“On Friendship” by Cicero

[Original Latin Title: De Amicitia]


For I am indeed moved by the loss of a friend such, I believe, as I shall never have again, and—as I can assert on positive knowledge— a friend such as no other man ever was to me. But I am not devoid of a remedy, and I find very great consolation in the comforting fact that I am free from the delusion which causes most men anguish when their friends depart. I believe that no ill has befallen Scipio; it has befallen me, if it has befallen anyone; but great anguish for one’s own inconveniences is the mark of the man who loves not his friend but himself.

In the first place, how can life be what Ennius calls “the life worth living,” if it does not repose on the mutual goodwill of a friend? What is sweeter than to have someone with whom you may dare discuss anything as if you were communing with yourself? How could your enjoyment in times of prosperity be so great if you did not have someone whose joy in them would be equal to your own? Adversity would indeed be hard to bear, without him to whom the burden would be heavier even than to yourself. … friendship embraces innumerable ends; turn where you will it is ever at your side; no barrier shuts it out; it is never untimely and never in the way. …For friendship adds a brighter radiance to prosperity and lessens the burden of adversity by dividing and sharing it.

Again, he who looks upon a true friend, looks, as it were, upon a sort of image of himself. Wherefore friends, though absent, are at hand; though in need, yet abound; though weak, are strong; and—harder saying still— though dead, are yet alive; so great is the esteem on the part of their friends, the tender recollection and the deep longing that still attends them.

Ask of friends only what is honourable; do for friends only what is honourable and without even waiting to be asked; let zeal be ever present, but hesitation absent; dare to give true advice with all frankness;

For of what value is their vaunted “freedom from care”? In appearance it is indeed an alluring thing, but in reality often to be shunned. … Nay, if we continually flee from trouble, we must also flee from Virtue, who necessarily meets with some trouble in rejecting and loathing things contrary to herself, as when kindness rejects ill-will, temperance lust, and bravery cowardice. And so you may see that it is the just who are most pained at injustice, the brave at cowardice, the self-restrained at profligacy. It is, therefore, characteristic of the well-ordered mind both to rejoice at good deeds and to be pained at the reverse.

For the fruit of genius, of virtue, and, indeed, of every excellence, imparts its sweetest flavour when bestowed on those who are nearest and dearest to us.

You should love your friend after you have appraised him; you should not appraise him after you have begun to love him.

No one, to be sure, unless he is an utter fool, fails to detect the open flatterer, but we must exercise a watchful care against the deep and crafty one lest he steal upon us unawares. For he is very hard to recognize, since he often fawns even by opposing, and flatters and cajoles by pretending to quarrel, until at last he gives in, allowing himself to be overcome so that his dupe may appear to have seen further into the matter than himself.


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