15 Stoic Quotes On Friendship

Some people imagine that Stoicism involves for an unfeeling approach to other people. To counter this misconception, consider this from Seneca:

This is the first promise that philosophy holds out to us: fellow-feeling, humanity, sociability. — Seneca, Epistles 5.4

Friendship has been a constant topic for philosophers. Cicero has a wonderful essay On Friendship (recently re-translated by Princeton University Press as How To Be A Friend) Seneca has an essay, On Benefits, which is all about mutual reciprocity, and of course, his letters to Lucilius are a wonderful window into a long, fruitful friendship between great minds.

Marcus Aurelius wrote it repeatedly: we’re social beings. We are made for each other he said. We are all part of the same hive. (Of course he also warned against false friends and suggested avoiding them at all costs). We need friendship to survive and to be happy. With that, here are 15 great quotes from the ancient Stoics on friendship:

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“If you consider any man a friend whom you do not trust as you trust yourself, you are mightily mistaken and you do not sufficiently understand what true friendship means… When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment…Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul. Speak as boldly with him as with yourself… Regard him as loyal and you will make him loyal.” — Seneca, Letters from a Stoic


We advise a man to regard his friends as highly as himself, to reflect that an enemy may become a friend, to stimulate love in the friend, and to check hatred in the enemy. — Seneca Click To Tweet
The necessity of circumstances proves friends and detects enemies. — Epictetus Click To Tweet
One who seeks friendship for favourable occasions, strips it of all its nobility. — Seneca Click To Tweet
In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; but in adversity it is the most difficult of all things. Epictetus Click To Tweet

“Above all, keep a close watch on this— that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don’t, you’ll be ruined. . . . You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends . . . if you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had.” — Epictetus, Discourses


“There’s nothing worse than a wolf befriending sheep. Avoid false friendship at all costs. If you are good, straightforward, and well meaning it should show in your eyes and not escape notice.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


Nothing, however, delights the mind as much as loving and loyal friendship. — Seneca Click To Tweet

“He who regards himself only, and enters upon friendships for this reason, reckons wrongly. The end will be like the beginning: he has made friends with one who might assist him out of bondage; at the first rattle of the chain such a friend will desert him. These are the so-called “fair-weather” friendships; one who is chosen for the sake of utility will be satisfactory only so long as he is useful…He who begins to be your friend because it pays will also cease because it pays. A man will be attracted by some reward offered in exchange for his friendship, if he be attracted by aught in friendship other than friendship itself.” — Seneca, Letters from a Stoic


For what purpose, then, do I make a man my friend? In order to have someone for whom I may die, whom I may follow into exile, against whose death I may stake my own life, and pay the pledge, too. — Seneca Click To Tweet

“Friendship produces between us a partnership in all our interests. There is no such thing as good or bad fortune for the individual; we live in common. And no one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you must live for your neighbour, if you would live for yourself. ” — Seneca, Letters from a Stoic


“Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself. And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.” — Seneca, Letters from a Stoic


“Above all, keep a close watch on this— that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don’t, you’ll be ruined. . . . You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends . . . if you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had.” — Epictetus, Discourses


“Whenever you kiss your child, sibling, or friend, don’t layer on top of the experience all the things you might wish, but hold them back and stop them, just as those who ride behind triumphant generals remind them they are mortal. In the same way, remind yourself that your precious one isn’t one of your possessions, but something given for now, not forever . . .” — Epictetus, Discourses


With the exception of wisdom, I’m inclined to believe that the immortal gods have given nothing better to humanity than friendship. — Cicero Click To Tweet