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Plutarch and his Roman Readers$
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Philip A. Stadter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718338

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718338.001.0001

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The Rhetoric of Virtue in Plutarch’s Lives

The Rhetoric of Virtue in Plutarch’s Lives

(p.231) 16 The Rhetoric of Virtue in Plutarch’s Lives
Plutarch and his Roman Readers

Philip A. Stadter

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Plutarch’s Lives were aimed directly at an audience of Plutarch’s contemporaries, especially powerful Roman administrators and ex-consuls, including Mestrius Florus, the brothers Avidius Quietus and Avidius Nigrinus, and Sosius Senecio. These were active statesmen, provincial governors and legionary commanders. Plutarch’s biography project is a teacher’s response to the needs of his audience, hungry for exploration of moral issues in difficult political situations. His moral education helped his readers to live according to philosophic principles in the midst of confused, conflicting, and often dangerous pressures. Plutarch saw the Lives as mirrors of the soul, in which, by considering the lives of statesmen, his reader could see his own moral virtues and weaknesses. This theory of moral development and mirroring is seen in his essays On Progress in Virtue and On Moral Virtue. This technique complements his better known method, comparison of heroes, which also provides a powerful tool of moral analysis.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Parallel Lives, virtue, readers, mirrors, mirroring, comparison, On Progress in Virtue, On Moral Virtue

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