Solon, among a selection of passages from Greek authors at Laudator Temporis Acti on the subject of loving one's friends and hating one's enemies.
The reason for the highlight is, of course, the Sermon on the Mount, which we've been getting in installments in our Sunday readings. It's hard to keep the Sermon in context, isn't it? After two thousand years of repeating things like "Pray for those who persecute you," such uterances start to sound like they make sense. It's really only familiarity that makes us say "Oh, yes, that's nice."
But it doesn't make sense in any human, natural way, and we all know this. Check any newspaper for examples of Christians eager for revenge of one kind or another (sure, it may go by the names of "closure" or "justice" or "teach him a lesson.") Jesus was a man who said a lot of extremely surprising things, and this is one of them.
Actually, surprising perhaps puts it too mildly. "Pray for those who persecute you" is downright offensive. Traumatic. Triggering, even.
The Greeks were wise in the ways of man, if not of God. Here's an interesting tidbit:
Polybius 1.14.4-5 (tr. W. R. Paton) allows an exception to the rule only in the person of the historian who is bound to be impartial:"...a good man should love his friends and his country, he should share the hatreds and attachments of his friends; but he who assumes the character of a historian must ignore everything of the sort, and often, if their actions demand this, speak good of his enemies and honour them with the highest praises while criticizing and even reproaching roundly his closest friends, should the errors of their conduct impose this duty on him."
The historian's duty is to truth, and truth requires impartiality. People naturally seek comradeship and deal out retribution, but accuracy -- truth -- is something different and yet worth seeking, and it's simply common sense that, to find it, the historian must squelch his unhelpful (if natural, universal, understandable, and ordinarily even desirable) favoritism. Everybody knows that, right? Today we would mention other professions bound by this standard: reporters, research scientists, judges, and teachers. The Greeks knew, as we naturally know, that truth is a good that supersedes natural human desires to divide the world into "us" and "them." Still, the Greeks indulged those desires in everyday life, and most of the time, so do we. If it's not our job to be impartial, we don't expect it of ourselves.
The really radical aspect of the Sermon on the Mount isn't so much the call for impartiality: "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." As Polybius wrote, as we know, there are purposes and duties that call for impartiality -- that's obvious!
The radical part is the suggestion that all times and all purposes call for "serving Truth."