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The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Vol 1

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  3,241 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Plutarch's 'Parallel Lives, ' written at the beginning of the second century A.D., form a brilliant social history of the ancient world. They were originally presented in a series of books that gave an account ofone Greek and one Roman life, followed by a comparison of the two: Theseus and Romulus, Alcibiades and Coriolanus, Demosthenes and Cicero, Demetrius and Antony. Pl...more
ebook, 800 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Modern Library (first published 100)
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Plutarch's lives are an excellent place to start for a cursory study of the classical world. Plutarch of Chaeronia (in Greece) in the days of the Roman Empire was not contemporary with many of the figures he biographizes, but draws heavily from primary sources and oral traditions no longer extant. Don't forget also that he was a priest at the temple of Apollo at Delphi, so the predictions (and overriding theme of fate and the occasional miracle) of the famous oracle there play a heavy role in ma...more
Robert Sheppard

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is an apt admonition to...more
(too old to rate) If Thucydides and Heterodotus are credited with establishing the Western conception of history, Plutarch is the founder of the form of biography. From a contemporary perspective Plutarch's biographies aren't all that successful -- beyond whatever factual inaccuracies there must be, from a literary perspective they tend to become either morality plays pitting a heroic leader against the envious people he rules over or slogs through repetitive accounts of battles and omens. Still...more
Steven Peterson
One of the devices of Plutarch is to draw comparisons between the famous Greeks and later Romans. For instance, the first sketch in this version features the Athenian Theseus. Plutarch equates him to a Roman founder, Romulus.

There is the story of Themistocles, whose talents helped to defeat the Persian fleet at Salamis and whose strategizing was a key part of the Greeks' overall victory. There is also the tale of the unhappiness that he faced afterwards, including the ironic flight from Athens....more
My percentage of reading is based on the selection I wanted to read as part of the first year of reading of Great Books of the Western World.

Plutarch compares the lawgiving ways of Lycurgus and Numa Pompilius, after he has told their seperate lives. Lycurgus was a king who left the crown to his nephew and spend his whole life to reorganize the laws of Sparta and make his inhabitants a fierce tribe, who defended their country. Numa Pompilius was asked to take the crown and reformed the city of Ro...more
Plutarch, of course, was one of the most influential authors of all time. His biographies of famous Greeks and Romans and his comparisons of their lives, were read with enthusiasm by classical scholars from the time they were written near the end of his life early in the second century A.D. He was likely the most important classical author read in Europe during the Middle Ages, and undoubtedly influenced Chaucer and Shakespeare as well as many other great literary figures. He was, to a large deg...more
Steve Hemmeke
I only read the first six or so lives, not the whole thing.

Plutarch, a Greek living in Roman times, compares famous Greeks and Romans. His focus is political and military. How does one shape the state best? Where lies wisdom and prosperity as a city-state?

We find a mixture of virtue and vice upheld as worthy of pursuit. By gods grace granted even to pagan unbelievers, Plutarch extols moderation and courage and self-restraint.

- "Neither ships nor riches and ornaments nor boasting shouts, nor barb...more
In fact I read only one on Cicero (in Lives 2) since I'm interested in his life as described and analyzed by Plutarch. I found it a bit tough due to Dryden's style of translation, that is, his Victorian-style lengthy sentences.

In this Lives 2, I'm going to read on Pericles whose famous funeral speech at Athens as recorded in History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides has long impressed me.
Plutarch examines the lives of a famous Greek and famous Roman then compares the two. Alright, it sounds dry, but Plutarch just isn't a good biographer, he's also an astute student of human behavior with a keen eye for seeing and understanding of societies with a good mix of psychology.

He focuses on events that highlights his subjects character, whether for good or ill, so I don't recommend him for an in depth study of history. That said, his examination of the subject's life does provide a good...more
Dense. And not a lot of fun.

Plutarch, a Greek in the first century A.D. who later became a Roman citizen, drafted his Lives as a moral inquiry. He selected from history a well-known Greek and a well-known Roman and wrote briefly on each. He then concludes with a couple pages comparing their lives in terms of who can be thought of as a better man- in terms of generalship, politics or whichever other quality he feels is most comparable between them. Today, these comparisons have been collected int...more
Amazon Review:

This book was the principal source for Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. It was also one of two books Mary Shelley chose for the blind hermit to use for Frankenstein's monster's education, with the other being the Bible.

Plutarch's Lives remains one of the world's most profoundly influential literary works. Written at the beginning of the second century, it forms a brilliant social history of the ancient world. His "parallel lives" were originally pr...more
It is a shame that such an interesting, and historically valuable work such as Plutarch's lives is so difficult for modern readers. Though many others have commented on how difficult this English is for us, consider the following quote taken at random, from the first two sentences of the life of the Roman Camillus:

Among the many remarkable things that are related of Furius Camillus, it seems singular and strange above all, that he, who continually was in the highest commands, and obtained the gr...more
Nicholas Spies
Plutarch is one of the chief sources of our knowledge of the personalities that peopled the classical world. What makes this book of paramount importance to read is not that it presents the lives of people who would otherwise not be known to us: It is important because from each portrait--many written hundreds of years after their subject had walked the Earth--he derives a distillation of what it means to have a worthy character, worthy enough to have been remembered already for hundreds of year...more
Jun 30, 2007 Kenneth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Plutarch is one of the more interesting philosophers of Antiquity. He's a moralist, that is a philosopher late enough into the tradition that instead of arguing beliefs about the universe he's focused more on what the individual should do with himself in light of these various traditions, especially Middle Platonism. The other half of his work are the essays of the Moralia, which are intended to explain how to live a good life. The Lives are built more on the idea of teaching by example, by tell...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Volume one has a vast collection of hero's of ancient Greece and Rome from Theseus to Pericles and Romulus himself. You get a good feel for the lives of many of the statesmen and consuls of Rome as well as a number of rulers of various at various points in Early Roman history. You also get to hear something of the Spartan states in the tales of Lycurgus and others. I think the layout was a bit unexpected. Instead of taking you through the typical historical linear course he chooses two men and f...more
Bernard Norcott-mahany
Though Plutarch's Lives are chock full of information (not all of it reliable) and so are a great source about ancient Greek and Roman history, reading Plutarch feels a lot like sitting in a lecture hall listening to some old guy gas on about history. There are some great moments in the work, but the work as a whole feels like some guy droning on and on and on...
The translation I read, which was overseen by Dryden (the translation is sometimes credited to Dryden, but he did not do all the work,...more
Tyler Windham
Plutarch's Lives, a sizable volume to be sure, is a near incomparable source of almost entirely unbiased biographical accounts of the great characters in the drama of antiquity--from Romulus to Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar--in detail to more than satiate the ravenous intellectual curiosity of any history buff. Ever the moralist, Plutarch uses his biographies almost as Aesop uses fables(though the stories Plutarch recounts are greatly more interesting) to identify and demonstrate a virtue...more
Juka Pakatsoshvili
Lycurgus is just brilliant. and after all of this we think that our world is on the peak of development? Jesus, they were genius. Sparta had a potential, but governing system was so strict that it was impossible people to obey everything. I like the way they get married and their laconic speeches. and the end is even more fascinating, Lycurgus died just for his rules (it kind of remindes me Socrates). his death made them active for a long time. but still there are things that are too strict, for...more
For much of European history, Plutarch's Parallel Lives was one of the primary sources for knowledge of figures from Classical times. People like Shakespeare took their cues from the biographies Plutarch wrote.

A major complaint is bias. Plutarch had a strong bias in favor of Roman and Greek figures, so there's no real information about such people as Hanno the Navigator of Carthage, or Cleopatra--and what there is is often slanderous.

Not to say you shouldn't start with Plutarch--but it's importa...more
My favorite section in this book, and one of my favorite reads of the curriculum this year, was that of Lycurgus and the society he built in Sparta. The culture of minimal legislation, common possessions, few words, and more leisure is such a foreign lifestyle, and I still think about it often. I'm still left pondering how it is necessary to have community in order to have happiness and whether it is necessary to isolate ourselves in order to have the best community.

Another fun topic of discuss...more
You can see why this book is still being read 2,000 years, give or take a few. I would give it 10 stars if I could. Cover to cover adventure, passion, betrayal, heart, and humor. You can tell how much he loved the characters because he brings them to life. I teared up a bit when I finished it because I didn't want to leave them. And as a side note, every time now when I hear a politician or political strategist praised for a brilliant tactic or for "remaking the political landscape," I'll be thi...more
This book made me thought I forgot how to read.

I kept looking at the letters that made up words and saying them in my head like I do with EVERY OTHER BOOK, but still the meaning would not show up.

Okay - some parts had it. But I couldn't get excited for a bunch of made up people's lives when there's no context.

This dude talked about these cats as if I already knew who they were. No dates or places show up in any of his way too many illegible words. The closest I came to putting them into perspec...more
This book seemed like it could be an interesting read. The premise is that Plutarch took a famous Roman and a famous Greek whose life was somewhat similar. He gave a short biography of both; then he would compare the two. Most of the biographies were not that compelling,, but a few were. Especially towards the beginning.

I did enjoy learning some of the history of Greece and Rome, though I found the Roman history more interesting. Many of the biographies overlapped chronologically which made it h...more
This book reads like a dry data dump of biographical information, because on the surface that is precisely what it is. People have compared Plutarch to Shakespeare and I cannot begin to fathom why this might be. Shakespeare's intent was to entertain while Plutarch's was more to deliver moral messages. Neither strictly intended to portray historical figures as accurately as possible.

The stories themselves do often have humor in them, but it's mostly lost in translation. Others have found this sam...more
Normally, I'm not much into biographies. But these are really interesting, I guess because you get to learn about a) some of the most interesting people of antiquity; b) what it was like to live a couple thousand years ago and; c) what was considered moral and immoral behavior (Plutarch typically provides biographies of two famous people with something in common [e.g Alexander and Julius Caesar:] back-to-back, and then provides a short comparison of what was similar about them and what was diffe...more
I've really enjoyed reading about all of the various heroes, some of whom were familiar to me and some of whom I've never heard of. I think I could have used an atlas while I read, though, to keep all the places straight.

It's also interesting that Plutarch didn't include only valedictory figures but also some who were less worthy of emulation. I was surprised at how well he kept my interest, even though I didn't always know what events he was referring too. I can see why he was such a resource...more
Read for (yet another) book group discussion. Looking forward to it!
Angie Libert
I cannot say I really enjoyed reading this book, but I did it and I am glad I know more of this Plutarch guy so many other authors reference. I can see how he has had such influence for so many generations in that it is like a moral bible for those that want to be good citizens and/or leaders. Some of the characters, Romulus and Lycurgus, really stood out, while others were really boring to read, like Aristides. This is only volume 1 of his works, so I plan to taste volume 2 in the future.
I love these books. Although the prose is a bit dense , these are wonderful biographies on influential men in ancient Greece and Rome. My personal favorite is the biography of Solon, a wise man who was one of Greece's first law givers. He was hugely influential on our own founding fathers as well (as well as Lincoln and Churchill I think). Plutarch was the author most usually found next to the Bible during the 18th and 19th centuries in what would become America. Highly recommended.
I'm just reading bits and pieces of this, mostly the parts that were the sources for Shakespeare's plays. Don't know if I'll ever go through it systematically, but there's some juicy stuff in here, in the vein of, "Mark Antony spent his teen years drinking and whoring in the streets of Rome, then had to run off to Greece because he had $2 million in gambling debts." Modern politicians and generals don't really have those kinds of biographies.
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Plutarch (Greek: Πλούταρχος) later named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Λούκιος Μέστριος Πλούταρχος) c. AD 46 - 120, was a Greek biographer, essayist, priest, ambassador, magistrate, and Middle Platonist. Plutarch was born to a prominent family in Chaeronea, Boeotia, a town about twenty miles east of Delphi. His oeuvre consists of the Parallel Lives and the Mo...more
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The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives Plutarch's Lives, Volume 2 Makers of Rome: Nine Lives The Age of Alexander: Nine Greek Lives The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives

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“[Theseus] soon found himself involved in factions and troubles; those who long had hated him had now added to their hatred contempt; and the minds of the people were so generally corrupted, that, instead of obeying commands with silence, they expected to be flattered into their duty.” 2 likes
“Antipater, in a letter written upon the death of Aristotle, the philosopher, observes, "Amongst his other gifts he had that of persuasiveness"; and the absence of this in the character of Marcius made all his great actions and noble qualities unacceptable to those whom they benifited: pride, and self-will, the consort, as Plato calls it, of solitude, made him insufferable. With the skill which Alcibiades, on the contrary, possessed to treat every one in the way most agreeable to him, we cannot wonder that all his successes were attended with the most exuberant favour and honour; his very errors, at time, being accompanied by something of grace and felicity. And so in spite of great and frequent hurt that he had done the city, he was repeatedly appointed to office and command; while Coriolanus stood in vain for a place which his great services had made his due. The one, in spite of the harm he occasioned, could not make himself hated, nor the other, with all the admiration he attracted, succeed in being beloved by his countrymen.” 1 likes
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