Introduction to Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans

Plutarch of Chaeronea lived about A.D. 46-120 as a Greek in the Roman Empire. He was a teacher and philosopher and a continuing influence on the best minds of later generations including Shakespeare, the U.S. Founding fathers, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. His works include several pieces ranging from philosophy to natural science to practical guides of the self-help type (known collectively as the Moralia. Of his Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans 46 parallel lives and four 4 single lives survive.

Why read Plutarch's Lives? There are many reasons; for this class it is his interest in character. Purpose of this class is not to compare Plutarch's version of history and biography with that of other ancient or modern investigators.

In this course of study of seven weekly 90 minute sessions we'll discuss three Greeks (Themistocles, Pericles, and Alexander) and three Romans (Cicero, Caesar, and Antony). We'll also touch on the lives of the other men of renoun --Aristides, Alcibiades, Cato, and Brutus-- whose active lives intersected the paths of our six selected lives. We'll also look at some of the women --Olympias, Cleopatra, and Porcia-- who fascinating tales are told in the Lives.
Week OneIntroduction to Plutarch, his times, his subjects, and his influence.
Week TwoLife of Themistocles (the savior of Greek during the Persian War)
Week ThreeLife of Pericles (the builder of Athens and leader at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War)
Week FourLife of Alexander (founder the Macedonian Empire and of the Hellenistic world)
Week FiveLife of Cicero (the master of rhetoric and political theory who tried, unsuccessfully, to save the Roman Republic)
Week SixLife of Caesar (the Roman conqueror who embalmed the dead corpse of the Republic)
Week SevenLife of Anthony (the would-be heir to Caesar who foundered largely through his own weakness)

Last offered spring 2006 at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.