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The Age of Alexander

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,714 ratings  ·  37 reviews
The Parallel Lives of Plutarch are cornerstones of Western literature, and have exerted a profound influence on writers and statesmen since the Renaissance, most notably Shakespeare. This selection of ten biographies spans the period from the start of the fourth century BC to the early third, and covers some of the most important figures in Greek history, such as the orato ...more
Paperback, 625 pages
Published 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published 100)
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Paul Haspel
The age of Alexander the Great was a splendid time for warlike kings and generals – for all those would-be emperors who liked nothing better than overrunning large stretches of other people’s territory, and spilling vast amounts of blood in the process. On the other hand, it was a terrible time for quaint, old-fashioned values like peace and democracy. Such were the times that the Greco-Roman historian Plutarch chronicles in these nine biographies, collected here under the title The Age of Alexa ...more
Ave Timoleon
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spengler once wrote that Mozart would cease to be heard not when his music was no longer played, but when its meaning was no longer understood. Something of this fate is also shared by Plutarch in an age where the study of history remains distorted by positivist ideology (see some other reviews on this site for examples of its largely unconscious perpetuation), coupled with the obvious temporal distance between Hellenic (pre-monotheistic) notions of virtue which Plutarch upheld, and today's neol ...more
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“War has an appetite that cannot be satisfied by quotas.” Hegesippus

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives was the primary source for the history of Rome and Greece during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, this volume covers the period after Athens fall from supremacy in the Greek-speaking world.

“… and deliver the state from the habit of pandering to the mob, a disease scarcely less pernicious than tyranny itself.” (Some things never change)

Plutarch’s Lives influenced art and literature as well as politics a
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plutarch, befitting his religiosity, has a gift for metaphor; couple that with the rhythmic flow of his narratives, or the looseness of them, and you have an undeniably breezy panorama of human nature. And human nature isn't so obvious here: Phocion, a Christ-like figure, was elected general more than any other Greek in history. Alexander, a rapacious quasi-stoic, is equally seen as a pleasure-loving Persian and a pleasure-despising Spartan. Endlessly fascinating, give to your children before th ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Artaxerxes II - wasn't especially interesting to me. Artaxerxes was apparently not super amazing but he was pretty generous. His brother Cyrus II is the one who rebelled and employed 'The Ten Thousand' Greek mercenaries, including Xenophon. There was one kind of interesting scene where Plutarch describes 'the death of the troughs', where the victim is put between two troughs, which have holes for his legs/arms/head to stick out. The victim is then forced to consume milk and honey, which is also ...more
Just read Alexander, the rest are boring.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ancient-history
I wonder if these Ten Greek Lives are similar to those in the two-volume paperbacks published by Vintage (?). I think their translated versions could be lexically different if another team of translators had to tackle such a monumental historical writing by Plutarch, however, I need time to find the paperbacks first so that I can compare each Life, one by one.

In "Life of Demetrius", a word in this sentence has surprised me: "Besides this Philippides enjoyed a good reputation, since he was no bus
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite Roman-contemporary Greek biographers. Rich with context into each man's life, this work is, as far as my undergraduate knowledge is concerned, relatively unbiased. It also includes the life of Pelopidas, one of the leading generals of the Theban sacred band. These guys were the 'OG' 300 bad asses. 150 lovers that fought together, whooped serious city-state ass together, and died together. Even the militaristic society of Sparta was no match for them. They put Thebes on the map ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alexander
This was more like a fantasy novel than a history.

Warriors! Intrigue! DISTURBING OMENS.
Craig Williams
It's really cool to me that we can get a glimpse of what life was like an ancient Greece thanks to historians like Plutarch. It was so different back then and yet the same in many ways. Unlike some ancient histories, Plutarch doesn't get bogged down with unnecessary details, and even offers his own opinion of the events which he describes. That being said, one naturally questions the validity of Plutarch's interpretation of history and how much of served as propaganda for the time.

My favorite s
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Allows his own personal biases (mainly against Democracy, which you can tell he despises by the many opportunities he takes to shit all over it and the things that come with it when he can) to seep into the work often, which only gives the Lives more flavour and makes it entertaining to read. Rather than simply recording the events that took place, Plutarch focuses moreso on the personalities of the characters in his Lives, thus leaving out much information that he probably supposed the reader t ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Opinionated historians are, by far, the most entertaining.
Frank Ashe
I enjoyed Plutarch as I continued my self-education through Classical Greece and Rome.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There's a reason why Plutarch is still read 2000 years after he wrote these biographies. Just great stuff. Highly recommended. ...more
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We are lucky to have this wonderful glimpse into the past. These books remind me of how little, yet how greatly people have changed.
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Good for Alexander, the rest are boring.
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great edition of Plutarch, covering nine lives from 444BC-272BC. The translation is readable and flows well (not always the case in ancient documents) and really captures Plutarch's delight in his subject. I think the two best lives were Dion and Timoleon, the two liberators of Syracuse. They clearly portray Plutarch's idea of the good life, which is his goal in writing at all. As he says:
The famous ode... which celebrates Alcibiades' victory in the chariot race at Olympia tells us that the fir
Scriptor Ignotus
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Plutarch's biography of Alexander is, of course, the main event of this collection of Greek lives. And what a fascinating biography it is. Nietzsche once said of Alexander that he was a Dionysus incarnate, and although it may be true that Alexander thought himself cursed by the god for his ransacking of Thebes, his life and character can be said to have embodied what Nietzsche understood to be the Dionysian mode of life. He was an utterly otherworldly being, breathtakingly indifferent to risk an ...more
Masen Production
“Plutarch, historian who lived 2 centuries back and has left behind legacies that is a treat to read. Even then in this book he narrates the stories of men who lived 600-300 years before him. In those days he has done extensive research over his subjects and introduces their behaviors and qualities which other historians tend to portray with their judgments. Here Plutarch is trying to draw parllels with various characters of past and with those from his times. Towards the end of Alexzander's cam ...more
Matthew Skinner
May 31, 2015 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning of the story the author tells about his parents and Alexander's great abilities and talents that were revealed pretty early in his life. Then the author tells us about Alexander taking his fathers place after his assassination. Although he was young he did an amazing job of not only ruling Macedonia but ruling other empires also.
I feel that all of the story is historically correct because it is pretty much am biography of his while life, it talks about his father and mother.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
9 grecian lives that roughly fit into the hellenistic time period - lives are laid out chronlogically from roughly the aftermath of the peloponnesian war to just before the first punic war where rome is starting to ramp up its power and influence over the region. covers one of the last spartan kings, a theban general, two of the people involved with the liberation of sycacuse, two athenian orators, alexander himself, and two generals fighting over the scraps of alexander's empire, and will serve ...more
Plutarch combines history, philosophy and literature all together in his fascinating portraits of some of the greatest figures of classical antiquity not exactly the most objective or rigorous by modern historical standards but he never claims to be, admitting he is not interested in knowledge for knowledges sake alone but seeks to paint a picture of the character of each of his subjects and through it ourselves and the world we live in. All done in a vivid and engaging style written by a man of ...more
Bill Johnston
The collection "The Fall of the Roman Republic" perhaps didn't appeal to me because the subjects are so well known. I more enjoyed the look into classical Greece I got from "The Rise and Fall of Athens" and am continuing from there with "The Age of Alexander."

The title subject is the only one I know of from this volume, which is a surprise because I expected lives of such greats as Ptolemy and Seleucus to appear here.
Roz  Milner
Another good edition of Plutarch by Penguin, this time covering Demosthenes, Phocion, Agesilaus, Pelepidas, Dion, Timoleon, Demetrius, Pyrrhus and of course, Alexander the Great. While I would've appreciated more of Plutarch's connections being translated - he wrote these lives in pairs with Roman lives and included an essay comparing the two lives - I also recognize why Penguin went this route.

Recommended for ancient history buffs, especially those with an interest in Alexander.
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The lives covered in this volume, apart obviously from Alexander himself, are: Demosthenes, Phocion, Agesilaus, Pelepidas, Dion, Timoleon, Demetrius and Pyrrhus.

Plutarch's translator has done a good job of rendering this work in English and the style is easy to follow. The lives are, naturally, fascinating.
Aug 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually not a primary source, but a secondary source. A common misconception, but Plutarch was not contemporary to anyone he wrote about in this group of essays.

Still, an interesting and engaging read.
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
I do like Plutarch. Fascinating read.
Montaigne's favorite. A biographer who professes his primary interest in psychology, not history.

Funny 'cuz he writes in the first century a.d. and refers to the Athenian Greeks as "the ancients."
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well not much to say about Plutarch, it is maybe a little biased.
Only read bits and pieces of this for a uni course, but will go back and read it all at some point. Translation is easy to read and follow, and the stuff really is fascinating.
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Plutarch, later named, upon becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus; (AD 46 – AD 120) was a Greek historian, biographer, and essayist, known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia. He is classified as a Middle Platonist. Plutarch's surviving works were written in Greek, but intended for both Greek and Roman readers.


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“Such contentedness and change of view in regard to every kind of life does the infusion of reason bring about. When Alexander heard from Anaxarchus of the infinite number of worlds, he wept, and when his friends asked him what was the matter, he replied, "Is it not a matter for tears that, when the number of worlds is infinite, I have not conquered one?” 5 likes
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