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May 5, 2020

Plutarch’s Lives: The Politicians

Writing during the time of the Emperor Trajan in the first century AD, Plutarch is famous for his series of “parallel” biographies exhaustively examining perennial issues of history, public ethics, war and peace, economics, the founding and destroying of states, and others. His work is a model of careful thought about matters of virtue and vice, and serves as a sort of ultimate “manual” of practical politics. As an additional note on his importance, he is one of the most frequently cited sources in the American Founders’ Federalist Papers.

This seminar will intensively look at three of the Lives, those of Alcibiades (Athens), Agesilaus (Sparta), and Tiberius Gracchus (Rome) with an eye to discerning the promises and pitfalls of practical politics in a rough-and-tumble world of factionalism about the common good.

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