For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Seventh, or, Euboean, Discourse

by Chrysostom, Dio (1932)

Key Passage

But let us see what the variety and nature of the occupations are which they are to follow in order to live in what we believe is the proper way and not be often compelled to turn to something unworthy because they are out of work. The occupations and trades in the city, if all are taken into consideration, are many and of all kinds, and some of them are very profitable for those who engage in them if one thinks of money when one says “profitable”. But it is not easy to name them all separately on account of their multitude, and equally because that would be out of place here. Therefore, let this brief criticism and praise of them suffice: All which are injurious to the body by impairing its health or by preventing the maintenance of its adequate strength through their inactive or sedentary character, or which engender in the soul either turpitude or illiberality or, in general, are useless and good for nothing since they owe their origin to the silly luxury of the cities—these cannot properly be called trades or occupations at all; for Hesiod, a wise man, would never have commended all occupations alike if he had thought that any evil or disgraceful thing was entitled to that name—so where any of these evils, be it what it may, is attached to these activities, no self-respecting and honourable man should himself have anything to do with them or know anything about them or teach them to his sons, for he knows that he will not be what either Hesiod or we mean by “workman” if he engages in any such business, but will incur the shameful reproach of being an idler living on disgraceful gains and hear himself bluntly call sordid, good for nothing, and wicked. But, on the other hand, where the occupations are not unbecoming to those who follow them and create no evil condition in their souls nor injure their health by inducing, among other diseases, physical weakness in particular, sluggishness, and softness on account of the almost complete lack of exercise, and, further, enable on to make a satisfactory living—the men who engage zealously and industriously in any of these will never lack work and a living from it, nor will they give the rich any justification for calling them the “poor class,” as is their wont ; on the contrary, they will be rather purveyors to the rich and lack practically nothing that is necessary and useful.  (p.347)


Ancient Greece, History, Poverty, Liberty, Labor


Dio Chrysostom, Ancient Greece


Cohoon, J. W.



How to contribute.