Parallel Lives  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. The surviving Parallel Lives (in Greek: Bioi parallèloi), as they are more properly and commonly known, contain twenty-three pairs of biographies, each pair consisting of one Greek and one Roman, as well as four unpaired, single lives. It is a work of considerable importance, not only as a source of information about the individuals biographized, but also about the times in which they lived.

As he explains in the first paragraph of his Life of Alexander, Plutarch was not concerned with writing histories, as such, but in exploring the influence of character—good or bad—on the lives and destinies of famous men. The first pair of Lives—the Epaminondas-Scipio Africanus—no longer exists, and many of the remaining lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae and/or have been tampered with by later writers.

His Life of Alexander is one of the five surviving secondary or tertiary sources about Alexander the Great and it includes anecdotes and descriptions of incidents that appear in no other source. Likewise, his portrait of Numa Pompilius, an early Roman king, also contains unique information about the early Roman calendar.

Plutarch is criticized for his lack of judicious discrimination in use of authorities and the consequent errors and inaccuracies, but he gives an abundance of citations and incidentally a large number of valuable bits of information which fill up numerous gaps in historical knowledge obtained elsewhere. He is praised for the liveliness and warmth of his portrayals and his moral earnestness and enthusiasm, and the Lives have attracted a large circle of readers throughout the ages.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Parallel Lives" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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