Again on Friendship- meditations on 37° and 59° Delphic Laws

37) Do a favor for a friend (Φιλω χαριζου)

We have here an another law, showing an another characteristic of thephilia: charizo is a very clear verb which partakes in the area of the charis, a very important concept that includes”grace, gracefulness, charm and amiability, joy, happiness, pleasure and delight, favor, goodwill, kindness, a grateful thing done in favor of someone, respect, honor”. Thus charizo means “do a favor, gratify, bring delight”. Charis is a favor that brings to the recipient delight and pleasure, Aristotle offers a clear explanation of this concept: “repayment is the distinctive feature of charis. For it is necessary to give a return service to the one who has given charis and again oneself to begin giving charis”. One may well feel gratitude upon receipt of such a favor and for this reason charis is often translated simply as ‘gratitude’ or even ‘thanks’, but is oversimplification of the relationship: an individual’s reaction to receiving such a charis is to be kecharismenos, meaning essentially ‘to be put in the charis relationship’. Delightful favors when received by the Gods are kecharismena, and here the offering should be thought not merely as ‘pleasing’, but as ‘pleasing/acceptable in the context of the charis-relationship between Gods and men; as for example, Plato has Chryses praying “to Apollo, calling out the epithets of the God and reminding Him and asking if ever either in the buildings of the temples or in the sacrifices of offerings he had presented Him anything kecharismenon”.

Not only this: Charis is one of three Graces, also known as Aglaia, that kind of Grace that symbolizes Beauty; according to Pindar, They were created by Zeus to fill the world with pleasant moments/things and goodwill, and as such They are companions of Aphrodite, who guards also the bond of philia. In fact we can say that the free bestowal of charis awakens pleasure and gratitude in both the bestower and the recipient, and Plato elevates it to the level of critical or aesthetic response to music or art; the Athenian Stranger in the Laws announces three criteria for judgment: correctness or fidelity of the copy to the original, moral effect or utility, and charm and pleasure, i.e. charis itself. It is Pindar who defines Grace: charis brings all things to fulfillment for the delight of men; the cultivated garden is a secret close of the Graces; the bride’s consent is a form of charis; the way of friends to settle matters is the way of grace; the Graces, who mediate all delight and all that is sweet, can also be associated with Dionysos; Charis is peculiarly associated with Aphrodite and Apollo, and it’s opposite with Ixion and the Centaurs. In a word “even the Gods cannot order Their dances without the Graces”.

Philia is the strongest form of commitment in Hellenic life; in Euripides’ Suppliant Women, the chorus hopes for a philia based on charis between the two cities. So this law ranges from an individual advice to a political one: for a political association to endure, according to Aristotle, there must not only be justice between its members, but a kind of friendship or fraternal goodwill as well. While the formal unity of a city is supplied by the peculiar distributional scheme embodied in its constitution, its actual longevity can be secured only by the growth of fraternal bonds among its citizens.


59) Honor a benefaction (Ευεργεςιας τιμα)

“Euergesia” means properly “benefaction, benefit”, i.e. doing good deeds; it is related with the well known concept of euergetes, the benefactor (usually applied to the Gods or to the rulers).  In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, treating various types of philia, states in one of the first sentences that the rich and powerful man needs friends, philoi, to exercise hiseuergesia. Here euergetic philia is stressed as representing a bilateral relationship, which develops into a conceptualized hierarchical relationship, also involving the concept of authority: Aristotle’s examples are “a king and the ruled” and “a father and sons“. Plato, talking about good deeds outside the context of friendship, underlines the fact thateuergesiai are fourfold: they can be exercised by means of money, body, knowledge or speech. The euergesiai exercised with body and riches consist in rendering service to the city (as done by the Athenian aristoi who took care of the expenses to pay all the public religious ceremonies of the city, as the annual Great Dionysia, as also to erect public buildings and so on). Including help given in the form of particular abilities- by means of knowledge or speech- enlarges the field of possible benefits to the services of teachers, doctors, lawyers etc. The now called ‘services’ of the liberal arts and professions in the Tradition are reputed to be ‘benefits’ which expect a ‘return’ and not a payment or fee.

The most peaceful and well known benefactor is the inventor of arts and of technical knowledge, the protos euretes, who redeemed humanity from barbarism and roughness: the concept of euergesia surely overlaps that of philanthropia (two of the most important qualities of a ruler also). The much greater, and usually not only material, benefit of the liberator from fear and barbarism cannot be returned or reciprocated: it is the gift/benefit of a God,tà kalà dora of Demeter, as “all things are Demeter’s gift.” Cicero states clearly:for by their means (Mysteries) we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called initiations, so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope”.

The title euergetes, alone or coupled with sotèr, is applied to a number of Gods and rulers. So, the relationship of identity between a God and a man exercising his euergesia towards other men comes to light, illustrated by sentences which says clearly: “For a man, to benefit others is a way to be divine”. Out of benevolence the Gods shed Their gifts, the only return expected being honor and love; a man who shares in Their natural disposition and imitate Them in his behavior toward humanity, is surely loved by the very Gods.

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