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© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Plutarch: Selected full-text books and articles

Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans By Arthur Hugh Clough; Plutarch; John Dryden Modern Library, 1932
Plutarch's Lives By Plutarch; John S. White Biblo and Tannen, 1966
Greek Lives By Plutarch; Robin Waterfield Oxford University Press, 1998
Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary By C. F. Konrad University of North Carolina Press, 1994
A Commentary on Plutarch's Pericles By Philip A. Stadter University of North Carolina Press, 1989
Plutarch's Advice to the Bride and Groom, and A Consolation to His Wife By Plutarch; Sarah B. Pomeroy Oxford University Press, 1999
Aspects of Greek History, 750-323 BC: A Source-Based Approach By Terry Buckley Routledge, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Plutarch: Life and Career" begins on p. 16
Latin Biography By 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 By 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 By Simon Swain Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Plutarch"
The Mission of Greece: Some Greek Views of Life in the Roman World By R. W. Livingstone Clarendon Press, 1928
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Plutarch"
FREE! Essays on Greek Literature By Robert Yelverton Tyrrell MacMillan, 1909
Librarian’s tip: "Plutarch" begins on p. 171
Plutarch & the Issue of Character By Kimball, Roger New Criterion, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 2000
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.