Loosen Your Bow Strings

By Jenni Carey, School of the Ozarks

I am currently taking a class over the writings of Herodotus and Thucydides.[1] Along with the enjoyment of reading Herodotus’s unique narrative style (a delightful mix of literature, poetry, geographical description, and historical events) I am finding nuggets of wisdom and truth, quite valuable to those of us trying to survive in the world of classical Christian education while filling roles as fathers, mothers, church leaders, and Sunday school teachers. As we all know, our schedules and to-do lists can fill up fast.

In Book 2 of Herodotus’s Histories, there is an interesting depiction of the daily schedule of the Egyptian king, Amasis.[2] Herodotus describes Amasis as a man who “worked diligently on serious matters of government from dawn until the peak market hour,”[3] which, according to a provided footnote in The Landmark Herodotus, was until around 10:00 am. Then, Herodotus explains, Amasis would spend the rest of the day enjoying the company of his friends and companions, drinking and visiting.

His family and some friends criticized him for this, claiming that he was spending the better portion of the day on meaningless endeavors, wasting valuable time that should be used for the more important tasks of proclaiming political decisions and ruling the people.[4]

Amasis offers a glorious reply: “When archers need to use their bows, they string them tightly, but when they have finished using them, they relax them. For if a bow remained tightly strung all the time, it would snap and be of no use when someone needed it.”[5] He continues his explanation, claiming that if humans live as tightened bow strings all the time, they will either go insane or suffer a stroke, and their allocation of time for every aspect of life is essential for health and the ability to perform well when needed.[6]

I am certainly not claiming that we should all stop working only to drink and visit from 10:00 am until bedtime. Nor do I lift up Amasis, an Egyptian pagan king, as the perfect example to follow in all things. I do believe, though, that there is wisdom in his analogy of the bow string. If you look for articles about the importance of rest and contemplation, you will find several good works. This piece is not designed to discuss the ways in which you can carve out time for yourself and your students or to provide a list of ways to soak up truth, beauty, and goodness during leisure time. My intent is to merely remind you that loosening your bow string enables you to be more like the person God has designed you to be. It gives God the opportunity to work deeper into your mind and your soul without so many obstacles standing between your attention and His truth. In short, the Almighty gives his permission for you to loosen your string and drink in his wisdom. After all, he commands us to “Be still and know that [he is] God.” Psalm 46:10.[7]


[1] New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, ID, offers online graduate classes for classical Christian teachers who would like to have had a classical education and now wish to make up for lost time. Dr. Chris Schlect, Fellow of History at NSA, currently teaches this particular course, an experience in ancient cultures, legends, religions, and war tactics.

[2] Amasis XXVI Dynasty, 570-526 B.C. according to Strassler, Robert B. and Purvis, Andrea L., Editor and translator, The Landmark Herodotus (Anchor Books Random House, Inc. New York, NY), 2007, p.199.

[3] Ibid., Strassler and Purvis, The Landmark Thucydides, p199.

[4] Amasis had already shown great strength and wisdom by winning over the hearts and devotion of the Egyptians. Himself a commoner, he had to overcome the disrespect his people showed because of his common lineage. He took a foot basin, a bowl used for vile purposes like washing feet and catching bodily fluids, and reconstructed it into a statue. After he placed the beautiful sculpture in the city, the people worshipped it. He then told them that he was like the foot basin, something common that had been reconstructed for divine use. This convinced them to pledge devotion to him and become his slaves (Ibid., Strassler and Purvis, The Landmark Herodotus, p.198)

[5] Ibid., Strassler and Purvis, The Landmark Herodotus, p.199.

[6] Ibid., Strassler and Purvis, The Landmark Herodotus. The idea of connecting Amasis’ “tightened bow string” to our lives as graduate students and Christian educators was first brought up in our online class by a fellow NSA student, Jason Tinney.

[7] http://biblehub.com/psalms/46-10.htm

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