Thursday, June 05, 2014


Anti-Obesity Legislation

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14.7 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
This law is a Spartan one. The wording is as follows: no Spartan is to be seen with an effeminate complexion or a heavier body than exercise will produce — the one was a confession of idleness, the other of effeminacy. It was also provided in the law that every ten days the ephebes should without fail appear naked before the ephors. If they were well-built and strong, emerging from the gymnasium as if they had been sculpted or chiselled, they were complimented. But if there was anything flabby or soft in their limbs, any swelling of fat arising from idleness, they were beaten and punished on the spot. The ephors also made a point of reviewing their dress every day, to ensure that in each detail the proper style was maintained. Spartan cooks were expected to know about meat only; anyone with other skills was banished from Sparta, as if this were the purging of a sick element.

The same authorities brought Nauclides son of Polybiades before the assembled inspectors. He was overweight and had become fat through luxurious living. They threatened him with the additional punishment of exile if he did not for the future change his habits, which were the subject of criticism and Ionian rather than Spartan. They claimed his appearance and physical condition brought disgrace on Sparta and its laws.
An "effeminate complexion" is probably a pale one.

Athenaeus 12.550 c-d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick; material in square brackets added):
The same authority [Agatharchides], on the other hand, records in the twenty-seventh book [Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 86 F 10] that among the Lacedaemonians it was accounted no ordinary disgrace to a man if he was seen to have either a figure somewhat lacking in virility or a corpulence that made his belly prominent; hence, every ten days, the young warriors were made to stand naked before the ephors. The ephors also closely observed every day both the clothing worn by the young men and also the bedding they used; and with good reason. There were, it is true, cooks in Sparta who were skilled in the preparation of meat, but of nothing else whatever.

Again, in the twenty-seventh book Agatharchides [Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 86 F 11] has said that the Lacedaemonians summoned Naucleides the son of Polybiades, whose body was overlaid with excessive flesh, having become obese through luxurious indulgence, to come before the assembly; there Lysander in open meeting reviled him so bitterly as a wanton profligate that the Lacedaemonians almost ejected him from the city, and warned him that they would certainly do so if he did not reform his manner of life...
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