Plutarch

Plutarch (plōō´tärk), AD 46?–c.AD 120, Greek essayist and biographer, b. Chaeronea, Boeotia. He traveled in Egypt and Italy, visited Rome (where he lectured on philosophy) and Athens, and finally returned to his native Boeotia, where he became a priest of the temple of Delphi. His great work is The Parallel Lives comprising 46 surviving biographies arranged in pairs (one Greek life with one comparable Roman) and four single biographies; some 19 short comparisons affixed to the lives are of doubtful authenticity. The English translation by Sir Thomas North had a profound effect upon English literature; it supplied, for example, the material for Shakespeare's Coriolanus,Julius Caesar,Antony and Cleopatra, and Timon of Athens. A translation by John Dryden was revised by A. H. Clough in 1864. Although Plutarch displays evident pride in the culture and greatness of the men of Greece, he is nevertheless fair and honest in his treatment of the Romans. As a biographer Plutarch is almost peerless, although his facts are not always accurate. Since his purpose was to portray character and reveal its moral implications, his technique included the use of much anecdotal material. Less known, but also of great charm and interest, are Plutarch's Moralia (tr. by F. C. Babbitt et al., 14 vol., 1927–76). They consist of dialogues and essays on ethical, literary, and historical subjects, such as The Late Vengeance of the Deity,On Superstition,The Right Way of Hearing Poetry, and Advice to Married Couples. Plutarch's quotations (frequent and long) from the old dramatists are often our only record of such writings.

See biography by R. H. Barrow (1967, repr. 1979); studies by C. J. Gianakaris (1970), C. P. Jones (1971), D. A. Russell (1973), and A. Wardman (1974).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans
John Dryden; Arthur Hugh Clough; Plutarch.
Modern Library, 1932
Plutarch's Lives
John S. White; Plutarch.
Biblo and Tannen, 1966
Greek Lives
Robin Waterfield; Plutarch.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary
C. F. Konrad.
University of North Carolina Press, 1994
A Commentary on Plutarch's Pericles
Philip A. Stadter.
University of North Carolina Press, 1989
Plutarch and the Historical Tradition
Philip A. Stadter.
Routledge, 1992
Plutarch's Advice to the Bride and Groom, and A Consolation to His Wife
Sarah B. Pomeroy; Plutarch.
Oxford University Press, 1999
A Commentary on Plutarch's Life of Agesilaos: Response to Sources in the Presentation of Character
D. R. Shipley.
University of Oxford, 1997
Aspects of Greek History, 750-323 BC: A Source-Based Approach
Terry Buckley.
Routledge, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Plutarch: Life and Career" begins on p. 16
Latin Biography
T. A. Dorey.
Basic Books, 1967
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "Plutarch"
Citizens of Long Ago: Essays on Life and Letters in the Roman Empire
Adeline Belle Hawes.
Oxford University Press, 1934
Librarian’s tip: "Plutarch in His Essays" begins on p. 24
Hellenism and Empire: Language, Classicism, and Power in the Greek World, AD 50-250
Simon Swain.
Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Plutarch"
The Mission of Greece: Some Greek Views of Life in the Roman World
R. W. Livingstone.
Clarendon Press, 1928
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Plutarch"
FREE! Essays on Greek Literature
Robert Yelverton Tyrrell.
MacMillan, 1909
Librarian’s tip: "Plutarch" begins on p. 171
Plutarch & the Issue of Character
Kimball, Roger.
New Criterion, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 2000
Flattery in Shakespeare's Othello: The Relevance of Plutarch and Sir Thomas Elyot
Evans, Robert C.
Comparative Drama, Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring 2001
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