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L. Mestrius Plutarchus, better known simply as Plutarch, was a Greek writer and philosopher who lived between c. 45-50 CE and c. 120-125 CE. 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

Plutarch

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 traveled 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.

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