More than one ancient writer might have said that the New Year’s gift with universal appeal is friendship (cue groans).
Here Aristotle makes the logical case for friendship, and Euripides shows friendship at work:
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 1169b.19-21
No one would wish to enjoy all good things by himself, for human beings are social and born to live with others. Accordingly, a happy person requires the company of others. Also, a happy person possesses the things that are by their nature good. And, it’s clearly better to pass one’s time among friends and good people than among strangers and people who just happen to be on hand. Therefore it follows that a happy person must have friends.
Euripides. Electra. 67-73
I regard you as a friend on par with the gods,
For you have not slighted me in my distress.
It’s great luck when mortals find someone who doctors
To their misfortunes, such as I find in you.
So it’s only right I lighten your burden, unasked;
Add my hands to yours in work, best I can,
So you might more easily carry on.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕλοιτ᾽ ἂν καθ᾽ αὑτὸν τὰ πάντ᾽ ἔχειν ἀγαθά: πολιτικὸν γὰρ ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ συζῆν πεφυκός. καὶ τῷ εὐδαίμονι δὴ τοῦθ᾽ ὑπάρχει: τὰ γὰρ τῇ φύσει ἀγαθὰ ἔχει, δῆλον δ᾽ ὡς μετὰ φίλων καὶ ἐπιεικῶν κρεῖττον ἢ μετ᾽ ὀθνείων καὶ τῶν τυχόντων συνημερεύειν. δεῖ ἄρα τῷ εὐδαίμονι φίλων.
ἐγώ σ᾿ ἴσον θεοῖσιν ἡγοῦμαι φίλον·
ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς γὰρ οὐκ ἐνύβρισας κακοῖς.
μεγάλη δὲ θνητοῖς μοῖρα συμφορᾶς κακῆς
ἰατρὸν εὑρεῖν, ὡς ἐγὼ σὲ λαμβάνω.
δεῖ δή με κἀκέλευστον εἰς ὅσον σθένω
μόχθου ᾿πικουφίζουσαν, ὡς ῥᾷον φέρῃς,
συνεκκομίζειν σοι πόνους.
Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.