Xenophon in Seven Volumes Vol 4; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, translator; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor

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.

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?Certainly.Then we must avoid him too?We must indeed.

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.

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.

We shall look for one who controls his indulgence in the pleasures of the body, who is truly hospitable[*](Or εὔνους, loyal, or εὔορκος, scrupulous, a man of his word.) 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.

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.

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.

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?

Surely not like a hare by swift pursuit, nor like birds by cunning, nor like enemies[*](Or κάπροι, boars.) 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.

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.

How then can we learn them?You have heard from Homer the spell that the Sirens put on Odysseus. It begins like this:

  1. Hither, come hither, renowned Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans.
[*](Hom. Od. 12.184)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?

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?

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.[*](i.e., not by his words, but by protecting Athens with ships and fortifications.)

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?

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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?