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Comment: The item is fairly worn but continues to work perfectly. Signs of wear can include aesthetic issues such as scratches, dents, and worn corners. All pages and the cover are intact, but the dust cover may be missing. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting, but the text is not obscured or unreadable.
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The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives Paperback – September 30, 1960

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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: Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Impression edition (September 30, 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441024
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on October 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
While categorized as more of a biographer than a historian, Plutarch is nevertheless one of the most often-cited scholars of antiquity. In Plutarch we gaze at history through the lens of the great avatars of history. This is actually preferable in many ways to Plutarch's original organization. As Plutarch's method was to teach on ethics via the lives of great men, he would write parallel lives of famous Greeks & Romans. Many times the similarities would be stretched and occasionally merely artifical.

Penguin Classics has broken up Plutarch's LIVES into several different books, each focused on a particular historical genre. The current one places its emphasis on Athens. The book covers 7 Athenians (Solon, Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon, Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades), 1 mythological figure (Theseus) and 1 Spartan (Lysander).

The inclusion of Lysander is due to the fact that Lysander was the primary instrument by which the Spartans conquered the Athenians in 404BCE. Athens would never again be a major player on the world stage, so the section on Lysander's life is one of transitions.

All of the essays in this book are the standard by which contemporary historians write on the world of ancient Greece. That makes this book a must for persons who are even remotely interested in classical history. Even if you were to only read one book on the Greeks, this one might be the one to grab. The book is THAT influential.
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Format: Paperback
I like Plutarch because the guy really knows how to call a spade a spade. He had the guts to admit when the record was less than straight, provided alternative views, sources and dialogues, and let the reader decide when the facts and interpretations got fuzzy. He was no ideologue. In that sense a lot of writers in our present century could learn from him.

There are many versions of Plutarch's "Lives" and the traditional versions (maybe the original?) render one Roman life in comparison with one Greek life evincing similar traits or historical characteristics. In this Penguin Series the tendency has been to divide the Greek and Roman lives into seperate works.

I loved his Roman lives unequivocally and I love this one as well, but Plutarch makes a better writer the more he moves from myth to factual lives. In this sense his early lives like Thesseus and Solon are less interesting than those of Nicias, Alcabiades, Lysander and Themistocoles. Plutarch is best when he is working with solid sources, not mythology.

But, to his credit, his early mythical lives reflects a very sceptical note, one as befits the subject matter. Later when he is citing Xenophon, and Plato, his lives are exciting in the extreme (I shall always remember the utter destruction of Nicias and his expeditionary force to Syracuse, by Gyllipus and his Syracusian allies). The corruption of Lysander by money, and the general message perhaps in this tome -- the danger of overextended wars in far flung lands not supported or understood by the people.

All in all this book puts the "C" in Classic.
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Format: Paperback
Through 9 Greek Lives (Theseus, the democracy builder; Aristides, the `Spartan' Athenian; Themistocles, the arrogant but victorious supreme commander; Solon, the legislator; Cimon, the alcoholic but conquering oligarch; Pericles, the noble and unselfish democrat; the richissime Niceas, exploiter of silver mines; Alcibiades, the debauched double-dealing chameleon; and Lysander, the killer of Athens and its democrats), Plutarch sketches eminently the main political and social issues of ancient Greece and of Athens in particular.
In Athens, the vicious battle between the few and the many, the haves and have-nots, equality and liberty was fought through two political parties: the aristocrats (oligarchs) supported by Sparta, Socrates, Plato and the priests (`the power of the ruler as the image of the god') on the one hand, and on the other hand, the democrats.
The Greek cities were evidently united against their common enemy, Persia, whose policies aimed at defeating the Greek outright or at inciting them to destroy one another. But the cities fought one another even in foreign countries (e.g. for the gold mines in Thrace). It all ended with Niceas's disastrous expedition in Sicily and Lysander's bloody victory over Athens.

Plutarch's book is still very actual indeed. He shows us Pericles as the first Keynesian, organizing huge public works and `transforming the whole people into wage-earners', or the anti-scientific stance of religion (`natural philosophers belittled the power of the gods by explaining it away as nothing more than the operation of irrational causes').
Plutarch is an excellent psychologist: `people as so often happens at moments of crisis, were ready to find salvation in the miraculous rather than in a rational course of action'.
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Even though I liked this book, Plutarch really does not know his subjects that well. Plutarch enjoys making each of his characters into moral lessons. So, there may be truth behind the writing but do not take it full on. Takes a story and takes bad qualities and rewrites to a moral lesson. Plutarch emphasizes qualities for his own purposes. Read critically.
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