Plutarch on Sparta

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Penguin, 1988 - History - 206 pages
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Plutarch's vivid and engaging portraits of the Spartans and their customs are a major source of our knowledge about the rise and fall of this remarkable Greek city-state between the sixth and third centuries BC. Through his Lives of Sparta's leaders and his recording of memorable Spartan Sayings he depicts a people who lived frugally and mastered their emotions in all aspects of life, who also disposed of unhealthy babies in a deep chasm, introduced a gruelling regime of military training for boys, and treated their serfs brutally. Rich in anecdote and detail, Plutarch's writing brings to life the personalities and achievements of Sparta with unparalleled flair and humanity.

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About the author (1988)

PLUTARCH. c.46--c.125 Considered by many the most important Greek writer of the early Roman period, Plutarch was a member of a well-to-do Greek family, a chief magistrate, a priest at Delphi, and an exceptionally well-read individual. His philosophical views were based on those of Plato (see Vol. 4) and, although a Greek, he esteemed the achievements and attributes of the Romans. By the time Plutarch's works were published for the first time in the eleventh century, some had already been lost. He wrote innumerable essays on philosophical, historical, political, religious, and literary subjects, 78 of which survive today and are known collectively as the "Moralia." He is known primarily, however, for his Parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans, which consists of 50 biographies---23 of prominent Greeks, 23 of Roman leaders, and 4 separate lives---accompanied at intervals by short comparative essays. Although historical information is included in the work, Plutarch wrote it originally to inspire emulation in youth, so the emphasis is on character, moral choice, and anecdote. Sir Thomas North's 1579 translation into English of Parallel Lives became an important source for William Shakespeare which he used for three plays, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus.

Richard J.A. Talbert is Kenan Professor of History and Classics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A past president of the Association of Ancient Historians, he is the author of The Senate of Imperial Rome, and editor of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World.

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