Likely published between 90 AD and 120 AD
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
Parallel Lives, sometimes called Roman Lives, is a series of biographies of famous people from Roman and Greek history written by Plutarch. Most of the work has survived, however several chapters have been lost to history. The book itself is very interesting. The translations are clear and the writing is lucid.
After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, many Greek refugees flooded into Christian Italy. During this time, many ancient Roman texts were translated into Latin. Francesco Filelfo obtained a number of Greek texts in Constantinople in the 1420s, including Parallel Lives, which he translated after the fall of Constantinople to preserve Roman history.
I have serious doubts about the historical voracity of the lives of the people being written about. For example, I had learned many times a story about Julius Caesar. He allegedly was captured by pirates, and spent several months with them. During his captivity, he would exercise and work with the pirates as an equal, but would often joke that if he got free he would crucify them. Sure enough, he gets free, and crucifies the pirates several months later. This story is often repeated religiously, but Plutarch, writing roughly 200 years after Caesar’s death, is the only source.
Reading Plutarch is very interesting. The clear, factual, and objective-sounding writing style reminds me slightly of Thucydides, and contrasts sharply with the superstitious, emotional, and irrational authors like Marcus Aurelius and St. Augustine.
Reading the ancients makes me realize that everything we know about history, especially history before the 1300s, is likely completely made up but is taught completely uncritically in schools and universities across the world.
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