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How One May Discern A Flatterer From A Friend
by [?]

Sec. VI. Let us examine the matter then from the beginning. I said that friendship originated in most cases from a similar disposition and nature, generally inclined to the same habits and morals, and rejoicing in the same pursuits, studies, and amusements, as the following lines testify: “To old man the voice of old man is sweetest, to boy that of boy, to woman is most acceptable that of woman, to the sick person that of sick person, while he that is overtaken by misfortune is a comforter to one in trouble.” The flatterer knowing then that it is innate in us to delight in, and enjoy the company of, and to love, those who are like ourselves, attempts first to approach and get near a person in this direction, (as one tries to catch an animal in the pastures,) by the same pursuits and amusements and studies and modes of life quietly throwing out his bait, and disguising himself in false colours, till his victim give him an opportunity to catch him, and become tame and tractable at his touch. Then too he censures the things and modes of life and persons that he knows his victim dislikes, while he praises those he fancies immoderately, overdoing it indeed[368] with his show of surprise and excessive admiration, making him more and more convinced that his likes and dislikes are the fruits of judgement and not of caprice.

Sec. VII. How then is the flatterer convicted, and by what differences is he detected, of being only a counterfeit, and not really like his victim? We must first then look at the even tenor and consistency of his principles, if he always delights in the same things, and always praises the same things, and directs and governs his life after one pattern, as becomes the noble lover of consistent friendship and familiarity. Such a person is a friend. But the flatterer having no fixed character of his own,[369] and not seeking to lead the life suitable for him, but shaping and modelling himself after another’s pattern, is neither simple nor uniform, but complex and unstable, assuming different appearances, like water poured from vessel to vessel, ever in a state of flux and accommodating himself entirely to the fashion of those who entertain him. The ape indeed, as it seems, attempting to imitate man, is caught imitating his movements and dancing like him, but the flatterer himself attracts and decoys other men, imitating not all alike, for with one he sings and dances, with another he wrestles and gets covered with the dust of the palaestra, while he follows a third fond of hunting and the chase all but shouting out the words of Phaedra,

“How I desire to halloo on the dogs,
Chasing the dappled deer,”[370]

and yet he has really no interest in the chase, it is the hunter himself he sets the toils and snares for. And if the object of his pursuit is some young scholar and lover of learning, he is all for books then, his beard flows down to his feet,[371] he’s quite a sight with his threadbare cloak, has all the indifference of the Stoic, and speaks of nothing but the rectangles and triangles of Plato. But if any rich and careless fellow fond of drink come in his way,

“Then wise Odysseus stript him of his rags,”[372]

his threadbare cloak is thrown aside, his beard is shorn off like a fruitless crop, he goes in for wine-coolers and tankards, and laughs loudly in the streets, and jeers at philosophers. As they say happened at Syracuse, when Plato went there, and Dionysius was seized with a furious passion for philosophy, and so great was the concourse of geometricians that they raised up quite a cloud of dust in the palace, but when Plato fell out of favour, and Dionysius gave up philosophy, and went back again headlong to wine and women and trifles and debauchery, then all the court was metamorphosed, as if they all had drunk of Circe’s cup, for ignorance and oblivion and silliness reigned rampant. I am borne out in what I say by the behaviour of great flatterers and demagogues,[373] the greatest of whom Alcibiades, a jeerer and horse-rearer at Athens, and living a gay and merry life, wore his hair closely shaven at Lacedaemon, and washed in cold water, and attired himself in a threadbare cloak; while in Thrace he fought[374] and drank; and at Tissaphernes’ court lived delicately and luxuriously and in a pretentious style; and thus curried favour and was popular with everybody by imitating their habits and ways. Such was not the way however in which Epaminondas or Agesilaus acted, for though they associated with very many men and states and different modes of life, they maintained everywhere their usual demeanour, both in dress and diet and language and behaviour. So Plato[375] at Syracuse was exactly the same man as in the Academy, the same with Dionysius as with Dion.