Enough has been said in the introduction to the Cato Maior to show the amazing fecundity of Cicero’s genius in the years 45 and 44 BCE, during which time this treatise was written. The date of its composition belongs within the year 44, but the month cannot be fixed with absolute certainty. It was written after the Cato Maior and after the completion of Divination, in which (Div. II.3) Cicero gives the names of his philosophic books so far written and does not mention this work. It is referred to in the second volume of De officiis (II.9.31), which was written in November. In a letter to Atticus (ad Att. XVI.13c) Cicero, on November 5, 44, asks when “Fannius, son of Marcus” (one of the interlocutors), was tribune. This inquiry suggests that he was then writing or revising the Laelius and tends to fix the date of composition in the autumn of 44 BCE.
It was in the year 90 BCE that Cicero, then just sixteen, was introduced by his father to Quintus p104 Mucius Scaevola the augur, to receive instruction in Roman law. While he was in constant attendance on the lectures of this learned man occurred the war of the Samnites and other Italian tribes against Rome for a larger share of Roman suffrage and in the government of the Empire. This revolution was still smouldering when in 88 BCE. Publius Sulpicius, the most powerful orator of his day, became tribune of the plebs, and proposed certain reforms which resulted in the civil war between Marius and Sulla and his own break with Pompeius Strabo. It was at this exciting time that Cicero, sitting at the feet of the aged Roman lawyer Scaevola, heard him repeat, as he tells us, the discourse of Laelius on friendship. This discourse Laelius in turn had heard from his bosom friend, Scipio Africanus the Younger.
The time of the present dialogue is 129 BCE, just a few days after the mysterious death of Scipio Minor. The interlocutors are Laelius (who was also one of the interlocutors in the Cato Maior), and his two sons-in-law, Quintus Mucius Scaevola and Gaius Fannius.
Gaius Laelius, born in 186 BCE, was the son of a distinguished father of the same name who was the friend and companion of the elder Scipio Africanus. The younger Laelius became praetor in 145 BCE, and consul in 140, after his defeat in the previous year by Quintus Pompeius. He gained great credit as commander in the war against the Spanish chieftain, Viriathus. Next to Scipio, he was regarded as the foremost orator of his day in eloquence and purity of style. But it was as a student and man of letters that he was chiefly distinguished. His title of “the Wise” was due to his great learning and to his knowledge of philosophy. He was a pupil of Diogenes the Stoic and later, in company with Scipio, studied under Panaetius, who made his home with Scipio. Laelius was such a master of elegant diction that the plays of his poet-friend Terence, which were so much admired for the purity of their Latinity, were by many attributed in whole or in part to him.a In his culture, wisdom, evenness of temper, integrity of life, keen sense of justice, and nobility of thought and speech we find ample justification for the unstinted praise accorded him by all the writers of antiquity.
To the younger group of the Scipionic circle belong the other interlocutors of this essay, Quintus Mucius Scaevola the augur, and Gaius Fannius, son of Marcus, both sons-inlaw of Laelius. Scaevola, himself a distinguished lawyer, belonged to a family of lawyers, of whom the most illustrious was his namesake and junior, the pontifex maximus. The augur was born about 157 BCE, became praetor in 121 BCE, later governor of Asia Minor, and was elected consul in 117. He lived until 88, after the overthrow of Sulpicius by Sulla. When called upon at that time to join in the decree of proscription against Marius he declared that for the sake of the few poor drops of blood in his old frame he would not consent to outlaw the man who had saved Rome and all Italy from Gauls. He was celebrated for his wit, learning, and amiability.
Gaius Fannius Strabo, who was somewhat older than his brother-in-law, Scaevola, married the younger daughter of Laelius. He was, it is thought by Cicero (ad Att. XVI.13c), tribune of the plebs, 142 BCE, while Publius Africanus and Lucius Mummius were censors and Lucius Caecilius Metellus and Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus were consuls. He was a writer of a Roman history, highly praised by Sallust for its accuracy, but criticized by Cicero in his Brutus as rough in style.
The earliest known treatise in Greek on the subject of friendship is found in the Lysis of Plato, whose influence is strongly reflected in the eighth and ninth books of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. Many of the thoughts of this work are observed in Cicero’s essay, but are not necessarily borrowed from Aristotle. In section 62 of the Laelius he draws upon Xenophon’s Memorabilia, by taking the words there attributed to Socrates and placing them in the mouth of Scipio. According to Diogenes Laertius and Aulus Gellius, the chief Greek source of the present essay is a lost treatise on friendship in three volumes by Theophrastus. But in the main Cicero probably was not greatly indebted to Greek writers in the composition of this book. The arrangement, plan, style and illustrations are his own. Certainly no other author of ancient or modern times has discussed the subject of friendship with so much completeness and charm as Cicero discusses it in his Laelius.
There are nine MSS. on which the printed texts of the Laelius are chiefly based: G (Gudianus), at Wolfenbüttel, 10th century; E (Erfurtensis), once at Erfurt, now in Berlin, 12th century; B (Benedictoburanus), in Munich, 12th century; S (Salisburgensis), in Munich, 11th century; M (Monacensis), in Munich; and P (Parisinus), formerly in Paris, now in Berlin, 9th or 10th century; two MSS., DV (Vindobonensis), in Vienna; and H (Harleianus), in the British Museum, London. Of these Halm regards G as best and C. F. W. Müller prefers P.
The text of the present edition, like that of Cato Maior, is eclectic, following most closely, perhaps, the edition of J. S. Reid, but with readings adopted from Müller, Bennett and others. For a good bibliography of the Laelius reference is made to E. W. Bowen’s Laelius.
The translator is indebted to Prof. Henry Strauss and Dr. J. L. Hancock, of the University of Arkansas, for a careful reading of the manuscript and for many valuable suggestions in interpretation and phrasing.
[In the Budé series we now have the edition and French translation by L. Aurand, Paris, 1928.]
1. Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the augur, used to relate with an accurate memory, and in a pleasing way many incidents about his father-in-law, Gaius Laelius, and, in every mention of him, did not hesitate to call him “the Wise.” Now, I, upon assuming the toga virilis, had been introduced by my father to Scaevola with the understanding that, so far as I could and he would permit, I should never leave the old man’s side. And so it came to pass that, in my desire to gain greater profit from his legal skill, I made it a practice to commit to memory many of his learned opinions and many, too, of his brief and pointed sayings. After his death I betook myself to the pontiff, Scaevola, who, both in intellect and in integrity, was, I venture to assert, quite the most distinguished man of our State. But of him I shall speak at another time; now I return to the augur.
2. Numerous events in the latter’s life often recur to me, but the most memorable one of all occurred at his home, as he was sitting, according to his custom, on a semi-circular garden bench, when I and only a few of his intimate friends were with him, and he happened to fall upon a topic which, just about that time, was in many people’s mouths. You, Atticus, were much in the society of Publius Sulpicius, and on that account are the more certain to remember what great astonishment, or rather complaining, there was among the people when Sulpicius, while plebeian tribune, separated himself in deadly hatred from the then consul, Quintus Pompeius, with whom he had lived on the most intimate and affectionate terms. 3. And so, Scaevola, having chanced to mention this very fact, thereupon proceeded to repeat to us a discussion on friendship, which Laelius had had with him and with another son-in-law, Gaius Fannius, son of Marcus, a few days after the death of Africanus. I committed the main points of that discussion to memory, and have set them out in the present book in my own way; for I have, so to speak, brought the actors themselves on the stage in order to avoid too frequent repetition of “said I” and “said he,” and to create the impression that they are present and speaking in person. 4. For while you were pleading with me again and again to write something on friendship, the subject appealed to me as both worthy of general study, and also well fitted to our intimacy. Therefore I have not been unwilling to benefit the public at your request. But, as in my Cato the Elder, which was written to you on the subject of old age, I represented Cato, when an old man, as the principal speaker, because I thought no one more suitable to talk of that period of life than he who had been old a very long time and had been a favorite of fortune in old age beyond other men; so, since we had learned from our forefathers that the intimacy of Gaius Laelius and Publius Scipio was most noteworthy, I concluded that Laelius was a fit person to expound the very views on friendship which Scaevola remembered that he had maintained. Besides, discourses of this kind seem in some way to acquire greater dignity when founded on the influence of men of ancient times, especially such as are renowned; and, hence, in reading my own work on Old Age I am at times so affected that I imagine Cato is the speaker and not myself. 5. But as in that book I wrote as one old man to another old man on the subject of old age, so now in this book I have written as a most affectionate friend to a friend on the subject of friendship. In the former work the speaker was Cato, whom scarcely any in his day exceeded in age and none surpassed in wisdom; in the present treatise the speaker on friendship will be Laelius, a wise man (for he was so esteemed), and a man who was distinguished by a glorious friendship. Please put me out of your mind for a little while and believe that Laelius himself is talking. Gaius Fannius and Quintus Mucius Scaevola have come to their father-in-law’s house just after the death of Africanus; the conversation is begun by them and reply is made by Laelius, whose entire discourse is on friendship, and as you read it you will recognize in it a portrait of yourself.
6. Fannius. What you say is true, Laelius; for there was no better man than Africanus, and no one more illustrious. But you should realize that all men have fixed their eyes on you alone; you it is whom they both call and believe to be wise. Recently this title was given to Marcus Cato and we know that Lucius Acilius was called “the Wise” in our fathers’ time, but each of them in a somewhat different way: Acilius because of his reputation for skill in civil law; Cato because of his manifold experience, and because of the many well-known instances wherein both in Senate and forum he displayed shrewdness of foresight, resolution of conduct, or sagacity in reply; and as a result, by the time he had reached old age, he bore the title of “the Wise” as a sort of cognomen. 7. But as to yourself, men are wont to call you wise in a somewhat different way, not only because of your mental endowments and natural character, but also because of your devotion to study and because of your culture, and they employ the term in your case, not as the ignorant do, but as learned men employ it. And in this sense we have understood that no one in all Greece was “wise” except one in Athens, and he, I admit, was actually adjudged “most wise” by the oracle of Apollo — for the more captious critics refuse to admit those who are called “The Seven” into the category of the wise. Your wisdom, in public estimation, consists in this: you consider all your possessions to be within yourself and believe human fortune of less account than virtue. Hence the question is put to me and to Scaevola here, too, I believe, as to how you bear the death of Africanus, and the inquiry is the more insistent because, on the last Nones, when we had met as usual for the practice of our augural act in the country home of Decimus Brutus, you were not present, though it had been your custom always to observe that day and to discharge its duties with the most scrupulous care.
8. Scaevola. There is indeed a great deal of questioning, Gaius Laelius, just as Fannius has said, but I state in reply what I have observed: that you bear with composure the pain occasioned by the death of one who was at once a most eminent man and your very dear friend; that you could not be unmoved thereby and that to be so was not consistent with your refined and tender nature and your culture; but as to your not attending our college on the Nones, that, I answer, was due to ill-health and not to grief.
Laelius. Your reply was excellent, Scaevola, and it was correct; for no personal inconvenience of any kind ought to have kept me from the discharge of the duty you mentioned, and which I have always performed when I was well, nor do I think it possible for any event of this nature to cause a man of strong nature to neglect any duty. 9. Now as for your saying, Fannius, that so great merit is ascribed to me — merit such as I neither admit nor claim — you are very kind; but it seems to me that your estimate of Cato is scarcely high enough. For either no man was wise — which really I think is the better view — or, if anyone, it was he. Putting aside all other proof, consider how he bore the death of his son! I remembered the case of Paulus, and I had been a constant witness of the fortitude of Gallus, but their sons died in boyhood, while Cato’s son died in the prime of life when his reputation was assured. 10. Therefore, take care not to give the precedence over Cato even to that man, whom, as you say, Apollo adjudged the wisest of men; the former is praised his deeds, the latter for his words.
Now, as to myself, let me address you both at once and beg you to believe that the case stands thus:
If I were to assert that I am unmoved by grief at Scipio’s death, it would be for “wise” men to judge how far I am right, yet, beyond a doubt, my assertion would be false. For I am indeed moved by the loss of a friend such, I believe, as I shall never have again, and — as I can assert on positive knowledge — a friend such as no other man ever was to me. But I am not devoid of a remedy, and I find very great consolation in the comforting fact that I am free from the delusion which causes most men anguish when their friends depart. I believe that no ill has befallen Scipio; it has befallen me, if it has befallen anyone; but great anguish for one’s own inconveniences is the mark of the man who loves not his friend but himself.
11. But who would say that all has not gone wonderfully well with him? For unless he had wished to live for ever — a wish he was very far from entertaining — what was there, proper for a human being to wish for, that he did not attain? The exalted expectation which his country conceived of him in his childhood, he at a bound, through incredible merit, more than realized in his youth. Though he never sought the consulship, he was elected consul twice — the first time before he was of legal age, the second time at a period seasonable for him, but almost too late for the safety of the commonwealth. And he overthrew the two cities that were the deadliest foes of our empire and thereby put an end not only to existing wars, but to future wars as well. Why need I speak of his most affable manners, of his devotion to his mother, of his generosity to his sisters, of his kindness to his relatives, of his strict integrity to all men? These things are well known to you both. Moreover, how dear he was to the State was indicated by the grief displayed at his funeral. How, then, could he have gained any advantage by the addition of a few more years of life? For even though old age may not be a burden — as I remember Cato, the year before he died, maintained in a discourse with Scipio and myself — yet it does take away that freshness which Scipio kept even to the end.
12. Therefore, his life really was such that nothing could be added to it either by good fortune or by fame; and, besides, the suddenness of his death took away the consciousness of dying. It is hard to speak of the nature of his death; you both know what people suspect; yet I may say with truth that, of the very many joyous days which he saw in the course of his life — days thronged to the utmost with admiring crowds — the most brilliant was the day before he departed this life, when, after the adjournment of the Senate, he was escorted home toward evening by the Conscript Fathers, the Roman populace, and the Latin allies, so that from so lofty a station of human grandeur he seems to have passed to the gods on high rather than to the shades below.
13. For I do not agree with those who have recently begun to argue that soul and body perish at the same time, and that all things are destroyed by death. I give greater weight to the old-time view, whether it be that of our forefathers, who paid such reverential rites to the dead, which they surely would not have done if they had believed those rites were a matter of indifference to the dead; or, whether it be the view of those who lived in this land and by their principles and precepts brought culture to Great Greece, which now, I admit, is wholly destroyed, but was then flourishing; or, whether it be the view of him who was adjudged by the oracle of Apollo to be the wisest of men, who, though he would argue on most subjects now on one side and now on the other, yet always consistently maintained that human souls were of God; that upon their departure from the body a return to heaven lay open to them, and that in proportion as each soul was virtuous and just would the return be easy and direct.
14. Scipio held this same view, for only a few days before his death, in the presence of Philus, Manilius and several others (you were there, too, Scaevola, having gone with me), he, as if with a premonition of his fate, discoursed for three days on the commonwealth, and devoted almost all of the conclusion of the discussion to the immortality of the soul, making use of arguments which he had heard, he said, from Africanus the Elder through a vision in his sleep. If the truth really is that the souls of all good men after death make the easiest escape from what may be termed the imprisonment and fetters of the flesh, whom can we think of as having had an easier journey to the gods than Scipio? Therefore, I fear that grief at such a fate as his would be a sign more of envy than of friendship. But if, on the other hand, the truth rather is that soul and body perish at the same time, and that no sensation remains, then, it follows that, as there is nothing good in death, so, of a certainty, there is nothing evil. For if a man has lost sensation the result is the same as if he had never been born; and yet the fact that Scipio was born is a joy to us and will cause this State to exult so long as it shall exist.
15. Wherefore, as I have already said, it has gone very well with him, less so with me, for, as I was before him in entering life, it had been more reasonable to expect that I should have been before him in leaving it. Still, such is my enjoyment in the recollection of our friendship that I feel as if my life has been happy because it was spent with Scipio, with whom I shared my public and private cares; lived under the same roof at home; served in the same campaigns abroad, and enjoyed that wherein lies the whole essence of friendship — the most complete agreement in policy, in pursuits, and in opinions. Hence, I am not so much delighted by my reputation for wisdom which Fannius just now called to mind, especially since it is undeserved, as I am by the hope that the memory of our friendship will always endure; and this thought is the more pleasing to me because in the whole range of history only three or four pairs of friends are mentioned; and I venture to hope that among such instances the friendship of Scipio and Laelius will be known to posterity.
16. Fannius. That cannot be otherwise, Laelius. But since you have mentioned friendship and we are free from public business, it would be very agreeable to us — and to Scaevola, too, I hope — if, following your usual practice on other subjects when questions concerning them are put to you, you would discuss friendship and give us your opinion as to its theory and practice.
Scaevola. Indeed it will be agreeable to me, and, in fact, I was about to make the same request when Fannius forestalled me. Hence your compliance will be very agreeable to us both.
17. Laelius. I certainly should raise no objection if I felt confidence in myself, for the subject is a noble one, and we are, as Fannius said, free from public business. But who am I? or what skill have I? What you suggest is a task for philosophers and, what is more, for Greeks — that of discoursing on any subject however suddenly it may be proposed to them. This is a difficult thing to do and requires no little practice. Therefore, for a discussion of everything possible to be said on the subject of friendship, I advise you to apply to those who profess that art; all that I can do is to urge you to put friendship before all things human; for nothing is so conformable to nature and nothing so adaptable to our fortunes whether they be favorable or adverse.
18. This, however, I do feel first of all — that friendship cannot exist except among good men; nor do I go into that too deeply, as is done by those who, in discussing this point with more than usual accuracy, and it may be correctly, but with too little view to practical results, say that no one is good unless he is wise. We may grant that; but they understand wisdom to be a thing such as no mortal man has yet attained. I, however, am bound to look at things as they are in the experience of everyday life and not as they are in fancy or in hope. Never could I say that Gaius Fabricius, Manius Curius, and Tiberius Coruncanius, whom our ancestors adjudged to be wise, were wise by such a standard as that. Therefore, let the Sophists keep their unpopular and unintelligible word to themselves, granting only that the men just named were good men. They will not do it though; they will say that goodness can be predicated only of the “wise” man. 19. Let us then proceed “with our own dull wits,” as the saying is. Those who so act and so live as to give proof of loyalty and uprightness, of fairness and generosity; who are free from all passion, caprice, and insolence, and have great strength of character — men like those just mentioned — such men let us consider good, as they were accounted good in life, and also entitled to be called by that term because, in as far as that is possible for man, they follow Nature, who is the best guide to good living.
For it seems clear to me that we were so created that between us all there exists a certain tie which strengthens with our proximity to each other. Therefore, fellow countrymen are preferred to foreigners and relatives to strangers, for with them Nature herself engenders friendship, but it is one that is lacking in constancy. For friendship excels relationship in this, that goodwill may be eliminated from relationship while from friendship it cannot; since, if you remove goodwill from friendship the very name of friendship is gone; if you remove it from relationship, the name of relationship still remains. 20. Moreover, how great the power of friendship is may most clearly be recognized from the fact that, in comparison with the infinite ties uniting the human race and fashioned by Nature herself, this thing called friendship has been so narrowed that the bonds of affection always united two persons only, or, at most, a few.
For friendship is nothing else than an accord in all things, human and divine, conjoined with mutual goodwill and affection, and I am inclined to think that, with the exception of wisdom, no better thing has been given to man by the immortal gods. Some prefer riches, some good health, some power, some public honors, and many even prefer sensual pleasures. This last is the highest aim of brutes; the others are fleeting and unstable things and dependent less upon human foresight than upon the fickleness of fortune. Again, there are those who place the “chief good” in virtue and that is really a noble view; but this very virtue is the parent and preserver of friendship and without virtue friendship cannot exist at all. 21. To proceed then, let us interpret the word “virtue” by the familiar usage of our everyday life and speech, and not in pompous phrase apply to it the precise standards which certain philosophers use; and let us include in the number of good men those who are so considered — men like Paulus, Cato, Gallus, Scipio, and Philus — who satisfy the ordinary standard of life; but let us pass by such men as are nowhere to be found at all.
22. Therefore, among men like those just mentioned, friendship offers advantages almost beyond any power to describe. In the first place, how can life be what Ennius calls “the life worth living,” if it does not repose on the mutual goodwill of a friend? What is sweeter than to have someone with whom you may dare discuss anything as if you were communing with yourself? How could your enjoyment in times of prosperity be so great if you did not have someone whose joy in them would be equal to your own? Adversity would indeed be hard to bear, without him to whom the burden would be heavier even than to yourself. In short, all other objects of desire are each, for the most part, adapted to a single end — riches, for spending; influence, for honor; public office, for reputation; pleasures, for sensual enjoyment; and health, for freedom from pain and full use of the bodily functions; but friendship embraces innumerable ends; turn where you will it is ever at your side; no barrier shuts it out; it is never untimely and never in the way. Therefore, we do not use the proverbial “fire and water” on more occasions than we use friendship. I am not now speaking of the ordinary and commonplace friendship — delightful and profitable as it is — but of that pure and faultless kind, such as was that of the few whose friendships are known to fame. For friendship adds a brighter radiance to prosperity and lessens the burden of adversity by dividing and sharing it.
23. Seeing that friendship includes very many and very great advantages, it undoubtedly excels all other things in this respect, that it projects the bright ray of hope into the future, and does not suffer the spirit to grow faint or to fall. Again, he who looks upon a true friend, looks, as it were, upon a sort of image of himself. Wherefore friends, though absent, are at hand; though in need, yet abound; though weak, are strong; and — harder saying still — though dead, are yet alive; so great is the esteem on the part of their friends, the tender recollection and the deep longing that still attends them. These things make the death of the departed seem fortunate and the life of the survivors worthy of praise. But if you should take the bond of goodwill out of the universe no house or city could stand, nor would even the tillage of the fields abide. If that statement is not clear, then you may understand how great is the power of friendship and of concord from a consideration of the results of enmity and disagreement. For what house is so strong, or what state so enduring that it cannot be utterly overthrown by animosities and division?
From this it may be judged how great good there is in friendship. 24. It is said, at any rate, that a certain learned man of Agrigentum sang in inspired strain in Greek verse that in nature and the entire universe whatever things are at rest and whatever are in motion are united by friendship and scattered by discord. And indeed this is a statement which all men not only understand but also approve. Whenever, therefore, there comes to light some signal service in undergoing or sharing the dangers of a friend, who does not proclaim it with the loudest praise? What shouts recently rang through the entire theatre during the performance of the new play, written by my guest and friend, Marcus Pacuvius, at the scene where, the king being ignorant which of the two was Orestes, Pylades, who wished to be put to death instead of his friend, declared, “I am Orestes,” while Orestes continued steadfastly to assert, as was the fact, “I am Orestes!” The people in the audience rose to their feet and cheered this incident in fiction; what, think we, would they have done had it occurred in real life? In this case Nature easily asserted her own power, inasmuch as men approved in another as well done that which they could not do themselves.
Within the foregoing limits I have, I think, been able to state my estimate of friendship; if there is anything more to be said — and I believe there is a great deal — inquire, if you please, of those who make a business of such discussions.
25. Fannius. But we prefer to inquire of you. I have, it is true, often questioned those men too, and indeed have not been an unwilling listener, but the thread of your discourse is of a somewhat different texture.
Scaevola. You would say so with greater confidence, Fannius, if you had been present recently in Scipio’s country home during the discussion on the Republic. What an advocate of justice Laelius was then against the elaborate speech of Philus!
Fannius. Ah! but it was an easy thing for the most just of men to defend justice.
Scaevola. Well, then, would not the defense of friendship be easy for that man who has preserved it with the utmost fidelity, constancy, and sense of justice, and thereby gained the greatest renown?
26. Laelius. Really you are employing violence; for what matters it what means you take of forcing me? Forcing me you certainly are. For it is not only hard, but not even right, to withstand the earnest requests of one’s sons-in-law, particularly in a good cause.
The oftener, therefore, I reflect on friendship the more it seems to me that consideration should be given to the question, whether the longing for friendship is felt on account of weakness and want, so that by the giving and receiving of favors one may get from another and in turn repay what he is unable to procure of himself; or, although this mutual interchange is really inseparable from friendship, whether there is not another cause, older, more beautiful, and emanating more directly from Nature herself. For it is love (amor), from which the word “friendship” (amicitia) is derived, that leads to the establishing of goodwill. For while it is true that advantages are frequently obtained even from those who, under a pretense of friendship, are courted and honored to suit the occasion; yet in friendship there is nothing false, nothing pretended; whatever there is is genuine and comes of its own accord. 27. Wherefore it seems to me that friendship springs rather from nature than from need, and from an inclination of the soul joined with a feeling of love rather than from calculation of how much profit the friendship is likely to afford. What this feeling is may be perceived even in the case of certain animals, which, up to a certain time, so love their offspring and are so loved by them, that their impulses are easily seen. But this is much more evident in man; first, from the affection existing between children and parents, which cannot be destroyed except by some execrable crime, and again from that kindred impulse of love, which arises when once we have met someone whose habits and character are congenial with our own; because in him we seem to behold, as it were, a sort of lamp of uprightness and virtue. 28. For there is nothing more lovable than virtue, nothing that more allures us to affection, since on account of their virtue and uprightness we feel a sort of affection even for those whom we have never seen. Is there anyone who does not dwell with some kindly affection on the memory of Gaius Fabricius and Manius Curius, though he never saw them? On the other hand, is there anyone who does not hate Tarquin the Proud, Spurius Cassius, or Spurius Maelius? Against two leaders we had bitter struggles for the empire of Italy — Pyrrhus and Hannibal; for the former, because of his uprightness, we have no great enmity; for the latter, because of his cruelty, this State will always entertain hatred.
29. Now if the force of integrity is so great that we love it, whether in those we have never seen, or, more wonderful still, even in an enemy, what wonder that men’s souls are stirred when they think they see clearly the virtue and goodness of those with whom a close intimacy is possible? And yet love is further strengthened by the receiving of a kindly service, by the evidence of another’s care for us, and by closer familiarity, and from all these, when joined to the soul’s first impulse to love, there springs up, if I may say so, a marvellous glow and greatness of goodwill.
If people think that friendship springs from weakness and from a purpose to secure someone through whom we may obtain that which we lack, they assign her, if I may so express it, a lowly pedigree indeed, and an origin far from noble, and they would make her the daughter of poverty and want. If this were so, then just in proportion as any man judged his resources to be small, would he be fitted for friendship; whereas the truth is far otherwise. 30. For to the extent that a man relies upon himself and is so fortified by virtue and wisdom that he is dependent on no one and considers all his possessions to be within himself, in that degree is he most conspicuous for seeking out and cherishing friendships. Now what need did Africanus have of me? By Hercules! none at all. And I, assuredly, had no need of him either, but I loved him because of a certain admiration for his virtue, and he, in turn, loved me, because, it may be, of the fairly good opinion which he had of my character; and close association added to our mutual affection. Although many and great advantages did ensue from our friendship, still the beginnings of our love did not spring from the hope of gain. 31. For as men of our class generous and liberal, not for the purpose of demanding repayment — for we do not put our favors out at interest, but are by nature given to acts of kindness — so we believe that friendship is desirable, not because we are influenced by hope of gain, but because its entire profit is in the love itself.
32. From this view those men who, after the manner of cattle, judge everything by the standard of pleasure, vigorously dissent; nor is it strange; for the raising of the vision to anything lofty, noble and divine is impossible to men who have abased their every thought to a thing so lowly and mean. Therefore let us dismiss these persons from our conversation and let us for ourselves believe that the sentiments of love and of kindly affection spring from nature, when intimation has been given of moral worth; for when men have conceived a longing for this virtue they bend towards it and move closer to it, so that, by familiar association with him whom they have begun to love, they may enjoy his character, equal him in affection, become readier to deserve than to demand his favors, and vie with him in a rivalry of virtue. Thus the greatest advantages will be realized from friendship, and its origin, being derived from nature rather than from weakness, will be more dignified and more consonant with truth. For on the assumption that advantage is the cement of friendships, if advantage were removed friendships would fall apart; but since nature is unchangeable, therefore real friendships are eternal.
You now have my views on the origin of friendship, unless you have something to say in reply.
Fannius. Pray go on, Laelius, and I answer for my friend here, as I have the right to do, since he is my junior.
Scaevola. Well said, Fannius. Therefore, let us hear.
33. Laelius. Then listen, most worthy gentlemen, to the points very frequently mentioned between Scipio and me in our discussions of friendship. Now he, indeed, used to say that nothing was harder than for a friendship to continue to the very end of life; for it often happened either that the friendship ceased to be mutually advantageous, or the parties to it did not entertain the same political views; and that frequently, too, the dispositions of men were changed, sometimes by adversity and sometimes by the increasing burdens of age. And then he would draw an illustration of this principle from the analogy of early life. “For,” said he, “the most ardent attachments of boyhood are often laid aside with the boyish dress; 34. but if continued to the time of manhood, they are broken off, sometimes by rivalry in courtship or sometimes by a contest for some advantage, in which both of the parties to the friendship cannot be successful at the same time. But should the friendship continue for a longer time, yet it is often overthrown when a struggle for office happens to arise; for while, with the generality of men, the greatest bane of friendship is the lust for money, with the most worthy men it is the strife for preferment and glory, and from this source frequently have sprung the deadliest enmities between the dearest friends.”
35. “Then, too, disagreements of a very serious nature, and usually justifiable, arise from a demand upon friends to do something that is wrong, as, for example, to become agents of vice or abettors in violence, and when the demand is refused, however honorable the refusal, it is nevertheless charged by those to whom the compliance was denied that the laws of friendship have been disregarded; besides, those who dare demand anything and everything of a friend, by that very demand profess a willingness to do anything whatever for the sake of a friend. By their ceaseless recriminations not only are social intimacies usually destroyed, but also everlasting enmities are produced. So many dangers of this kind,” he would say, “hover like evil fates over friendships, that it seems to me to require both wisdom and good luck to escape them all.”
36. Wherefore, let us first consider, if you please, how far love ought to go in friendship. Supposing Coriolanus to have had friends, were those friends in duty bound to bear arms with him against their country? Or ought the friends of Vecellinus, or of Maelius, to have supported them in their attempts to gain regal power? 37. As to Tiberius Gracchus, when he began to stir up revolution against the republic, we saw him utterly deserted by Quintus Tubero and by the friends of his own age. And yet Gaius Blossius of Cumae, a protégé of your family, Scaevola, came to me to plead for leniency, because I was present as adviser to the consuls, Laenas and Rupilius, and offered, as a reason for my pardoning him, the fact that his esteem for Tiberius Gracchus was so great he thought it was his duty to do anything that Tiberius requested him to do. Thereupon I inquired, “Even if he requested you to set fire to the Capitol?” “He never would have requested me to do that, of course,” said he, “but if he had I should have obeyed.” You see what an impious remark that was! And, by heavens! he did all that he said he would do, or rather even more; for he did not follow, but he directed, the infatuation of Tiberius Gracchus, and he did not offer himself as the comrade in the latter’s fury, but as the leader. And so, as a result of his madness, being in fear of the special court of inquiry, he fled into Asia, joined our enemies, and paid a heavy and righteous penalty for his crimes against the Republic.
Therefore it is no justification whatever of your sin to have sinned in behalf of a friend; for, since his belief in your virtue induced the friendship, it is hard for that friendship to remain if you have forsaken virtue. 38. But if we should resolve that it is right, either to grant our friends whatever they wish, or to get from them whatever we wish, then, assuming that we were endowed with truly faultless wisdom, no harm would result; but I am speaking of the friends before our eyes, of those whom we see, or of men of whom we have record, and who are known to everyday life. It is from men of this class our examples should be drawn, but chiefly, I grant you, from those who make the nearest approach to wisdom. 39. We read that Aemilius Papus was an intimate friend of Gaius Luscinus (so we have received it from our forefathers), that they served together twice as consuls and were colleagues in the kinship. Again the tradition is that Manius Curius and Tiberius Coruncanius were most closely associated with them and with each other. Well, then, it is impossible for us even to suspect any one of these men of importuning a friend for anything contrary to good faith or to his solemn oath, or inimical to the commonwealth. What is the need of asserting in the case of men like these, that if such a request had been made it would not have been granted, seeing that they were the purest of men, and moreover, regarded it equally impious to grant and make such a request? But Tiberius Gracchus did find followers in Gaius Carbo and Gaius Cato, and he found a follower also in his own brother Gaius, who though not very ardent then is now intensely so.
40. Therefore let this law be established in friendship: neither ask dishonorable things, nor do them, if asked. And dishonorable it certainly is, and not to be allowed, for anyone to plead in defense of sins in general and especially of those against the State, that he committed them for the sake of a friend. For, my dear Fannius and Scaevola, we Romans are now placed in such a situation that it is our duty to keep a sharp look-out for the troubles that may befall our State. Our political practice has already swerved far from the track and course marked out for us by our ancestors. 41. Tiberius Gracchus tried to obtain regal power — or rather, he actually did reign for a few months. Had the Roman people ever heard of or experienced such a thing before? What his friends and relatives, who followed him even after his death, did in the case of Publius Scipio I cannot describe without tears. As for Carbo, because of the short time since the punishment of Tiberius Gracchus, we have borne with him as best we could. Now what is to be expected when Gaius Gracchus becomes tribune, I am not inclined to prophesy; however, revolution creeps on imperceptibly at first but once it has acquired momentum, rushes headlong to ruin. You see how much mischief has been caused already in the matter of the ballot, first by the Gabinian law, and two years later by the Cassian law. I seem now to see the people estranged from the Senate and the weightiest affairs of state determined by the caprice of the mob. For more people will learn how to start a revolution than how to withstand it.
42. Why do I say these things? Because without associates no one attempts any such mischiefs. It must, therefore, be enjoined upon good men that if by any chance they should inadvisedly fall into friendships of this kind, they must not think themselves so bound that they cannot withdraw from friends who are sinning in some important matter of public concern; for wicked men, on the other hand, a penalty must be enacted, and assuredly it will not be lighter for the followers than for the leaders in treason. Who was more eminent in Greece than Themistocles, who more powerful? But he, after having saved Greece from slavery by his leadership in the war with Persia, and after having been banished because of his unpopularity, would not submit to the injustice of an ungrateful country, as he was in duty bound to do: he did the same thing that Coriolanus had done among our people twenty years before. Not one single supporter could be found to aid these men against their country; therefore, each took his own life. 43. Hence such alliances of wicked men not only should not be protected by a plea of friendship, but rather they should be visited with summary punishment of the severest kind, so that no one may think it permissible to follow even a friend when waging war against his country. And yet this very thing, considering the course affairs have begun to take, will probably happen at some future time; as for me, I am no less concerned for what the condition of the commonwealth will be after my death, than I am for its condition today.
44. Therefore let this be ordained as the first law of friendship: Ask of friends only what is honorable; do for friends only what is honorable and without even waiting to be asked; let zeal be ever present, but hesitation absent; dare to give true advice with all frankness; in friendship let the influence of friends who are wise counsellors be paramount, and let that influence be employed in advising, not only with frankness, but, if the occasion demands, even with sternness, and let the advice be followed when given. 45. I say this because certain men who, I am informed, are considered sages in Greece, have approved certain views, which, in my opinion, are astonishing (but there is nothing that those men will not pursue with their subtleties). Some of these men teach that too much intimacy in friendships should be avoided, lest it be necessary for one man to be full of anxiety for many; that each one of us has business of his own, enough and to spare; that it is annoying to be too much involved in the affairs of other people; that it is best to hold the reins of friendship as loosely as possible, so that we may either draw them up or slacken them at will; for, they say, an essential of a happy life is freedom from care, and this the soul cannot enjoy if one man is, as it were, in travail for many.
46. Again, there are others, I am told, who, with even less of human feeling, maintain (and I briefly touched on this point just now) that friendships must be sought for the sake of the defense and aid they give and not out of goodwill and affection; therefore, that those least endowed with firmness of character and strength of body have the greatest longing for friendship; and consequently, that helpless women, more than men, seek its shelter, the poor more than the rich, and the unfortunate more than those who are accounted fortunate. 47. O noble philosophy! Why, they seem to take the sun out of the universe when they deprive life of friendship, than which we have from the immortal gods no better, no more delightful boon. For of what value is their vaunted “freedom from care”? In appearance it is indeed an alluring thing, but in reality often to be shunned. For it is inconsistent not to undertake any honorable business or course of conduct, or to lay it aside when undertaken, in order to avoid anxiety. Nay, if we continually flee from trouble, we must also flee from Virtue, who necessarily meets with some trouble in rejecting and loathing things contrary to herself, as when kindness rejects ill-will, temperance lust, and bravery cowardice. And so you may see that it is the just who are most pained at injustice, the brave at cowardice, the self-restrained at profligacy. It is, therefore, characteristic of the well-ordered mind both to rejoice at good deeds and to be pained at the reverse.
48. Wherefore, if distress of mind befalls a wise man (as it certainly does unless we assume that human sympathy has been rooted out of his heart), why should we remove friendship entirely from our lives in order that we may suffer no worries on its account? For when the soul is deprived of emotion, what difference is there — I do not say between man and the beasts of the field, but between man and a stock or a stone, or any such thing? Nor are we to listen to those men who maintain that virtue is hard and unyielding and is, as it were, something made of iron; whereas, in many relations of life, and especially in friendship, it is so pliable and elastic that it expands, so to speak, with a friend’s prosperity and contracts with his adversity. Wherefore, that mental anguish of which I spoke and which often must be felt on a friend’s account, has no more power to banish friendship from life than it has to cause us to reject virtue because virtue entails certain cares and annoyances.
But, since, as I said before, virtue knits friendship together, if there should be some exhibition of shining virtue to which a kindred spirit may attach and adjust itself, then, when that happens, love must needs spring forth. 49. For is there anything so absurd as to delight in many inanimate things, like public office, fame, and stately buildings, or dress and personal adornment, and to take little or no delight in a sentient being endowed with virtue and capable of loving, and — if I may so term it — of loving back? For nothing gives more pleasure than the return of goodwill and the interchange of zealous service. 50. And what if I also add, as I may fairly do, that nothing so allures and attracts anything to itself as likeness does to friendship? Then it surely will be granted as a fact that good men love and join themselves to other good men, in a union which is almost that of relationship and nature. For there is nothing more eager or more greedy than nature for what is like itself. Wherefore, because of this very fact, I think it should be evident, Fannius and Scaevola, that the good have for the good, as if from necessity, a kindly feeling which nature has made the fountain of friendship. But this same goodness belongs also to the generality of men. For virtue is not unfeeling, unwilling to serve, or proudly exclusive, but it is her wont to protect even whole nations and to plan the best measures for their welfare, which she certainly would not do if she disdained the affection of the common mass.
51. And again, it seems to me at any rate, that those who falsely assume expediency to be the basis of friendship, take from friendship’s chain its loveliest link. For it is not so much the material gain procured through a friend, as it is his love, and his love alone, that gives us delight; and that advantage which we derive from him becomes a pleasure only when his service is inspired by an ardent zeal. And it is far from being true that friendship is cultivated because of need; rather, is it cultivated by those who are most abundantly blessed with wealth and power and especially with virtue, which is man’s best defense; by those least in need of another’s help; and by those most generous and most given to acts of kindness. Indeed, I should be inclined to think that it is not well for friends never to need anything at all. Wherein, for example, would any zeal have displayed itself if Scipio had never been in need of my advice or assistance either at home or abroad? It is not the case, therefore, that friendship attends upon advantage, but, on the contrary, that advantage attends upon friendship.
52. It will be our duty, then, not to listen to those besotted men of pleasure when they argue about friendship, of which they understand neither the practice nor the theory. For what person is there, in the name of gods and men! who would wish to be surrounded by unlimited wealth and to abound in every material blessing, on condition that he love no one and that no one love him? Such indeed is the life of tyrants — a life, I mean, in which there can be no faith, no affection, no trust in the continuance of goodwill; where every act arouses suspicion and anxiety and where friendship has no place. 53. For can anyone love either the man whom he fears, or the man by whom he believes himself to be feared? Yet tyrants are courted under a pretense of affection, but only for a season. For when by chance they have fallen from power, as they generally do, then is it known how poor they were in friends. And this is illustrated by the remark said to have been made by Tarquin as he was going into exile: “I have learned what friends of mine are true and what are false, now that I am no longer able to reward or punish either.”
54. And yet, such was the haughtiness and perversity of the man that I wonder if he could have had anyone as a friend. Now just as the character of Tarquin could not procure him true friends, so, with many, their power, if it be very great, is a bar to faithful friendships. For not only is Fortune blind herself, but as a rule she even blinds those whom she has embraced; and thus they are generally transported beyond themselves by wanton pride and obstinacy — nor can anything in the world be more insufferable than one of Fortune’s fools. Indeed we may observe that men, formerly affable in their manners, become changed by military rank, by power, and by prosperity, spurn their old-time friends and revel in the new. 55. But what is more foolish, when men are in the plenitude of resources, opportunities, and wealth, than to procure the other things which money provides — horses, slaves, splendid raiment, and costly plate — and not procure friends, who are, if I may say so, life’s best and fairest furniture? And really while they are procuring those material things, they know not for whom they do it, nor for whose benefit they toil; for such things are the prey of the strongest; but to every man the tenure of his friendships ever remains settled and sure, so that even if there should be a continuance of those things which are, so to speak, the gratuities of fortune, yet life unadorned and unattended by friends could not be pleasant. But enough on this point.
56. We now have to determine in our discussion of friendship what are the limits and, so to speak, the boundary lines of affection. On this point I observe that three views are usually advanced, none of which I approve: first, “That we should have the same feeling for our friends that we have for ourselves”; second, “That our goodwill towards our friends should correspond in all respects to their goodwill toward us,” and third, “That whatever value a man places upon himself, the same value should be placed upon him by his friends.” 57. I do not agree at all with any of these views. Certainly the first one is not true which holds that “as a man feels towards himself, so should he feel towards his friend.” For how many things we do for our friends that we never would do for ourselves! At one time we beg and entreat an unworthy man, and again we assail another too sharply or loudly rail upon him — things not quite creditable in our own affairs, but exceedingly so in behalf of our friends; and there are numerous occasions when good men forgo, or permit themselves to be deprived of, many conveniences in order that their friends rather than themselves may enjoy them.
58. The second view limits friendship to an equal interchange of services and feelings. It surely is calling friendship to a very close and petty accounting to require it to keep an exact balance of credits and debits. I think true friendship is richer and more abundant than that and does not narrowly scan the reckoning lest it pay out more than it has received; and there need be no fear that some bit of kindness will be lost, that it will overflow the measure and spill upon the ground, or that more than is due will be poured into friendship’s bin.
59. But worst of all is the third limitation, which is that “whatever value a man places upon himself, the same value should be placed upon him by his friends.” For often in some men either the spirit is too dejected, or the hope of bettering their fortune is too faint. Therefore, it is not the province of a friend, in such a case, to have the same estimate of another that the other has of himself, but rather it is his duty to strive with all his might to arouse his friend’s prostrate soul and lead it to a livelier hope and into a better train of thought. Hence some other limitation of true friendship must be fixed, after I have first stated a view which Scipio used to condemn in the strongest terms. He often said that no utterance could be found more at war with friendship than that of the man who had made this remark: “We should love as if at some time we were going to hate.” And Scipio could not, he said, be induced to adopt the commonly accepted belief that this expression was made by Bias, who was counted one of the Seven Sages; but he thought that it was the speech of some abandoned wretch, or scheming politician, or of someone who regarded everything as an instrument to serve his own selfish ends. For how will it be possible for anyone to be a friend to a man who, he believes, may be his foe? Nay, in such a case it will be necessary also for him to desire and pray that his friend may sin as often as possible and thereby give him, as it were, the more handles to lay hold of; and, again, he will be bound to feel grief, pain and envy at the good deeds and good fortune of his friends. 60. Wherefore this maxim, whoever its author, really has the effect of destroying friendship: rather ought we to have been enjoined to exercise such care in forming friendships that we should never begin to love anyone whom we might sometimes hate. Indeed, Scipio thought that, even if we had been unfortunate in our choice, we should endure it rather than plan an opportunity for a breach.
61. Therefore, these are the limits which I think ought to be observed, namely: when the characters of friends are blameless, then there should be between them complete harmony of opinions and inclinations in everything without any exception; and, even if by some chance the wishes of a friend are not altogether honorable and require to be forwarded in matters which involve his life or reputation, we should turn aside from the straight path, provided, however, utter disgrace does not follow; for there are limits to the indulgence which can be allowed to friendship. Nor indeed ought a man either to disregard his reputation, or to consider the goodwill of his countrymen a poor weapon in the battle of life, though to hunt after it with fawning and flattery is disgraceful; as to virtue we must by no means abjure it, for it is attended by regard.
62. But Scipio — and I often recur to him, my sole authority for a discourse on friendship — Scipio used to complain that men were more painstaking in all other things than in friendship; that everybody could tell how many goats and sheep he had, but was unable to tell the number of his friends; and that men took pains in getting the former, but were careless in choosing the latter, and had no certain signs, or marks, so to speak, by which to determine their fitness for friendship. We ought, therefore, to choose men who are firm, steadfast and constant, a class of which there is a great dearth; and at the same time it is very hard to come to a decision without a trial, while such trial can only be made in actual friendship: thus friendship outruns the judgement and takes away the opportunity of a trial. 63. Hence it is the part of wisdom to check the headlong rush of goodwill as we would that of a chariot, and thereby so manage friendship that we may in some degree put the dispositions of friends, as we do those of horses, to a preliminary test. Some men often give proof in a petty money transaction how unstable they are; while others, who could not have been influenced by a trivial sum, are discovered in one that is large. But if any shall be found who think it base to prefer money to friendship, where shall we find those who do not put office, civil and military rank, high place and power, above friendship, so that when the former advantages are placed before them on one side and the latter on the other they will not much prefer the former? For feeble is the struggle of human nature against power, and when men have attained it even by the disregard of friendship they imagine the sin will be forgotten because friendship was not disregarded without a weighty cause. 64. Therefore, true friendships are very hard to find among those whose time is spent in office or in business of a public kind. For where can you find a man so high-minded as to prefer his friend’s advancement to his own? And, passing by material considerations, pray consider this: how grievous and how hard to most persons does association in another’s misfortunes appear! Nor is it easy to find men who will go down to calamity’s depths for a friend. Ennius, however, is right when he says:
When Fortune’s fickle the faithful friend is found;
yet it is on these two charges that most men are convicted of fickleness: they either hold a friend of little value when their own affairs are prosperous, or they abandon him when his are adverse. Whoever, therefore, in either of these contingencies, has shown himself staunch, immovable, and firm in friendship ought to be considered to belong to that class of men which is exceedingly rare — aye, almost divine.
65. Now the support and stay of that unswerving constancy, which we look for in friendship, is loyalty; for nothing is constant that is disloyal. Moreover, the right course is to choose for a friend one who is frank, sociable, and sympathetic — that is, one who is likely to be influenced by the same motives as yourself — since all these qualities conduce to loyalty; for it is impossible for a man to be loyal whose nature is full of twists and twinings; and, indeed, one who is untouched by the same influences as yourself and is naturally unsympathetic cannot be either loyal or steadfast. To this observation should be added a requirement tending to produce that steadfastness, which I have been discussing for some time: a friend must neither take pleasure in bringing charges against you nor believe them when made by others. And so, the truth of what I said in the beginning is established: “Friendship cannot exist except among good men.”
For it is characteristic of the good man, whom I may also call the wise man, to maintain these two rules in friendship: first, let there be no feigning or hypocrisy; for it is more befitting a candid man to hate openly than to mask his real thoughts with a lying face; secondly, let him not only reject charges preferred by another, but also let him avoid even being suspicious and ever believing that his friend has done something wrong. 66. To this should be added a certain affability of speech and manner, which gives no mean flavour to friendship. While unvarying seriousness and gravity are indeed impressive, yet friendship ought to be more unrestrained, genial, and agreeable, and more inclined to be wholly courteous and urbane.
67. But at this point there arises a certain question of some little difficulty: Are new friends who are worthy of friendship, at any time to be preferred to old friends, as we are wont to prefer young horses to old ones? The doubt is unworthy of a human being, for there should be no surfeit of friendships as there is of other things; and, as in the case of wines that improve with age, the oldest friendships ought to be the most delightful; moreover, the well-known adage is true: “Men must eat many a peck of salt together before the claims of friendship are fulfilled.” 68. But new friendships are not to be scorned if they offer hope of bearing fruit, like green shoots of corn that do not disappoint us at harvest-time; yet the old friendships must preserve their own place, for the force of age and habit is very great. Nay, even in the case of the horse just now referred to, everybody, nothing preventing, would rather use one to which he has grown accustomed than one that is untrained and new. And habit is strong in the case not only of animate, but also of inanimate things, since we delight even in places, though rugged and wild, in which we have lived for a fairly long time.
69. But it is of the utmost importance in friendship that superior and inferior should stand on an equality. For oftentimes a certain pre-eminence does exist, as was that of Scipio in what I may call “our set.” But he never affected any superiority over Philus, or Rupilius, or Mummius, or over his other friends of a lower rank. For example, his brother Quintus Maximus, a distinguished man, no doubt, though by no means his equal, was treated by him as a superior, because he was older than himself. Indeed Scipio desired that he might be the cause of enhancing the dignity of all his friends. 70. And this course every man should adopt and imitate, so that if he is endowed with any superiority in virtue, intellect, or fortune he may impart it to his relatives and share it with his next of kin; or if, for example, his parents are of a lowly station and his relatives are less favored in mind or estate than himself, he may increase the means of the one and be the source of honor and influence to other; as in legends, men who have for a long time lived the life of menials, because their lineage and family were unknown, although discovered and found to be the sons of gods or of kings, nevertheless retain affection for the shepherds whom for many years they regarded as their parents. And surely such a feeling ought to be much stronger in the case of real and undoubted parents. For the fruit of genius, of virtue, and, indeed, of every excellence, imparts its sweetest flavour when bestowed on those who are nearest and dearest to us.
71. As, therefore, in the intimacy existing between friends and relatives the superior should put himself on a level with his inferior, so the latter ought not to grieve that he is surpassed by the former in intellect, fortune, or position. But many of the latter kind are continually uttering some complaints or reproaches even, especially if they think that they have done anything which they can speak of as an act of duty and of friendship, involving a certain amount of toil. A very disagreeable class of people, certainly, are those who are ever obtruding their own services, which ought to be kept in mind by him for whom they were performed and should not be mentioned by him who performed them. 72. As, therefore, in friendship, those who are superior should lower themselves, so, in a measure, should they lift up their inferiors. For there are certain men who render friendships disagreeable by thinking themselves slighted — a thing which rarely happens, except in the case of persons who think that they really deserve to be slighted; but they ought to be relieved of such an opinion not by words only but by action. 73. Now, in the first place, you must render to each friend as much aid as you can, and, in the second place, as much as he whom you love and assist has the capacity to bear. For however eminent you may be, you cannot lead all your friends through the various grades to the highest official rank, as Scipio was able to do when he made Publius Rupilius consul, though he could not accomplish this result in the case of his brother, Lucius Rupilius. But even if you could bestow upon another any honor you chose, yet you must consider what he is able to bear.
74. As a rule decisions about friendships should be formed after strength and stability have been reached in mind and age; nor should men who in boyhood were devoted to hunting and games of ball, keep as their intimates those whom they loved at that period simply because they were fond of the same pursuits. For on that principle nurses and the slaves who attended us to and from school, will, by right of priority of acquaintance, claim the largest share of our goodwill. I admit that they are not to be neglected, but they are to be regarded in an entirely different way; under no other conditions can friendship remain secure. For difference of character is attended by difference of taste that severs friendships; nor is there any other cause why good men cannot be friends to wicked men, or wicked men to good men, except that there is the greatest possible distance between them in character and in taste.
75. This rule also may properly be prescribed in friendship: Let not a sort of ungoverned goodwill (as very frequently happens) hinder your friends’ advantage in important matters. For indeed, if I may go back to legends, Neoptolemus could not have taken Troy if he had been willing to listen to Lycomedes, by whom he had been reared and who endeavored with many tears to hinder him from setting out. Often, too, important duties arise which require the temporary separation of friends; and he who would hinder the discharge of those duties because he cannot easily bear his grief at the absence of friends, is not only weak and effeminate, but, on that very account, is far from reasonable in his friendship. 76. In brief, it is your duty on every occasion to consider carefully both what you will demand from a friend and what you will permit him to obtain when he makes a demand on you.
Furthermore, there is a sort of disaster in connexion with breaking off friendships — for now our discussion descends from the intimacies of the wise to friendships of the ordinary kind — which is sometimes unavoidable. There are often in friends outbreaks of vice which affect sometimes their actual friends, sometimes strangers, yet so that the infamy of the evil flows over on to the friends. Therefore the ties of such friendships should be sundered by a gradual relaxation of intimacy, and, as I have heard that Cato used to say, “They should be unravelled rather than rent apart,” unless there has been some outbreak of utterly unbearable wrongdoing, so that the only course consistent with rectitude and honor, and indeed the only one possible, is to effect an immediate withdrawal of affection and association.
77. But if, on the other hand, as usually happens, a mere change of disposition and of tastes should occur, or if a difference in political views should arise (for I am talking now, as I said a moment ago, not of friendships existing between wise men, but of those of the ordinary kind), care must be taken lest it appear, not only that friendship has been put aside, but that open hostility has been aroused. For nothing is more discreditable than to be at war with one with whom you have lived on intimate terms. Scipio, as you both know, had severed his friendship with Quintus Pompeius on my account; and, moreover, because of a disagreement in politics, was estranged from my colleague, Metellus; he acted with deliberation and moderation in each instance, and without any bitter feeling of resentment. 78. Wherefore, in the first place, pains must be taken that, if possible, no discord should arise between friends, but in case it does, then our care should be that the friendships appear to have burned out rather than to have been stamped out. And you must indeed be on your guard lest friendships be changed into serious enmities, which are the source of disputes, abuse, and invective. Yet even these, if endurable, are to be borne, and such respect is to be paid to the old-time friendship that he may be in the wrong who committed the offense and not he who suffered it.
In short: there is but one security and one provision against these ills and annoyances, and that is, neither to enlist your love too quickly nor to fix it on unworthy men. 79. Now they are worthy of friendship who have within their own souls the reason for their being loved. A rare class indeed! And really everything splendid is rare, and nothing is harder to find than something which in all respects is a perfect specimen of its kind. But the majority of men recognize nothing whatever in human experience as good unless it brings some profit and they regard their friends as they do their cattle, valuing most highly those which give hope of the largest gain. 80. Thus do they fail to attain that loveliest, most spontaneous friendship, which is desirable in and for itself; and they do not learn from their own experience what the power of such friendship is and are ignorant of its nature and extent. For everyone loves himself, not with a view of acquiring some profit himself from his self-love, but because he is dear to himself on his own account; and unless this same feeling were transferred to friendship, the real friend would never be found; for he is, as it were, another self.
81. Now if it is evident in animals, whether of the air, the water, or the land, and whether tame or wild, first, that they love themselves — for this feeling is born alike in every living creature — and, secondly, that they require and eagerly search for other animals of their own kind to which they may attach themselves — and this they do with a longing in some degree resembling human love — then how much more, by the law of his nature, is this the case with man who both loves himself and uses his reason to seek out another whose soul he may so mingle with his own as almost to make one out of two!
82. But most men unreasonably, not to say shamelessly, want a friend to be such as they cannot be themselves and require from friends what they themselves do not bestow. But the fair thing is, first of all, to be a good man yourself and then to seek another like yourself. It is among such men that this stability of friendship, of which I have been treating for some time, may be made secure; and when united by ties of goodwill, they will first of all subdue those passions to which other men are slaves; and, next, they will delight in what is equitable and accords with law, and will go to all lengths for each other; they will not demand from each other anything unless it is honorable and just, and they will not only cherish and love, but they will also revere, each other. For he who takes reverence from friendship, takes away its brightest jewel. 83. Therefore a fatal mistake is made by those who think that friendship opens wide the door to every passion and to every sin. Friendship was given to us by nature as the handmaid of virtue, not as a comrade of vice; because virtue cannot attain her highest aims unattended, but only in union and fellowship with another. Such a partnership as this, whether it is, or was, or is yet to be, should be considered the best and happiest comradeship along the road to nature’s highest good. 84. In such a partnership, I say, abide all things that men deem worthy of pursuit — honor and fame and delightful tranquillity of mind; so that when these blessings are at hand life is happy, and without them, it cannot be happy.
Since happiness is our best and highest aim, we must, if we would attain it, give our attention to virtue, without which we can obtain neither friendship nor any other desirable thing; on the other hand, those who slight virtue and yet think that they have friends, perceive their mistake at last when some grievous misfortune forces them to put their friends to the test. 85. Therefore, I repeat the injunction, for it should be said again and again: you should love your friend after you have appraised him; you should not appraise him after you have begun to love him. But we are punished for our negligence in many things, and especially are we most grievously punished for our carelessness in the choice and treatment of our friends; for we deliberate after the event, and we do what the ancient proverb forbids — we argue the case after the verdict is found. Accordingly, after we have become involved with others in a mutual affection, either by long association or by interchange of favors, some cause of offense arises and we suddenly break the bonds of friendship asunder when it has run but half its course.
23 86. Therefore carelessness so great in regard to a relation absolutely indispensable deserves the more to be censured. For the one thing in human experience about whose advantage all men with one voice agree, is friendship; even virtue itself is regarded with contempt by many and is said to be mere pretense and display; many disdain riches, because they are content with little and take delight in meagre fare and plain dress; political honors, too, for which some have a burning desire — how many so despise them that they believe nothing more empty and nothing more inane! Likewise other things, which seem to some to be worthy of admiration, are by many thought to be of no value at all. But concerning friendship, all, to a man, think the same thing: those who have devoted themselves to public life; those who find their joy in science and philosophy; those who manage their own business free from public cares; and, finally, those who are wholly given up to sensual pleasures — all believe that without friendship life is no life at all, or at least they so believe if they have any desire whatever to live the life of free men. 87. For it creeps imperceptibly, I know not how, into every life, and suffers no mode of existence to be devoid of its presence.
Nay, even if anyone were of a nature so savage and fierce as to shun and loathe the society of men — such, for example, as tradition tells us a certain Timon of Athens once was — yet even such a man could not refrain from seeking some person before whom he might pour out the venom of his embittered soul. Moreover, the view just expressed might best be appraised if such a thing as this could happen: suppose that a god should remove us from these haunts of men and put us in some solitary place, and, while providing us there in plenteous abundance with all material things for which our nature yearns, should take from us altogether the power to gaze upon our fellow men — who would be such a man of iron as to be able to endure that sort of a life? And who is there from whom solitude would not snatch the enjoyment of every pleasure? 88. True, therefore, is that celebrated saying of Archytas of Tarentum, I think it was — a saying which I have heard repeated by our old men who in their turn heard it from their elders. It is to this effect: “If a man should ascend alone into heaven and behold clearly the structure of the universe and the beauty of the stars, there would be no pleasure for him in the awe-inspiring sight, which would have filled him with delight if he had had someone to whom he could describe what he had seen.” Thus nature, loving nothing solitary, always strives for some sort of support, and man’s best support is a very dear friend.
But though this same nature declares by so many utterances what she wishes, what she seeks, and what she ardently longs for, yet we somehow grow deaf and do not hearken to her voice. For varied and complex are the experiences of friendship, and they afford many causes for suspicion and offense, which it is wise sometimes to ignore, sometimes to make light of, and sometimes to endure. But there is one cause of offense which must be encountered in order that both the usefulness and loyalty of friendship may be preserved; for friends frequently must be not only advised, but also rebuked, and both advice and rebuke should be kindly received when given in a spirit of goodwill. 89. But somehow it is true, as put by my intimate friend in his Andria:
Complaisance gets us friends, plain speaking, hate.
A troublesome thing is truth, if it is indeed the source of hate, which poisons friendship; but much more troublesome is complaisance, which, by showing indulgence to the sins of a friend, allows him to be carried headlong away; but the greatest fault is in him who both scornfully rejects truth and is driven by complaisance to ruin.
Therefore, in this entire matter reason and care must be used, first, that advice be free from harshness, and second, that reproof be free from insult. But in showing complaisance — I am glad to adopt Terence’s word, obsequium — let courtesy be at hand, and let flattery, the handmaid of vice, be far removed, as it is unworthy not only of a friend but even of a free man; for we live in one way with a tyrant and in another with a friend. 90. Now we must despair of the safety of the man whose ears are so closed to truth that he cannot hear what is true from a friend. For there is shrewdness in that well-known saying of Cato, as there was in much that he said: “Some men are better served by their bitter-tongued enemies than by their sweet-smiling friends; because the former often tell the truth, the latter, never.” And furthermore, it is absurd that men who are admonished do not feel vexation at what ought to vex them, but do feel it at what ought not; for they are annoyed, not at the sin, but at the reproof; whereas, on the contrary, they ought to grieve for the offense and rejoice at its correction.
91. As, therefore, it is characteristic of true friendship both to give and to receive advice and, on the one hand, to give it with all freedom of speech, but without harshness, and on the other hand, to receive it patiently, but without resentment, so nothing is to be considered a greater bane of friendship than fawning, cajolery, or flattery; for give it as many names as you choose, it deserves to be branded as a vice peculiar to fickle and false-hearted men who say everything with a view to pleasure and nothing with a view to truth. 92. Moreover, hypocrisy is not only wicked under all circumstances, because it pollutes truth and takes away the power to discern it, but it is also especially inimical to friendship, since it utterly destroys sincerity, without which the word friendship can have no meaning. And since the effect of friendship is to make, as it were, one soul out of many, how will that be possible if not even in one man taken by himself shall there be a soul always one and the same, but fickle, changeable, and manifold? 93. For what can be as pliant and erratic as the soul of the man who changes not only to suit another’s humour and desire, but even his expression and his nod?
He says “nay,” and “nay” say I; he says “yea,” and “yea” say I; in fine, I bade myself agree with him in everything.
This was said by Terence whom I quoted before, but he says it in the character of Gnatho; and to have such a man for a friend on any terms is a mark of inconstancy. 94. However, there are many like Gnatho, though his superiors in birth, fortune, and reputation, who become dangerous flatterers when their insincerity is supported by their position. 95. But by the exercise of care a fawning friend may be separated and distinguished from a true friend, just as everything pretended and false may be distinguished from what is genuine and true. A public assembly, though composed of very ignorant men, can, nevertheless, usually see the difference between a demagogue — that is, a smooth-tongued, shallow citizen — and one who has stability, sincerity, and weight. 96. With what flattering words Gaius Papirius not long ago insinuated himself into the favor of the assembly, when he was trying to carry a law making the people’s tribunes eligible for re-election! I spoke against it — but I will not talk of myself, it will give me more pleasure to talk about Scipio. Ye gods! What weight and majesty there was in his speech on that occasion! One would have said, without hesitation, that he was the leader of the Roman people, not their comrade. But you both were present; besides, his speech is published. As a result this “people’s law” was rejected by the people’s votes.
Again — and pardon me for referring to myself — you remember when Lucius Mancinus and Scipio’s brother, Quintus Maximus, were consuls, how popular apparently was the proposed law of Gaius Licinius Crassus regarding the priestly offices — for the right to co-opt to vacancies possessed by the college was being converted into patronage for the people. (By the way, Crassus was the first man to begin the practice of facing towards the forum in addressing the people.) Nevertheless, through my speech in reply, reverence for the immortal gods easily prevailed over the plausible oration of Crassus. And this took place while I was praetor and five years before I was elected consul. Thus the cause was won more by its own merit than by the influence of one holding a very high official rank.
97. Now, if on the stage, I mean on the platform, where there is the greatest opportunity for deception and disguise, truth yet prevails, provided it is made plain and brought into the light of day, what ought to be the case with friendship which is wholly weighed in the scales of truth? For in friendship, unless, as the saying is, you behold and show an open heart, you can have no loyalty or certainty and not even the satisfaction of loving and of being loved, since you do not know what true love is. And yet this flattery of which I spoke, however deadly it may be, can harm no one except him who receives it and delights in it. It follows that the man who lends the readiest ear to flatterers is the one who is most given to self-flattery and is most satisfied with himself.
98. I grant that Virtue loves herself; for she best knows herself and realizes how lovable she is; but it is not virtue I am talking about but a reputation for virtue. For many wish not so much to be, as to seem to be, endowed with real virtue. Such men delight in flattery, and when a complimentary remark is fashioned to suit their fancy they think the empty phrase is proof of their own merits. There is nothing, therefore, in a friendship in which one of the parties to it does not wish to hear the truth and the other is ready to lie. Nor should we see any humour in the fawning parasites in comedies if there were no braggart soldiers.
In truth did Thais send me many thanks?
It would have been enough to answer, “Many.” “Millions of them,” said the parasite. The flatterer always magnifies that which the one for whose gratification he speaks wishes to be large. 99. Wherefore, although that sort of hollow flattery influences those who court and make a bid for it, yet even stronger and steadier men should be warned to be on their guard lest they be taken in by flattery of the crafty kind.
No one, to be sure, unless he is an utter fool, fails to detect the open flatterer, but we must exercise a watchful care against the deep and crafty one lest he steal upon us unawares. For he is very hard to recognize, since he often fawns even by opposing, and flatters and cajoles by pretending to quarrel, until at last he gives in, allowing himself to be overcome so that his dupe may appear to have seen further into the matter than himself. And yet, is there anything more discreditable than to be made a dupe? If not, then we should be all the more on our guard that it does not happen to us to have to confess:
Today, of all old fools that play the comic parts,
You’ve wheedled me the most and made your greatest dupe.
100. For even on the stage the silliest characters take the parts of old men lacking in foresight and easily deceived.
But in some unaccountable way I have drifted away from the friendship of faultless men — that is, men of wisdom, such wisdom I mean as is observed to fall to the lot of man — and I have rambled on to a discussion of friendships of the frivolous kind. Wherefore, let me return to the topic with which I began and finally put an end even to that.
Virtue, my dear Gaius Fannius, and you, my dear Quintus Mucius, Virtue, I say, both creates the bond of friendship and preserves it. For in Virtue is complete harmony, in her is permanence, in her is fidelity; and what she has raised her head and shown her own light and has seen and recognized the same light in another, she moves towards it and in turn receives its beams; as a result love or friendship leaps into flame; for both words derived from a word meaning “to love.” But love is nothing other than the great esteem and affection felt for him who inspires that sentiment, and it is not sought because of material need or for the sake of material gain. Nevertheless even this blossoms forth from friendship, although you did not make it your aim. 101. Because of this friendly impulse, I, as a young man, became attached to those old men, Lucius Paulus, Marcus Cato, Gaius Gallus, Publius Nasica, and Tiberius Gracchus, father-in-law of my dear Scipio. And while that feeling is stronger between men of the same age, as between Scipio, Lucius Furius, Publius Rupilius, Spurius Mummius, and myself; yet, in turn, now that I am old, I find pleasure in the affection of young men, like yourselves and Quintus Tubero; and I find delight also in social intercourse with still younger men like Publius Rutilius and Aulus Verginius. And since it is the law of human life and of human nature that a new generation is ever coming forth, it is really most desirable, when you can, to reach the goal, so to speak, with men of your own age — those with whom you began the race of life.
102. But inasmuch as things human are frail and fleeting, we must be ever on the search for some persons whom we shall love and who will love us in return; for if goodwill and affection are taken away, every joy is taken from life. For me, indeed, though he was suddenly snatched away, Scipio still lives and will always live; for it was his virtue that caused my love and that is not dead. Nor is it only in my sight and for me, who had it constantly within my reach, that his virtue lives; it will even shed its light and splendour on men unborn. No one will ever undertake with courage and hope the larger tasks of life without thinking that he must continually keep before him the memory and example of that illustrious man.
103. For my part, of all the blessings that fortune or nature has bestowed on me, there is none which I can compare with Scipio’s friendship. In it I found agreement on public questions; in it, counsel in private business, and in it, too, a leisure of unalloyed delight. And, so far as I was aware, I never offended him in even the most trivial point; nor did I ever hear a word from him that I could wish unsaid; there was one home for us both; we had the same fare and shared it in common, and we were together not only in our military campaigns, but also in our foreign tours and on our vacations in the country. 104. Why need I speak of our constant devotion to investigation and to learning in which, remote from the gaze of men, we spent all our leisure time? If my recollection and memory of these things had died with him, I could not now by any means endure the loss of a man so very near and dear to me. But those experiences with him are not dead; rather they are nourished and made more vivid by my reflection and memory; and even if I were utterly deprived of the power to recall them, yet my age would of itself afford me great relief; for I cannot have much longer time to bear this bereavement; besides, every trial, which is of brief duration, ought to be endurable, even if it be severe.
This is all that I had to say about friendship; but I exhort you both so to esteem virtue (without which friendship cannot exist), that, excepting virtue, you will think nothing more excellent than friendship.
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