Mens sana in corpore sano  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) is a famous Latin quotation, often translated as "A sound mind in a sound body." It is derived from Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal (10.356). In context, the phrase is part of the author’s answer to the question of what people should desire in life, the answer consisting of a long list of things:

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It is to be prayed that the mind be sound in a sound body.
Ask for a brave soul that lacks the fear of death,
which places the length of life last among nature’s blessings,
which is able to bear whatever kind of sufferings,
does not know anger, lusts for nothing and believes
the hardships and savage labors of Hercules better than
the satisfactions, feasts, and feather bed of an Eastern king.
I will reveal what you are able to give yourself;
For certain, the one footpath of a tranquil life lies through virtue.

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orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
fortem posce animum mortis terrore carentem,
qui spatium uitae extremum inter munera ponat
naturae, qui ferre queat quoscumque labores,
nesciat irasci, cupiat nihil et potiores
Herculis aerumnas credat saeuosque labores
et uenere et cenis et pluma Sardanapalli.
monstro quod ipse tibi possis dare; semita certe
tranquillae per uirtutem patet unica uitae.
(10.356-64)

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The satirical connotation of the phrase, that it would be nice to also have a sound mind in a sound body, is a more recent interpretation of what Juvenal may have intended to express. More traditional commentators believe that Juvenal's intention was to remind those of his fellow Roman citizens who uttered foolish prayers that all that should be prayed for were physical and mental health. 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 concept of a healthy balance in one’s mode of life.

The phrase is foreshadowed by (if not an actual paraphrase from) a saying of Thales, "Νοῦς ὑγιὴς ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ.".

Usages

  • John Locke (1632–1704) uses the phrase in his book 'Some thoughts concerning education'.
  • Anton Chekhov quotes the phrase in his short story, The Black Monk, as well as in his play Three Sisters.
  • Used in the film Agantuk by Satyajit Ray.
  • Used in short story Zack by Nigel Puerasch.
  • The phrase was a favorite of American President Harry S. Truman.
  • ASICS, company name derived from the phrase.
  • 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.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mens sana in corpore sano" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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