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A Balanced Life

We are creatures, composed of body and soul, and we cannot be happy when we do not maintain a balance in life that provides for the health of both. When we think of the motto of St. Benedict — “Ora et Labora” (Pray and Work) — we find this balance. If we read the lives of the saints, we often find them seeking out manual labor not as a matter of necessity for their food and clothing, but as a means of disciplining their body and keeping it in good health.

We cannot pray or study with bodies that are unhealthy.

Many turn to artificial exercise to keep their bodies fit: they walk, they run, they go to the gym, etc. Many have no other option. However, for those who do have the option, there is no better source for physical exercise than farm and garden work.

This work is not vain activity like artificial exercise. This work serves a number of different ends, all of which are desirable:

  1. We exercise and strengthen our bodies
  2. We improve our property
  3. We produce necessary items: fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, dairy products, etc.

Moreover, the seasons of the year provide us with variety that keeps our activity from becoming monotonous and boring.

With out bodies healthy and well-exercises, we will be better disposed disposed to study and pray because we will not be distracted with thoughts about whether our bodies are healthy or not. We can allow our bodies to rest while we study or pray.

God bless your families,
Mr. William C. Michael, President
Classical Liberal Arts Society

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Hippocrates on Modern Medicine

“Medicine has existed in its entirety for ages, possessing both a beginning and an established method, by means of which many and excellent discoveries have been made over a long period of time; and what remains will also be discovered, if an inquirer is competent and, being cognizant of the discoveries already made, conducts his researches beginning from these. But anyone who, casting aside and rejecting all these, attempts to conduct research by some other method or in some other manner, and claims to have discovered something, has been deceived himself, and is deceiving others, for it is impossible.”

Hippocrates (460-370 BC)

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Getting Started with Ancient Natural Philosophy and Medicine

In modern consumer society, most people have no idea what substances are in their bodies at any time because they consume complex products in a way that men never did in world history. When modern men read ancient texts in natural philosophy or medicine, they can’t comprehend what they’re reading or how it could be helpful because they simply don’t think of food, drink and medicine as the ancients did. To get started with ancient Natural Philosophy and Medicine, we have a few things to learn first.

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Garlic cloves are planted in the fall. More than just a source of flavoring, garlic is one of the most important plants in the garden. Pliny listed over 60 known remedies provided by garlic.

Garlic cloves for planting can be purchased easily online.

Note that “hardneck” varieties are recommended for colder climates and “softneck” for warmer.


“Garlic is generally supposed, in the country more particularly, to be a good specific for numerous maladies. The external coat consists of membranes of remarkable fineness, which are universally discarded when the vegetable is used; the inner part being formed by the union of several cloves, each of which has also a separate coat of its own. The flavour of it is pungent, and the more numerous the cloves the more pungent it is. Like the onion, it imparts an offensive smell to the breath ; but this is not the case when it is cooked. The various species of garlic are distinguished by the periods at which they ripen: the early kind becomes fit for use in sixty days. Another distinction, too, is formed by the relative size of the heads. Ulpicum, also, generally known to the Greeks as “Cyprian garlic,” belongs to this class; by some persons it is called “antiscorodon,” and in Africa more particularly it holds a high rank among the dishes of the rural population; it is of a larger size than ordinary garlic. When beaten up with oil and vinegar, it is quite surprising what a quantity of creaming foam is produced.

There are some persons who recommend that neither ulpicum nor garlic should be sown on level ground, but say that they should be planted in little mounds trenched up, at a distance of three feet apart. Between each clove, they say, there should be a distance of four fingers left, and as soon as ever three leaves are visible, the heads should be hoed; the oftener they are hoed, the larger the size they will attain. When they begin to ripen, the stalks are bent downwards, and covered over with earth, a precaution which effectually prevents them from running to leaf. In cold soils, it is considered better to plant them in spring than in autumn.

For the purpose of depriving all these plants of their strong smell, it is recommended to set them when the moon is below the horizon, and to take them up when she is in conjunction. Independently of these precautions, we find Menander, one of the Greek writers, recommending those who have been eating garlic to eat immediately afterwards a root of beet roasted on hot coals; if this is done, he says, the strong smell of the garlic will be effectually neutralized. Some persons are of opinion, that the proper period for planting garlic and ulpicum is between the festival of the Compitalia and that of the Saturnalia. Garlic, too, can be grown from seed, but it is very slow, in such case, in coming to maturity; for in the first year, the head attains the size only of that of a leek, in the second, it separates into cloves, and only in the third it arrives at maturity; there are some, however, who think that garlic grown this way is the best. Garlic should never be allowed to run to seed, but the stalk should be twisted, to promote its growth, and to make the head attain a larger size.

If garlic or onions are wanted to keep some time, the heads should be dipped in salt water, made luke-warm; by doing this, they will be all the better for keeping, though quite worthless for reproduction. Some persons content themselves with hanging them over burning coals, and are of opinion that this is quite sufficient to prevent them from sprouting: for it is a well-known fact, that both garlic and onions sprout when out of the ground, and that after throwing out their thin shoots they shrivel away to nothing. Some persons are of opinion, too, that the best way of keeping garlic is by storing it in chaff. There is a kind of garlic that grows spontaneously in the fields, and is known by the name of “alum.” To preserve the seeds that are sown there from the remorseless ravages of the birds, this plant is scattered over the ground, being first boiled, to prevent it from shooting. As soon as ever they have eaten of it, the birds become so stupefied as to be taken with the hand even, and if they remain but a few moments on the spot, they fall fast asleep. There is a wild garlic, too, generally known as “bear’s” garlic; it has exactly the smell of millet, with a very small head and large leaves.”

Pliny, Natural History, Book XIX, Ch. 34


“Garlic has very powerful properties, and is of great utility to persons on changes of water or locality. The very smell of it drives away serpents and scorpions, and, according to what some persons say, it is a cure for wounds made by every kind of wild beast, whether taken with the drink or food, or applied topically. Taken in wine, it is a remedy for the sting of the haemorrhois more particularly, acting as an emetic. We shall not be surprised too, that it acts as a powerful remedy for the bite of the shrew-mouse, when we find that it has the property of neutralizing aconite, otherwise known as “pardalianches.” It neutralizes henbane, also, and cures the bites of dogs, when applied with honey to the wound. It is taken in drink also for the stings of serpents; and of its leaves, mixed with oil, a most valuable liniment is made for bruises on the body, even when they have swelled and formed blisters.

Hippocrates is of opinion also, that fumigations made with garlic have the effect of bringing away the after-birth; and he used to employ the ashes of garlic, mixed with oil, for the cure of running ulcers of the head. Some persons have prescribed boiled garlic for asthmatic patients; while others, again, have given it raw. Diodes prescribes it, in combination with centaury, for dropsy, and to be taken in a split fig, to promote the alvine evacuations: taken fresh, however, in unmixed wine, with coriander, it is still more efficacious for that purpose. Some persons have given it, beaten up in milk, for asthma. Praxagoras used to prescribe garlic, mixed with wine, for jaundice, and with oil and pottage for the iliac passion: he employed it also in a similar form, as a liniment for scrofulous swellings of the neck.

The ancients used to give raw garlic in crises of madness, and Diodes administered it boiled for phrenitis. Beaten up, and taken in vinegar and water, it is very useful as a gargle for quinsy. Three heads of garlic, beaten up in vinegar, give relief in toothache: and a similar result is obtained by rinsing the mouth with a decoction of garlic, and inserting pieces of it in the hollow teeth. Juice of garlic is sometimes injected into the ears with goose-grease, and, taken in drink, or similarly injected, in combination with vinegar and nitre, it arrests phthiriasis and porrigo. Boiled with milk, or else beaten up and mixed with soft cheese, it is a cure for catarrhs. Employed in a similar manner, and taken with pease or beans, it is good for hoarseness, but in general it is found to be more serviceable cooked than raw, and boiled than roasted: in this last state, however, it is more beneficial to the voice. Boiled in oxymel, it has the effect of expelling tape-worm and other intestinal worms; and a pottage made of it is a cure for tenesmus. A decoction of garlic is applied topically for pains in the temples; and first boiled and then beaten up with honey, it is good for blisters. A decoction of it, with stale grease, or milk, is excellent for a cough; and where persons are troubled with spitting of blood or purulent matter, it may be roasted in hot ashes, and taken with honey in equal proportions. For convulsions and ruptures it is administered in combination with salt and oil; and, mixed with grease, it is employed for the cure of suspected tumours.

Mixed with sulphur and resin, garlic draws out the humours from fistulous sores, and employed with pitch, it will extract an arrow even from the wound. In cases of leprosy, lichen, and eruptions of the skin, it acts as a detergent, and effects a cure, in combination with wild marjoram, or else reduced to ashes, and applied as a liniment with oil and garum. It is employed in a similar manner, too, for erysipelas ; and, reduced to ashes, and mixed with honey, it restores contused or livid spots on the skin to their proper colour. It is generally believed, too, that taken in the food and drink, garlic is a cure for epilepsy, and that a clove of it, taken in astringent wine, with an obolus’ weight of silphium, will have the effect of dispelling quartan fever. Garlic cures coughs also, and suppurations of the chest, however violent they may be; to obtain which result, another method is followed, it being boiled with broken beans, and employed as a diet till the cure is fully effected. It is a soporific also, and in general imparts to the body an additional ruddiness of colour.

Garlic acts as an aphrodisiac, beaten up with fresh coriander, and taken in pure wine. The inconveniences which result from the use of it, are dimness of the sight and flatulency; and if taken in too large quantities, it does injury to the stomach, and creates thirst. In addition to these particulars, mixed with spelt flour, and given to poultry in their food, it preserves them from attacks of the pip. Beasts of burden, it is said, will void their urine all the more easily, and without any pain, if the genitals are rubbed with garlic.”

Pliny, Natural History, Book XX, Ch. 23

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Temperance and Health

Pliny (23-79 AD)

“The most wholesome nutriment for man is plain food. An accumulation of flavours is injurious, and still more so, if heightened by sauces. All acrid elements are difficult of digestion, and the same is the case if food is devoured greedily, or in too large quantities. Food is also less easily digested in summer than in winter, and in old age than in youth. The vomits which man has invented, by way of remedy for this evil, render the body more cold, and are more particularly injurious to the eyes and teeth.

Digestion during sleep is more productive of corpulence than strength. Hence it is, that it is preferable for athletes quicken digestion by walking. Watching, at night more especially, promotes digestion of the food.

The size of the body is increased by eating sweet and fatty substances, as well as by drinking, while, on the other hand, it is diminished by eating dry, acrid, or cold substances, and by abstaining from drink. Abstinence from food for seven days, even, is not of necessity fatal to man; and it is a well-known fact, that many persons have not died till after an abstinence of eleven days.

Man is the only animal that is ever attacked with an insatiate craving for food.”

Pliny, Natural History