very much at his ease in Zion


Senior Member
Hi, I'm not quite certain about the meaning of the expression "very much at his ease in Zion" in the first sentence of the following text.
Does it mean Plato would be as composed as usual even if he were in heaven, whereas someonle else would be ecstatic and carried away if he were?

Carlyle calls plato “a lordly Athenian gentleman, very much at his ease in Zion.” This characteristic of being “at his ease in Zion” is found also in Chinese sages, and is, as a rule, absent from the sages produced by Christian civilizations, except when,like Goethe, they have deeply imbibed the spirit of Hellenism.
from “The Aims of Education” by Bertrand Russell

Thanks a lot!!
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The phrase is from the Bible, in a passage in which the prophet criticizes his contemporaries for their attachment to luxury.* To say that Plato was 'at his ease in Zion' is to say that Plato was comfortable in luxurious surroundings. The contrast is being made with Christian 'sages', who traditionally have been suspicious of luxury and favored poverty and austerity.

    * Source: A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (1992)


    Senior Member
    English - England
    Specifically, Amos 6:1. Amos is warning that the comfortably off and well connected in their castles and strongholds are not as secure as they think, but shall suffer the same fate (exile) as their compatriots.

    The Carlyle letter is here. It seems to be saying that Plato was in some ways insulated from the real world in his thinking: in an "ivory tower", as we say today.

    I think that "Zion" is here used in its original sense of a specific hill near Jerusalem that had a fortress. Its sense of "promised land", and in that sense "heaven" came later by extension.
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