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The Introduction situates Plutarch in his literary context, as a vivid and original thinker and writer whose popularity remains enormous, as well as his historical context as an innovator in the writing of biography. Some authors discuss Plutarch’s role in the development of the biographical tradition and his relationship to the classical Greek past. Others examine his Roman context as a Greek living in an occupied country, and his views on politics, particularly those involving barbarians or "others." Multiple essays illuminate Plutarch’s relationship to Plato and Platonism, often in the context of his influence on education, while other essays look at Plutarch in his everyday life, investigating his thoughts on gender, sexuality, wealth, and animals. Five essays focus on reception.
Plutarch is often seen nowadays as a champion of the animal cause, and virtually as a precursor of the modern pro-animal argument. It is important, however, to recognize that the prominence of animals in Plutarch’s work is symptomatic of the widespread and vibrant textual experimentation with animals in imperial Greco-Roman literature. The trend peaks in the second century AD, but animals were relevant within imperial philosophical thought too. Like many authors (and their ancient readers), Plutarch draws upon and responds to (a) the rich and abiding literary tradition of mobilizing animal imagery and themes and (b) the long-established philosophical debate on animal psychology and rationality, with far-reaching ethical implications about how animals should be treated. The chapter surveys the attitudes toward animals across the Plutarchan corpus and offers in-depth contextualization of the dialogues De sollertia animalium and the notoriously ironic Gryllus.
Plutarch is well known as a generally even-tempered expositor of the great tapestry of Greek history, literature, and philosophy, and a benign counselor on questions of ethical conduct and social mores, but there is another side to him, that of the accomplished polemicist, primarily in the area of philosophy, but also concerning his predecessors in the craft of history, and on occasion the poets as well. In all of Plutarch’s polemics, we can discern common threads. While historians (especially Herodotus) and poets are criticized primarily for their flawed socioethical views, the Stoics, Epicureans, and even Plutarch’s predecessors in the Platonic tradition have the inconsistencies in their positions relentlessly skewered, and the most absurd consequences of their misguided arguments teased out. This essay surveys a selection of Plutarch’s critiques of previous historians, then casts a brief glance at his censure of the poets, before turning to an examination of his polemics against rival philosophical schools, and lastly rival views within the Platonist tradition.
Plutarch is one of the most prolific and important writers from antiquity. His Parallel Lives continue to be an invaluable historical source, and the numerous essays in his Moralia, covering everything from marriage to the Delphic Oracle, are crucial evidence for ancient philosophy and cultural history. This volume provides an engaging introduction to all aspects of his work, including his method and purpose in writing the Lives, his attitudes toward daily life and intimate relations, his thoughts on citizenship and government, his relationship to Plato and the second Sophistic, and his conception of foreign or 'other'. Attention is also paid to his style and rhetoric. Plutarch's works have also been important in subsequent periods, and an introduction to their reception history in Byzantium, Italy, England, Spain, and France is provided. A distinguished team of contributors together helps the reader begin to navigate this most varied and fascinating of writers.
The paper focuses on the representation of pedagogical and political communication between (and around) Plato, Dion and Dionysius II in Plutarch's Life of Dion. Plutarch's narrative invokes both the Platonic critique of writing as an inadequate medium for teaching philosophy, and the polarity between free oral speech and writing as a symptom of tyranny. It is argued that the Life espouses but also complicates and implicitly interrogates the opposition between writtenness and orality across the philosophical and the political domain, thus constituting a rich intertextual response, from an Imperial Platonist author, to the Platonic concerns about the written word.