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Lecture XIX

◄Lecture XVIIIB - Lecture XX►

On clothing and shelter

Such were his opinions on food. He also thought it best to provide moderate covering for the body, not expensive and superfluous, for he said that one ought to use clothing and shoes in exactly the same way as armour, that is for the protection of the body and not for display. Therefore just as the most powerful weapons and those best calculated to protect the bearer are the best, and not those which attract the eye by their sheen, so likewise the garment or shoe which is most useful for the body is best, and not one which causes the foolish to turn and stare. For the covering should at once render the thing covered better and stronger than its natural condition, rather than weaker and worse. Those, then, who acquire smoothness and delicacy of skin by their clothing make their bodies worse, inasmuch as plainly the pampered and soft body is much worse than one that is sturdy and bears evidence of hard work. But those who strengthen and invigorate the body by the clothing they wear, those, I say, are the only ones who benefit the parts of the body so covered. It does not improve the appearance of the body to cover it completely with many garments, to smother it with tight wrappings, and to soften the hands and feet by close fitting gloves or shoes unless perhaps in ca se of illness. It is not good to be entirely without experience of cold and heat, but one ought in some degree to feel the cold in winter and likewise the heat of the sun in summer and to seek the shelter of shade as little as possible. Wearing one chiton is preferable to needing two, and wearing none but only a cloak is preferable to wearing one. Also going barefoot is better than wearing sandals, if one can do it, for wearing sandals is next to being bound, but going barefoot gives the feet great freedom and grace when they are used to it. It is for this reason that one sees couriers wearing no sandals on the highways and the runners in a contest unable to make the best speed if they have to run in sandals.

Since we make houses too for a shelter, I argue that they ought to be made to satisfy bare necessity, to keep out the cold and extreme heat and to be a protection from the sun and the winds for those who need it. In general, whatever a natural cave would offer, furnishing a moderate shelter for man, this our houses ought to furnish for us, with just enough to spare to make a convenient place for storing away man's food. What good are courtyards surrounded by colonnades? What good are all kinds of colored paints? What good are gold-decked rooms? What good are expensive stones, some fitted together on the floor, others inlaid in the walls, some brought from a great distance, and at the greatest expense? Are not all these things superfluous and unnecessary, without which it is possible not only to live but also to be healthy? Are they not the source of constant trouble, and do they not cost great sums of money from which many people might have benefited by public and private charity? How much more commendable than living a life of luxury it is to help many people. How much nobler than spending money for sticks and stones to spend it on men. How much more profitable than surrounding oneself with a great house to make many friends, the natural result of cheerfully doing good. What would one gain from a large and beautiful house comparable to what he would gain by conferring the benefits of his wealth upon the city and his fellow-citizens?

◄Lecture XVIIIB - Lecture XX►