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Plutarch and his Roman Readers$
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Philip A. Stadter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718338

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718338.001.0001

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The Philosopher’s Ambition

The Philosopher’s Ambition

Plutarch, Arrian, and Marcus Aurelius

Chapter:
(p.199) 14 The Philosopher’s Ambition
Source:
Plutarch and his Roman Readers
Author(s):

Philip A. Stadter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718338.003.0015

This chapter singles out three men from the second century AD who exalted the ideal of the philosopher ruler, and who themselves were honoured as philosophers: Plutarch, Arrian, and Marcus Aurelius. Their ambitions clearly combined the abstract and the practical, a desire to do what was right and noble and to be honoured for doing so. Yet that pursuit of honour, that philotimia, gave birth to inner tensions and contradictory desires that tended to destabilize their philosophic world-view. In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius shows that he was troubled by a desire for fame which he knew to be useless, and by the emptiness of death: he longed for a guarantee that the gods would bless him after death and his fame would continue. Arrian too was driven by a desire for glory, while hoping to benefit others. Plutarch’s ambition was to accept Plato’s challenge and educate the political elite, from which he too hoped to win honour.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Arrian, Marcus Aurelius, philosopher, ambition, philotimia, honour, leader, Meditations

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