Plutarch is one of the greatest ambassadors between the ancient world and the modern. For centuries his works provided a basic textbook of history and conduct and they are still an indispensable source of knowledge especially for antiquity. Yet his personality has gone largely unexplored as in comparison to his other contemporaries. This is the reason I chose to research about him and write this.

Plutarch had a huge significance on the roman literature. He strongly pointed out the contradictions and even supported sometimes the roman culture, thus, providing an insight into Greeco-Roman history, culture and literature.

Plutarch’s birthplace and a city of minor significance, Chaeronea, come across as an influential subject in his works. He focuses on the prosperity of his city.  Major war in Chaeronea, a part of Sulla’s campaign in Greece is of more significance in Plutarch’s background as it helped to establish Roman supremacy over Greece. This battle led to his movement towards roman literature and movement of roman literature towards him.

The author of fifty biographies has not left an autobiography. His career can be divided into three main stages namely, Formative Period, Maturity Period and Old Age Period. In the Formative period, Plutarch worked as a philosopher in roman king, Nero’s court. Later, he described Nero’s overthrow as just and fair and this shows his hatred for the roman rulers. In the Maturity period Plutarch did not write anything substantial due to his active participation in the political and administrative works of the Kingdom of Flavia. In his Old Age Period, he moved to Delphi and became one of the two permanent priests at the shrine. It is this time when he wrote “Parallel Lives”. The book is a series of 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 of twenty three pairs of biographies, each pair consisting of one Greek and one Roman ruler as well four unpaired single lives. It is a work of considerable importance not only as a source of information of the lives of people described but also about the times in which they lived. Most of the biographies include a parallel drawn between the life of Alexander of Macedonia and the wise king, Julius Caesar. He drew a parallel between their working styles, cultures in their kingdoms, administration and religious believes. In “Parallel lives”, he writes that he was not concerned about the historical significance of the famous men but their personalities and administrative principles.

Plutarch comes across as the only writer who sympathized with Rome, consorted with powerful Roman kings and preached a lesson to the eastern cities that converged with Roman interests. The literature of the high empire shows not a divergence of attitudes to Rome but a remarkable unanimity. Plutarch’s works and his Greeco-Roman point of view survives even today providing us an insight on how Greeks became partners in the Roman Empire to which earlier they were just a subject. In words of C.P. Jones, “Survival of a writer’s works is because of its admiration because what is admired stays alive.” In a transitory world, survival is in itself an achievement and Plutarch should receive an honour for such admirable works of literature.

Source: Jones, C.P., “Plutarch and Rome”, 1971, the Clarendon Press, Oxford.


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