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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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Before Pen Touched Paper

Before Pen Touched Paper

Plutarch’s Preparations for the Parallel Lives

Chapter:
(p.118) (p.119) 8 Before Pen Touched Paper
Source:
Plutarch and his Roman Readers
Author(s):

Philip A. Stadter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718338.003.0009

This chapter presents a hypothetical reconstruction of the stages preliminary to Plutarch’s composition of one of the Roman Parallel Lives, distinguishing planning and research from the actual writing process. Plutarch when he began this project already had a strong philosophical and rhetorical background, and extensive experience with Roman and Roman history, including the composition of the Lives of the Caesars. Once having chosen the basic project, parallel lives of Greek and Roman statesmen, he had to decide as he went along which statesmen to treat, and the appropriate Greek parallel for each. Initially he seems to have chosen Boeotian heroes, and looked for a Roman parallel, but with Lucullus, he chose the Roman first. Later in the series, he concentrated on the Romans of the civil war period, and looked for Greeks to match them. Then he would have had to search out and read the Roman sources, looking both for historical accounts and good anecdotes or contemporary reports which would give life to the biography. This historical research would involve the use of his own notes (hypomnemata) and collections of anecdotes, and intermediate narrative drafts. Finally, he would have to determine his opinion of the statesman and the rhetorical slant of the life, which would influence the choice of parallel hero. Then he could begin to write.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Parallel Lives, historical research, notes, hypomnemata, anecdotes, narrative, composition, choice of hero

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