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Julian Meynell's Books

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Plutarch's Makers of Rome

Makers of Rome: Nine Lives - Plutarch, Ian Scott-Kilvert

This is a selection from Plutarch's Parallel Lives focusing on notable Romans of the Republic. Interestingly, three of the lives covered here were the direct inspiration for Shakespeare - Coriolanus, Brutus and Marc Anthony. Plutarch knows how to spin a yarn and furthermore how to make a character come vividly to life. In effect his writing provides short but memorable sketches which focus on character. Plutarch is also not an intellectual slouch and will occasionally spit out fascinating observations. However, it is clear that his talents are in the short essay because he is not really interested in proposing complex theses.

 

I'm not sure if reading a selection of Plutarch's Parallel Lives is the best way to come at Plutarch. In particular, it removed the central conceit of two lives being contrasted completely as these were always paired Greek and Roman lives. But I am currently learning more about the Roman Republic, a period of time which I had known far less well than the Empire and this is why I read this selection.

 

Whether or not this selection is the place to start with Plutarch, he is well worth reading and can be consumed in bite size pieces.