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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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Competition and its Costs

Competition and its Costs

Φιλονικία‎ in Plutarch’s Society and Heroes

(p.270) 19 Competition and its Costs
Plutarch and his Roman Readers

Philip A. Stadter

Oxford University Press

Philonikia, or the desire to win, was a prominent feature of Greek and Roman civic life, as it is of our own. This chapter first establishes that Plutarch does not use two words alongside each other, philonikia or love of victory, and philoneikia, love of strife. Philonikia should always be read in the text of Plutarch. The idea of love of strife, based on the false reading philoneikia, derives from the potential viciousness of competition, especially in politics. Competition can easily turn ugly, and the dark side of philonikia is seen already in Pindar and Thucydides, and both aspects are known to classical authors. In Plutarch’s Moralia, philonikia is almost uniformly negative. In four pairs of Lives the term is especially significant: Lycurgus–Numa, Agesilaus–Pompey, Aristides–Cato Major, and Philopoemen–Flamininus. In these Plutarch is both aware of the ambivalence of the term and the central role of conflict in politics, despite his preference for concord.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Parallel Lives, philonikia, Lycurgus, Numa, Agesilaus, Pompey, Aristides, Cato Censor, Philopoemen, Flamininus

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