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The Fall of the Roman Republic (Penguin Classics)

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Dramatic "Lives" of Plutarch

By AntiochAndy "antiochandy" - February 15, 2001

Though he lived in the Roman Empire, Plutarch was a classical Greek scholar. He was born in Chaeronea in central Greece and spent most of his life there. He studied in Athens as a young man and later wrote on a variety of subjects, including natural science, metaphysics and morals. He also served in various civic capacities during his life, received a high government appointment in Greece from Hadrian, and traveled widely.Plutarch's interest in writing his "Lives" is the character of the individual, the effects of education and status, the drama of successes and failures, and moral lessons that can be drawn from them. His focus on character and the moral lessons to be learned from history is much like Livy, but Plutarch chose to pursue his purpose more directly by writing biographical sketches of his subjects. These sketches were actually written in pairs, matching what Plutarch saw as a Greek and Roman whose lives were comparable. For example, he paired Alexander the... read more

Awesome: Great Writing and Fascinating History

By Judd Michael Conrad - December 15, 1999

Rex Warner's translation of six fascinating Roman personalities is amazingly clear and vibrant. The biographies of Marius and Sulla at the beginning are a little depressing, but the Life of Crassus begins an amazing collection of biographical sketches that impresses you on every page. I first read Rex Warner for a high school English class (we read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, so we read Plutarch's biography as a supplement) and I immediately noticed his crisp 1950's-1960's dignified style. I've also heard that Warner was quite a talented novelist and poet. It seems that both Plutarch and Warner promoted concise writing on a small-scale that allowed them many options while writing. Plutarch and Warner were doing things that many were doing at the same time (there were so many Roman historians, there are so many translators in America), but it is no wonder why their collaborative material was chosen as THE ONE VOICE.The biography of the Roman orator Cicero (the... read more


By Rodney J. Szasz "GESS INTERNATIONAL. Rod Szasz" - October 7, 2002

I feel a bit strange writting a review about any classic. Its a bit like writing a review of the Koran or the Bible. There is a reason why all these books are classics, and the reason is that they give some glimpse at the immutable nature of mankind. Plutarch describes a nation wracked by personal divisions during the Roman Civil War with chapters on some of the major participants in this conflict: a true fall from grace for both the people of Rome and the institution of republicanism. There is a lot here that is exciting, such as the war against the Parthians, Jugurthia and the personal rivalries between Ceasar and Pompey. The writing moves from what I would classify as mildly interesting, usually at the beginning of each chapter as he relates the youth, familiar, and power influences on the personal development of each live, to ripping tales of combat, honour lost and found, and principled peoples meeting usually, bloody fates. Lives of particular note are Pompey and Cicero in... read more

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