III[3arg] The difficult decision which the Lacedaemonian Chilo made to save a friend; and that one should consider scrupulously and anxiously whether one ought ever to do wrong in the interest of friends, with notes and quotations on that subject from the writings of Theophrastus and Marcus Cicero.
OF Chilo the Lacedaemonian, one of that famous group of sages, 1 it is written in the books of those [p. 13] who have recorded the lives and deeds of distinguished men, that he, Chilo, at the close of his life, when death was already close upon him, thus addressed the friends about his bedside: "That very little of what I have said and done in the course of a long life calls for repentance, you yourselves may perhaps know. I, at any rate, at such a time as this do not deceive myself in believing that I have done nothing that it troubles me to remember, except for just one thing; and as to that it is not even now perfectly clear to me whether I did right or wrong. “I was judge with two others, and a friend's life was at stake. The law was such that the man must be found guilty. Therefore, either my friend must suffer capital punishment or violence must be done to the law. I considered for a long time how to remedy so difficult a situation. The course which I adopted seemed, in comparison with the alternative, the less objectionable; I myself secretly voted for conviction, but I persuaded my fellow judges to vote for acquittal. Thus I myself in a matter of such moment did my duty both as a judge and as a friend. But my action torments me with the fear that there may be something of treachery and guilt in having recommended to others, in the same case, at the same time, and in a common duty, a course for them contrary to what I thought best for myself.” This Chilo, then, though a man of surpassing wisdom, was in doubt how far he ought to have gone counter to law and counter to equity for the sake of a friend, and that question distressed him even at the very end of his life. So too many subsequent students of philosophy, as appears in their works, [p. 15] have inquired very carefully and very anxiously, to use their own language, εἰ δεῖ βοηθεῖν τῷ φίλῳ παρὰ τὸ δίκαιον καὶ μέχρι πόσου καὶ ποῖα. 2 That is to say, they inquired “whether one may sometimes act contrary to law or contrary to precedent in a friend's behalf, and under what circumstances and to what extent.” This problem has been discussed, as I have said, not only by many others, but also with extreme thoroughness by Theophrastus, the most conscientious and learned of the Peripatetic school; the discussion is found, if I remember correctly, in the first book of his treatise On Friendship. That work Cicero evidently read when he too was composing a work On Friendship. Now, the other material that Cicero thought proper to borrow from Theophrastus his talent and command of language enabled him to take and to translate with great taste and pertinence; but this particular topic which, as I have said, has been the object of much inquiry, and is the most difficult one of all, he passed over briefly and hurriedly, not reproducing the thoughtful and detailed argument of Theophrastus, but omitting his involved and as it were over-scrupulous discussion and merely calling attention in a few words to the nature of the problem. I have added Cicero's words, in case anyone should wish to verify my statement: 3 “Therefore these are the limits which I think ought to be observed, namely: when the characters of friends are blameless, then there should be complete harmony of opinions and inclinations in everything without any exception; [p. 17] and, even if by some chance the wishes of a friend are not altogether honourable 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.” 4 “When it is a question,” he says, “either of a friend's life or good name, we must turn aside from the straight path, to further even his dis-honourable desire.” But he does not tell us what the nature of that deviation ought to be, how far we may go to help him, and how dis-honourable tile nature of the friend's desire may be. But what does it avail me to know that I must turn aside from the straight path in the event of such dangers to my friends, provided I commit no act of utter disgrace, unless he also informs me what he regards as utter disgrace and, once having turned from the path of rectitude, how far I ought to go? “For,” he says, “there are limits to the indulgence which can be allowed to friendship.” But that is the very point on which we most need instruction, but which the teachers make least clear, namely, how far and to what degree indulgence must be allowed to friendship. The sage Chilo, whom I mentioned above, turned from the path to save a friend. But I can see how far lie went; for he gave unsound advice to save his friend. Yet even as to that he was in doubt up to his last hour whether he deserved criticism and censure. “Against one's fatherland,” says Cicero, 5 “one must not take up arms for a friend.” That of course everybody knew, and “before The ognis was born,” [p. 19] as Lucilius says. 6 But what I ask and wish to know is this: when it is that one must act contrary to law and contrary to equity in a friend's behalf, albeit without doing violence to the public liberty and peace; and when it is necessary to turn aside from the path, as he himself puts it, in what way and how much, under what circumstances, and to what extent that ought to be done. Pericles, the great Athenian, a man of noble character and endowed with all honourable accomplishments, declared his opinion— in a single instance, it is true, but yet very clearly. For when a friend asked him to perjure himself in court for his sake, he replied in these words: “One ought to aid one's friends, but only so far as the gods allow.” 7 Theophrastus, however, in the book that I have mentioned, discusses this very question more exhaustively and with more care and precision than Cicero. But even he in his exposition does not express an opinion about separate and individual action, nor with the corroborative evidence of examples, but treats classes of actions briefly and generally, in about the following terms: “A small and trifling amount of disgrace or infamy,” he says, "should be incurred, if thereby great advantage may be gained for a friend; for the insignificant loss from impairment of honour is repaid and made good by the greater and more substantial honour gained by aiding a friend, and that slight break or rift, so to speak, in one's reputation is repaired by the buttress formed by the advantages [p. 21] gained for one's friend. Nor ought we," says he, “to be influenced by mere terms, because my fair fame and the advantage of a friend under accusation are not of the same class. For such things must be estimated by their immediate weight and importance, not by verbal terms and the merits of the classes to which they belong. For when the interests of a friend are put into the balance with our own honour in matters of equal importance, or nearly so, our own honour unquestionably turns the scale; but when the advantage of a friend is far greater, but our sacrifice of reputation in a matter of no great moment is insignificant, then what is advantageous to a friend gains in importance in comparison with what is honourable for us, exactly as a great weight of bronze is more valuable than a tiny shred of gold.” On this point I append Theophrastus' own words: 8 “If such and such a thing belongs to a more valuable class, yet it is not true that some part of it, compared with a corresponding part of something else, will be preferable. This is not the case, for example, if gold is more valuable than bronze, and a portion of gold, compared with a portion of bronze of corresponding size, is obviously of more worth; but the number and size of the portions will have some influence on our decision.” The philosopher Favorinus too, somewhat loosening and inclining the delicate balance of justice to suit the occasion, thus defined such an indulgence in favour: 9 “That which among men is called favour is the relaxing of strictness in time of need.” Later on Theophrastus again expressed himself to about this effect: “The relative importance and insignificance of things, and all these considerations [p. 23] of duty, are sometimes directed, controlled, and as it were steered by other external influences and other additional factors, so to say, arising from individuals, conditions and exigencies, as well as by the requirements of existing circumstances; and these influences, which it is difficult to reduce to rules, make them appear now justifiable and now unjustifiable.” On these and similar topics Theophrastus wrote very discreetly, scrupulously and conscientiously, yet with more attention to analysis and discussion than with the intention or hope of arriving at a decision, since undoubtedly the variations in circumstances and exigencies, and the minute distinctions and differences, do not admit of a definite and universal rule that can be applied to individual cases; and it is such a rule, as I said at the beginning of this essay, of which we are in search. Now this Chilo, with whom I began this little discussion, is the author not only of some other wise and salutary precepts, but also of the following, which has been found particularly helpful, since it confines within due limits those two most ungovernable passions, love and hatred. “So love,” said he, “as if you were possibly destined to hate; and in the same way, hate as if you might perhaps afterwards love.” 10 Of this same Chilo the philosopher Plutarch, in the first book of his treatise On the Soul, wrote as follows: 11 “Chilo of old, having heard a man say that he had no enemy, asked him if he had no friend, believing that enmities necessarily followed and were involved in friendships.”