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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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Should we Imitate Plutarch’s Heroes?

Should we Imitate Plutarch’s Heroes?

(p.331) 23 Should we Imitate Plutarch’s Heroes?
Plutarch and his Roman Readers

Philip A. Stadter

Oxford University Press

The final chapter reviews Plutarch’s reporting of good and bad traits and decisions in the Lives. The Lives work with two basic principles of Plutarchan psychology: first, every person can improve by conscious effort, and second, no human is perfect. Examples from the lives of Pericles, Sulla, and Numa show the variety of human behaviour. Pericles has many strengths coupled with some weaknesses; Sulla is a great military commander, but is ruthlessly ambitious and often cruel; Numa presents an ideal of personal justice and devotion to the gods, but cannot pass on his virtues to the next generation. They demonstrate that if we first carefully evaluate the choices and behaviours of Plutarch heroes and the consequences which follow upon them, then thoughtfully choose what to imitate and what to avoid in political leadership, we may still both respond to Plutarch’s hopes for his own contemporary readers, Greek and Roman, and serve ourselves well.

Keywords:   Plutarch, Pericles, Sulla, Numa, reader, contemporary, morals, leadership, politics, Parallel Lives

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