Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans

Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans

Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans

Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans

Excerpt

The collection so well known as Plutarch's Lives, is neither form nor in arrangement what its author left behind him.

To the proper work, the Parallel Lives, narrated in a series of books, each containing the accounts of one Greek and one Roman, followed by a comparison, some single lives have been appended, for no reason but that they are also biographies. Otho and Galba belonged, probably, to a series of Roman Emperors from Augustus to Vitellius. Artaxerxes and Aratus the statesman are detached narratives, like others which once, we- are told, existed, Hercules, Aristomenes, Hesiod, Pindar, Daiphantus, Crates the cynic, and Aratus the poet.

In the Parallel Lives themselves there are gaps. There was a book containing those of Epaminondas and Scipio the younger. Many of the comparisons are wanting, have either been lost, or were not completed. And the reader will notice for himself that references made here and there in the extant lives show that their original order was different from the present. In the very first page, for example, of the book, in the life of Theseus, mention occurs of the lives of Lycurgus and Numa, as already written.

The plain facts of Plutarch's own life may be given in a very short compass. He was born, probably, in the reign of Claudius, about A.D. 45 or 50, His native place was Chæronea, in Bœotia, where his family had long been settled and was of good standing and local reputation. He studied at Athens under a philosopher named Ammonius. He visited Egypt. Later in life, some time before A.D. 90, he was at Rome "on public business," a deputation, perhaps, from Chæronea. He continued there long enough to give lectures which attracted attention. Whether he visited Italy once only, or more often, is uncertain.

He was intimate with Sosius Senecio, to all appearances the same who was four times consul. The acquaintance may have sprung up at Rome, where Sosius, a much younger man than himself, may have first seen him as a lecturer; or they may have previously known each other in Greece.

To Greece and to Chæronea he returned, and appears to have spent in the little town, which he was loth "to make less by the withdrawal of . . .

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