Epicurus, ratae sententiae xxvii
Ὧν ἡ σοφία παρασκευάζεται εἰς τὴν τοῦ ὅλου βίου μακαριότητα πολὺ μέγιστόν ἐστιν ἡ τῆς φιλίας κτῆσις.
Of the things wisdom furnishes for bliss1 throughout life, by far the greatest is the possession of friendship.
- The ancient Greek adjective makarios, which appears as a superlative in this text, is difficult to translate into English. It is a state of divine happiness or contentment, used in Homer to describe the gods (whose satisfaction stands in sharp contrast to the sufferings of men). The common translation ‘blessedness’ has a rather sanctimonious flavor, and while there is no doubt that the original word is connected with the sacred, it seems best—especially in an Epicurean text—to eschew the overtly religious. Perhaps ‘blitheness’ would be better, though I think it is too seldom used at present to fit in any but the most archaizing of translations. ‘Joy,’ meanwhile, is in danger of sounding insipid. (Admittedly, one would not be far wrong in accusing ‘bliss’ of mawkishness as well, but I defy somebody to procure a better word.)