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Makers of Rome: The Nine Lives of Plutarch [Hardcover]

4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1985
These nine biographies illuminate the careers, personalities and military campaigns of some of Rome's greatest statesmen, whose lives span the earliest days of the Republic to the establishment of the Empire. Selected from Plutarch's Roman Lives, they include prominent figures who achieved fame for their pivotal roles in Roman history, such as soldierly Marcellus, eloquent Cato and cautious Fabius. Here too are vivid portraits of ambitious, hot-tempered Coriolanus; objective, principled Brutus and open-hearted Mark Anthony, who would later be brought to life by Shakespeare. In recounting the lives of these great leaders, Plutarch also explores the problems of statecraft and power and illustrates the Roman people's genius for political compromise, which led to their mastery of the ancient world.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset Press (1 Sep 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0880290455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0880290456
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,529,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Plutarch's life spanned the second half of the 1st century AD. He was highly educated in rhetoric and philosophy at Athens but his deep interest in religion led him to Delphi, where he was eventually appointed a priesthood. He travelled, most crucially to Rome, where he lectured and made friends of considerable influence. He wrote and taught throughout his life.

Ian Scott-Kilvert was Director of English Literature at the British Council and Editor of Writers and their Works. He has tranlsated three other of Plutarch's works for the Penguin Classics. He died in 1989.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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I. The patrician house of the Mardi at Rome produced many men of distinction. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable 2 Aug 2003
I bought this text in order to understand Shakespeare's use of Plutarch as a source in his plays 'Coriolanus' and 'Antony and Cleopatra'. Any student of these plays would find this an invaluable reference, especially as the appendix discusses both Plutarch's and Shakespeare's characterisations of Antony and Cleopatra. However, Plutarch's lives of famous Romans are a delight to read in their own right, providing a biased and lively account of Roman history. The translation is clear and readable and this is a good edition of the text; although it doesn't provide the detailed endnotes to be found in some Pengiun Classics, it gives sufficient detail and introductory information to allow easy and enjoyable reading. This edition contains the lives of Coriolanus, Fabius Maximus, Marcellus, Cato the Elder, Tiberius Gracchus, Gaius Gracchus, Sertorius, Brutus and Mark Antony.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood trafficking 8 May 2007
Plutarch's biographies of 9 important political and military leaders give the reader an in depth insight into the workings of the Roman Empire. It is a gloomy picture of a world dominated by the wealthy patricians at home and by Roman generals and their foot folk at large.

Rome's democratic system consisted of two parties: the patricians (the wealthy aristocrats and landowners) represented by the consuls and the plebeians represented by the tribunes. However, the tribunes had to be unanimous. If one defected to the other party, the patricians controlled completely the political scene.

`Coriolanus' was a staunch defender of the ancient aristocratic laws.

`Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus' were tribunes of the plebs. The former proposed agrarian (land distribution) and the latter political (shunting the aristocratic Senate) reforms. The former was clubbed to death and the latter decapitated by the patricians.

A dictatorship, assuming all (life and death) powers, was heavily opposed by `Brutus'.

A very important and stabilizing factor in Roman life was religion (`Fabius Maximus': `fix people's thoughts upon religious matters to strengthen their confidence'). The augurs occupied a cardinal function, being sometimes pressed to pronounce inauspicious omens (`Marcellus'). One respected oracular instruction imposed the burying alive of a Greek and a Gaul man and woman. For the author this was absolutely not superstition. Plutarch was in no way a Lucretius.

Another important civil servant was the censor (`Cato the Elder"), who had the right to inquire into the lives and manners of all citizens.

At large, Rome was first on the defensive during the Punic wars (`Fabius Maximus' and `Marcellus').
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good and clearly written 27 May 2013
By Paul
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very useful book for somebody studying Plutarch for the first time. Clear and concise and not to academic and therefore not likely to put one off of further Greek history studies.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff! 29 Dec 2000
By D. Roberts - Published on
Plutarch is one of the more reliable and trustworthy historians that ancient Rome has to offer. After his death, the great emperor Hadrian bestowed upon him ingratiating respect and admiration. These are excerpts from his infamous "Lives." In this book we get a historical documentary on such personages as the Gracchus brothers, Coriolanus, Brutus, Cato the Elder, Sertorius and Mark Anthony. Of particular interest to the military historian are his accounts of Fabius Maximus and Marcellus (two of the Roman generals who squared off against Hannibal).
I would recommend this book as a must-read for any and all people who take a curiosity in the Roman empire. Plutarch fills in a lot of the "gaps" of common knowledge re: what happened after Julius Caesar's assasination insofar as Brutus, Cassius, Octavion and Mark Anthony are concerned. The brief section on Sertorius intrigued me as he is a figure whom I was not familiar with at all. The bravery of the Gracchs brothers (which they probably inherited from their grandfather, Scipo Africanus) is extolled, as well it should be. And, to top it off, we even get to find out why Coriolanus was a Mama's boy. Plutarch's "Makers Of Rome" is a very informative book which covers a lot of ground in just a few pages.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nine Fascinating "Lives" By Plutarch 11 April 2001
By AntiochAndy - Published on
Plutarch is one of the most popular ancient historians. His straightforward style and flair for the dramatic make his biographies of ancient Greeks and Romans both informative and entertaining. In fact, a number of Shakespearean characters are based on Plutarch's writings. It was his fondness for dramatic appeal that prompted the "semi-fictional" rather than purely factual treatment of history for which he is known. His intent was not so much to record historical events as it was use character and dramatic examples of success and failure to illustrate moral lessons.
Plutarch was not an eyewitness to the events he recorded. Although he was a prominent scholar and civil servant and traveled widely, he spent most of his life in Chaeronea in central Greece. Further, his subjects all lived 200 or more years before him. He had a wide variety of sources, but conflicting evidence and an occaissional paucity of detail gave him ample opportunities to dramatize or embellish his work.
In his "Lives", Plutarch pursued two major themes. One was the tenacity of Rome in war. Despite military setbacks, Rome always stayed the course and prevailed in the end. Whether it was Hannibal, Pyrrhus, gallic tribes or whoever, Rome outlasted them. The second was Rome's political genius and ability to compromise. In contrast to the Greeks, who always fought among themselves and brought about their own downfall, Romans managed to put aside their differences and stand together when necessary.
The "Lives" were originally written in pairs, matching a Greek and a Roman whose lives paralleled each other in Plutarch's estimation. For example, he paired the lives of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. To most modern readers, these pairings seem artificial. Instead, translator Scott-Kilvert has chosen to group together nine Roman biographies that collectively extend through the period from the beginnings of the Republic to the establishment of the Empire and illustrate Plutarch's two major themes.
These "Lives" are fascinating reading. Find out how the strategy of Fabius Maximus enabled Rome to defeat Hannibal and why the Gracchi brothers were killed. This book is a must for anybody with an interest in Roman history. Beyond that, though, Plutarch's straightforward and dramatic style will appeal to many casual readers, as well. Give it a try. Highly recommended.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable, with timeless lessons in leadership! 21 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on
This is a superb translation, very readable, and full of moral lessons in leadership. I found the concepts and traits put forth by Plutarch, in describing the nine varied personalities in this book, to be both absorbing and thought provoking. In fact, upon reflection, I wonder if the conveyance of a "code of honor" was not in fact one of his aims in writing his parallel lives (certainly Roman virtues are highlighted in these particular lives). This book should be a "must read" for anyone, even a casual reader, interested in ancient or Roman history.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It will leave you wanting more. 30 Jan 2002
By Jacques Talbot - Published on
Plutarch remains one of the most popular Roman-era historians, and it is easy to see why. The leaders whose lives he details in this volume were men in whom circumstance and ambition combined to create larger-than-life heroes who continue to instruct and inspire curious students of the past even today. The epoch spanned by their lives (c. 500 BCE - 30 BCE) saw the transformation of Rome from beleaguered village republic to imperial mistress of the Mediterranean--a period filled with the clash of battle, political intrigue, and the full gamut of human nature, from hatred and betrayal to the noblest acts of bravery and sacrifice. Plutarch's flair for dramatic license doesn't so much undermine the factual underpinnings of his accounts so much as it breathes life into them.
Plutarch's Lives were originally published in pairs comparing and contrasting the parallels between a leading figure from Greek history and a Roman counterpart. These pairings are of little value to modern readers and the editor of this volume has chosen a selection of Roman lives that make more sense, thematically. My only complaint is that the selection is not a comprehensive one; Plutarch wrote several other lives that fit into both the time period and the historical theme of this volume but which are not included. They form a companion volume, "The Fall of the Roman Republic," which is also highly recommended.
For anyone interested in Roman history and ready to move beyond modern renditions, Plutarch is perhaps the single best introduction there is to the ancient historians. Even casual readers are sure to be surprised and delighted at Plutarch's readability and the vivid, dramatic events he describes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening 6 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on
The book was a delight to read. Any passage that was difficult to understand, Ian Scott-Kilvert explained what Plutarch meant.
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