Plutarch's Methods in the Lives

Classical Quarterly 21 (1):254-261 (1971)
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Abstract

The locus classicus for Plutarch's own views on his methods is in the Alexander He has begun by asking for the indulgence of his readers if they do not find all the exploits of Alexander and Caesar recounted by the biographer or if they discover him not reporting some famous incident in detail (); and he goes on to compare his own search for evidence which will indicate the kind of soul, with the activity of the painter, who, in order to create a likeness, concentrates on the eyes and pays little attention to the other parts. Commentators and critics have been right to take this as a key text for the purpose of understanding Plutarch's attitude towards his biographical work; nevertheless there are other passages in the Lives where we can at least glimpse his attitude to his subject, and we can only see the Alexander-remarks in correct perspective if we take these other passages into account. I propose therefore, starting with the Alexander, to see how far these critical remarks apply to Plutarch's theory and practice elsewhere in the Lives.

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