Oh, what a difference 40 years makes….

18 June 2009

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

Plutarch, or at least the body of work transmitted to us under his name, covers a multitude of sins.

Some of these works are so fragmentary as to be next to nothing; some very few are so bizarre or so inept that they cannot possibly be by him (unless they’re impish self-parodies); some seem to be his own working notes or collections extracted from him by others; some are abstruse Gnostic-like disquisitions on the slenderest of topics, the kind of thing that gives philosophy a bad name; finally, many are banal and derivative; and many, and not just either the longest and the best-known, are marked by warmth, humanity, psychological insight, humor, and outright genius: the Plutarch of Montaigne and Shakespeare.

I’ve just put online two of these unpredictable critters — as it turns out, one each of the last two types mentioned; amazing they should be by the same man, but to me, at least, they both bear the unmistakable imprint of Plutarch: the first, the dull one, On the Love of Wealth (De cupiditate); the other, Should Old Men Take Part in Affairs of State? (An seni respublica gerenda sit). The “only” thing that separates them is forty years or so of living; the latter is clearly addressed by one old man to another he has known for many years — “neither of us shall desert the long companionship in the journey which we have thus far made together” — this one sentiment and the gracious expression of it sufficient to place the essay in a class of its own; the other essay, so the Loeb editor tells us, is characterized by youthful “exuberance and fancifulness of diction”: but we need not be proficient in ancient Greek prose style to recognize it clearly as the work of a very young man, just by its inadequate and regurgitative treatment of the subject.

I feel privileged to see the beginning and end of such a man’s life, and as it were share in his journey; would we all did so well in the business and art of being human.

No Greek onsite for either one, since Philippe Remacle has the Greek original of both on his site; I was off the hook easily: you will find links to him on each of my pages, under the Greek and French flags of course.

Carnivoracity, or Sarcophagy

7 December 2008

white_lambFrom lamb to lamb chop — Plutarch as a fired-up young vegetarian: On Eating Meat. (A fragmentary pair of essays)

More Misery

12 November 2008

Another essay of Plutarch’s, either closely related to the one I put up a coupla days ago, or even part of the same one; since both are fragmentary and deal in the same kind of subject, it’s hard to tell. Anyway, online, in Greek and English: Πότερον τὰ τῆς ψυχῆς ἢ τὰ τοῦ σώματος πάθη χείρονα.

Only the wicked know misery

10 November 2008

— in celebration of which, I’ve put the appropriate essay of Plutarch’s online, in Greek and English: Εἰ αὐτάρκης ἢ κακία πρὸς κακοδαιμονίαν.

Plutarch: de exilio

9 October 2008

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

Looks like yesterday Jona and I crossed posts; this time I’ve avoided it by not posting to my own site until I did it here: Plutarch’s little tract On Exile is now onsite at Lacus, in English and Greek cross-linked. Exile, a common legal penalty in Roman times, not as bad as all that — philosophical and practical reasons.

Plutarch, Keeping Well & Other New Articles at LacusCurtius

17 July 2008


A new text by Plutarch of Chaeronea: Advice about Keeping Well (De tuenda sanitate), which Bill Thayer (who puts online the moral treatises of Plutarch) calls his “favorite item so far”. Plutarch is giving common-sense advice on rational living, and much that he has to say in regard to rest, exercise, and diet is in accord with the best medical practice of the present day.

But that’s not all. Several useful items from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica: Iconoclasts, Idrisi (whose Book of Roger was already available), Illyricum, and the great German Altertumswissenschaftler Theodor Mommsen, who may be called the founder of ancient history as a well-organized discipline (picture).

I continue to move (and rewrite) pages on Livius.Org: Salamis, Sentinum, Kneblinghausen.

Plutarch, Consolation to his Wife

24 June 2008

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

A list of ancient Greek texts that have been read throughout the ages will probably include Homer’s Iliad, the New Testament, philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, Euclid’s Elements, the classic Athenian tragedians, HerodotusHistories, and Plutarch‘s Consolation to his Wife (Consolatio ad uxorem). It was written after a daughter of two years old had died – a shocking event in any age.

This famous text is now online at LacusCurtius, with an excellent introduction that shows that the text contains all traditional motifs that were supposed to be in a text of this kind, and that Plutarch was able to treat these ideas with great freedom. It is this mastery that makes the text a classic.

Plutarch, On the Education of Children

22 June 2008

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

The brief treatise On the Education of Children (De liberis educandis) is the very first text in the collected works of the Greek author Plutarch (photo), but it was probably not written by the Sage of Chaeronea. Nevertheless, it is interesting -albeit slightly disorganized- and humane. The author offers some commonsensical advise, and a lot of it is in fact, quite appropriately, about educating fathers:

Fathers ought above all, by not misbehaving and by doing as they ought to do, to make themselves a manifest example to their children, so that the latter, by looking at their fathers’ lives as at a mirror, may be deterred from disgraceful deeds and words.

In our age, we might add the mothers as well, but let’s face it: what else is there to be said about education?