Of Brotherly Love (PLUTARCH) | Part A’

Of Brotherly Love (PLUTARCH) | Part A’

But I see brotherly love is as scarce in our days as brotherly hatred was in ancient times, the instances of which have been publicly exposed in tragedies and public shows for their strangeness. But all in our times, when they have fortuned to have good brothers, do no less admire them than the famed Molionidae, that are supposed to have been born with their bodies joined with each other. And to enjoy in common their fathers’ wealth, friends, and slaves is looked upon as incredible and prodigious, as if one soul should make use of the hands, feet, and eyes of two bodies.

For a great deal of friendship in the world is really no better and no more than the mere imitation and resemblance of that first affection that Nature wrought in parents towards their children, and in their children towards one another. For what shall we make of that man who in his complaisance, either in company or in his letters, salutes his friend by the name of brother, and yet scorns the company of that very brother whose name was so serviceable to him in his compliment?

For never was any father so intent upon oratory, ambitious of honor, or craving after riches, as fond of his children. Wherefore neither is it so great a satisfaction to hear them speak well, find them grow wealthy, or see them honored with the power of magistracy, as to be endeared to each other in mutual affection. Wherefore it is reported of Apollonis of Cyzicum, mother of King Eumenes and three other sons, Attalus, Philetaerus, and Athenaeus, that she always accounted herself happy and gave the Gods thanks, not so much for wealth or empire, as because she saw her three sons guarding the eldest, and him reigning securely among his armed brothers. And on the contrary, Artaxerxes, understanding that his son Ochus had laid a plot against his brothers, died with sorrow at the surprise.

For the quarrels of brothers are pernicious, saith Euripides, but most of all to the parents themselves.

For he that hates and plagues his brother can hardly forbear blaming the father who begot and the mother who bare him.

For it must be some great matter that violates the bonds of natural affection; whence it is that such breaches are so hardly healed up again. For, as those things which are joined together by art, being parted, may by the same art be compacted again, but if there be a fracture in a natural body, there is much difficulty in setting and uniting the broken parts; so, if friendships that through a long tract of time have been firmly and closely contracted come once to be violated, no endeavors will bring then together any more. And brothers, when they have once broke natural affection, are hardly made true friends again; or, if there be some kind of peace made betwixt then, it is like to prove but superficial only, and such as carries a filthy festering scar along with it. Now all enmity between man and man which is attended with these perturbations of quarrelsomeness, passion, envy, recording of an injury, must needs be troublesome and vexatious; but that which is harbored against a brother, with whom they communicate in sacrifices and other religious rites of their parents, with whom they have the same common charnel-house and the same or a near habitation, is much more to be lamented,—especially if we reflect upon the horrid madness of some brothers, in being so prejudiced against their own flesh and blood, that his face and person once so welcome and familiar, his voice all along from his childhood as well beloved as known, should on a sudden become so very detestable.

What shall a man do with an untoward brother? I answer, every kind and degree of friendship is subject to abuse from the persons, and in that respect has its taint, according to that of Sophocles: “Who into human things makes scrutinies, He may on most his censures exercise.” For, if you examine the love of relations, the love of associates, or the more sensual passion of fond lovers, you will find none of them all clear, pure, and free from all faults. Wherefore the Spartan, when he married a little wife, said that of evils he had to choose the least. But brothers would do well to bear with one another’s familiar failings, rather than to adventure upon the trial of strangers. For as the former is blameless because it is necessary, so the other is blameworthy because it is voluntary.





Plutarch’s Morals



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