Thursday, 24 April 2014

Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia 23 (7): the essence of friendship.

I have written a post before about Cicero’s  dialogue Laelius de Amicitia and searching for some book on my shelves my eye fell on a copy of this booklet and I decided to take another passage for a post. Many of my posts are on late and mediaeval Latin, but now and then it is good to turn to classical Latin in order to read some good prose. Together with the dialogue Cato Maior de Senectute, this dialogue belongs to the most personal writings of Cicero, apart from his letters. It is interesting to put them in the context of upheavals of the Roman state at that time, but that would require a long exposé and more study and typing than I am willing to do.
In this chapter Laelius is contemplating about the value of friendship: for him friendship is something that belongs to the order of thing, something nature given. Of course Cicero is putting his own ideas in the mouth of Laelius. Friendship is being aware of the other, imagining his (or her, I hasten to add) presence, even after death. Friendship implies also the willingness to cheer each other up and offer help. To illustrate this, Laelius asks what will become of a house or a community, suppose we take friendship and harmony away:  hate and discord would prevail and nothing could survive.  Still a valuable insight…

Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia 23 (or 7 in another numbering)

Cumque plurimas et maximas commoditates amicitia contineat, tum illa nimirum praestat omnibus, quod bonam spem praelucet in posterum, nec debilitari animos aut cadere patitur. Verum enim amicum qui intuetur, tamquam exemplar aliquod intuetur sui. Quocirca et absentes adsunt et egentes abundant et imbecilli valent et, quod difficilius dictu est, mortui vivunt; tantus eos honos, memoria, desiderium prosequitur amicorum. Ex quo illorum beata mors videtur, horum vita laudabilis. Quod si exemeris ex rerum natura benevolentiae coniunctionem, nec domus ulla nec urbs stare poterit, ne agri quidem cultus permanebit. Id si minus intellegitur, quanta vis amicitiae concordiaeque sit, ex dissensionibus atque ex discordiis percipi potest. Quae enim domus tam stabilis, quae tam firma civitas est, quae non odiis et discidiis funditus possit everti? Ex quo quantum boni sit in amicitia iudicari potest.

cum...tum:  while...especially
commoditas –atis (f.): advantage, benefit
nimirium:  certainly
praeluceo praeluxi: to shine forward, projects
debilito: to weaken
intueor intuitus sum: to look upon
exemplar aliquod sui: a kind of image of himself
quocirca: for that reason
egeo egui: to be in need
imbecillus: weak
valeo valui: to be strong
tantus: also to be taken with memoria and desiderium
honos = honor `respect’
prosequor prosecutus sum: to follow, attend
beata: predicate
eximo exemi exemptum:  to take away, remove
rerum natura: the order of things,  world
benevolentiae coniunctionem: the bound of goodwill
ne agri quidem cultus permanebit: as is still the case in poor countries, petty farmers helped each other in tiling the land
minus: not so well
percipio percepi perceptum: to perceive
discidium: discord
funditus (adv.): completely
everto everti evertum:  to overturn

About this dialogue with links to translations:

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