Ἤκουσα δέ ποτε αὐτοῦ καὶ περὶ φίλων διαλεγομένου, ἐξ ὧν ἔμοιγε ἐδόκει μάλιστ’ ἄν τις ὠφελεῖσθαι πρὸς φίλων κτῆσίν τε καὶ χρείαν. τοῦτο μὲν γὰρ δὴ πολλῶν ἔφη ἀκούειν, ὡς πάντων κτημάτων κράτιστον ἂν εἴη φίλος σαφὴς καὶ ἀγαθός· ἐπιμελομένους δὲ παντὸς μᾶλλον ὁρᾶν ἔφη τοὺς πολλοὺς ἢ φίλων κτήσεως. καὶ γὰρ οἰκίας καὶ ἀγροὺς καὶ ἀνδράποδα καὶ βοσκήματα καὶ σκεύη κτωμένους τε ἐπιμελῶς ὁρᾶν ἔφη καὶ τὰ ὄντα σῴζειν πειρωμένους, φίλον δέ, ὃ μέγιστον ἀγαθὸν εἶναί φασιν, ὁρᾶν ἔφη τοὺς πολλοὺς οὔτε ὅπως κτήσωνται φροντίζοντας οὔτε ὅπως οἱ ὄντες αὐτοῖς σῴζωνται. ἀλλὰ καὶ καμνόντων φίλων τε καὶ οἰκετῶν ὁρᾶν τινας ἔφη τοῖς μὲν οἰκέταις καὶ ἰατροὺς εἰσάγοντας καὶ τἆλλα τὰ πρὸς ὑγίειαν ἐπιμελῶς παρασκευάζοντας, τῶν δὲ φίλων ὀλιγωροῦντας, ἀποθανόντων τε ἀμφοτέρων ἐπὶ μὲν τοῖς οἰκέταις ἀχθομένους τε καὶ ζημίαν ἡγουμένους, ἐπὶ δὲ τοῖς φίλοις οὐδὲν οἰομένους ἐλαττοῦσθαι, καὶ τῶν μὲν ἄλλων κτημάτων οὐδὲν ἐῶντας ἀθεράπευτον οὐδ᾽ ἀνεπίσκεπτον, τῶν δὲ φίλων ἐπιμελείας δεομένων ἀμελοῦντας. ἔτι δὲ πρὸς τούτοις ὁρᾶν ἔφη τοὺς πολλοὺς τῶν μὲν ἄλλων κτημάτων καὶ πάνυ πολλῶν αὐτοῖς ὄντων, τὸ πλῆθος εἰδότας, τῶν δὲ φίλων, ὀλίγων ὄντων οὐ μόνον τὸ πλῆθος ἀγνοοῦντας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς πυνθανομένοις τοῦτο καταλέγειν ἐγχειρήσαντας οὓς ἐν τοῖς φίλοις ἔθεσαν, πάλιν τούτους ἀνατίθεσθαι· τοσοῦτον αὐτοὺς τῶν φίλων φροντίζειν.
(Xenophon, Mem. 4.1-4)
Again, I once heard a conversation of his* about friendship that I thought likely to be of great help in acquiring and making use of friends. For he said that he often heard it stated that of all possessions the most precious is a good and sincere friend. “And yet,” he said, “there is no transaction most men are so careless about as the acquisition of friends. For I find that they are careful about getting houses and lands and slaves and cattle and furniture, and anxious to keep what they have; but though they claim that a friend is the greatest blessing, I find that most men take no thought how to get new friends or how to keep their old ones. Indeed, if one of their friends and one of their servants get sick at the same time, I find that some call in the doctor to attend the servant and are careful to provide everything that may contribute to his recovery, whereas they pay no attention to the friend. In the event that both die, they are annoyed at losing the servant and consider it a loss, but don’t feel that the death of the friend matters in the least. And though none of their other possessions is uncared for and unconsidered, they neglect their friends’ need of attention. And besides all this, I find that most men know the number of their other possessions, however great it may be, yet cannot tell the number of their friends, few as they are, and if asked to try to make a list they will insert names and presently remove them. So much for the thought they give to their friends!
* i.e. Socrates’.
(tr. Edgar Cardew Marchant & Otis Johnson Todd, revised by Jeffrey Henderson)