Plutarch, "Life of Alexander the Great" Chapter 1:

"My subject in this book is the life of Alexander the King [356-323], and of Julius Caesar [100-44], the conqueror of Pompey the Great [106-48]. The careers of these men embrace such a multitude of events that my preamble shall consist of nothing more than this one plea: if I do not record all their most celebrated achievements [i.e. Annals] or describe any one of them exhaustively [i.e. monograph], but merely summarize for the most part what they accomplished, I ask my readers not to regard this as a fault. For I am writing BIOGRAPHY, not HISTORY, and the truth is that the most brilliant exploits often tell us nothing of the virtues or vices of the men who performed them, while on the other hand a chance remark or a joke may reveal far more of A MAN'S CHARACTER than the mere feat of winning battles in which thousands fall, or of marshalling great armies, or laying siege to cities.

When a portrait painter sets out to create a likeness, he relies above all upon the face and the expression of the eyes, and pays less attention to the other parts of the body. In the same way, it is my intention to dewll upon THOSE ACTIONS WHICH ILLUMINATE THE WORKINGS OF THE SOUL, and by this means to create a portrait of each man's life. I leave the story of his greatest struggles and achievements to be told by others...."

Plutarch, "Life of Demetrius the Besieger" chapter 2:

" may serve as a useful example in my PARALLEL LIVES if I include one or two pairs of men who have been careless of their reputations, and who, because they exercised supreme power or were engaged in great enterprises, made themselves conspicuous by their misconduct. My purpose in doing so is not merely to divert or entertain my readers by giving variety to my writings. I am rather following the example of Ismenias the Theban, who, when he taught the flute, used to show his pupils both good and bad performers, and tell them, 'You should play like this one,' or 'You should not play like that one.' Antigenidas went farther and believed that young men would appreciate good flute-players better if they were given experience of bad ones. In the same way, it seems to me that we shall be the more ready to study and imitate the lives of good men in we know something of those of the wicked and infamous. This book, then, will contain the lives of Demetrius, nicknamed the Besieger of Cities, and Marcus Antonius, the Imperator, men whose lives conspicuously illustrate the truth of Plato's saying that 'great natures produce great vices as well as great virtues.' Both men were notorious womanizers, dirnkers and fighters, both were open-handed, extravagant, and these resemblances were reflected in the similarity of their fortunes...."

January 26, 2010 8:54 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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