Plutarch – Parallel Lives

Plutarch – Parallel Lives

A Roman who wrote in the first century A.D., Plutarch wrote history through biography—an approach many contemporary historians could learn from. His purpose had more to do with moral instruction rather than to tell a chronicle narrative history.

Plutarch tells his biographies mostly in pairs, typically with one Greek and one Roman, with a short comparison afterwards. For example, he compares the Greek rhetorician Demosthenes with the Roman Cicero, Alexander the Great with Julius Caesar, and the mythical Athenian founder Theseus with Romulus.

He writes of each man’s accomplishments, but also tells of their personal lives and their personal character. This makes for livelier reading, and better serves Plutarch’s intended moral purpose. He was also a proficient storyteller, with Shakespeare drawing directly from Plutarch for many of his historical plays.

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