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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crash course of democracy
This is the collection of biographies of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar and Cicero. Plutarch tells us how these powerful men used Roman democracy for pushing their personal agendas. The pattern kept repeating: our hero finds allies and strikes alliances, gains power, gets provinces and armies voted for himself and for his friends, eventually ambitions clash and...
Published on 20 Feb 2005 by Heino Viik

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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Plutarch 5 Stars Penguin 1 Star
I got this book because my original copy of Plutarch's Lives, a 19th century edition of John and William Langhorne's excellent translation, is falling apart through continued use over the years.

Of course the ideas, anecdotes, and examples that Plutarch used continue to be fascinating, but the whole tone of Rex Warner's translation is low grade. I get the...
Published on 7 July 2007 by Captain Cook


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crash course of democracy, 20 Feb 2005
By 
Heino Viik "Heino" (Tallinn, Estonia) - See all my reviews
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This is the collection of biographies of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar and Cicero. Plutarch tells us how these powerful men used Roman democracy for pushing their personal agendas. The pattern kept repeating: our hero finds allies and strikes alliances, gains power, gets provinces and armies voted for himself and for his friends, eventually ambitions clash and the dictator emerges through armed conflict. Many lessons on nature of man can be learned from this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment factor, Five stars; Lack of index, minus one, 19 July 2009
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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If one merely wants to read an awfully good biography of some of the makers of history during the last generation of the Roman Republic, one cannot go wrong with Rex Warner's translation of Plutarch's Lives of Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and Cicero. Each "Life" is full to the brim of goodies (Even the skimpy life of Marius has its magnificent moments, such as the Cimbri women strangling their children and stabbing themselves rather than surrender to the Romans; or Marius with his Bardyae goons, who laugh when he laughs and kill when he doesn't laugh [Godfather material!], and my favorite bit in the life of Marius is when he is tryihg to make a deal with the angry Senate at the front door of his house and his tribune Saturninus at the back door--running back and forth between the two, excusing himself each time, pretending that he has diarrhea. ["Terribly sorry, the sardines I ate at lunch must have been off!"; the subtext, not Warner].

This book is full of wonderful anecdotes that render the story of ancient Rome so entertaining.

As with the Penguin edition of "The Age of Alexander," however, the editors have skimped and not provided an index (which I notice Oxford has done) and therefore have made the book a pain to use in undergraduate classes. Again, the cover has been tarted up, but no effort has been made to facilitate students in looking up the multifarious characters in each of the lives.

Well, I'm cross with Penguin, but not with Rex Warner's splendidly readable translation!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plutarchs most dedicated biography, 5 July 2003
By 
M. Mason "mattmason" (England) - See all my reviews
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Having purchased several of Plutarch's work as companions to study courses, I must say that this is the most thorough and accurate of his compiled works. There is always a certain degree of anecdote and humour to his work but these biographies of the six men responsible for the fall of the Roman Republic seems to be a more serious affair. A must for anyone interested in Rome and the rise of Caesar.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Plutarch 5 Stars Penguin 1 Star, 7 July 2007
By 
Captain Cook (Leeward to the Sandwich Islands) - See all my reviews
I got this book because my original copy of Plutarch's Lives, a 19th century edition of John and William Langhorne's excellent translation, is falling apart through continued use over the years.

Of course the ideas, anecdotes, and examples that Plutarch used continue to be fascinating, but the whole tone of Rex Warner's translation is low grade. I get the feeling that it's all been dumbed down in the forlorn hope of weaning glue-sniffers from council estates onto classical literature.

Compare this example from the "Life of Caesar," following the battle before the camps at Dyrrachium when Pompey failed to press his advantage.

Warner has Caeser flatly saying:
"Today the enemy would have won, if they had a commander who was a winner"

while the Langhornes put the same thing with much more poetry and gravitas:
"This day victory would have declared for the enemy, if they had had a general who knew how to conquer"

Rather than paying Warner for his flat, dull, safely literal, and dumbed down transaltion, Penguin should simply have used the 18th century Langhorne version which they could have used for free, and then cut the price to the consumer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Classics literature, 14 Dec 2012
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Another item for my library of classics literature to support my post graduate studies. The content is unique to the author and an essential for classics students
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not always easy to read, but well worth the effort: Brilliant on Pompey and Cicero., 18 Dec 2011
By 
William Konarzewski (Colchester, England) - See all my reviews
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I bought this version of Plutarch after reading Lustrum and Imperium by Robert Harris. Basically, I just wanted to see how closely Harris kept to the original sources whilst portraying Cicero, Caesar, Crassus and Pompey - and he did a pretty good job.

This was my first venture into Plutarch and I found it interesting and rewarding, although at times the going was slow. Plutarch wrote for patient readers who believed in omens and who could handle long sentences. Like many modern readers, I am often impatient and don't have much time for omens. On the positive side, Plutarch was a marvellous exponent of the art of illustrating a character with an anecdote and trusting the readers to reach their own conclusion. These anecdotes were invariably entertaining and they handsomely made up for the "dull" bits.

My favourite lives were those of Pompey and Cicero. The characterisation of Pompey was so good I could almost feel his presence beside me. The portrayal of Cicero was equally sharp but somehow less charismatic. Cicero came across as having a cruel tongue. He was the master of the cutting remark and the not so subtle put down. Not surprisingly he managed to offend nearly everyone he met and made many enemies. Crassus was something of a disappointment. I didn't feel that Plutarch really got inside the man's head and all he revealed were a few facts, leaving the man as something of an enigma. Julius Caesar was reasonably well done. Plutarch doesn't say much about the Gallic wars, but then Caesar himself wrote those up extensively (if perhaps exaggerating the successes and brushing over the failures). To be blunt, I found Marius and Sulla boring; they were both unpleasant men of violence and ambition and Plutarch doesn't expand much on that.

Overall, this is a fairly readable way of studying history from an original source, and I feel virtuous for having made the effort. Give it a go if you want to be serious about your history, otherwise try Conn Iggulden (the Julius Caesar books) or Robert Harris (the Cicero books). They cater for the modern reader and blend fact with fiction in a way that is disturbingly seductive, if occasionally misleading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lives of the Romans, 27 Jun 2010
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Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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Writing in the first century AD, Plutarch blurs the boundaries between classical history writing and biography. In these lives of six great Romans from the age of the republic (Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero) he re-creates them as real men, warts, quirks and all.

These lives have been the source for many of the later receptions of Rome and prominent Romans and thus have become the `truth' rather than versions of reality, but are still fascinating reading.

Plutarch originally paired up Roman and Greek (so Alexander ,for example, with Julius Caesar) so the Penguin editions do us a slight disservice in separating these lives into separate volumes, but the translation is readable and fresh.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambition is the most destructive of all powers (Euripides), 9 May 2007
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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Plutarch's 6 biographies of Roman politicians/generals give a fair picture of a decadent Rome in the 1st century B.C.: mighty unequal distribution of wealth and `legal safeguards inadequate to deter the forces of law and order from murder.' `Since the whole state was rotten within itself, it was in the power of any bold man to overthrow it.' Bold were men like the generals, `who had risen to the top by violence.'

Plutarch's portraits of `Gaius Marius' and `Crassus' are very superficial.

On the contrary, his picture of `Sulla', the first Roman dictator, is very clear-cut: `Sulla, a butcher. (He got) immunity for all his past acts, while for the future he was to have the power of life and death, the power to confiscate property, to found new cities or to demolish existing ones.'

A brave `Cicero' attacked Sulla's murky business transactions in court.

`Pompey' restored the powers of the tribunes, the representatives of the plebeians, and the rights of the classes outside the Senate to serve on juries in law courts. He worked together with `Caesar' to destroy the powers of the aristocracy. After they grabbed power, they fought one another: `armies of the same kin, ranks of brothers, here the whole manhood and might of a single state was involved in self-destruction.'

Why did they fight? Out of greed and personal rivalry.

Caesar won and asked to be given all powers. The Romans opted for the Hobbes/Machiavelli solution: `the rule of one man would give them respite from the miseries of the civil wars, and so they appointed Caesar dictator for life. This meant an undistinguished tyranny; his power was now not only absolute, but perpetual `... until the Ides of March.

Plutarch's dramatic talent produced a shocking tale, full of `putting to death', `cutting into pieces', burning to the ground, slaughtering, enslaving, looting and plundering.

A must read for all those interested in the history of mankind.
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