On Brotherhood and Shared Friendships

Plutarch, On Brotherly Love 490f-491a

“Friendships transform your character and there is no greater sign of a difference in character than in choosing different friends. This is why neither eating nor drinking nor playing and spending time with a brother is so firm a foundation of agreement as shared friendship, enmity, and enjoying time with the same people and, in turn, hating and shunning alike. For common friendships do not endure slander or feuds—instead, if some anger or complaint should arise, it is resolved by the intervention of friends who accept this responsibility and mediate if they are well-disposed toward both sides and have a similar good-will in common. Just as tin may rejoin broken bronze and bonds it together when soldered to both sides because it is suited similarly to both, so too it is right that a friend who is well-suited and shared by both brothers can increase their goodwill. But those are unbalanced and unshared are disharmonious, just as off-key notes in a musical scale. Just so, it is possible to wonder whether Hesiod was right or not when he said: “Never make a friend equal to a brother.” (Works and Days, 707).

ἠθοποιοῦσι γὰρ αἱ φιλίαι, καὶ μεῖζον οὐθέν ἐστιν ἠθῶν διαφορᾶς σημεῖον ἢ φίλων αἱρέσεις διαφερόντων. ὅθεν οὔτε τὸ συνεσθίειν ἀδελφῷ καὶ συμπίνειν οὔτε τὸ συμπαίζειν καὶ συνδιημερεύειν οὕτω συνεκτικόν ἐστιν ὁμονοίας ὡς τὸ συμφιλεῖν καὶ συνεχθραίνειν ἥδεσθαι τε τοῖς αὐτοῖς συνόντα καὶ πάλιν βδελύττεσθαι καὶ φεύγειν. οὐδὲ γὰρ διαβολὰς αἱ κοιναὶ φιλίαι φέρουσιν οὐδὲ συγκρούσεις· ἀλλὰ κἂν γένηταί τις ὀργὴ καὶ μέμψις, ἐκλύεται διὰ μέσου τῶν φίλων ἐκδεχομένων καὶ διασκεδαννύντων, ἄνπερ ἀμφοτέροις οἰκείως ἔχωσι καὶ πρὸς ἀμφοτέρους ὁμοῦ τῇ εὐνοίᾳ συννεύωσιν. | ὡς γὰρ ὁ κασσίτερος ῥαγέντα τὸν χαλκὸν συναρμόττει καὶ συγκεράννυσι τῷ ψαύειν ἑκατέρου πέρατος οἰκείως ὁμοπαθὴς γινόμενος, οὕτως δεῖ τὸν φίλον εὐάρμοστον ὄντα καὶ κοινὸν ἀμφοτέροις τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς προσκαταπυκνοῦν τὴν εὔνοιαν· οἱ δ’ ἄνισοι καὶ ἄμικτοι καθάπερ ἐν διαγράμματι μουσικῷ φθόγγοι διάζευξιν οὐ συναφὴν ποιοῦσιν. ἔστιν οὖν διαπορῆσαι πότερον ὀρθῶς ἢ τοὐναντίον ὁ ῾Ησίοδος εἶπε

(OD 707)


‘μηδὲ κασιγνήτῳ ἶσον ποιεῖσθαι ἑταῖρον.’

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.