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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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Plutarch’s Lives

Plutarch’s Lives

The Statesman as Moral Actor

Chapter:
15 Plutarch’s Lives
Source:
Plutarch and his Roman Readers
Author(s):

Philip A. Stadter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718338.003.0016

This chapter treats Plutarch’s creation of a genre of moral biography, based on a tension between his choice of statesmen famous for their political and military accomplishments and the presentation of them as moral actors. This new genre seems to grow from the need that had been previously expressed by Cicero in his De officiis book 3 and by Seneca in Epistle 94 for practical examples of difficult moral decisions. The predominantly theoretical approach of Hellenistic philosophers was important but avoided the hard issues, such as Cicero had seen in his own lifetime and faced after the assassination of Caesar. Plutarch’s presentation of examples drawn from history in three pairs, Cimon–Lucullus, Aristides–Cato Major, and Alexander–Caesar, meets this expectation by grounding moral thinking in historical action.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Cimon, Lucullus, Aristides, Cato Censor, Alexander, Caesar, Cicero, Seneca morals, hilosophy

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