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HOW TO TELL A FLATTERER FROM A FRIEND (QUOMODO ADULATOR AB AMICO INTERNOSCATUR)Plutarch's essay on flatterers is addressed to C. Julius Antiochus Philopappus, a descendant of the kings of Commagene, whose monument still stands on the Museum Hill at Athens. He was a patron of art and literature, and on friendly terms with Plutarch.a The essay is not concerned with the impecunious and dependent adherents (parasites) of the rich, but with the adroit flatterers of a higher standing, who worm their way into the confidence of great men, and exercise a pernicious influence upon them. That Philopappus may have stood in need of such a warning may readily be inferred. The essay, at the close, digresses into a disquisition on frank speech (παρρησία) that might easily have been made into a separate treatise, but which is developed naturally from the attempt to distinguish the genuineness of a friend from the affectation of a flatterer. Frank speech was regarded in classical times as the birthright of every Athenian citizen, but under the political conditions existent in Plutarch's day it was probably safer to cultivate it as a private virtue. 1
1 a Cf. Moralia, 628 b, which gives a brief account of a great dinner given by King Philopappus at which both he and Plutarch were present.