Plutarch of Chaeronea, suggests Ian Kidd in his introduction to this superb selection, "has a strong claim to be regarded as the best essayist of the Graeco-Roman world."
Born at the very heart of Greece - between Athens and Apollo's shrine at Delphi - in the mid-40s of the first century AD, Plutarch combined an intense love of his locality and family with a cosmopolitan outlook that embraced the whole Roman Empire. His enclyclopaedic writings form a treasure trove of ancient wisdom, yet his strong religious feelings and deeply humanist temper give them all a compelling and individual voice. Whether he is offering abstract speculation or practical ethics, fresh and arresting reflections on anger and flattery, military versus intellectual glory or the reasoning powers of animals, Plutarch's personality and charm constantly shine through. Above all, concludes Kidd, his essays remain magnificently readable, works that "can still entertain, instruct, stimulate and educate us and also introduce us to one of the most attractive characters in classical literature."