Mestrius Plutarchus, or Plutarch, was born in 46 A.D. in Chaeronea, Greece to a wealthy family. That which is known about Plutarch doesn't come from his biographer but from bits and pieces spread throughout his own writings. He attended the Academy of Athens, studying a variety of subjects, including philosophy, mathematics, and literature. As a way to further his education, he traveled far and wide around the Mediterranean. Then he returned to his hometown, married and fathered at least five children. Plutarch believed in the importance of family and community and held several positions of local authority. He also served for twenty years as one of two priests of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi, a prestigious employment.
An intellectual man, Plutarch invited people from all over to come to his estate and engage in lively conversation. He often presided over the gatherings, and later the talks were written down for publication. These dialogues, other essays, speeches, and letters combined created Plutarch's work known as Moralia. This collection touches on a variety of subjects and reflected, to a degree, Plutarch's concern about the decline of faith and moral conduct. Plutarch also penned Lives or Parallel Lives which took much of his time over the last twenty years of his life. Lives recalled famous Greek and Roman men and compared their virtues and weaknesses. Biographical in nature, Lives concentrates on the actions and character traits of these great leaders and statesmen, showing them as a model for his readers. Though he may have stretched the truth in areas to make his comparisons, Plutarch also provides insights into his culture and allows readers to learn about Greek and Roman history. In some cases, only the information preserved by Plutarch about people and places survives today.
By capturing his readers attention and keeping it, Plutarch became extremely popular with his writings. He passed away somewhere between 119 A.D. and 127 A.D., but his work greatly influenced generation after generation. Jacques Amyot translated Plutarch's Lives and then Moralia into French, and they were read widely by the literate in Europe. Sir Thomas North brought Plutarch to the English-speaking world when he translated Amyot's version into English. From Ralph Waldo Emerson to Shakespeare to Alexander Hamilton and Robert Browning, people have been influenced and stimulated by Plutarch's words. Though classical studies aren't as popular in the United States as before, Plutarch will probably make a resurgence eventually because his work is timeless.
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