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The Age of Alexander: Nine Greek Lives (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 30, 1973

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

About the Author

Plutarch (c.50-c.120 AD) was a writer and thinker born into a wealthy, established family of Chaeronea in central Greece. He received the best possible education in rhetoric and philosophy, and traveled to Asia Minor and Egypt. Later, a series of visits to Rome and Italy contributed to his fame, which was given official recognition by the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Plutarch rendered conscientious service to his province and city (where he continued to live), as well as holding a priesthood at nearby Delphi. His voluminous surviving writings are broadly divided into the ‘moral’ works and the Parallel Lives of outstanding Greek and Roman leaders. The former (Moralia) are a mixture of rhetorical and antiquarian pieces, together with technical and moral philosophy (sometimes in dialogue form). The Lives have been influential from the Renaissance onwards.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics (Book 286)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (September 30, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442861
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Plutarch was a Greek scholar living in the Roman Empire. He was not a historian, per se, but rather a biographer who used the lives of famous Greeks and Romans to illustrate strengths and weaknesses of character, how they impacted events, and how events impacted them. He wrote his biographies in pairs, matching a Greek and Roman whose lives, in his view, exemplified common traits or themes. His pairings being generally rather superficial, Penguin has chosen to publish the individual "Lives" in chronological groupings. The nine presented in "The Age Of Alexander" include Plutarch's biography of Alexander the Great along with those of eight famous Greeks from the same period.
Writing during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, Plutarch was already dealing with people from hundreds of years in his past. Fortunately for us, as his writing shows, he still had a lot of evidence to draw on. Frequently mentioned are contemporary accounts and, in the case of Alexander, letters written by Alexander himself, which apparently still existed in Plututarch's time. Sometimes he cites more than one source in cases where accounts disagree. The richness of Plutarch's sources is valuable because so much of that ancient source material is now lost.
Plutarch is at his best in describing dramatic events and when commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of his subjects. As reading material, this book could hardly be called a "page-turner" in the contemporary sense of that term, but you don't have to be a student of history to appreciate the dramatic, and often violent, nature of the times and of the lives of the men covered in this collection. Only one of them died in bed. Life was often violent and short, and the violence was gratuitous.
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Format: Paperback
This edition combines great greek lives, but most will be buying it because of Alexander the Great. Originally intended to be published as one of his "Parallel Lives" series with Caesar, this short biography of Alexander is one of the three main sources used to derive what little information we have on Alexander. It is also the only history that survives that discusses his childhood. Not necessarily accurate, but Plutarch never claimed to be a historian. While not always successful, he does attempt to explain Alexander's complicated personality. A must read for Alexanderophiles.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. The translations by Prof. Scott-Kilvert are lively and interesting, especially for undergraduates. But the book is a pain in the neck to use because the editors have not thought it necessary to include an index. I have had to do one myself on the life of Alexander for my students who are using the book in tandem with Arrian's Campaigns of Alexander and Quintus Curtius (both of which are your books, Penguin, and both of which have indexes!).

Penguin, you have tarted up all your other books with new covers, and you have jacked up the prices accordingly, so when you get around to Alexander, who, after all, is the selling point of this eponymous tome, please include an index so that the book will become useful as well as entertaining.

Thank you.
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Format: Paperback
"The Age of Alexander" was not the original title of this book. Instead the editors have taken liberty with the title for marketing purposes. "The Age of Alexander" is actually a biography of 9 famous kings and generals from Agesilaus to Pyrrhus with Alexander as one of the nine. This isn't an attack on the title or this or this work, but it is a more honest description.
In addition to the people I have already mentioned, this book also talks about the lives of Pelopidas, Dion, Demosthenes, Phocion, and Demetrius. I had heard many of these names for years, but I had no idea of what they had done. Others I never knew. It is interesting how history classes often have such narrow focuses. Why do we study the Peloponnesian War, but not its outcome?
Here, students of history will have the chance to examine parts and people of the past, rarely discussed in other places. The writing style is a little tough. Remember, this is an English translation of a Roman work examining Greek citizen who lived three hundred or more years before it was written. However, if you can get past the writing, you can learn alot.
The rough history of who killed who and which state thrived while others died were not very interesting to me. It is hard to get excited about a civilation that was wiped out 3000 years ago. What I enjoyed more were the personal stories and the glimpse into Greek life. I will give three examples.
Pelopidas had a mortal enemy, Alexander. He was considered a tyrant and a murderer. Alexander had his enemies stripped naked and forced them to rare animal skins. He then would release hunting dogs on them as a form of fun/execution.
In Persia, citizens would make a gesture of respect to their King.
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