Erasmus, Adagia 1.1.11 – ‘Syncretism’
“‘Syncretism’ used to be used as a Cretan proverb in cases when those who seemed to be the bitterest enemies were unexpectedly driven back into the greatest concord. This used to happen often, especially when some common misfortune befell both parties. Plutarch, in his commentary On Brotherly Love, reviews and simultaneously explains the proverb with these words: Ἔτι τοίνυν ἐκεῖνο δεῖ μνημονεύειν ἐν ταῖς πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς διαφοραῖς καὶ φυλάττειν, τὸ τοῖς φίλοις αὐτῶν ὁμιλεῖν καὶ πλησιάζειν τότε μάλιστα, φεύγειν δὲ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς καὶ μὴ προσδέχεσθαι, μιμούμενον αὐτὸ γοῦν τοῦτο τὸ Κρητῶν, οἳ πολλάκις στασιάζοντες ἀλλήλοις καὶ πολεμοῦτες ἔξωθεν ἐπιόντων πολεμίων διελύοντο καὶ συνίσταντο· καὶ τοῦτο ἦν ὁ καλούμενος ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν συγκρητισμός that is, It will also be proper to remember and to take care when brothers are arguing among themselves , that you may have at the same time familiarity and intimacy with their friends, but flee their enemies and not admit them to your friendship. Clearly, he is following the example of the Cretans who, though they fought frequently experienced factional strife and civil wars among themselves, would always abandon their hostility and join together when enemies invaded from elsewhere. This is what they used to call ‘syncretism’. So says Plutarch.
Quintus Curtius mentions something similar about the Sudracae and the Malli in the ninth book of his history of Alexander. He says that though they were otherwise accustomed to wage war against each other regularly, they had joined themselves together when Alexander at the approach of Alexander. We can also adduce the authority of Aristotle, Συνάγει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τὰ κακά, that is, Bad circumstances bring people together.
This adage will also be rightly applied to those who enter friendship not because they esteem each other personally, but because one needs the help of the other, or because they hope to overcome a common enemy by joining forces. We see this happen often in these times, that some peoples who bear the utmost hostility to each other will form a military alliance. So great is the frenzy for revenge even among Christians. This is also related by the Byzantine writer Apostolius, the most recent compiler of proverbs among the Greeks.”
Συγκρητισμός Cretico proverbio dicebatur, quoties fieret, ut qui modo videbantur hostes acerrimi, repente in summam concordiam redigerentur. Id quod frequenter evenire solet, maxime si quando malum aliquod inciderit utriusque commune. Plutarchus in commentario Περὶ φιλαδελφίας, id est De fraterna caritate, recenset simulque explicat paroemiam his verbis : Ἔτι τοίνυν ἐκεῖνο δεῖ μνημονεύειν ἐν ταῖς πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς διαφοραῖς καὶ φυλάττειν, τὸ τοῖς φίλοις αὐτῶν ὁμιλεῖν καὶ πλησιάζειν τότε μάλιστα, φεύγειν δὲ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς καὶ μὴ προσδέχεσθαι, μιμούμενον αὐτὸ γοῦν τοῦτο τὸ Κρητῶν, οἳ πολλάκις στασιάζοντες ἀλλήλοις καὶ πολεμοῦτες ἔξωθεν ἐπιόντων πολεμίων διελύοντο καὶ συνίσταντο· καὶ τοῦτο ἦν ὁ καλούμενος ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν συγκρητισμός, id est Praeterea oportebit et illud meminisse fratribus inter se dissidentibus observareque, ut potissimum eo tempore consuetudinem habeas et convictum cum illorum amicis. Rursum, inimicos fugias neque admittas ad familiaritatem, illud videlicet Cretensium exemplum secutus qui frequenter, cum factionibus et bellis intestinis inter sese pugnarent, invadentibus aliunde hostibus omissa contentione conjuncti sunt. Atque is erat, quem illi syncretismum appellabant. Hactenus Plutarchus. Simile quiddam refert de Sudracis et Mallis Quintus Curtius libro nono, quos alias bellare inter se solitos, periculi societas junxerat imminente Alexandro. Pertinet huc, quod alias ex Aristotele referemus : Συνάγει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τὰ κακά, id est Conciliant homines mala. Adagium recte accommodabitur et in illos qui amicitiam ineunt, non quod sese ex animo diligant, sed quod alter alterius opis egeat aut quo veluti conjunctis copiis communem inimicum pessundent. Id quod his temporibus saepenumero factitari videmus, ut arma jungant alioqui inter se infensissimis animis. Tanta inest et Christianis hominibus ulciscendi rabies. Refertur et ab Apostolio quodam Byzantino, recentissimo apud Graecos proverbiorum coacervatore.