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On Abundance Of Friends
by [?]

Sec. I. Menon the Thessalian, who thought he was a perfect adept in discourse, and, to borrow the language of Empedocles, “had attained the heights of wisdom,” was asked by Socrates, what virtue was, and upon his answering quickly and glibly, that virtue was a different thing in boy and old man, and in man and woman, and in magistrate and private person, and in master and servant, “Capital,” said Socrates, “you were asked about one virtue, but you have raised up a whole swarm of them,”[321] conjecturing not amiss that the man named many because he knew not one. Might not someone jeer at us in the same way, as being afraid, when we have not yet one firm friendship, that we shall without knowing it fall upon an abundance of friends? It is very much the same as if a man maimed and blind should be afraid of becoming hundred-handed like Briareus or all eyes like Argus. And yet we wonderfully praise the young man in Menander, who said that he thought anyone wonderfully good, if he had even the shadow of a friend.[322]

Sec. II. But among many other things what stands chiefly in the way of getting a friend is the desire for many friends, like a licentious woman who, through giving her favours indiscriminately, cannot retain her old lovers, who are neglected and drop off;[323] or rather like the foster-child of Hypsipyle, “sitting in the meadow and plucking flower after flower, snatching at each prize with gladsome heart, insatiable in its childish delight,”[324] so in the case of each of us, owing to our love of novelty and fickleness, the recent flower ever attracts, and makes us inconstant, frequently laying the foundations of many friendships and intimacies that come to nothing, neglecting in love of what we eagerly pursue what we have already possession of. To begin therefore with the domestic hearth,[325] as the saying is, with the traditions of life that time has handed down to us about constant friends, let us take the witness and counsel of antiquity, according to which friendships go in pairs, as in the cases of Theseus and Pirithous, Achilles and Patroclus, Orestes and Pylades, Phintias and Damon, Epaminondas and Pelopidas. For friendship is a creature that goes in pairs, and is not gregarious, or crow-like,[326] and to think a friend a second self, and to call him companion as it were second one,[327] shows that friendship is a dual relation. For we can get neither many slaves nor many friends at small expense. What then is the purchase-money of friendship? Benevolence and complaisance conjoined with virtue, and yet nature has nothing more rare than these. And so to love or be loved very much cannot find place with many persons; for as rivers that have many channels and cuttings have a weak and thin stream, so excessive love in the soul if divided out among many is weakened. Thus love for their young is most strongly implanted in those that bear only one, as Homer calls a beloved son “the only one, the child of old age,”[328] that is, when the parents neither have nor are likely to have another child.

Sec. III. Not that we insist on only one friend, but among the rest there should be one eminently so, like a child of old age, who according to that well-known proverb has eaten a bushel of salt with one,[329] not as nowadays many so-called friends contract friendship from drinking together once, or playing at ball together, or playing together with dice, or passing the night together at some inn, or meeting at the wrestling-school or in the market. And in the houses of rich and leading men people congratulate them on their many friends, when they see the large and bustling crowd of visitors and handshakers and retainers: and yet they see more flies in their kitchens, and as the flies only come for the dainties, so they only dance attendance for what they can get. And since true friendship has three main requirements, virtue, as a thing good; and familiarity, as a thing pleasant; and use, as a thing serviceable; for we ought to choose a friend with judgement, and rejoice in his company, and make use of him in need; and all these things are prejudicial to abundance of friends, especially judgement, which is the most important point; we must first consider, if it is impossible in a short time to test dancers who are to form a chorus, or rowers who are to pull together, or slaves who are to act as stewards of estates, or as tutors of one’s sons, far more difficult is it to meet with many friends who will take off their coats to aid you in every fortune, each of whom “offers his services to you in prosperity, and does not object to share your adversity.” For neither does a ship encounter so many storms at sea, nor do they fortify places with walls, or harbours with defences and earthworks, in the expectation of so many and great dangers, as friendship tested well and soundly promises defence and refuge from. But if friends slip in without being tested, like money proved to be bad,