Marcus Tullius Cicero, 43 BC
Translated by Gregory Murry, All Rights Reserved
In a moment I will discuss the best methods for winning and keeping friends, but first let me say this: in both good times and bad, the power of fortune is tremendous. When she gives us a favorable wind, we arrive at greatness; when she blows against us, we are ruined. Some misfortunes are rare, especially those caused by non-living things like storms, tempests, shipwrecks, and fires. Even more infrequently, we suffer misfortunes from animals, who beat, bite, and attack. But what about [misfortune caused by other men], like the destruction of armies? We have just seen this happen three times. We have also seen the downfall of a great and remarkable man who held the Roman imperium. Moreover, the envy of the mob frequently leads to the exile or expulsion of a city’s most worthy citizens. Nevertheless, though fortune is partly responsible for honor, power, and victory, no one could achieve them without the help of others. So, I will now tell you how to cultivate the goodwill of men for your own utility. If you find this passage long, simply consider its usefulness, and you will probably rethink your opinion.
Whenever one man benefits another or bestows some dignity on him, he does it for one of five reasons: love and good will (benivolentia); admiration (if the giver thinks the receiver’s virtue makes him worthy of greater fortune); trust (in which case he often is acting out of self-interest as well); fear; or hope of gain (like when kings give gifts to their people or when someone takes a bribe, which is a most dirty and wicked practice).
It is a bad thing to buy loyalty, which should be won by virtue; however, sometimes this is necessary, so after I speak of virtue, I will show how money can be used to win allies. In summary then, men submit themselves to the power of another for a variety of reasons: good will, favors, the greatness of the other’s dignity, hope of future gains, fear that they will be compelled to obey by force, and hope of reward or gifts, which as we see in our own republic, often take the forms of bribes.
There is nothing more useful for keeping power than to be loved, and nothing more harmful than to be feared. Thus Ennius says, “people will hate whomever they fear, and whomever they hate cannot last long.” No one is able to hold onto power if the people hate him; if this was not recognized before, it certainly is now. This lesson is not only true of this one man, who used force to oppress his country (which obeys him even after his death), but also true of similar tyrants, few of whom have escaped the same fate.
Men who oppress and enslave others by force must use cruelty to hold on to their power, but it is crazy to try to make oneself feared in a free city. Although a tyrant might overturn the laws and stifle the people’s freedom, some men will find a way to express their liberty in the choice of whom to bestow honor on, for liberty that has been lost is more acutely felt than liberty that is simply maintained. Thus, it is far better to rely on love, not only for keeping yourself safe, but for maintaining power and influence. The man who is loved has a much easier time getting what he wants, in both his public and private affairs.
If a man wants to inspire fear, he must himself fear those very people he hopes to instill fear in. What should we think of the elder Dionysus? How much was this tyrant tortured by fear? He singed his hair off with burning hot coals because he feared the barber’s blade. What should we think of Alexander the Pherean? We read that he loved his Theban wife, yet whenever he came into her bedchamber, he ordered a barbarian…to go in first with his sword drawn. He also ordered his guards to rummage through his wife’s drawers to make sure that she had not hidden some sort of weapon amongst her clothes. O miserable man, who trusts a barbarian more than his own wife...
Phalaris is another example of great cruelty. He was neither killed by a plot, like Alexander, nor at hands of a few conspirators, like our own tyrant. Rather, he was killed by the all the citizens of Agrigento. Did not the Macedonians betray Demetrius and defect to Pyhrrus? When the Spartans ruled unjustly, did they not lose all of their allies, who watched them suffer defeat at the Battle of Leuctra without trying to help them?
I am using foreign examples because it pains me to reflect on Roman examples. When the Roman people held their power by doing good to others rather than by injuring them, the wars that we waged were only fought to protect our allies or our empire. At the ends of those wars, the Romans were merciful, except when it was necessary to be unmerciful. Our senate was the refuge of kings, peoples and nations, and our magistrates and generals sought just one thing: to be praised for defending our provinces and allies and treating them with justice and honesty.
When this was the case, we were more like the patrons than the rulers of the world. Over time, however, we gradually lost the habit of doing good to others, and after the reign of Sulla, we stopped doing good altogether. When there was such cruelty in the heart of Rome itself, we cared little if cruelty was also committed against our allies. For instance, Sulla went to war for a good and just (honesta) cause, but he did not have a good and just victory. For he held a public auction and dared to say he was simply selling his own booty, when in fact he was selling the fortunes of good men, even the goods of citizens. He was followed by Marius, who had an impious reason for war and an even more immoral victory, and thus not only sold away the goods of a single city, but brought calamity on entire provinces and regions.
During this period, we saw foreign nations being harassed and destroyed. For example, we saw Marseilles lose its power and forced to take part in one of our own general’s triumphs, even though without their help, we never would have had any victories beyond the Alps worthy of a triumph. I could recite a list of other evils we had committed against our allies, though it is not necessary because this one is surely the worst. It is right that we be punished for these crimes, for if the evils of the multitude had been properly punished in the first place, we would have never given so much license to one single man, who bequeathed his possessions to his relatives but his greed to many.
This taste for plunder always plants the seeds of civil war. Indeed, Sulla’s kinsman put all that ill-gotten booty on sale, and then held another sale thirty-six years later… From this, we must learn that the civil war will never be over as long as the hope of unjust gain remains. Already, our republican form of government is lost; only the walls of our city remain standing, though these await even more depraved wickedness. Coming back to my point, we have brought this disaster on ourselves because we have thought it better to be feared than loved. If such was the case when the Romans exercised their dominion unjustly, what might individuals expect?
Since it is clear that the power of benevolence is so great and the power of fear so weak, I still need to speak about how we might easily attain our desires by the means of admiration, trust, and good will (honor, fides, caritas). However, we do not all have the same needs in this regard, and a man should accommodate his desires to his lot in life. Some people need a lot of influence, and others need only a little, yet all men need the love and trust of friends; this is something that is equally necessary for great men and small men alike and can be accomplished by both in the same way.
However, not everyone has the same need for honor, glory, and the good will of fellow citizens. Men who do need them will find them just as useful as friendship. I have written about friendship in a book called Laelius, so now I will speak about glory (though I have already written two books on glory as well). Let us talk about how glory relates to governance. The highest and most perfect glory consists in three things: the good-will, trust, and admiration of the people. Briefly put, the same things that win friends and influence individual people give us influence over the many…
Let us first deal with capturing the good will of the many. The best way to do this is by benefitting others, the second is the desire to benefit others, even if we lack the ability to do so; the third is a reputation for liberality, beneficence, justice, trustworthiness, and all of those virtues which pertain to a life of restraint. These qualities are called good and fitting because they are pleasing in and of themselves, and they shine through those virtues that I have mentioned. We are compelled to love any man who shows these virtues, though there are also less serious ways to win the love of others.
The people’s trust can be won in two ways: namely, with justice and prudence. We trust people whom we think are more intelligent than we are, who better gauge the future, and who know the best course of action to take when difficult business is at hand. All men consider this type of wisdom to be useful and truly prudent. We also place our trust in good men, whom we do not suspect will injure or deceive us, and we rightly think it wise to entrust such men with our health, fortune and families.
Between the two, justice is more useful for winning trust than prudence. Imprudent men are often given authority, but prudence alone can never win someone trust. The multitude will never trust in the honesty of a man who seems to be crafty and cunning; rather, these qualities will cause him to be suspected and hated. For this reason, intelligence must be joined to justice in order to inspire trust, for justice without prudence is able to do much, but prudence without justice is useless.
The reader may wonder how this is possible, since all philosophers agree with me that whoever has one of the virtues possesses all of the virtues. How can I say, then, that a man can be prudent but not just? When I call a man prudent here, I am not using the term in its philosophical sense, but rather in its popular sense. I am accommodating my speech to the common man. Thus, when we call something strong, good, and prudent in the common tongue, it means something different than when we speak philosophically. We should use the popular sense when we speak about popular opinion, which Panetius did often. But let us return to the subject at hand.
Of the three items that pertain to glory, the third consists in winning admiration from one’s fellow man. The multitude usually admires anything that surpasses their understanding and anyone whom they think possesses unexpectedly good qualities (nec opinata quaedam bona). Thus, the multitude praise men they consider great and extraordinarily virtuous, while they despise and condemn those who do not seem to possess virtue, spirit, and courage. This does not mean the multitude condemns any person that seems to be bad, since they by no means condemn dishonest, slanderous, fraudulent, or injurious men. Rather, men are generally despised for laziness and lack of industry, the type of man who takes no care for either himself or for others.
Men can win admiration by excelling others in virtue and avoiding dishonor and those vices that the multitude find difficult to resist. Now, pleasure, which is a charming mistress, turns most souls away from virtue, and fear of pain and misfortune terrify most men. Life, death, riches, and poverty are all powerful motivators. Whoever despises life, death, riches and poverty in pursuit of some other honest goal will show that he has a lofty soul. Will such a man not win admiration, for who does not admire the splendor and beauty of virtue?
This indifference to death or poverty excites the admiration of the multitude. It also produces justice, the virtue that makes a man worthy to be called good. As a result, he will seem wonderful to the multitude, who will not fear any injury from him. No man can be just if he fears death, pain, exile, or poverty or places any of these things ahead of equity. The multitude especially admires a man who is not moved by greed, for such a man appears to be tried by fire.
Thus, of those three things that lead to glory, all of them are accomplished by justice: the good will, trust, and admiration of the multitude can be won by justice because justice seeks the good of the many and spurns and neglects those things that usually excite greed.
In my opinion, all of life’s plans and arrangements require the help of other men. In the first place, a man needs to have familiars with whom he can speak; this is difficult unless he has a reputation for goodness. Even a solitary man living in the countryside needs a reputation for justice since his reputation is his only defense and protection against the many dangers of such a life.
Justice is quite necessary for merchants when they buy, sell, or do business; indeed, its power is so great that even those who live by crime must have some small particle of justice in order to survive. Even a thief practices a form of justice, for the head thief is either killed by his compatriots or overthrown if he does not distribute the booty equally. Thus, even thieves have laws that they obey and observe. By this equitable sharing of booty, Bardyllis the Illyrian, whom Theopompus mentions, piled up a great fortune. Viriatus Lusitanus had an even bigger fortune, though he was eventually defeated by our army and captains… Given that the power of justice is so great it can even win riches for thieves, how much greater must it be when it is constituted by law in a well-ordered republic (in constituta re publica)?
Like the Persians that we read about in Herodotus, our own ancestors first made kings in order to enjoy the fruits of justice. Because the multitude was oppressed by the wealthy, they sought protection from a man of extraordinary virtue, who maintained equal justice by preventing the strong from injuring the weak and by preserving equality between the highest and the lowest class of citizens.
Our ancestors instituted laws for the same reasons, as everyone always desires an equality of rights, for without it there can be no rights at all. When one man alone was able to provide justice, the people were content; when this could no longer be done, the people invented laws, which were equal for all men and stable throughout time. Thus, it is clear that men were usually chosen to rule due to their reputation for justness. If they also happened to be prudent, men thought that there was nothing they could not accomplish under such authority. For all these reasons, justice is to be prized and practiced, as much for its own sake (since otherwise it would not be justice) as on account of increasing honor and glory. As there is a method not only for seeking money, but even for piling it up for necessary and extra expenses, so there must be a method for seeking and piling up glory.
Socrates has pointed out the way to this glory in a wonderful, little saying: “if you want glory, be what you want others to think you are.” If anyone thinks he can win eternal glory with deceit (simulatio), empty boasting (ostentatio), and the dishonest fashioning (fictus) of his words and appearance, he is seriously mistaken. True glory plants deep roots and spreads far and wide, falsehood quickly fades away like a pretty little flower, for deceit cannot last long… Thus, whoever wants to obtain true glory will fulfill the demands of justice.
 Cicero is likely talking about Pompey here, who had just been defeated by his one-time collaborator turned rival, Julius Caesar. Pompey had been granted “imperium,” the Roman term for command of an army.
 Cicero is referring here to the assassination of Julius Caesar, which had occurred only a few months before he wrote this.
 Julius Caesar again.
 Roman dictator (138 B.C.-78 B.C), whose cruelty and ambition launched Rome into a half-century of civil war.
 Roman dictator (157 B.C.-86 B.C.); Julius Caesar’s uncle through marriage.
 A triumph was a Roman celebration held to honor generals who had won great battles or wars. It frequently involved the public humiliation of the conquered peoples. During Caesar’s war with Pompey, Marseilles had sided with Pompey, and thus Caesar conquered it and forced it to participate in his triumph in Rome in 46 B.C.
 Remember De Amicitia (On Friendship) in the Veritas Symposium!