Celsus, Rules for Health

Aulus Cornelius Celsus (25 BC – 50 AD)

A sound man, who is both in health, and his own master, ought to confine himself to no rules; and neither call for the assistance of a physician. It is good for him to diversify his way of life; to be sometimes in the country, sometimes in the city, and frequently in the fields; to sail, to hunt; sometimes to rest, but exercise himself frequently: for indolence weakens the body, labor strengthens it: the first brings on a quick old age, the other makes a long youth. It is also proper to make use sometimes of the warm bath, and sometimes of the cold; to anoint sometimes, and at other times to neglect it; to avoid no kind of food, that may be in common use; sometimes to eat in company, at other times to retire from it; sometimes to eat more than is sufficient, and at other times no more; to take food rather twice in the day than once; and always as much as he can, provided he concoct it. But as exercise and food of this kind are necessary, so the exercise and diet of athletes are not; both because the order of exercise being interrupted by some necessary business of life, hurts the body; and because those bodies, which are very high fed, like theirs, soonest decay, and are most liable to diseases.

But greater precaution is necessary for the valetudinary (i.e., sickly); amongst whom are the greatest number of those that live in cities, and almost all that are fond of study: that care may rectify the disorders, which arise from their constitution, situation, or study.

Any of these, then, who has concocted (i.e., digested) well, will rise in the morning safely: he that finds the concoction not completed, ought to lie still; and if he be under a necessity of rising, to go to sleep afterwards. He that has not concocted at all, should be entirely at rest, and neither venture upon labour, nor exercise, nor business. He that is troubled with crude belchings, without pain of the praecordia, ought now and then to drink cold water, and withall to confine himself to certain rules; to live in a house well lighted, that enjoys the summer’s breeze and the winter’s sun; to avoid the meridian sun, the morning and evening cold, as also the air of rivers and lakes; and by no means to expose himself to the sun breaking out in a cloudy sky, lest he be sometimes affected with heat, and sometimes with cold, which very often occasions gravedoes (colds?) and catarrhs (mucous build-up). These inconveniences are to be guarded against with greater diligence in sickly places, in which they even cause a pestilence.

We may know a body to be in health, when every day in the morning the urine is first white, and then of a light red colour: the first shows that the concoction is going on, and the other, that it is completed. When any person awakes, he ought to wait a little, and then, unless it be the winter time, to wash his mouth plentifully with cold water; in long days, to take the air in the middle of the day, before meat; or, if he cannot do that conveniently, after it.  In winter especially, to rest the whole night; but, if he is obliged to study in the night, to do it not immediately after eating, but after concoction. He, that in the day-time has been employed either in domestic or civil business, ought to set apart some time for the refreshment of his body; the principal part of which is exercise, which ought always to go before meat: in one that has laboured little, and has concocted well, it should be stronger;  in one who has been fatigued, and has not concocted well, it may be more gentle. Proper exercises are, reading aloud, handling of arms, the ball, running and walking; which last is better not upon plain ground: for an ascent and descent agitate the body with some variety, unless it be very weak. And it is better in the open air than in a portico; better in the sun, if the head can bear it, than in a shade; better in a shade formed by walls or parks, than under a roof; a straight walk is better than a winding. In most cases a beginning sweat should put an end to exercise, or at least lassitude, that does not amount to fatigue; and that sometimes in a less, sometimes in a greater degree. In all these exercises, there should neither be, as among wrestlers, an inviolable rule, nor too violent labour.  Exercise is rightly followed, sometimes by unction, either in the sun, or before a fire, at other times by the bath, which is best in a room as high, light, and spacious as may be. Neither of these should be always done; but either one of them oftener than the other, as agrees best with the constitution. After these, it is necessary to take some rest. When food is to be taken, it is never proper to overload: but too great abstinence is often hurtful; if there be any small excess committed, it is often safer in drinking than eating. It is best to begin with salt fish,” greens, and such like. After these, flesh, which is best roasted or boiled. All preserves upon a double account are hurtful, both because people are tempted by their agreeable taste to exceed in quantity, and though the quantity be moderate, they are of difficult concoction. A dessert is not hurtful to a good stomach, but turns sour upon a weak. And, therefore, one that is less firm in that part, will do better to use dates, apples, and such fruit, for that purpose. After drinking somewhat more than thirst required, no more should be eaten. With a full stomach, a man should set about no action. When one has eaten plentifully, the concoction is more easy, if he concludes the meal with a drink of cold water, then continues awake for a little while, and afterwards has a sound sleep. If a person has made a hearty meal in the day-time, he ought not to expose himself after it, either to cold, heat, or labour; for these do not so readily hurt with an empty, as a full body. If upon any occasion one is to want food for a time, all labour is to be avoided.

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