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In the following conversation I thought he gave instruction for testing the qualities that make a man's friendship worth winning.

“Tell me, Critobulus,” he said, “if we wanted a good friend, how should we start on the quest? Should we seek first for one who is no slave to eating and drinking, lust, sleep, idleness? For the thrall of these masters cannot do his duty by himself or his friend.”

“No, of course not.”

“Then you think we should avoid one who is subject to them?”

“I do, certainly.” [2]

“Now what about the spendthrift who is never satisfied, who is always appealing to his neighbours for help, if he receives something, makes no return, if he receives nothing, resents it? Don't you think he too is a troublesome friend?”


“Then we must avoid him too?”

“We must indeed.” [3]

“Again, what about the skilful man of business who is eager to make money, and consequently drives a hard bargain, who likes to receive but is disinclined to repay?”

“So far as I see, he is even worse than the last.” [4]

“And what of the man who is such a keen man of business that he has no leisure for anything but the selfish pursuit of gain?”

“We must avoid him too, I think. There is no profit in knowing him.”

“And what of the quarrelsome person who is willing to provide his friends with plenty of enemies?”

“We must shun him too, of course.”

“Suppose that a man is free from all these faults, but stoops to receive kindness with no thought of returning it?”

“There is no profit in him either. But what are the qualities for which we shall try to win a man's friendship, Socrates?”

“The opposite of these, I suppose. [5] We shall look for one who controls his indulgence in the pleasures of the body, who is truly hospitable1 and fair in his dealings and eager to do as much for his benefactors as he receives from them, so that he is worth knowing.” [6]

“Then how can we test these qualities, Socrates, before intimacy begins?”

“What test do we apply to a sculptor? We don't judge by what he says, but we look at his statues, and if we see that the works he has already produced are beautiful, we feel confident that his future works will be as good.” [7]

“You mean that anyone whose good works wrought upon his old friends are manifest will clearly prove a benefactor to new friends also?”

“Yes; for when I find that an owner of horses has been in the habit of treating his beasts well I think that he will treat others equally well.” [8]

“Granted! but when we have found a man who seems worthy of our friendship, how are we to set about making him our friend?”

“First we should seek guidance from the gods, whether they counsel us to make a friend of him.”

“And next? Supposing that we have chosen and the gods approve him, can you say how is he to be hunted?” [9]

“Surely not like a hare by swift pursuit, nor like birds by cunning, nor like enemies2 by force. It is no light task to capture a friend against his will, and hard to keep him a prisoner like a slave. Hatred, rather than friendship, comes of that treatment.” [10]

“But how does friendship come?”

“There are spells, they say, wherewith those who know charm whom they will and make friends of them, and drugs which those who know give to whom they choose and win their love.” [11]

“How then can we learn them?”

“You have heard from Homer the spell that the Sirens put on Odysseus. It begins like this:

“‘Hither, come hither, renowned Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans.’

“Then did the Sirens chant in this strain for other folk too, Socrates, so as to keep those who were under the spell from leaving them?” [12]

“No, only for those that yearned for the fame that virtue gives.”

“You mean, I take it, that the spell must be fitted to the listener, so that he may not take the praise for mockery.”

“Yes; for to praise one for his beauty, his stature and his strength who is conscious that he is short, ugly and puny, is the way to repel him and make him dislike you more.”

“Do you know any other spells?” [13]

“No, but I have heard that Pericles knew many and put them on the city, and so made her love him.”

“And how did Themistocles make the city love him?”

“Not by spells: no, no; but by hanging some good amulet about her.”4 [14]

“I think you mean, Socrates, that if we are to win a good man's friendship, we ourselves must be good in word and deed alike?”

“But you imagined that a bad man could win the friendship of honest men?” [15]

“I did,” answered Critobulus, “for I saw that poor orators have good speakers among their friends, and some who are incapable of commanding an army are intimate with great generals.” [16]

“Coming then to the point under discussion, do you know cases of useless persons making useful friends?”

“Assuredly not; but if it is impossible that the bad should gain the friendship of gentlemen, then I am anxious to know whether it is quite easy for a gentleman as a matter of course to be the friend of gentlemen?” [17]

“Your trouble is, Critobulus, that you often find men who do good and shun evil not on friendly terms, but apt to quarrel and treat one another more harshly than worthless fellows.” [18]

“Yes,” said Critobulus, “and such conduct is not confined to individuals, but even the cities that care most for the right and have least liking for the wrong are often at enmity. [19] These thoughts make me despair about the acquisition of friends. For I see on the one hand that rogues cannot be friends with one another — for how could the ungrateful, the careless, the selfish, the faithless, the incontinent, form friendships? I feel sure, then, that rogues are by their nature enemies rather than friends. [20] But then, as you point out, neither can rogues ever join in friendship with honest men, for how can wrongdoers become friendly with those who hate their conduct? And if we must add that the votaries of virtue strive with one another for headship in cities, and envy and hate one another, who then will be friends and where shall loyalty and faithfulness be found?” [21]

“Ah, Critobulus, but there is a strange complication in these matters. Some elements in man's nature make for friendship: men need one another, feel pity, work together for their common good, and, conscious of the facts, are grateful to one another. But there are hostile elements in men. For, holding the same things to be honourable and pleasant, they fight for them, fall out and take sides. Strife and anger lead to hostility, covetousness to enmity, jealousy to hatred. [22] Nevertheless through all these barriers friendship slips, and unites the gentle natures. For thanks to their virtue these prize the untroubled security of moderate possessions above sovereignty won by war; despite hunger and thirst, they can share their food and drink without a pang; and although they delight in the charms of beauty they can resist the lure and avoid offending those whom they should respect; [23] they can not only share wealth lawfully and keep from covetousness, but also supply one another's wants; they can compose strife not only without pain, but with advantage to one another, and prevent anger from pursuing its way towards remorse: but jealousy they take away utterly, regarding their own good things as belonging to their friends, and thinking their friend's good things to be their own. [24] Surely, then, it is likely that true gentlemen will share public honours too not only without harm to one another, but to their common benefit? For those who desire to win honour and to bear rule in their cities that they may have power to embezzle, to treat others with violence, to live in luxury, are bound to be unjust, unscrupulous, incapable of unity. [25] But if a man seeks to be honoured in a state that he may not be the victim of injustice himself and may help his friends in a just cause, and when he takes office may try to do some good to his country, why should he be incapable of union with one like himself? Will his connexion with other gentlemen render him less capable of serving his friends? Will he be less able to benefit his city with the help of other gentlemen? [26] Even in the public games it is clear that, if the strongest competitors were allowed to join forces against the weaker, they would win all the events, they would carry off all the prizes. True, that is not permitted in the games; but in politics, where the gentlemen are the strongest, nobody prevents anyone from forming any combination he may choose for the benefit of the state; surely, then, in public life it is a gain to make friends with the best, and to see in them partners and fellow-workers in a common cause, and not rivals. [27] But, again, it is equally clear that anyone who goes to war will need allies, and more of them if he is to fight an army of gentlemen. Moreover, those who are willing to fight at your side must be well treated that they may be willing to exert themselves; and it is a far sounder plan to show kindness to the best, who are fewer in number, than to the worst, who are the greater company; for the bad want many more kindnesses than the good. [28] Courage, Critobulus; try to be good, and when you have achieved that, set about catching your gentleman. Maybe, I myself, as an adept in love, can lend you a hand in the pursuit of gentlemen. For when I want to catch anyone it's surprising how I strain every nerve to have my love returned, my longing reciprocated by him, in my eagerness that he shall want me as much as I want him. [29] I see that you too will feel this need when you want to form a friendship. So do not hide from me the names of those whom you wish to make your friends; for I am careful to please him who pleases me, and so, I think, I am not without experience in the pursuit of men.” [30]

“Well, Socrates,” said Critobulus in reply, “these are the lessons I have long wished to learn, especially if the same skill will serve to win a good soul and a fair face.” [31]

“Ah no, Critobulus,” said Socrates, “it belongs not to my skill to lay hands on the fair and force them to submit. I am convinced that the reason why men fled from Scylla was that she laid hands on them; but the Sirens laid hands on no man; from far away they sang to all, and therefore, we are told, all submitted, and hearing were enchanted.”5 [32]

“I am not going to put a hand on anyone,” said Critobulus, “so teach me any good plan you know for making friends.”

“Then won't you put lip to lip either?”

“Courage!” answered Critobulus, “I won't touch a lip with mine either — unless the owner is fair!”

“That's an unfortunate beginning for you, Critobulus! The fair6 won't submit to such conduct; but the ugly like it, supposing that they are called fair for the beauty of their souls.” [33]

“A kiss for the fair,” exclaimed Critobulus, “and a thousand kisses for the good! That shall be my motto, so take courage, and teach me the art of catching friends.”

“Well then, Critobulus,” said Socrates, “when you want to make a new friend, will you let me warn him that you admire him and want his friendship?”

“Warn him by all means: no one hates those who praise him, so far as I know.” [34]

“Suppose I go on to warn him that your admiration makes you well disposed towards him, you won't think I am slandering you, will you?”

“Nay; when I guess that anyone feels well disposed towards me, a like goodwill towards him is begotten in me.” [35]

“Then you will permit me to say this about you to those whose friendship you desire. Now if you will give me permission to tell them besides that you are devoted to your friends and nothing gives you so much pleasure as good friends; that you take as much pride in your friends' fair achievements as in your own, and as much pleasure in your friends' good as in your own, and never weary of contriving it for your friend's; and you have made up your mind that a man's virtue consists in outdoing his friends in kindness and his enemies in mischief; then I think you will find me a useful companion in the quest of good friends.” [36]

“Now why do you say this to me? as if you were not free to say what you choose about me.”

“Not so indeed: I can quote Aspasia against you. She once told me that good matchmakers are successful in making marriages only when the good reports they carry to and fro are true; false reports she would not recommend, for the victims of deception hate one another and the matchmaker too. I am convinced that this is sound, and so I think it is not open to me to say anything in your praise that I can't say truthfully.” [37]

“It appears, Socrates, that you are the sort of friend to help me if I am in any way qualified to make friends: but if not, you won't make up a story to help me.”

“How do you think I shall help you best, Critobulus, by false praise, or by urging you to try to be a good man? [38] If you don't yet see clearly, take the following cases as illustrations. Suppose that I wanted to get a shipmaster to make you his friend, and as a recommendation told him that you are a good skipper, which is untrue; and suppose that he believed me and put you in charge of his ship in spite of your not knowing how to steer it: have you any reason to hope that you would not lose the ship and your life as well? Or suppose that I falsely represented to the Assembly that you are a born general, jurist and statesman in one, and so persuaded the state to commit her fortunes to you, what do you suppose would happen to the state and to yourself under your guidance? Or again, suppose that I falsely described you to certain citizens in private as a thrifty, careful person, and persuaded them to place their affairs in your hands, wouldn't you do them harm and look ridiculous when you came to the test? [39] Nay, Critobulus, if you want to be thought good at anything, you must try to be so; that is the quickest, the surest, the best way.7 You will find on reflection that every kind of virtue named among men is increased by study and practice. Such is the view I take of our duty, Critobulus. If you have anything to say against it, tell me.”

“Why, Socrates,” said Critobulus, “I should be ashamed to contradict you, for I should be saying what is neither honourable nor true.”

1 Or εὔνους, “loyal,” or εὔορκος, “scrupulous,” “a man of his word.”

2 Or κάπροι, “boars.”

3 Hom. Od. 12.184

4 i.e., not by his words, but by protecting Athens with ships and fortifications.

5 Odyssey xii. 39 f., adapted.

6 i.e., beautiful in character (soul).

7 Cyropaedia I. vi. 22.

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hide References (6 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 583
  • Cross-references to this page (5):
    • Harper's, Aspasia
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), ARTIF´ICES
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), MATRIMO´NIUM
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter IV
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter VI
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