Sunday, April 3, 2022

Friends Til the End: Damon & Pythias, Val. Max. IV.ext.7

Haeret animus in domesticis, sed aliena quoque bene facta referre Romanae urbis candor hortatur. Damon et Phintias Pythagoricae prudentiae sacris initiati tam fidelem inter se amicitiam iunxerant, ut, cum alterum ex his Dionysius Syracusanus interficere vellet, atque is tempus ab eo, quo prius quam periret domum profectus res suas ordinaret, impetravisset, alter vadem se pro reditu eius tyranno dare non dubitaret. solutus erat periculo mortis qui modo gladio cervices subiectas habuerat: eidem caput suum subiecerat cui securo vivere licebat. igitur omnes et in primis Dionysius novae atque ancipitis rei exitum speculabantur. adpropinquante deinde finita die nec illo redeunte unus quisque stultitiae tam temerarium sponsorem damnabat. at is nihil se de amici constantia metuere praedicabat. eodem autem momento et hora a Dionysio constituta et eam qui acceperat supervenit. admiratus amborum animum tyrannus supplicium fidei remisit insuperque eos rogauit ut se in societatem amicitiae tertium sodalicii gradum mutua culturum beniuolentia reciperent. hascine vires amicitiae? mortis contemptum ingenerare, vitae dulcedinem extinguere, crudelitatem mansuefacere, odium in amorem conuertere, poenam beneficio pensare potuerunt. quibus paene tantum venerationis quantum deorum immortalium caerimoniis debetur: illis enim publica salus, his privata continetur, atque ut illarum aedes sacra domicilia, harum fida hominum pectora quasi quaedam sancto spiritu referta templa sunt.

--Valerius Maximus,  Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium IV.7.ext.1  


Although my mind keeps dwelling on domestic examples, the splendor of Rome encourages me to mention some excellent examples from abroad, too. Damon and Pythias [Phintias], being initiated into the sacred wisdom of the Pythagoreans, were so tightly joined in friendship that when Dionysius the Ruler of Syracuse wanted to kill one of them, and when he obtained a window of time to go home to arrange his affairs before he was killed, the other did not hesitate to surrender himself as a hostage to guarantee his friend’s return. The one friend, whose neck was under the proverbial sword, was suddenly free from the danger of death; the other, who was free to live, laid down his own life for him. Everyone, especially Dionysius, were anxiously waiting the outcome of the drama. Then, once the appointed day had come and gone, and the other friend didn’t return, the friend was mocked for his foolishness and rashness, but he declared that he wasn’t afraid for his own life, and trusted his friend’s loyalty. At the very moment that Dionysius had appointed for the execution, the friend arrived. The tyrant Dionysius marveled at the friends’ courage. He let them go, and asked them if they would welcome him as a friend, and be their third wheel, with mutual kindness and affection.

And so you see the power of friendship. It can bring about a contempt of death, lay low the sweet [selfishness] of life, mitigate cruelty, convert hatred into love, and outweigh inconvenience with benefits. It ought to be as honored as the sacred rites of the gods. Friendship encompasses the public good, on which private good relies on.  The homes of these men are like sacred temples; the hearts of faithful men, just like temples filled with sacred spirit.



Name:  Valerius Maximus

Date:  1st c CE.

Works:  Memorable Deeds and Sayings



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



Little is known about the life of Valerius Maximus except that he wrote during the reign of the emperor Tiberius. His work, Memorable Deeds and Sayings, is a collection of examples from Roman and world history categorized by theme for the purpose of rhetorical exercises.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

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