Matt's Reviews > Plutarch's Lives, Volume 2

Plutarch's Lives, Volume 2 by Plutarch
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Dec 28, 10

Read from November 14 to December 28, 2010

The second volume is not much different than the first. It plods along with a mixture of anecdote and military campaigns through lands long since renamed and against generals most of whom are familiar to only those with a Masters or above in Classical Studies. Footnotes and endnotes are nonexistent. You’ve been warned.

There are moments of familiarity for those who lack a full appreciation of ancient Greek and Roman politics. Sections on Alexander and Caesar are fascinating. Simply being aware of the context in which they lived helps make the stories come alive. Or, possibly, they are simply just better written. I have little doubt that Plutarch took more care in recounting their lives than, say, Cleomenes the unscrupulous Spartan king of the 6th century B.C. Stories of Cicero, Antony, Marcus Brutus and Dion also were more digestible simply because I was more familiar with the people and times involved.

In the end, there is no question that Plutarch is a valuable resource to any historian. For someone who already has a classical education, I’m sure these tales can be understood in their settings and the exaggerations and inaccuracies can be sifted out. But if you, like me, are reading Plutarch to obtain a classical education, and not simply to supplement it, much will probably be lost in an unknown sea of characters and context.

I give it two stars more out of my ignorance as a reader than Plutarch as a writer.
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