Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Plutarch, probably the most widely read of all Greek writers, was born in Chseronea in Bceotia, but his early life is very obscure, nor is the date of his death known for certain. In A.D. 66 he was a young man, and he is known to have survived till 120. During the reign of Domitian he visited Rome and lectured on philosophy, but it is curious that the Roman writers do not mention him. After his sojourn in Rome he is supposed to have retired to his native place, and to have written some of his famous Lives there; certainly his Life of Demosthenes was composed in Chseronea. He became a priest of Apollo, married and had several children, and received several public appointments from Trajan. His writings consist chiefly of moral essays, apart from the biographies. The former are little read, the latter are universally known and admired. There are forty-six of them, entitled Parallel Lives of Greek and Roman Writers. He arranges them in couples, with a view to contrasting their qualities. He is not considered a first-class writer, his style lacking ease and finish; but it is needless to insist upon the great value of his writings to posterity. They have stood the test of many centuries of criticism, and not merely interest the scholar, but are a recreation for all desirous of knowing something of the lives of the great classics. His wonderfully vivid and genial portraits appeal to all classes of people. In his great work appear all the notable writers concerning whom he could glean any particulars. To his labours we owe in many cases most of our knowledge of certain of the ancients, and it is very peculiar, too, that from his pages we learn more about himself, perhaps, than from any other source. He is not unnaturally more partial to his own countrymen than to the Romans; but he seemed to be somewhat free from the narrowness which characterised other writers. He disliked the Epicureans, and was not at all favourable to the paradoxes of the Stoics. Socrates and Plato he deeply reverenced, and always celebrated their birthdays with due ceremony. That he made many blunders is true, and scholars have at different times severely condemned them, but there is something so pleasant, amiable, and courteous about his manner, and then the reading of his Lives inspired some of Shakespeare's greatest plays, as indeed much of the noblest literature of modern times, so that his occasional faults should be overlooked. He did not pretend to the microscopical treatment modern scholars have applied to the subjects he dealt with; he simply told what he knew of the men he described in the simplest and most direct manner. His love of wisdom and virtue are evident in his desire to bring out those qualities most prominently in his heroes. His work has been translated numberless times, and Clough's is considered the best English version.