Forever Friends: Damon and Phidias

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Forever Friends: Damon and Phidias

Damon and Phintias, also called Damon and Pythias, in Greek legend, a celebrated pair of friends who came to signify the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of a friend.

Few people may know the historical origin of the phrase ‘these two are Damon and Phidias’ and how it became synonymous with an invincible friendship that defied death. The names Damon and Phidias were established as a symbol of friendship.

The basic facts of this story are historically accurate and can be found in the works of historians such as Cicero, Valerius Maximus, Porphyrios, Diodorus, and Sicilian. Damon and Phidias were Pythagorean philosophers who lived in Syracuse during the reign of Dionysius the Younger, between 367 and 343 BC.

According to historians, Phidias was accused of conspiring to overthrow Dionysius and was sentenced to death. Before his execution, Phidias asked to remain free for a period of time to take care of unfinished business.

Dionysius agreed to let Phidias go temporarily. He kept his close friend Damon in his place. Some sources suggest that this was Dionysius’ idea, as he knew Damon would return. Other sources suggest that Dionysius suggested this solution in order to show that the famous friendship of the Pythagoreans was in fact a sham.

Damon willingly accepted to take his friend’s place, without any pressure. The rest of the story is fairly well known. Phidias left, but as the hour of execution approached, he was nowhere to be found. Dionysius began to mock Damon, comparing him to Iphigenia, sacrificing himself while his friend escaped and enjoyed life. However, just as Damon was about to be executed, Phidias appeared, running towards them. He immediately demanded to take the place of his friend and to be executed as agreed.

Then, right in the presence of Dionysius, the two friends began to argue with each other!

Damon said that he had to be executed because his friend was late. Phidias, on the other hand, claimed that he had kept his word and therefore his friend had to be released and he had to be executed instead, since he was the one who had committed the offense.

Dionysius, who was a witness to this scene, was so moved that he decided to pardon both of them and asked to be accepted as their new friend.

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