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Plutarch's Lives by Plutarch

Plutarch's Lives

by Plutarch

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Plutarch lived AD 46 TO AD 120: A Greek who became a Roman Citizen and was 1 of 2 Priests at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (origin of the Oracle).
Over many years Plutarch wrote a series of 'Lives' of famous ancient men: Written in the First Century it is regarded as a majorly important semi-History and reference for people, events and conditions of the late pre- and earliest post-Christ world of Greeks and Romans.
It explores famous people for their good and bad characteristics and behaviours viewed from an Ethical-Moral standpoint.
It would be valued as a great work if only its secondary information on Alexander the Great (356-323) and Julius Caesar (100 to 44) had survived, but there is much more including a Roman King, brilliant orators, adventurers etc. The work is full of ideas, principles and arguments that can be found running through all Civilization over the last 2,000 years.
Plutarch constructs his work using a unique juxtaposition of paired Greek and Roman lives.
This is a very worthy translation by J & W Langhorne. ( )
1 vote tommi180744 | Sep 16, 2015 |
I believe that the "Great Books of the Western World" series uses the safely out of copyright Dryden Translation and so have used that cover. I read the 36 lives found in the Penguin paperback series, But that meant I hadn't got everyone, and thus I turned to the nice hardbound often to be found second hand. It fits the hand well, and you get the introductory and comparative essays that the author had originally included. I think the Everyman edition has a weak binding. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Nov 4, 2013 |
This is often known as the "Parallel Lives" because these biographical sketches come in pairs, one Greek, one Roman, followed by a comparison. This is a thick tome. My edition of Plutarch's Lives as translated by Dryden is nearly 800 pages. And yes, I read the whole thing and was never bored. Maybe this makes me perverse, given the number of reviewers I've heard describe them as dry. I thought it a wonderful and engaging introduction to the most illustrious personalities of Greco-Roman antiquity. I first read these when I was a college dropout for a time, and was reading through Good Reading's "100 Significant" books so my brain wouldn't turn to mush: I found it a favorite. Maybe it helped that by then I had made my way through Homer, Aesop, the four surviving Greek playwrights, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Vergil. Given that from the time I was a teen I was a fan of Mary Renault's and Robert Graves novels about ancient Greece and Rome, and familiarity with Shakespeare's plays (several of which were based on Plutarch) that means quite a few of the figures featured were already familiar to me: Theseus, Pericles, Alcibiades, Coriolanus, Cato, Crassus, Pompey, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Brutus. Maybe that helped. But there were also a lot of figures then unfamiliar to me such as Sulla and Lysander and the book never lost my interest.

From what I gather it's not always reliable as history. Plutarch purportedly stretched things, both to find similarities in the two figures paired and to draw a tidy moral. And given Plutarch was a Greek and a Roman citizen trying to underline what they had in common, as you could expect, those outside that charmed circle, such as Cleopatra (for all she was of Greek descent) and the Carthaginians don't exactly get good press here. It probably is a good idea to seek out an edition that's thoroughly annotated--and try different translations if you don't find Dryden congenial. But I for one think this is numbered among the great books for good reason. ( )
4 vote LisaMaria_C | May 27, 2013 |
Ok so at least one of these reviews is blatantly false--the one that says there are no years given (especially birth and death years). Every figure's birth and death dates are listed in this particular edition, including "circas" for those who are legendary or whose birth dates aren't accurately known. And then the comment about only one figure's birth date being after 1 AD is just DUMB. I'm just not quite sure why this matters so much, as the study is of character and human nature, and it's especially unclear why human nature would be substantially different after the arbitrary cutoff of the year 1 AD. If you read all 1296 pages (which must be a different edition, since mine is only 876 pages of text plus an index) and could not figure this out, then you honestly should not be allowed to write a review. Of any book. Anywhere.

Now the second half of this is that this was one of the works that Ben Franklin singled out as particularly valuable and it has been considered such by many of the great enlightened figures of history. It seems dubious that anyone would thus be so narrow-minded as to think their opinion that it is worthless matters one iota. Think I'll take Franklin's word over yours, pal. ( )
  jrgoetziii | Nov 11, 2012 |
"This book had a far different effect upon me from the Sorrows of Werter. I learned from Werter's imaginations despondency and gloom: but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflections, to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Many things I read surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very confused knowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers, and boundless seas. But I was perfectly unacquainted with towns, and large assemblages of men. The cottage of my protectors had been the only school in which I had studied human nature; but this book developed new and mightier scenes of action. I read of men concerned in public affairs governing or massacring their species. I felt the greatest ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as I understood the signification of those terms, relative as they were, as I applied them, to pleasure and pain alone. Induced by these feelings, I was of course led to admire peaceable law-givers, Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus. The patriarchal lives of my protectors caused these impressions to take a firm hold on my mind; perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity has been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with different sensations."

-- Frankenstein, Volume II, Chapter VII
3 vote FrankensteinsMonster | Oct 27, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (94 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Plutarchprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adler, Mortimer J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Atlas, JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baughman, Roland OrvilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clough, A. H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clough, Arthur HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dacier, AndréTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dryden, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dryden, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrin, BernadotteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steele, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As geographers, Sosius, crowd into the edges of their maps parts of the world which they do not know about, adding notes in the margin to the effect, that beyond this lies nothing but the sandy deserts full of wild beasts, unapproachable bogs, Scythian ice, or a frozen sea, so in this work of mine, in which I have compared the lives of the greatest men with one another, after passing through those periods which probable reasoning can reach to and real history find a footing in, I might very well say of those that are farther off: "Beyond this there is nothing but prodigies and fictions, the only inhabitants are the poets and inventors of fables; there is no credit, or certainty any farther."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394604075, Hardcover)

This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text or index. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. 1811. Not illustrated. Excerpt: ... 200'.o:.. (v ' ' 1. ' '/ pericles and fabius maximus compared. such were the lives of these two persons, so illustrious and worthy of imitation, both in their civil and their military capacity We will first compare their talents for war. And here it strikes us at once, that Pericles came into power at a time when the Athenians.were at the height of their glory, great in themselves and respectable to their neighbours; so that in the very strength of the republic, with only common success he was secure from any disgraceful step: whereas Fabius took the helm when Rome was in her deepest disgrace and distress; so that he had not the well established prosperity of a flourishing state to preserve, but to draw his country from an abyss of misery and to raise it to happiness. Besides, the successes of Cimon, the victories of Myronides and Leocrates, and the numerous achievements of Tolmides furnished occasion to Pericles, during his administration, rather to entertain the city with feasts and games, than to make new acquisitions or to defend the old ones by arms. On the other hand, Fabius had the frightful objects before his eyes of defeats and disasters, of Roman consuls and generals slain, of lakes.and fields and forests full of the dead carcasses of whole armies, and of rivers flowing with blood down to the very sea. In this tottering and decayed condition of the commonwealth, he was to support it by his counsels and his vigor, and to keep it from falling into absolute ruin, to which it was so nearly reduced by the errors of former commanders. It may seem, indeed, a less arduous performance to manage the tempers of a people humbled by cahiniities, and compelled by necessity to listen to reason, than to restrain the wildness and insolence of a city elated with success...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:15 -0400)

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Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, is a collection of short free-form poems that collectively describe the life of the fictional small town of Spoon River, named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters' home town. The collection includes two hundred and twelve separate characters providing two-hundred forty-four accounts of their lives and losses.… (more)

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