity a resolution and accounting is reached. They deliberate when they are incapable of lying; they make a plan when incapable of messing it up.”

ergo detecta et nuda omnium mens. postera die retractatur, et salva utriusque temporis ratio est. Deliberant dum fingere nesciunt, constituunt dum errare non possunt.

 

Image result for ancient greek and roman drinking

 

[Credit to Perseus for having the How and Wells Commentary online]

Some Thoughts on Reflecting on Another Year Gone By

Heraclitus, fr. 111

“Sickness makes health sweet and good [just as] hunger makes fullness and fatigue makes rest.”

νοῦσος ὑγιείην ἐποίησεν ἡδὺ καὶ ἀγαθόν, λιμὸς κόρον, κάματος ἀνάπαυσιν.

Od. 15.398-401

“Now let us dine and drink in my home
And take pleasure while we recall to one another
Our grievous pains. For a man may take pleasure even in pain,
Later, when he has suffered and come through so many things.”

νῶϊ δ’ ἐνὶ κλισίῃ πίνοντέ τε δαινυμένω τε
κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα λευγαλέοισι
μνωομένω· μετὰ γάρ τε καὶ ἄλγεσι τέρπεται ἀνήρ,
ὅς τις δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ’ ἐπαληθῇ.

Euripides, Fr. 133

“It is certainly sweet to recall your struggles after you’ve been saved”

ἀλλ’ ἡδύ τοι σωθέντα μεμνῆσθαι πόνων.

Archippus, fr. 45

“Mother, it is sweet to see the sea from the land
when you don’t have to sail any longer.”

ὡς ἡδὺ τὴν θάλατταν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ὁρᾶν
ὦ μῆτερ ἐστι, μὴ πλέοντα μηδαμοῦ

Od. 12.212

“But when we escape from here thanks to my virtue,
my planning, and my mind, I think we will  recall these things, perhaps.”

ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔνθεν ἐμῇ ἀρετῇ βουλῇ τε νόῳ τε
ἐκφύγομεν, καί που τῶνδε μνήσεσθαι ὀΐω.

Vergil, Aeneid 1.203

“Perhaps one day it will be a joy to remember even these things”

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit

AMPHORA DEPICTING ULYSSES, ATHENA

Plato, Hippias Minor 372a-c: Willingness to Learn is My Sole Good Quality

“Can you see, Hippias, that I am earnest when I say I am obsessed with questioning wise men? I probably have only this one good quality, since I exhibit others that are plainly wretched: for I stumble over facts and don’t know what they are. This is a sufficient sign of it for me, that whenever I meet one of the men famed for his wisdom or those all the Greeks recognize for their wisdom, I seem to know nothing…

And what greater sign of ignorance is there than differing from wise men? But I do have one wondrous quality that saves me: I am not ashamed to learn; no I investigate and ask questions and have much gratitude for anyone who answers—I have never deprived someone of thanks. For I have never denied that I learned something and pretended that the thing learned was some personal discovery. Instead, I praise the one who taught me because he is wise and I show off what I have learned from him.”

latin-teacher

ὁρᾷς, ὦ Ἱππία, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀληθῆ λέγω, λέγων ὡς λιπαρής εἰμι πρὸς τὰς ἐρωτήσεις τῶν σοφῶν; καὶ κινδυνεύω ἓν μόνον ἔχειν τοῦτο ἀγαθόν, τἆλλα ἔχων πάνυ φαῦλα: τῶν μὲν γὰρ πραγμάτων ᾗ ἔχει ἔσφαλμαι, καὶ οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὅπῃ ἐστί. τεκμήριον δέ μοι τούτου ἱκανόν, ὅτι ἐπειδὰν συγγένωμαί τῳ ὑμῶν τῶν εὐδοκιμούντων ἐπὶ σοφίᾳ καὶ οἷς οἱ Ἕλληνες πάντες μάρτυρές εἰσι τῆς σοφίας, φαίνομαι οὐδὲν εἰδώς:…

καίτοι τί μεῖζον ἀμαθίας τεκμήριον ἢ ἐπειδάν τις σοφοῖς ἀνδράσι διαφέρηται; ἓν δὲ τοῦτο θαυμάσιον ἔχω ἀγαθόν, ὅ με σῴζει: οὐ γὰρ αἰσχύνομαι μανθάνων, ἀλλὰ πυνθάνομαι καὶ ἐρωτῶ καὶ χάριν πολλὴν ἔχω τῷ ἀποκρινομένῳ, καὶ οὐδένα πώποτε ἀπεστέρησα χάριτος. οὐ γὰρ πώποτε ἔξαρνος ἐγενόμην μαθών τι, ἐμαυτοῦ ποιούμενος τὸ μάθημα εἶναι ὡς εὕρημα: ἀλλ᾽ ἐγκωμιάζω τὸν διδάξαντά με ὡς σοφὸν ὄντα, ἀποφαίνων ἃ ἔμαθον παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ

New Year’s Resolution Advice from Macrobius and Friends

Macrobius, 1.11.8-11

“Some are slaves to desire, others to greed, others to ambition; all are enthralled to hope, all to fear. To be sure, there is no slavery more base than one voluntarily undertaken. But we walk all over the man subjected to the yoke imposed by fortune as though he were a wretched and worthless character, but we do not suffer the yoke which we place upon our own necks to be jeered at. You will find among servants one with a deeper purse than the others, you will even find a lord himself kissing the hands of another man’s servants in the hope of financial gain; I do not, therefore, form my opinion of people based on their fortune, but on their character. Chance assigns you a condition, but you give yourself a character.”

alius libidini servit, alius avaritiae, alius ambitioni, omnes spei, omnes timori. et certe nulla servitus turpior quam voluntaria. at nos iugo a fortuna imposito subiacentem tamquam miserum vilemque calcamus, quod vero nos nostris cervicibus inserimus non patimur reprehendi. invenies inter servos aliquem pecunia fortiorem, invenies dominum spe lucri oscula alienorum servorum manibus infigentem: non ergo fortuna homines aestimabo sed moribus. sibi quisque dat mores, condicionem casus adsignat.

Or, you could start a new workout routine like Socrates:

 

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 1.1

The way that Socrates developed the endurance of his body; and also on the temperance of that man.

“Among the voluntary actions and bodily exercises for enhancing his endurance against any possible event, we have heard that Socrates used to do this regularly: it is reported that Socrates was in that habit of standing all day long in one position, from the first shine of light one day until the next sunrise, without moving from the same footprints, keeping his eyes directed in a single place and in deep thought, as if his mind and spirit were separated from his body. This is why, when Favorinus was mentioning the strength of that man and his other qualities, he added: “He often stood from sunrise to sunrise, more solid than tree-trunks” (fr. 97.1).
His temperance was so great, as it is reported, that he lived his entire life with uncompromised health. Even during the ruin of that plague, which at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war destroyed the Athenian state with an unknown type of disease, he is said to have avoided the dangers of pleasure and to have maintained the health of his body with his habits of abstention and moderation to such a degree that he was not at all afflicted by the disaster touching everyone else.”

Quo genere solitus sit philosophus Socrates exercere patientiam corporis; deque eiusdem viri temperantia.

1 Inter labores voluntarios et exercitia corporis ad fortuitas patientiae vices firmandi id quoque accepimus Socraten facere insuevisse: 2 stare solitus Socrates dicitur pertinaci statu perdius atque pernox a summo lucis ortu ad solem alterum orientem inconivens, immobilis, isdem in vestigiis et ore atque oculis eundem in locum directis cogitabundus tamquam quodam secessu mentis atque animi facto a corpore. 3 Quam rem cum Favorinus de fortitudine eius viri ut pleraque disserens attigisset: πολλάκις ἐξ ἡλίου εἰς ἥλιον εἱστήκει ἀστραβέστερος τῶν πρέμνων (Fav. Fr. 97.1).

4 Temperantia quoque fuisse eum tanta traditum est, ut omnia fere vitae suae tempora valitudine inoffensa vixerit. 5 In illius etiam pestilentiae vastitate, quae in belli Peloponnesiaci principis Atheniensium civitatem internecivo genere morbi depopulata est, is parcendi moderandique rationibus dicitur et a voluptatum labe cavisse et salubritates corporis retinuisse, ut nequaquam fuerit communi omnium cladi obnoxius.

Earlier in the Attic Nights Aulus reports a difference type of exercise to keep the philosopher sharp.

roman-death-mosaic

Also, get rich and work less, like Seneca:

“Labor is not a good thing. What then is a good thing? The contempt of labor.”

labor bonum non est. quid ergo est bonum? laboris contemptio.

Seneca, Epistles to Lucilius 4.2 (31)

Some Advice on Starting the Year Anew from Macrobius

Macrobius, 1.11.8-11

 

“Some are slaves to desire, others to greed, others to ambition; all are enthralled to hope, all to fear. To be sure, there is no slavery more base than one voluntarily undertaken. But we walk all over the man subjected to the yoke imposed by fortune as though he were a wretched and worthless character, but we do not suffer the yoke which we place upon our own necks to be jeered at. You will find among servants one with a deeper purse than the others, you will even find a lord himself kissing the hands of another man’s servants in the hope of financial gain; I do not, therefore, form my opinion of people based on their fortune, but on their character. Chance assigns you a condition, but you give yourself a character.”

alius libidini servit, alius avaritiae, alius ambitioni, omnes spei, omnes timori. et certe nulla servitus turpior quam voluntaria. at nos iugo a fortuna imposito subiacentem tamquam miserum vilemque calcamus, quod vero nos nostris cervicibus inserimus non patimur reprehendi. invenies inter servos aliquem pecunia fortiorem, invenies dominum spe lucri oscula alienorum servorum manibus infigentem: non ergo fortuna homines aestimabo sed moribus. sibi quisque dat mores, condicionem casus adsignat.