One Hand Washes the Other

Erasmus, Adagia 1.1.33:

“Socrates, in Plato’s Axiochus, says to the sophist Prodicus that this verse of the comic poet Epicharmus was always on his tongue:

Ἡ δὲ χεὶρ τὴν χεῖρα κνίζει, δός τι καὶ λάβοις τι,

that is,

‘One hand rubs the other – give something and receive something.’

Obviously this was spoken upbraiding the acquisitiveness of a man who would teach no one for free and by whom, as he often affirmed, he had learned what he was going to say, and that not free, but only after paying a fee. The saying is variously applied to a Sicilian and to a cunning poet; for thus Cicero names him. He does however warn that no person can be found who would do a favor for another from whom he did not expect that he would receive a favor in return – rather, kindness is elicited by kindness, and favors are called forth by other favors. The same adage is reported in this way, Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, that is One hand washes the other. Each of these metaphors has the same effect, for it is a mutual benefit whenever one hand rubs or washes the other. This distich is circulated among collections of Greek sayings:

Ἀνὴρ γὰρ ἄνδρα καὶ πόλις σῴζει πόλιν.

Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, δάκτυλός τε δάκτυλον,

that is,

“City saves city, and one man saves another; one hand washes the other, one finger another.”

Seneca also employs this saying in his absurd book about the death of Claudius.”

Image result for manus manum lavat

Manus manum fricat.xxxiii

Socrates in Axiocho Platonis ait Prodico sophistae hunc Epicharmi comici versiculum semper in ore fuisse :

Ἡ δὲ χεὶρ τὴν χεῖρα κνίζει, δός τι καὶ λάβοις τι,

id est

Affricat manum manus, da quiddam et aliquid accipe,

videlicet hominis quaestum facete taxans, qui neminem gratis doceret et a quo se quoque quae tum dicturus esset, didicisse affirmabat, at ne id quidem gratuito, immo numerata mercede. Sententia digna tum homine Siculo tum vafro poeta ; sic enim illum appellat Cicero. Monet autem neminem ferme mortalium inveniri, qui velit in quempiam beneficium collocare, a quo non speret aliquid emolumenti vicissim ad se rediturum, sed officium invitari officio, beneficium beneficio provocari. Idem adagium effertur et hoc pacto : Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, id est Manum manus lavat. Idem pollet utraque metaphora. Nam mutua commoditas est, quoties vel fricat vel abluit manus manum. Circumfertur inter Graecanicas sententias hujusmodi distichon :

Ἀνὴρ γὰρ ἄνδρα καὶ πόλις σῴζει πόλιν.

Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, δάκτυλός τε δάκτυλον,

id est

Urbs servat urbem, servat itidem vir virum.

Manus manum, digitumque digitus abluit.

Utitur eo et Seneca in ludicro libello de morte Claudii Caesaris.

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