The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Volume 1
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Plutarch's 'Parallel Lives,' written at the beginning of the second century A.D., form a brilliant social history of the ancient world. They were originally presented in a series of books that gave an account of one Greek and one Roman life, followed by a comparison of the two: Theseus and Romulus, Alcibiades and Coriolanus, Demosthenes and Cicero, Demetrius and Antony. Plutarch was interested in the personalities of his subjects and on the way their characters molded their actions, leading them to tragedy or victory. He was a moralist of the highest order. 'It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing biographies,' he says, 'but I find myself proceeding and attaching myself to it for my own; the virtues of these great men serving me as a sort of looking-glass, in which I may see how to adjust and adorn my own life.' Plutarch was a man of immense erudition who had traveled widely throughout the Roman Empire, and the Lives are richly anecdotal and full of detail. They were the principal source of Shakespeare's Roman plays.
showed one of his friends that came to visit him an amulet or charm that the women had hung about his neck; as much as to say, that he was very sick indeed when he would admit of such a foolery as that was. When he was now near his end, the best of the citizens and those of his friends who were left alive, sitting about him, were speaking of the greatness of his merit, and his power, and reckoning up his famous actions and the number of his victories; for there were no less than nine trophies,
causes, which by length of time came to discover itself. For it is said, that several of his kindred and family were subject to the like gradual decay, and lost all use of their eyes, as he did, in their declining years. Athanis the historian tells us that even during the war against Hippo and Mamercus, while he was in his camp at Mylæ, there appeared a white speck within his eye, from whence all could foresee the deprivation that was coming on him; this, however, did not hinder him then from
there was a meeting of the captains together, a man of Phocis, singing the first chorus in Euripides’s Electra, which begins— “Electra, Agamemnon’s child, I come Unto thy desert home,” they were all melted with compassion, and it seemed to be a cruel deed to destroy and pull down a city which had been so famous, and produced such men. Accordingly Lysander, the Athenians yielding up everything, sent for a number of flute-women out of the city, and collected together all that were in the
seems, to bring the glory I once had to this end, but for the other Athenians; as you well know that the chances of war are common to all, and the Athenians used them moderately and mildly towards you in their prosperity.” At these words, and at the sight of Nicias, Gylippus was somewhat troubled, for he was sensible that the Lacedæmonians had received good offices from Nicias in the late treaty, and he thought it would be a great and glorious thing for him to carry off the chief commanders of
said to have been fixed to that degree on divine objects, that he once, when a message was brought to him that “Enemies are approaching,” answered with a smile, “And I am sacrificing.” It was he, also, that built the temples of Faith and Terminus, and taught the Romans that the name of Faith was the most solemn oath that they could swear. They still use it; and to the god Terminus, or Boundary, they offer to this day both public and private sacrifices, upon the borders and stone-marks of their