Plutarch's bust at Chaeronea, his home town
Plutarch's bust at Chaeronea, his home town
Bornc. 46 AD
Chaeronea, Boeotia
Diedc. 120 AD (aged 73–74)
Delphi, Phocis
OccupationBiographer, essayist, philosopher, priest, ambassador, magistrate
SubjectBiography, various
Literary movementMiddle Platonism,
Hellenistic literature

Plutarch (k/; Greek: Πλούταρχος, Ploútarkhos, Koine Greek: [plǔːtarkʰos]; c. 46 AD – 120 AD),[1] later named, upon becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, (Λούκιος Μέστριος Πλούταρχος)[a] was a Greek biographer and essayist, known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia.[2]He is classified[3] as a Middle Platonist. Plutarch's surviving works were written in Greek, but intended for both Greek and Roman readers.[4]


Early life

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where Plutarch served as one of the priests responsible for interpreting the predictions of the oracle
"The soul, being eternal, after death is like a caged bird that has been released. If it has been a long time in the body, and has become tame by many affairs and long habit, the soul will immediately take another body and once again become involved in the troubles of the world. The worst thing about old age is that the soul's memory of the other world grows dim, while at the same time its attachment to things of this world becomes so strong that the soul tends to retain the form that it had in the body. But that soul which remains only a short time within a body, until liberated by the higher powers, quickly recovers its fire and goes on to higher things."
Plutarch (The Consolation, Moralia)

Plutarch was born to a prominent family in the small town of Chaeronea, about 80 km (50 miles) east of Delphi, in the Greek region of Boeotia. His family was wealthy. The name of Plutarch's father has not been preserved, but based on the common Greek custom of repeating a name in alternate generations, it was probably Nikarchus (Nίκαρχoς). The name of Plutarch's grandfather was Lamprias, as he attested in Moralia[5] and in his Life of Antony.

His brothers, Timon and Lamprias, are frequently mentioned in his essays and dialogues, which speak of Timon in particular in the most affectionate terms. Rualdus, in his 1624 work Life of Plutarchus, recovered the name of Plutarch's wife, Timoxena, from internal evidence afforded by his writings. A letter is still extant, addressed by Plutarch to his wife, bidding her not to grieve too much at the death of their two-year-old daughter, who was named Timoxena after her mother. He hinted at a belief in reincarnation in that letter of consolation.[6]

The exact number of his sons is not certain, although two of them, Autobulus and the second Plutarch, are often mentioned. Plutarch's treatise De animae procreatione in Timaeo is dedicated to them, and the marriage of his son Autobulus is the occasion of one of the dinner parties recorded in the "Table Talk". Another person, Soklarus, is spoken of in terms which seem to imply that he was Plutarch's son, but this is nowhere definitely stated. His treatise on marriage questions, addressed to Eurydice and Pollianus, seems to speak of the latter as having been recently an inmate of his house, but without any clear evidence on whether she was his daughter or not.[7]

Plutarch studied mathematics and philosophy at the Academy of Athens under Ammonius from 66 to 67.[8]

At some point, Plutarch took Roman citizenship. As evidenced by his new name, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, his sponsor for citizenship was Lucius Mestrius Florus, a Roman of consular status whom Plutarch also used as a historical source for his Life of Otho.[9]

He lived most of his life at Chaeronea, and was initiated into the mysteries of the Greek god Apollo. For many years Plutarch served as one of the two priests at the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the site of the famous Delphic Oracle, twenty miles from his home. By his writings and lectures Plutarch became a celebrity in the Roman Empire, yet he continued to reside where he was born, and actively participated in local affairs, even serving as mayor. At his country estate, guests from all over the empire congregated for serious conversation, presided over by Plutarch in his marble chair. Many of these dialogues were recorded and published, and the 78 essays and other works which have survived are now known collectively as the Moralia. [10]

Work as magistrate and ambassador

"The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors."
Plutarch - Gaius Marcius (Coriolanus)

In addition to his duties as a priest of the Delphic temple, Plutarch was also a magistrate at Chaeronea and he represented his home[clarification needed] on various missions to foreign countries during his early adult years. Plutarch held the office of archon in his native municipality, probably only an annual one which he likely served more than once. He busied himself with all the little matters of the town and undertook the humblest of duties.[11]

The Suda, a medieval Greek encyclopedia, states that Emperor Trajan made Plutarch procurator of Illyria. However, most historians consider this unlikely, since Illyria was not a procuratorial province, and Plutarch probably did not speak Illyrian.[12]

According to the 8th/9th-century historian George Syncellus, late in Plutarch's life, Emperor Hadrian appointed him nominal procurator of Achaea – which entitled him to wear the vestments and ornaments of a consul.[13]

Late period: Priest at Delphi

Portrait of a philosopher and Hermaic stele at Delphi Museum

Plutarch spent the last thirty years of his life serving as a priest in Delphi. He thus connected part of his literary work with the sanctuary of Apollo, the processes of oracle-giving and the personalities who lived or traveled there. One of his most important works is the "Why Pythia does not give oracles in verse" (Moralia 11) ( "Περὶ τοῦ μὴ χρᾶν ἔμμετρα νῦν τὴν Πυθίαν").[14] Even more important is the dialogue "On the E in Delphi" ("Περὶ τοῦ Εἶ τοῦ ἐν Δελφοῖς"),[15] which features Ammonius, a Platonic philosopher and teacher of Plutarch, and Lambrias, Plutarch's brother. According to Ammonius, the letter E written on the temple of Apollo in Delphi originated from the following fact: the wise men of antiquity, whose maxims were also written on the walls of the vestibule of the temple, were not seven but actually five: Chilon, Solon, Thales, Bias and Pittakos. However, the tyrants Cleobulos and Periandros used their political power in order to be incorporated in the list. Thus, the E, which corresponds to number 5, constituted an acknowledgment that the Delphic maxims actually originated from the five real wise men. The portrait of a philosopher exhibited at the exit of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, dating to the 2nd century AD, had been in the past identified with Plutarch. The man, although bearded, is depicted at a relatively young age. His hair and beard are rendered in coarse volumes and thin incisions. The gaze is deep, due to the heavy eyelids and the incised pupils. The portrait is no longer thought to represent Plutarch. Next to this portrait stands a fragmentary hermaic stele, bearing a portrait probably of the author from Chaeronea and priest in Delphi. Its inscription, however, reads: Δελφοὶ Χαιρωνεῦσιν ὁμοῦ Πλούταρχον ἔθηκαν | τοῖς Ἀμφικτυόνων δόγμασι πειθόμενοι. (Syll.3 843=CID 4, no. 151) The citizens of Delphi and Chaeronea dedicated this to Plutarch together, following the precepts of the Amphictyony.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Plutarchus
Alemannisch: Plutarch
العربية: فلوطرخس
aragonés: Plutarco
asturianu: Plutarcu
azərbaycanca: Plutarx
تۆرکجه: پلوتارک
башҡортса: Плутарх
беларуская: Плутарх
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Плютарх
български: Плутарх
bosanski: Plutarh
brezhoneg: Ploutarc'hos
Чӑвашла: Плутарх
čeština: Plútarchos
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dansk: Plutarch
Deutsch: Plutarch
eesti: Plutarchos
Ελληνικά: Πλούταρχος
español: Plutarco
Esperanto: Plutarko
estremeñu: Plutarcu
euskara: Plutarko
فارسی: پلوتارک
français: Plutarque
Gaeilge: Plútarc
հայերեն: Պլուտարքոս
हिन्दी: प्लूटार्क
hrvatski: Plutarh
Bahasa Indonesia: Plutarkhos
interlingua: Plutarcho
íslenska: Plútarkos
italiano: Plutarco
עברית: פלוטרכוס
ქართული: პლუტარქე
қазақша: Плутарх
Кыргызча: Плутарх
кырык мары: Плутарх
Latina: Plutarchus
latviešu: Plūtarhs
lietuvių: Plutarchas
Lingua Franca Nova: Plutarco
magyar: Plutarkhosz
македонски: Плутарх
Malagasy: Plutarch
მარგალური: პლუტარქე
مصرى: بلوتارك
Bahasa Melayu: Ploutarkhos
Mirandés: Plutarco
монгол: Плутарх
Nederlands: Plutarchus
norsk: Plutark
norsk nynorsk: Plutark
occitan: Plutarc
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Plutarx
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਪਲੂਟਾਰਕ
Piemontèis: Plutarch
polski: Plutarch
português: Plutarco
română: Plutarh
русский: Плутарх
Scots: Plutarch
shqip: Plutarku
sicilianu: Plutarcu
Simple English: Plutarch
slovenščina: Plutarh
کوردی: پلوتارک
српски / srpski: Плутарх
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Plutarh
suomi: Plutarkhos
svenska: Plutarchos
Tagalog: Plutarko
Türkçe: Plutarhos
українська: Плутарх
اردو: پلو ٹارک
Tiếng Việt: Plutarchus
Winaray: Plutarco
粵語: 普魯塔克
中文: 普魯塔克