Mens sana in corpore sano

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Mens sana in corpore sano is a famous Latin quotation, often translated as, "A sound mind in a healthy body."

History[edit]

The phrase comes from Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal (10.356). It is the first in a list of what is desirable in life:

English translation:
You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
and deems length of days the least of Nature's gifts
that can endure any kind of toil,
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than
the loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus.
What I commend to you, you can give to yourself;
For assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.
In original Latin:
orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
fortem posce animum mortis terrore carentem,
qui spatium vitae extremum inter munera ponat
naturae, qui ferre queat quoscumque labores,
nesciat irasci, cupiat nihil et potiores
Herculis aerumnas credat saevosque labores
et venere et cenis et pluma Sardanapalli.
monstro quod ipse tibi possis dare; semita certe
tranquillae per virtutem patet unica vitae.
—Roman poet Juvenal (10.356-64)

Traditional commentators believe that Juvenal's intention was to teach his fellow Roman citizens that in the main, their prayers for such things as long life are misguided. That the gods had provided man with virtues which he then lists for them.

Over time and separated from its context, the phrase has come to have a range of meanings. It can be construed to mean that only a healthy body can produce or sustain a healthy mind. Its most general usage is to express the hierarchy of needs: with physical and mental health at the root.

An earlier, similar saying is attributed to the pre-Socratic philosopher Thales:

τίς εὐδαίμων, "ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος"
What man is happy? "He who has a healthy body, a resourceful mind and a docile nature."[1]

Usages[edit]

  • Usage in other writings
    • John Locke (1632–1704) uses the phrase in his book Some thoughts concerning education.
    • Heinrich von Treitschke used this phrase in his work titled, "The Army". He uses the phrase to highlight a sound principle of his German nationalistic doctrine. His work echoes the principles of late nineteenth century Prussian society.
  • Usage in other cases:
    • The phrase was a favorite of Harry S. Truman former President of the United States of America.
    • ASICS company name derived from the phrase. There is a sports equipment company, Asics, with the name based on a twist of this quotation. "Asics" is an acronym of the Latin phrase, "anima sana in corpore sano," which translates to "Healthy Soul in a Healthy Body".
    • Mensa, the High IQ Society, derives its name both from the Latin word for table, "mensa" as well as a pun on the phrase "mens sana".
    • Used as the title of the television programme Holby City broadcast on 10 July 2013.
    • Sound Body Sound Mind, a United States nonprofit organization (501(c)(3) that promotes self-confidence and healthy lifestyle choices among children.

References[edit]

  1. ^ As quoted by Diogenes Laërtius, (R. D. Hicks, ed.), Lives of Eminent Philosophers I:37 (Greek; English).
  2. ^ americanturners.com
  3. ^ laturners.org