Of friendship.To whatever objects a person devotes his attention, these objects he probably loves. Do men ever devote their attention, then, to [what they think] evils? By no means. Or even to things indifferent? No, nor this. It remains, then, that good must be the sole object of their attention; and if of their attention, of their love too. Whoever, therefore, understands good, is capable likewise of love; and he who cannot distinguish good from evil, and things [p. 1200] indifferent from both, how is it possible that he can love? The wise person alone, then, is capable of loving. " How so? I am not this wise person, yet I love my child." I protest it surprises me that you should, in the first place, confess yourself unwise. For in what are you deficient? Have not you the use of your senses? Do you not distinguish the semblances of things? Do you not provide such food and clothing and habitation as are suitable to you? Why then do you confess that you want wisdom? In truth, because you are often struck and disconcerted by semblances, and their speciousness gets the better of you; and hence you sometimes suppose the very same things to be good, then evil, and lastly, neither; and, in a word, you grieve, you fear, you envy, you are disconcerted, you change. Is it from this that you confess yourself unwise? And are you not changeable too in love? Riches, pleasure, in short, the very same things, you sometimes esteem good, and at other times evil. And do you not esteem the same persons too alternately as good and bad, at one time treating them with kindness, at another with enmity; at one time commending, and at another censuring them? "Yes. This too is the case with me." Well, then; can he who is deceived in another be his friend, think you? "No, surely." [p. 1201] Or does he who loves him with a changeable affection bear him genuine good-will? " Nor he, neither." Or he who now vilifies, then admires him? " Nor he." Do you not often see little dogs caressing and playing with each other, so that you would say nothing could be more friendly? But to learn what this friendship is, throw a bit of meat between them, and you will see. Do you too throw a bit of an estate betwixt you and your son, and you will see that he will quickly wish you under ground, and you him; and then you, no doubt, on the other hand will exclaim, What a son have I brought up ! He would bury me alive ! Throw in a pretty girl, and the old fellow and the young one will both fall in love with her; or let fame or danger intervene, the words of the father of Admetus will be yours:--
The second line, as quoted by Epictetus, is not found in the received editions. Pheres, the father of Admetus, is defending himself for not consenting to die in place of his son. - H. Do you suppose that he did not love his own child when it was little; that he was not in agonies when it had a fever, and often wished to undergo that fever in its stead? But, after all, when the trial comes [p. 1202] home, you see what expressions he uses. Were not Eteocles and Polynices born of the same mother and of the same father? Were they not brought up, and did they not live and eat and sleep, together? Did not they kiss and fondle each other? So that any one, who saw them, would have laughed at all the paradoxes which philosophers utter about love. And yet when a kingdom, like a bit of meat, was thrown betwixt them, see what they say,-
“You love to see the light. Doth not your father?
You fain would still behold it. Would not he?
Such are the prayers they offer. Be not therefore deceived. No living being is held by anything so strongly as by its own needs. Whatever therefore appears a hindrance to these, be it brother or father or child or mistress or friend, is hated, abhorred, execrated; for by nature it loves nothing like its own needs. This motive is father and brother and family and country and God. Whenever, therefore, the gods seem to hinder this, we vilify even them, and throw down their statues, and burn their temples; as Alexander ordered the temple of Esculapius to be burnt, because he had lost the man he loved. When, therefore, any one identifies his interest with those of sanctity, virtue, country, parents, and friends, [p. 1203] all these are secured; but whenever he places his interest in anything else than friends, country, family, and justice, then these all give way, borne down by the weight of self-interest. For wherever I and mine are placed, thither must every living being gravitate. If in body, that will sway us; if in our own will, that; if in externals, these. If, therefore, I rest my personality in the will, then only shall I be a friend, a son, or a father, such as I ought. For in that case it will be for my interest to preserve the faithful, the modest, the patient, the abstinent, the beneficent character; to keep the relations of life inviolate. But if I place my personality in one thing, and virtue in another, the doctrine of Epicurus will stand its ground, that virtue is nothing, or mere opinion. From this ignorance it was that the Athenians and Lacedemonians quarrelled with each other, and the Thebans with both; the Persian king with Greece, and the Macedonians with both; and now the Romans with the Getes. And in still remoter times the Trojan war arose from the same cause. Alexander [Paris] was the guest of Menelaus; and whoever had seen the mutual proofs of good-will that passed between them would never have believed that they were not friends. But a tempting bait, a pretty woman, was thrown in between them; and thence came war. At present, therefore, when you see that dear brothers have, in appearance, but one soul do [p. 1204] not immediately pronounce upon their love; not though they should swear it, and affirm it was impossible to live asunder. For the governing faculty of a bad man is faithless, unsettled, undiscriminating, successively vanquished by different semblances. But inquire, not as others do, whether they were born of the same parents, and brought up together, and under the same preceptor; but this thing only, in what they place their interest,- in externals or in their own wills. If in externals, you can no more pronounce them friends, than you can call them faithful, or constant, or brave, or free; nay, nor even truly men, if you are wise. For it is no principle of humanity that makes them bite and vilify each other, and take possession of public assemblies, as wild beasts do of solitudes and mountains; and convert courts of justice into dens of robbers; that prompts them to be intemperate, adulterers, seducers; or leads them into other offences that men commit against each other, - all from that one single error, by which they risk themselves and their own concerns on things uncontrollable by will. But if you hear that these men in reality suppose good to be placed only in the will, and in a right use of things as they appear, no longer take the trouble of inquiring if they are father and son, or old companions and acquaintances; but boldly pronounce that they are friends, and also that they are faithful and just. For where else can friendship be met, but [p. 1205] joined with fidelity and modesty, and the intercommunication of virtue alone? "Well; but such a one paid me the utmost regard for so long a time, and did he not love me? " How can you tell, foolish man, if that regard be any other than he pays to his shoes, or his horse, when he cleans them? And how do you know but that when you cease to be a necessary utensil, he may throw you away, like a broken stool? "Well; but it is my wife, and we have lived together many years." And how many did Eriphyle live with Amphiaraus, and was the mother of children not a few? But a bauble came between them. What was this bauble? A false conviction concerning certain things. This turned her into a savage animal; this cut asunder all love, and suffered neither the wife nor the mother to continue such.1 Whoever, therefore, among you studies either to be or to gain a friend, let him cut up all false convictions by the root, hate them, drive them utterly out of his soul. Thus, in the first place, he will be secure from inward reproaches and contests, from vacillation and self-torment. Then, with respect to others, to every like-minded person he will be without disguise; to such as are unlike he will be patient, mild, gentle, and ready to forgive them, as failing in points [p. 1206] of the greatest importance; but severe to none, being fully convinced of Plato's doctrine, that the soul is never willingly deprived of truth. Without all this, you may, in many respects, live as friends do; and drink and lodge and travel together, and even be born of the same parents; and so may serpents too; but neither they nor you can ever be really friends, while your accustomed principles remain brutal and execrable.
Where wilt thou stand before the towers?
Why askest thou this of me?
I will oppose myself to thee, to slay thee.
Me too the desire of this seizes.