Replacing Your Brother is Like Cutting off a Limb

Plutarch, On Brotherly Love 479 B-D


“The Arcadian prophet*, according to Herodototus, was compelled to have a wooden foot made after he lost his own. But when a brother makes an enemy of his brother and then obtains a surrogate companion from the marketplace or the gym he isn’t doing anything other than cutting off a natural part of his body willingly and then fashioning and applying some alien prosthetic. For a need to seek and welcome friendship and companionship instructs us to honor, cultivate and guard our family because we are not able or created to live friendless, solitary or self-sufficient lives. This is why Menander says rightly (fr.554)

We don’t seek from drinking or daily dining
Someone we trust with our life, father.
Doesn’t each man think he has discovered
An exceptional good when he has only a shadow of a friend?

For most friendships are really shadows—imitations and dreams of that first closeness which nature fosters in children towards parents and towards siblings.   How can a man who does not revere or honor this relationship give any goodwill to others?”

Castor and Pollux Could Depend on Each Other…

ὁ μὲν οὖν ᾿Αρκαδικὸς μάντις ἀναγκαίως πόδα ξύλινον προσεποιήσατο καθ’ ῾Ηρόδοτον (IX 37) τοῦ οἰκείου στερηθείς· ἀδελφὸς δὲ πολεμῶν ἀδελφῷ καὶ κτώμενος ὀθνεῖον ἐξ ἀγορᾶς ἢ παλαίστρας ἑταῖρον οὐθὲν ἔοικεν ἄλλο ποιεῖν ἢ σάρκινον καὶ συμφυὲς ἑκουσίως ἀποκόψας μέλος ἀλλότριον προστίθεσθαι καὶ προσαρμόττειν. αὐτὴ γὰρ ἡ προσδεχομένη καὶ ζητοῦσα φιλίαν καὶ ὁμιλίαν χρεία διδάσκει τὸ συγγενὲς τιμᾶν καὶ περιέπειν καὶ διαφυλάττειν, ὡς ἀφίλους καὶ ἀμίκτους καὶ μονοτρόπους ζῆν μὴ δυναμένους μηδὲ πεφυκότας. ὅθεν ὁ Μένανδρος ὀρθῶς (fr. 554)


‘οὐκ ἐκ πότων καὶ τῆς καθ’ ἡμέραν τρυφῆς
ζητοῦμεν ᾧ πιστεύσομεν τὰ τοῦ βίου’ φησί,
‘πάτερ. οὐ περιττὸν οἴετ’ ἐξευρηκέναι
ἀγαθὸν ἕκαστος, ἂν ἔχῃ φίλου σκιάν;’


σκιαὶ γάρ εἰσιν ὄντως αἱ πολλαὶ φιλίαι καὶ μιμήματα καὶ εἴδωλα τῆς πρώτης ἐκείνης, ἣν παισί τε πρὸς γονεῖς ἡ φύσις ἀδελφοῖς τε πρὸς ἀδελφοὺς ἐμπεποίηκε, κἀκείνην ὁ μὴ σεβόμενος μηδὲ τιμῶν ὅρα τίνα πίστιν εὐνοίας τοῖς  ἀλλοτρίοις δίδωσιν;




*Hegesitratos from Elis, see Herodotus 9.37.

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