Plutarch Essay, Research Paper
I found Plutarch to be a very interesting philosopher. But on the other hand I find his readings very difficult to read and understand. I often get lost in these readings and cannot pin point what Plutarch is trying to explain.
In Plutarch’s stories about these Greek hero’s he explains what they do and why he likes them. He tells of certain values he praises them for and what things he sees as bad. But he confuses me while doing this. These “characters” who were real at a time seem to have done something or another towards the building of Rome. The three “characters” we read about have done something towards constructing Rome into the civilized culture we learn about. By making the first civilized city and creating the first democracy these statesmen started something that would lead to where we are today. In this essay, I will best try to describe what values Plutarch liked and disliked. Also I will explain who the “characters” were and what accomplishments they made toward civilizing Rome.
The first story by Plutarch is about the statesmen Theseus or better known as The Athenian Adventurer. Theseus suppressed crime and brought the natives of Attica together into the first democracy. He saved the Athenian children from the Minotaur, but his kidnap of the queen of the Amazons brought trouble, and he ended his days in disgrace.
But, Theseus was the first to bring together a democracy, something Plutarch praised. Also Theseus was the first to divide citizens into class structure.
The next story of Plutarch’s was about a statesman named Solon. Solon was the Lawmaker of Athens, providing the citizens with a constitution that Plutarch sees as a positive. Solon made Athens a commercial city striving on money. He framed a constitution that mitigated the class struggle between the rich people and the poor people. It also allowed for the growth of democratic institutions. Having an organized government kept everything under control and made people for the first time, have some kind of law to live by. Also, with Solon’s new laws the poor people were no longer powerless in the society. All these actions Plutarch praises Solon for. Plutarch praises Solon for his laws on not speaking ill of the dead and his law on wills. (p.63) But Plutarch also criticizes some of Solon’s laws such as his marriage laws (p.62).
Finally, Plutarch’s last character is the statesman Pericles or the Olympian. Pericles was a moderate man who spent a lot of money on unnecessary thing as Plutarch points out. Pericles built Athens into a beautiful city and powerful empire with money he embezzled from allies, which Plutarch looks down upon him for that. But by the end Pericles became to powerful and never stop yearning for more power. This is when Athenian imperialism led to the war with Sparta known as the Peloponnesian War.
I believe Plutarch sees personal problems have an impact on the political world. In the story of Pericles, his personal problems with money have a direct affect on the political world. By using the public funds and spending money freely without letting the citizens know what is going on a political party arises against him. (p.182) So I believe that personal problems and decisions definitely affect the political world.
In the description of the civic life I don’t think there is any weakness in the polis. It is set up well with organization and structured to where it will succeed with the right people in charge.
Finally, I think Plutarch’s stories where interesting and intelligent. But I would have enjoyed them more if I could understand them better.