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Laelius de Amicitia (31-32) [English]

Marcus Tullius Cicero

[31] For just as we do a kindness and show generosity, not that we may exact gratitude (for we are not usurers in the matters of benefits, but are by nature inclined to liberality), so we think that friendship ought to be sought, not because we are attracted by the hope of reward, but because the whole of its profit lies in the love itself.

[32] But those who, like brute beasts, refer everything to the standard of sensual pleasure, dissent strongly from this opinion, and no wonder; for those who have cast away all their thoughts on a thing so mean and contemptible, are capable of looking up to nothing lofty, great, and divine. Wherefore let us exclude these teachers from our discourse, and let us for our part feel convinced that it is from nature that the sentiment of loving and the affection that springs from kindly feeling are born, when intimation have been given of goodness. And those who have sought for this goodness, devote themselves to it, and draw still nigher, in order that they may enjoy both the society of the man whom they have begun to love, and also his moral character, and may be commensurate and equal in love, and more inclined to confer favours than to ask them back. And let there be between them a noble rivalry on this point. Thus both the greatest advantages will be received from friendship, and its origin from nature will be alike more dignified and more real than if it had been the child of weakness. For if it were expediency that cemented friendships, a change in expediency would in its turn break them up; but since nature cannot be changed, true friendships are everlasting. The origin indeed of friendship you now perceive, unless you wish, perchance, to make some reply to my views.

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