The good Plutarch

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

Amyot thought and wrote of Plutarch as “le bon Plutarque”; and I’ve just put online one of the items that gave him that reputation, that made him “the good Plutarch.”

Plutarch can be very good. Good in two senses: (1) as opposed to not very good, unfinished, fragmentary, turgid, pro-forma — a lot of that in the Plutarchean corpus, as previously noted — but also (2) good in the sense of therapeutic for the common man. If philosophy among the Greeks covered disciplines as diverse as metaphysics and meteorology, theories of history and religion, political science and ethics, it also covered psychology; and the essay usually called De vitioso pudore (“On Compliancy” in the Loeb translation) is one of the psychological ones, and apparently breaks new ground: it’s a clear exposition, not previously made by anyone, of a fault common to many of us, and what to do about it. The fault in question is one of my worst, and has caused me endless personal grief; I hope that for once, in addition to doing the donkey work for which LacusCurtius is now famous and being of academic use to serious students of Antiquity, I might pay attention to what I transcribed, and maybe do myself some good. My own title for it — as the Loeb editor’s introduction points out, the Greek word is very difficult to render — is On Not Letting Ourselves Be Bullied. The approach is typical Plutarch: the moral person is the happy person; and this particular essay, in its easy humanity but at the same time its astringent sense of morality, is very reminiscent of the Desert Fathers (or of course, the other way round).

No Greek onsite: again, grec et français chez Philippe Remacle with links to him on each of my pages, under the Greek and French flags as before.

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