05 Feb On Having Many Friends (Plutarch) | Part A’
It is impossible to acquire either many slaves or many friends with little coin.
What then is the coin of friendship?
It is goodwill and graciousness combined with virtue, than which nature has nothing more rare.
Not as is the fashion nowadays, by which many get the name of friend by drinking a single glass together, or by spending a night under the same roof, and so pick up a friendship from inn, gymnasium, or market-place.
But true friendship seeks after three things above all else: virtue as a good thing, intimacy as a pleasant thing, and usefulness as a necessary thing.
For no ship is launched upon the sea to meet so many storms, nor do men, when they erect protecting walls for strongholds, and dams and moles for harbours, anticipate perils so numerous and so great Das those from which friendship, rightly and surely tried, p55 promises a refuge and protection.
We ought therefore not to accept readily chance acquaintances, or attach ourselves to them, nor ought we to make friends of those who seek after us, but rather we should seek after those who are worthy of friendship. For one should by no means take what can easily be taken. In fact we step over or thrust aside bramble and brier, which seize hold upon us, and make our way onward to the olive and the vine.
Thus it is always an excellent thing not to make an intimate acquaintance of the man who is ready with his embraces, but rather, of our own motion, to embrace those of whom we approve Fas worthy of our attention and useful to us.
Just as Zeuxis, when some persons charged him with painting slowly, retorted by saying, “Yes, it takes me a long time, for it is to last long,”
so it is necessary to preserve friendship and intimacy by adopting them only after spending a long time in passing judgment upon them.
Is it, then, true that while it is not easy to pass judgment on a large number of friends, yet it is easy to associate with a large number at the same time, or is this also impossible?
Now it is a fact that the enjoyment of friendship lies in its intimacy, and the pleasantest part of it is found in association and daily companionship:
Now what is commonly called having a multitude of friends apparently produces the opposite result.
For friendship draws persons together and unites them and keeps them united in a close fellowship by means of continual association and mutual acts of kindness.
Just as the fig-juice fastens the white milk firmly and binds it
For neither do our natures tend in the same direction as our impulses, nor do we, day in and day out, meet with the same sort of fortune; and the occasions which prompt our various actions, like the winds, help some friends on their way, and are adverse to others.
Part b’ follows