Many of us have read and delighted in Plutarch, but know little about his personality, when and how he lived. Was he the ancient equivalent of the Venerable Bede? A studious 'Dr Johnson of Chaeronea'? A precursor to Lytton Strachey? A clever conversationalist, perpetuating amusing anecdotes?
Plutarch has too often been dismissed as the latter, a trifler who wrote memorable biographies, perceived as not always trustworthy. However, I intend to demonstrate that Plutarch was an industrious, perceptive, well-read and well-intentioned individual. Though he possessed Dr Johnson's conversational talent, some of Bede's learning, and Strachey's affable ability to weave an entertaining tale, he had a distinctive personality and outlook, which could only have been produced in a person in his circumstances. Plutarch cannot be removed from his times, which are crucial for understanding his writing.
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