The dialogue was written in 45 B.C., at the time of Julius Caesar's greatest success. Cato and the senatorial cause were dead, the former at Utica in 46, the latter on the battlefield of Pharsalus in 48.

The dramatic date is after the sudden (and suspicious) death of Scipio in 129 B.C. The literary genre allows Cicero to use as his mouthpieces his friend Caius Laelius (consul in 140, and an augur), as well as Caius Fannius (consul in 122, and an augur) and Quintus Mucius Scaevola the Augur (consul in 117), conversing about the former by way of recollection. Scipio had been an augur himself for more than ten years; and Cicero (consul of 63 B.C.) had been elected augur in 53 B.C.

Introduction and dedication to T. Pomponius Atticus
The genre, style, and method of operation.
Preliminary remarks:
  • Fannius: Who deserves the title `wise'? (sapiens) It is (or should be, as in Scaevola's case) a tribute to character (natura and mores) and learning (studium and doctrina). The Elder Cato had prudentia and constantia and was acutus, and was called Wise in his old age.
  • Scaevola: Somebody who accepts a tragic death "stoically" is wise, as Cato the Elder in the case of his son.
  • Laelius: Yes, but, note that no harm happened to him in the rest of his life and he died after a great career, honored by his grateful country with every honor it could bestow. (Cf. Herodotus, Book I: Tellos the Athenian). The soul is immortal, Scipio is in heaven, and having had his friendship will give his friend (Laelius) a kind of immortality.
Laelius' discussion of friendship.
  • Friendship is the strongest tie among humanity
  • Friendship is the greatest gift of Heaven to humans
  • Friendship stimulates hope and maintains spirits (Empedocles: unifying force of the Universe)
  • Friendship is not from `weakness' but a natural inclination
  1. Feelings of love among animals and more so among humans
  2. Loveableness of virtue, even in people we have never seen
  • Desire for advantage does not make friendship: Friendship is a natural inclination, stimulated by an admiration for virutes of a friend, and his service on our behalf.
  • Pleasure is not the reason for virtue (anti-Epicurean statement).
  • Friendship is destroyed by:
  1. Change of tastes in the passing of time
  2. Rivalry (Love, money, politics)
  3. Demands made contrary to virtue and morality
  • Affection and Friendship (sect. 36-55)
  1. Do not make or respond to dishonorable requests. (sect. 40-43)
  2. A friend should be honest, outspoken, interested: Wrong philosophical attitudes: shun friendship as dangerous, worrisome (Epicurean); seek friends only for advantage. (44-48)
  3. Advantage is a consequence, not a cause, of friendship: virtue seeks virtue.
  4. Wealth and power are no substitute for friendship (52-55)
  • Limits to friendship: (Other philosophical positions, Stoic refutations)
  1. `Have the same feelings for friends as for ourselves.'
    BUT: We do things for friends that we wouldn't do for ourselves.
  2. `Love them as much (and just as much?) as they love us.'
    BUT: This is cold and calculating.
  3. `Seek to be valued by friends as we value ourselves.'
    BUT: The duty of a friend is to cheer and inspire.
  • Limits to friendship: Stoic position. [sect. 61-64]
  1. We may support a friend, even in extreme situations, provided there is no disgrace.
  2. Examine and test friends most carefully, especially when they are in unfavorable circumstances.
  3. Loyalty [fides] is the most important quality: but they must be free from slander and hypocrisy. [fictum, simulatum]
  4. New friends / Old friends: old are preferred, but new ones not rejected; all are on an equal footing.
    –Friends should be made in maturity, not youth.
    –Good will should not lead one to harm a friend: Golden rule. (71-76)
  • End of friendships: [76-81]
  1. faults, on one person's part
  2. effect of time (to avoid: Choose carefully at the beginning of a friendship)
  • Expectations in friendship:
  1. not an occasion for passion or sin
  2. affection comes after exercise of judgment
  3. Carelessness (incuria): One must cultivate a friend.
  • Advising: a part of friendship, but not to be done by way of abuse or harshly.
  1. Flattery (adulatio, blanditia) is equally bad for a friendship.
  2. Sincerity.
  • Virtus makes amicitia, never for advantage.
  • Seek friends: life without friends is joyless.

© 07/22/2003

June 10, 2009 8:17 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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