Sunday, May 18, 2008

Plutarch

His best-known work is the Parallel Lives, a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged as dyads to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. The surviving Lives contain twenty-three pairs of biographies, each pair containing one Greek Life and one Roman Life, as well as four unpaired single Lives. As he explains in the first paragraph of his Life of Alexander, Plutarch was not concerned with writing histories, as such, but in exploring the influence of character — good or bad — on the lives and destinies of famous men. Some of the more interesting Lives — for instance, those of Heracles and Philip II of Macedon — no longer exist, and many of the remaining Lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae, or have been tampered with by later writers. The existing Parallel Lives include Solon, Themistocles, Aristides, Pericles, Alcibiades, Nicias, Demosthenes, Philopoemen, Timoleon, Dion, Alexander, Pyrrhus, Marius, Sulla, Romulus, Pompey, Mark Antony, Brutus, Julius Caesar, and Cicero.

Plutarch's Life of Alexander is one of the five surviving tertiary sources about the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, and it includes anecdotes and descriptions of incidents that appear in no other source.

Great work is the "On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great ", an important adjunct to his Life of the great Greek king. More in Plutarch: Alexander's Moralia



QUOTES


For Alexander did not follow Aristotles advice to treat the Greeks as if he were their leader, and other peoples as if he were their master; to have regard for the Greeks as for friends and kindred, but to conduct himself toward other peoples as though they were plants or animals; for to do so would have been to cumber his leadership with numerous battles and banishments and festering seditions. But, as he believed that he came as a heaven sent governor to all, and as a mediator for the whole world, those whom he could not persuade to unite with him, he conquered by force of arms, and he brought together into one body all men everywhere, uniting and mixing in one great loving‐cup, as it were, mens lives, their characters, their marriages, their very habits of life. He bade them all consider as their fatherland the whole inhabited earth, as their stronghold and protection his camp, as akin to them all good men, and as foreigners only the wicked; they should not distinguish between Grecian and foreigner by Grecian cloak and targe, or scimitar and jacket; but the distinguishing mark of the Grecian should be seen in virtue, and that of the foreigner in iniquity; clothing and food, marriage and manner of life they should regard as common to all, being blended into one by ties of blood and children.

[Plutarch, Moralia, Fortune, 6]


But let us compare the actions of men who are admitted to be philosophers. Socrates forbore when Alciviades spent the night with him. But when Philoxenus, the governor of the coastlands of Asia Minor, wrote to Alexander that there was in Ionia a youth, the like of whom for bloom and beauty did not exist, and inquired in his letter whether he should send the boy on to him, Alexander wrote bitterly in reply «Vilest of men, what deed of this sort have you ever been privy to in my past that now you would flatter me with the offer of such pleasures?»
[Plutarch, Moralia, Fortune, 12]


"Yet through Alexander, Bactria and the Caucasus learned to revere the gods of the Hellenes … Alexander established more than seventy cities among savage tribes, and sowed all Asia with Hellenic magistracies … Egypt would not have its Alexandria, nor Mesopotamia its Seleucia, nor Sogdiana its Prophthasia, nor India its Bucephalia, nor the Caucasus a Hellenic city, for by the founding of cities in these places savagery was extinguished and the worse element, gaining familiarity with the better, changed under its influence."

[Plutarch, Moralia, On the Fortune of Alexander, I, 328D, 329A]


"But he said, `If I were not Alexandros, I should be Diogenes’; that is to say: `If it were not my purpose to combine barbarian things with things Hellenic, to traverse and civilize every every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to diseminate and shower the blessings of the Hellenic justice and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and desire that victorius Hellenes should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage mountain tribes beyond the Kaukasos…"

[Plutarch, Moralia, On the Fortune of Alexander, 332 a-b]


Again, however, Fortune stirred up Thebes against him, and thrust in his pathway a war with Greeks, and the dread necessity of punishing, by means of slaughter and fire and sword, men that were his kith and kin, a necessity which had a most unpleasant ending.

[Plutarch, Moralia ,Virtue, 11]



"It is agreed on by all hands, that on the father’s side, Alexander descended from Hercules by Caranus, and from Aeacus byNeoptolemus on the mother’s side"
[Plutarch, The Life of Alexander]


IX. When Philip was besieging Byzantium he left to Alexander, who was then only sixteen years old, the sole charge of the administration of the kingdom of Macedonia, confirming his authority by entrusting to him his own signet. He defeated and subdued the M├Ždian rebels, took their city, ejected its barbarian inhabitants, and reconstituted it as a Grecian colony, to which he gave the name of Alexandropolis.

[Plutarch, The Life of Alexander]





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