He who does not know how to use leisure

has more of work than when there is work in work.

For to whom

Otium, a Latin abstract term, has a variety of meanings, including leisure time in which a person can enjoy eating, playing, resting, contemplation and academic endeavors. It sometimes, but not always, relates to a time in a person's retirement after previous service to the public or

Otium, a Latin abstract term, has a variety of meanings, including leisure time in which a person can enjoy eating, playing, resting, contemplation and academic endeavors. It sometimes, but not always, relates to a time in a person's retirement after previous service to the public or private sector, opposing "active public life". Otium can be a temporary time of leisure, that is sporadic. It can have intellectual, virtuous or immoral implications. It originally had the idea of withdrawing from one's daily business (neg-otium) or affairs to engage in activities that were considered to be artistically valuable or enlightening (i.e. speaking, writing, philosophy). It had particular meaning to businessmen, diplomats, philosophers and poets.[1][2]



Getty Villa representing life at otium (leisure) of an ancient Roman villa


Etymology and origin Edit


Representation of ancient Roman soldiers at rest

In ancient Roman culture otium was a military concept as its first Latin usage. This was in Ennius' Iphigenia.[3]


Otio qui nescit uti

plus negotii habet quam cum est negotium in negotio;

nam cui quod agat institutum est non ullo negotio

id agit, id studet, ibi mentem atque animum delectat suum:

otioso in otio animus nescit quid velit

Hoc idem est ; em neque domi nunc nos nec militiae sumus;

imus huc, hinc illuc; cum illuc ventum est, ire illinc lubet.

Incerte errat animus, praeterpropter vitam vivitur.[4]


He who does not know how to use leisure

has more of work than when there is work in work.

For to whom a task has been set, he does the work,

desires it, and delights his own mind and intellect:

in leisure, a mind does not know what it wants.

The same is true (of us); we are neither at home nor in the battlefield;

we go here and there, and wherever there is a movement, we are there too.

The mind wanders unsure, except in that life is lived.[5]


— Iphigenia, 241–248

According to historian Carl Deroux in his work Studies in Latin literature and Roman history, the word otium appears for the first time in a chorus of Ennius' Iphigenia.[6] Ennius' first use of the term otium around 190 BC showed the restlessness and boredom during a reprieve from war and was termed otium negotiosum (free time to do what one wanted) and otium otiosum (idle wasteless free time).[7] Aulus Gellius, while discussing the word praeterpropter ("more or less") quotes a fragment of Ennius's Iphigenia, which contrasts otium with negotium repeatedly.[A] Ennius imagined the emotions of Agamemnon's soldiers at Aulus, that while in the field and not at war and not allowed to go home, as "more or less" living.[8]


The earliest extant appearance of the word in Latin literature occurs in a fragment from the soldiers' chorus in the Iphigenia of Ennius, where it is contrasted to negotium.[B] Researchers have determined the etymological and semantic use of otium was never a direct translation of the Greek word "schole", but derived from specifically Roman contexts. Otium is an example of the usage of the term "praeterpropter", meaning more or less of leisure. It was first used in military terms related to inactivity during war.[9] In ancient Roman times soldiers were many times unoccupied, resting and bored to death when not at war (i.e., winter months, weather not permitting war).[9] This was associated with otium otiosum (unoccupied and pointless leisure – idle leisure). The opposite of this was otium negotiosum (busy leisure) – leisure with a satisfying hobby or being able to take care of one's personal affairs or one's own estate. This was otium privatum (private leisure), equal to negotium (a type of business).[C]


The oldest citation for otium is this chorus of soldiers, singing about idleness on campaign, in an otherwise lost Latin tragedy by Ennius.[10] Andre shows in these lines that Ennius is showing the soldiers in the field would rather go home tending to their own affairs (otium) than to be idle doing nothing.[11] Its military origin meant to stop fighting in battle and lay down weapons[12] – a time for peace.[13] Even though originally otium was a military concept in early Roman culture of laying down one's weapons,[13] it later became an elite prestigious time for caring for oneself.[14] The ancient Romans had a sense of obligatory work ethics in their culture and considered the idle-leisure definition of otium as a waste of time.[15] Historians of ancient Roman considered otium a time of laborious leisure of much personal duties instead of public duties.[16][17] Author Almasi shows that historians Jean-Marie Andre and Brian Vickers point out the only legitimate form of otium was transpired with intellectual activity.[18] Otium was thought of by the wise elite as being free from work and other obligations (negotium) and leisure time spent on productive activities, however a time that should not be wasted as was thought the non-elite did with their leisure time.[19]


Greek philosophers Edit



The favorable sense of otium in Ciceronian Latin reflects the Greek term σχολή (skholē, "leisure", a meaning retained in Modern Greek as σχόλη, schólē); "leisure" having a complex history in Greek philosophy before being used in Latin (through Latin the word became the root of many education-related English terms, such as school, scholar and scholastic). In Athens, leisure was one of the marks of the Athenian gentleman: the time to do things right, unhurried time, time to discuss in. From there it became "discussion", and from there, philosophical and educational schools, which were both conducted by discussion. Four major Greek philosophical schools influenced the Roman gentlemen of Cicero's time. Plato (and his contemporaries, if the Greater Hippias be not authentic) brought schole into philosophy; as often, Plato can be quoted on both sides of the question whether leisure is better than the business of a citizen. In the Greater Hippias, it is one weakness of the title character that, although he has the education and manners of a gentleman, he has no leisure; but Socrates, in the Apology, has no leisure either; he is too busy as a gad-fly, keeping his fellow Athenians awake to virtue.[20] However, by the time the Romans encountered Plato's school, the Academy, they had largely ceased to discuss anything so practical as the good life; the New Academy of Carneades practiced verbal agility and boundless skepticism.[21]


Theophrastus and Dicaearchus, students of Aristotle, debated much on the contemplative life and the active life.[22]


Roman Epicureans used otium for the quiet bliss promised by Epicurus.[23] An Epicurean proverb


It is better to lie on the naked ground and be at ease, than to have a golden coach and a rich table and be worried.[24]


The phrase "to be at ease" can have the meaning "to be of good cheer" or "to be without fear" – these being interdependent. The Epicurean idea of otium favors contemplation,[25] compassion, gratitude and friendship. The Epicurean view is that wisdom has as much to contribute to the benefit of the public as does that of contributions of politicians and laborers (i.e. sailors). The rustic otium concept incorporates country living into Epicureanism. The active city public life of negotium and an otium of reserved country life of reflection have been much written about by Cicero and Seneca the Younger.


Epicurus's philosophy was contrary to Hellenistic Stoicism. Epicurus promised enjoyment in retirement as a concept of otium.[23] The concept of the Epicurean otium (private world of leisure) and the contemplative life were represented in Epicurus' school of philosophy and his garden. The portraits of the Garden of Epicurus near Athens represented political and cultural heroes of the time. Twenty-first–century historians Gregory Warden and David Romano have argued that the layout of the sculptures in "The Garden" were designed to give the viewer contrasting viewpoints of the Epicurean otium and the Hellenistic Stoic viewpoint of otium (i.e. private or public; contemplation or "employment"; otium or negotium).[26]

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