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L. Mestrius Plutarchus, better known simply as Plutarch, was a Greek writer and philosopher who lived between c. A prodigious and hugely influential writer, he is now most famous for his biographical works in his Parallel Lives which present an entertaining history of some of the most significant figures from antiquity.


Plutarch was born to an ancient aristocratic Theban family in Chaeronea in central Greece sometime before 50 CE. His father was called Autobulus and his grandfather Lamprias, both of whom are mentioned in his work. Although Plutarch visited Athens often, studying there philosophy under Ammonius, and he travelled to both Alexandria in Egypt and Italy, he lived the first part of his life in Chaeronea where he participated in public life and held several magistracy positions. He married a woman named Timoxena with whom he had at least five children. From middle age, Plutarch was a priest at the sacred site of Delphi with its famous oracle of Apollo. He is credited with aiding the revival of interest in such ancient cults during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Indeed, Plutarch supervised the new building projects of both emperors at Delphi.

Plutarch mixed in influential circles and his friends included the consuls C. Minicius Fundanus, L. Mestrius Florus (who granted Plutarch his Roman citizenship), and Q. Sosius Senecio. Parallel Lives was dedicated to the latter. Further evidence of Plutarch's proximity to the higher echelons of the Roman elite are Trajan's granting him the rare honorary title of ornamenta consularia and Hadrian appointing him imperial procurator in Achaea. Plutarch passed on his experience of high politics in his Rules for Politicians, a treatise giving advice for young aspiring public servants. Besides these practical positions Plutarch was also a philosopher. He adhered to Platonist principles and he himself taught philosophy in his own school in Chaeronea.

Plutarch's Works

Plutarch was a prolific writer who became ever more productive the older he became but, unfortunately, a large number of his works have been lost. Just what is missing is indicated in a 4th-century list known as the Catalogue of Lamprias. Here there are mentioned 227 works which include biographies and an eclectic array of writings collectively referred to as Moralia. These latter include rhetorical works, moral philosophy, religious descriptions, and discussions of such matters as prophecy and the afterlife. There was also a discussion of Plato's Timaeus, and critiques of the Stoic and Epicurean schools of philosophy. History was not neglected either as Plutarch wrote several works on ancient religious practices in both the Greek and Roman worlds as well as descriptions on such varied topics as education and music. Added to all this are many seemingly random discussions and treatises such as Advice on Marriage and How to Tell a Friend from a Flatterer. The Catalogue of Lamprias, though, is not complete as some of the writer's 128 surviving works are not on it.

Plutarch's biographies establish him as one of the great writers of antiquity & a vital source on some of the most significant figures in history.

Included in the surviving manuscripts are 50 Lives. Of Plutarch's biographies of the Caesars (Augustus to Vitellius), alas, only Galba and Otho survive. Other notable absentees which we know Plutarch described are biographies of the Greek lyric poet Pindar and the great Theban general Epaminondas. Nevertheless, those biographies which remain are ample material to establish Plutarch as one of the great writers of antiquity and a vital historical source on some of the most significant figures in history.

Plutarch wrote in a rich metaphorical style, and his work often has a personal and affectionate quality aided by his frequent mention of family members and close friends. Indeed, Plutarch is often a speaker in his works, especially those in dialogue form which contain extended speeches and personal characterisation.

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Parallel Lives

Plutarch's approach to biographies was to take two historical figures - one Greek and one Roman - and present them in parallel comparison, hence their frequent collective title Parallel Lives. The two colourful biographies were then followed by a more austere concluding synkrisis or comparison. 23 pairs survive, 19 with their synkrisis. Examples of the pairings are Alexander and Julius Caesar, Epaminondas and Scipio Africanus (now lost), and Demosthenes and Cicero. As with most ancient writers, Plutarch was not so interested in a detailed chronological account of the subject's life but, rather, he sought to pick out their essential good and bad qualities and present a portrait from a moral perspective. As translator Ian Scott-Kilvert eloquently puts it,

Plutarch has an unerring sense of the drama of men in great situations. His eye ranges over a wider field of human action than any of the classical historians. He surveys men's conduct in war, in council, in love, in the use of religion, in the family, and he judges as a man of wide tolerance and ripe experience. (11)

The biographies are, then, after an initial examination of the formative years and education of the subject, a series of entertaining anecdotes and incidents which Plutarch believed illustrated the person's character, their virtues and their vices. This approach has, of course, frustrated later historians as Plutarch's information could be variously based on fact, personal experience, hearsay, or just plain old gossip.


There has never really been a time when Plutarch was not read. His works, especially those on philosophy and education, continued to be highly regarded and popular in Late Antiquity by scholars and early Christians, in the Byzantine period, and the Renaissance. Plutarch's accounts of historical figures have also been used as source material by a wide range of later writers including Shakespeare, Rousseau, and Montaigne. We have seen that Plutarch's eclectic approach to history has lessened his esteem in the eyes of modern historians but he has made a comeback in recent years and is now acknowledged as a valuable source who gives a unique insight into how the classical world was viewed from the inside.

Below is a selection of extracts from Plutarch's work.

On Themistocles:

He was also greatly admired for the example he made of the interpreter, who arrived with the envoys from the Persian king to demand earth and water in token of submission. He had this interpreter arrested and put to death by a special decree of the people, because he had dared to make use of the Greek language to transmit the commands of a barbarian. (The Rise & Fall of Athens, 83)

On Pericles:

His physical features were almost perfect, the only exception being his head, which was rather long and out of proportion. For this reason almost all his portraits show him wearing a helmet, since the artists apparently did not wish to taunt him with this deformity. (The Rise & Fall of Athens, 167)

On Alcibiades:

The fact was that his voluntary donations, the public shows he supported, his unrivalled munificence to the state, the fame of his ancestry, the power of his oratory and his physical strength and beauty, together with his experience and prowess in war, all combined to make the Athenians forgive him everything else, and they were constantly finding euphemisms for his lapses. (The Rise & Fall of Athens, 259)

On Alexander the Great:

Alexander went in person to see him [Diogenes] and found him basking at full length in the sun. When he saw so many people approaching him, Diogenes raised himself a little on his elbow and fixed his gaze upon Alexander. The king greeted him and inquired whether he could do anything for him. 'Yes', replied the philosopher, 'you can stand a little to one side out of my sun.' Alexander is said to have been greatly impressed by this answer and full of admiration for the hauteur and independence of mind of a man who could look down on him with such condescension. So much so that he remarked to his followers, who were laughing and mocking the philosopher as they went away, 'You may say what you like, but if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.' (The Age of Alexander, 266)

On Pyrrhus:

The general opinion of him was that for warlike experience, daring and personal valour, he had no equal among the kings of his time; but what he won through the feats of his arms he lost by indulging in vain hopes, and through his obsessive desire to seize what lay beyond his grasp, he constantly failed to secure what lay within it. For this reason Antigonus compared him to a player at dice, who makes many good throws, but does not understand how to exploit them when they are made.' (The Age of Alexander, 414-415)

Reputation and influence of Plutarch

Plutarch’s later influence has been profound. He was loved and respected in his own time and in later antiquity his Lives inspired a rhetorician, Aristides, and a historian, Arrian, to write similar comparisons, and a copy accompanied the emperor Marcus Aurelius when he took the field against the Marcomanni. Gradually, Plutarch’s reputation faded in the Latin West, but he continued to influence philosophers and scholars in the Greek East, where his works came to constitute a schoolbook. Proclus, Porphyry, and the emperor Julian all quote him, and the Greek Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria and Basil the Great imitate him without acknowledgment. His works were familiar to all cultivated Byzantines, who set no barrier between the pagan past and the Christian present. It was mainly the Moralia that appealed to them, but in the 9th century the Byzantine scholar and patriarch Photius read the Lives with his friends. At the end of the 13th century Planudes set out to transcribe Plutarch’s works in an edition that left its mark on the manuscript tradition.

Plutarch’s works were introduced to Italy by Byzantine scholars along with the revival of classical learning in the 15th century, and Italian humanists had already translated them into Latin and Italian before 1509, when the Moralia, the first of his works to be printed in the original Greek, appeared at Venice published by the celebrated Aldine Press. The first original Greek text of the Lives was printed at Florence in 1517 and by the Aldine Press in 1519. The Lives were translated into French in 1559 by Jacques Amyot, a French bishop and classical scholar, who also translated the Moralia (1572). The first complete edition of the Greek texts by the French humanist Henri II Estienne in 1572 marked a great improvement in the text.

That François Rabelais knew Plutarch well is proved by the frequency with which he quotes from both the Lives and the Moralia in his satirical novels. It was Michel de Montaigne, however, who read Plutarch in Amyot’s version, who first made his influence widely felt. The style of Montaigne’s Essays (1580–88) owed much to the Moralia, and from the Lives he adopted Plutarch’s method of revealing character by illustrative anecdote and comment, which he applied to self-revelation. Moreover, the Essays made known the ideal, derived from Plutarch’s presentation of character and openly expressed opinion, of “high antique virtue and the heroically moral man” that became the humanist ideal of the Renaissance period.

The Lives were translated into English, from Amyot’s version, by Sir Thomas North in 1579. His vigorous idiomatic style made his Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans an English classic, and it remained the standard translation for more than a century. Even when superseded by more-accurate translations, it continued to be read as an example of Elizabethan prose style. North’s translation of Plutarch was William Shakespeare’s source for his Roman history plays and influenced the development of his conception of the tragic hero. The literary quality of North’s version may be judged from the fact that Shakespeare lifted whole passages from it with only minor changes.

In 1603 the complete Moralia was first translated into English directly from the Greek. Its influence can be seen in the 1612 edition of Francis Bacon’s Essays, which contain counsels of public morality and private virtue recognizably derived from Plutarch. Francis Bacon was more attracted by Plutarch the moralist than by Plutarch the teller of stories or painter of character, but to the Renaissance mind it was the blend of those elements that gave him his particular appeal. His liking for historical gossip, for the anecdote and the moral tale, his portrayal of characters as patterns of virtue or vice (in the manner of the morality play and the character), and his emphasis on the turn of fortune’s wheel in causing the downfall of the great all suited the mood of the age, and from him was derived the Renaissance conception of the heroic and of the “rational” moral philosophy of the ancients.

Historians and biographers in the 16th and 17th centuries followed Plutarch in treating character on ethical principles. The 17th-century English biographer Izaak Walton knew Plutarch well, and his own Lives (collected 1670, 1675) imitated Plutarch by dwelling on the strength, rather than the weakness, of his subjects’ characters.

Plutarch was read throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The English poet and dramatist John Dryden edited a new translation of the Lives first published in 1683–86, and abridged editions appeared in 1710, 1713, and 1718. The Moralia was retranslated in 1683–90 and also frequently reprinted. In France, Amyot’s translations were still being reprinted in the early 19th century, and their influence on the development of French classical tragedy equaled that of North’s version on Shakespeare. Admiration for those heroes of Plutarch who overthrew tyrants, and respect for his moral values, inspired the leaders of the French Revolution Charlotte Corday, who assassinated the revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat, spent the day before that event in reading Plutarch.

In the German states the first collected edition of Plutarch’s works was published in 1774–82. The Moralia was edited by Daniel Wyttenbach in 1796–1834 and was first translated in 1783–1800. The Lives, first edited in 1873–75, had already been translated in 1799–1806. The German classical poets—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich von Schiller, and Jean Paul (Johann Paul Richter) especially—were influenced by Plutarch’s works, and he was read also by Ludwig van Beethoven and Friedrich Nietzsche. During the 18th century the veneration in which Plutarch was held as a moralist led to the rumour that he had written a life of Jesus, which was said to have been discovered.

In the 19th century, Plutarch’s direct influence began to decline, in part as a result of the reaction against the French Revolution, in part because the rise of the Romantic movement introduced new values and emphasized the free play of passions rather than their control, and in part because the more critical attitude of scholars to historical accuracy drew attention to the bias of his presentation of fact. He was still admired, however, notably by the American poet, philosopher, and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, and, although by the 20th century his direct influence had shrunk, the popular ideas of Greek and Roman history continued to be those derived from his pages.

Plutarch - History

Parallel Lives, Amyot translation, 1565

Greek biographer and philosopher, noted for his Parallel Lives of distinguished Greeks and Romans

Various extracts from 'Moralia':
from The Extended Circle by Jon Wynne-Tyson.

Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds?

The obligations of law and equity reach only to mankind, but kindness and benevolence should be extended to the creatures of every species, and these will flow from the breast of a true man, is streams that issue from the living fountain.
Man makes use of flesh not out of want and necessity, seeing that he has the liberty to make his choice of herbs and fruits, the plenty of which is inexhaustible but out of luxury, and being cloyed with necessaries, he seeks after impure and inconvenient diet, purchased by the slaughter of living beasts by showing himself more cruel than the most savage of wild beasts . were it only to learn benevolence to human kind, we should be merciful to other creatures.

. we eat not lions and wolves by way of revenge, but we let those go and catch the harmless and tame sort, such as have neither stings nor teeth to bite with, and slay them.
. But if you will contend that yourself were born to an inclination to such food as you have now a mind to eat, do you then yourself kill what you would eat. But do it yourself, without the help of a chopping-knife, mallet, or axe - as wolves, bears, and lions do, who kill and eat at once. Rend an ox with thy teeth, worry a hog with thy mouth, tear a lamb or a hare in pieces, and fall on and eat it alive as they do. But if thou hadst rather stay until what thou eatest is to become dead, and if thou art loath to force a soul out of its body, why then dost thou against Nature eat an animate thing?

Why do you belie the earth, as if it were unable to feed and nourish you? Does it not shame you to mingle murder and blood with her beneficent fruits? Other carnivora you call savage and ferocious - lions and tigers and serpents - while yourselves come behind them in no species of barbarity. And yet for them murder is the only means of sustenance! Whereas to you it is superfluous luxury and crime!

But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.

Extract from a review of Animal Minds and Human Morals - The Origins of the Western Debate by Richard Sorabji. Review by Stephen Salkever:

For Sorabji, the pro-animal side of the ancient debate, the side arguing that the gap between human and animal psychology is not so large, is best represented by various Aristotelians (especially Theophrastus, Aristotle's successor as leader of the Peripatos) and Platonists (especially Plutarch and Porphyry). A key figure in Sorabji's history of the fading away of this alternative is Iamblichus, who turned Neoplatonism away from its earlier assertions of a significant kinship between humans and other animals, and so sets the stage for the nearly complete triumph of the anti-animal view.

- from the 1957 IVU Congress souvenir book

PLUTARCH (40 to 120 A.D. approx.) Prince of Biographers and Historians. His essay on flesh eating contains arguments for vegetarianism not superseded. A few excerpts follow :

"You ask me upon what grounds Pythagoras abstained from feeding on the flesh of animals. I, for my part, marvel of what sort of feeling, mind, or reason, that man was possessed who was the first to pollute his mouth with gore, and to allow his lips to touch the flesh of a murdered being who spread his table with the mangled forms of dead bodies, and claimed as his daily food what were but now beings endowed with movement, with perception, and with voice. How could his eyes endure the spectacle of the flayed and dismembered limbs? How could his sense of smell endure the horrid effluvium? How, I ask, was his taste not sickened by contact with festering wounds, with the pollution of corrupted blood and juices? . The first man who set the example of this savagery is the person to arraign not, assuredly, that great mind [Pythagoras] which, in a later age, determined to have nothing to do with such horrors.

"For the wretches who first applied to flesh-eating may justly be alleged in excuse their utter resourcelessness and destitution, inasmuch as it was not to indulge in lawless desires, or amidst the superfluities of necessaries, for the pleasure of wanton indulgence in unnatural luxuries that they (the primaeval people) betook themselves to carnivorous habits.

"Does it not shame you to mingle murder and blood with their beneficent fruits? Other carnivora you call savage and ferocious - lions and tigers and serpents - while yourselves come behind them in no species of barbarity. And yet for them murder is the only means of sustenance whereas to you it is a superfluous luxury and crime!

"For, in point of fact, we do not kill and eat lions and wolves, as we might do in self-defence - on the contrary, we leave them unmolested and yet the innocent and the domesticated and helpless and unprovided with weapons of offence - these we hunt and kill, whom Nature seems to have brought into existence for their beauty and gracefulness.

"Nothing puts us out of countenance, not the charming beauty of their form, not the plaintive sweetness of their voice or cry, not their mental intelligence, not the purity of their diet, not superiority of understanding. For the sake of a part of their flesh only, we deprive them of the glorious light of the sun - of the life, for which they were born. The plaintive cries they utter we affect to take to be meaningless whereas, in fact, they are entreaties and supplications and prayers addressed to us by each which say, 'It is not the satisfaction of your real necessities we deprecate, but the wanton indulgence of your appetities. Kill to eat, if you must or will, but do not slay me that you may feed luxuriously.'

"Alas for our savage inhumanity! It is a terrible thing to see the table of rich men decked out by those layers-out of corpses: the butchers and cooks a still more terrible sight is the same table after the feast - for the wasted relics are even more than the consumption. These victims, then, have given us their lives uselessly. As other times, from mere niggardliness, the host will grudge to distribute his dishes, and yet he grudged not to deprive innocent beings of their existence!

"Well I have taken away the excuse of those who allege that they have the authority and sanction of Nature. For that man is not, by nature, carnivorous is proved, in the first place, by the external frame of his body - seeing that to none of the animals designed for living on flesh has the human body any resemblance. He has no curved beak, no sharp talons and claws, no pointed teeth, no intense power of stomach or heat of blood which might help him to masticate and digest the gross and tough flesh-substance. On the contrary, by the smoothness of his teeth, the small capacity of his mouth, the softness of his tongue, and the sluggishness of his digestive aparatus, Nature sternly forbids him to feed on flesh.

"If, in spite of all this, you still affirm that you were, to begin with, kill yourself what you wish to eat - but do it yourself with your own natural weapons, without the use of butcher's knife, or axe, or club. No as the wolves and lions and bears themselves slay all they feed on, so, in like manner, do you kill the cow or ox with a grip of your jaw, or the pig with your teeth, or a hare or a lamb by falling upon and rending them there and then. Having gone through all these preliminaries, then sit down to your repast. If, however, you wait until the living and intelligent existence be deprived of life, and if it would disgust you to have to rend out the heart and shed the life-blood of your victim, why, I ask, in the very face of Nature, and in despite of her, do you feed on beings endowed with sentient life?

"But more than this - not even, after your victims have been killed, will you eat them just as they are from the slaughter-house. You boil, roast, and altogether metamorphose them by fire and condiments. You entirely alter and disguise the murdered animal by use of ten thousand sweet herbs and spices, that your natural taste may be deceived and be prepared to take the unnatural food. A proper and witty rebuke was that of the Spartan who bought a fish and gave it to his cook to dress. When the latter asked for butter, and olive oil, and vinegar, he replied, 'Why, if I had all these things I should not have bought the fish!'

To such a degree do we make luxuries of bloodshed that we call flesh a 'delicacy', and forthwith require delicate sauces for this same flesh-meat, and mix together oil and wine and pickle and vinegar with all the spices of Syria and Arabia - for all the world as though we were embalming a human corpse. After all these heterogenous matters have been mixed and dissolved and, in a manner, corrupted, it is for the stomach, forsooth, to masticate and assimilate them - if it can. And though this may be, for the time, accomplished, the natural sequence is a variety of diseases produced by imperfect digestion and repletion. Flesh-eating is not unnatural to our physical constitution only. The mind and intellect are made gross by gorging and repletion for flesh meat and wine may possibly tend to robustness of the body, but it gives only feebleness to the mind . "It is hard to argue with stomachs, since they have no ears and the inebriating potion of custom has been drunk like Circe's, with all its deceptions and witcheries. Now that men are saturated and penetrated, as it were, with love of pleasure, it is not an easy task to attempt to pluck out from their bodies the flesh-baited hook. Well would it be if, as the people of Egypt turning their back to the pure light of day disemboweled their dead and cast away the offal as the very source and origin of their sins. we, too, in like manner, were to eradicate bloodshed and gluttony from ourselves and purify the remainder of our lives. If the irreproachable diet be impossible to any by reason of inveterate habit, at least let them devour their flesh as driven to it by hunger, not in luxurious wantonness, but with feelings of shame. Slay your victim, but at least do so with feelings of pity and pain, not with callous heedlessness and with torture, And yet that is what is done in a variety of ways.

"In slaughtering swine, for example, they thrust red hot irons into their living bodies, so that by sucking up or diffusing the blood, they may render the flesh soft and tender. Some butchers jump upon or kick the udders of pregnant sows, that by mingling the blood and milk and matter of the embryos that have been murdered together in the very pangs of parturition, they may enjoy the pleasure of feeding upon unnaturally and highly inflamed flesh! Again, it is a common practice to stitch up the eyes of cranes and swans and shut them up in dark places to fatten. In this and other similar ways are manufactured their dainty dishes, with all the varieties of sauces and spices, from all of which it is evident that men have indulged their lawless appetites in the pleasures of luxury, not for necessary food and from no necessity, but only out of the merest wantonness, and gluttony, and display."

And if any doubt that these are only ancient cruelties, let them read the sections to follow and weep for our modern times. Many of Plutarch's arguments on behalf of vegetarianism have a very modern flavour, as for example :

"Ill-digestion is most to be feared after flesh-eating, for it very soon clogs us and leaves ill consequences behind it. It would be best to accustom ourselves to eat no flesh at all, for the earth affords plenty enough of things fit not only for nourishment, but for delight and enjoyment . But you, pursuing the pleasures of eating and drinking beyond the satisfaction of nature are punished with many and lingering diseases, which arising from the single fountain of superfluous gormandizing, fill your bodies with all manner of wind and vapours, not easy by purgation to expel. In the first place, all species of the lower animals, according to their kind, feed upon one sort of food which is proper to their natures - some upon grass. some upon roots, and others upon fruits. Neither do they rob the weaker of their nourishment. But man, such is his voracity, falls upon all to satisfy the pleasures of his appetite, tries all things, tastes all things and, as if he were yet to see what were the most proper diet and most agreeable to his nature, among all animals is the only all-devourous (omnivorous). He makes use of flesh not out of want and necessity, but out of luxury and being clogged with necessaries, he seeks after an impure and inconvenient diet, purchased by the slaughter of living beings for this, showing himself more cruel than the most savage of wild beasts. The lower animals abstain from most of other kinds and are at enmity with only a few, and that only compelled by necessities of hunger : but neither fish nor fowl nor anything that lives upon the land, escapes your tables, though they bear the name of humane and hospitable."

Animals photographed by telescopic cameras in the wilds of Africa, amply bear out the contentions of Plutarch. Zebras, the prey of the lion, graze undisturbed by the very Presence of the King of Beasts. Other zebras hardly raise their heads, when a lioness pounces on her prey and drags it to her lair. They know she will only slay again when she is hungry, and they accept her hunger as inevitable. Only man causes all animals to flee from his presence.

Finally Plutarch criticizes the discarding of a faithful animal servant when old, saying : " For own part, I would not sell even an old ox that has laboured for me."

"The obligations of law and equity reach only to mankind, but kindness and beneficence should be extended to the creatures of every species, and these will flow from the breast of a true man, as streams that issue from the living fountain."


From the 1st century A.D. onwards, intellectual currents were at a specific peak for the development of a new current of thought, based on Plutarch’s ideology. This new current was called medium Platonism and served as a guide between the academy’s philosophy and Neoplatonism, where Plutarch was as a representative figure.

With average Platonism we can reach, through philosophical meditation, to talk with God, what would sooner be called ecstasy.

This philosophical current describes the why and how of things, placing God as the maximum expression of “goodness” and defining human beings themselves as “evil“.

3. Logic/Epistemology

Like the Hellenistic Philosophers and Antiochus, Plutarch appears to be particularly sensitive to the question of how we acquire knowledge. Plutarch sets out to defend the interpretation of Plato's epistemology maintained in the skeptical Academy. According to this interpretation, suspension of judgment (epochê) is the best way to avoid overhasty commitment to opinions (doxai), since the appearances on which they are based can be deceitful. Plutarch defends this epistemological position against the Stoic accusation that such an attitude leads to inaction, making life impossible, and also against the Epicurean claim that sense-experiences are always true. Plutarch distinguishes between three different movements in the soul, which are identical to those assumed by the Stoics, namely those of sensation (phantastikon), impulse (hormê), and assent (synkatathetikon Adv. Col. 1122B). The first two alone, Plutarch argues, against the Stoics, suffice to produce action (Adv. Col. 1122C-D). Since suspension of judgment does not interfere with either perception/sensation or impulse, it does not affect our actions but only eliminates opinions (ibid. 1122B). Consequently, Plutarch argues, suspension of judgment saves us from making mistakes (1124B) but does not prevent us at all from acting. Opsomer (1998, 88) has rightly noted that Plutarch's argument is very similar to that of the Pyrrhonian skeptics. Plutarch recommends suspension of judgment as a method of testing and evaluating knowledge obtained through the senses (Adv. Col. 1124B). This is not only because the senses often deceive us (De primo frigido 952A, De E392E) the problem according to Plutarch rather is that the world is a place that cannot be known perfectly. This, however, does not amount to dismissal of the senses, which is how Colotes criticized Plato (Adv. Col. 1114D-F). According to Plutarch, the senses are of limited application because they can at best inform us only about the sensible world, which is a world of generation, of appearances, not of being (De E 392E). For a Platonist like Plutarch, perfect knowledge can only be of being, and for that we need to transcend the sensible world and move our thought to the intelligible one (De Iside 382D-383A).

Plutarch makes a sharp distinction between sensible and intelligible knowledge, which corresponds to the fundamental ontological distinction between sensible or physical and intelligible reality (Plat. Quest. 1002B-C). He appears to distinguish two distinct faculties of human knowledge, the sensory and the intellectual, each of which grasps the corresponding part of reality (Plat. Quest. 1002D-E). The cognitive faculty for intelligibles, the human intellect, is external to the embodied soul (De an. procr. 1026E, Plat. Quest. 1001C, 1002F cf. Numenius fr. 42 Des Places) the sensory faculty, on the other hand, comes about when the soul enters the body (De virtute morali 442B-F see below, sect. 5), and provides the means for dealing effectively in daily life with our needs and circumstances in the physical world as it appears to our senses. In Plutarch's view, human beings come to understand through the intellect by making use of the notions or concepts (ennoiai), apparently identifiable with the Forms (Plat. Quest. 1001E), with which the intellect is inherently equipped. That is, the embodied soul recollects what it knows from its inherent familiarity with the intelligible realm, as Plato argued in the discussion of anamnêsis or recollection in the Meno (Plat. Quest. 1001D, 1002E Opsomer 1998, 193&ndash198). This knowledge of intelligibles is superior to sensory &ldquoknowledge,&rdquo which can only remain at the level of belief (pistis) and conjecture (eikasia Plat. Quest. 1001C). Indeed, knowledge of intelligibles can take one as far as to understand the divine realm (ibid. 1002E, 1004D). But we can achieve this kind of knowledge, Plutarch suggests, only when &ldquosouls are free to migrate to the realm of the indivisible and the unseen&rdquo (De Iside 382F). This is the main task of philosophy for Plutarch. Philosophy in his view must be inspired by the Socratic practice of inquiry, and this practice amounts to the continuous search for truth, which presupposes that, following the example of Socrates, one admits ignorance (Adv. Col. 1117D, De adulatore et amico 72A).

According to Plutarch, knowledge of intelligibles through anamnêsis is not in tension with the Academic prescription for suspension of judgment rather, knowledge can be advanced by suspension of judgment, since the latter puts aside opinion (doxa) as well as egoism (philautia), both of which prevent us from finding the truth (Plat. Quest. 1000C). To be in a position to carry out this search for truth, however, one must search oneself and purify one's soul, Plutarch argues (Adv. Col. 1118C-E). And he points out that Socrates promoted precisely this practice, using the elenchus as a purgative medicine, trying to remove false claims to knowledge and arrogance from the souls of his interlocutors, and to seek truth along with them, instead of defending his own view (Plat. Quest. 999E-F, 1000B, 1000D Opsomer 1988, 145-150, Shiffman 2010). Socrates, Plutarch claims, was in a position to do that because he had purified his soul from passions (De genio Socratis 588E), hence he was capable of understanding the voice of his daimôn, his intellect (see below, sect. 5).

Plutarch does not defend the Socratic-Academic epistemology only at the theoretical level, but also applies it practically. While discussing in On the Principle of Cold whether cold is a principle rather than a privation and whether earth is the primary cold element, he defends suspension of judgment as the right attitude to take on the matter (955C see Babut 2007, 72&ndash76 contra Boys-Stones 1997b). This is indicative of Plutarch's attitude to natural phenomena quite generally. He maintains that natural phenomena cannot be understood merely by means of investigating their natural causes. The discovery of the immediate, natural causes, Plutarch argues, is only the beginning of an investigation into the first and highest causes, which are intelligible (De primo frigido 948B-C Donini 1986a, 210-211, Opsomer 1998, 215&ndash6). In other words, a metaphysical explanation in terms of the Forms and god, the creator of the universe, must be sought (De def. or. 435E-436A). This is what, for Plutarch, demarcates the philosopher from the mere natural scientist (physikos De primo frigido 948B-C), a distinction further exploited by later Platonists (e.g. Atticus fr. 5 Des Places, Porphyry in Simplicius, In Physica 9.10&ndash13 fr. 119 Smith). Plutarch is guided here by the dichotomy between natural and intelligible causes found in Phaedo 97B-99D and Timaeus 68E-69D (Opsomer 1998, 183). Explaining the physical world through an appeal to natural causes alone is insufficient, Plutarch argues, since such an explanation ignores the agent (god) and the end for which something happens in the world (De def. or. 435E). The fundamental ontological and epistemological distinction between the sensible and intelligible realms suggests to Plutarch an analogous distinction of corresponding levels of explanation (Donini 1986a, 212, Opsomer 1998, 217). Plutarch maintains that there are two levels of causality, physical and intelligible, and full understanding of natural phenomena requires the grasping of both. While in the case of natural phenomena suspension of judgment maintains an unfailing spirit of research, in the case of the divine realm, where human understanding is seriously limited, suspension of judgment, Plutarch suggests, is due also as a form of piety towards the divine (De sera 549E Opsomer 1998, 178&ndash179).

Julius Caesar

The birth date of Caius Julius Caesar, the greatest man of the ancient world, is generally given as 100 B.C. If so, Caesar must have filled a number of public offices two years earlier than the law allowed. Some historians, therefore, consider that he was probably born in 102 B.C. Caesar is remarkable among great men for the marvellous variety of his powers. He ranks among the greatest statesmen and generals of the world. But that is not all. He was also a great administrator, a great orator, and a great writer. In spite of natural weakness of body and the distressing malady from which he suffered, the labours of the camp and the council did not exhaust his energies or suffice to occupy his time. Throughout his life he found leisure for literary pursuits, and the purity of his style was famous among the Romans themselves. The only works of Caesar which survive to our time are his Commentaries, which tell the story of the first seven years of the Gallic War and of a part of the civil war against Pompey and his party. The chief charge brought against Caesar is that of inordinate ambition and of seeking to make himself king. No doubt Caesar, with his clear-sighted wisdom, did indeed see that the wide extension of the dominions of Rome had, by his time, made good government impossible by the system which had served well enough when the rule of Rome did not extend beyond Italy. He saw that it was necessary for the supreme rule to be in the hands of one man, and there can be no doubt that he, above all others, was the man endowed with the gifts necessary to found the new system. It may, however, well be doubted whether Caesar cared much about receiving the actual title of rex, or king. It was not like his broad, clear-visioned intellect to be concerned greatly about an empty title.

The first act of the civil war, when, by crossing the Rubicon, Caesar practically declared war upon Pompey, was undoubtedly forced upon him by the instinct of self-preservation. The bloody massacres of Marius and Sulla were too recent to permit Caesar to doubt that obedience to the senate would mean his accusation and death. He had either to fight or to die.

It is a great and enduring honour to Caesar, greater in a moral sense than his victories and conquests, that he used his triumph over the party of Pompey with extraordinary mercy in comparison with others. Had Caesar been a Marius or a Sulla, few or none of the conspirators, Brutus, Cassius, and the rest, would have survived the ruin of their party to plot against him and to compass the great dictator's death.

Caesar was murdered on the Ides, the 15th, of March 44 B.C. But though he perished, the system of government he had begun survived, and the Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire.

Almost the whole of the material of Shakespeare's play of Julius Caesar is taken from Plutarch's Lives of Julius Caesar and of Brutus. It is of great interest to observe how the genius of Shakespeare deals with the material supplied by Plutarch's narrative and gives it a living, dramatic form.

When Sulla had established himself as master of Rome, he put to death a great number of the relatives and supporters of his rival and enemy, Caius Marius. Now Caesar's aunt was the wife of Marius, and Caesar himself. had married the daughter of one of the bitterest enemies of Sulla. Nevertheless, he was overlooked in the great number of those whom the dictator proscribed. When, however, Caesar presented himself as a candidate for the priesthood, Sulla prevented his obtaining the office, and was further minded to have him put to death. As Caesar was still very young, some one said to the dictator that there was no need to take the life of such a boy. Thereupon Sulla replied that those men must indeed be lacking in insight who did not see in this boy more than one Marius.

When this saying was reported to Caesar, he deemed it prudent to go into hiding, and for a time wandered about in the country of the Sabines. There he fell sick, so that he had to be carried about from place to place in a litter. In this condition he was one night found by a party of soldiers sent by Sulla to scour the country and to drag proscribed persons from their hiding-places. Caesar, however, by bribing the officer in command, prevailed upon him to let him go.

Caesar then hastened to seek safety at sea. In the course of his voyages he was captured by pirates, who had beset the neighbouring seas with a number of galleys and other vessels. The pirates set a ransom of twenty talents upon their prisoner, whereupon Cesar laughed, for their demand showed that they did not know who he was. Of his own accord he promised them fifty talents. He then sent his people to different cities in order to raise the money, and himself remained, with only one friend and two servants, among these ruffian pirates, who looked upon murder as a mere trifle. Caesar, however, treated them with contempt. When he had a mind to sleep, he was wont to send to tell them to keep silence. Thus he lived among them for thirty-eight days, rather as though they were his guards than he their prisoner. He moved among them perfectly fearless and unconcerned, joined in their exercises and sports, recited to them poems and orations which he had composed, and did not scruple to call them blockheads when they gave no sign of admiration. Indeed, he did not hesitate to tell the pirates that some day he would crucify them. His captors laughed at these threats, which they looked upon as jests.

When at length the money for his ransom had been brought and he was released, he set himself to man some vessels in a neighbouring port, and sallied out to seek the pirates. He found their ships still lying at anchor near the place of his captivity, and attacking them captured the money and most of the pirates and clapped them into prison. Then, as the Roman officer in that region, having his eye upon the money, delayed in punishing the robbers, Caesar took the matter into his own hands, and crucified them all, as he had before threatened to do when they thought he was in jest.

When the power of Sulla began to decline, Caesar's friends pressed him to return to Rome. First, however, he went to Rhodes, in order to study rhetoric under a famous teacher of that place of whom Cicero was also a pupil. Caesar had great natural talents as a speaker, and was not without ambition to cultivate them. Hence he became second only to Cicero among the orators of Rome, and might indeed have been the first had he not preferred to be pre-eminent in arms rather than in eloquence.

When he returned to Rome, the eloquence which he displayed in many cases procured him a considerable amount of influence, which was increased by his engaging manners and conversation. Moreover, he kept an open table and spent money freely, so that he became very popular and thus gained office. Those who were envious of him imagined that his resources would soon fail, and therefore made light of his popularity as something which would not last.

Cicero seems to have been the first who suspected something dangerous to the established order of government from Caesar, and to have seen that deep designs of ambition lay beneath his smiling affability. "I perceive," said he, "a tendency towards absolute rule in all he designs and does yet, on the other hand, when I see him arranging his hair so carefully and scratching his head with one finger, I can hardly credit such a man with the vast design of overthrowing the Roman commonwealth."

Many people, who observed the vast sums which Caesar expended, thought that he was purchasing short and fleeting honours very dearly. In truth, however, he was preparing the way to gain the greatest things to which a man can aspire at a cost small in comparison with their importance. He is said to have been in debt to the amount of one thousand three hundred talents before he obtained any public employment whatever. When he was appointed to superintend the Appian Way, he spent large sums of his own money on the work. Again, when he held the office of aedile, he exhibited a great gladiatorial show in which six hundred and forty gladiators took part. In addition to this, he provided other amusements in the theatre, and processions and public feasts which far outdid anything that the most ambitious of his predecessors had attempted.

Caesar's growing popularity and his efforts to revive the party of Marius greatly alarmed many of the senate, who believed that he was aiming at obtaining the sole rule in Rome. He was indeed accused of this in the senate, but defended himself so well that the decision went in his favour.

While affairs were going on thus, the chief pontiff of Rome died. Though the office was sought by two of the most distinguished men in Rome, who had, moreover, great interest with the senate, Caesar did not hesitate to offer himself as a candidate for the position. The prospects of the competitors seemed fairly equal, and one of his rivals therefore sent privately to Caesar and offered him large sums of money to withdraw from the contest. Caesar, however, replied that he would rather borrow in order to win the election still larger sums than those offered.

When the day of election came, his mother, her eyes filled with tears, accompanied him to the door. Embracing her, Caesar said, "My dear mother, you will to-day see me either chief pontiff or an exile." The contest was very keenly fought, but in the end Caesar was successful, much to the alarm of the senate and many of the principal citizens.

After he had served as praetor at Rome, the government of Spain was allotted to him. He found himself, however, in difficulties. His debts were so great and his creditors so troublesome and clamorous that he was obliged to apply for help to Crassus, the richest man in Rome. Crassus undertook to answer the most pressing of the creditors, and, by becoming security for eight hundred and thirty talents, enabled Caesar to set out for his province.

It is said that when Caesar was crossing the Alps on his journey, one of his friends said, as they were passing through a little town, "I wonder if there are any disputes about office, and whether there is envy and ambition, such as we see at Rome, in this paltry little place." Thereupon Caesar, speaking very seriously, said, "I assure you that for my part I would rather be first in this village than second in Rome."

Again, we are told that when he was in Spain he spent some of his leisure in reading the history of Alexander the Great. It was noticed that he was greatly affected by his reading, and that, after sitting some time in thought, he burst into tears. His friends, greatly wondering, inquired the reason, whereupon Caesar exclaimed: "Do you not think I have sufficient cause for concern when Alexander at my age ruled over so many conquered lands, while I have not a single glorious achievement of which to boast?"

Inspired by this desire for fame, Caesar immediately upon his arrival applied himself diligently to business. He raised ten new cohorts in addition to the twenty which he received with his government, and with these penetrated to the shores of the western ocean and conquered peoples who had not hitherto come under the Roman sway. Nor was his success in peace less than in war. He composed differences between the various cities and removed occasions of quarrel between the people, so that he left the province with a great reputation. Meanwhile he had acquired much wealth for himself, and enriched his soldiers with booty.

On his return to Rome, which happened at the time of the election of consuls, he found himself in a difficulty, for while those who wished for a triumph were obliged to remain without the walls, those who sought the consulship were required to appear in person in the city. He therefore applied to the senate for permission to stand for the consulship without presenting himself within the walls. The proposal, however, was strongly opposed by Cato, who, seeing that the request was likely to be granted, spun out the debate until it was too late for anything to be decided that day. Caesar therefore determined to give up the triumph, and to stand for the consulship.

As soon as he had entered the city, Caesar set himself to reconcile the enmity between Pompey and Crassus, two of the most powerful men in Rome. His success in making them friends secured the interest of both for himself. He walked to the place of election between them, and under the influence of their friendship he was elected consul with special honours.

He then at once proposed measures such as would have been expected rather from a tribune of the people than from a consul. Thus he brought forward bills for a division of lands and for a distribution of corn, both of which measures were wholly intended to please the plebeians. A part of the senate strongly opposed these proposals, whereupon Caesar with great warmth protested that their opposition drove him against his will to appeal to the people. Accordingly he did apply to them, and, with Crassus standing on one side of him and Pompey on the other, asked whether they approved of his laws. They replied that they did, whereupon Caesar further asked for their assistance against those who threatened to oppose them with the sword. Again they assented, and Pompey added, "Against those who come with the sword, I will bring both sword and buckler."

To strengthen still further his alliance with Pompey, Caesar gave him his daughter Julia in marriage, and soon after Pompey filled the Forum with armed men and so secured the passing of the laws which Caesar had proposed. At the same time the government of Gaul was decreed to Caesar for five years, and to this was added Illyricum, with four legions.

The wars which Caesar waged in Gaul, and the many glorious campaigns in which he reduced that country into submission to Rome, present him in a fresh light. We have to deal, as it were, with a new man. We behold him as a warrior and general not inferior to the greatest commanders the world ever produced. For he surpassed some in the difficulties of the scene of war, others in the extent of the lands he subdued, others in the numbers and strength of those he overcame, others in the savage manners and treacherous dispositions he civilised, others in his mercy to his prisoners, others in his bounty to his soldiers, and all, in the number of the battles which he fought and of enemies that fell before him. For in less than ten years of warfare in Gaul, he carried eight hundred cities by assault, conquered three hundred nations, and at different times fought pitched battles with three millions of men, of whom one million were slain and another million made prisoners.

Moreover, such was the affection which Caesar inspired in his soldiers, and such was their devotion to him, that they who under other leaders were nothing above the common, became under him invincible and capable of meeting the utmost danger with a courage which nothing could resist, and which was displayed in such instances as the following

One of Caesar's legionaries, after boarding one of the enemy's ships in a sea-fight near Marseilles, had his right arm smitten off by a sword-cut. But, dashing the buckler which he bore upon his left arm in the faces of his foes, he vanquished them and captured the vessel. Another soldier in the midst of battle had one eye shot out by an arrow, his shoulder pierced by a javelin, his thigh transfixed by another, while upon his shield he received a hundred and thirty darts. He called out to the enemy, and upon two of them, who thought he was about to surrender, approaching, he smote one so sorely that his arm was lopped off, and the other he wounded in the face. Then, his comrades rushing to his aid, he came off with his life.

Again, in Britain, it chanced that some of the vanguard got into difficulties in a deep morass, and were attacked there by the enemy. Then a private soldier, in the sight of Caesar, threw himself into the midst of the assailants, and by dint of extraordinary acts of valour drove them off and rescued his comrades. He then with much difficulty, partly by wading and partly by swimming, crossed the morass, but in so doing lost his shield. Caesar and those around him ran to meet the soldier when he got to land with shouts of joy, but he, with signs of deep distress, threw himself at Caesar's feet and besought pardon for the loss of his shield.

In Africa it chanced that one of Caesar's ships was taken by the enemy, and all on board were put to the sword except one officer, who was told that he would be given his life. "It is the custom," said he, "for Caesar's soldiers to give quarter, but not to take it," and immediately plunged his sword into his own breast.

This courage of his soldiers was cultivated in the first place by the generous manner in which Caesar rewarded his troops and by the honours which he paid them. For he did not heap up riches in his wars in order to live in luxury. He poured the wealth, as it were, into a common bank, to serve as prizes for distinguished valour. Another thing that helped to make his soldiers invincible was the fact that Caesar himself always took his full share in danger, and did not shrink from any labour and fatigue.

His soldiers were indeed not surprised at his exposing himself to danger, for they knew his ardent love of glory. But they were astonished at the patience with which he underwent toils and fatigues which appeared beyond his strength, for he was of slender build, fair in complexion and delicate in constitution, being subject to violent headaches and to epileptic fits. Yet he did not make these infirmities an excuse for indulging himself. On the contrary, he sought a remedy for them in warfare, and endeavoured to strengthen his constitution by long marches, simple food, and living largely in the open air. Thus he fought against his bodily weakness and strengthened himself against the attacks of his malady.

He generally took his sleep upon the march, either in a chariot or a litter, in order that rest might not cause any loss of time. In the daytime he visited the cities, castles, and camp attended by a servant, whom he employed to write from his dictation, and followed by a soldier, who carried his sword. In this way he was able to travel so fast that he reached the Rhone in eight days from the time of setting out from Rome.

In his early years he was a good horseman, and acquired such a mastery of the art of riding that he could sit his horse at full speed with his hands behind him. In his expedition into Gaul he was accustomed to dictate letters to two secretaries at the same time as he rode on horseback. Moreover, he showed himself indifferent to the pleasures of the table and careless of discomfort. "Honours to the great and comforts for the infirm," said he, giving up the only room in a poor but where he had sheltered to one of his weaker followers, while he himself slept under a shed at the door.

Caesar's first expedition in Gaul was against the Helvetians and the Tigurini, who, having burnt twelve of their own towns and four hundred of their villages, set out to march through that part of Gaul which was subject to Rome, in order to invade Italy. They were brave and warlike peoples and formidable in numbers, for they mustered in all three hundred thousand, of whom one hundred and ninety thousand were fighting men. Caesar sent his chief lieutenant against the Tigurini, who were defeated by him near the river Saone.

The Helvetians suddenly attacked Caesar as he was on the march, but, notwithstanding the surprise, he was able to take a good position and to draw up his men in order of battle. His horse was then brought to him, but he sent it away. "I shall need my horse for the pursuit when I have won the battle," said he, "but at present let us attack the enemy on foot." The enemy was not driven from the field without a long and severe combat. The Romans met with their chief difficulty when they came to the enemy's rampart of chariots, for then not only did the men make a determined stand, but even the women and children fought till they were cut to pieces. So stubborn was the resistance that the battle lasted till midnight.

Caesar followed up this great victory by a very wise act. He collected the surviving barbarians, who were in number about one hundred thousand. These he obliged to settle again in the lands they had abandoned and to rebuild the cities they had burnt, in order that the lands might not be left to be seized by the Germans.

Caesar's next war was in defence of Gaul against these Germans, who proved themselves very troublesome neighbours to the peoples he had subdued. He found, however, that some of his officers shrank from this expedition, especially some of the young nobility who had followed Caesar in the hope of both living in luxury and making their fortunes. The general therefore called them together, and before the whole army told them that, since they were so unmanly and spiritless, they were at liberty to depart. "For my part," he continued, "I will march against the barbarians with the tenth legion only, for these Germans are not better men than others I have conquered, nor am I a worse general than Marius, who defeated them afore time." Upon this some of the tenth legion sent a deputation to thank Caesar for the honour he proposed to do them, while the other legions laid the whole blame for backwardness upon their officers. In the end all followed him in good spirits, and after several days' march arrived within twenty-five miles of the enemy.

The approach of Caesar broke down the confidence which the German king, Ariovistus, had felt. He had never dreamt that the Romans would march to attack him, but had expected, on the contrary, that they would not dare to stand against him when he went in quest of them. Moreover, he saw that his men were dispirited by the bold move of Caesar and by the prophecies of their diviners, who warned them not to give battle until the new moon.

Caesar was informed of the discouraged state of the enemy, and found that they kept close within their camp. He therefore thought it better to attack them while they were thus dejected, than to sit still and bide their time. Accordingly he attacked their defences and the hills upon which they were posted. The attack roused the Germans to fury, and they rushed to meet the Romans in the plain. They were, however, utterly routed, and were pursued by Caesar as far as the river Rhine so fiercely that the whole distance of nearly forty miles was strewn with dead bodies and scattered weapons. The number of killed is said to have been eighty thousand, Ariovistus himself narrowly escaping across the river with a few of his troops.

Having thus ended the war, Caesar left his army in winter quarters, and journeyed to that part of his province of Gaul which lay on the southern side of the Alps, and which is separated from Italy by the river Rubicon. His object was to keep affairs in Rome under his observation and to maintain his interests in the city. Many came thence to pay their respects to him, and all he sent away satisfied, some with presents, others with hopes of future benefits. Thus, throughout his wars, he gained over the citizens of Rome by means of the money which he obtained from the enemies whom he conquered by the use of the Roman arms.

When Caesar received news that the Belgae, who were the most powerful people in Gaul and whose territories made up a third part of the whole country, had collected a great army and broken out into rebellion, he marched against them with marvellous speed. He found them ravaging the lands of those Gauls who were allies of Rome. The main body made but a feeble resistance to him, and was defeated with such terrible slaughter that lakes and rivers were choked with bodies, and the soldiers crossed them over bridges of corpses.

Then Caesar led his army against the Nervii, who dwelt in a densely wooded country. These people, having hidden their families and their valuables in the depths of a great forest far from the enemy, marched, to the number of sixty thousand, against the Romans. They came upon Caesar as he was fortifying his camp, and when he was quite unprepared for their attack. The Roman cavalry was first of all routed, and then the barbarians surrounded the twelfth and seventh legions, which lost all their officers in the fight. Probably not one Roman would have survived the battle had not Caesar snatched a buckler from one of his men and thrown himself into the combat, while the tenth legion, which was posted on the heights above, rushed to support their general when they saw his danger. But though the Romans, encouraged by Caesar's bold action, fought with superhuman courage, they could not make the Nervii turn their backs. They stubbornly held their ground and were hewn to pieces where they stood, so that it is said that, of the sixty thousand, not five hundred survived the fight.

When the news of this great victory reached Rome, the senate decreed that sacrifices should be offered and festivities kept up for fifteen whole days, a longer term of rejoicing than had ever before been known. As for Caesar, when he had settled the affairs of Farther Gaul, he again crossed the Alps and passed the winter near the river Po, in order to watch over his interests in Rome. Thither came the greatest and most illustrious people in the state to pay their court to him, among them being over two hundred senators. Pompey and Crassus were of the number, and among these three it was settled that Pompey and Crassus should be consuls for the next year, and that in return they should procure for Caesar a further term of five years in his government, together with supplies for his needs from the public treasury.

Upon his return to his army Caesar found that another furious war had blazed out, for two German peoples had crossed the Rhine to make conquests in Gaul. When Caesar marched against them, however, they sent messengers to ask for a truce, and this he granted. Nevertheless, they treacherously attacked him when he was on the march with only eight hundred horse, who, on account of the truce, were quite unprepared for the onslaught. But even with this small force Caesar beat off the cavalry of the enemy, who numbered five thousand men.

Next day the Germans sent messengers to express their regret for the attack. These envoys Caesar seized, for he thought it foolish to stand upon honour with so treacherous a people, and then marched against the enemy. Four thousand of them were killed in the fight, and the few who escaped recrossed the Rhine, where they were sheltered by another German tribe. Caesar seized upon this as a pretext to attack the latter people, but his real motive was the desire of having the glory of being the first Roman to cross the Rhine in a hostile manner. For this purpose he threw a bridge across the river, which in that place is a wide rushing stream which bears down upon its waters many great trunks of trees. To ward off the shocks from these upon the supports of the bridge, Caesar drove great piles into the river bed, which stopped the trees and also served to break the force of the current. He carried out this great work, and finished the bridge in the astonishingly short space of ten days.

His crossing was not opposed by the enemy, who retired into the depths of their forests. Caesar laid waste their lands with fire, and then returned into Gaul after an absence of only eighteen days in Germany.

But Caesar's daring spirit of enterprise was most fully displayed by his expedition into Britain. For he was the first to sail a fleet upon the western ocean, and, embarking his army on the Atlantic, to carry war into an island the very existence of which was doubted. For some writers had represented it as so incredibly vast in size that others declined to believe that there was such a place, and declared both name and place to be fictitious. Yet Caesar endeavoured to conquer it, and to extend the bounds of the Roman Empire beyond the limits of the habitable world. He twice sailed to Britain from the opposite shores of Gaul and fought many battles, which brought more suffering to the Britons than profit to the Romans, for there was nothing worth taking from people so poor and living in such a state of misery. Caesar, however, did not finish the war as he had hoped he only received hostages from the king and fixed a tribute which the island was to pay, and then returned to Gaul.

There he found news awaiting him of the death of his daughter, the wife of Pompey. Both father and husband were deeply affected by her death. It was also a matter of great concern to their friends, for her life was a great support to the alliance between Caesar and Pompey, upon which the peace of the state so largely depended.

As Caesar's army was now very large, and as there was, moreover, a scarcity of food in Gaul, he was forced to divide it when he went into winter quarters. When this was done, he himself, according to custom, set out towards Italy. But he had not gone long before the Gauls rose again in rebellion, raised considerable armies, and fiercely attacked the scattered Romans in their quarters. The strongest body of the insurgents attacked two of Caesar's officers in their camp and cut off the whole party. Then with an army of sixty thousand men they besieged a legion under Quintus Cicero. The Romans made a spirited resistance, but they suffered very heavy losses, so that they were near being taken.

Caesar was a long way off when he received news of the danger which threatened the legion. He returned with great speed, and, having collected troops, not more than seven thousand in number, marched to the relief of Cicero. Thereupon the Gauls, who had intelligence of his movements, raised the siege and marched to meet him in full confidence of victory, for they knew how small his force was. Caesar, in order to deceive them, pretended to retreat hastily before them, until he came to a place which offered advantages to a small force resisting a large one. There he fortified his camp, and, in order to increase the self-confidence of the Gauls, he ordered his men not to attack but to shelter themselves behind a great rampart and strongly barricaded gates. Caesar's devices succeeded as he had hoped. The Gauls, despising an enemy which seemed so much afraid of them, confidently advanced to the attack in a disorderly rabble. Then Caesar suddenly burst out of the camp, and destroyed the greater part of them. This success laid the spirit of revolt for the time, though Caesar, as a measure of precaution, spent the whole of the winter in Gaul, visiting all the camps and keeping a vigilant eye upon any movement among the people.

Still later than these events, however, the embers of hatred to Rome, which had long smouldered in the more distant parts of the country and among the most warlike peoples, blazed out into one of the most dangerous and greatest wars that ever happened in Gaul. The difficulties of the Romans were increased, too, by the severity of the season in which the outbreak occurred. Ice covered the rivers and snow the forests, while the roads lay hidden beneath the snow or beneath the frozen flood-water which spread far and wide across the land. It seemed impossible, therefore, for Caesar to march against the insurgents. Nevertheless, immediately he received the news he struck swiftly. Covering with his whole army great distances at a speed which would have been remarkable for a single courier, he appeared in the lands of the enemy, ravaging the country, destroying the forts and storming the cities. So he went on, until a people who had been hitherto loyal to the Romans joined in the revolt. Then he was obliged to retreat, until he came to a region where the people remained steadfast to their alliance with Rome. There he made a stand, and although surrounded by a vast army, he totally defeated the enemy. Many of the foes who escaped from the battle took shelter in the town of Alesia. Though it seemed impossible to take the place on account of the strength of the walls and the great number of soldiers by which it was defended, Caesar immediately formed the siege of the town.

While he was thus engaged, he was exposed to the most extraordinary peril. Three hundred thousand of the bravest men in Gaul marched to the relief of Alesia, while within it was a garrison of seventy thousand soldiers. Then Caesar accomplished the most marvellous of all his feats of war and generalship. He built two lines of fortification around the town, from the inner one of which he carried on the siege, while the outer one was a defence against the relieving army. He successfully accomplished the feat of defeating the latter army, while he maintained the siege and forced the town to surrender.

By this time the rivalry between Caesar and Pompey had become very severe, the more so as Crassus, who alone might have entered into the lists against them, had been slain in the Parthian War. It is true that Pompey had not for any long time felt any fear of Caesar, but had rather despised him, as one who could be pulled down as easily as he had been set up. But Caesar had long been bent upon the ruin of Pompey, who, he plainly saw, alone stood between him and the mastery of Rome. Like a competitor in the games, he had therefore retired to a distance to train himself for the contest. The long service and glorious achievements in Gaul had provided him with a devoted army, and he himself had gained a fame which rivalled that of Pompey.

The misgovernment at Rome, the open corruption and bribery, the anarchy and bloodshed in the city, and especially some of the acts of Pompey, furnished Caesar with sufficient pretexts for action in accordance with his designs.

The disorders in the state were such that wise men thought it would be well if they ended in nothing worse than the establishment of a monarchy, and Pompey was hinted at as the man likeliest to remedy matters with the gentlest hand. For his part, Pompey, though he declined the honour of being made dictator, nevertheless acted in such a way as tended to bring all power into his hands. The senate was persuaded to declare him sole consul, he was continued in his governments of Spain and Africa, which he ruled by means of his lieutenants, and he was allowed a thousand talents a year for the maintenance of his troops.

Thereupon Caesar applied for another consulship, and for the continuance of his commission in Gaul, in order that he might be on the same footing as Pompey.

The supporters of the latter, however, strongly opposed these demands, while Caesar, by a lavish use of the treasures he had amassed in Gaul, busied himself in greatly strengthening his party in the city. Pompey was alarmed by the rapid increase in the influence of his rival. He began to exert himself openly to get a successor to Caesar appointed to the rule of Gaul, and he also demanded back the legions which he had formerly lent to Caesar for his wars.

Caesar returned the legions, and the officers who led them back spread reports which filled Pompey with vain hopes which proved his ruin. They said that Caesar's victorious legions would declare for Pompey directly they arrived in Italy, so much did they hate Caesar because he hurried them ceaselessly from one expedition to another. Such confidence did Pompey repose in these assurances that he neglected to levy troops. He contented himself with making speeches and decrees, for which Caesar cared nothing. It is said that a centurion in Caesar's army, who had been sent by his general to Rome, waited at the door of the senatehouse to learn the decision of the senate concerning Caesar's commission in Gaul. He was told that a longer term would not be given. Thereupon, clapping his hand upon his sword, he cried, "This, then, shall give it."

Indeed, Caesar's demands appeared very just and reasonable. He offered to lay down his arms if Pompey would do the same, and he pointed out that to deprive him alone of his government and legions was to leave Pompey absolute master of the state. The senate, however, was strongly opposed to Caesar. Few voted that Pompey should dismiss his forces, while almost all called upon Caesar to lay down his arms. Even when Caesar made still more moderate proposals than at first, they were rejected, and Antony and Curio, two of his friends, were driven with ignominy from the senatehouse. Indeed, in such danger did they believe themselves to be, that, disguised as slaves, they escaped in hired carriages to Caesar's quarters. He did not fail to use the plight to which men of such distinction in the state had been reduced, merely through friendship to him, to exasperate his troops against the party of Pompey.

Caesar at this time had with him not more than three hundred horse and five thousand foot. He sent orders for the rest of his troops, who lay on the other side of the Alps, to join him. But for his present purposes he considered that swiftness and boldness of action were more necessary to his success than numbers. He therefore, without waiting for further forces, set out secretly for the Rubicon, the little stream which divided his government of Cisalpine Gaul from Italy. As he approached the river, his mind was disturbed by the greatness of the enterprise. He stood still for a time revolving in his mind the arguments on both sides, and talking with his friends about the calamities which his passage of the river would let loose upon the world. At last, impelled by a sudden impulse, he bade adieu to his reasonings, and crying out, "The die is cast," crossed the river. So fast did he travel during the rest of the night that before daylight he reached Ariminum and took it.

Now war by sea and land had opened wide its gates, for Caesar, by going beyond the bounds of his province, had broken the laws and declared war upon the state. Terror seized upon the land, whole cities were broken up, and their peoples sought safety in flight. Most of this tumultuous human tide flowed into Rome, and increased the wild confusion which reigned in the city. Pompey, though his forces were not inferior in numbers to those of Caesar, was borne along in the general panic. He left Rome, having first issued orders to the senate, and to every man who preferred liberty to tyranny, to follow him. The consuls fled with him, and most of the senators, snatching up such of their property as lay next to hand, joined in the frenzied flight. Indeed, so blind was the panic, that even some of those who had before been well disposed to Caesar now joined in the rush from the city. Caesar continued his advance and laid siege to Corfinium, wherein lay thirty cohorts of Pompey's troops. Their commander in despair ordered his physician to give him a draught of poison, which he immediately drank. In but a little while, however, he regretted his action, for he heard of the extraordinarily merciful way in which Caesar was treating his prisoners. Thereupon his physician removed his fears, for he was able to assure him that the draught was a sleeping potion, and not a deadly poison. Rejoicing greatly, the officer went to Caesar, who took him by the hand and pardoned him. The news of Caesar's clemency gave great relief in Rome, and many of those who had fled now ventured back again.

The thirty cohorts at Corfinium, and others whom Pompey had left in garrison at various places, were added to Caesar's army, and he now felt strong enough to march against his rival. Pompey, however, did not await his attack. He retired to Brundisium, and thence sent the consuls across to Greece with part of the army. Thither he himself followed with the rest upon the approach of Caesar, who was prevented from pursuing farther by lack of ships. Caesar, therefore, returned to Rome with the glory of having subdued the whole of Italy without bloodshed in sixty days.

He found the city in a more orderly condition than he expected. One of the tribunes, indeed, opposed him. Caesar proposed to take money for his needs from the public treasury, whereupon the tribune alleged that it was contrary to the law. Thereupon Caesar exclaimed, "War and laws do not flourish together, and indeed war will not brook much liberty of speech. You and all whom I find stirring up a spirit of faction against me are at my disposal." Moreover, as the keys of the treasury were not produced, he sent for workmen to break open the doors. The tribune again strove to prevent his bursting into the treasury, but was silenced by a threat of death. "And this," said Caesar, "you are aware it is easier for me to do than say." His first movement was to Spain, whence he was resolved to drive Pompey's lieutenants and to add their troops to his own before setting out against their master. In the course of this expedition he was often in danger from ambushes, and his army had to contend against famine. Nevertheless, he waged war by battle, pursuit and siege, till he forced the camp of his enemies and added their troops to his own.

Upon his return to Rome he was declared dictator, and, while he held that office, he recalled the exiles, restored to their honours the children of those who had suffered under Sulla, and relieved the debtors. He then laid down the dictatorship, after holding it for only eleven days. Then, having caused himself and one of his supporters to be declared consuls, he left Rome in order to continue his war against Pompey.

So fast did he march to Brundisium that only a part of his troops could keep up with him. He therefore embarked with only six hundred chosen cavalry and five legions. He crossed the Ionian Sea early in the month of January, made himself master of two towns, and then sent back his ships to bring over the remainder of his soldiers.

Meanwhile these war-worn troops, heavy with the fatigue of marching and wearied of the succession of foes they had to encounter, marched discontentedly towards Brundisium. They cried out upon Caesar, saying, "Whither will this man lead us, and where is the end of our labours? Are we to be harassed for ever as though our limbs were hard as stone and our bodies strong as iron? Our very shields and breastplates cry out for rest, for iron itself yields to repeated blows. Our wounds should teach Caesar that we are mortals, and yet he would expose us to the rage of winter upon the sea, though even the gods cannot clear the wintry seas of storms."

With such complaints they marched slowly to Brundisium. But when they arrived and found their general gone, the wonderful power which Caesar had over them was revealed. They changed their tone, blamed their officers for not having hastened the march, and sitting upon the cliffs strained their eyes across the seas in search of the transports that were to take them to share the dangers and labours of their general.

Meanwhile Caesar lay in the town which he had seized, lacking sufficient troops to make head against the enemy, and full of anxiety at the delay of the rest of his army. In his difficulty he took an astonishing and daring course. The sea was covered with the fleets of the enemy, yet he resolved to take the risk of sailing secretly to Brundisium to bring up his missing legions. By night, therefore, dressed in the habit of a slave, he went on board a little vessel of twelve oars, and throwing himself down as though he were a person of no account, sat in silence. The boat dropped down the river for the sea. At that place the outfall is generally easy, because the land wind which rises in the morning beats down the waves where sea and river meet. But, by ill-fortune, a strong sea wind blew that night, so that the opposing waters were lashed into fury. Wave dashed against wave in tumult, and the pilot, despairing of making good the passage through the boiling eddies, ordered the mariners to turn back. Thereupon Caesar arose and discovered himself to the astonished pilot. "Go forward, my friend," said he. "Fear not, thou carriest Caesar and his fortune."

The sailors forgot their fears, and, plying their oars manfully, endeavoured to force the boat along against the furious waves. But at the mouth of the river the storm was so violent and the water poured so fast into the vessel that Caesar, though with reluctance, was obliged to permit the pilot to put back. When he returned to the camp, the soldiers met him in crowds, complaining loudly that he had not enough confidence in them to be assured of victory by their aid alone, and that, in his distrust of their support, he had exposed himself to such peril.

Soon after this Antony arrived with the troops from Brundisium, and Caesar in high spirits then offered battle to Pompey. His rival was strongly encamped, and was abundantly supplied with provisions both by way of sea and land, while Caesar from the first had but little food, and later on suffered from great scarcity. His soldiers, however, found relief from their hunger in a root which grew in the neighbouring fields, and which they prepared in milk. Sometimes they made a kind of bread from it, and throwing it amongst Pompey's outposts declared that they would maintain the siege while the earth continued to produce such food.

Pompey would not suffer this bread to be shown nor these speeches to be reported in his camp, for his men were already discouraged. They shuddered, indeed, at the hardihood of Caesar's troops, who seemed as insensible to fatigue as so many wild beasts. Skirmishes around Pompey's entrenchments frequently took place, and in all save one Caesar had the advantage. That one, however, promised disaster for his cause, for his troops were driven back in such hurried flight that his camp was in danger of being taken. Pompey himself headed the attack, and none could stand before him. He drove Caesar's troops upon their own lines in utter confusion, and their trenches were filled with dead.

Caesar ran to stay the flight, but it was beyond his power to rally the fugitives. He seized hold of the standards in order to recall his soldiers to a sense of discipline, but the standard-bearers then cast their ensigns away, so that no less than thirty-two were taken by the enemy. Indeed, Caesar narrowly escaped with his life in the panic. He laid hold of a tall, strong fellow who was running past him and tried to make him stand and face the enemy. Thereupon the fugitive, mad with fear, raised his sword to strike his general, but the blow was prevented by Caesar's armour-bearer, who struck off the soldier's arm.

That day Caesar so completely despaired of his affairs that after Pompey, either through too great caution or some accident, caused the retreat to be sounded without giving the finishing stroke to his great success, Caesar said to his friends, "This day victory would have been with the enemy if their general had known how to conquer." That night, when Caesar sought repose in his tent, was the most full of anxiety of any in his life. He reflected that his generalship had been bad in neglecting to carry the war into the fertile lands near him, and in confining himself to the seacoast, where the fleets of the enemy cut off his supplies, with the result that he, rather than Pompey, suffered the difficulties and scarcity of a siege. Therefore, after a night thus disturbed by his sense of the difficulty and danger of his position, he broke up his camp in order to march into Macedonia. He considered that Pompey, if he followed him, would lose the advantage he now had of receiving supplies while, if his rival sat still, Pompey's lieutenant in Macedonia might easily be crushed while left unsupported.

His enemies were greatly elated by Caesar's retreat. They looked upon it as an acknowledgment that he was beaten, and Pompey's officers and men wished to pursue him closely. But Pompey was unwilling to stake all upon the hazard of immediate battle. He himself was well provided with all necessary stores, and he therefore thought that time was on his side, and that, by dragging out the war, he could break down such vigour as remained in Caesar's army. For the best of that general's soldiers were indeed veterans of the staunchest valour in battle, but age had rendered them less fitted for the wearisome labours of war, for long marches and the making of encampments, for attacking walls, and for standing whole nights on guard under arms. It was said, too, that a disease due to the lack of proper food was raging among them. Moreover, Pompey's chief consideration was that Caesar was so poorly supplied with money and provisions that it seemed likely that his army would soon break up of itself.

Such were Pompey's reasons for avoiding a battle, but none of his officers, save one, approved of his opinion. All the rest reproached and upbraided him, and hinted that his inaction was due to the kingly state in which he found himself, with so many officers of high rank paying him court. Stung by these reproaches, Pompey, against his own judgment, went in pursuit of Ceasar with the intention of bringing on a battle. Meanwhile Caesar had continued his retreat with difficulty, for, being looked upon as a beaten man, he was everywhere refused provisions. However, he took a certain town where his troops obtained plenty of food and wine, and, the disease which had oppressed them disappearing as if by magic, they marched on with renewed vigour. Thus the two armies entered the plain of Pharsalia and encamped over against one another. Pompey now returned to his former opinion as to the wisdom of postponing battle, and some unlucky omens and an alarming dream strengthened his views. His officers, however, were so foolishly confident of victory, that some disputed about the offices which should be theirs when they returned in triumph to Rome, while others sent to the city to secure houses suitable for men of the high rank to which they expected to be raised. Especially were the cavalry impatient for battle, in the pride of their splendid armour, their well-fed horses and their own handsome persons, and in the confidence in their numbers, for they were seven thousand against Caesar's one thousand. In foot-soldiers, too, Pompey had a great advantage, for he had forty-five thousand to oppose to twenty-two thousand who followed his rival.

Caesar now assembled his soldiers, and told them that two more legions were coming to join them and were at no great distance, while fifteen other cohorts lay round about Megara and Athens. He then asked whether they would wait for these troops or whether they would risk a battle without them. His soldiers cried aloud, "Let us not wait, but do you rather contrive some plan to make the enemy fight as soon as possible."

Caesar then offered sacrifices, and the soothsayer announced that a decisive battle would be fought within three days. Caesar then asked if he saw any sign favourable to his success. "You," said the soothsayer, "can answer that question better than I. The gods announce a complete change in the state of affairs. If, then, you consider your present condition a happy one, prepare for a worse but if not, you may expect a better."

The night before the battle there was a strange appearance in the sky. About midnight Caesar was going his round to inspect the watches when a fiery torch was seen in the heavens. It seemed to pass over Caesar's camp, and then, flaming out with great brightness, to fall in the midst of Pompey's army. In the morning, too, when the guard was relieved, a great tumult was observed in the enemy's camp. Caesar, however, did not expect a battle that day, and therefore ordered his soldiers to break up their camp.

The tents were already struck when the scouts came riding in with news that the enemy was coming down to battle. Caesar was filled with joy at the news, and, after offering prayers to the gods, arranged his army in three divisions. He himself had the right wing, where he intended to fight in the tenth legion.

Caesar was struck by the number and splendid appearance of the enemy's horsemen, who were posted over against him. He therefore brought round six cohorts of his horse from the rear without the movement being observed. These he stationed behind his wing, and gave them instructions as to what they should do when the enemy's cavalry charged. The whole strength of Pompey's horsemen was brought to bear against Caesar's wing, with the design of breaking up that part of the army where he commanded in person by the shock of an irresistible charge.

When the signal for battle was about to be given, Pompey ordered his foot-soldiers to stand in close order, and not to move to meet the enemy's attack until they were within cast of a javelin. Here, Caesar says, his rival was wrong, because the swift charge fires a soldier's courage, and lends force to his blows.

As Caesar was going into action with his phalanx, he espied a valiant and veteran centurion urging on his troop to play the men that day. Caesar hailed him by name and cried: "How do we stand for victory, Crassinus?" The centurion stretched out his right hand. "A splendid victory is ours, O Caesar!" he cried, "and whether I live through the day or not, of this I am sure, that I shall earn your praise." First of all the host, Crassinus, with his hundred and twenty soldiers following, burst upon the enemy, cut his way through the front ranks, and was fiercely driving the foe back, when a sword-thrust in the mouth, so shrewd that the blade came out at the back of his neck, laid him low.

When the infantry had come into close action and were fighting hotly, Pompey's cavalry advanced boldly from his left, and extended their squadrons to envelop Caesar's right. But at once the six cohorts whom Caesar had stationed behind his infantry came up at a gallop to meet the charge. They did not, as was the custom, hurl their javelins at the enemy from a distance. Nor did they, when they came to close quarters, strike at the legs and bodies of their foes. But they aimed their thrusts at their enemies' eyes and wounded them in their faces, as Caesar had ordered them before the battle. For he judged that Pompey's gay young horsemen, unused to war and wounds, and proud above all things of their handsome looks, would dread exceedingly blows directed at their faces, and that their ranks would thus be broken as much from fear of the disfiguring wounds as from the terror of the combat.

The event fell out as Caesar had expected. The gallants could not bear to look upon the spear-points pointed at their faces and the gleam of the swords flashing in the thrust at their eyes. They turned away their faces or covered them with their hands, broke into shameful flight, and, by their flight, ruined the whole cause of their army. For Caesar's cohorts of horsemen then swept round the enemy's infantry on that wing, charged them in front and rear, rode them down and cut them to pieces.

When Pompey from the other wing saw the rout of his cavalry, he forgot that he was Pompey the Great and became like one possessed. Without a word he left the battlefield, went to his tent, and there sat down to await the issue of the fight. At length, when his whole army was broken and dispersed and the victors were attacking the ramparts of his camp, he seemed to come to himself. "What, into my camp too!" he cried, and, laying aside the signs of his rank as general, donned humble garments and fled from the camp. He made his way safely to Egypt, but there, as he was landing from his boat, he was treacherously murdered by a centurion who had formerly served under him. When Caesar entered the camp of his rival, and saw the number of those who lay dead and the slaughter that was still going on, he said, with a sigh of regret, "Alas! that cruel necessity has brought this about but, alas had I dismissed my troops I should myself have been condemned as a criminal."

Caesar took most of the infantry who were made prisoners into his own legions. Moreover, he pardoned many persons of rank and importance, amongst whom was that Brutus who afterwards killed him. Caesar is said to have shown much concern when Brutus could not be found after the battle, and to have been overjoyed when he found that he was unhurt.

The victor soon went in pursuit of Pompey and arrived at Alexandria. There the head of his great rival, which had been cut off after the murder, was brought to him. But the conqueror turned away in abhorrence from the sight, and ordered that the murderer should be put to death. Such of Pompey's friends and supporters as were captured wandering about the country and were brought to Caesar, met with a welcome from him, were loaded with favours and taken into his own service. He wrote to his friends at Rome, saying that the chief satisfaction he derived from his victory was the pleasure of pardoning every day some one or other of his fellow-citizens who had fought against him.

In Egypt, Caesar became engaged in a dangerous war, which some have blamed him for undertaking needlessly. Others, however, accuse the servants of the ruler of Egypt of causing the war. For a servant of Caesar's, a prying and suspicious man, discovered that two officers at the Egyptian court were plotting to kill his master. When Caesar heard of this he planted his guards about the hall. One of the plotters was killed, but the other, who was the general of the army, escaped. His soldiers supported him, and thus Caesar was drawn into a difficult war, for he had but a few troops with which to subdue a great city and a large army.

His first great difficulty arose from a lack of water, for the enemy stopped up the aqueducts from which he drew his supply. When he had surmounted this by digging wells, he was faced with the necessity of burning his ships in the harbour to prevent their falling into the enemy's hands. And in a sea-fight near the island of Pharos he was in the most imminent danger. For, seeing his men hard pressed, he jumped from the mole into a small boat in order to go to their assistance. From all sides the Egyptians hastened to attack him. In order to escape, Caesar was obliged to jump from the boat, which soon after sank. With great difficulty he managed to escape to his own galley by swimming. But, imminent though his danger was, Caesar contrived to save some valuable documents which he had with him by holding them above water with one hand, while he swam with the other. In the end Caesar triumphed. He won a great victory over the Egyptians, and then established Cleopatra as queen over the country.

He next marched by way of Syria into Asia Minor, where he found that the governor whom he had appointed had been defeated, and that all the kings and rulers of Asia had been stirred up against the Romans. With three legions Caesar attacked their forces, and overthrew them with utter ruin in a great battle near Zela. He expressed the rapidity of his success by the brevity of the message in which he announced the victory to his friends in Rome: Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered).

After this extraordinary success he returned to Italy, and arrived in Rome just as the year of his second dictatorship was expiring. He was declared consul for the ensuing year, and after some interval prepared for another campaign against the remnants of Pompey's party, two of the leaders of which, Cato and Scipio, had escaped to Africa after the battle of Pharsalia, and there raised a considerable army. Caesar first crossed over to Sicily, and to show his intention of brooking no delay, had his tent pitched on the seashore almost within wash of the waves, although it was the winter season. When a favourable wind sprang up, he embarked three thousand foot and a small body of horse, and landed them secretly and safely on the African coast. He then returned to bring on the remainder of his troops, who were greater in number, but had the good fortune to meet them at sea, and to lead them safely to his African camp.

Caesar was often in difficulties during this war, mainly through the number of the African cavalry, who were extremely well mounted. By swift and sudden incursions they commanded the whole coast and prevented Caesar from receiving provisions and forage by sea. Hence he was often obliged to fight to obtain food. He was even forced to give his horses seaweed for fodder, merely washing out the salt and mixing it with a little grass to make it more palatable.

One day Caesar's cavalry, having no special duty to perform, left their horses to the care of boys and sat watching an African who danced and played upon the flute for their amusement. Suddenly the enemy burst upon them, killed some and drove the others in a confused mob into their camp. Had not Caesar and one of his officers come to the rescue and rallied the fugitives, the war would have been over in that hour. On another occasion the enemy again had the advantage, and again Caesar stopped the fight. It was in this fight that he caught by the neck a standard-bearer who was running away, and twisting him round, said, "Look this way, my man, for the enemy."

Scipio, flushed with these early successes, sought to come to a decisive action with Caesar. He marched to a camp by a lake near Thapsus in order to raise fortifications there and make it a place of arms. While he was raising his walls and ramparts, Caesar advanced with marvellous rapidity through a country very difficult for troops on account of woods and rough mountain passes, and surprised him at the work. Scipio's army, taken in front and rear, was utterly broken and put to flight. Then, acting upon the flood-tide of success, Caesar attacked the two other camps of the enemy, which were at no great distance, and captured both. Thus, in a small part of a single day, he took three camps and killed fifty thousand of the enemy with a loss to his own army of only fifty men.

A number of officers of high rank escaped from the battle. Some of them killed themselves when they were afterwards taken, and a number were put to death. Caesar was especially anxious to take Cato alive, and therefore hastened to the place where he had been stationed. But when he approached the town he learnt that Cato had put an end to his life. He was plainly disturbed at the news, and when his officers sought to know the reason of his uneasiness he exclaimed, "Cato, I envy thee thy death, because thou hast denied me the glory of giving thee thy life."

After his return to Rome Caesar spoke in glowing words of the victory he had won, and celebrated great triumphs for his victories over foreign peoples.

About this time a count was taken of the citizens of Rome, and it was found that their number had been reduced from three hundred and twenty thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand. Such was the dreadful loss which the civil war brought upon the city, to say nothing of the misery it inflicted upon the rest of Italy, and upon all the provinces under the Roman sway.

Caesar was now made consul for the fourth time. The first thing of importance which he undertook was to march into Spain, where the sons of Pompey, though young, had collected a large force. The great battle which put an end to the war was fought under the walls of Munda.

At first Caesar's men were hard pressed, and appeared to fight with but little vigour. He therefore ran through the ranks amidst the clash of swords and spears, crying, "Are you not ashamed to let your general be taken captive by boys?" The reproach stung his soldiers to desperate efforts. At length the enemy turned and fled, and more than thirty thousand were slain. Caesar lost but one thousand, but the loss included some of the best of his troops. Concerning this battle he said to his officers, as he left the field, that he had often fought for victory, but never before for his life.

This was the last of Caesar's wars, and the triumph in which he celebrated it gave more pain to the people of Rome than any act he had hitherto taken. For he did not now mount the triumphal car to celebrate victory over foreign kings and generals, but to glory in the ruin of the children and the destruction of the race of one of the greatest men that Rome had ever produced. It seemed to all that he was triumphing over the calamities of his country, and rejoicing in the miseries of a civil war which nothing but stern necessity could justify in the sight of gods or men. But the Romans saw no escape from ceaseless internal wars and troubles unless they took Caesar for their sole master, and they therefore created him dictator for life. His friends and enemies now vied with each other in paying him the most extravagant honours, the latter perhaps because they hoped that the very extravagance of their decrees in his favour would turn many of the people from him. Certainly Caesar's own actions at this time were above reproach. He not only pardoned most of those who had fought against him, but on some of them he bestowed offices and honours. He also caused the statues of Pompey which had been thrown down to be erected again. Concerning this the orator Cicero said, that by raising Pompey's statues, Caesar set up his own. Though his friends pressed him to have a bodyguard, Caesar refused. "Better die once," said he, "than live in constant fear of death." Indeed, he considered the affection of the people his greatest safeguard, and therefore sought to please them by feasts and gifts of corn. Similarly he gratified the soldiers by placing them in pleasant colonies. The most notable of these were at Carthage and Corinth, cities which he caused to be rebuilt. Thus it fell out that these two famous cities, which had been destroyed at the same time, were restored together.

So great were Caesar's abilities, so vast his ambition, that he was by no means ready, now that he was master of the world, to sit down and enjoy the glory he had won. Rather was his appetite whetted for still further achievements. In this spirit he formed the vast design of waging war against the Parthians and of making a circuit, after he had subdued them, of the whole northern boundary of the Empire, and of extending its limits to the ocean throughout his course.

During the preparations for this expedition he attempted to dig a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth. He planned also a canal from Rome to the sea, the draining of a wide extent of marsh-land, the embankment of certain parts of the seashore, the removal of obstructions to navigation, and the building of a number of harbours.

These designs, however, he did not live to carry out. But he did complete a work of great usefulness in reforming the calendar and correcting the reckoning of time. The change, useful and necessary though it was, was disliked by some.

The matter which most of all excited hatred against Caesar, and which led at last to his murder, was his desire for the title of king. This first offended the multitude, and it also gave his enemies a plausible excuse for their hatred. Those who, to curry favour with him, sought to procure him the title, spread among the people the statement that it appeared from the Sibylline Books that the Romans would never conquer the Parthians except under the leadership of a king. One day, when Caesar was returning from Alba to Rome, some of his followers ventured to salute him with the regal title. Caesar, however, saw that the people standing about were much disturbed by this compliment. He therefore assumed a look of anger and exclaimed,

"I am not called king, but Caesar." Thereupon a deep silence fell upon the people, and the dictator passed on, by no means well pleased.

At another time, when the senate had decreed certain extravagant honours to him, the consuls and other great officers of state went to acquaint him with the decree. Caesar declared that there was more need to retrench his honours than to increase them. But in spite of this answer, he gave great offence because he did not rise to receive the consuls, as was due to their office, but remained seated. Not only the senate, but also the people were displeased by this haughty reception, and Caesar saw his mistake. He sought to make his malady an excuse, saying that those who suffer from epilepsy are liable to find their faculties fail them when they speak standing, through trembling and giddiness overcoming them. But the truth seems to be that Caesar himself did intend to rise to greet the consuls, but was restrained by one of his flatterers, who laid hold of him and said: "Why do you not remember that you are Caesar? Let them pay their court to you as to their superior."

Other causes of offence were afterwards added. It was the custom at the feast of the Lupercalia for many of the young nobles and magistrates to run, stripped of their togas, through the city, and to strike those whom they met with strips of hide to cause sport and laughter, many women of rank putting themselves in the way of the runners and holding out their hands like scholars to their master. On this occasion Caesar, wearing a triumphal robe, sat upon a golden chair to view the spectacle.

Among those who ran was Mark Antony, for he was consul. When he came into the Forum, the crowd made way for him. He then approached Caesar and offered him a diadem wreathed with a crown of bay. Thereupon there was some applause, but it was slight, and came only from some few who had been placed there for the purpose. But when Caesar refused the proffered crown, all the people applauded loudly. Antony again offered it, and a few clapped their hands, but when Caesar once more put it from him the applause was again general. The trial of the people's feelings having thus shown their dislike to the emblems of kingship, Caesar rose and ordered the diadem to be taken away and placed in the Capitol.

A few days afterwards the statues of Caesar were found to be adorned with royal crowns. Thereupon two of the tribunes went and tore off the diadems, and, having discovered those persons who first saluted Caesar as king, carried them off to prison. A crowd followed the tribunes, applauding and clapping their hands and calling them Brutuses, because of that Brutus who put down the power of the kings and placed the government in the hands of the senate and the people. Caesar was very angry at these proceedings, rated the tribunes soundly with jeering speech, and deprived them of their offices.

In this state of affairs the minds of many turned towards Marcus Brutus, who on his father's side was said to be descended from the ancient Brutus. Many sought to stir him up against Caesar, and Cassius, who cherished a private hatred against the dictator, was especially active in doing so. Thus a plot against the life of Caesar, as being one who sought the kingly power, grew up.

It seems, from the death of Caesar, that fate is not so much a thing which gives no warning as something not to be escaped, for his death was foretold by many wondrous signs and portents. Perhaps, in connection with so great an event, it is not worth while to mention the lights which appeared in the heavens, the strange noises heard from various quarters in the air, and the solitary birds that appeared in the Forum. But one philosopher tells of more wondrous happenings of warriors of fire seen contending in the air of a flame that burst forth from the hand of a soldier's slave but left it unconsumed of a victim which Caesar sacrificed and which was found to be without a heart.

Other stories are told by many. It is said that a certain seer warned the dictator of a great danger that threatened him upon the Ides of March. When the day arrived, we are told that Caesar saw the seer as he was going to the senate-house, and called out to him, with a laugh, "Well, the Ides of March are come" whereupon the other answered quietly, "Yes, but not gone."

The evening before his murder Caesar supped with one of his friends, and according to his custom signed a number of letters while he was reclining at the table. While he was thus employed, the talk happened to turn on what kind of death was the best. Before any one else could give an opinion Caesar cried out, "A sudden one."

It is said that as he lay in bed the same night all the doors and windows of the room flew open at the same moment. Caesar was startled by the noise and by the bright moonlight which fell upon him, and looking at his wife Calpurnia, he saw that she lay in a deep sleep, but heard her uttering broken words and inarticulate groans. She was indeed dreaming that she held the body of her murdered husband in her arms and that she was weeping over him.

However that may be, the next day Calpurnia besought Caesar not to go out, but to put off the meeting of the senate if possible. She further implored him, that even if he paid no attention to her dreams, he would, at least, by sacrifices and other means of divination, seek information as to his fate.

It seems that Caesar himself felt some fear, especially as he had never before found any womanish superstition in Calpurnia, and now saw that she was much disturbed. He therefore caused a number of sacrifices to be made, and as the diviners found the omens unfavourable, he sent Antony to dismiss the senate.

In the meantime Decimus Brutus came in. He was in such great favour with Caesar that he had been appointed his second heir, but nevertheless he had joined in the plot with the other Brutus and Cassius. This man feared that, if Caesar escaped that day, the plot might be discovered. He therefore laughed at the diviners, and told Caesar that he would be greatly to blame if he insulted the senate by such a slight. "They are met together at your bidding," said he, "and are all of one mind to pass a decree declaring you king of all the provinces outside Italy and granting you the right to wear the diadem in all those parts by land and sea. But if you send to tell them, when they are taking their seats, to begone and come again some other day when Calpurnia may chance to have had better dreams, what do you expect will be said by those who envy you? If, however, you are firmly resolved to look upon the day as ill-omened, at least go yourself and address the senate, and then adjourn the meeting." So saying, he took Caesar by the hand and led him forth. The dictator had gone but a little way from the door, when a certain slave strove to get near enough to speak to him, but could not do so by reason of the crowd that pressed around him. The slave therefore made his way hurriedly into the house, and begged Calpurnia to allow him to stop there then till Caesar returned, because he had things of importance to tell him.

Moreover, a certain professor of philosophy, who was familiar with some of those who belonged to the party of Brutus, and had thus got to know most of what was going on, approached Caesar with a small roll on which was written information of the plot. He noticed, however, that Caesar received other such writings as he went along, and that he handed them at once to his attendants. The philosopher therefore got up as close as possible to Caesar, and handing him the roll said, "You alone should read this, Caesar, and quickly too, for it is about weighty matters of the utmost concern to you." Caesar therefore kept the writing, but though he made several attempts to read it, the crowd of people who came in his way prevented his doing so, and he entered the senate holding the roll, still unread, in his hand.

When Caesar came in, the senate rose to do honour to him. At once some of the accomplices placed themselves behind his chair, while others presented themselves before him, as if to support the prayer of one of their number, who besought Caesar that his banished brother might be recalled. All these conspirators followed Caesar and continued their entreaties till he came to his chair. When he was seated, he refused their plea, and as they continued to urge him still more strongly, he began to grow angry. Then one of them seizing Caesar's toga with both hands pulled it down from his neck, and thus gave the signal for the attack. Casca struck the first blow, and wounded Caesar in the neck. The wound was not mortal, nor even severe, and Caesar turning round seized hold of Casea's sword. At the same time he cried, "What meanest thou, villain Casca?" while Casca called to his brother in Greek, "Help, brother!"

All the conspirators now drew their swords and surrounded Caesar, so that whichever way he turned he saw nothing but gleaming blades thrusting at him, and met with nothing but wounds. Thus he found every hand raised against him, and was driven about like some wild beast attacked by the hunters, for the conspirators had agreed that each should have a share in the slaying and that each weapon should taste the blood of the victim. Therefore Brutus himself dealt him one blow in the groin. Some say that Caesar defended himself against the others, calling out and struggling, but that, when he saw the sword of Brutus drawn, he pulled his toga over his face and offered no further resistance. Either by chance or by the design of the conspirators, Caesar had been driven to the foot of Pompey's statue. There he fell, drenching the base of the statue with his blood. It seemed as if Pompey himself were directing the vengeance against his enemy who lay prostrate at his feet, writhing in the agony of death.

It is said that Caesar received three-and-twenty wounds, and that many of his murderers were wounded by their fellows as they crowded around their victim and aimed their blows at him.

Thus died Caesar at the age of fifty-six, having survived his rival Pompey not much more than four years. The spirit which had attended Caesar throughout his life followed him even after death, and as his avenger pursued and hunted his assassins across sea and land till there was not one left of all those who had either shed the blood of Caesar or consented to his death.

Signs from heaven marked his death. A great comet blazed in the skies for seven nights after his murder, and then disappeared. The sun's lustre faded and its orb looked pale all that year it rose without its usual radiance and did not give forth its usual heat. The air was dark and heavy by reason of the feebleness of the sun, and the fruits withered and fell half-ripened from the trees.

Plutarch: Lives that Made Greek History

This volume features fifteen excerpted Greek Lives, from Theseus to Phocion. Extensive notes and a glossary offer guidance on the periods covered in the volume. It is somewhat problematic that the book’s title does not indicate that the Lives are excerpted, as many in the intended audience of ancient history undergraduates will never realise how far the editor has guided their interpretation of the material or how much of the original text is missing. The large number of Lives featured and the extensive historical notes will undoubtedly be welcome to some course leaders, but some will be discouraged from recommending this volume to students by the difficulty of identifying edit points and the encouragement to treat sources without attention to genre or form.

The editor’s introduction explains the editing conventions that have been applied. Cuts mid-chapter are marked with ellipsis, while those made at the beginning or end of a chapter take effect without indication. Chapters are marked by bracketed numbers, so cases where chapters have been cut in their entirety can be seen, so long as readers check each number they pass. The result is that there is often little or no indication that a selection process has been applied.

Each Life is given its own introduction, which influences how that Life is read. The introduction to the brief selection from Theseus explains that it has been included despite its mythical nature because it ‘preserves important ideas the Athenians held about their own early history,’— a reasonable position. The Lycurgus introduction explains that this is an account of a person who may or may not have been a historical figure. The extracts focus on Lycurgan law, which is a good choice as this reflects the main topic of the Life. Plutarch’s account of the inheritance crisis in pre-Lycurgan Sparta is omitted, a decision which has ramifications for attempts to use this Life for discussions of Spartan society.

Solon is particularly rich in notes, something that is likely to be useful to readers unfamiliar with this early period. Political processes and factions are briefly explained (with terms such as boulé carrying pronunciation guides), and the translation issues surrounding tyrannos are discussed.

Plutarch’s Themistocles is introduced as ‘a complex blend of heroism and self-serving machination.’ While a huge percentage of religious episodes are cut from the Lives, this one retains Themistocles’ manipulation of an oracle, something surely intended to reinforce the editor’s interpretive focus on ‘self-serving machination.’ Notes provide cross-references to Herodotus and Thucydides, and explain that Themistocles’ ‘ritual bow’ is ‘proskynesis. . .a highly formalized gesture of submission seen by the Greeks as a shameful self-prostration.’ But there is no explanation of how differently Greeks and Persians understood this gesture, and no cross-reference to Alexander, where an explanation would have been particularly helpful.

The Aristides introduction notes that Plutarch foregrounds this individual in a number of episodes where Herodotus has ‘Athenians.’ This should ‘remind readers that in the Lives Plutarch was composing character studies and moral paradigms, not history as we know it.’ This is a welcome reminder, but it disguises the fact that this volume presents neither ‘history as we know it’ nor Plutarch’s character study. Plutarch’s elegy on justice is cut, although it is central to the interpretation of Plutarch’s selection and presentation of his material (ch.6).

Chapters 1-3 of Cimon, in which Lucullus saves Chaeronea, is understandably cut. The omission of Plutarch’s interpretive remarks, however, is more unfortunate. Plutarch is explicit about his admiration for his protagonists’ feats against the barbarian, their timely moderate politics, and their generosity he also notes their love of opulence and failure to capitalise on their victories. Rather than these themes, we get a foregrounding of Cimon’s rivalry with Themistocles. This creates an interpretive scheme that is imposed by the editor rather than inherent in the text. Similarly, while Cimon’s fondness for women and drink is included, Plutarch’s insistence on Cimon’s nobility and candour is cut. This creates the impression of an oafish Cimon, something not representative of Plutarch’s depiction. The notes provide helpful and concise explanations of phenomena such as cleruchies and the Delian League, but sections in which Cimon helps the poor and refuses bribes are cut, which exaggerates the distinction between Themistocles as populist and Cimon as aristocrat, and obscures the complexity of Athenian society.

Pericles is provided almost in full, in keeping with its significance for the study of the fifth century. Most references to religion are cut. Nicias has few cuts and useful notes. Alcibiades appears almost in full. The introduction asserts that this is a ‘morality tale about the perils of self-pride’. Alcibiades’ pairing with Coriolanus is typically unmentioned this silence is particularly unfortunate in the case of this complex Life, in which, as Duff has demonstrated, the pairing helps express themes concerning education and civil strife. 1 Lysander is also presented as a tale about pride, with sections exploring attitudes to wealth, veracity, and civic violence largely cut.

The Agesilaus retains the accusations of bastardy against the heir-apparent, before skipping straight to Agesilaus’ succession, thus omitting the ‘lame king’ warning oracle. This selectivity means that there is no interpretive guide or anticipation of problems to come. Similarly, Agesilaus’ spoiled sacrifice at Aulis is omitted, although as well as anticipating future events it offers valuable insight into Spartan-Boeotian relations. Notes provide guidance on a period that many students will be less familiar with, although in a serious omission there is no reference to Tissaphernes’ possible absence from the battle of Sardis. While the translation is generally clear and accurate, Agesilaus contains a striking exception. When Agesilaus watches Epaminondas crossing the Eurotas and says “Ώ τοû μεγαλοπράγμονος,” “O doer of great deeds,’ this resonates with the dominant theme. Here we have “A mover of mountains!” which is neither accurate nor as thematically meaningful.

Pelopidas and Demosthenes both appear in edited form. Plutarch gives several explanations for Demosthenes’ nickname (ch.4) this volume includes only one, and that one is not found in Plutarch. Alexander 1.1 is omitted, losing Plutarch’s famous statement about writing biography not history. This is significant in its own right, and has implications for e.g. n.42 ‘Plutarch has not troubled to explain these movements clearly’, which sounds unnecessarily critical. Dion and Timoleon are omitted because of their Sicilian focus, while Eumenes, Pyrrhus, Agis, and Aratus are omitted because they are Hellenistic (p.vii). A brief Phocion closes the collection.

The introduction states that this volume is a ‘further step’ in ‘a gradual shift in the way the Lives are read, moving away from the ethical towards the historical’ (p.viii). This runs contrary to modern Plutarchan scholarship. Timothy Duff and Christopher Pelling feature in the bibliography, but the introduction’s position does not reflect the work that these scholars and others have done to discourage plundering Plutarch for apparent nuggets of ‘pure history’ and to encourage readings of the Lives that are sensitive to their nature as biography, as moral literature, and as works that function in parallel pairs. Although the introduction does mention that the Lives were originally presented in pairs, no information on the respective pairings is provided. While there may be some merit in collecting Greek or Roman Lives separately, the omission of information on the pairings limits readers’ ability to locate the corresponding Lives for themselves.

The editing pattern sees references to religion and sexuality largely cut, creating a misleading impression of Greek history and Plutarchan writing. Plutarch’s reference to Spartan boys taking lovers is included, but with the observation (n.27 p.19) that Xenophon says that Lycurgus outlawed homosexuality. While it was thorough to include a reference to Lac. Pol., this accords with a general tendency to downplay Greek homosexuality. The Aristides retains one version of the origin of Aristides’ rivalry with Themistocles (differing personalities), but cuts the other (in which it was instigated by rivalry over a boy). Similarly, there is extreme selectivity in the episodes that illustrate Agesilaus’ personal life. That Agesilaus was tough and happy to lie on rough ground is included. That he accepted a handsome Persian boy as a guest-friend and helped him with his love affairs is not. The king’s (politically significant) indulgence of his son’s relationship with Cleonymus is omitted, while Cleonymus dying bravely at Leuctra is retained. It is hard not to conclude that this represents a particular notion of what the history of warriors should be about.

The religious theme, so strong in Aristides and elsewhere, is absent from this account of the Persian Wars. The Tegean push for prime-position is retained (ch.12), but the entire section in which leaders seek and interpret oracles is cut. Chapters in which the Spartans delay their attack, sacrifice, read omens, and pray are also omitted, without indication that a cut has been made. This significantly alters the battle narrative from a tactical perspective, and it creates the false impression that ancient warfare was essentially religion-free. Nicias’ reaction to the eclipse is cut until it appears as if Plutarch presents him as absurd, rather than as a man who lacked necessary religious guidance ( Nicias ch.23-4). The Syracusans’ corresponding access to diviners and to the sanctuary of Heracles is also cut, again omitting what Plutarch represents as significant aspects of the conflict. Cimon’s capture of Scyros is depicted solely in terms of the recovery of Theseus’ bones, with nothing on the suppression of piracy ( Cimon ch.8). As so much religion-focused material is cut from the Lives, this inclusion (with the retention of Themistocles’ oracle) creates the impression that ancient Greek religion was little more than opportunistic trickery, which is certainly not the impression Plutarch gives.

No two people would make the same selection from Plutarch, and it would have been impossible for the editor to make a selection to everyone’s satisfaction. Nonetheless, at a time when most students are being encouraged to treat sources sensitively and to think broadly about what constitutes ‘history’, it seems retrograde to have a work which treats biography as historiography, and history as a matter of politics and battles. Above all, with edit points so hard to identify, non-Plutarchan themes quietly and misleadingly replace those which were carefully constructed by Plutarch.

1. Duff, T. (1999) Plutarch’s Lives. Exploring Virtue and Vice (Oxford University Press) ch.7.

Life, Works, and Religious Outlook

Plutarch wrote on religious, ethical, philosophical, rhetorical, and antiquarian subjects called Moralia or Moral Essays (Ethika in Greek), but he is most famous for his Parallel Lives of the Greeks and Romans. As a youth he studied Platonism at Athens under an Alexandrian named Ammonios, and Plutarch's own works in general belong to philosophical and religious Platonism.

Plutarch traveled to Egypt, Asia Minor, and Rome (several times), but his religious knowledge and interpretations usually depend on standard works, such as those of the early Hellenistic authors Manethon and Hekataios of Abdera (Egyptian religion) and Varro (late Roman Republic). Plutarch's veiled criticism of imperial cult may reflect a distaste for the Roman emperors Nero and in particular Domitian. As a priest at Delphi and a devout believer in the "ancestral faith," Plutarch played a notable part in the revival of the shrine. This interest and his own role is reflected in his Pythian Dialogues (The E at Delphi, The Oracles at Delphi, and The Obsolescence of the Oracles ), in the first of which he prefers Apollo (n ) as the name to designate God.

Walter Burkert has noted in "Plutarco: Religiosit à personale e teologia filosofica" (1996) the personal and optimistic dimension of Plutarch's attitude toward religion. In two essays, probably early, On the Eating of Flesh I and II, Plutarch attacked the killing of animals for food, but elsewhere he treats religious festivities, which included sacrifice, as joyous occasions. He believed in prophecy and, following the Platonic tradition, speaks of its transmission through intermediate spirits (daimones), especially in The Sign [Daimonion] of Socrates. However, in general Plutarch treats daimones as former or potential human souls. Though drawing inspiration from Plato's afterlife myths and the Timaios, Plutarch speaks in The Face on the Moon of a "second death," the separation of intellect (nous) from soul (psyche), on the moon. In his eschatological scenes and comments, he proposes that virtuous souls, apparently limited in number, after passing through the state of daimones and undergoing purification, become gods — that is, pure immortal intellects without passions or attachment to this world — and are rewarded with the blessed vision. Plutarch is a firm believer in divine providence and the basic goodness of the divine order, but he allows punishment for the sins of ancestors to be inflicted on their descendants (The Delay of Divine Vengeance ).

Emphasis on Plutarch's demonology (better "daimonology") has been much exaggerated. His writings reflect the vast range of meaning carried by the words daimon, daimones, or daimonion (i.e., spirit, demon, lesser god, a god, the divinity, God) in Greek. His interest, however, may indicate the growing influence of Near Eastern and perhaps even New Testament – type demonology. In The Obsolescence of the Oracles and the Lives of Dion and Brutus, Plutarch introduces daimones similar to New Testament demons but without seeming to be aware of possession and exorcism.


Scholars are divided over dualism in Plutarch. In The Generation of the Soul in the Timaios, Plutarch posits a "world soul," which existed in a precosmic state as a source of cosmic evil before this soul obtained an intellect (Logos). Elsewhere he suggests that Zoroastrian dualism may be responsible for the doctrine of daimones (415D), and he discourses on the struggle between good and evil forces in Zoroastrianism — for example, as a tentative explanation for the battle between Osiris and Seth in Egyptian myth (Isis and Osiris 369D – 370C). But dualism in the strict sense (a world equally balanced between good and evil — that is, between equal spiritual beings, one good, one evil) is rarely in question and certainly inconsistent with his belief in a benevolent and providential God ruling a basically good world.

Eschatological myths

Some of Plutarch's afterlife myths (found in The Sign of Socrates, The Face on the Moon, and The Delay of the Divine Vengeance ), while modeled on those of Plato, are more focused on the personal experience of the visionary, and a "blessed vision" seems more clearly to be the ultimate destiny of the soul. Horrors are more individually described and gripping, and at least at the end of The Divine Vengeance, where Nero appears, one finds an outstanding contemporary figure undergoing punishment. This is an exception but foreshadows Dante Alighieri's Inferno (fourteenth century). Moreover in some myths the moon becomes a place of transition for the souls, and in general the daimones (generally treated as former or potential human souls) have a much more important role than in Plato. In contrast to the pessimistic myth of eternal rebirth in Plato's Republic or the more optimistic version of recycling souls in the Timaios, Plutarch seems to envisage release and a blessed vision as the normal process for truly virtuous souls, though these are few in number.

Religious Platonism

Plutarch avoided more extreme positions, such as a first, second, or even third God (the world) or a God above being and knowledge. He identifies God with the highest Platonic entities — Being, One, the Form of the Good, Intellect — even though this is usually stated only indirectly. One of Plutarch's most important contributions is his literal interpretation of the Demiurge (craftsman, creator God) in Plato's Timaios. Another is his Middle Platonic allegorical interpretation of "Egyptian" religion (Isis and Osiris ). His intention probably was to domesticate and neutralize the Isis religion through Platonic exegesis. Against Herodotos, he champions the purity of Greek religion and its independence from the Egyptian. Plutarch thus affirms the superiority of Greek culture. However, the extensive explanation of the rites and myths, a sympathetic treatment, the importance given Osiris, and the addition of Greek eschatology probably gave more meaning to the "Egyptian" cult and helped popularize it.

Dying and rising gods

In Isis and Osiris (356B – 359C) Plutarch treats at great length the death and resurrection, or resuscitation, of Osiris. Osiris is identified on occasion with Dionysos (e.g., 356B, 362B), who in turn is identified with Adonis (Table Talk, 671B – C). As Giovanni Casadio notes in "The Failing Male God" (2003), Plutarch prefers to treat the dying and rising Osiris as a daimon rather than a god (360E – 361F). To fit Plutarch's allegorical interpretation, however, Osiris ends up not as king of the dead as in the traditional Egyptian religion but belonging to the ethereal regions.

Judaism and Christianity

Plutarch's knowledge of Jewish religion, some of it reporting Egyptian anti-Jewish propaganda from the Hellenistic period, is limited and superficial. His ignorance is surprising, considering that the Jewish revolts brought Jews to the attention of the Greek and Roman world. His knowledge is presumably derived from earlier non-Jewish authors and represents an outsider's view of the religion. For example, the use of wine, tents, and palm branches in the feast of the Tabernacles demonstrates that the Jewish god is Dionysos (Table Talk 4.4 – 4.6). Still in these Table Talk "questions," the only passages exclusively dedicated to Judaism, he treats it with respect and some sympathy. Thus he differs from Tacitus (e.g., Histories 5.6.4), who admired the Jews for not representing the divinity in images (something Plutarch ignores) but otherwise treats them with contempt. Plutarch's respectful attitude, though consistent with his general procedure, is noteworthy, considering the hostile climate toward Jews during his lifetime. Christianity is never mentioned in Plutarch's works. Since the Christian persecutions had started and Plutarch was acquainted with high Roman officials, its absence may represent a "conspiracy of silence."

Historian of religion

Plutarch, an extraordinary source for Greek religion, was probably its most outstanding historian and comparativist in his day. In the dialogues, which permit him to introduce often radical and contradictory opinions, his personal view is often difficult to assess. In other works, such as Isis and Osiris (a treatise) and The Face on the Moon (more a treatise than a dialogue), he presents several interpretations, usually moving from a less-probable opinion to a more-probable one, as, for example, when discussing dualism. As a scholar of comparative religion (especially in Isis and Osiris, Greek Questions, Roman Questions, and Table Talk ), Plutarch treats religious practices with respect. He presumes there is a reasonable or edifying rationale for something, even if strange. Plutarch had an outstanding knowledge of Greek and a comprehensive knowledge of Roman religion, and he used excellent sources, such as Varro for the Roman Question.

Fritz Graf, however, in "Plutarco e la religione romana" (1996), notes both Plutarch's failure to see an essential difference between Roman and Greek religion and his tendency to give theological and moralistic explanations. A case is that of the Flamen Dialis, where modern scholars would see socioreligious taboos. The answers in the Greek Questions are authoritative and often short, like encyclopedia entries, normally without theoretical explanations. But the responses in the Roman Questions, frequently more than one, are actually open-ended questions. In these, often described as "Greek answers for Roman questions," though not always such, Plutarch seems unable to resist giving several theoretical answers. Apparently spun out of his own head, he sometimes introduces them with "Is it as Varro says, or … ?" Moreover Rebecca Preston, in "Roman Questions, Greek Answers: Plutarch and the Construction of Identity" (2001), observes Plutarch's tendency to avoid explicit reference to contemporary religious practice, such as imperial cult.

Plutarch was surprisingly well-informed about Egyptian religion, making use of good, early Hellenistic sources, in particular the Egyptian priest Manethon. In general, as a religious historian he tries to let the reader into his decision-making process. He interprets other religions in Greek terms, deeming practices or beliefs worthy if they can be reconciled with Greek ideas. Typical in a sense is his derivation of the Egyptian or Greek transmission of the Egyptian name Isis, from the Greek word "to know." One of his guiding principles is interpretatio graeca, the identification of foreign gods with Greek gods, an identification often based on external resemblances in rites and attributes. Plutarch mostly used old sources, but because of the prominence given Osiris in them, his work harmonizes with the growing importance of Osiris in the early imperial period. In Plutarch's appropriation or domestication of the religion through shifting Platonic exegesis and the allegorical method, Osiris becomes Plato's Eros, or the Form of the Good, while Isis is the Platonic "receptacle," or the individual soul longing for the Form of the Good (or Beautiful).

Plutarch - History

Ancient Greek Historian
The Age of Alexander

[1] "Alexander was born on the sixth day of the month Hecatombaeon, which the Macedonians call Lous, the same day on which the temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned down." [p.254] [Macedonians had a their own distinct calendar]

[2] Alexander was only twenty years old when he inherited his kingdom, which at the moment was beset by formidable jealousies and feuds, and external dangers on every side. The neighboring barbarian tribes were eager to throw off the Macedonian yoke and longed for the rule of their native kings: As for the Greek states, although Philip had defeated them in battle, he had not had time to subdue them or accustomed them to his authority. Alexander's Macedonian advisers feared that a crisis was at hand and urged the young king to leave the Greek states to their own devices and refrain from using any force against them. [p.263] [Alexander chose the opposite course] Plutarch never said that Philip "united" the Greeks, but he states that Philip "defeated" them in battle.

[3] Alexander returns from the campaigns at the Danube, north of Macedon. When the news reached him that the Thebans had revolted and were being supported by the Athenians, he immediately marched south through the pass of Thermopylae. 'Demosthenes', he said, 'call me a boy while I was in Illyria and among the Triballi, and a youth when I was marching through Thessaly I will show him I am a man by the time I reach the walls of Athens.' [p.264]

[4] "Thebans countered by demanding the surrender of Philotas and Antipater and appealing to all who wished to liberate Greece to range themselves on their side, and at this Alexander ordered his troops to prepare for battle." [p.264] [The ones who want to liberate Greece against the Macedonian troops]

[5] Alexander asks a women, who was being taken captive, who she was, she replied: 'I am the sister of Theogenes who commanded our army against your father, Philip, and fell at Chaeronea fighting for the liberty of Greece.' [p.265]

[6] There is a story that on one occasion when a large company had been invited to dine with the king, Callisthenes (Alexander's biographer) was called upon, as the cup passed to him, to speak in praise of the Macedonians. This theme he handled so eloquently that the guests rose to applaud and threw their garlands at him. At this Alexander quoted Euripides' line from the Bacchae On noble subjects all men can speak well. 'But now', he went on, 'show us the power of your eloquency by criticizing the Macedonians so that they can recognize their shortcomings and improve themselves.' Callisthenes then turned to the other side of the picture and delivered a long list of home truths about the Macedonians, pointing out that the rise of Philip's power had been brought about by the division among the rest of the Greeks, and quoting the verse Once civil strife has begun, even scoundrels may find themselves honoured. The speech earned him the implacable hatred of the Macedonians, and Alexander that it was not his eloquence that Callisthenes had demonstrated, but his ill will towards them. [p.311]

[7] Alexander's letter to Antipater in which he includes Callisthenes in the general accusation, he writes: 'The youths were stoned to death by the Macedonians, but as far as the sophist I shall punish him myself, and I shall not forget those who sent him to me, or the others who give shelter in their cities to those who plot against my life.' In those words, at least, he plainly reveals his hostility to Aristotle in whose house Callisthenes had been brought up, since he was a son of Hero, who was Aristotle's niece.' [p.133]

[8] Cassander's fear of Alexander 'In general, we are told, this fear was implanted so deeply and took such hold of Cassander's mind that even many years later, when he had become king of Macedonia and master of Greece, and was walking about one day looking at the sculpture at Delphi, the mere sight of a statue of Alexander struck him with horror, so that he sguddered and trembled in every limb, his head swam, and he could scarcely regain control of himself.' [p.331]

[9] 'It was Asclepiades, the son of Hipparchus, who first brought the news of Alexander's death to Athens. When it was made public, Demades urged the people not to believe it: If Alexander were really dead, he declared, the stench of the corpse would have filled the whole world long before.' [p.237] [This is how much the ancient Greeks hated Alexander]

[10] Lamian War 323-322 is also known as the "Hellenic War" by its protagonists. The Greeks, the Hellenes, were fighting the Macedonians led by Antipater at Lamia.

[11] [Modern day Greeks would like to dispatch off Demosthenes castigations of Philip II as political rhetoric, and yet Demosthenes was twice appointed to lead the war effort of Athens against Macedonia. He, Demosthenes, said of Philip that Philip was not Greek, nor related to Greeks but comes from Macedonia where a person could not even buy a decent slave. 'Soon after his death the people of Athens paid him fitting honours by erecting his statue in bronze, and by decreeing that the eldest member of his family should be maintained in the prytaneum at the public expense. On the base of his statue was carved his famous inscription: 'If only your strength had been equal, Demosthenes, to your wisdom Never would Greece have been ruled by a Macedonian Ares' [p.216]

[12] "While Demosthenes was still in exile, Alexander died in Babylon, and the Greek states combined yet again to form a league against Macedon. Demosthenes attached himself to the Athenian convoys, and threw all his energies into helping them incite the various states to attack the Macedonians and drive them out of Greece." [p.212]

[13] The news of Philip's death reached Athens. Demosthenes appeared in public dressed in magnificent attire and wearing a garland on his head, although his daughter had died only six days before. Aeshines states: "For my part I cannot say that the Athenians did themselves any credit in putting on garlands and offering sacrifices to celebrate the death of a king who, when he was the conqueror and they the conquered had treated them with such tolerance and humanity. Far apart from provoking the anger of the gods, it was a contemptible action to make Philip a citizen of Athens and pay him honours while he was alive, and then, as soon as he has fallen by another's hand, to be besides themselves with joy, tremple on his body, and sing paeans of victory, as though they themselves have accomplished some great feat of arms." [p.207]

[14] "Next when Macedonia was at war with the citizens of Byzantium and Perinthus, Demosthenes persuaded the Athenians to lay aside their grievances and forget the wrongs they had suffered from these peoples in the Social War and to dispatch a force which succeeded in relieving both cities. After this he set off on a diplomatic mission, which was designed to kindle the spirit of resistance to Philip and which took him all over Greece. Finally he succeeded in uniting almost all the states into a confederation against Philip." [p.202]

[15] "The maladies and defects in the Greek scene of the fourth century were not hard to find. But its great and overriding merit is summed up in the word 'freedom.' With allowance made for the infinite variety promoted by so many independent governments, Greece was still broadly speaking a free country. This freedom was threatened and in the end extinguished by the coming of the great Macedonians." [p.8] [In Plutarch The Age of Alexander, noted by J.T.Griffith]

[16] "What better can we say about jealousies, and that league and conspiracy of the Greeks for their own mischief, which arrested fortune in full career, and turned back arms that were already uplifted against the barbarians to be used against themselves, and recall into Greece the war which had been banished out of her? I by no means assent to Demaratus of Corinth, who said that those Greeks lost a great satisfaction that did not live to see Alexander sit on the throne of Darius. That sight should rather have drawn tears from them, when they considered that they have left the glory to Alexander and the Macedonians, whilst they spent all their own great commanders in playing them against each other in the fields of Leuctra, Coronea, Corinth, and Arcadia." [Plutarch "Lives" vol.2 The Dryden Translation. Edited and Revised by Arthur Hugh Clough p.50]

History Of Macedonia

Following a brief elegy to the greatness of Plutarch, an ancient Greek writer best known for his “Moralia” and the “Parallel lives”, the Slavomacedonian propagandist going by the Italian sounding pseudonym Gandeto proceeded to develop his main theme:

“…to revisit some of (Plutarch’s) references about the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Macedonians…”, whereby “…from Plutarch´s phrases we can deduce that he neither saw the Ancient Macedonians as Greeks nor did he, even remotely, ever suggest that the Ancient Macedonians were connected to the Hellenes”.

Gandeto, in fact, assures us, that Plutarch’s “…phrases abound with frank distinction between Macedonians and Greeks and, at no time, do we find ambiguous references used in distinguishing or in describing these two ancient peoples. The ethnic separation is not an issue the roles are quite divergent and the clarity of purpose is evident. The boundary lines are precise and the positions taken are straightforward and meaningful. In other words, Plutarch makes it abundantly clear that ancient Macedonians were not Greeks.
Furthermore, it must be stressed that neither from Plutarch´s passages nor from any of the other ancient chroniclers can one find references where the ancient Macedonians were regarded as Greeks. While this notion of “greekness” for the ancient Macedonians is a newly hatched political idea with ominous designs and frightening connotations, for the ancients, the ethnic separation of these two peoples was a non factor there were no urgent needs, there were no specific reasons nor were there heartfelt desires by anyone to see these two peoples as one and the same.”

We have, in other words, “a newly hatched political idea with ominous designs and frightening connotations”, the notion, namely of ancient Macedonians being regarded as Greeks.

Waldemar Heckel and J.C. Jardley are unwillingly then drafted to the pseudo-Makedonist cause, and an isolated quote is lifted off their book “Alexander the Great – Historical Sources in Translation”. “It was from this passage,” Gandeto reveals to us “that I knew my position on this issue was, once again, validated anew:
It is clear from the extant Alexander historians that the lost sources made a clear distinction between Greeks and Macedonians – ethnically, culturally and linguistically – and this must be an accurate reflection of contemporary attitudes.” (p.7).

I also happen to have another book by Waldemar Heckel, in which we read a similar passage, which will help us understand what professor Heckel had in mind, when he spoke of the “…perceived differences between Macedonians and Greeks”:

“Certainly there were cultural and linguistic similarities, and Macedonian society and the names of the aristocracy conjure up the world of Homer. But the differences were sufficient to cause the Greeks to viewthem as foreign well into the Hellenistic age”.

In other words, far from “validating anew” anybody’s misconceptions on the ethnic, cultural and linguistic nature of the Macedonians, what professor Waldemar Hechel is telling us is that while the ancient Greeks made a clear distinction between themselves and the Macedonians, this was on perceived differences. Perception is as different from reality as poetry is from history, as Aristotle tells us, a Greek Macedonian, himself.

Culturally and linguistically, the Macedonians were Greek, despite marked differences in dialect, their pastoral way of life (versus the city-state dwelling Greeks of elsewhere) and antiquated (Homeric age) institutions when compared to their brethren in southern Greece (Hellas), Asia Minor (Aeolia and Ionia) or southern Italy (Magna Graecia).

These “ differences were sufficient to cause the Greeks to view them as foreign well into the Hellenistic age “, tells us Waldemar Heckel, in “The conquests of Alexander the Great”, Cambridge University Press, 2008, on page14.

In other words, the PERCEPTION of some of the other Greeks especially the ones politically inclined against them, not all of them, as we shall see, was that the Macedonians were some sort of brutes, dressed in animal hides, tending goats and sheep on the mountains, who spoke a dialect that was as incompressible to Attic ears, as that dialects spoken in Aetolia and Acarnania, or Epirus, for that matter. This view, lasted well into the Hellenistic age, as we are told, or until the dialectical differences of the Greeks, The Doric spoken in the Peloponnese and Southern Italy, the Aeolian spoken in Thessaly and Aeolia, the Ionian spoken in Asia Minor, Attica and the islands, mixed with the NW Greek spoken by the Macedonians (also Epirotes and Aetolians), to form the glorious Coene Greek, the common Greek speech of the Hellenistic and Roman eras, the language in which the Christian Bible was written. By then, of course, nobody was speaking any longer of the Macedonians as anything but Greeks, obviously.

As it is obvious from anybody reading the sources, from Herodotus and Plutarch to Diodorus of Sicily, the Macedonians themselves never doubted their own Hellenism, a Hellenism that was loudly declared by Alexander A’, and was accepted henceforth by all. To Gandeto’s great disappointment, Waldemar Heckel informs us also that those Macedonians who could afford an education “ were educated in Greek ” and that Philip II “ …acquired offices, such as the archonship of Thessaly, and exercised power by controlling the votes of the Amphictyonic League… ” both of which he could not do unless he was a Greek by ethnicity and religion.

In the book “Alexander the Great” by Ulrich Wilcken (heralded by professor Eugene Borza in his preface to the text as “the best balanced, most sensible modern biography of Alexander“) we read that:

The beginnings of Macedonian history are shrouded in complete darkness. There is keen controversy on the ethnological problem, whether the Macedonians were Greeks or not. Linguistic science has at its disposal a very limited quantity of Macedonian words, and the archaeological exploration of Macedonia has hardly begun (this book was published in English in 1967, fully 10 years before the 1977 magnificent discoveries of the royal tumulus by professor Andronikos at Aegai) . And yet, when we take into account the political conditions, religion and morals of the Macedonians, our conviction is strengthened that they were a Greek race and akin to the Dorians. Having stayed behind in the extreme north, they were unable to participate in the progressive civilization of the tribes which went further south, and so, when in the time of the Persian Wars they emerged on the horizon of the other Greeks, they appeared to them as non-Greeks, as barbarians.

“It was from this passage, that I knew my position on this issue was, once again, thrashed in the garbage bin anew”, someone of Gandeto’s convictions could exclaim, had that someone had the intellectual courage and honesty to face historical truth.

Since we encountered some inexcusable confusion on such an elementary philosophical concept as perception and its relation to reality, it is better to dig a little deeper.

We urgently need to seek the help of our great Macedonian, Aristotle. A discussion cannot simply be the lining up of quotations, so that whomever brings forth the finest quotation may win the argument. The validity of an argument, Aristotle taught us, can be determined by its internal structure even more than by the strength of its content. Let us then follow his classic syllogism:
All men are mortal Socrates is a man therefore, Socrates is mortal. There is a set structure to this argument, which predetermines that the conclusion is guaranteed to be true as long as the premises are true.
We start with Gandeto’s “first point”, taken from Plutarch´s Alexander 53, where Alexander springs a trap for Callisthenes: “Why don´t you prove your eloquence”, Alexander asked him, “by giving a speech criticizing the Macedonians, to teach them their faults so that they can improve?”

“And so the man set about his palinode and turned to outspoken and detailed criticism of the Macedonians. After showing that Greek feuding was the cause of Philip´s rise to power, he said:

“But in times of civil strife even criminals become respectable.”
In the original:
“ἐν δὲ διχοστασίῃ καὶ ὁ πάγκακος ἔλλαχε τιμῆς”,
which, translated word by word would give us:
“and in time of sedition, even the worst man won honor”

“a clear gibe (or so his hearers assumed) at Philip.”, tells us Professor Peter Green. “The old-guard barons, who could not distinguish between an exercise in eristics and a speech from the heart, were mortally offended, while Alexander (who could) made matters worse by saying that what Callisthenes had demonstrated was not eloquence so much but personal malice”
“Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C., a historical biography”, Peter Green, U. of California, 1991

“This, Plutarch tells us, “made the Macedonians hate him with a deep and bitter hatred, and Alexander said that Callisthenes had not proven his ingenuity so much as his ill will towards the Macedonians.”

Enter Gandeto now:
What does this passage reveal? What can we infer from it? Does it make a clear distinction between ancient Macedonians and the ancient Greeks?”

The answer to this is a conditional yes, it does. The ancients were very much aware of certain distinctions between Ionians and Dorians, Athenians and Spartans, Macedonians and southern Greeks, i.e. those living in Hellas proper. Geographic Hellas, for the less informed, was originally Phthia, the land of Achilles, in southern Thessaly, and then over the centuries most of southern Greece was named so, but not Macedonia, Epirus or Ionia. These had to wait for the Hellenistic and Roman age to be included in geographic Hellas. (see Strabo, and his famous quote on Hellas being Macedonia). Anyone can describe the distinctive characteristics between a German Shepard and a Bulldog…they are distinct, but they are still dogs, their distinctions do not make one of them a cat.

“Callisthenes, Gandeto continues, “…criticized the Macedonians to such a degree that he, inadvertently, revealed his own inner feelings, how he, as a Greek, perceived and felt about the supposed “greatness” of the Macedonians. His line:
“But in time of civil strife even scoundrels/criminals become respectable”, is as frank an admission as they come.
(d) He equates and measures Philip´s and thus Macedonians´ power, strength and success not on his merits but on the Greek feuding which Callisthenes claims was the cause of Philip´s rise to power.

Thus, so far (Gandeto continues) we have the following precipitate in clear: the Macedonians on one side, who are not as great as their position reflects and the Greeks on the other, who make the Macedonians look powerful because of the Greek feuding. The description rests on the cusps of two contrastingly derived attributes of two different entities – Greeks and Macedonians.”

Here we see words being put into Calisthenes’ mouth, and liberty is taken with the text. Calisthenes “turned to outspoken and detailed criticism of the Macedonians”
πολλὰ παρρησιάσασθαι κατὰ τῶν Μακεδόνων,

but we are not told by Plutarch the details of his criticism . What we hear in the text is Calisthenes’ last two points:

“and after showing that faction among the Greeks was the cause of the increase of Philip’s power, “καὶ τὴν Ἑλληνικὴν στάσιν αἰτίαν ἀποφήναντα τῆς γενομένης περὶ Φίλιππον αὐξήσεως καὶ δυνάμεως”

“But in times of civil strife even criminals become respectable”
“ἐν δὲ διχοστασίῃ καὶ ὁ πάγκακος ἔλλαχε τιμῆς”, or, in my translation:
“and during sedition, even the worst man won honor”

Both of these, if I am to understand either English or the Greek original, make one thing clear: That Calisthenes makes a personal attack on Philip II, essentially calling him basically lucky for having had his enemies divided, thus winning easy victories, and also for being the worst person ever, whom luck blessed to be king of Macedonia at a time when the other Greeks were at each others throats, i.e. in dissension. This, is after all what infuriated the old guard and gave Alexander the chance to generalize Calisthenes’ hatred for Philip II to an obviously false accusation for hatred towards the Macedonians.

“ Alexander…made matters worse by saying that what Callisthenes had demonstrated was not eloquence so much but personal malice “, says Peter Green, or in the words Plutarch puts in Alexander: “ Callisthenes had not proven his ingenuity so much as his ill will towards the Macedonians. “

I repeat: the text does not mention anything of Calisthenes’ criticism of the Macedonians, which after all was meant “to make them better”, but first he makes a personal attack on Philip, the aggressive king of the Macedonians, the man who ordered destroyed his own home city, Olynthos, the man who sold his fellow citizens of Olynthos to slavery. Calisthenes had axes to grind against Philip the person, not the Macedonians, otherwise why should he stay in Macedonia and not go, for example to Athens, once his home was destroyed? Alexander, on the other hand, has axes to grind against Calisthenes personally, too, for he was the leading man in the palace revolt against the “proskynysis” and the deification. Hence, Alexander took Calisthenes’s personal attack on Philip and presented it to the already infuriated Philip’s old guard as an attack, generally on Macedonians.
I understand Alexander’s motives, as I also understand Calisthenes’ motives to belittle the destroyer of his home. I even understand Gandeto and his fellow propagandists when they try to desperately turn what was basically an intra-Hellenic ancient feud into proof , somehow, that the ancient Macedonians were Bulgarian-speaking Slavs.

Plutarch on the beginning of Alexander's reign

Alexander the Great (*356 r. 336-323): the Macedonian king who defeated his Persian colleague Darius III Codomannus and conquered the Achaemenid Empire. During his campaigns, Alexander visited a.o. Egypt, Babylonia, Persis, Media, Bactria, the Punjab, and the valley of the Indus. In the second half of his reign, he had to find a way to rule his newly conquered countries. Therefore, he made Babylon his capital and introduced the oriental court ceremonial, which caused great tensions with his Macedonian and Greek officers.

At the beginning of his reign, Alexander faced a serious crisis: the vassal tribes in the north were in open revolt and the Greek towns in the south considered rebellion. The Greek author Plutarch of Chaeronea, describes the events in section 10.6-11 of his Life of Alexander. The translation was made by M.M. Austin.

[11.1] So at the age of twenty Alexander took over the kingdom, which faced dangers on every side, being exposed to great jealousies and deep animosities.

[11.2] For the neighboring tribes of barbarians would not submit to Macedonian rule, and longed for their ancestral dynasties. As for Greece, Philip had defeated her in the field but had not had time enough to subdue her under his yoke he had simply introduced change and confusion into the country and had left it in a state of unrest and commotion, unaccustomed as yet to the new situation.

[11.3] Alexander's Macedonian advisers, alarmed at this crisis, took the view that he ought to give up Greece completely, without recourse to arms, and as for the barbarians who were inclined to revolt, he ought to apply conciliation to win them back by handling gently the first symptoms of rebellion.

[11.4] Alexander, however, took the opposite view, and set out to establish the safety and security of his kingdom through boldness and determination, in the conviction that if he was seen to waver in his resolve, all his unrest and the enemies would be upon him.

[11.5] Accordingly, he put an end to the barbarian wars which threatened on that side by conducting a lightning campaign as far as the Danube, and in a great battle he defeated Syrmus, the king of the Triballians.

[11.6] On hearing that the Thebans had revolted and that the Athenians were in sympathy with them, he immediately led his army through Thermopylae, declaring that since Demosthenes referred to him contemptuously as a boy while he was among the Triballians, and as a youngster when he had reached Thessaly, he wanted to show him before the walls of Athens that he was a man.

[11.7] On reaching Thebes he wanted to give the Thebans a chance to change their minds, and so merely requested the surrender of Phoenix and Prothytes, note [Theban leaders.] promising an amnesty to those who defected to his side.

[11.8] But the Thebans retaliated with a demand for the surrender of [the Macedonian generals] Philotas and Antipater, and issued a proclamation that those who wanted to join in the task of liberating Greece should come and fight on their side. So Alexander ordered the Macedonians into battle.

[11.10b] The city was captured, plundered and razed to the ground.

[11.11] Alexander's calculation was essentially that the Greeks would be so struck by the magnitude of the disaster that they would be frightened into submission, but he also wished to give the appearance that he was giving in to the complaints of his allies. For the Phocians and Plataeans had denounced the Thebans.

[11.12] So, making an exception for the priests, all the guest-friends of the Macedonians, the descendants of Pindar, and those who had vote for revolt, he sold the rest into slavery, numbered over 6,000.


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