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“Turn next to friendship, and behold how despots share in it. First let us consider whether friendship is a great blessing to mankind. [2] When a man is loved by friends, I take it, they rejoice at his presence, delight to do him good, miss him when he is absent, greet him most joyfully on his return, rejoice with him in his good fortune, unite in aiding him when they see him tripping.1 Even states are not blind to the fact that friendship is a very great blessing, and very delightful to men. At any rate, many states have a law that adulterers only may be put to death with impunity, obviously for this reason, because they believe them to be destroyers of the wife's friendship with her husband; [4] although,2 when a woman's lapse is the result of some accident, husbands do not honour their wives any less on that account, provided that wives seem to reserve their affection unblemished. [5] In my judgment, to be loved is a blessing so precious that I believe good things fall literally of themselves on him who is loved from gods and men alike. [6]

“Such, then, is the nature of this possession—a possession wherein despots above all other men are stinted. If you want to know that I am speaking the truth, Simonides, consider the question in this way. [7] The firmest friendships, I take it, are supposed to be those that unite parents to children, children to parents, wives to husbands, comrades to comrades. [8] Now you will find, if you will but observe, that private citizens are, in fact, loved most deeply by these. But what of despots? Many have slain their own children; many have themselves been murdered by their children; many brothers, partners in despotism, have perished by each other's hand; many have been destroyed even by their own wives, aye, and by comrades whom they accounted their closest friends. [9] Seeing, then, that they are so hated by those who are bound by natural ties and constrained by custom to love them most, how are we to suppose that they are loved by any other being?

1 Xen. Cyrop. 1.6.24

2 ἐπεὶ should be rendered “though,” not “since” here, for it introduces a reason why one might suppose that there would be some restriction on the right to kill an adulterer, and not the reason why all adulterers may be killed with impunity. Compare, for instance, Plat. Prot. 335c. The “accident” is, of course, rape.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Plato, Protagoras, 335c
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.6.24
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