Plutarch

Last updated
Plutarch
Plutarch of Chaeronea-03.jpg
Modern portrait at Chaeronea, based on a bust from Delphi tentatively identified as Plutarch.
Bornc. AD 46
Chaeronea, Boeotia
Diedc. AD 120 (aged 73–74)
Delphi, Phocis
OccupationBiographer, essayist, philosopher, priest, ambassador, magistrate
Subject Biography, various
Literary movement Middle Platonism,
Hellenistic literature

Plutarch ( /ˈpltɑːrk/ ; Greek : Πλούταρχος, Ploútarkhos, Koine Greek:  [ˈplutarkʰos] ; c. AD 46 – c. 120), [1] later named, upon becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, (Λούκιος Μέστριος Πλούταρχος) [lower-alpha 1] was a Greek biographer and essayist, known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia . [2] He is classified [3] as a Middle Platonist. Plutarch's surviving works were written in Greek, but intended for both Greek and Roman readers. [4]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3500 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Roman citizenship

Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to free individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance.

Biography Written account of a persons life

A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person's experience of these life events. Unlike a profile or curriculum vitae (résumé), a biography presents a subject's life story, highlighting various aspects of his or her life, including intimate details of experience, and may include an analysis of the subject's personality.

Contents

Life

Early life

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where Plutarch served as one of the priests responsible for interpreting the predictions of the Pythia Delphi temple of Apollo dsc06283.jpg
Ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where Plutarch served as one of the priests responsible for interpreting the predictions of the Pythia

Plutarch was born to a prominent family in the small town of Chaeronea, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) east of Delphi, in the Greek region of Boeotia. His family was wealthy. The name of Plutarch's father has not been preserved, but based on the common Greek custom of repeating a name in alternate generations, it was probably Nikarchus (Nίκαρχoς). The name of Plutarch's grandfather was Lamprias, as he attested in Moralia [5] and in his Life of Antony.

Chaeronea Place in Greece

Chaeronea is a village and a former municipality in Boeotia, Greece, located about 80 kilometers east of Delphi. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Livadeia, of which it is a municipal unit. The municipal unit has an area of 111.445 km2, the community 26.995 km2. Population 1,382 (2011). It is located by the mountain Thourion and in the Kifisós river valley, NW of Thebes.

Delphi archaeological site and town in Greece

Delphi, formerly also called Pytho (Πυθώ), is the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of Pythia, the oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The ancient Greeks considered the centre of the world to be in Delphi, marked by the stone monument known as the omphalos (navel).

Boeotia Regional unit in Central Greece, Greece

Boeotia, sometimes alternatively Latinised as Boiotia, or Beotia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, and its largest city is Thebes.

His brothers, Timon and Lamprias, are frequently mentioned in his essays and dialogues, which speak of Timon in particular in the most affectionate terms. Rualdus, in his 1624 work Life of Plutarchus, recovered the name of Plutarch's wife, Timoxena, from internal evidence afforded by his writings. A letter is still extant, addressed by Plutarch to his wife, bidding her not to grieve too much at the death of their two-year-old daughter, who was named Timoxena after her mother. He hinted at a belief in reincarnation in that letter of consolation. [6]

Joannes Rualdus was a French scholar who compiled a Life of Plutarchus which was prefixed to the Paris Edition of 1624, in two volumes folio, of Plutarch's works.

Reincarnation concept of rebirth in some religions and cultures

Reincarnation is the philosophical or religious concept that the non-physical essence of a living being starts a new life in a different physical form or body after biological death. It is also called rebirth or transmigration, and is a part of the Saṃsāra doctrine of cyclic existence. In short, Saṃsāra is the cycle of death and rebirth.

The exact number of his sons is not certain, although two of them, Autobulus and the second Plutarch, are often mentioned. Plutarch's treatise De animae procreatione in Timaeo is dedicated to them, and the marriage of his son Autobulus is the occasion of one of the dinner parties recorded in the "Table Talk". Another person, Soklarus, is spoken of in terms which seem to imply that he was Plutarch's son, but this is nowhere definitely stated. His treatise on marriage questions, addressed to Eurydice and Pollianus, seems to speak of the latter as having been recently an inmate of his house, but without any clear evidence on whether she was his daughter or not. [7]

Eurydice oak nymph, or one of the daughters of Apollo

In Greek mythology, Eurydice was the wife of Orpheus, who tried to bring her back from the dead with his enchanting music.

Plutarch was the uncle of Sextus of Chaeronea, who was one of the teachers of Marcus Aurelius, and who may have been the same person as the philosopher Sextus Empiricus.

Sextus of Chaeronea was a philosopher, a nephew or grandson of Plutarch, and one of the teachers of the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius Roman Emperor and philosopher

Marcus Aurelius was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

Sextus Empiricus ancient Greek philosopher

Sextus Empiricus, was a physician and philosopher, who likely lived in Alexandria, Rome, or Athens. His philosophical work is the most complete surviving account of ancient Greek and Roman Pyrrhonism.

Plutarch studied mathematics and philosophy at the Academy of Athens under Ammonius from 66 to 67. [8]

Mathematics Field of study concerning quantity, patterns and change

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and change. It has no generally accepted definition.

Philosophy The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

The Academy was founded by Plato in c. 387 BC in Athens. Aristotle studied there for twenty years before founding his own school, the Lyceum. The Academy persisted throughout the Hellenistic period as a skeptical school, until coming to an end after the death of Philo of Larissa in 83 BC. The Platonic Academy was destroyed by the Roman dictator Sulla in 86 BC.

At some point, Plutarch received Roman citizenship. As evidenced by his new name, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, his sponsor for citizenship was Lucius Mestrius Florus, a Roman of consular status whom Plutarch also used as a historical source for his Life of Otho. [9]

He lived most of his life at Chaeronea, and was initiated into the mysteries of the Greek god Apollo. For many years Plutarch served as one of the two priests at the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the site of the famous Delphic Oracle, twenty miles from his home. He probably took part in the Eleusinian Mysteries. [10] By his writings and lectures Plutarch became a celebrity in the Roman Empire, yet he continued to reside where he was born, and actively participated in local affairs, even serving as mayor. At his country estate, guests from all over the empire congregated for serious conversation, presided over by Plutarch in his marble chair. Many of these dialogues were recorded and published, and the 78 essays and other works which have survived are now known collectively as the Moralia. [11]

Work as magistrate and ambassador

In addition to his duties as a priest of the Delphic temple, Plutarch was also a magistrate at Chaeronea and he represented his home town on various missions to foreign countries during his early adult years. Plutarch held the office of archon in his native municipality, probably only an annual one which he likely served more than once. He busied himself with all the little matters of the town and undertook the humblest of duties. [12]

The Suda , a medieval Greek encyclopedia, states that Emperor Trajan made Plutarch procurator of Illyria. However, most historians consider this unlikely, since Illyria was not a procuratorial province, and Plutarch probably did not speak Illyrian. [13]

According to the 8th/9th-century historian George Syncellus, late in Plutarch's life, Emperor Hadrian appointed him nominal procurator of Achaea – which entitled him to wear the vestments and ornaments of a consul. [14]

Late period: Priest at Delphi

Portrait of a philosopher and Hermaic stele at Delphi Museum Plutarch and herm.jpg
Portrait of a philosopher and Hermaic stele at Delphi Museum

Plutarch spent the last thirty years of his life serving as a priest in Delphi. He thus connected part of his literary work with the sanctuary of Apollo, the processes of oracle-giving and the personalities who lived or traveled there. One of his most important works is the "Why Pythia does not give oracles in verse" (Moralia 11) ( "Περὶ τοῦ μὴ χρᾶν ἔμμετρα νῦν τὴν Πυθίαν"). [15] Even more important is the dialogue "On the E in Delphi" ("Περὶ τοῦ Εἶ τοῦ ἐν Δελφοῖς"), [16] which features Ammonius, a Platonic philosopher and teacher of Plutarch, and Lambrias, Plutarch's brother. According to Ammonius, the letter E written on the temple of Apollo in Delphi originated from the following fact: the wise men of antiquity, whose maxims were also written on the walls of the vestibule of the temple, were not seven but actually five: Chilon, Solon, Thales, Bias and Pittakos. However, the tyrants Cleobulos and Periandros used their political power in order to be incorporated in the list. Thus, the E, which corresponds to number 5, constituted an acknowledgment that the Delphic maxims actually originated from the five real wise men. The portrait of a philosopher exhibited at the exit of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, dating to the 2nd century AD, had been in the past identified with Plutarch. The man, although bearded, is depicted at a relatively young age. His hair and beard are rendered in coarse volumes and thin incisions. The gaze is deep, due to the heavy eyelids and the incised pupils. The portrait is no longer thought to represent Plutarch. But a fragmentary hermaic stele next to the portrait probably did once bear a portrait of Plutarch, since it is inscribed, "The Delphians along with the Chaeroneans dedicated this to Plutarch, following the precepts of the Amphictyony" ("Δελφοὶ Χαιρωνεῦσιν ὁμοῦ Πλούταρχον ἔθηκαν | τοῖς Ἀμφικτυόνων δόγμασι πειθόμενοι" Syll.3 843=CID 4, no. 151).

Works

Lives of the Roman emperors

Plutarch in the Nuremberg Chronicle Nuremberg chronicles f 111r 3.png
Plutarch in the Nuremberg Chronicle

Plutarch's first biographical works were the Lives of the Roman Emperors from Augustus to Vitellius. Of these, only the Lives of Galba and Otho survive. The Lives of Tiberius and Nero are extant only as fragments, provided by Damascius (Life of Tiberius, cf. his Life of Isidore) [17] and Plutarch himself (Life of Nero, cf. Galba 2.1), respectively. These early emperors’ biographies were probably published under the Flavian dynasty or during the reign of Nerva (AD 96–98).

There is reason to believe that the two Lives still extant, those of Galba and Otho, "ought to be considered as a single work." [18] Therefore, they do not form a part of the Plutarchian canon of single biographies – as represented by the Life of Aratus of Sicyon and the Life of Artaxerxes II (the biographies of Hesiod, Pindar, Crates and Daiphantus were lost). Unlike in these biographies, in Galba-Otho the individual characters of the persons portrayed are not depicted for their own sake but instead serve as an illustration of an abstract principle; namely the adherence or non-adherence to Plutarch’s morally founded ideal of governing as a Princeps (cf. Galba 1.3; Moralia 328D–E). [19]

Arguing from the perspective of Platonic political philosophy (cf. Republic 375E, 410D-E, 411E-412A, 442B-C), in Galba-Otho Plutarch reveals the constitutional principles of the Principate in the time of the civil war after Nero's death. While morally questioning the behavior of the autocrats, he also gives an impression of their tragic destinies, ruthlessly competing for the throne and finally destroying each other. [19] "The Caesars' house in Rome, the Palatium, received in a shorter space of time no less than four Emperors", Plutarch writes, "passing, as it were, across the stage, and one making room for another to enter" (Galba 1). [20]

Galba-Otho was handed down through different channels. It can be found in the appendix to Plutarch's Parallel Lives as well as in various Moralia manuscripts, most prominently in Maximus Planudes' edition where Galba and Otho appear as Opera XXV and XXVI. Thus it seems reasonable to maintain that Galba-Otho was from early on considered as an illustration of a moral-ethical approach, possibly even by Plutarch himself. [21]

Parallel Lives

A page from the 1470 Ulrich Han printing of Plutarch's Parallel Lives Plutarch Han.jpg
A page from the 1470 Ulrich Han printing of Plutarch's Parallel Lives

Plutarch's best-known work is the Parallel Lives , a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged in pairs to illuminate their common moral virtues and vices. The surviving Lives contain 23 pairs, each with one Greek Life and one Roman Life, as well as four unpaired single Lives.

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. 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. 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. In many ways, he must be counted amongst the earliest moral philosophers.

Some of the Lives, such as those of Heracles, Philip II of Macedon, Epaminondas and Scipio Africanus, no longer exist; many of the remaining Lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae or have been tampered with by later writers. Extant Lives include those on Solon, Themistocles, Aristides, Agesilaus II, Pericles, Alcibiades, Nicias, Demosthenes, Pelopidas, Philopoemen, Timoleon, Dion of Syracuse, Eumenes, Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus of Epirus, Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Coriolanus, Theseus, Aemilius Paullus, Tiberius Gracchus, Gaius Gracchus, Gaius Marius, Sulla, Sertorius, Lucullus, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Cato the Elder, Mark Antony, and Marcus Junius Brutus.

Spartan lives and sayings

Since Spartans wrote no history prior to the Hellenistic period their only extant literature is fragments of 7th-century lyrics, Plutarch's five Spartan lives and Sayings of Spartans and Sayings of Spartan Women, rooted in sources that have since disappeared, are one of the richest sources for historians of Lacedaemonia. [22] But while they are important, they are also controversial. 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. [22] Plutarch's sources themselves can be problematic. 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." [22] Turning to Plutarch himself, they write, "the admiration writers like Plutarch and Xenophon felt for Spartan society led them to exaggerate its monolithic nature, minimizing departures from ideals of equality and obscuring patterns of historical change." [22] Thus the Spartan egalitarianism and superhuman immunity to pain that have seized the popular imagination are likely myths, and their main architect is Plutarch. While flawed, Plutarch is nonetheless indispensable as one of the only ancient sources of information on Spartan life. Pomeroy et al. conclude that Plutarch's works on Sparta, while they must be treated with skepticism, remain valuable for their "large quantities of information" and these historians concede that "Plutarch's writings on Sparta, more than those of any other ancient author, have shaped later views of Sparta", despite their potential to misinform. He was also referenced in saying unto Sparta, “The beast will feed again.” [22]

Life of Alexander

Plutarch's Life of Alexander, written as a parallel to that of Julius Caesar, is one of only five extant tertiary sources on the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great. It includes anecdotes and descriptions of events that appear in no other source, just as Plutarch's portrait of Numa Pompilius, the putative second king of Rome, holds much that is unique on the early Roman calendar.

Plutarch devotes a great deal of space to Alexander's drive and desire, and strives to determine how much of it was presaged in his youth. He also draws extensively on the work of Lysippus, Alexander's favourite sculptor, to provide what is probably the fullest and most accurate description of the conqueror's physical appearance. When it comes to his character, Plutarch emphasizes his unusual degree of self-control and scorn for luxury: "He desired not pleasure or wealth, but only excellence and glory." As the narrative progresses, however, the subject incurs less admiration from his biographer and the deeds that it recounts become less savoury. The murder of Cleitus the Black, which Alexander instantly and deeply regretted, is commonly cited to this end.

Life of Caesar

Together with Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars , and Caesar's own works de Bello Gallico and de Bello Civili , this Life is the main account of Julius Caesar's feats by ancient historians. Plutarch starts by telling the audacity of Caesar and his refusal to dismiss Cinna's daughter, Cornelia. Other important parts are these containing his military deeds, accounts of battles and Caesar's capacity of inspiring the soldiers.

His soldiers showed such good will and zeal in his service that those who in their previous campaigns had been in no way superior to others were invincible and irresistible in confronting every danger to enhance Caesar's fame. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Caesar and his company were amazed and came to meet the soldier with cries of joy; but he, in great dejection, and with a burst of tears, cast himself at Caesar's feet, begging pardon for the loss of his shield. Again, in Africa, Scipio captured a ship of Caesar's in which Granius Petro, who had been appointed quaestor, was sailing. Of the rest of the passengers Scipio made booty, but told the quaestor that he offered him his life. Granius, however, remarking that it was the custom with Caesar's soldiers not to receive but to offer mercy, killed himself with a blow of his sword.

Life of Caesar, XVI

However, this Life shows few differences between Suetonius' work and Caesar's own works (see De Bello Gallico and De Bello Civili ). Sometimes, Plutarch quotes directly from the De Bello Gallico and even tells us of the moments when Caesar was dictating his works.

In the final part of this Life, Plutarch counts Caesar's assassination, and several details. The book ends on telling the destiny of his murderers, and says that Caesar's "great guardian-genius" avenged him after life.

Life of Pyrrhus

Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus is a key text because it is the main historical account on Roman history for the period from 293 to 264 BC, for which neither Dionysius nor Livy have surviving texts. [23]

Criticism of Parallel Lives

"It is not histories I am writing, but lives; and in the most glorious deeds there is not always an indication of virtue or vice, indeed a small thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of a character than battles where thousands die."
Plutarch (Life of Alexander/Life of Julius Caesar, Parallel Lives, [tr. E.L. Bowie])

Plutarch stretches and occasionally fabricates the similarities between famous Greeks and Romans in order to be able to write their biographies as parallel. 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". [24]

In his Life of Pompey, Plutarch praises Pompey's trustworthy character and tactful behaviour in order to conjure a moral judgement that opposes most historical accounts. 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, [25] and tends on occasion to fit facts to hypotheses[ citation needed ].

On the other hand, he generally sets out his moral anecdotes in chronological order (unlike, say, his Roman contemporary Suetonius) [25] and is rarely narrow-minded and unrealistic, almost always prepared to acknowledge the complexity of the human condition where moralising cannot explain it.

Moralia

Moralia, 1531 Plutarchus - Moralia. De placitis philosophorum, 1531 - 3020537.tif
Moralia, 1531

The remainder of Plutarch's surviving work is collected under the title of the Moralia (loosely translated as Customs and Mores). It is an eclectic collection of seventy-eight essays and transcribed speeches, including On Fraternal Affection—a discourse on honour and affection of siblings toward each other, On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great —an important adjunct to his Life of the great king, On the Worship of Isis and Osiris (a crucial source of information on Egyptian religious rites), [26] along with more philosophical treatises, such as On the Decline of the Oracles, On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance, On Peace of Mind and lighter fare, such as Odysseus and Gryllus , a humorous dialogue between Homer's Odysseus and one of Circe's enchanted pigs. The Moralia was composed first, while writing the Lives occupied much of the last two decades of Plutarch's own life.

Questions

Book IV of the Moralia contains the Roman and Greek Questions (Αἰτίαι Ῥωμαϊκαί and Αἰτίαι Ἑλλήνων). The customs of Romans and Greeks are illuminated in little essays that pose questions such as 'Why were patricians not permitted to live on the Capitoline?' (no. 91) [27] and then suggests answers to them.

On the Malice of Herodotus

A bust of the early Greek historian Herodotus, whom Plutarch criticized in On the Malice of Herodotus Herodotus Massimo Inv124478.jpg
A bust of the early Greek historian Herodotus, whom Plutarch criticized in On the Malice of Herodotus

In On the Malice of Herodotus Plutarch criticizes the historian Herodotus for all manner of prejudice and misrepresentation. It has been called the "first instance in literature of the slashing review." [28] The 19th-century English historian George Grote considered this essay a serious attack upon the works of Herodotus, and speaks of the "honourable frankness which Plutarch calls his malignity." [29] Plutarch makes some palpable hits, catching Herodotus out in various errors, but it is also probable that it was merely a rhetorical exercise, in which Plutarch plays devil's advocate to see what could be said against so favourite and well-known a writer. [7] According to Plutarch scholar R. H. Barrow, Herodotus’ real failing in Plutarch’s eyes was to advance any criticism at all of those states that saved Greece from Persia. “Plutarch”, he concluded, “is fanatically biased in favor of the Greek cities; they can do no wrong.” [30]

Other works

Symposiacs [31] (Συμποσιακά); Convivium Septem Sapientium .

Lost works

The Romans loved the Lives, and enough copies were written out over the centuries so that a copy of most of the lives has survived to the present day. An ancient list of works attributed to Plutarch, the 'Catalogue of Lamprias' contains 227 works, of which 78 have come down to us. [32] The lost works of Plutarch are determined by references in his own texts to them and from other authors' references over time. There are traces of twelve more Lives that are now lost. [33]

Plutarch's general procedure for the Lives was to write the life of a prominent Greek, then cast about for a suitable Roman parallel, and end with a brief comparison of the Greek and Roman lives. Currently, only 19 of the parallel lives end with a comparison, while possibly they all did at one time. Also missing are many of his Lives which appear in a list of his writings, those of Hercules, the first pair of Parallel Lives, Scipio Africanus and Epaminondas, and the companions to the four solo biographies. Even the lives of such important figures as Augustus, Claudius and Nero have not been found and may be lost forever. [28] [34]

Other lost works include "Whether One Who Suspends Judgment on Everything Is Condemned to Inaction", "On Pyrrho’s Ten Modes", and "On the Difference between the Pyrrhonians and the Academics". [35]

Philosophy

"The soul, being eternal, after death is like a caged bird that has been released. If it has been a long time in the body, and has become tame by many affairs and long habit, the soul will immediately take another body and once again become involved in the troubles of the world. The worst thing about old age is that the soul's memory of the other world grows dim, while at the same time its attachment to things of this world becomes so strong that the soul tends to retain the form that it had in the body. But that soul which remains only a short time within a body, until liberated by the higher powers, quickly recovers its fire and goes on to higher things."
Plutarch (The Consolation, Moralia)

Plutarch was a Platonist, but was open to the influence of the Peripatetics, and in some details even to Stoicism despite his criticism of their principles. [36] He rejected only Epicureanism absolutely. [36] He attached little importance to theoretical questions and doubted the possibility of ever solving them. [37] He was more interested in moral and religious questions. [37]

In opposition to Stoic materialism and Epicurean atheism he cherished a pure idea of God that was more in accordance with Plato. [37] He adopted a second principle ( Dyad ) in order to explain the phenomenal world. [37] This principle he sought, however, not in any indeterminate matter but in the evil world-soul which has from the beginning been bound up with matter, but in the creation was filled with reason and arranged by it. [37] Thus it was transformed into the divine soul of the world, but continued to operate as the source of all evil. [37] He elevated God above the finite world, and thus daemons became for him agents of God's influence on the world. He strongly defends freedom of the will, and the immortality of the soul. [37]

Platonic-Peripatetic ethics were upheld by Plutarch against the opposing theories of the Stoics and Epicureans. [37] The most characteristic feature of Plutarch's ethics is, however, its close connection with religion. [38] However pure Plutarch's idea of God is, and however vivid his description of the vice and corruption which superstition causes, his warm religious feelings and his distrust of human powers of knowledge led him to believe that God comes to our aid by direct revelations, which we perceive the more clearly the more completely that we refrain in "enthusiasm" from all action; this made it possible for him to justify popular belief in divination in the way which had long been usual among the Stoics. [38]

His attitude to popular religion was similar. The gods of different peoples are merely different names for one and the same divine Being and the powers that serve it. [38] The myths contain philosophical truths which can be interpreted allegorically. [38] Thus Plutarch sought to combine the philosophical and religious conception of things and to remain as close as possible to tradition. [38]

Plutarch was the teacher of Favorinus.

Influence

External video
North's translation of Plutarch.jpg
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Shakespeare: Metamorphosis – Plutarch’s “Lives” (1579), Senate House Library [39]

Plutarch's writings had an enormous influence on English and French literature. Shakespeare paraphrased parts of Thomas North's translation of selected Lives in his plays, and occasionally quoted from them verbatim. [40]

Jean-Jacques Rousseau quotes from Plutarch in the 1762 Emile, or On Education , a treatise on the education of the whole person for citizenship. Rousseau introduces a passage from Plutarch in support of his position against eating meat: "'You ask me,' said Plutarch, 'why Pythagoras abstained from eating the flesh of beasts...'" [41]

Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists were greatly influenced by the Moralia and in his glowing introduction to the five-volume, 19th-century edition, he called the Lives "a bible for heroes". [42] He also opined that it was impossible to "read Plutarch without a tingling of the blood; and I accept the saying of the Chinese Mencius: 'A sage is the instructor of a hundred ages. When the manners of Loo are heard of, the stupid become intelligent, and the wavering, determined.'" [43]

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 400 references to Plutarch and his works. [28]

James Boswell quoted Plutarch on writing lives, rather than biographies, in the introduction to his own Life of Samuel Johnson . Other admirers included Ben Jonson, John Dryden, Alexander Hamilton, John Milton, Louis L'amour, and Francis Bacon, as well as such disparate figures as Cotton Mather and Robert Browning.

Plutarch's influence declined in the 19th and 20th centuries, but it remains embedded in the popular ideas of Greek and Roman history. One of his most famous quotes was one that he included in one of his earliest works. "The world of man is best captured through the lives of the men who created history."

Translations of Lives and Moralia

There are translations, from the original Greek, in Latin, English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Hebrew.

“One advantage to a modern reader who is not well acquainted with Greek is, that being but a moderate stylist, Plutarch is almost as good in a translation as in the original.” [44]

French translations

Jacques Amyot's translations brought Plutarch's works to Western Europe. He went to Italy and studied the Vatican text of Plutarch, from which he published a French translation of the Lives in 1559 and Moralia in 1572, which were widely read by educated Europe. [45] Amyot's translations had as deep an impression in England as France, because Thomas North later published his English translation of the Lives in 1579 based on Amyot’s French translation instead of the original Greek.

English translations

Plutarch's Lives were translated into English, from Amyot's version, by Sir Thomas North in 1579. The complete Moralia was first translated into English from the original Greek by Philemon Holland in 1603.

In 1683, John Dryden began a life of Plutarch and oversaw a translation of the Lives by several hands and based on the original Greek. This translation has been reworked and revised several times, most recently in the 19th century by the English poet and classicist Arthur Hugh Clough (first published in 1859). One contemporary publisher of this version is Modern Library. Another is Encyclopædia Britannica in association with the University of Chicago, ISBN   0-85229-163-9, 1952, LCCN   55-10323.

In 1770, English brothers John and William Langhorne published "Plutarch's Lives from the original Greek, with notes critical and historical, and a new life of Plutarch" in 6 volumes and dedicated to Lord Folkestone. Their translation was re-edited by Archdeacon Wrangham in the year 1819.

From 1901 to 1912, an American classicist, Bernadotte Perrin, [46] produced a new translation of the Lives for the Loeb Classical Library. The Moralia is also included in the Loeb series, translated by various authors.

Penguin Classics began a series of translations by various scholars in 1958 with The Fall of the Roman Republic, which contained six Lives and was translated by Rex Warner. [47] Penguin continues to revise the volumes.

Italian translations

Note: just main translations from the second half of 15th century. [48]

Latin translations

There are multiple translations of Parallel Lives into Latin, most notably the one titled "Pour le Dauphin" (French for "for the Prince") written by a scribe in the court of Louis XV of France and a 1470 Ulrich Han translation.

German translations

Hieronymus Emser

In 1519, Hieronymus Emser translated De capienda ex inimicis utilitate (wie ym eyner seinen veyndt nutz machen kan, Leipzig).

Gottlob Benedict von Schirach

The biographies were translated by Gottlob Benedict von Schirach (1743–1804) and printed in Vienna by Franz Haas, 1776–80.

Johann Friedrich Salomon Kaltwasser

Plutarch's Lives and Moralia were translated into German by Johann Friedrich Salomon Kaltwasser:

  • Vitae parallelae. Vergleichende Lebensbeschreibungen. 10 Bände. Magdeburg 1799–1806.
  • Moralia. Moralische Abhandlungen. 9 Bde. Frankfurt a.M. 1783–1800.

Subsequent German translations

  • Biographies
    • Konrat Ziegler  [ de ] (Hrsg.): Große Griechen und Römer. 6 Bde. Zürich 1954–1965. (Bibliothek der alten Welt).
  • Moralia
    • Konrat Ziegler (Hrsg.):Plutarch. Über Gott und Vorsehung, Dämonen und Weissagung, Zürich 1952. (Bibliothek der alten Welt)
    • Bruno Snell (Hrsg.):Plutarch. Von der Ruhe des Gemüts – und andere Schriften, Zürich 1948. (Bibliothek der alten Welt)
    • Hans-Josef Klauck (Hrsg.): Plutarch. Moralphilosophische Schriften, Stuttgart 1997. (Reclams Universal-Bibliothek)
    • Herwig Görgemanns (Hrsg.):Plutarch. Drei Religionsphilosophische Schriften, Düsseldorf 2003. (Tusculum)

Hebrew translations

Following some Hebrew translations of selections from Plutarch's Parallel Lives published in the 1920s and the 1940s, a complete translation was published in three volumes by the Bialik Institute in 1954, 1971 and 1973. The first volume, Roman Lives, first published in 1954, presents the translations of Joseph G. Liebes to the biographies of Coriolanus, Fabius Maximus, Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus, Cato the Elder and Cato the Younger, Gaius Marius, Sulla, Sertorius, Lucullus, Pompey, Crassus, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Brutus and Mark Anthony.

The second volume, Greek Lives, first published in 1971 presents A. A. Halevy's translations of the biographies of Lycurgus, Aristides, Cimon, Pericles, Nicias, Lysander, Agesilaus, Pelopidas, Dion, Timoleon, Demosthenes, Alexander the Great, Eumenes and Phocion. Three more biographies presented in this volume, those of Solon, Themistocles and Alcibiades were translated by M. H. Ben-Shamai.

The third volume, Greek and Roman Lives, published in 1973, presented the remaining biographies and parallels as translated by Halevy. Included are the biographies of Demetrius, Pyrrhus, Agis and Cleomenes, Aratus and Artaxerxes, Philopoemen, Camillus, Marcellus, Flamininus, Aemilius Paulus, Galba and Otho, Theseus, Romulus, Numa Pompilius and Poplicola. It completes the translation of the known remaining biographies. In the introduction to the third volume Halevy explains that originally the Bialik Institute intended to publish only a selection of biographies, leaving out mythological figures and biographies that had no parallels. Thus, to match the first volume in scope the second volume followed the same path and the third volume was required.[ citation needed ]

Pseudo-Plutarch

Some editions of the Moralia include several works now known to have been falsely attributed to Plutarch. Among these are the Lives of the Ten Orators, a series of biographies of the Attic orators based on Caecilius of Calacte; On the Opinions of the Philosophers, On Fate, and On Music. [49] These works are all attributed to a single, unknown author, referred to as "Pseudo-Plutarch". [49] Pseudo-Plutarch lived sometime between the third and fourth centuries AD. Despite being falsely attributed, the works are still considered to possess historical value. [50]

See also

Notes

  1. The name Mestrius or Lucius Mestrius was taken by Plutarch, as was common Roman practice, from his patron for citizenship in the empire; in this case Lucius Mestrius Florus, a Roman consul.

Related Research Articles

Galba Augustus

Servius Sulpicius Galba was Roman emperor from 68 to 69, the first emperor in the Year of the Four Emperors. He was known as Lucius Livius Galba Ocella prior to taking the throne as a result of his adoption by his stepmother, Livia Ocellina. The governor of Hispania at the time of the rebellion of Gaius Julius Vindex in Gaul, he seized the throne following Nero's suicide.

Otho Augustus

Otho was Roman emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the Four Emperors.

Suetonius Roman historian

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius, was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire.

Ides of March Day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March

The Ides of March was a day in the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. It was marked by several religious observances and was notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts. In 44 BC, it became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar which made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history.

Marcus Licinius Crassus Roman consul

Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. He is often called "The richest man in Rome".

Year of the Four Emperors year (69) in the history of the Roman Empire in which four emperors ruled in succession

The Year of the Four Emperors, 69 AD, was a year in the history of the Roman Empire in which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian.

<i>Parallel Lives</i> biographies of famous Greeks and Romans by Plutarch

Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of 48 biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, probably written at the beginning of the second century AD. The surviving Parallel Lives comprises 23 pairs of biographies, each pair consisting of one Greek and one Roman of similar destiny, such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, or Demosthenes and Cicero. It is a work of considerable importance, not only as a source of information about the individuals described, but also about the times in which they lived.

<i>Moralia</i> collection of essays by Plutarch

The Moralia of the 1st-century Greek scholar Plutarch of Chaeronea is an eclectic collection of 78 essays and transcribed speeches. They provide insights into Roman and Greek life, but often are also timeless observations in their own right. Many generations of Europeans have read or imitated them, including Michel de Montaigne and the Renaissance Humanists and Enlightenment philosophers.

Laconic phrase terse philosophical saying

A laconic phrase or laconism is a concise or terse statement, especially a blunt and elliptical rejoinder. It is named after Laconia, the region of Greece including the city of Sparta, whose ancient inhabitants had a reputation for verbal austerity and were famous for their blunt and often pithy remarks.

Aurelia Cotta Roman matriarch

Aurelia was the mother of Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar.

Calpurnia (wife of Caesar) last wife of Julius Caesar

Calpurnia was the either the third or fourth wife of Caesar, and the one to whom he was married at the time of his assassination. According to contemporary sources, she was a good and faithful wife, in spite of her husband's infidelity; and, forewarned of the attempt on his life, she endeavoured in vain to prevent his murder.

Titus Vinius (12–69) was a Roman general and one of the most powerful men in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Galba.

<i>The Twelve Caesars</i> 12 biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire, written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus in 121 CE

De vita Caesarum, commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.

Pseudo-Plutarch is the conventional name given to the actual, but unknown, authors of a number of pseudepigrapha attributed to Plutarch but now known to have not been written by him.

Marcus Cluvius Rufus was a Roman consul, senator, governor, and historian who was mentioned on several occasions by Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, Josephus and Plutarch.

<i>De Viris Illustribus</i> (Petrarch) work

De viris illustribus is an unfinished collection of biographies, written in Latin, by the 14th century Italian author Francesco Petrarca. These biographies are a set of Lives similar in idea to Plutarch's Parallel Lives. The works were unfinished. However he was famous enough for these and other works to receive two invitations to be crowned poet laureate. He received these invitations on exactly the same day, April 8, 1341, one being from the Paris University and the other from the Roman Senate. He accepted the Roman invitation.

In Greek mythology, Alexida was a daughter of Amphiaraus, from whom certain divinities called Elasii were believed to be descended.

Lamprias was Plutarch's grandfather as he attested in Moralia, and in his Life of Antony. According to Plutarch, Lamprias was a man of eloquence and imagination. His name is also given by Suida. Very little is known of his life, although he probably lived in Chaeronea of Boeotia, in Southern Greece.

The gens Rufria was a minor plebeian family at ancient Rome. Members of this gens are first mentioned in imperial times. Few of the Rufrii appear in history, but others are known from inscriptions.

References

  1. Lamberton, Robert. Plutarch. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. [ page needed ]
  2. "Plutarch". Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.
  3. Dillon, John M. Middle Platonists: 80 BC to AD 220 . Cornell University Press, 1996. pp. 184 ff.
  4. Stadter, Philip A. (2015). Plutarch and His Roman Readers. Oxford University Press. p. 69. ISBN   978-0198718338 . Retrieved 2015-02-04. Although Plutarch wrote in Greek and with a Greek point of view, [...] he was thinking of a Roman as well as a Greek audience.
  5. Symposiacs, Book IX, questions II & III
  6. "Plutarch • Consolatio ad Uxorem". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  7. 1 2 Aubrey Stewart, George Long. "Life of Plutarch". Plutarch's Lives, Volume I (of 4). The Gutenberg Project. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
  8. Britannica
  9. Plutarch, Otho 14.1
  10. "The Eleusinian Mysteries: The Rites of Demeter". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2019-04-27.
  11. Bronchud, Miguel H. (2007). The Secert Castle: The Key to Good and Evil. DigitalPulp Publishing.com. ISBN   978-0976308393.
  12. Clough, Arthur Hugh (1864). "Introduction". Plutarch's Lives. Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics.
  13. Gianakaris, C. J. Plutarch. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970.
  14. Russell, D. A. Plutarch. New York: Scribner, 1973.
  15. "Περί του μη χραν έμμετρα νυν την Πυθίαν (Πλούταρχος) - Βικιθήκη". el.wikisource.org. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  16. Plutarch, Moralia, On the E at Delphi (in ancient Greek) https://el.wikisource.org/wiki/%CE%97%CE%B8%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AC/%CE%A0%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%AF_%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85_%CE%95%CE%B9_%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85_%CE%B5%CE%BD_%CE%94%CE%B5%CE%BB%CF%86%CE%BF%CE%AF%CF%82
  17. Ziegler, Konrad, Plutarchos von Chaironeia (Stuttgart 1964), 258. Citation translated by the author.
  18. Cf. among others, Holzbach, M.-C.(2006). Plutarch: Galba-Otho und die Apostelgeschichte : ein Gattungsvergleich. Religion and Biography, 14 (ed. by Detlev Dormeyer et al.). Berlin London: LIT, p. 13
  19. 1 2 Cf. Holzbach, op. cit., 24, 67–83
  20. The citation from Galba was extracted from the Dryden translation as given at the MIT Internet Classics Archive
  21. Cf. Holzbach, op. cit., 24
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 Pomeroy, Sarah B, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, and Tolbert Roberts Jennifer (1999). Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press[ ISBN missing ][ page needed ]
  23. Cornell, T.J. (1995). "Introduction". The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000–264 BC). Routledge. p. 3.
  24. Plutarch (1972). "Translator's Introduction". Fall Of The Roman Republic: Six Lives by Plutarch. translated by Rex Warner. Penguin Books. p. 8.
  25. 1 2 "Plutarch of Chaeronea". Livius.Org. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  26. (but which according to Erasmus referred to the Thessalonians)Plutarch. "Isis and Osiris". Frank Cole Babbitt (trans.). Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  27. "Plutarch • Roman Questions, 90‑113". uchicago.edu.
  28. 1 2 3 Kimball, Roger. "Plutarch & the issue of character". The New Criterion Online. Retrieved 2006-12-11.
  29. Grote, George (2000-10-19) [1830]. A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C. Routledge. p. 203.
  30. Barrow, R.H. (1979) [1967]. Plutarch and His Times.
  31. Plutarch: Symposiacs, in The complete works of Plutarch: essays and miscellanies, New York: Crowell, 1909. Vol. III.
  32. Russell, D.A.F.M. (1970) The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 849
  33. "Translator's Introduction". The Parallel Lives (Vol. I ed.). Loeb Classical Library Edition. 1914.
  34. McCutchen, Wilmot H. "Plutarch - His Life and Legacy". Archived from the original on 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  35. Mauro Bonazzi, "Plutarch on the Differences Between the Pyrrhonists and Academics", Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 2012 https://www.academia.edu/2362682/Plutarch_on_the_Difference_between_Academics_and_Pyrrhonists_in_Oxford_Studies_in_Ancient_Philosophy_43_2012_pp._271-298
  36. 1 2 Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, 13th edition, p. 306
  37. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, 13th edition, p. 307
  38. 1 2 3 4 5 Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, 13th edition, p. 308
  39. "Shakespeare: Metamorphosis – Plutarch's "Lives" (1579)". Senate House Library at Vimeo. 2016-03-31. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  40. Honigmann 1959.
  41. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1911). Emile, or On Education. Translated by Foxley, Barbara. http://lf-oll.s3.amazonaws.com/titles/2256/Rousseau_1499_Bk.pdf: JM Dent & Sons / EP Dutton & Co. p. 118.
  42. Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1870). "Introduction". In William W. Goodwin (ed.). Plutarch's Morals. London: Sampson, Low. p. xxi.
  43. Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1850). "Uses of Great Men". Representative Men.
  44. H. J. Rose. A Handbook of Greek Literature: From Homer to the Age of Lucian.. New York: Dutton, 1960. p. 409 (a Dutton paperback).
  45. "Amyot, Jacques (1513–1593)". Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911).
  46. "Bernadotte Perrin Papers (MS 1018). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library". hdl:10079/fa/mssa.ms.1018.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  47. The Age of Alexander, rev. ed. (Penguin, 2012), "Penguin Plutarch".
  48. Virgilio Costa, Sulle prime traduzioni italiane a stampa delle opere di Plutarco (secc. XV–XVI)
  49. 1 2 Blank, D. (2011). Martínez, J. (ed.). 'Plutarch' and the Sophistry of 'Noble Lineage'. Fakes and Forgers of Classical Literature. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas. pp. 33–60.
  50. Marietta, Don E. (1998). Introduction to Ancient Philosophy. M.E. Sharpe. p. 190. ISBN   978-0765602169.

Sources

Further reading

Plutarch's works
Secondary material