Quintus Mucius Augur used to tell stories about Gaius Laelius, his father-in-law memorably and fondly, and did not hesitate to call him a wise man in any speech; I myself was led off by my father to Scaevola right after I took up the toga virilis, with the idea being that I should, as far as I could and was allowed, never part from the old man's side; so I memorised the many cases thoughtfully arbitrated by him as well as his many succinct and fitting aphorisms and studied to become more learned through his expertise. When he died, I devoted myself to Scaevola Pontifex, who I dare say was one of the most outstandingly talented and fair men of our community. But about him, another time; for now I return to Augur.
I remember, among many other things, one time he was sitting in a circle of chairs at his home, as he used to, when I and a very few of his friends were there, and a man came up in conversation who was then on everyone's lips. You will remember (particularly well, actually, Atticus, because you were very close with Publius Sulpicius, when he was tribune of the plebs and developed a fatal emnity with Quintus Pompeius, who was consul at the time and with whom he had previously lived with the greatest intimacy and love), how great was the astonishment? or grievance? amongst the people.
So then Scaevola, when this had come up with this remark, repeated to us a conversation between Laelius, himself and Laelius' other son-in-law, Gaius Fannius (Marcus' son), about friendship, a few days after the death of Africanus. I committed to memory the points of his discussion, which I have repeated in this book in my own style; for I have presented them speaking, so as not to break it up with I said" and "he said" and so that the conversation should seem to be held as if they were present in front of you.
For since you've often encouraged me to write something about friendship, it seemed appropriate for me to give it full thought, especially given our friendship. Thus I acted not unwillingly to benefit many people through your request. But, just as in Cato the Elder, which was written for you about old age, I presented Cato conversing as an old man because no character seemed more appropriate to talk about that time of life than him, since he was an old man for a very long time and had prospered more than anyone else in that old age, so, since the most memorable friendship we have heard about from our fathers is that of Gaius Laelius and Publius Scipio, the character of Laelius seemed to me suitible for examination of the concept of friendship itself, which Scaevola remembered him discussing. But this kind of speech, placed in the tones of ancient men, especially the distinguished ones, seems somehow to have more weight; thus even I, re-reading my work I am made to fancy Cato, not me, is speaking.
Just as in that work, I wrote as an old man to an old man about old age, in this book I have written as a very dear friend to a friend about friendship. In that work, Cato spoke and probably there was no one older, no one more knowledgable than him in his time; now Laelius speaks about friendship, wisely (for that was how he was) and as a man who excelled in the glory of friendship. For a little while, I hope, you will ignore me and think that Laelius himself is talking.
FANNIUS: How things are, Laelius! For there was no man better than Africanus, nor more famous. But you must feel like the eyes of everyone look to you as one; you whom they call and consider a wise man. This was bestowed only a little while ago to Marcus Cato; we know that among our fathers Lucius Acilius was called a wise man. But each of them in a slightly different way: Acilius because he was thought to be learned in civil law, Cato because he had experience of many things: His many acts in the Senate and in the forum were wisely foresighted, consistently carried out, or sharply said; probably because of this he had the nickname "Wise" in his old age.
But that you are a wise man not just in your nature and habits, but indeed also in your study and teaching, so that not just ordinary people, but even erudites regularly call you a wise man, like no one in the Greek tradition (for they do not include the seven so called, who investigated things so precisely, in the number of the wise) excluding the one man from Athens who was judged to be the wisest of all by the Oracle of Apollo; they think this is your wisdom: that you hold all your things to pertain to yourself and you think mortal failings lesser than virtue. Thus they ask of me, of Scaevola here as well (I think), how you bear the death of Africanus calmly, and this even more so because at the last Nones when we went to the garden of Decimus Brutus in order to study the augury as normal, you were not present, though it is your very strict practice to always go on that day for that duty.
SCAEVOLA: Many people, Gaius Laelius, ask me this too, as Fannius has said, but I answer, that I have given it some thought and that you are bearing the pain which comes with the death of the pinnacle of men and a very good friend moderately and could not be unshaken by this, nor was this part of your impeccability; but as for why you were not among our colleagues at the Nones, I answer that the cause was your health, not sorrow.
But you, Fannius, when you say that so much (which I neither recognise nor request) is attributed to me, act out of friendship; yet you seem to me not to judge Cato correctly; for either no one has been a wise man (which I believe more) or if anyone, then him. How well, to take just one example, he bore the death of his son! I remember Paulus, I saw Galus, but these died as children, Cato's son as a grown and esteemed man.
On account of which, be careful not to place ahed of Cato even that man whom Apollo, as you say, judged to be wisest; for the deeds of the one and the words of the other are to be praised. But may it be held about me, as I now say to you both:
If I denied that I was moved by a longing for Scipio, that I did this correctly, the wise might think, but I would certainly be lying. For I am moved at being deprived of such a friend as (I think) no one else ever will be and (as I can prove) no one else ever was; but I am not without medicine, I console myself in particular with the solace that I am free from the error by which many people are usually pained at the departure of friends. I think nothing evil has happened to Scipio, it has happened to me, if anything has happened; but to be seriously pained by one's own misfortunes is for a man who loves not his friend but his own self.
As for him, who would deny that he has been taken outstandingly? For unless he was to desire immortality, which he never considered, what did he not achieve which it is licit for a man to desire? This man in whom the citizens put their greatest hopes when he was still a boy, who immediately exceeded them as a youth, who never sought the consulship, but was made consul twice, the first before his time, then again in his time, but almost too late for the Republic, who, by overturning the two cities most hostile to ours, has eliminated through his command not just for the moment, but even for times to come. What could I say worthy of his most good natured way of life, his veneration for his mother, his generosity to his sisters, his goodness to his own people, his justice to everyone? You know these things. But how dear he was to his community, is indicated by the lamentation at his funeral. How then could the addition of a few years have helped him? For although old age may not be terrible - as I remember Cato discussed with me and Scipio a year before he died - yet it strips away that vigour which Scipio has even now.
With respect to which, he was such a man that in fortune or in glory he could add nothing more in life, while his awareness that he was dying was taken away by its rapidity; about the nature of his death it is difficult to say; what people believe, you know; but it is possible to say this for sure, that for Publius Scipio, out of the many days of his life which seemed very glorious and happy, the most brilliant was the day when he was led home after the Senate finished for the day by the conscript fathers, the Roman people, the allies and the Latins - the day before he left this life, so that from such a high level of prestige he seemed able to join the gods above rather than the dead below.
For I do not agree with those who have recently begun to discuss these things, when they say that minds die with bodies and that everything is destroyed by death; I am more swayed by the dictum of the ancients, both of our ancestors, who assigned such reverant laws to the dead, which they would not have done if they judged that nothing affected them, and of those who lived in this land and Magna Graecia, which is now destroyed but once flourished, and which they civilised with their institutions and precepts, and of the one whom Apollo's oracle judged the wisest of all, who did not say one thing at one time and another at another, as in many cases, but always the same thing: that human minds are divine and that, when they have left the body, return to heaven is open to them and the journey is lightest for the best and most just man.
That seemed to apply to Scipio. In fact, as if he foresaw his fate, a very few days before his death, when Philus and Manilius were present and several others, including you, Scaevola, had come with me, he discussed the Republic for three days. The end of this debate was mostly about the immoratality of souls, which he said he had heard about in a dream from Africanus. If it is so that the soul of the best person flies forth most easily at death, as if from the custody and chains of the body, who will we determine to have had an easier journey to the gods than Scipio? Therefore I fear to mourn this event would be envy more than friendship. If instead it is truer that he has perished in mind and body and no consciousness remains, so that there is nothing good in death, then still there is nothing bad in it; for without consciousness it would be almost as if he had not been born at all, but we will rejoice that he was born and this community will be glad for it for as long as it exists.
Because of this thing, for him, as I said before, it has turned out for the best, for me it is more troublesome, when it would have been fairer, since I entered first, that I also departed first from life. But nevertheless I take so much joy in the memory of our friendship that I seem to have lived blessedly because I lived with Scipio, with whom my work in public and private affairs coincided, with whom both home and military service were shared and (this is the source of the whole force of the friendship) the closest agreement in desires, studies and thoughts. Thus it is not so much that this reputation for wisdom, which Fannius reported a little while ago, delights me, particularly since it's false, as that I hope that the memory of our friendship will be eternal, and this is dearer to my heart, because from all the ages barely three or four pairs of friends are famous. In the same company, I confessedly hope, the friendship of Scipio and Laelius will be counted by posterity.
FANNIUS: This must surely come to pass, Laelius. But since you have made mention of friendship and we are at leisure, you would make me very grateful (Scaevola too, I expect), if you would expound what you feel, how much you value, and what rules you would give about friendship, as you usually do about other things when they are asked of you.
SCAEVOLA: I would certainly be grateful for this, and Fannius has preempted the very thing which I was about to take up with you. Thus you would make both of us grateful in this way.
LAELIUS: I would not be burdened, if I were sure of myself; for the subject is outstanding and we are, as Fannius said, at leisure. But who am I and what special ability do I have? For this is practice of learned men, indeed that of Greeks, of expounding something even when it is put to them suddenly; it is a big task and requires no little training. Because of this I judge that you should ask those who are proficient in this what they can expound about friendship; I am able only to encourage you that you should put friendship before all human things, for there is nothing so naturally right, so suitable to favourable or adverse affairs.
But first of all, I think this: except among good people, friendship cannot exist; but I don't take this in too strict a sense, like those who discuss these things overly subtlely do - perhaps they discern truly, but to very little everyday utility, when they deny that anyone is a good man except for the wise man. That would be fine, but they interpret this wisdom as something which no mortal has yet achieved, but we ought to focus on those things which are in common and daily use, not those which are contrived or desired. I would never claim that Gaius Fabricius, Manius Curius, or Tiberius Coruncanius, whom our ancestors judged to be wise men, were wise by this standard. Therefore, let them keep the invidious and obscure word "wisdom" for themselves and concede that they were good men. They will not even do this though, they will deny it can be granted to anyone except the wise man.
So let's go on "with the stupid Minerva," as they say. Those who comport themselves in such a way, who live in such a way that their loyalty, integrity, fairness and generosity are proven, such that there is no desire, lust, and insolence in them, and such that they have great steadfastness of character (like those whom I named just before), we consider ought indeed to be called good men (as is customary), because they follow (as much as humans can) nature - the best leader in proper living.
So I seem to have concluded for myself this: that we are made in such a way that there is some community between all of us, but more with whoever approaches us most closely. And so citizens are more important than foreigners, relatives are more important than others; for nature itself has created friendship between these; but it is not sufficiently strong. For friendship is greater than relationship in this way: good will can be taken out of relationship, but cannot be taken out of friendship; for when good will is removed, the word "friendship" no longer applies, but "relationship" remains.
But how much strength friendship may have, can best be understood from this: out of the boundless community of the human species, which nature itself has interlinked, it is so tight and pulled close that all care is concentrated between two or between a few.
For friendship is nothing other than the agreement in all divine and human things with good will and care; indeed I think nothing (excepting wisdom) better than this is granted to humanity by the immortal gods. Some people put riches first, others good health, others power, others honour, many even pleasure. This last is a thing of beasts, but the others are transient and uncertain, controlled not so much by our deliberations, as by the heedlessness of chance. But some put the greatest good in virtue (that's truly outstanding), but this virtue itself both produces and preserves this friendship, for without virtue, friendship cannot exist by any means.
Now then, let us interpret virtue according to everyday usage and our ordinary speech, rather than measuring it with the verbal magnificence which some learned men use. Let us count the following as good men as usual: the Pauli, the Catones, the Scipiones, the Phili; whose lives are satisfying according to these common standards, but let's ignore those who find no one at all [to be good].
Such friendship between such men, then, has such great rewards that I can barely put them into words. First of all, how could a life be "livable," as Ennius puts it, which does not rejoice in the mutual good wishes of a friend? What is sweeter than to have someone with whom you dare to discuss everything, as if with yourself? How could there be great joy in prosperous things, if you did not have someone who would enjoy them equally much as you yourself? Disasters would by hard indeed to bear without someone who would bear them even more heavily than yourself. Finally, other things which are sought after are individual advantages for entirely individual things: riches that you may use them, resources that you may be looked after, honours that you may be praised, pleasures that you may enjoy them, health that you may be free from pain and make use of the gifts of the body; friendship contains very many things: wherever you turn, it is present, it is shut out from no place, is never unseasonable, never troublesome; thus we do not use water, we do not use fire, as they put it, in more contexts than friendship. I'm not now talking about the ordinary or regular friendship, although it delights and benefits, but about the true and perfect friendship, of the sort which existed between those few who are famous for this. For friendship both makes favourable things more splendid and disasters lighter, by splitting and sharing them.
And since friendship holds many of the greatest conveniences, it clearly stands out beyond everything else, because it lights up good hope for posterity and does not allow souls to weaken or fall. For in fact when someone beholds a friend, it is as if he a beholds a copy of himself. For this reason, even when they part, they are together, even when they are poor, they prosper, even when they are weak, they are strong and (most difficult to say), even when they have died, they live - so great is the esteem, memory and longing of their friends for them. Because of this, their death seems blessed, their life praiseworthy. But if you were to take the bond of good will out of the world, not a single house or city could remain standing - not even the cultivation of the farm would endure. If that is less than clear, then how great the strength of friendship and harmony are may be grasped from dissension and discord. For what house is so stable, what community so firm that it could not be completely overturned by hatred and disagreement? From this, the amount of goodness in friendship can be judged.
They say that a certain learned Agrigentine foretold in Greek prophecies, what in the universe and in the world would remain the same and what would change, saying that friendship would pull together, discord would scatter apart. Indeed, all mortals know this and approve of it. Thus, whenever any deed in aid of a friend in trouble or for sharing their load occurs, who is there who does not announce it with the greatest praise? The shouts throughout the whole audience recently at the new play of my friend Marcus Pacuvius, when the king was unsure which of them was Orestes and Pylades said that he was Orestes - intending to die for him - but Orestes continued to say that he was Orestes, so that he might die for him! There was a standing ovation for a fictional story - what do we think they would have done if it happened in reality? Nature itself easily showed her power, since men who could not do this themselves, considered it a good deed in another man.
So far I seem to have been able to say what I think about friendship; if there are more things beyond this to say (and I think there are several), then, if you wish, ask those who expound on this kind of thing about them.
FANNIUS: But we'd rather hear from you; for although I have often asked those people and listened to them willingly of course, yet the thread of your speech is rather different.
SCAEVOLA: So, you would say this even more enthusiastically, Fannius, if you had been in the Garden of Scipio recently when there was a discussion about the Republic. He was such a great supporter of justice against the studied oration of Philus!
FANNIUS: It was surely an easy thing for such a just man to defend justice!
SCAEVOLA: What? Won't friendship be easy too for a man who has received the greatest glory because it has been served by him with the greatest faith, constancy, and justice?
LAELIUS: This is compulsion by force! Why does it matter how you are forcing me? You certainly are forcing me. For it would be difficult to refuse anyway, but against the eagerness of one's sons-in-law, especially about a good thing, it is not even fair.
So, very often when I have been thinking about friendship, this has tended to seem to me to be the thing that needs to be considered the most: whether friendship is desired on account of powerlessness and poverty, in order that one may get from another what one would be less capable of getting for oneself and give something back in return, since friends have to give and receive favours, or whether, while this is indeed a characteristic of friendship, there is another cause - older, prettier and more inherent in its very nature. For love, from which friendship is named, is the first cause of goodwill's creation. Though indeed utility is often perceived by those who are graced with the simulation of friendship and are courted for the needs of the moment, yet in friendship nothing is fake, nothing is simulation, and whatever it is, it is true and voluntary.
For this reason, friendship seems to me to arise more from its nature than from neediness, more by the attachment of the mind to the emotion of love, than by consideration of how much useful stuff it will hold. For what kind of thing this is, one can even consider those animals, which love their offspring so much for a time and are loved by them so much that their emotion is clearly apparent. In humans this is much more evident, firstly from the care which exists between offspring and parents, which cannot be separated except by abominable outrage; secondly since the similar emotion of love comes into existance, if we meet anyone whose habits and nature we agree with, because in them we seem to discern a sort of light of honesty and virtue.
For nothing is more lovable than virtue, nothing is more conducive to admiration, for indeed because of virtue and honesty we even admire in some way people whom we have never met. Who is there who does not remember Gaius Fabricius or Manius Curius with affection and goodwill, although they have never seen them? On the other hand who is there who does not hate Tarquinius Superbus, or Spurius Cassius and Spurius Maelius? There were struggles with two leaders for command over Italy: Pyrrhus and Hannibal; we have no particularly hostile attitude to one of them on account of his honesty, but this community will always hate the other on account of his cruelty.
If the force of honesty is so great that we admire it both in those whom we've never seen and - more amazing - even in our enemies, how is it surprising if human minds are moved when they seem to perceive the virtue and goodness of those with whom they are can be regularly associated? Yet love is strengthened by receiving good deeds, perceiving zeal, and adding familiarity - with these things added to that initial movement of the soul to love of the admirable, this good will's size flares up. If people think friendship is made out of neediness, that someone may have what he desires by cultivating someone, they make it low indeed and grant the least noble origin, so to speak, to friendship, which they wish to be born from poverty and neediness. If this were so, then they would think that whoever has the least themselves would be the most fit for friendship - which is far from correct.
For when someone trusts himself the most and when someone is so completely given to virtue and wisdom that he needs nothing and could judge that all his possessions are located within himself, then he will be far beyond needing to desire or cultivate friendships. Why bother? What did Africanus need from me? Nothing by Hercules! And I didn't need anything from him either; but I valued him out of admiration of his virtue, he likewise valued me - perhaps out of a not insubstantial view which he held on my habits; association increased the good will. But although the benefits which followed were many and great, yet the causes of our devotion were not performed in expectation of them.
For while we are beneficient and generous people, it is not in order to force something in return (for we would not loan out gifts, but are inclined to generosity by nature), so it is not drawn by hope for material rewards, but because of all the joy inherent in love itself, that we think friendship ought to be sought.
This differs a lot from those who relate everything to material desires in the manner of beasts, but that is not surprising; for nothing elevated, nothing magnificent and divine can be understood by those who throw all their thoughts into such low and such contemptable things. Because of this, let's remove them from this discussion, but we ourselves should understand that a person's nature creates the feeling of devotion and good will's dearness comes from its recognition of one's honesty. Those who have yearned for friendship apply themselves to and are specially moved to enjoy the company of the one whom they have begun to be devoted to and their habits, to be equal in love and similar to them, to be more inclined to deserve good than to demand it, and for there to be honorable competition between them. The greatest utility is gained from friendship in this way and its origion will come from a personal nature which is weightier and truer than neediness. For if utility solidified friendships, it would dissolve them when circumstances were changed. You see then the origin of friendship, unless perhaps you are not in agreement on this.
FANNIUS: Please go on, Lealius; I answer for Scaevola too, as is my right, since he is younger than me.
SCAEVOLA: You're entirely right. So let's keep listening.
LAELIUS: Listen well, my good men, to these things about friendship which Scipio and I often discussed. Yet he in fact used to say that nothing is more difficult than to maintain a friendship until the last day of one's life, because either it would not profit both the same, as often happens, or they would not think the same about politics. Often he used to say also that the habits of people are changed - sometimes by misfortunes, sometimes by the increasing weight of age. And he used to offer as a proof of this by analogy with coming of age, because the greatest loves of boys are often taken off with the toga praetexta.
If instead they maintained their childhood love, he said that they would often by torn apart later by fighting about marriage matches or some other opportunity for profit, because they cannot both have the same thing. If they were to carry on their friendship even longer, then it would often be toppled if they entered into a competition for honour; for he said that there is no greater plague for friendships than the desire in many people for money and the contest in the best sorts for honour and glory, from which the greatest emnities often arise between the best of friends.
He said too that great and often just disgreements are born when someone asks something from his friends which is not right, either to provide for their lust or to aid them in a crime, because those who refuse this, although they do so rightly, are still accused of breaking the rules of friendship by those who they did not want to gratify, but also that those who dare to request whatever they want of a friend, declare by that very request that they will do everything for their friend. He said that often their long term quarrels not only extinguished intimacy but even gave birth to eternal hatred. Thus, so many things seemed almost fated to weigh against friendships that he said it seemed to him that to escape everything required not just wisdom but also luck.
Because of this, let's look first, if you agree, at how far the love of a friendship ought to extend. If Coriolanus had friends, should they really have borne arms against the fatherland with him? Should they have helped Vecellinus seek the kingship? Or Maelius?
Indeed when Tiberius Gracchus was troubling the Republic, we saw that he was abandoned by Quintus Tubero and similar friends. But Gaius Blossius of Cumae, traditional associate of your family, Scaevola, when he came before me (because I was in the council of the consuls Laenas and Rupilius), proposed that I should pardon him, because he had thought so much of Tiberius Gracchus that he thought he ought to do whatever he wanted. Then I said "Even if he had wanted you to set fire to the Capitolium?!" "Not a chance," he said, "that he would have wanted that. But if he had wanted it, I would have helped." You see, what an abominable speech! And by Hercules, he did was even worse in deed than in word, for he did not help Tiberius Gracchus out of fear, but protected him, not as a partner in his madness but approving of him as a leader. So, he was terrified by this inquiry to a new level of insanity and fled to Asia, he entrusted himself to a traditional associate, and escaped the heavy and just punishment of the Republic. So it's no excuse for committing a crime that you committed the crime for a friend's sake; for while the matchmaker of friendship is esteem for virtue, it is difficult to maintain friendship, if you abandon virtue.
If we considered it right to grant friends whatever they want or to take from them whatever we want, certainly, if we were perfectly wise, nothing bad would result - but we are talking about these friends whom we see with our own eyes or whom we accept the accounts of, who have experienced real life. From this group we ought to take our exemplars, especially from those of them who come closest to wisdom.
We will see that Papus Aemilius was a close friend of Luscino (as we learn from our fathers), that they were consuls in the same year twice, colleagues in the censorship; it is also reported by tradition that Manius Curius and Tiberius Coruncanium were very close to them and to each other. So we cannot believe that any of them ever sought anything from a friend which went against good faith, against oaths, against the Republic. So what does it matter with such men to say that, if one of them sought such a thing, he would not have got it? For they were exceptionally holy men and it would be equally abominable to fulfill a request for such a thing and to request it. But in fact Tiberius Gracchus was followed by Gaius Carbo, Gaius Cato and (very little at the time but now intensely so) his brother Gaius.
Therefore, let this law be established for friendship: that we should neither ask for foul things nor fulfill requests for them. For this is a foul excuse and ought not be accepted for any crime, but especially not if someone is shown to have placed themselves against the Republic for the sake of a friend. Even more so in this situation, Fannius and Scaevola, which we are now situated in, where it is necessary for us to look far and wide for future dangers to the Republic. Nowadays, the customs of our ancestors have turned away somewhat from the beaten path and the race course.
Tiberius Gracchus attempted to seize the kingship, or rather he reigned for a few months. For what like him had the Roman people heard or seen? And what his followers and relatives did after his death to Publius Scipio I cannot discuss without tears. For, although we were barely able, we bore Carbo because of the recent punishment of Tiberius Gracchus; but I do not wish to augur what I shall see from the tribunate of Gaius Gracchus. After it the matter creeps, until it begins and slides headlong into ruin. You see now in the elections how much damage has been done, first by the Gabinian Law, and two years later by the Cassian. Now I seem to see the people divided from the Senate, most matters controlled by the decision of the multitude. For more people will learn how these things can be done than how they can be resisted by them.
Why do I turn to such things? Because without friends, no one attempts such a thing. So the good must be warned that if the fall into friendships of this sort, unaware of any risk, they should not think that they are bound in such a way that they cannot part with friends who are committing some great crime against the Republic; but the legal punishment must be set for the wicked - no less in fact for those who followed someone else that for those who have themselves been leaders of impiety. Who was more glorious in Greece than Themistocles? Who more powerful? When he had freed Greece from slavery, as a general in the Persian War and was throw in out into exile on account of jealousy, he did not bear the injustice of his ungrateful fatherland, as he ought to have done, he did the same thing which 20 years earlier Coriolanus had done among us. These men found no allies against their fatherland, so each plotted his own death.
Thus such agreement among the wicked must not only not be covered by the defence of friendship, but rather punishment ought to be rendered to everyone involved, so that no one will think that it is permissable to follow a friend or anyone else waging war against the fatherland (as things are just beginning to happen now, I do not know whether such a thing will come to pass at some point, but how the Republic will fare after my death is no less a care for me that how it will fare today.
Therefore, let this first law of friendship be established: that we should seek honorable things from friends and should do honourable things for the sake of our friends; we should not wait until we are asked; enthusiasm should always be present, hesitation absent; we should dare to give advice truly and freely. In friendship, may the influence of friends who persuade well flourish most and may it be applied to warn not just openly but even sharply, if a matter requires it, and may there be obedience to it when so applied.
For I consider these things, which have been approved by some of those whom the Greeks considered wise, astounding (but there is nothing which they would not pursue in debate): some say that too many friendships ought to be avoided so that one person should not have to take care of many; that it is enough (even excessive) for each person to take care of their own affairs, it is too much difficulty to be involved in other peoples' as well; that it is most convenient to hold the reins of friendship as loosly as possible, so you can pull them tight when you wish or let them go; because the key to living a blessed life is freedom from worldly cares, which the mind cannot enjoy if it is like one in labour with many.
But it's said that others of them say an even more inhuman thing (which I touched on briefly a little earlier): that friendships ought to be sought for protection and assistance, not good will or affection; therefore, whoever has the least endurance and the least power, strives after friendships the most; from this it is concluded that little girls seek the protection of friendship more than men, the poor more than the rich, and the ruined more than those who are considered blessed.
What fantastic sagacity! For they seem to remove the sun from the Earth, these people who remove friendship from life, when we have received no better thing, no sweeter thing, from the immortal gods. For what's the purpose of freedom from concern? In appearance certainly a seductive thing, but in reality it ought to be repudiated on many grounds. For it is not fitting, if you are not in trouble, to leave any honourable thing or action undone or to put it aside once it is begun. But if we flee worries, virtue must be fled, which is necessary since it is by means of some concern that it spurns or hates a thing contrary to itself, like goodness with badness, self-restraint with licentiousness, endurance with idleness; likewise you will see that just men are most pained by unjust things, brave men by cowardly things, honourable men by disgraceful things. Because of this very thing, well constituted minds enjoy good things and hate the opposite.
Because of this, if mental anguish happens to the wise man (and it certainly happens, unless we think that humanity is eradicated from his mind), what is the reason why we should take friendship out of life altogether, unless we tend to do something disgusting as a result of it? For without the ability for the mind to be moved, what is the difference -- I don't say between people and animals -- but between people and tree trunks, or rocks, or anything else of this sort? So these people should not be listened to, who want virtue to be something hard like iron - indeed it is with many things, but in friendship it is so soft and flexible, that it practically overflows when good things happen and is crushed by misfortunes. Because of this, that anguish, which must often be exercised for a friend, is not so powerful that it can remove friendship from life, any more than the virtues should be repudiated because they cause more than a little concern and trouble.
But since friendship is pulled together, as I said above, if the significance of one's virtue is illuminated by something to which a similar mind aligns and attaches itself, then, when this happens, love must arise.
For wouldn't it be absurd to be seduced by such inanimate things as honour, glory, construction, and the clothing and maintenance of the body, while not being at all seduced by a living person endowed with virtue, capable either of loving or (as I would say) of reciprocating love? For there is nothing more pleasant than the repayment of goodwill, than the interchange of devotion and favours.
What if we also add that fact (which could rightly be added), that there is nothing which ensnares and attracts anything to itself like similarity does to friendship? It will be granted that it is true that good men value good men and assosciate with them as if they were linked by family ties or birth. For nothing is more eager for things like itself, nor more grasping, than nature. Because of this, indeed, Fannius and Scaevola, it should be clear, in my opinion, that good will, which has been made the source of friendship by nature, is almost unavoidable for the good in their relations with the good. But this same goodness is relevant also to ordinary people. For virtue is not inhuman, nor privileged, nor elite - it regularly touches all people and advises them best, which it would not do, if it shrank from affection for the ordinary man.
And those who make utility the cause of frienship, also seem to me to remove the most admirable tie of friendship. For it is not so much the utility gained from a friend as the love of the friend itself which pleases us, and moreover something which is done by a friend is delightful only if it is done with enthusiasm; it is totally wrong that friendships are cultivated because of poverty, since those who have wealth and riches and especially virtue (which is the greatest protection) and are least in need of other people are the most generous and charitable. I don't know whether or not it is good for friends to never need anything at all. For where would my affection have bloomed if Scipio had never needed my advice or help at home or at war? Thus friendship does not comes from utility, but utility from friendship.
So those people, washed away in luxuries, should not have been listened to when they argued about friendship, which they had neither practical nor theoretical knowledge of. For who is there (by the faith of gods and men!) who would wish, in exchange for giving no one joy and getting no joy from anyone else, to be surrounded with all riches and to live with an abundence of everything? For this is certainly the life of tyrants, in which no trust, no care, no assurance of firm good will can exist, everything is always suspect and uncertain; there is no place for friendship.
For who could care for someone he feared or someone whom he thought he was feared by? Yet they are flattered by an simulacrum of it, at least for a while. But if by chance - as usually happens - they fall, then it is clear how short of friends they were. Thus it was that Tarquinius said, when he went into exile, that knew then who were his loyal friends and who were disloyal, since he could [no longer] give recompense to either.However, I am surprised, if he was able to hold onto a single friend with his haughtiness and cruelty. And as the habits of the one I've mentioned could not get him real friends, so the riches of many of the most powerful shut them off from loyal friendship. For not only is Fortune herself blind, but she often makes those whom she embraces blind as well; as a result they are usually carried off by scorn and insolence and no one can become more intolerable than a senseless man who is lucky. And this can be seen, since those who previously had appropriate habits, are changed by authority, power and success, reject old friendships and indulge in new ones.
But what is stupider than for those whose massive forces, abilities and wealth enable them to acquire the other things which can be acquired with money (horses, servents, fancy clothes, precious vases), to not acquire friends - life's best and most beautiful, so to speak, ornament? In fact when they acquire other things, they don't know who they are acquiring them for, nor whose cause they labour for. For each of these things belongs to one who has succeeded through vigour, while each man's friendships remain his stable and certain possession, so that, as long as they maintain them, they are like gifts of Fortune, while a uncultivated life empty of friends could not be pleasant. But that's enough on that.
But it ought to be defined what the limits of friendship are and, as it were, the boundaries of care. About this, I see that three opinions are held, none of which I approve. The first: that we should be disposed towards a friend in the same way that we are disposed towards our own selves. Next, that our good will to friends should respond equally and exactly to their good will towards us. Third: that each man should be valued by his friends as much as he values himself.
I can't agree completely with any of these three opinions. For this first is not true - that one should be disposed to a friend the same way he is to himself. For there are so many things which we would never do for our own sake, that we do for the sake of our friends! To beg an unworthy man, to beseech, also to berate someone too sharply and to castigate them too vehemently, which are not entirely appropriate in our own affairs, are very appropriately done in the affairs of friends; there are many cases in which good men remove a lot from their own goods and allow a lot to be removed so that their friends (rather than they themselves) may enjoy them.
The next opinion is the one which defines friendship by equivalent duties and wishes. This is certainly too pettily and feebly urging friendship to accounting stones, so that the number of things accepted and given be equal. It seems to me that true friendship is richer and wealthier and does not strictly ensure that no more is given than received; for there shouldn't be fear that something might be lost, or that something might spill on the ground, or that something might be contributed more than fairly to the friendship.
The third definition is truly the worst, that each man should be valued by his friends as much as he values himself. For often in these matters, either one's mind is too self-degrading or hope of increasing one's fortune is too destructive. So it is not right to be the same to him as he is to himself, but rather one should strive for and ensure that he raises his friend's fallen mind and leads it to better hopes and thoughts. So a different definition of true friendship needs to be marshaled, after I have mentioned something which Scipio used to particularly rebuke. He denied that any saying could be more inimical to friendship than that of the man who said that one ought to love as if one were going to hate later; nor in fact could he be persuaded to believe, as is commonly thought, that this was said by Bias, who is held to have been one of the seven wise men; he thought it was the opinion of someone filthy or ambitious or someone who defined everything for his own power. For how could anyone be a friend to someone whom they could think of as an enemy of themself? For in that case it would be necessary to wish and hope that one's friend would fail as often as possible, in order to give him many grips (as it were) for rebuking him; moreover it would be necessary to be vexed, pained and envious at friends' correct accomplishments and successes.
So, in fact, this instruction, whoever's it is, supports the abolition of friendship. Instead, this ought to have been instructed: that we should take care in getting into friendships, so that we never begin to love someone, whom we may hate at some point. In fact if we are not so successful in taking this care, Scipio thought it better to put up with it, than to think about creating a situation of emnity.