Michael O'Loughlin's The Garlands of Repose: The Literary Celebration of Civic and Retired Leisure: The Traditions of Homer and Vergil, Horace and Montaigne is a fascinating study of the changing visions of leisure, otium, from the ancient world to Montaigne. For the ancients, he says, the tranquility of a well-ordered civic world was the norm, priority and end of civilized life. Work, the world of business, of "jobs," was called negotium -- literally the negation, absence of, otium. O'Loughlin finds a pattern in Homer's Odyssey, Virgil's Georgics, and in Horace and Montaigne in which work and leisure take on a relationship of means to end.
That is, we labor not in order to use our free time on "vacation" (the void or absence of work), rather through labor we accede to a kind of creative play that is the substance of human freedom -- the unalienated labor that is the fruit of liberty, as understood, for example, in the notion of liberal arts.
Ovid's tale of Aeacus and the plague takes the impetus for the plague and its remedy nearly entirely out of human hands. A human child reminds Zeus, his father, of his love for his mother, and in honoring both parents, he moves the god to restore his race. The replacements come not in the form of the transformative bee, but through the orderly ant -- a race that lives and thrives through organization and carries "large loads in tiny mouths."
Years ago I had the good fortune to participate in a graduate seminar taught by O'Loughlin and was saddened recently to learn of his passing. He was a great teacher and a fine comparatist, although he remained nominally an "English prof."