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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

on 17 August 2017
It is incredible to jump to this period and to see Plutarch's interesting albeit controversial interpretation of the events through history. The people chosen are fairly close to his time and the writings skill brilliantly captures the characteristics and personalities of the individuals that you would otherwise be unable to see and makes these huge figures of history much more human and thus inspiring or dare say repulsing depending on how you take it on yourself. With that in mind, I'd definitely recommend giving this a read if it's something you don't mind spending time reading!
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on 11 April 2017
Great translation. worth the expense if you want an easy-to-read translation.
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on 15 December 2014
perfect copy
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on 4 February 2015
very useful book for a good price
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on 23 September 2013
If we do not learn the lessons from history then we will be forced to bleed ourselves back into wisdom!
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on 20 January 2015
Item as described, well packaged and promptly sent.
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on 4 January 2015
exactly as described
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on 11 June 2009
I hate Plutarch, if only because he is indispensable. His numerous Lives are all that is left of large sections of Greek and Roman history, or are essential corroboration for other, scarce sources.

To modern readers, Plutarch can easily sound annoying. His portraits are invariably red-cheeked and gleaming-eyed. Vice and virtue are his main measures of men (and the few women). `These two young men were remarkably similar in terms of their courage and self-restraint - and also their generosity, eloquence, and high principles,' he begins on the Gracchi. `The younger Marius revealed the extent of his savagery and brutality in the continued slaughter of the best and most distinguished men of Rome,' is how he concludes on Marius. Politics are first and foremost personal, and portents and dreams are invariably full of meaning. Yet this is excellent, colourful, and entertaining biography. The characters jump out of the page. The times are evoked magnificently. Some people like to see in Plutarch timeless lessons on human psychology and behaviour; without going so far, his Lives certainly provide unmatched insights into the thoughts and beliefs of the ancients.

As to history, one needs to be aware how this came to us. In antiquity, works were copied in schools, especially of rhetoric. Thus what ensured they were reproduced in large numbers, and had a chance of survival in the ensuing Dark Age, was style, not content. Likewise, medieval copyists, all monks, were interested in the moral lessons of the works they preserved. (There are exceptions to this: invaluable papyri were found intact in the Egyptian desert; but these are rare.) Plutarch passed both the stylistic and moral tests. But he lacks the structure of a Thucydides or a Polybius. His works are not graspable without context - a context which the introductions contained in this edition don't quite supply, even if they help. So the history enthusiast needs to be warned: this is great biography, but to the historian it is only supplementary, if essential, material.

This edition contains only eight of Plutarch's Roman Lives: Cato the Elder, Aemilius Paullus, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar. A number of the less prominent characters treated by Plutarch need to be looked for in other editions (Numa, Cato the Younger, Marcellus, Crassus, Galba...).
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on 6 April 2013
Writing in the first century AD, Plutarch blurs the boundaries between classical history writing and biography. In these lives of eight great Romans from the age of the republic (Cato, Aemilius Paullus, the Gracchi, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Antony) 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 constructed versions, but are still fascinating reading.

Plutarch originally paired up Roman and Greek (so Alexander, for example, with Julius Caesar) so this edition does us a slight disservice in separating these lives into different volumes, but the translation is readable and fresh. The introductory essay is excellent, as is the further reading section - both dated to 1999. A very good edition for the general reader.
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on 21 February 2012
Reading history like this feels like taking a walk down the Road of Human Experience. Real people, real lives - all the niceties and ugliness of the human condition - not a sugared down version in a celebrity magazine. I learn so much every time I read collections like this one - the volatility of the human character, it's strengths and weaknesses, successes and nemesis, triumphs and tragedies. I hope I learned enough to keep out of harm's way. And the real kick? It's got what it takes to leave enough in one's brain to sound off like a genius at the dinner table. Wicked.
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