Friendship is a tacit contract between two sensitive and virtuous people. I say sensitive because a monk, a solitary may not be a bad man and yet he lives without knowing what friendship is.
I say virtuous because the bad people have only accomplices, voluptuous people have only comrades for lechery, interested people have associates, politicians gather rebels, lazy man has connections, and princes have courtiers. Only virtuous people have friends.
Cethegus was Catiline’s accomplice, and Maecenas was Octavianus’s courtier; but Cicero was a friend of Atticus.
What does this contract between two affectionate and honest souls mean ? Obligations are higher or lower depending on the degree of sensitivity of souls and the number of favors made, etc.
The enthusiasm of friendship was stronger to the Greeks and the Arabs than it is now to us. The stories of friendship, invented by these nations, are wonderful; we do not have any like, we are devoid of depth.
To the Greeks, friendship was a religious and a legislative matter. The people of Thebes had a regiment of lovers: beautiful regiment ! Some said it was a Sodomite regiment. But they were mistaken, for it was as if they had taken what was secondary as the principal.
Greek friendship was prescribed by law and religion. Unfortunately, homosexuality was tolerated by morals, but we must not reproach the law for these shameful abuses. But we shall have the opportunity to talk about it.
from Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique