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Full text of "Ancient Classic Texts before 400 B.C."

380 BC 
LYSIS, OR FRIENDSHIP 
by Plato 
translated by Benjamin Jowett 
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: SOCRATES, who is the narrator; MENEXENUS; 
HIPPOTHALES; LYSIS; CTESIPPUS. Scene: A newly-erected Palaestra 
outside the walls of Athens. 

I was going from the Academy straight to the Lyceum, intending to 
take the outer road, which is close under the wall. When I came to the 
postern gate of the city, which is by the fountain of Panops, I fell 
in with Hippothales, the son of Hieronymus, and Ctesippus the 
Paeanian, and a company of young men who were standing with them. 
Hippothales, seeing me approach, asked whence I came and whither I was 
going . 

I am going, I replied, from the Academy straight to the Lyceum. 

Then come straight to us, he said, and put in here; you may as well. 

Who are you, I said; and where am I to come? 

He showed me an enclosed space and an open door over against the 
wall. And there, he said, is the building at which we all meet: and 
a goodly company we are. 

And what is this building, I asked; and what sort of entertainment 
have you? 

The building, he replied, is a newly erected Palaestra; and the 
entertainment is generally conversation, to which you are welcome. 

Thank you, I said; and is there any teacher there? 

Yes, he said, your old friend and admirer, Miccus. 

Indeed, I replied; he is a very eminent professor. 

Are you disposed, he said, to go with me and see them? 

Yes, I said; but I should like to know first, what is expected of 
me, and who is the favourite among you? 

Some persons have one favourite, Socrates, and some another, he 
said. 

And who is yours? I asked: tell me that, Hippothales. 

At this he blushed; and I said to him, Hippothales, thou son of 
Hieronymus! do not say that you are, or that you are not, in love; the 
confession is too late; for I see that you are not only in love, but 
are already far gone in your love. Simple and foolish as I am, the 
Gods have given me the power of understanding affections of this kind. 

Whereupon he blushed more and more. 

Ctesippus said: I like to see you blushing, Hippothales, and 
hesitating to tell Socrates the name; when, if he were with you but 
for a very short time, you would have plagued him to death by 
talking about nothing else. Indeed, Socrates, he has literally 
deafened us, and stopped our ears with the praises of Lysis; and if he 
is a little intoxicated, there is every likelihood that we may have 
our sleep murdered with a cry of Lysis. His performances in prose 
are bad enough, but nothing at all in comparison with his verse; and 
when he drenches us with his poems and other compositions, it is 
really too bad; and worse still is his manner of singing them to his 
love; he has a voice which is truly appalling, and we cannot help 
hearing him: and now having a question put to him by you, behold he is 
blushing . 

Who is Lysis? I said: I suppose that he must be young; for the 
name does not recall any one to me. 

Why, he said, his father being a very well known man, he retains his 
patronymic, and is not as yet commonly called by his own name; but, 
although you do not know his name, I am sure that you must know his 
face, for that is quite enough to distinguish him. 

But tell me whose son he is, I said. 

He is the eldest son of Democrates, of the deme of Aexone . 

Ah, Hippothales, I said; what a noble and really perfect love you 
have found! I wish that you would favour me with the exhibition 
which you have been making to the rest of the company, and then I 



shall be able to judge whether you know what a lover ought to say 
about his love, either to the youth himself, or to others. 

Nay, Socrates, he said; you surely do not attach any importance to 
what he is saying. 

Do you mean, I said, that you disown the love of the person whom 
he says that you love? 

No; but I deny that I make verses or address compositions to him. 

He is not in his right mind, said Ctesippus; he is talking nonsense, 
and is stark mad. 

Hippothales, I said, if you have ever made any verses or songs 

in honour of your favourite, I do not want to hear them; but I want to 
know the purport of them, that I may be able to judge of your mode 
of approaching your fair one. 

Ctesippus will be able to tell you, he said; for if, as he avers, 
the sound of my words is always dinning in his ears, he must have a 
very accurate knowledge and recollection of them. 

Yes, indeed, said Ctesippus; I know only too well; and very 
ridiculous the tale is: for although he is a lover, and very devotedly 
in love, he has nothing particular to talk about to his beloved 
which a child might not say. Now is not that ridiculous? He can only 
speak of the wealth of Democrates, which the whole city celebrates, 
and grandfather Lysis, and the other ancestors of the youth, and their 
stud of horses, and their victory at the Pythian games, and at the 
Isthmus, and at Nemea with four horses and single horses-these are the 
tales which he composes and repeats. And there is greater twaddle 
still. Only the day before yesterday he made a poem in which he 
described the entertainment of Heracles, who was a connexion of the 
family, setting forth how in virtue of this relationship he was 
hospitably received by an ancestor of Lysis; this ancestor was himself 
begotten of Zeus by the daughter of the founder of the deme . And these 
are the sort of old wives' tales which he sings and recites to us, and 
we are obliged to listen to him. 

When I heard this, I said: ridiculous Hippothales! how can you 
be making and singing hymns in honour of yourself before you have won? 

But my songs and verses, he said, are not in honour of myself, 
Socrates . 

You think not? I said. 

Nay, but what do you think? he replied. 

Most assuredly, I said, those songs are all in your own honour; 
for if you win your beautiful love, your discourses and songs will 
be a glory, to you, and may be truly regarded as hymns of praise 
composed in honour of you who have conquered and won such a love; 
but if he slips away from you, the more you have praised him, the more 
ridiculous you will look at having lost this fairest and best of 
blessings; and therefore the wise lover does not praise his beloved 
until he has won him, because he is afraid of accidents. There is also 
another danger; the fair, when any one praises or magnifies them, 
are filled with the spirit of pride and vain-glory. Do you not agree 
with me? 

Yes, he said. 

And the more vain-glorious they are, the more difficult is the 
capture of them? 

1 believe you . 

What should you say of a hunter who frightened away his prey, and 
made the capture of the animals which he is hunting more difficult? 

He would be a bad hunter, undoubtedly. 

Yes; and if, instead of soothing them, he were to infuriate them 
with words and songs, that would show a great want of wit: do you 
not agree . 

Yes. 

And now reflect, Hippothales, and see whether you are not guilty 
of all these errors in writing poetry. For I can hardly suppose that 
you will affirm a man to be a good poet who injures himself by his 
poetry. 



Assuredly not, he said; such a poet would be a fool. And this is the 
reason why I take you into my counsels, Socrates, and I shall be 
glad of any further advice which you may have to offer. Will you 
tell me by what words or actions I may become endeared to my love? 

That is not easy to determine, I said; but if you will bring your 
love to me, and will let me talk with him, I may perhaps be able to 
show you how to converse with him, instead of singing and reciting 
in the fashion of which you are accused. 

There will be no difficulty in bringing him, he replied; if you will 
only go with Ctesippus into the Palaestra, and sit down and talk, I 
believe that he will come of his own accord; for he is fond of 
listening, Socrates. And as this is the festival of the Hermaea, the 
young men and boys are all together, and there is no separation 
between them. He will be sure to come: but if he does not, Ctesippus 
with whom he is familiar, and whose relation Menexenus is his great 
friend, shall call him. 

That will be the way, I said. Thereupon I led Ctesippus into the 
Palaestra, and the rest followed. 

Upon entering we found that the boys had just been sacrificing; 
and this part of the festival was nearly at an end. They were all in 
their white array, and games at dice were going on among them. Most of 
them were in the outer court amusing themselves; but some were in a 
corner of the Apodyterium playing at odd and even with a number of 
dice, which they took out of little wicker baskets. There was also a 
circle of lookers-on; among them was Lysis. He was standing with the 
other boys and youths, having a crown upon his head, like a fair 
vision, and not less worthy of praise for his goodness than for his 
beauty. We left them, and went over to the opposite side of the 
room, where, finding a quiet place, we sat down; and then we began 
to talk. This attracted Lysis, who was constantly turning round to 
look at us -he was evidently wanting to come to us . For a time he 
hesitated and had not the courage to come alone; but first of all, his 
friend Menexenus, leaving his play, entered the Palaestra from the 
court, and when he saw Ctesippus and myself, was going to take a 
seat by us; and then Lysis, seeing him, followed, and sat down by 
his side; and the other boys joined. I should observe that 
Hippothales, when he saw the crowd, got behind them, where he 
thought that he would be out of sight of Lysis, lest he should anger 
him; and there he stood and listened. 

I turned to Menexenus, and said: Son of Demophon, which of you two 
youths is the elder? 

That is a matter of dispute between us, he said. 

And which is the nobler? Is that also a matter of dispute? 

Yes, certainly. 

And another disputed point is, which is the fairer? 

The two boys laughed. 

I shall not ask which is the richer of the two, I said; for you 
are friends, are you not? 

Certainly, they replied. 

And friends have all things in common, so that one of you can be 
no richer than the other, if you say truly that you are friends. 

They assented. I was about to ask which was the juster of the two, 
and which was the wiser of the two; but at this moment Menexenus was 
called away by some one who came and said that the gymnastic-master 
wanted him. I supposed that he had to offer sacrifice. So he went 
away, and I asked Lysis some more questions. I dare say, Lysis, I 
said, that your father and mother love you very much. 

Certainly, he said. 

And they would wish you to be perfectly happy. 

Yes. 

But do you think that any one is happy who is in the condition of 
a slave, and who cannot do what he likes? 

I should think not indeed, he said. 

And if your father and mother love you, and desire that you should 



be happy, no one can doubt that they are very ready to promote your 
happiness . 

Certainly, he replied. 

And do they then permit you to do what you like, and never rebuke 
you or hinder you from doing what you desire? 

Yes, indeed, Socrates; there are a great many things which they 
hinder me from doing. 

What do you mean? I said. Do they want you to be happy, and yet 
hinder you from doing what you like? For example, if you want to mount 
one of your father's chariots, and take the reins at a race, they will 
not allow you to do so-they will prevent you? 

Certainly, he said, they will not allow me to do so. 

Whom then will they allow? 

There is a charioteer, whom my father pays for driving. 

And do they trust a hireling more than you? and may he do what he 
likes with the horses? and do they pay him for this? 

They do. 

But I dare say that you may take the whip and guide the mule-cart if 
you like; -they will permit that? 

Permit me! indeed they will not. 

Then, I said, may no one use the whip to the mules? 

Yes, he said, the muleteer. 

And is he a slave or a free man? 

A slave, he said. 

And do they esteem a slave of more value than you who are their son? 
And do they entrust their property to him rather than to you? and 
allow him to do what he likes, when they prohibit you? Answer me 
now: Are you your own master, or do they not even allow that? 

Nay, he said; of course they do not allow it. 

Then you have a master? 

Yes, my tutor; there he is. 

And is he a slave? 

To be sure; he is our slave, he replied. 

Surely, I said, this is a strange thing, that a free man should be 
governed by a slave. And what does he do with you? 

He takes me to my teachers . 

You do not mean to say that your teachers also rule over you? 

Of course they do. 

Then I must say that your father is pleased to inflict many lords 
and masters on you. But at any rate when you go home to your mother, 
she will let you have your own way, and will not interfere with your 
happiness; her wool, or the piece of cloth which she is weaving, are 
at your disposal: I am sure that there is nothing to hinder you from 
touching her wooden spathe, or her comb, or any other of her 
spinning implements . 

Nay, Socrates, he replied, laughing; not only does she hinder me, 
but I should be beaten if I were to touch one of them. 

Well, I said, this is amazing. And did you ever behave ill to your 
father or your mother? 

No, indeed, he replied. 

But why then are they so terribly anxious to prevent you from 
being happy, and doing as you like?-keeping you all day long in 
subjection to another, and, in a word, doing nothing which you desire; 
so that you have no good, as would appear, out of their great 
possessions, which are under the control of anybody rather than of 
you, and have no use of your own fair person, which is tended and 
taken care of by another; while you, Lysis, are master of nobody, 
and can do nothing? 

Why, he said, Socrates, the reason is that I am not of age. 

I doubt whether that is the real reason, I said; for I should 
imagine that your father Democrates, and your mother, do permit you to 
do many things already, and do not wait until you are of age: for 
example, if they want anything read or written, you, I presume, 
would be the first person in the house who is summoned by them. 



Very true. 

And you would be allowed to write or read the letters in any order 
which you please, or to take up the lyre and tune the notes, and 
play with the fingers, or strike with the plectrum, exactly as you 
please, and neither father nor mother would interfere with you. 

That is true, he said. 

Then what can be the reason, Lysis, I said, why they allow you to do 
the one and not the other? 

I suppose, he said, because I understand the one, and not the other. 

Yes, my dear youth, I said, the reason is not any deficiency of 
years, but a deficiency of knowledge; and whenever your father 
thinks that you are wiser than he is, he will instantly commit himself 
and his possessions to you. 

I think so. 

Aye, I said; and about your neighbour, too, does not the same rule 
hold as about your father? If he is satisfied that you know more of 
housekeeping than he does, will he continue to administer his 
affairs himself, or will he commit them to you? 

I think that he will commit them to me. 

Will not the Athenian people, too, entrust their affairs to you when 
they see that you have wisdom enough to manage them? 

Yes. 

And oh! let me put another case, I said: There is the great king, 
and he has an eldest son, who is the Prince of Asia; -suppose that 
you and I go to him and establish to his satisfaction that we are 
better cooks than his son, will he not entrust to us the prerogative 
of making soup, and putting in anything that we like while the pot 
is boiling, rather than to the Prince of Asia, who is his son? 

To us, clearly. 

And we shall be allowed to throw in salt by handfuls, whereas the 
son will not be allowed to put in as much as he can take up between 
his fingers? 

Of course. 

Or suppose again that the son has bad eyes, will he allow him, or 
will he not allow him, to touch his own eyes if he thinks that he 
has no knowledge of medicine? 

He will not allow him. 

Whereas, if he supposes us to have a knowledge of medicine, he 
will allow us to do what we like with him-even to open the eyes wide 
and sprinkle ashes upon them, because he supposes that we know what is 
best? 

That is true. 

And everything in which we appear to him to be wiser than himself or 
his son he will commit to us? 

That is very true, Socrates, he replied. 

Then now, my dear Lysis, I said, you perceive that in things which 
we know every one will trust us-Hellenes and barbarians, men and 
women-and we may do as we please about them, and no one will like to 
interfere with us; we shall be free, and masters of others; and 
these things will be really ours, for we shall be benefited by them. 
But in things of which we have no understanding, no one will trust 
us to do as seems good to us-they will hinder us as far as they can; 
and not only strangers, but father and mother, and the friend, if 
there be one, who is dearer still, will also hinder us; and we shall 
be subject to others; and these things will not be ours, for we 
shall not be benefited by them. Do you agree? 

He assented. 

And shall we be friends to others, and will any others love us, in 
as far as we are useless to them? 

Certainly not. 

Neither can your father or mother love you, nor can anybody love 
anybody else, in so far as they are useless to them? 

No. 

And therefore, my boy, if you are wise, -all men will be your 



friends and kindred, for you will be useful and good; but if you are 
not wise, neither father, nor mother, nor kindred, nor any one else, 
will be your friends. And in matters of which you have as yet no 
knowledge, can you have any conceit of knowledge? 

That is impossible, he replied. 

And you, Lysis, if you require a teacher, have not yet attained to 
wisdom . 

True. 

And therefore you are not conceited, having nothing of which to be 
conceited. 

Indeed, Socrates, I think not. 

When I heard him say this, I turned to Hippothales, and was very 
nearly making a blunder, for I was going to say to him: That is the 
way, Hippothales, in which you should talk to your beloved, humbling 
and lowering him, and not as you do, puffing him up and spoiling 
him. But I saw that he was in great excitement and confusion at what 
had been said, and I remembered that, although he was in the 
neighbourhood, he did not want to be seen by Lysis; so upon second 
thoughts I refrained. 

In the meantime Menexenus came back and sat down in his place by 
Lysis; and Lysis, in a childish and affectionate manner, whispered 
privately in my ear, so that Menexenus should not hear: Do, 
Socrates, tell Menexenus what you have been telling me. 

Suppose that you tell him yourself, Lysis, I replied; for I am 
sure that you were attending. 

Certainly, he replied. 

Try, then, to remember the words, and be as exact as you can in 
repeating them to him, and if you have forgotten anything, ask me 
again the next time that you see me. 

I will be sure to do so, Socrates; but go on telling him something 
new, and let me hear, as long as I am allowed to stay. 

I certainly cannot refuse, I said, since you ask me; but then, as 
you know, Menexenus is very pugnacious, and therefore you must come to 
the rescue if he attempts to upset me. 

Yes, indeed, he said; he is very pugnacious, and that is the 
reason why I want you to argue with him. 

That I may make a fool of myself? 

No, indeed, he said; but I want you to put him down. 

That is no easy matter, I replied; for he is a terrible fellow-a 
pupil of Ctesippus. And there is Ctesippus himself: do you see him? 

Never mind, Socrates, you shall argue with him. 

Well, I suppose that I must, I replied. 

Hereupon Ctesippus complained that we were talking in secret, and 
keeping the feast to ourselves . 

I shall be happy, I said, to let you have a share. Here is Lysis, 
who does not understand something that I was saying, and wants me to 
ask Menexenus, who, as he thinks, is likely to know. 

And why do you not ask him? he said. 

Very well, I said, I will; and do you, Menexenus, answer. But 
first I must tell you that I am one who from my childhood upward 
have set my heart upon a certain thing. All people have their fancies; 
some desire horses, and others dogs; and some are fond of gold, and 
others of honour. Now, I have no violent desire of any of these 
things; but I have a passion for friends; and I would rather have a 
good friend than the best cock or quail in the world: I would even 
go further, and say the best horse or dog. Yea, by the dog of Egypt, I 
should greatly prefer a real friend to all the gold of Darius, or even 
to Darius himself: I am such a lover of friends as that. And when I 
see you and Lysis, at your early age, so easily possessed of this 
treasure, and so soon, he of you, and you of him, I am amazed and 
delighted, seeing that I myself, although I am now advanced in 
years, am so far from having made a similar acquisition, that I do not 
even know in what way a friend is acquired. But want to ask you a 
question about this, for you have experience: tell me then, when one 



loves another, is the lover or the beloved the friend; or may either 
be the friend? 

Either may, I should think, be the friend of either. 

Do you mean, I said, that if only one of them loves the other, 
they are mutual friends? 

Yes, he said; that is my meaning. 

But what if the lover is not loved in return? which is a very 
possible case. 

Yes. 

Or is, perhaps, even hated? which is a fancy which sometimes is 
entertained by lovers respecting their beloved. Nothing can exceed 
their love; and yet they imagine either that they are not loved in 
return, or that they are hated. Is not that true? 

Yes, he said, quite true. 

In that case, the one loves, and the other is loved? 

Yes. 

Then which is the friend of which? Is the lover the friend of the 
beloved, whether he be loved in return, or hated; or is the beloved 
the friend; or is there no friendship at all on either side, unless 
they both love one another? 

There would seem to be none at all. 

Then this notion is not in accordance with our previous one. We were 
saying that both were friends, if one only loved; but now, unless they 
both love, neither is a friend. 

That appears to be true. 

Then nothing which does not love in return is beloved by a lover? 

I think not. 

Then they are not lovers of horses, whom the horses do not love in 
return; nor lovers of quails, nor of dogs, nor of wine, nor of 
gymnastic exercises, who have no return of love; no, nor of wisdom, 
unless wisdom loves them in return. Or shall we say that they do 
love them, although they are not beloved by them; and that the poet 
was wrong who sings- 
Happy the man to whom his children are dear, and steeds having 
single hoofs, and dogs of chase, and the stranger of another land? 

I do not think that he was wrong. 

You think that he is right? 

Yes. 

Then, Menexenus, the conclusion is, that what is beloved, whether 
loving or hating, may be dear to the lover of it: for example, very 
young children, too young to love, or even hating their father or 
mother when they are punished by them, are never dearer to them than 
at the time when they are being hated by them. 

I think that what you say is true. 

And, if so, not the lover, but the beloved, is the friend or dear 
one? 

Yes. 

And the hated one, and not the hater, is the enemy? 

Clearly. 

Then many men are loved by their enemies, and hated by their 
friends, and are the friends of their enemies, and the enemies of 
their friends. Yet how absurd, my dear friend, or indeed impossible is 
this paradox of a man being an enemy to his friend or a friend to 
his enemy. 

I quite agree, Socrates, in what you say. 

But if this cannot be, the lover will be the friend of that which is 
loved? 

True. 

And the hater will be the enemy of that which is hated? 

Certainly . 

Yet we must acknowledge in this, as in the preceding instance, 
that a man may be the friend of one who is not his friend, or who 



may be his enemy, when he loves that which does not love him or 
which even hates him. And he may be the enemy of one who is not his 
enemy, and is even his friend: for example, when he hates that which 
does not hate him, or which even loves him. 

That appears to be true. 

But if the lover is not a friend, nor the beloved a friend, nor both 
together, what are we to say? Whom are we to call friends to one 
another? Do any remain? 

Indeed, Socrates, I cannot find any. 

But, Menexenus ! I said, may we not have been altogether wrong in 
our conclusions? 

I am sure that we have been wrong, Socrates, said Lysis. And he 
blushed as he spoke, the words seeming to come from his lips 
involuntarily, because his whole mind was taken up with the 
argument; there was no mistaking his attentive look while he was 
listening . 

I was pleased at the interest which was shown by Lysis, and I wanted 
to give Menexenus a rest, so I turned to him and said, I think, Lysis, 
that what you say is true, and that, if we had been right, we should 
never have gone so far wrong; let us proceed no further in this 
direction (for the road seems to be getting troublesome), but take the 
other path into which we turned, and see what the poets have to say; 
for they are to us in a manner the fathers and authors of wisdom, 
and they speak of friends in no light or trivial manner, but God 
himself, as they say, makes them and draws them to one another; and 
this they express, if I am not mistaken, in the following words :- 

God is ever drawing like towards like, and 
making them acquainted. 

I dare say that you have heard those words . 

Yes, he said; I have. 

And have you not also met with the treatises of philosophers who say 
that like must love like? they are the people who argue and write 
about nature and the universe. 

Very true, he replied. 

And are they right in saying this? 

They may be . 

Perhaps, I said, about half, or possibly, altogether, right, if 
their meaning were rightly apprehended by us. For the more a bad man 
has to do with a bad man, and the more nearly he is brought into 
contact with him, the more he will be likely to hate him, for he 
injures him; and injurer and injured cannot be friends. Is not that 
true? 

Yes, he said. 

Then one half of the saying is untrue, if the wicked are like one 
another? 

That is true. 

But the real meaning of the saying, as I imagine, is, that, the good 
are like one another, friends to one another; and that the bad, as 
is often said of them, are never at unity with one another or with 
themselves; for they are passionate and restless, and anything which 
is at variance and enmity with itself is not likely to be in union 
or harmony with any other thing. Do you not agree? 

Yes, I do. 

Then, my friend, those who say that the like is friendly to the like 
mean to intimate, if I rightly apprehend them, that the good only is 
the friend of the good, and of him only; but that the evil never 
attains to any real friendship, either with good or evil. Do you 
agree? 

He nodded assent. 

Then now we know how to answer the question "Who are friends? for 
the argument declares "That the good are friends." 

Yes, he said, that is true. 



Yes, I replied; and yet I am not quite satisfied with this answer. 
By heaven, and shall I tell you what I suspect? I will. Assuming 
that like, inasmuch as he is like, is the friend of like, and useful 
to him-or rather let me try another way of putting the matter: Can 
like do any good or harm to like which he could not do to himself, 
or suffer anything from his like which he would not suffer from 
himself? And if neither can be of any use to the other, how can they 
be loved by one another? Can they now? 

They cannot . 

And can he who is not loved be a friend? 

Certainly not. 

But say that the like is not the friend of the like in so far as 
he is like; still the good may be the friend of the good in so far 
as he is good? 

True. 

But then again, will not the good, in so far as he is good, be 
sufficient for himself? Certainly he will. And he who is sufficient 
wants nothing-that is implied in the word sufficient. 

Of course not. 

And he who wants nothing will desire nothing? 

He will not. 

Neither can he love that which he does not desire? 

He cannot . 

And he who not is not a lover of friend? 

Clearly not. 

What place then is there for friendship, if, when absent, good men 
have no need of one another (for even when alone they are sufficient 
for themselves), and when present have no use of one another? How 
can such persons ever be induced to value one another? 

They cannot . 

And friends they cannot be, unless they value one another? 

Very true. 

But see now, Lysis, whether we are not being deceived in all 
this-are we not indeed entirely wrong? 

How so? he replied. 

Have I not heard some one say, as I just now recollect, that the 
like is the greatest enemy of the like, the good of the good?-Yes, and 
he quoted the authority of Hesiod, who says: 

Potter quarrels with potter, hard with bard, 
Beggar with beggar; 

and of all other things he affirmed, in like manner, "That of 
necessity the most like are most full of envy, strife, and hatred of 
one another, and the most unlike, of friendship. For the poor man is 
compelled to be the friend of the rich, and the weak requires the 
aid of the strong, and the sick man of the physician; and every one 
who is ignorant, has to love and court him who knows." And indeed he 
went on to say in grandiloquent language, that the idea of 
friendship existing between similars is not the truth, but the very 
reverse of the truth, and that the most opposed are the most friendly; 
for that everything desires not like but that which is most unlike: 
for example, the dry desires the moist, the cold the hot, the bitter 
the sweet, the sharp the blunt, the void the full, the full the 
void, and so of all other things; for the opposite is the food of 
the opposite, whereas like receives nothing from like. And I thought 
that he who said this was a charming man, and that he spoke well. What 
do the rest of you say? 

I should say, at first hearing, that he is right, said Menexenus . 

Then we are to say that the greatest friendship is of opposites? 

Exactly. 

Yes, Menexenus; but will not that be a monstrous answer? and will 
not the all-wise eristics be down upon us in triumph, and ask, 
fairly enough, whether love is not the very opposite of hate; and what 



answer shall we make to them-must we not admit that they speak the 
truth? 

We must. 

They will then proceed to ask whether the enemy is the friend of the 
friend, or the friend the friend of the enemy? 

Neither, he replied. 

Well, but is a just man the friend of the unjust, or the temperate 
of the intemperate, or the good of the bad? 

I do not see how that is possible. 

And yet, I said, if friendship goes by contraries, the contraries 
must be friends. 

They must. 

Then neither like and like nor unlike and unlike are friends. 

I suppose not. 

And yet there is a further consideration: may not all these 
notions of friendship be erroneous? but may not that which is 
neither good nor evil still in some cases be the friend of the good? 

How do you mean? he said. 

Why really, I said, the truth is that I do not know; but my head 
is dizzy with thinking of the argument, and therefore I hazard the 
conjecture, that "the beautiful is the friend," as the old proverb 
says. Beauty is certainly a soft, smooth, slippery thing, and 
therefore of a nature which easily slips in and permeates our souls. 
For I affirm that the good is the beautiful. You will agree to that? 

Yes. 

This I say from a sort of notion that what is neither good nor 
evil is the friend of the beautiful and the good, and I will tell 
you why I am inclined to think so: I assume that there are three 
principles-the good, the bad, and that which is neither good nor 
bad. You would agree-would you not? 

I agree . 

And neither is the good the friend of the good, nor the evil of 
the good, nor the good of the evil; -these alternatives are excluded by 
the previous argument; and therefore, if there be such a thing as 
friendship or love at all, we must infer that what is neither good nor 
evil must be the friend, either of the good, or of that which is 
neither good nor evil, for nothing can be the friend of the bad. 

True. 

But neither can like be the friend of like, as we were just now 
saying . 

True. 

And if so, that which is neither good nor evil can have no friend 
which is neither good nor evil. 

Clearly not. 

Then the good alone is the friend of that only which is neither good 
nor evil . 

That may be assumed to be certain. 

And does not this seem to put us in the right way? Just remark, that 
the body which is in health requires neither medical nor any other 
aid, but is well enough; and the healthy man has no love of the 
physician, because he is in health. 

He has none. 

But the sick loves him, because he is sick? 

Certainly . 

And sickness is an evil, and the art of medicine a good and useful 
thing? 

Yes. 

But the human body, regarded as a body, is neither good nor evil? 

True. 

And the body is compelled by reason of disease to court and make 
friends of the art of medicine? 

Yes. 

Then that which is neither good nor evil becomes the friend of good, 
by reason of the presence of evil? 



So we may infer. 

And clearly this must have happened before that which was neither 
good nor evil had become altogether corrupted with the element of 
evil-if itself had become evil it would not still desire and love 
the good; for, as we were saying, the evil cannot be the friend of the 
good. 

Impossible . 

Further, I must observe that some substances are assimilated when 
others are present with them; and there are some which are not 
assimilated: take, for example, the case of an ointment or colour 
which is put on another substance. 

Very good. 

In such a case, is the substance which is anointed the same as the 
colour or ointment? 

What do you mean? he said. 

This is what I mean: Suppose that I were to cover your auburn 
locks with white lead, would they be really white, or would they 
only appear to be white? 

They would only appear to be white, he replied. 

And yet whiteness would be present in them? 

True. 

But that would not make them at all the more white, 
notwithstanding the presence of white in them-they would not be 
white any more than black? 

No. 

But when old age infuses whiteness into them, then they become 
assimilated, and are white by the presence of white. 

Certainly . 

Now I want to know whether in all cases a substance is assimilated 
by the presence of another substance; or must the presence be after 
a peculiar sort? 

The latter, he said. 

Then that which is neither good nor evil may be in the presence of 
evil, but not as yet evil, and that has happened before now? 

Yes. 

And when anything is in the presence of evil, not being as yet evil, 
the presence of good arouses the desire of good in that thing; but the 
presence of evil, which makes a thing evil, takes away the desire 
and friendship of the good; for that which was once both good and evil 
has now become evil only, and the good was supposed to have no 
friendship with the evil? 

None . 

And therefore we say that those who are already wise, whether Gods 
or men, are no longer lovers of wisdom; nor can they be lovers of 
wisdom who are ignorant to the extent of being evil, for no evil or 
ignorant person is a lover of wisdom. There remain those who have 
the misfortune to be ignorant, but are not yet hardened in their 
ignorance, or void of understanding, and do not as yet fancy that they 
know what they do not know: and therefore those who are the lovers 
of wisdom are as yet neither good nor bad. But the bad do not love 
wisdom any more than the good; for, as we have already seen, neither 
is unlike the friend of unlike, nor like of like. You remember that? 

Yes, they both said. 

And so, Lysis and Menexenus, we have discovered the nature of 
friendship-there can be no doubt of it: Friendship is the love which 
by reason of the presence of evil the neither good nor evil has of the 
good, either in the soul, or in the body, or anywhere. 

They both agreed and entirely assented, and for a moment I 
rejoiced and was satisfied like a huntsman just holding fast his prey. 
But then a most unaccountable suspicion came across me, and I felt 
that the conclusion was untrue. I was pained, and said, Alas! Lysis 
and Menexenus, I am afraid that we have been grasping at a shadow 
only. 

Why do you say so? said Menexenus. 



I am afraid, I said, that the argument about friendship is false: 
arguments, like men, are often pretenders. 

How do you mean? he asked. 

Well, I said; look at the matter in this way: a friend is the friend 
of some one; is he not? 

Certainly he is. 

And has he a motive and object in being a friend, or has he no 
motive and object? 

He has a motive and object. 

And is the object which makes him a friend, dear to him, neither 
dear nor hateful to him? 

I do not quite follow you, he said. 

I do not wonder at that, I said. But perhaps, if I put the matter in 
another way, you will be able to follow me, and my own meaning will be 
clearer to myself. The sick man, as I was just now saying, is the 
friend of the physician-is he not? 

Yes. 

And he is the friend of the physician because of disease, and for 
the sake of health? 

Yes. 

And disease is an evil? 

Certainly . 

And what of health? I said. Is that good or evil, or neither? 

Good, he replied. 

And we were saying, I believe, that the body being neither good 
nor evil, because of disease, that is to say because of evil, is the 
friend of medicine, and medicine is a good: and medicine has entered 
into this friendship for the sake of health, and health is a good. 

True. 

And is health a friend, or not a friend? 

A friend. 

And disease is an enemy? 

Yes. 

Then that which is neither good nor evil is the friend of the good 
because of the evil and hateful, and for the sake of the good and 
the friend? 

Clearly. 

Then the friend is a friend for the sake of the friend, and 
because of the enemy? 

That is to be inferred. 

Then at this point, my boys, let us take heed, and be on our guard 
against deceptions. I will not again repeat that the friend is the 
friend of the friend, and the like of the like, which has been 
declared by us to be an impossibility; but, in order that this new 
statement may not delude us, let us attentively examine another point, 
which I will proceed to explain: Medicine, as we were saying, is a 
friend, dear to us for the sake of health? 

Yes. 

And health is also dear? 

Certainly . 

And if dear, then dear for the sake of something? 

Yes. 

And surely this object must also be dear, as is implied in our 
previous admissions? 

Yes. 

And that something dear involves something else dear? 

Yes. 

But then, proceeding in this way, shall we not arrive at some 
first principle of friendship or dearness which is not capable of 
being referred to any other, for the sake of which, as we maintain, 
all other things are dear, and, having there arrived, we shall stop? 

True. 

My fear is that all those other things, which, as we say, are dear 
for the sake of another, are illusions and deceptions only, but 



where that first principle is, there is the true ideal of 
friendship. Let me put the matter thus: Suppose the case of a great 
treasure (this may be a son, who is more precious to his father than 
all his other treasures); would not the father, who values his son 
above all things, value other things also for the sake of his son? I 
mean, for instance, if he knew that his son had drunk hemlock, and the 
father thought that wine would save him, he would value the wine? 

He would. 

And also the vessel which contains the wine? 

Certainly . 

But does he therefore value the three measures of wine, or the 
earthen vessel which contains them, equally with his son? Is not 
this rather the true state of the case? All his anxiety has regard not 
to the means which are provided for the sake of an object, but to 
the object for the sake of which they are provided. And although we 
may often say that gold and silver are highly valued by us, that is 
not the truth; for there is a further object, whatever it may be, 
which we value most of all, and for the sake of which gold and all out 
other possessions are acquired by us. Am I not right? 

Yes, certainly. 

And may not the same be said of the friend? That which is only 
dear to us for the sake of something else is improperly said to be 
dear, but the truly dear is that in which all these so called dear 
friendships terminate. 

That, he said, appears to be true. 

And the truly dear or ultimate principle of friendship is not for 
the sake of any other or further dear. 

True. 

Then we have done with the notion that friendship has any further 
object. May we then infer that the good is the friend? 

I think so. 

And the good is loved for the sake of the evil? Let me put the 
case in this way: Suppose that of the three principles, good, evil, 
and that which is neither good nor evil, there remained only the 
good and the neutral, and that evil went far away, and in no way 
affected soul or body, nor ever at all that class of things which, 
as we say, are neither good nor evil in themselves ; -would the good 
be of any use, or other than useless to us? For if there were 
nothing to hurt us any longer, we should have no need of anything that 
would do us good. Then would be clearly seen that we did but love 
and desire the good because of the evil, and as the remedy of the 
evil, which was the disease; but if there had been no disease, there 
would have been no need of a remedy. Is not this the nature of the 
good-to be loved by us who are placed between the two, because of 
the evil? but there is no use in the good for its own sake. 

I suppose not. 

Then the final principle of friendship, in which all other 
friendships terminated, those, I mean, which are relatively dear and 
for the sake of something else, is of another and a different nature 
from them. For they are called dear because of another dear or friend. 
But with the true friend or dear, the case is quite the reverse; for 
that is proved to be dear because of the hated, and if the hated 
were away it would be no longer dear. 

Very true, he replied: at any rate not if our present view holds 
good. 

But, oh! will you tell me, I said, whether if evil were to perish, 
we should hunger any more, or thirst any more, or have any similar 
desire? Or may we suppose that hunger will remain while men and 
animals remain, but not so as to be hurtful? And the same of thirst 
and the other desires, -that they will remain, but will not be evil 
because evil has perished? Or rather shall I say, that to ask what 
either will be then or will not be is ridiculous, for who knows? 
This we do know, that in our present condition hunger may injure us, 
and may also benefit us: -Is not that true? 



Yes. 

And in like manner thirst or any similar desire may sometimes be a 
good and sometimes an evil to us, and sometimes neither one nor the 
other? 

To be sure. 

But is there any reason why, because evil perishes, that which is 
not evil should perish with it? 

None . 

Then, even if evil perishes, the desires which are neither good 
nor evil will remain? 

Clearly they will. 

And must not a man love that which he desires and affects? 

He must. 

Then, even if evil perishes, there may still remain some elements of 
love or friendship? 

Yes. 

But not if evil is the cause of friendship: for in that case nothing 
will be the friend of any other thing after the destruction of evil; 
for the effect cannot remain when the cause is destroyed. 

True. 

And have we not admitted already that the friend loves something for 
a reason? and at the time of making the admission we were of opinion 
that the neither good nor evil loves the good because of the evil? 

Very true. 

But now our view is changed, and we conceive that there must be some 
other cause of friendship? 

I suppose so. 

May not the truth be rather, as we were saying just now, that desire 
is the cause of friendship; for that which desires is dear to that 
which is desired at the time of desiring it? and may not the other 
theory have been only a long story about nothing? 

Likely enough. 

But surely, I said, he who desires, desires that of which he is in 
want? 

Yes. 

And that of which he is in want is dear to him? 

True. 

And he is in want of that of which he is deprived? 

Certainly . 

Then love, and desire, and friendship would appear to be of the 
natural or congenial. Such, Lysis and Menexenus, is the inference. 

They assented. 

Then if you are friends, you must have natures which are congenial 
to one another? 

Certainly, they both said. 

And I say, my boys, that no one who loves or desires another would 
ever have loved or desired or affected him, if he had not been in some 
way congenial to him, either in his soul, or in his character, or in 
his manners, or in his form. 

Yes, yes, said Menexenus. But Lysis was silent. 

Then, I said, the conclusion is, that what is of a congenial 
nature must be loved. 

It follows, he said. 

Then the lover, who is true and no counterfeit, must of necessity be 
loved by his love. 

Lysis and Menexenus gave a faint assent to this; and Hippothales 
changed into all manner of colours with delight. 

Here, intending to revise the argument, I said: Can we point out any 
difference between the congenial and the like? For if that is 
possible, then I think, Lysis and Menexenus, there may be some sense 
in our argument about friendship. But if the congenial is only the 
like, how will you get rid of the other argument, of the uselessness 
of like to like in as far as they are like; for to say that what is 
useless is dear, would be absurd? Suppose, then, that we agree to 



distinguish between the congenial and the like-in the intoxication 
of argument, that may perhaps be allowed. 

Very true. 

And shall we further say that the good is congenial, and the evil 
uncongenial to every one? Or again that the evil is congenial to the 
evil, and the good to the good; and that which is neither good nor 
evil to that which is neither good nor evil? 

They agreed to the latter alternative. 

Then, my boys, we have again fallen into the old discarded error; 
for the unjust will be the friend of the unjust, and the bad of the 
bad, as well as the good of the good. 

That appears to be the result. 

But again, if we say that the congenial is the same as the good, 
in that case the good and he only will be the friend of the good. 

True. 

But that too was a position of ours which, as you will remember, has 
been already refuted by ourselves. 

We remember. 

Then what is to be done? Or rather is there anything to be done? I 
can only, like the wise men who argue in courts, sum up the 
arguments : -If neither the beloved, nor the lover, nor the like, nor 
the unlike, nor the good, nor the congenial, nor any other of whom 
we spoke-for there were such a number of them that I cannot remember 
all-if none of these are friends, I know not what remains to be said. 

Here I was going to invite the opinion of some older person, when 
suddenly we were interrupted by the tutors of Lysis and Menexenus, who 
came upon us like an evil apparition with their brothers, and bade 
them go home, as it was getting late. At first, we and the 
bystanders drove them off; but afterwards, as they would not mind, and 
only went on shouting in their barbarous dialect, and got angry, and 
kept calling the boys-they appeared to us to have been drinking rather 
too much at the Hermaea, which made them difficult to manage we fairly 
gave way and broke up the company. 

I said, however, a few words to the boys at parting: Menexenus and 
Lysis, how ridiculous that you two boys, and I, an old boy, who 
would fain be one of you, should imagine ourselves to be 
friends-this is what the by-standers will go away and say-and as yet 
we have not been able to discover what is a friend! 

-THE END-