02 October 2016

from De Amicitia, sections 87-8 (Cicero)

quin etiam si quis asperitate ea est et immanitate naturae, congressus ut hominum fugiat atque oderit, qualem fuisse Athenis Timonem nescio quem accepimus, tamen is pati non possit, ut non anquirat aliquem, apud quem evomat virus acerbitatis suae. atque hoc maxime iudicaretur, si quid tale possit contingere, ut aliquis nos deus ex hac hominum frequentia tolleret et in solitudine uspiam collocaret atque ibi suppeditans omnium rerum quas natura desiderat, abundantiam et copiam, hominis omnino aspiciendi potestatem eriperet - quis tam esset ferreus qui eam vitam ferre posset cuique non auferret fructum voluptatum omnium solitudo? verum ergo illud est, quod a Tarentino Archyta, ut opinor, dici solitum nostros senes commemorare audivi ab aliis senibus auditum: si quis in caelum ascendisset naturamque mundi et pulchritudinem siderum perspexisset, insuavem illam admirationem ei fore, quae iucundissima fuisset, si aliquem cui narraret habuisset. sic natura solitarium nihil amat semperque ad aliquod tamquam adminiculum adnititur, quod in amicissimo quoque dulcissimum est.

No, even if anyone were of a nature so harsh and monstrous as to shun and loathe human society - such, for example, as we hear that a certain Timon of Athens once was - yet even such a person could not avoid seeking out someone in whose direction he might pour out the venom of his embittered soul. And this might best be judged if something like this could happen: suppose that a god were to remove us from this human world and put us in some solitary place, and, while providing us there in abundance and plenty with all the material things our nature desires, were to take from us altogether the ability to see any other person - who would be so iron-hearted as to be able to endure that sort of a life? And who is there from whom solitude would not take away the enjoyment of every pleasure? It is certainly true, therefore, what Archytas of Tarentum (I think it was) famously said, something which I have heard repeated by our old men who in their turn heard it from their elders. I mean when he said, 'If someone were to  ascend  into heaven and gaze upon the whole workings of the universe and the beauty of the stars, the marvellous sight would give him no joy if he had to keep it to himself.  And yet, if only there had been someone to describe the spectacle to, it would have filled him with delight.'  Nature therefore, abhors solitude, and always strives for some sort of support; and the best support is a really dear friend.