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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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Paradoxical Paradigms

Paradoxical Paradigms

Plutarch’s Lysander and Sulla

(p.258) 18 Paradoxical Paradigms
Plutarch and his Roman Readers

Philip A. Stadter

Oxford University Press

In this chapter we see how in the pair Lysander and Sulla, Plutarch portrays two military leaders both of whom subdued Athens, but whose victories brought danger to their own cities. The treatment of the statues and physical appearance of Lysander and Sulla prepare the reader for the anomalies and inconsistencies of the lives. Lysander shows the ambition, the military ability, and the vices which become more pronounced in the parallel life. Sulla especially presents the paradox of a leader whose victories abroad preserve the empire, but one who in the process of regaining power in Rome turns into a bloodthirsty tyrant. Is it possible to separate the brilliant general from the ruthless partisan fighter and dictator? Plutarch recognizes the paradox, but hopes that his readers will see the dangers of a relentless, even ruthless, ambition.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Sulla, Lysander, tyrant, patriotism, ambition, inconsistency, comparison

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