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Plutarch in his Lives Of The Noble Grecians And Romans written around 100 C.E., sheds new light on Greek and Roman history from their Bronze Age beginnings, shrouded in myth, down through Alexander and late Republican Rome. Plutarch is the lens that we use today to view the Greco-Roman past; his work has shaped our perceptions of that world for 2,000 years. Plutarch writes of the rise of Roman Empire while Gibbon uses his scholarship to advance the story to write about its decline. He was a proud Greek that was equally effected by Roman culture, a Delphic priest, a leading Platonist, a moralist, educator and philosopher with a deep commitment as a first rate writer. Being a Roman citizen, Plutarch was afforded the opportunity to become an intimate friend to prominent Roman citizens and a member of the literary elite in the court of Emperor Trajan.
Plutarchs influence and enormous popularity during and after the Renaissance is legendary among classicist. Plutarchs Lives, served as the sourcebook for Shakespeares Roman Plays Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus. By the way Plutarch is even the only contemporary source of all the biographical information on Cleopatra, whom he writes about in his biographies of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian. Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew that there were three books every gentleman had to have familiarity with; Plutarchs Lives, Livys History of Rome and Virgils Aeneid. In fact all the founding fathers of note had read Plutarch and learned much from his fifty biographies of noble men of Greece and Rome. When Hamilton, Jay and Madison write The Federalist Papers they use many examples of good and bad leadership traits that they read in Plutarchs work. His biographies are a great study in human character and what motivates leaders to decide and act the way they do, this masterpiece has proven to be still prescient today.
If you are truly interested in a classical education, put this book on the top of your list! I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in political philosophy, and history.