Great books of the Western World, V14 Plutarch

by Robert Maynard Hutchins, ed

Hardcover, 1952



Call number




Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1955, c1952]


The Bibliotheca Teubneriana, established in 1849, has evolved into the world's most venerable and extensive series of editions of Greek and Latin literature, ranging from classical to Neo-Latin texts. Some 4-5 new editions are published every year.

User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This is often known as the "Parallel Lives" because these biographical sketches come in pairs, one Greek, one Roman, followed by a comparison. This is a thick tome. My edition of Plutarch's Lives as translated by Dryden is nearly 800 pages. And yes, I read the whole thing and was never bored. Maybe
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this makes me perverse, given the number of reviewers I've heard describe them as dry. I thought it a wonderful and engaging introduction to the most illustrious personalities of Greco-Roman antiquity. I first read these when I was a college dropout for a time, and was reading through Good Reading's "100 Significant" books so my brain wouldn't turn to mush: I found it a favorite. Maybe it helped that by then I had made my way through Homer, Aesop, the four surviving Greek playwrights, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Vergil. Given that from the time I was a teen I was a fan of Mary Renault's and Robert Graves novels about ancient Greece and Rome, and familiarity with Shakespeare's plays (several of which were based on Plutarch) that means quite a few of the figures featured were already familiar to me: Theseus, Pericles, Alcibiades, Coriolanus, Cato, Crassus, Pompey, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Brutus. Maybe that helped. But there were also a lot of figures then unfamiliar to me such as Sulla and Lysander and the book never lost my interest.

From what I gather it's not always reliable as history. Plutarch purportedly stretched things, both to find similarities in the two figures paired and to draw a tidy moral. And given Plutarch was a Greek and a Roman citizen trying to underline what they had in common, as you could expect, those outside that charmed circle, such as Cleopatra (for all she was of Greek descent) and the Carthaginians don't exactly get good press here. It probably is a good idea to seek out an edition that's thoroughly annotated--and try different translations if you don't find Dryden congenial. But I for one think this is numbered among the great books for good reason.
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LibraryThing member Audacity88
The Dryden translation, used in the Modern Library edition of this work, departs from Plutarch's writing to such a degree that a reader cannot trust any individual sentence as being what Plutarch actually though, and at best acquires an overview of Plutarch's development of character. Avoid it in
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favor of a reasonably literal translation, such as those in the Loeb Library.
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LibraryThing member tommi180744
Plutarch lived AD 46 TO AD 120: A Greek who became a Roman Citizen and was 1 of 2 Priests at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (origin of the Oracle).
Over many years Plutarch wrote a series of 'Lives' of famous ancient men: Written in the First Century it is regarded as a majorly important
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semi-History and reference for people, events and conditions of the late pre- and earliest post-Christ world of Greeks and Romans.
It explores famous people for their good and bad characteristics and behaviours viewed from an Ethical-Moral standpoint.
It would be valued as a great work if only its secondary information on Alexander the Great (356-323) and Julius Caesar (100 to 44) had survived, but there is much more including a Roman King, brilliant orators, adventurers etc. The work is full of ideas, principles and arguments that can be found running through all Civilization over the last 2,000 years.
Plutarch constructs his work using a unique juxtaposition of paired Greek and Roman lives.
This is a very worthy translation by J & W Langhorne.
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LibraryThing member richardhobbs
A fragment - chapter on Lysander, Italian Press. 1482 A.D. Marginalia
LibraryThing member jrgoetziii
Ok so at least one of these reviews is blatantly false--the one that says there are no years given (especially birth and death years). Every figure's birth and death dates are listed in this particular edition, including "circas" for those who are legendary or whose birth dates aren't accurately
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known. And then the comment about only one figure's birth date being after 1 AD is just DUMB. I'm just not quite sure why this matters so much, as the study is of character and human nature, and it's especially unclear why human nature would be substantially different after the arbitrary cutoff of the year 1 AD. If you read all 1296 pages (which must be a different edition, since mine is only 876 pages of text plus an index) and could not figure this out, then you honestly should not be allowed to write a review. Of any book. Anywhere.

Now the second half of this is that this was one of the works that Ben Franklin singled out as particularly valuable and it has been considered such by many of the great enlightened figures of history. It seems dubious that anyone would thus be so narrow-minded as to think their opinion that it is worthless matters one iota. Think I'll take Franklin's word over yours, pal.
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
I believe that the "Great Books of the Western World" series uses the safely out of copyright Dryden Translation and so have used that cover. I read the 36 lives found in the Penguin paperback series, But that meant I hadn't got everyone, and thus I turned to the nice hardbound often to be found
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second hand. It fits the hand well, and you get the introductory and comparative essays that the author had originally included. I think the Everyman edition has a weak binding.
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LibraryThing member mattries37315
Roughly 1800 years ago, a biographer and historian decided to compare the great men of Greece and Rome to one another to give his readers inspiration to follow their example or what to avoid. Parallel Lives by Plutarch chronicles the lives of the greatest men of the ancient world and the times they
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lived in.

To show the influence of character—good or bad—of the great men of more remote past of Greece and the more recent past of Rome was Plutarch’s main aim in his biographies of these great men especially when he compared them to one another. Yet throughout his writing he shows the times these great men lived to the benefit of readers today that might know the overall history, but not the remarkably interesting details or events that general history readers might never know about. The usual important suspects like Alexander, Julius Caesar, and their like but it was those individuals that one never heard of today especially those Greeks between the end of the Peloponnesian War and its takeover by Rome save Alexander. This revised edition of the John Dryden translation contains both volumes in one book resulting in almost 1300 pages of text thanks to the fact that they added four lives that Plutarch wrote independent of his parallel pairs which included a Persian monarch, yet this printing is of poor quality as there are missing letters throughout which does slow reading down for a moment.

Parallel Lives is a fascinating series of biographies of individuals that in the second century AD were the greatest men in history to those living at the time, a few of which have continued to our time. Plutarch’s prose brings these men to life as well as the times they live in and influenced which history readers would appreciate a lot.
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Original publication date

c. 0100 CE


0852291639 / 9780852291634

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