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The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  2,608 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Dramatic artist, natural scientist and philosopher, Plutarch is widely regarded as the most significant historian of his era, writing sharp and succinct accounts of the greatest politicians and statesman of the classical period. Taken from The Lives, a series of biographies spanning the Graeco-Roman age, this collection illuminates the twilight of the old Roman Republic fr ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1954)
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Glenn Russell

This Penguin Classic covers 6 Roman lives - Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero -- written by Platonist philosopher Plutarch (AD 46-Ad 120), the great biographer from the ancient world. These were chaotic, bloody times when, fueled by treachery and ruthless violence, the Roman republic fell and was replaced by the Roman Empire. Since all six lives are synopsized exceedingly well by another Goodreads reviewer (, I will focus on one of my all-tim
Plutarch is the opposite of Isaaic Asimov. Asimov'sFoundation series portrays history only in terms of massive predictable, quantifiable and eminently understandable trends. There is little accounting for individual personalities; only stochastic movements of people, information, money, and resources.

On the other hand, Plutarch writes history in the form of biographic essays, showing us one unique, sometimes inconsistent, often inscrutable man at a time. To explore how the Roman Republic (509 B
Mike Hankins
Plutarch's Lives are classic biographies of famous individuals, usually written with a moral lesson in mind. They are fascinating, gripping narratives that read like a great novel, attempting to get at the character and moral fiber underneath his subject, in order to inspire the reader to emulate or avoid certain characteristics. This penguin collection includes six lives that are key to understanding the fall of the Roman Republic: Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, and Cicero.

Felix Dance
Having been a student of Latin and Ancient Rome I’d often encountered Plutarch and read a few sections of his work, but never delved too deeply into his writings. Seeing this book on the shelf of a second-hand bookshop I knew it was time. He writes well and concisely, with many interesting insights into Roman society and the historical times – the end of the republic – while focusing on the chief characters of the changes that brought the empire. I don’t fully agree with his insistence, so commo ...more
The events outlined in these lives are a horrifying spectacle. The battle over Rome between Marius and Sulla set in motion a political sequence that included purges, deliberately orchestrated famines, martial law, and endless conquest-foreign and domestic (I think it poetic that the home of the mother of the Gracchi, the founders of socialism, should've been so enviously fought over). As a result, Spartacus led his fellow slaves to some incredible victories, and more than half of Rome's populati ...more
Between 3 & 4. I like this kind of book. It is interesting how you can read two different authors who address the same subject and get totally different accounts of the subject matter. Hmmm. I think I would probably go with Plutarch this time. But, who knows. This was a college text.
Sean Chick
Plutarch's grasp of politics is grand instead of minute. His emphasis on warfare and personality no doubt does not endear him to contemporary historians. Some of his contentions are flat out wrong. Yet he is the master of the fair biography, good at pointing out a man's strengths and weaknesses, and giving it all a dramatic and even tragic touch. Sympathy is given when warranted as is condemnation. In this volume the best lives presented are Sulla and Pompey. Cicero is a bit dull, hurt by Plutar ...more
Simon Kissam
The Fall of the Roman Republic by Plutarch is a collection of biographies about six men important in the fall of the Roman Republic. These men are Gaius Marius (Marius), Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (Sulla), Marcus Licinius Crassus (Crassus), Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey), Gaius Julius Caesar (Caesar), and Marcus Tullius Cicero (Cicero). Plutarch's belief is that history is mainly concerned with a few individuals, so instead of writing generally about the time period with important characters, ...more
Plutarch has his faults -- principally, he is not interested in discussing the social and political causes for the behavior of the subjects of his biographies, or just social and political events generally, which is a big gap if you are trying to figure out why all of these people are fighting each other, and what, if any, differences there are in their policies. Without knowing what is at stake, it comes across as one egotistical jerk fighting another - which is one way to look at things, but c ...more
Plutarch on Marius:

Nor did he ever allow the enemy to get a hold over him. Even when he was surrounded by their entrenchments he bided his time, quite unmoved by challenges or by insults. They say that once Publius Silo, the most powerful of the enemy commanders and the one with the greatest reputation, said to him: 'If you really are a great general, Marius, come down and fight it out.' To which Marius replied: 'If you are, make me.'
It's probably not possible to add much of anything significant to what's been written about Plutarch, but while reading this a several things really hit home with me.

First is the nature of, and reason for the disaster that befell the Roman Republic. It basically tore itself to pieces because individual men were allowed to maintain their own personal armies to promote their careers by brute force, and the resulting disaster was so profound that the population of Rome was only half of what it was
I think these six Roman Lives can be regarded as the best ancient biographies I've ever read since Plutarch, as a second to none biographer, wrote the Lives vividly, lively and professionally. In other words, few could surpass him. In fact I started with his Caesar first because I would like to know more about his life and deeds militarily and politically, and his version doesn't disappoint me. For instance,

"The reported size of the island (i.e. Britain) had appeared incredible and it had becom
I studied Roman history about 15 years ago so had this book from then. I don't think I actually read it at the time though. Not having studied Roman history in awhile, it was a good refresher. Plutarch wrote several "lives" or biographies of Greek and Roman men. This volume contains the lives of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar and Cicero. I struggled through Marius and Sulla. I never really understood that period in Roman history. However, the last four lives brought back a lot of what I ...more
M. Milner
A selection from Plutarch's wide-ranging Lives series, The Fall of the Roman Republic focuses on six of the pivotal figures of the Roman Republic changing into the Empire: Gaius Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Julius Caesar and Cicero. Writing in the first century AD, Plutarch compiled biographies of famous Romans and paired them with figures from Greek history: Alexander the Great to Caesar, for example. Here, the format is a little different - the lives are grouped by era - but it's still easy ...more
Jeff Lanter
It is not difficult to see why Plutarch is well-regarded by scholars of ancient times. He has an eye for the dramatic and is the best Roman storyteller. While the Parallel Lives or comparing Greek and Roman figures in terms of quality of character is flawed in my opinion, Plutarch still entertains. He tries to select moments in each person's life that show their genius or character. While many of the most important Republic and Imperator era Roman figures are represented in this book, my two fav ...more
J.J. Ward
Good on Cicero and Marius. Also on Caesar. As might be expected from a series of biographical portraits that were only artificially pressed into service as "The Fall of the Roman Republic", cause and effect are sometimes a little vague. I still don't quite understand Sulla (though, on Plutarch's account, what's there to understand?) Highly readable. Shocking in places. Overall, you get the impression - despite virtually every historian who's every lived - that the Romans just weren't that civili ...more
An adroit selection of Plutarch's "Parallel Lives" without the annoying parallels. And the lives here are of those luminaries who had a hand or an influence on the fall of the Roman Republic. Reading them though, one cannot help notice the aristocratic bend and bias of Plutarch. As Robin Seagar points out, Plutarch was more interested in a juicy story than the true causes of the ailment of the republic and the true nature of the reactionary aristocracy who, in my humble opinion, were the root of ...more
jess b
Cheated on this a little; I didn't actually read this Penguin collection, but instead read the relevant six Lives from the edition that's free on Project Gutenberg (so, the Dryden/Clough translation instead of the Warner/Seager), and I skipped the Comparisons. Whatever. I probably would have been totally lost if I hadn't had some more accessible background exposure to the whole story first (in the form of Dan Carlin's "Death Throes of the Republic" podcast and Tom Holland's "Rubicon", in particu ...more
Plutarch wrote biographies about the greatest Romans and Greeks of their respective empires, and then compared similar people from both countries and contrasted them together. In this book, the biographies of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar and Cicero are included as well as comparisons with their Greek counterparts (The Greek biographies are not included). Essentially, these 6 Romans helped shape the demise of the Roman Republic into dictatorship and monarchy and Plutarch gives a history ...more
The Lives of Marius and Sulla: Two characters disposed to warlike arrogance while leading a slow plummeting empire.
I usually read 'The Lives' for inspiration. However, focusing on the lives of these two men have bred a feeling of soberness. Their standards render us to become more aware of the limitations of the human spirit.
This was required reading for the class on Republican Rome during my first year at uni. A marvelous read which opened up the subject for me. Great biographies of the main players of the republic, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and musings on morality. It never gets stale, and I can see why Shakespeare liked them so much (apart from this being the only relevant source material publicly available at the time).
Mathew Walls
The selection of lives in this book is not quite as good as those in Makers of Rome: Nine Lives, but it does have Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar, so it's worth reading for those alone. The rest are also interesting, just not as interesting after having read the other book.
Dave Clark
This book contains Plutarch's series of biographies that deal with the pivotal figures—i.e., Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, and Cicero—during the period leading up to the collapse of the Roman Republic. It is essential reading for a better understanding of late Roman Republican history, despite Plutarch’s numerous factual flaws and artistic imbellishments.
I would recommend Plutarch to anyone who loves characters. Even if you don't enjoy history, you can enjoy Plutarch for his wonderfully crafted portraits of characters. It is the little things that make up a personality that Plutarch cares about; kindnesses, cruelties, strengths and flaws that he writes about, not dates and battles.
Interesting bios of the rise and fall a Roman leaders. All of the main characters each have a fatal flaw. Some develope their flaw after ultimate power corrupts them. I find it interesting to compare their ideas of societal norms. They were considered civilized at the time, but now it would not be so.
I love the way history is told by these classic writers -- such a blend of fact, cause, nuance, and anecdote. If there is a theme, it is the seeds of law and government sprouting from barbarian hordes and powerful kings. This work in particular shows so much about how we know the things we've been taught.
Plutarch's lives are very interesting from a historical perspective but not quite satisfying as a study of psychology. From a storytelling perspective they are enjoyable but unfortunately get repetitive since the same story is retold as part of the biography of historically overlapping characters.
This is a reread for me. I read it the first time when I was in junior high and taking Latin. I have always been interested in ancient history and have been revisiting the passion.

Cicero was the character who interested me the most. Cato was a very interesting character.
Interesting to read one of the sources used by Colleen McCullough when writing her Masters of Rome series. However, not the most reliable historical source- Robin Seager aptly describes Plutarch as more of a biographer than historian.
chris baker
Personal histories of the important actors in the decline of the roman republic. Lots of juicy details about the lust, arrogance, and wealth that transformed a democractic society to a dictatorship at the height of its power.
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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
More about Plutarch...
Plutarch's Lives, Volume 1 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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