The Structure, Form, and Meaning of Plutarch's "Life of Solon"

Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1995)

In this study I examine Plutarch's Solon from a literary perspective, exploring first how the structure and the various narrational techniques employed by Plutarch contribute to his organization and presentation of different aspects of Solon's life . Also investigated in this regard are the most important parallel themes , many of which undergo development as the Life progresses . ;A very interesting feature of the Solon is the sizable number of Solon's laws and poetic verses deployed throughout the biography to defend Plutarch's presentation and explication of his hero's actions and beliefs. I consider the biographical, political, moral, and philosophical purposes for which Plutarch uses Solon's laws and poetry , and how from his own perspective seven centuries removed from Solon he understood--and sometimes misconstrued--their meaning. ;The following chapters analyze Plutarch's adaptation of Aristotle's Athenaion Politeia and Herodotus' Solon-Croesus logos . With respect to the former, attention is given to the various techniques which Plutarch employs to transform constitutional history into political biography. Plutarch's Solon-Croesus logos, on the other hand, allows one to examine how he creatively plays off of Herodotus' version in order to underline aspects of the story which better serve his particular agenda. ;I then look at the two comparisons which are made between Solon and Lycurgus, and Solon and Publicola . Of special importance here is Plutarch's ability to consider the personal, social, political, and geographical differences of reformers and their societies in his evaluation of the achievements of the Athenian Solon with respect to those of the Spartan Lycurgus and the Roman Publicola. ;This thesis shows that the Solon is a sophisticated literary text which explores historical, moral, political, and philosophical issues in often subtle and interesting ways. It also reveals that careful consideration must be given by those who intend to use the Lives for historical purposes to how Plutarch's literary and philosophical objectives effect significantly his interpretation and adaptation of his source-material
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