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Plutarch's Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice [Paperback]

By Tim Duff (Author)
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Item description for Plutarch's Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice by Tim Duff...

The Parallel Lives of Plutarch (c.AD 45-120), a vast retrospective series of biographies of Greek and Roman statesmen, have always been one of the most widely read of the works which survive from classical antiquity. They were written when Roman imperial power was reaching its height, and are sophisticated examples of a renaissance classicism - linguistic, literary, philosophical and historical - which formed a Greek reaction to Roman domination.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   448
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.54" Width: 5.64" Height: 0.97"
Weight:   1.17 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 23, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0199252742  
ISBN13  9780199252749  

Availability  83 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 21, 2016 02:50.
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More About Tim Duff

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Tim Duff has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Reading.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > Ancient
3Books > Subjects > History > Historical Study > Historiography
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Classics > Greek
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > General
6Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory
7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Movements & Periods

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Reviews - What do customers think about Plutarch's Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice?

The best possible entry to Plutarch's world  Nov 29, 2009
I have been reading Plutarch's Lives in the Modern Library edition for some time now. After I finished the first volume, I went looking for some secondary sources to provide some guidance. The Lives are extraordinary- they are exciting, thoughtful, contradictory, moralisitic yet that moralism seems to be endlessly nuanced. They are wonderful and timeless and very sunk in their historical moment.
Fortunately, Tim Duff is around to straighten it out for us. This book is a revision of his Ph.D. dissertation. It has some of the excesses of such documents. Duff references practically everyone who has written on Plutarch in the last 40 years in Italian, Greek, German, French and English. Some times Duff is a little too insistent for my taste on not Latinizing Greek names. Worse, on occassion, he uses Greek in the text without translating it. But that is rare. Usually he quotes the Greek and then provides his own translation.
He is incredibly learned in Greek and Roman literature and it shows in his understanding of many of Plutarch's rhetorical devices.
Most of all, he has, as much as anyone, devoted his scholarly life to closely analyzing the Lives. He has published several studies on individual books in Plutarch and is writing several more.
Duff insists on not seperating the Parallel Lives. He sees the pairs as integral units. He notes that Plutarch provided the majority of pairs with introductions, with transitional passages and with a synkriseis (a conclusion that is also a reckoning of sorts- hopefully I am using the singular form of the word). He very dutifully notes the exceptions to this structure, notes which of these exceptions can be explained as lost text and which must be accepted as true exceptions. By the way, this is one of the few missteps that I know of in the Penguin Classics series. The decision to seperate the paired Lives out by historical period is an act of idiocy that borders on insolence. Tim Duff's book
provides all the evidence needed to support that statement.
The first part of Duff's book is devoted to explaining the moral philosophy that Duff sees as standing behind the book. The core of the book are case studies of four pairs of the Lives which display how Plutarch uses rhetorical devices to announce the theme(s) of each pair, how those themes are explored in those lives and then summed up in the synkriseis. One of the main arguments of this section is that Plutarch rarely provides us with definitive and final assessments. Plutarch will instead focus on making the comparison more complicated right up to the end of the synkriseis. Plutarch leaves us with questions that we have to tease out our own answers to.
The final section of Duff's book is devoted to two brilliant chapters. The first explores the synkrisis (plural form I am hoping) as a whole. Duff talks about the rhetorical strategies that are uniques to these and the fact that the synkrisis are not just a summing up but a taking of the comparison to a whole new level. The frequently introduce new facts not mentioned in the Lives themselves or evaluate those facts very differently.
The final chapter is devoted to Plutarch's cultural program which Duff sees (in part) as a form of resistance to Roman hegemony. The Lives as a whole evaluate Greek and Roman men by Greek cultural standards. One point that Duff made is that several of the Roman Lives are judged by the extent to which they have or have not absorbed Greek learning and culture.
Finally, the book is made useful to the expert in the field by the inclusion of an index of Greek terms, of passages quoted from classical sources, and seperate indexes for names and themes.
The only drawback to this book at all is the price. Oxford needs to learn to publish some of their scholarly texts at far more reasonable prices. This is a book that could be useful to anyone taking a course that studies Plutarch or to any "reasonably intelligent layman". I have about five or six more studies of Plutarch to read in the coming months but unless I am very much surprised, I expect this book to remain the one I recommend to anyone looking for just one book on Plutarch to read.

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