previous next

But do we need friends more in prosperity or in adversity? As a matter of fact men seek friends in both. The unfortunate require assistance; the prosperous want companions, and recipients of their bounty, since they wish to practise beneficence. Hence friendship is more necessary in adversity, so then it is useful friends that are wanted; but it is nobler in prosperity, so the prosperous seek also for good men as friends, since these are preferable both as objects of beneficence and as associates. [2]

Also1 the mere presence of friends is pleasant both in prosperity and adversity. Sorrow is lightened by the sympathy of friends. Hence the question may be raised whether friends actually share the burden of grief, or whether, without this being the case, the pain is nevertheless diminished by the pleasure of their company and by the consciousness of their sympathy. Whether one of these reasons or some other gives the true explanation of the consoling power of friendship need not now be considered, but in any case it appears to have the effect described. [3]

Yet the pleasure that the company of friends affords seems to be of a mixed nature. It is true that the very sight of them is pleasant, especially in time of misfortune, and is a considerable help in assuaging sorrow; for a friend, if tactful, can comfort us with look and word, as he knows our characters and what things give us pleasure and pain. [4] But on the other hand to see another pained by our own misfortunes is painful, as everyone is reluctant to be a cause of pain to his friends. Hence manly natures shrink from making their friends share their pain, and unless a man is excessively insensitive, he cannot bear the pain that his pain gives to them; and he will not suffer others to lament with him, because he is not given to lamentation himself. But weak women and womanish men like those who mourn with them, and love them as true friends and sympathizers. However, it is clear that in everything we ought to copy the example of the man of nobler nature. [5]

In prosperity again the company of friends sweetens our hours of leisure, and also affords the pleasure of being conscious of their pleasure in our welfare.

Hence it may be thought that we ought to be eager to invite our friends to share our good fortune (since it is noble to wish to bestow benefits), but reluctant to ask them to come to us in misfortune (since we should impart to others as little as possible of what is evil: whence the proverb ‘My own misfortune is enough’). We should summon our friends to our aid chiefly when they will be of great service to us at the cost of little trouble to themselves. [6]

So, conversely, it is perhaps fitting that we should go uninvited and readily to those in misfortune (for it is the part of a friend to render service, and especially to those in need, and without being asked, since assistance so rendered is more noble and more pleasant for both parties); but to the prosperous, though we should go readily to help them (for even prosperity needs the cooperation of friends),2 we should be slow in going when it is a question of enjoying their good things (for it is not noble to be eager to receive benefits). But doubtless we should be careful to avoid seeming churlish in repulsing their advances, a thing that does sometimes occur.

It appears therefore that the company of friends is desirable in all circumstances.

1 This gives a further reason for the second sentence of the chapter, and adds the motive of pleasure to those of utility and virtue.

2 Cf. 8.1.1 fin., 2 fin.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: