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Plutarch's Lives, Vol 1 (Βίοι Παράλληλοι #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,617 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
Plutarch s Lives, written at the beginning of the second century A.D., is a social history of the ancient world by one of thegreatest biographers and moralists of all time. In what is by far hismost famous and influential work, Plutarch reveals the character andpersonality of his subjects and how they led ultimately to tragedy orvictory. Richly anecdotal and full of detail ...more
Paperback, 766 pages
Published April 10th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 100)
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Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
"...beyond this there is nothing but prodigies and fictions, the only inhabitants are the poets and inventors of fables" Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Vol 1.


Plutarch, one of the great early biographers summarizes the lives of Greek and Roman military and political leaders and compares them to illuminate the virtues and failings of their leadership. Vol 1., includes the following micro-biographies and comparisons:

Theseus v. Romulus
Lycurgus v. Numa Pompilius
Solon v. Poplico
وقتى روميان شهر "گزانتوس" را تصرف كردند، اهالى شهر شبانه حمله كرده دژكوبهاى رومى را آتش زدند. آتش سرايت كرد و خانههاى مجاور را در بر گرفت. "ماركوس بروتوس" فرمانده روم، كه مى ترسيد تمام شهر طعمه حريق شود، فرمان داد سربازانش به كمك شهر بشتابند، اما ناگاه چنان خشم و جنونى بر اهالى شهر غلبه كرد كه قابل بيان نيست. بزرگ و كوچك از همه سو، از بالاى بامها، بر سر سربازان رومى كه در صدد نجات شهر بودند، سنگ و آجر مىزدند، و نه فقط همين، بلكه تا مىتوانستند چوب و هيزم در آتش مىريختند تا لهيب آن تمام شهر را فرا ...more
Robert Sheppard

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is an apt admonition to
Ce n'est pas assez que le temps mutile les ouvrages: certains éditeurs font profession de trafiquer des abrégés qui ne s'annoncent pas comme tels. Heureusement, ce n'est pas le cas de ce livre, qui rend au lecteur la plus grande partie de l'œuvre majeur de Plutarque. Pourquoi écarter Lycurgue, Numa, Solon, Thémistocle ou Périclès au profit de César, d'Alexandre, d'Alcibiade ou de Coriolan ? C'est mon livre préféré. Les vies des personnages les plus marquants de l'antiquité, sur une période couvr ...more
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 25, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Rick Davis
Plutarch is a fantastic storyteller and historian. He is usually careful to cite his sources and he frequently discusses variant accounts of events, but, far from being a dry academic, he brings the men he writes about to vibrant life. He also doesn't mind spicing his stories up with some gossip, although he usually notes when his stories deviate from what is historically probable. He places both the virtues and vices of famous men on display, and allows the reader to see the comparisons between ...more
Steven Peterson
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
PLUTARCH’S LIVES. (2nd Century A.D.) Plutarch. **.
This was one of those books that make me wonder why we assign stars at all. After all, what makes me give this one two stars when one-star would have been sufficient? Don’t know. Back in my freshman year in college (1957) we were required to take a liberal arts course. The course as titled “Arts and Ideas.” That might have been the title of the book used for the course, too. It consisted of a selection of excerpts from the full span of history –
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
#Classic filled with important information about iconic figures.
Plutarch's Lives

Reading this book takes discipline,
after 100 eyes glaze over.
C'est fini!

"Now himselfe confesseth in some place, that when he began this worke, at the first it was but to profit others; but that afterwards it was to profit himselfe, looking upon those histories, as if he had looked in a glasse, and seeking to reform his life in some sort, and to forme it in the mould of the vertues of these great men; taking this fashion of searching their manners, and writing the Lives of these noble men, to be a familiar haunting and frequenting of them. Also he thought, [said he h ...more
Sep 26, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Steve Hemmeke
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jun 22, 2011 added it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
(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
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
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: st-john-s-reads
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
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Monumental, fabuleux, fondamental. Bon à pleurer. Un seule reproche : cette satané édition sabre la moitié des dialogues !
Jun 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Seriously one of the most taxing fucking dreadful reading experiences of my life.

The content is absolutely amazing and terribly interesting, but it took so much mental energy to plough through a single sentence that I couldn't bear to even THINK about reading the second volume. It's a shame, really. I found Plato challenging, but at least his syntax wasn't a fucking gymnastic routine in and of itself most of the time. Plutarch is the literary equivalent of a geezer who has a tendency to go off
Greg Santana
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not the best stories yet. Some nice story about the origin of Roman, but not many. Mostly Greek Generals from Peloponesian war.
Kelly Nielsen
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. One of the saddest things in life is knowing that other great works like this were destroyed over time as in the Library at Alexandria, and lost forever.
Yk Sohn
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a child, this book instills in me the notion how to make a heroic decision and aver cowardly debaucheries. Highly recommend.
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took nearly a month to read Volume 1 of Plutarch's Lives. I don't think I'll be getting around to Volume 2 any time soon (if at all).

I picked this book up from the library because I was doing research on Shakespeare/Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen and I saw that the first of the "Lives" was on Theseus, a secondary character in 2NK. And, because I don't like to leave a book unfinished, I plowed through all of Volume 1 even though it didn't particularly interest me.

Like many ancient texts, this o
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Plutarch's Lives is a series of biopics of some of the greatest statesman of Greece and Rome. Virtue ethics, which maintains that a just person is a person with a well-ordered soul, is its basis. The soul is the seat of our disposition and consists of different parts some of which will predominate in different proportions, depending on the individual. A well-ordered soul is a soul which inclines its possessor towards right action and thought. All of Plutarch's subjects possess the potential for ...more
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plutarch, an author writing in the 1st and 2nd century CE, has written a set of mini-biographies, 23 in all, covering some of the most interesting characters in ancient history. His is one of the most common names that appear as a reference for classical history. There are four volumes to these parallel lives series (comparing and contrasting famous Greek and Roman people) in which the deeds and morals of these men are described and critically examined. Fourteen of these biographies are discusse ...more
Nicholas Spies
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.

More about Plutarch...

Other Books in the Series

Βίοι Παράλληλοι (2 books)
  • Plutarch's Lives, Vol 2
“[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.” 6 likes
“These things sensibly affected Theseus, who, thinking it but just not to disregard, but rather partake of, the sufferings of his fellow citizens, offered himself for one without any lot. All else were struck with admiration for the nobleness and with love for the goodness of the act.” 3 likes
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