To be healthy is best for mortal man

890 ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῷ,

δεύτερον δὲ καλὸν φυὰν γενέσθαι,

τὸ τρίτον δὲ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως,

καὶ τὸ τέταρτον ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων.



To be healthy is best for mortal man,

second is to be handsome in body,

third is to be wealthy without trickery,

fourth, to be young with one’s friends.

                                                                                         Greek Lyric, Scolia, no. 890

So not only nourishing our mind is important, but being healthy, and honest in our acquisition of wealth. Staying healthy can help prevent sickness in the future. This means eating the right foods from Nature and farmer’s markets which have not been processed by companies and religious authorities. Our food today is too clean and as a result has lead to increases in allergies and sickness (called the hygiene hypothesis). By staying healthy,  a healthy body follows. But persistent exercise is important as well. Lastly, how many people acquire wealth in this world deceptively and with depravity? Don’t fall into this leaky jar. Desires lead to a state of being dissatisfied with the world and wanting more and more. Learn to want less. Acquire wealth without guile as Socrates says and apply it to good causes. Help your community, build a school, help the charities, erect a monument that shows civic pride. Then sing some drinking songs to celebrate your life:

‘see that you make a good job of taking up the scolia’: it was an ancient custom at feasts that, when the first man stopped his song, a second should follow on with the sequel. The first held a twig of laurel or myrtle and sang a song of Simonides or Stesichorus, stopping when he wished, and then he offered the twig to anyone he chose, not as the seating order dictated. The man who took it from the first recited the sequel, then offered the twig to anyone he chose. Since everyone sang or recited the songs without notice, they were called scolia because of the difficulty (dyscolia).

‘what scolion will you sing in answer to him?’: everyone at drinking-parties had to sing to the lyre; those who could not play the lyre held twigs of laurel or myrtle while they sang. Since those who could not sing to the lyre thought the songs ‘crooked’ they got the name ‘scolia’.

When this song had been sung and everyone had enjoyed it and commented that the excellent Plato mentions it as a splendid composition (Gorg. 451e), Myrtilus pointed out that the comic poet Anaxandrides made fun of it in his Treasure in these lines: 

The man who devised the scolion, whoever he was, was right to name health first as the best thing; but when he put a handsome body second and wealth third he was out of his mind, of course, for wealth is next best to health: a handsome man who is hungry is an ugly beast.’

Plato, Gorgias, 451 E:

Socrates: Then tell me what they deal with: what subject is it, of all in the world, that is dealt with by this speech employed by rhetoric?

Gorgias: The greatest of human affairs, Socrates, and the best.

Soc: But that also, Gorgias, is ambiguous, and still by no means clear. I expect you have heard people singing over their cups the old catch, in which the singers enumerate the best things in life,—first health, then beauty, and thirdly, as the author of the catch puts it, wealth got without guile.

Gorg: Yes, I have heard it; but what is the point of your quotation?

Greek Runners, Panathenaic Games, 530 B.C.

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