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[17] 5. 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 skill1 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 favourable or adverse.

1 i.e. readiness acquired by practice in extemporaneous discussion—an art practised by sophists and rhetoricians and by the philosophers of the New Academy; of. Cic. De fin. ii. 1; De or. i. 102.

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