Plutarch delivers anecdotes with moral points, rather than in-depth comparative analyses of the causes of the fall of the Achaemenid Empire and the Roman Republic and tends on occasion to fit facts to hypotheses[ citation needed ].
Again, in Britain, when the enemy had fallen upon the foremost centurions, who had plunged into a watery marsh, a soldier, while Caesar in person was watching the battle, dashed into the midst of the fight, displayed many conspicuous deeds of daring, and rescued the centurions, after the Barbarians had been routed.
Two of them, accordingly, coming up, he lopped off the shoulder of one with his sword, smote the other in the face and put him to flight, and came off safely himself with the aid of his comrades.
Then he himself, making his way with difficulty after all the rest, plunged into the muddy current, and at last, without his shield, partly swimming and partly wading, got across.
While flawed, Plutarch is nonetheless indispensable as one of the only ancient sources of information on Spartan life. The biography of Pyrrhus provides a portrait of emerging Roman power in Italy and their degree of militaristic ruthlessness, which Plutarch quite mercilessly contrasts to the luxuriousness of the Italian Greek cities.
Bowie] Plutarch stretches and occasionally fabricates the similarities between famous Greeks and Romans in order to be able to write their biographies as parallel. When it comes to his character, Plutarch emphasizes his unusual degree of self-control.
As the historians Sarah Pomeroy, Stanley Burstein, Walter Donlan, and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts have written, "Plutarch was influenced by histories written after the decline of Sparta and marked by nostalgia for a happier past, real or imagined.
He sought to provide rounded portraits, likening his craft to that of a painter; indeed, he went to tremendous lengths often leading to tenuous comparisons to draw parallels between physical appearance and moral character.
Although Nietzscheans would love to render him into a merely Dionysian character, Plutarch tends to emphasise that his "greatness" is founded not in the daring of his military conquests alone but also in his just treatment of Darius and his family, and various other smaller and greater episodes, such as his siding with an aristocratic woman who was raped by one of his soldiers and subsequently stoned the soldier to death.
These kinds of prevailing reception practices mean that it is particularly important to approach Plutarch on his own terms and cognisant of the social and historical conditions in which he wrote.
Such a man, for instance, was Acilius, who, in the sea-fight at Massalia, boarded a hostile ship and had his right hand cut off with a sword, but clung with the other hand to his shield, and dashing it into the faces of his foes, routed them all and got possession of the vessel.
For the above reasons and more, this volume is well worth reading for those who wish to understand something of the social, economic and political values of the Hellenic world.
The surviving Lives contain 23 pairs, each with one Greek Life and one Roman Life, as well as four unpaired single Lives. Sometimes, Plutarch quotes directly from the De Bello Gallico and even tells us of the moments when Caesar was dictating his works.
On the other hand, he generally sets out his moral anecdotes in chronological order unlike, say, his Roman contemporary Suetonius  and is rarely narrow-minded and unrealistic, almost always prepared to acknowledge the complexity of the human condition where moralising cannot explain it.
Whereas sometimes he barely touched on epoch-making events, he devoted much space to charming anecdote and incidental triviality, reasoning that this often said far more for his subjects than even their most famous accomplishments.
Dec 18, Ave Timoleon rated it it was amazing Spengler once wrote that Mozart would cease to be heard not when his music was no longer played, but when its meaning was no longer understood. In many ways, he must be counted amongst the earliest moral philosophers. Such a man, again, was Cassius Scaeva, who, in the battle at Dyrrhachium, had his eye struck out with an arrow, his shoulder transfixed with one javelin and his thigh with another, and received on his shield the blows of one hundred and thirty missiles.
In this plight, he called the enemy to him as though he would surrender. Some of the Lives, such as those of HeraclesPhilip II of MacedonEpaminondas and Scipio Africanusno longer exist; many of the remaining Lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae or have been tampered with by later writers.
As the narrative progresses, however, the subject incurs less admiration from his biographer and the deeds that it recounts become less savoury.
His interest is in the understanding of virtue, perhaps indeed of reason conceived as an objective and divinely-mediated feature of social life that must be carefully cultivated and upheld against corruption, tyranny, and other forms of barbarism.
As is explained in the opening paragraph of his Life of Alexander, Plutarch was not concerned with history so much as the influence of character, good or bad, on the lives and destinies of men. Rather, he is interested in studying character, as may be reflected in chance remarks, habits, or idiosyncratic actions.
Plutarch lived centuries after the Sparta he writes about and a full millennium separates him from the earliest events he records and even though he visited Sparta, many of the ancient customs he reports had been long abandoned, so he never actually saw what he wrote.
Unlike Thucydides, Plutarch is not building a system, a philosophy of history - which also means that he is not in the habit of inventing speeches. Of the rest of the passengers Scipio made booty, but told the quaestor that he offered him his life.
For those that hold to the historical character of truth and reject the delusion of the so-called objectivity of the historian--a rejection put very well by E.
The lives of Nicias and Crassus, for example, have little in common except that "both were rich and both suffered great military defeats at the ends of their lives".
The murder of Cleitus the Blackwhich Alexander instantly and deeply regretted, is commonly cited to this end. But this does not mitigate some of his carefully reasoned criticisms of unrestrained mob rule particularly in the biography of Timoleon, which is fantastic!
What is remarkable is that Plutarch constructs a highly dialectical account of Alexander as both a Dionysian-type character and, paradoxically, a paragon of virtue who is wracked by guilt for the sacking of Thebes and his belief that he has angered Dionysus, the patron god of Thebes, who as punishment for the sacking manipulates fate and prevents his army from advancing further into India.
Carr, for instance--it is not remarkable that Plutarch, like all historians and biographers, is writing for a particular purpose and for a particular end.Brilliantly informed, these essays offer a treasure-trove of ancient wisdom, myth and philosophy, and a powerful insight into a deeply intelligent man.
About the Author PLUTARCH (circa 45 - A.D.) Plutarch is known. Buy Essays (Penguin Classics) by Plutarch, Ian Kidd, Robin Waterfield (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Book Store. Everyday low prices and free delivery on Reviews: 3. Essays (Penguin Classics) The only drawback to this work is the absence of the greater part of Plutarch's essays; barely a third are given here.
These works should not be ignored; they are constantly overshadowed by his "Parallel Lives" but renewed interest in his moral writings are bringing these essays back to the fore of classical.
Montaigne's Essays draw extensively on Plutarch's Moralia and are consciously modelled on the Greek's easygoing and discursive inquiries into science, manners, customs and beliefs. Essays contains more than references to Plutarch and his works.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1, titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines.
Essays Paperback edition by Plutarch. Product Details. Product. The Rise of Rome is the penultimate title in Penguin Classics' complete revised Plutarch in six volumes.
Other titles include Rome In Crisis, On Sparta, Fall of the Roman Republic, The Age of Alexander and The Rise and Fall of Athens (forthcoming ).Download