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The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives

av Plutarch

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1,45469,782 (3.91)10
Plutarch has been called the last of the classical Greek historians and the first modern biographer.Above all, Plutarch was a superb dramatic artist and a brilliant popularizer, a writer who has influenced Shakespeare and many other with his vivid studies of the great Greek and Roman leaders.Plutarch's interest is not in historical analysis but rather in character, in the influences of birth and education, in the significance of individual fame and the moral issue this raises. Born in Boeotia in AD 46, he witnessed both the best and the worst aspects of Roman life during the first century AD - the burgeoning of Latin literature, but also the long and bloody foreign and civil wars that marked the collapse of the Republic and ushered in the Empire. Collected here are his lives of the six men who played a central part in those events- Marius and Sulla, Crassus and Cicero, Pompey and Caesar.… (mer)
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COntents: Marius -- Sulla -- Crassus -- Pompey -- Caesar -- Cicero ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |
Six of Plutarch's archetypal biographies in the highly-readable translation by Rex Warner. Penguin's decision to arrange these Roman lives chronologically (thus removing them from Plutarch's original structure where they are juxtaposed with comparable Greeks) results in a degree of repetition, but this is not the author's fault. Plutarch is a master of bringing his subjects forward as three-dimensional people, highlighting their skills, successes and failures as leaders and providing illuminating details about their lives. Despite the criticisms leveled at him in the notes by Robin Seager, it is Plutarch's assessment of character and the life that he brings to his subjects that has made his work resonate with writers from Montaigne and Shakespeare to the present day. Although there is much to be said for keeping critical accretions to a minimum, this edition would have benefited from the inclusion of a map. ( )
  Lirmac | Jun 14, 2019 |

This Penguin Classic covers 6 Roman lives - Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero -- written by Platonist philosopher Plutarch (AD 46-Ad 120), the great biographer from the ancient world. These were chaotic, bloody times when, fueled by treachery and ruthless violence, the Roman republic fell and was replaced by the Roman Empire. Since all six lives are synopsized exceedingly well by another Goodreads reviewer (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/723730140?book_show_action=false&page=...), I will focus on one of my all-time favorite people from the ancient world, illustrious Roman philosopher/rhetorician/orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Here are quotes from the text along with my comments:

"His natural abilities made him altogether remarkable and won him such a name and reputation among the other boys that their fathers used often to go to the schools to see Cicero with their own eyes and to observe the quickness and intelligence which he showed." --------- To be such a virtuoso of language, adults flock to your school to listen to you speak. So telling about the Greco-Roman world: a supreme value on intelligence and verbal acumen. In our modern world, our most immediate association with a youngster having virtuoso talent would be playing a musical instrument, usually violin or piano. The implications of the difference are worth pondering.

"Elocution and delivery were an important element in his powers of persuasion. He used to ridicule those who were given to shouting out their speeches and said that, just as lame men rode on horseback because they could not walk, so these orators shouted because they could not speak." --------- Ha! Think about this the next time you witness a politician or public figure shouting at the top of their lungs. Would the person speak with more subtlety and eloquence if they really had something insightful to say?

"In Rome itself there were most alarming revolutionary tendencies - the result of the unequal distribution of wealth." -------- Ah, the bane of the `civilized' world since we as a human species left hunter-gatherer communities and began agriculture and started accumulating wealth: the haves and the have-nots. It was only a matter of time before a thinker like Marx came along.

"Cicero, more than anyone, made the Romans see how great is the charm which eloquence confers on what is good, how invincible justice is if it is well expressed in words, and how the good and efficient statesman should always in his actions prefer what is right to what will win popularity, and in his words should express the public interest in a manner that will please rather than provide offensive." --------- The dream of having a philosopher as a political leader goes back to Plato. Occasionally, as in the case of Cicero, this much heralded combination was actualized.

"The conspirators, however, were unbalanced characters who seldom met together without wine and women, while Cicero was following their schemes with patient care, with sober judgment, and with exceptional intelligence." --------- Plutarch is a philosopher and his chapter on Cicero serves as a shining example of what a wise person in the political sphere can achieve.

"At this time, Cicero was the most powerful man in Rome. However, he made himself obnoxious to a number of people, not because of anything which he did wrong, but because people grew tired of hearing him continually praising himself and magnifying his achievements." -------- Alas, one with great intellect and strength of character can still have shortcomings; for Cicero it was his habit of continually patting himself on the back. Some things never change: people don't want to hear it. (Plutarch includes a couple dozen of such comebacks -- one of the prime reasons to read his life of Cicero).

"His ability to put things cleverly would often lead him to forget good manners. . . . Wanting to underscore Cicero's humble family origins, an aristocrat by the name of Nepos asked Cicero repeatedly, "Who is your father?" Cicero replied, "I can scarcely ask you the same question since your mother has made it rather a difficult one to answer." - Nepos's mother being a lady whose reputation for chastity was not high." --------- It's one thing having a Jonathan Winters/Robin Williams-like sharp wit, but if you don't want a gaggle of enemies, you would be well to employ your tongue with discrimination.

"He occupied himself also in writing and translating philosophical dialogues and in rendering into Latin the various terms used in logic and in natural science." --------- Not only was Cicero a leader and hero of his country, dedicating a huge portion of his life as a public figure, but he had the ability to render Greek philosophy into Latin and thereby making it accessible to his countrymen for generations.

And how, you may ask, did Cicero's life end? Sorry to say, the Romans periodically turned their country into a bloodbath and poor Cicero was caught up in a political crossfire.


( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |

This Penguin Classic covers 6 Roman lives - Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero -- written by Platonist philosopher Plutarch (AD 46-Ad 120), the great biographer from the ancient world. These were chaotic, bloody times when, fueled by treachery and ruthless violence, the Roman republic fell and was replaced by the Roman Empire. Since all six lives are synopsized exceedingly well by another Goodreads reviewer (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/723730140?book_show_action=false&page=...), I will focus on one of my all-time favorite people from the ancient world, illustrious Roman philosopher/rhetorician/orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Here are quotes from the text along with my comments:

"His natural abilities made him altogether remarkable and won him such a name and reputation among the other boys that their fathers used often to go to the schools to see Cicero with their own eyes and to observe the quickness and intelligence which he showed." --------- To be such a virtuoso of language, adults flock to your school to listen to you speak. So telling about the Greco-Roman world: a supreme value on intelligence and verbal acumen. In our modern world, our most immediate association with a youngster having virtuoso talent would be playing a musical instrument, usually violin or piano. The implications of the difference are worth pondering.

"Elocution and delivery were an important element in his powers of persuasion. He used to ridicule those who were given to shouting out their speeches and said that, just as lame men rode on horseback because they could not walk, so these orators shouted because they could not speak." --------- Ha! Think about this the next time you witness a politician or public figure shouting at the top of their lungs. Would the person speak with more subtlety and eloquence if they really had something insightful to say?

"In Rome itself there were most alarming revolutionary tendencies - the result of the unequal distribution of wealth." -------- Ah, the bane of the `civilized' world since we as a human species left hunter-gatherer communities and began agriculture and started accumulating wealth: the haves and the have-nots. It was only a matter of time before a thinker like Marx came along.

"Cicero, more than anyone, made the Romans see how great is the charm which eloquence confers on what is good, how invincible justice is if it is well expressed in words, and how the good and efficient statesman should always in his actions prefer what is right to what will win popularity, and in his words should express the public interest in a manner that will please rather than provide offensive." --------- The dream of having a philosopher as a political leader goes back to Plato. Occasionally, as in the case of Cicero, this much heralded combination was actualized.

"The conspirators, however, were unbalanced characters who seldom met together without wine and women, while Cicero was following their schemes with patient care, with sober judgment, and with exceptional intelligence." --------- Plutarch is a philosopher and his chapter on Cicero serves as a shining example of what a wise person in the political sphere can achieve.

"At this time, Cicero was the most powerful man in Rome. However, he made himself obnoxious to a number of people, not because of anything which he did wrong, but because people grew tired of hearing him continually praising himself and magnifying his achievements." -------- Alas, one with great intellect and strength of character can still have shortcomings; for Cicero it was his habit of continually patting himself on the back. Some things never change: people don't want to hear it. (Plutarch includes a couple dozen of such comebacks -- one of the prime reasons to read his life of Cicero).

"His ability to put things cleverly would often lead him to forget good manners. . . . Wanting to underscore Cicero's humble family origins, an aristocrat by the name of Nepos asked Cicero repeatedly, "Who is your father?" Cicero replied, "I can scarcely ask you the same question since your mother has made it rather a difficult one to answer." - Nepos's mother being a lady whose reputation for chastity was not high." --------- It's one thing having a Jonathan Winters/Robin Williams-like sharp wit, but if you don't want a gaggle of enemies, you would be well to employ your tongue with discrimination.

"He occupied himself also in writing and translating philosophical dialogues and in rendering into Latin the various terms used in logic and in natural science." --------- Not only was Cicero a leader and hero of his country, dedicating a huge portion of his life as a public figure, but he had the ability to render Greek philosophy into Latin and thereby making it accessible to his countrymen for generations.

And how, you may ask, did Cicero's life end? Sorry to say, the Romans periodically turned their country into a bloodbath and poor Cicero was caught up in a political crossfire.


( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
I read the 1979 version translated by Rex Warner. Overall I thought it was good, as it pulled together the whole story of the 'Fall of the Roman Republic.' I thought the Caesar chapter was exceptionally well done, and it concisely stated the high points of his life. As a relative novice to Roman history, the Marius and Sulla chapters were very informative, although dry at times. I was also interested in how compact the society was, in that Caesar was related to Marius and thought enough of his ancestor to bring his public statues back. The irony of Caesar dying at the feet of the Pompey statue was also significant.
Maps and relevant footnotes would have helped immensely, and I often found myself wondering if a more up to date version of this book existed. ( )
  delta351 | Nov 2, 2013 |
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(Translator's Introduction by Rex Warner): Plutarch was one of the last of the classical Greek historians; indeed one may almost say he was one of the last of the classical Greeks.
The biography of Marius is one of the least satisfactory of Plutarch's Roman lives from the historian's point of view.
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Plutarch has been called the last of the classical Greek historians and the first modern biographer.Above all, Plutarch was a superb dramatic artist and a brilliant popularizer, a writer who has influenced Shakespeare and many other with his vivid studies of the great Greek and Roman leaders.Plutarch's interest is not in historical analysis but rather in character, in the influences of birth and education, in the significance of individual fame and the moral issue this raises. Born in Boeotia in AD 46, he witnessed both the best and the worst aspects of Roman life during the first century AD - the burgeoning of Latin literature, but also the long and bloody foreign and civil wars that marked the collapse of the Republic and ushered in the Empire. Collected here are his lives of the six men who played a central part in those events- Marius and Sulla, Crassus and Cicero, Pompey and Caesar.

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