Plutarch’s Lives is a brilliant collection of biographies by one of the greatest biographers and moralists of all time. By comparing a famous Roman with a famous Greek, Plutarch intended to provide model patterns of behaviour and to encourage mutual respect between Greeks and Romans. There are fifty biographies of famous soldiers, legislators, orators, and statesmen, and an additional eighteen comparisons. The form of Plutarch’s Lives was new; he outlined the birth, youth, achievements, and death of his characters, followed by a formal comparison. The Lives display formidable learning and research. Plutarch is essentially a moralist whose aim is to edify the reader; destiny follows from character, which he illustrates by anecdotes.
Plutarch (AD 46 -119 ) was a philosopher, teacher, and biographer, whose writing strongly influenced the evolution of the essay, the biography, and historical writing in Europe from the 16th to the 19th century, especially the work of Michel de Montaigne and William Shakespeare. He lived mostly in Greece, where he was a local magistrate, though he was a Roman citizen who knew the Emperors Trajan and Hadrian.