Sacred Texts  LGBT  Classics  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 1

p. 2

p. 3



FRIENDSHIP-CUSTOMS, of a very marked and definite character, have apparently prevailed among a great many primitive peoples; but the information that we have about them is seldom thoroughly satisfactory. Travellers have been content to note external ceremonies, like the exchange of names between comrades, or the mutual tasting of each other's blood, but--either from want of perception or want of opportunity--have not been able to tell us anything about the inner meaning of these formalities, or the sentiments which may have inspired them. Still, we have material enough to indicate that comrade-attachment has been recognized as an important institution, and held in high esteem, among quite savage tribes; and some of the following quotations will show this. When we come to the higher culture of the Greek age the material fortunately is abundant--not only for the customs, but (in Greek philosophy and poetry)

p. 4

for the inner sentiments which inspired these customs. Consequently it will be found that the major part of this and the following two chapters deals with matter from Greek sources. The later chapters carry on the subject in loosely historical sequence through the Christian centuries down to modern times.


THE Balonda are an African tribe inhabiting Londa land, among the Southern tributaries of the Congo River. They were visited by Livingstone, and the following account of their customs is derived from him:--

"The Balonda have a most remarkable custom of cementing friendship. When two men agree to be special friends they go through a singular ceremony. The men sit opposite each other holding hands, and by the side of each is a vessel of beer. Slight cuts are then made on the clasped hands, on the pit of the stomach, on the right cheek, and on the forehead. The point of a grass-blade is pressed against each of these cuts, so as to take up a little of the blood, and each man washes the grass-blade in his own beer vessel. The vessels are then exchanged and the contents drunk, so that each imbibes the blood of the other. The two are thenceforth considered as blood-relations, and are bound to assist each

p. 5

other in every possible manner. While the beer is being drunk, the friends of each of the men beat on the ground with clubs, and bawl out certain sentences as ratification of the treaty. It is thought correct for all the friends of each party to the contract to drink a little of the beer. The ceremony is called 'Kasendi.' After it has been completed, gifts are exchanged, and both parties always give their most precious possessions." Natural History of Man. Rev. J. G. Wood. Vol: Africa, p. 419.

Among the Manganjas and other tribes of the Zambesi region, Livingstone found the custom of changing names prevalent.

"Sininyane (a headman) had exchanged names with a Zulu at Shupanga, and on being called the next morning made no answer; to a second and third summons he paid no attention; but at length one of his men replied, 'He is not Sininyane now, he is Moshoshoma'; and to this name he answered promptly. The custom of exchanging names with men of other tribes is not uncommon; and the exchangers regard themselves as close comrades, owing special duties to each other ever after. Should one by chance visit his comrade's town, he expects to receive food, lodging, and other friendly offices from him." Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi. By David and Charles Livingstone. Murray, 1865, p. 148.

p. 6


IN the story of David and Jonathan, which follows, we have an example, from much the same stage of primitive tribal life, of a compact between two friends--one the son of the chief, the other a shepherd youth--only in this case, in the song of David ("I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan, thy love to me was wonderful") we are fortunate in having the inner feeling preserved for us. It should be noted that Jonathan gives to David his "most precious possessions."

"And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine (Goliath), he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, 'Abner, whose son is this youth?' And Abner said, 'As thy soul liveth, O King, I cannot tell.' And the King said, 'Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.' And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, 'Whose son art thou, young man?' And David answered, 'The son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.'

"And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. Then Jonathan and David

p. 7

made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." 1 Sam. ch. xvii. 55.


With regard to the exchange of names, a slightly different custom prevails among the Bengali coolies. Two youths, or two girls, will exchange two flowers (of the same kind) with each other, in token of perpetual alliance. After that, one speaks of the other as "my flower," but never alludes to the other by name again--only by some roundabout phrase.


HERMAN MELVILLE, who voyaged among the Pacific Islands in 1841-1845, gives some interesting and reliable accounts of Polynesian customs of that period. He says:--

"The really curious way in which all the Polynesians are in the habit of making bosom friends at the shortest possible notice is deserving of remark. Although, among a people like the Tahitians, vitiated as they are by sophisticating influences, this custom has in most cases degenerated into a mere mercenary relation, it nevertheless had its origin in a fine, and in some instances heroic, sentiment formerly entertained by their fathers.

p. 8

"In the annals of the island (Tahiti) are examples of extravagant friendships, unsurpassed by the story of Damon and Pythias, in truth, much more wonderful; for notwithstanding the devotion--even of life in some cases--to which they led, they were frequently entertained at first sight for some stranger from another island." Omoo, Herman Melville, ch. 39, p. 154.

"Though little inclined to jealousy in (ordinary) love-matters, the Tahitian will hear of no rivals in his friendship." Ibid, ch. 40.


Melville spent some months on one of the Marquesas Islands, in a valley occupied by a tribe called Typees; one day there turned up a stranger belonging to a hostile tribe who occupied another part of the island:--

"The stranger could not have been more than twenty-five years of age, and was a little above the ordinary height; had he been a single hair's breadth taller, the matchless symmetry of his form would have been destroyed. His unclad limbs were beautifully formed; whilst the elegant outline of his figure, together with his beardless cheeks, might have entitled him to the distinction of standing for the statue of the Polynesian Apollo; and indeed the oval of his countenance and the regularity of every feature reminded me of an antique bust. But the marble repose of art was supplied by a warmth and liveliness of expression

p. 9

only to be seen in the South Sea Islander under the most favorable developments of nature. . . . When I expressed my surprise (at his venturing among the Typees) he looked at me for a moment as if enjoying my perplexity, and then with his strange vivacity exclaimed--'Ah! me taboo-me go Nukuheva-me go Tior--me go Typee--me go everywhere--nobody harm me, me taboo.'

"This explanation would have been altogether unintelligible to me, had it not recalled to my mind something I had previously heard concerning a singular custom among these islanders. Though the country is possessed by various tribes, whose mutual hostilities almost wholly preclude any intercourse between them; yet there are instances where a person having ratified friendly relations with some individual belonging to the valley, whose inmates are at war with his own, may under particular restrictions venture with impunity into the country of his friend, where under other circumstances he would have been treated as an enemy. In this light are personal friendships regarded among them, and the individual so protected is said to be 'taboo,' and his person to a certain extent is held as sacred. Thus the stranger informed me he had access to all the valleys in the island." Typee, Herman Melville, ch. xviii.

p. 10


IN almost all primitive nations, warfare has given rise to institutions of military comradeship--including, for instance, institutions of instruction for young warriors, of personal devotion to their leaders, or of personal attachment to each other. In Greece these customs were specially defined, as later quotations will show.

Tacitus, speaking of the arrangement among the Germans by which each military chief was surrounded by younger companions in arms, says:--

"There is great emulation among the companions, which shall possess the highest place in the favor of their chief; and among the chiefs, which shall excel in the number and valor of his companions. It is their dignity, their strength, to be always surrounded with a large body of select youth, an ornament in peace, a bulwark in war. . . . In the field of battle, it is disgraceful for the chief to be surpassed in valor; it is disgraceful for the companions not to equal their chief; but it is reproach and infamy during the whole succeeding life to retreat from the field surviving him. To aid, to protect him; to place their own gallant actions to the account of his glory is their first and most sacred engagement." Tacitus, Germania, 13, 14, Bohn Series.

p. 11


AMONG the Arab tribes very much the same thing may be found, every Sheikh having his bodyguard of young men, whom he instructs and educates, while they render to him their military and personal devotion. In the late expedition of the British to Khartoum (Nov., 1899), when Colonel Wingate and his troops mowed down the Khalifa and his followers with their Maxims, the death of the Khalifa was thus described by a correspondent of the daily papers:--

"In the centre of what was evidently the main attack on our right we came across a very large number of bodies all huddled together in a very small place; their horses lay dead behind them, the Khalifa lay dead on his furma, or sheepskin, the typical end of the Arab Sheikh who disdains surrender; on his right was the Khalifa Aly Wad Hila, and on his left Ahmed Fedil, his great fighting leader, whilst all around him lay his faithful emirs, all content to meet their death when he had chosen to meet his. His black Mulamirin, or bodyguard, all lay dead in a straight line about 40 yards in front of their master's body, with their faces to the foe and faithful to the last. It was truly a touching sight, and one could not help but feel that . . . their end was truly grand. . . . Amongst the dead were found two men tied together by the arms, who had charged towards the guns and had got nearer than any others. On enquiring

p. 12

of the prisoners Colonel Wingate was told these two were great friends, and on seeing the Egyptian guns come up had tied themselves by the arms with a cord, swearing to reach the guns or die together."


Compare also the following quotation from Ammianus Marcellinus (xvi. 13), who says that when Chonodomarus, "King of the Alamanni," was taken prisoner by the Romans,

"His companions, two hundred in number, and three friends peculiarly attached to him, thinking it infamous to survive their prince, or not to die for him, surrendered themselves to be put in bonds."


The following passage from Livingstone shows the existence among the African tribes of his time of a system, which Wood rightly says "has a singular resemblance to the instruction of pages in the days of chivalry":--

"Monina (one of the confederate chiefs of the Banyai) had a great number of young men about him, from twelve to fifteen years of age. These were all sons of free men, and bands of young lads like them in the different districts leave their parents about the age of puberty and live with such men as Monina for the sake of instruction. When I asked the nature of the instruction I was

p. 13

told 'Bonyái,' which I suppose may be understood as indicating manhood, for it sounds as if we should say, 'to teach an American Americanism,' or, 'an Englishman to be English.' While here they are kept in subjection to rather stringent regulations. . . . They remain unmarried until a fresh set of youths is ready to occupy their place under the same instruction." Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. By David Livingstone, 1857, p. 618.

M. Foley (Bulln. Soc. d'Anthr. de Paris, 1879) speaks of fraternity in arms among the natives of New Caledonia as forming a close tie closer even than consanguinity.


WITH regard to Greece, J. Addington Symonds has some interesting remarks, which are well worthy of consideration; he says:--

"Nearly all the historians of Greece have failed to insist upon the fact that fraternity in arms played for the Greek race the same part as the idealization of women for the knighthood of feudal Europe. Greek mythology and history are full of tales of friendship, which can only be paralleled by the story of David and Jonathan in the Bible. The legends of Herakles and Hylas, of Theseus and Peirithous, of Apollo and Hyacinth,

p. 14

of Orestes and Pylades, occur immediately to the mind. Among the noblest patriots, tyrannicides, lawgivers, and self-devoted heroes in the early times of Greece, we always find the names of friends and comrades received with peculiar honor. Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who slew the despot Hipparchus at Athens; Diocles and Philolaus, who gave laws to Thebes; Chariton and Melanippus, who resisted the sway of Phalaris in Sicily; Cratinus and Aristodemus, who devoted their lives to propitiate offended deities when a plague had fallen on Athens; these comrades, staunch to each other in their love, and elevated by friendship to the pitch of noblest enthusiasm, were among the favorite saints of Greek legend and history. In a word, the chivalry of Hellas found its motive force in friendship rather than in the love of women; and the motive force of all chivalry is a generous, soul-exalting, unselfish passion. The fruit which friendship bore among the Greeks was courage in the face of danger, indifference to life when honor was at stake, patriotic ardor, the love of liberty, and lion-hearted rivalry in battle. 'Tyrants,' said Plato, 'stand in awe of friends.'" Studies of the Greek Poets. By J. A. Symonds, vol. I, p. 97.

p. 15


THE customs connected with this fraternity in arms, in Sparta and in Crete, are described with care and at considerable length in the following extract from Müller's History and Antiquities of the Doric Race, book iv., ch. 4, par. 6:--

"At Sparta the party loving was called εἰσπνήλας, and his affection was termed a breathing in, or inspiring (εἰσπνε̃ιν); which expresses the pure and mental connection between the two persons, and corresponds with the name of the other, viz.: ἀίτας, i.e., listener or hearer. Now it appears to have been the practice for every youth of good character to have his lover; and on the other hand every well-educated man was bound by custom to be the lover of some youth. Instances of this connection are furnished by several of the royal family of Sparta; thus, Agesilaus, while he still belonged to the herd (ἀγέλη) of youths, was the hearer (ἀίτας) of Lysander, and himself had in his turn also a hearer; his son Archidamus was the lover of the son of Sphodrias, the noble Cleonymus; Cleomenes III was when a young man the hearer of Xenares, and later in life the lover of the brave Panteus. The connection usually originated from the proposal of the lover; yet it was necessary that the listener should accept him with real affection, as a regard to the riches of the proposer was considered very disgraceful; sometimes, however, it

p. 16

happened that the proposal originated from the other party. The connection appears to have been very intimate and faithful; and was recognized by the State. If his relations were absent, the youth might be represented in the public assembly by his lover; in battle too they stood near one another, where their fidelity and affection were often shown till death; while at home the youth was constantly under the eyes of his lover, who was to him as it were a model and pattern of life; which explains why, for many faults, particularly want of ambition, the lover could be punished instead of the listener."


"This ancient national custom prevailed with still greater force in Crete; which island was hence by many persons considered as the original seat of the connection in question. Here too it was disgraceful for a well-educated youth to be with out a lover; and hence the party loved was termed κλεινὸς, the praised; the lover being simply called φιλήτωρ. It appears that the youth was always carried away by force, the intention of the ravisher being previously communicated to the relations, who, however, took no measures of precaution, and only made a feigned resistance; except when the ravisher appeared, either in family or talent, unworthy of the youth. The lover then led him away to his apartment (ἀνδρε̃ιον), and afterwards, with any chance companions, either to the mountains or to his estate. Here they remained two months (the period prescribed by custom), which

p. 17

were passed chiefly in hunting together. After this time had expired, the lover dismissed the youth, and at his departure gave him, according to custom, an ox, a military dress, and brazen cup, with other things; and frequently these gifts were increased by the friends of the ravisher. The youth then sacrificed the ox to Jupiter, with which he gave a feast to his companions: and now he stated how he had been pleased with his lover; and he had complete liberty by law to punish any insult or disgraceful treatment. It depended now on the choice of the youth whether the connection should be broken off or not. If it was kept up, the companion in arms (παραστάτης), as the youth was then called, wore the military dress which had been given him, and fought in battle next his lover, inspired with double valor by the gods of war and love, according to the notions of the Cretans; and even in man's age he was distinguished by the first place and rank in the course, and certain insignia worn about the body.


"Institutions, so systematic and regular as these, did not exist in any Doric State except Crete and Sparta; but the feelings on which they were founded seem to have been common to all the Dorians. The loves of Philolaus, a Corinthian of the family of the Bacchiadae, and the lawgiver of Thebes, and of Diocles the Olympic conqueror, lasted until death; and even their graves were turned towards one another in token of their affection; and another person of the same name was

p. 18

honored in Megara, as a noble instance of self-devotion for the object of his love." Ibid.

For an account of Philolaus and Diocles, Aristotle (Pol. ii. 9) may be referred to. The second Diocles was an Athenian who died in battle for the youth he loved.

"His tomb was honored with the ἐναγίσματα of heroes, and a yearly contest for skill in kissing formed part of his memorial celebration." J. A. Symonds' "A Problem in Greek Ethics" privately printed, 1883; see also Theocritus, Idyll xii. infra.


HAHN, in his Albanesische Studien, says that the Dorian customs of comradeship still flourish in Albania "just as described by the ancients," and are closely entwined with the whole life of the people--though he says nothing of any military signification. It appears to be a quite recognized institution for a young man to take to himself a youth or boy as his special comrade. He instructs, and when necessary reproves, the younger; protects him, and makes him presents of various kinds. The relation generally, though not always ends with the marriage of the elder. The following is reported by Hahn as in the actual words of his informant (an Albanian):--

p. 19

"Love of this kind is occasioned by the sight of a beautiful youth; who thus kindles in the lover a feeling of wonder and causes his heart to open to the sweet sense which springs from the contemplation of beauty. By degrees love steals in and takes possession of the lover, and to such a degree that all his thoughts and feelings are absorbed in it. When near the beloved he loses himself in the sight of him; when absent he thinks of him only." These loves, he continued, "are with a few exceptions as pure as sunshine, and the highest and noblest affections that the human heart can entertain." Hahn, vol. I, p. 166.

Hahn also mentions that troops of youths, like the Cretan and Spartan agelae, are formed in Albania, of twenty-five or thirty members each. The comradeship usually begins during adolescence, each member paying a fixed sum into a common fund, and the interest being spent on two or three annual feasts, generally held out of doors.


THE Sacred Band of Thebes, or Theban Band, was a battalion composed entirely of friends and lovers; and forms a remarkable example of military comradeship. The references to it in later Greek literature are very numerous, and there seems no reason to doubt the general truth of the traditions concerning its formation and its

p. 20

complete annihilation by Philip of Macedon at the battle of Chaeronea (B.C. 338). Thebes was the last stronghold of Hellenic independence, and with the Theban Band Greek freedom perished. But the mere existence of this phalanx, and the fact of its renown, show to what an extent comradeship was recognized and prized as an institution among these peoples. The following account is taken from Plutarch's Life of Pelopidas, Clough's translation:--

"Gorgidas, according to some, first formed the Sacred Band of 300 chosen men, to whom as being a guard for the citadel the State allowed provision, and all things necessary for exercise; and hence they were called the city band, as citadels of old were usually called cities. Others say that it was composed of young men attached to each other by personal affection, and a pleasant saying of Pammenes is current, that Homer's Nestor was not well skilled in ordering an army, when he advised the Greeks to rank tribe and tribe, and family and family, together, that so 'tribe might tribe, and kinsmen kinsmen aid,' but that he should have joined lovers and their beloved. For men of the same tribe or family little value one another when dangers press, but a band cemented together by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken, and invincible; since

p. 21

the lovers, ashamed to be base in sight of their beloved, and the beloved before their lovers, willingly rush into danger for the relief of one another. Nor can that be wondered at since they have more regard for their absent lovers than for others present; as in the instance of the man who, when his enemy was going to kill him, earnestly requested him to run him through the breast, that his lover might not blush to see him wounded in the back. It is a tradition likewise that Ioläus, who assisted Hercules in his labors and fought at his side, was beloved of him; and Aristotle observes that even in his time lovers plighted their faith at Ioläus' tomb. It is likely, therefore, that this band was called sacred on this account; as Plato calls a lover a divine friend. It is stated that it was never beaten till the battle at Chaeronea; and when Philip after the fight took a view of the slain, and came to the place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together, he wondered, and understanding that it was the band of lovers, he shed tears and said, 'Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base.'

"It was not the disaster of Laius, as the poets imagine, that first gave rise to this form of attachment among the Thebans, but their law-givers, designing to soften whilst they were young their natural fickleness, brought for example the pipe into great esteem, both in serious and sportive occasions,

p. 22

and gave great encouragement to these friendships in the Palaestra, to temper the manner and character of the youth. With a view to this, they did well again to make Harmony, the daughter of Mars and Venus, their tutelar deity; since where force and courage is joined with gracefulness and winning behavior, a harmony ensues that combines all the elements of society in perfect consonance and order.

"Gorgidas distributed this sacred Band all through the front ranks of the infantry, and thus made their gallantry less conspicuous; not being united in one body, but mingled with many others of inferior resolution, they had no fair opportunity of showing what they could do. But Pelopidas, having sufficiently tried their bravery at Tegyrae, where they had fought alone, and around his own person, never afterwards divided them, but keeping them entire, and as one man, gave them the first duty in the greatest battles. For as horses run brisker in a chariot than single, not that their joint force divides the air with greater ease, but because being matched one against another circulation kindles and enflames their courage; thus, he thought, brave men, provoking one another to noble actions, would prove most serviceable and most resolute where all were united together."

p. 23


STORIES of romantic friendship form a staple subject of Greek literature, and were everywhere accepted and prized. The following quotations from Athenæus and Plutarch contain allusions to the Theban Band, and other examples:--

"And the Lacedæmonians offer sacrifices to Love before they go to battle, thinking that safety and victory depend on the friendship of those who stand side by side in the battle array. . . . And the regiment among the Thebans, which is called the Sacred Band, is wholly composed of mutual lovers, indicating the majesty of the God, as these men prefer a glorious death to a shameful and discreditable life." Athenæus, bk. xiii., ch. 12.


Ioläus, above-mentioned, is said to have been the charioteer of Hercules, and his faithful companion. As the comrade of Hercules he was worshipped beside him in Thebes, where the gymnasium was named after him. Plutarch alludes to this friendship again in his treatise on Love (Eroticus, par. 17):--

"And as to the loves of Hercules, it is difficult to record them because of their number; but those who think that Ioläus was one of them do to this day worship and honor him, and make their loved ones swear fidelity at his tomb."

p. 24

And in this same treatise:--

"Consider also how love (Eros) excels in warlike feats, and is by no means idle, as Euripides called him, nor a carpet knight, nor 'sleeping on soft maidens' cheeks.' For a man inspired by Love needs not Ares to help him when he goes out as a warrior against the enemy, but at the bidding of his own god is 'ready' for his friend 'to go through fire and water and whirlwinds.' And in Sophocles' play, when the sons of Niobe are being shot at and dying, one of them calls out for no helper or assister but his lover.

"And you know of course how it was that Cleomachus, the Pharsalian, fell in battle. . . . When the war between the Eretrians and Chalcidians was at its height, Cleomachus had come to aid the latter with a Thessalian force; and the Chalcidian infantry seemed strong enough, but they had great difficulty in repelling the enemy's cavalry. So they begged that high-souled hero, Cleomachus, to charge the Eretrian cavalry first. And he asked the youth he loved, who was by, if he would be a spectator of the fight, and he saying he would, and affectionately kissing him and putting his helmet on his head, Cleomachus, with a proud joy, put himself at the head of the bravest of the Thessalians, and charged the enemy's cavalry with such impetuosity that he threw them into disorder and routed them; and the Eretrian infantry also fleeing in consequence, the Chalcidians won a splendid

p. 25

victory. However, Cleomachus got killed, and they show his tomb in the market place at Chalcis, over which a huge pillar stands to this day." Eroticus, par. 17, trans. Bohn's Classics.

And further on in the same:--

"And among you Thebans, Pemptides, is it not usual for the lover to give his boy-love a complete suit of armor when he is enrolled among the men? And did not the erotic Pammenes change the disposition of the heavy-armed infantry, censuring Homer as knowing nothing about love, because he drew up the Achæans in order of battle in tribes and clans, and did not put lover and love together, that so 'spear should be next to spear and helmet to helmet' (Iliad, xiii. 13 I ), seeing that love is the only invincible general. For men in battle will leave in the lurch clansmen and friends, aye, and parents and sons, but what warrior ever broke through or charged through lover and love, seeing that when there is no necessity lovers frequently display their bravery and contempt of life."


THE following is from the Deipnosophists of Athenæus (bk. xiii., ch. 78):--

But Hieronymus the peripatetic says that the loves of youths used to be much encouraged, for this reason, that the vigor of the young and their close agreement in comradeship have led to the overthrow of many a tyranny. For in the presence

p. 26

of his favorite a lover would rather endure anything than earn the name of coward; a thing which was proved in practice by the Sacred Band, established at Thebes under Epaminondas; as well as by the death of the Pisistratidæ, which was brought about by Harmodius and Aristogeiton.

"And at Agrigentum in Sicily the same was shown by the mutual love of Chariton and Melanippus--of whom Melanippus was the younger beloved, as Heraclides of Pontus tells in his Treatise on Love. For these two having been accused of plotting against Phalaris, and being put to torture in order to force them to betray their accomplices, not only did not tell, but even compelled Phalaris to such pity of their tortures that he released them with many words of praise. Whereupon Apollo, pleased at his conduct, granted to Phalaris a respite from death; and declared the same to the men who inquired of the Pythian priestess how they might best attack him. He also gave an oracular saying concerning Chariton. . . .

'Blessed indeed was Chariton and Melanippus,
Pioneers of Godhead, and of mortals the one most 1 beloved.'"

Epaminondas, the great Theban general and statesman, so we are told by the same author, had

p. 27

for his young comrades Asopichus and Cephisodorus, "the latter of whom fell with him at Mantineia, and is buried near him."


THESE are mainly instances of what might he called "military comradeship," but as may be supposed, friendship in the early world did not rest on this alone. With the growth of culture other interests came in; and among the Greeks especially association in the pursuit of art or politics or philosophy became a common ground. Parmenides, the philosopher, whose life was held peculiarly holy, loved his pupil Zeno (see Plato Parm, 127A):--

"Parmenides and Zeno came to Athens, he said, at the great Panathenæan festival; the former was, at the time of his visit, about 65 years old, very white with age, but well-favored. Zeno was nearly 40 years of age, of a noble figure and fair aspect; and in the days of his youth he was reported to have been beloved of Parmenides."


Pheidias, the sculptor, loved Pantarkes, a youth of Elis, and carved his portrait at the foot of the Olympian Zeus (Pausanias v. II), and politicians and orators like Demosthenes and Æschines were proud to avow their attachments. It was in a

p. 28

house of ill-fame, according to Diogenes Laertius (ii. 105) that Socrates first met Phædo:--

"This unfortunate youth was a native of Elis. Taken prisoner in war, he was sold in the public market to a slave dealer, who then acquired the right by Attic law to engross his earnings for his own pocket. A friend of Socrates, perhaps Cebes, bought him from his master, and he became one of the chief members of the Socratic circle. His name is given to the Platonic dialogue on immortality, and he lived to found what is called the Eleo-Socratic School. No reader of Plato forgets how the sage on the eve of his death stroked the beautiful long hair of Phædo, and prophesied that he would soon have to cut it short in mourning for his teacher." J. J. Symonds, A Problem in Greek Ethics, p. 58.

The relation of friendship to the pursuit of philosophy is a favourite subject with Plato, and is illustrated by some later quotations (see infra ch. 2).


I CONCLUDE the present section by the insertion of three stories taken from classical sources. Though of a legendary character, it is probable that they enshrine some memory or tradition of actual facts. The story of Harmodius

p. 29

and Aristogeiton at any rate is treated by Herodotus and Thucydides as a matter of serious history. The names of these two friends were ever on the lips of the Athenians as the founders of the city's freedom, and to be born of their blood was esteemed among the highest of honors. But whether historical or not, these stories have much the same value for us, in so far as they indicate the ideals on which the Greek mind dwelt, and which it considered possible of realization.

"Now the attempt of Aristogeiton and Harmodius arose out of a love affair, which I will narrate at length; and the narrative will show that the Athenians themselves give quite an inaccurate account of their own tyrants, and of the incident in question, and know no more than other Hellenes. Pisistratus died at an advanced age in possession of the tyranny, and then, not as is the common opinion Hipparchus, but Hippias (who was the eldest of his sons) succeeded to his power.

"Harmodius was in the flower of his youth, and Aristogeiton, a citizen of the middle class, became his lover. Hipparchus made an attempt to gain the affections of Harmodius, but he would not listen to him, and told Aristogeiton. The latter was naturally tormented at the idea, and fearing that Hipparchus, who was powerful, would resort to violence, at once formed such a plot as a man in his station might for the overthrow of the

p. 30

tyranny. Meanwhile Hipparchus made another attempt; he had no better success, and thereupon he determined, not indeed to take any violent step, but to insult Harmodius in some underhand manner, so that his motive could not be suspected. 1 ...

"When Hipparchus found his advances repelled by Harmodius he carried out his intention of insulting him. There was a young sister of his whom Hipparchus and his friends first invited to come and carry a sacred basket in a procession, and then rejected her, declaring that she had never been invited by them at all because she was unworthy. At this Harmodius was very angry, and Aristogeiton for his sake more angry still. They and the other conspirators had already laid their preparations, but were waiting for the festival of the great Panathenæa, when the citizens who took part in the procession assembled in arms; for to wear arms on any other day would have aroused suspicion. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were to begin the attack, and the rest were immediately to join in, and engage with the guards. The plot had been communicated to a few only, the better to avoid detection; but they hoped that, however few struck the blow, the crowd who would be armed, although not in the secret, would at once rise and assist in the recovery of their own liberties.

"The day of the festival arrived, and Hippias went out of the city to the place called the Ceramicus,

p. 31

where he was occupied with his guards in marshalling the procession. Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who were ready with their daggers, stepped forward to do the deed. But seeing one of the conspirators in familiar conversation with Hippias, who was readily accessible to all, they took alarm and imagined that they had been betrayed, and were on the point of being seized. Whereupon they determined to take their revenge first on the man who had outraged them and was the cause of their desperate attempt. So they rushed, just as they were, within the gates. They found Hipparchus near the Leocorium, as it was called, and then and there falling upon him with all the blind fury, one of an injured lover, the other of a man smarting under an insult, they smote and slew him. The crowd ran together, and so Aristogeiton for the present escaped the guards; but he was afterwards taken, and not very gently handled (i.e., tortured). Harmodius perished on the spot." Thug: vi. 54-56, trans. by B. Jowett.


"Phocis preserves from early times the memory of the union between Orestes and Pylades, who taking a god as witness of the passion between them, sailed through life together as though in one boat. Both together put to death Klytemnestra, as though both were sons of Agamemnon; and Ægisthus was slain by both. Pylades suffered more than his friend by the punishment which pursued Orestes. He stood by him when condemned, nor did they limit their tender friendship by the

p. 32

bounds of Greece, but sailed to the furthest boundaries of the Scythians--the one sick, the other ministering to him. When they had come into the Tauric land straightway they were met by the matricidal fury; and while the barbarians were standing round in a circle Orestes fell down and lay on the ground, seized by his usual mania, while Pylades 'wiped away the foam, tended his body, and covered him with his well-woven cloak'--acting not only like a lover but like a father.

"When it was determined that one should remain to be put to death, and the other should go to Mycenæ to convey a letter, each wishes to remain for the sake of the other, thinking that if he saves the life of his friend he saves his own life. Orestes refused to take the letter, saying that Pylades was more worthy to carry it, acting more like the lover than the beloved. 'For,' he said, 'the slaying of this man would be a great grief to me, as I am the cause of these misfortunes.' And he added, 'Give the tablet to him, for (turning to Pylades) I will send thee to Argos, in order that it may be well with thee; as for me, let any one kill me who desires it.'

"Such love is always like that; for when from boyhood a serious love has grown up and it becomes adult at the age of reason, the long-loved object returns reciprocal affection, and it is hard to determine which is the lover of which, for--as from a mirror--the affection of the lover is

p. 33

reflected from the beloved." Trans. from Lucian's Amores, by W. J. Baylis.


"Damon and Phintias, initiates in the Pythagorean mysteries, contracted so faithful a friendship towards each other, that when Dionysius of Syracuse intended to execute one of them, and he had obtained permission from the tyrant to return home and arrange his affairs before his death, the other did not hesitate to give himself up as a pledge of his friend's return. 1 He whose neck had been in danger was now free; and he who might have lived in safety was now in danger of death. So everybody, and especially Dionysius, were wondering what would be the upshot of this novel and dubious affair. At last, when the day fixed was close at hand, and he had not returned, every one condemned the one who stood security, for his stupidity and rashness. But he insisted that he had nothing to fear in the matter of his friend's constancy. And indeed at the same moment and the hour fixed by Dionysius, he who had received leave, returned. The tyrant, admiring the courage of both, remitted the sentence which had so tried their loyalty, and asked them besides to receive him in the bonds of their friendship, saying that he would make his third place in their affection agreeable by his utmost goodwill and effort. Such indeed are the powers of friendship: to breed contempt of death, to overcome the sweet

p. 34

desire of life, to humanize cruelty, to turn hate into love, to compensate punishment by largess; to which powers almost as much veneration is due as to the cult of the immortal gods. For if with these rests the public safety, on those does private happiness depend; and as the temples are the sacred domiciles of these, so of those are the loyal hearts of men as it were the shrines consecrated by some holy spirit." Valerius Maximus, bk. iv. ch. 7. De Amicitæ Vinculo.


26:1 This curious oracle seems purposely to confuse the singular and plural.

30:1 Digression in praise of the political administration of the Pisistratidæ.

33:1 "For the two men lived together, and had their possessions in common." Iamblichus, de Vita Pythagoræ bk. i. ch. 33.

Next: II. The Place of Friendship in Greek Life and Thought