Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

The government is having its annual fit about the fat.

In the ancient world, most of the population worked the land, while aristocrats kept trim in the gymnasia.

Only the militarily obsessed Spartans made it government business, inspecting their warriors naked every ten days for signs of excessive thinness or corpulence.

But ancient doctors were aware of the problems. While no one mentions anorexia or slimming for aesthetic reasons, the famous 5th C. bc Greek doctor Hippocrates commented that 'dieting which causes excessive loss of weight, as well as the feeding-up of the emaciated, is beset with difficulties'. He was also aware that sudden death was more common in the fat, and judged obesity a cause of sterility in women, causing a blockage to the mouth of the uterus.

Etruscan tomb-paintings, however, regularly depicted very wealthy, very fat, very happy diners chomping merrily away.

The relaxed and worldlywise Roman poet Horace found amusement in presenting himself 'as a pig from Epicurus' herds', Epicurus being famous for his hedonistic philosophy. …

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