Plutarch's Lives : Exploring Virtue and Vice

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The Parallel Lives of Plutarch (c. AD 45-120), a vast retrospective series of biographies of Greek and Roman statesmen, have always been one of the most widely read of the works which survive from classical antiquity. They were written when Roman imperial power was reaching its height, and are sophisticated examples of a renaissance classicism - linguistic, literary, philosophical and historical - which formed a Greek reaction to Roman domination. The Parallel Lives thus offer us a unique insight into the reception of Classical Greece and Republican Rome in the Greek world of the second century AD. They also explore and challenge issues of psychology, education, morality, and cultural identity. In this new study discussions of Plutarch's literary techniques and moral conceptions are combined with case studies of a number of paired Lives (Pyrrhos - Marius, Phokion - Cato Minor, Lysander - Sulla, and Coriolanus - Alkibiades). As the author demonstrates, the parallel structure of the Lives is not only vital to their interpretation but also reflects a Greek attempt to appropriate and make sense of the pasts of both Greece and Rome.