Resources for Reading Plutarch

Whether you’re reading a few lives for historical interest, many lives for your own education, or all the lives as a completist, Plutarch is daunting because he’s so old. You shouldn’t read Plutarch alone and, thanks to the Internet, you’ll at least have me to help you!

Find a Plutarch Translation That Fits

The first place to start is to pick a translation that works for you. There are a lot of free ones, but you may have the best luck paying a bit to read in a more comfortable idiom. Once you’ve selected a translation, you can start however you like, chronologically (as arranged in the Timeline below) or just by diving into your favorite period of Greek or Roman history.

Check out the Podcast

Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocketCastsStitcherOvercastGoogle Podcasts

If you have a particular life in mind, start with the Podcast to see if I’ve already done an episode on that life (I’m 11 lives in, so I’m 20% of the way there). In each podcast, I try to give a general picture with enough contextual footholds that when you read (or re-read) a life, you remember more and make deeper connections with the person Plutarch is describing. If you’re confused about the historical context of a particular life, it’s best to check out the Timeline (below), or check out the show notes for the Important People or Important Places sections.

Season by Season: Reflecting on the Lives

I’ll break down the seasons and individual episodes below with some pertinent information (Greek life in green, Roman life in red), linked to the show notes and recording for each episode.

PodcastDatesRelease Schedule
Season 1: Introduction
Ep 1: Why Plutarch? July 2020
Ep. 2: Solon – 638-558July 2020
Ep. 3: Aristides – 530-468July 2020
Ep. 4: Demosthenes – 384-322Aug 2020
Ep. 5: Cato the Elder – 234-149Sept 2020
Ep. 6: Cicero – 106-43Oct 2020
Season 2: Heroes, Lawgivers, and Kings
Ep. 1: TheseuslegendaryNov 2020
Ep. 2: Romulus771-717Dec 2020
[Solon]
Ep. 3: Lycurgus9th cent.Jan 2021
Ep. 4: Agoge – Lycurgus Pt. 2Feb 2021
Ep. 5: Numa Pompilius715-673Mar 2021
Ep. 6: Publicola (or Publius)d. 503Apr 2021
Ep. 7: Lessons from the LawgiversApr 2021
Season 3: The Rise and Fall of the Greek Polis
Ep. 1: Themistocles524-459May 2021
[Aristides]
Ep. 2: Cimon510-450Jun 2021
Ep. 3: Pericles495-429July 2021
Ep. 4: Nicias470-413Aug 2021
Ep. 5: Alcibiades450-404Sep 2021
Ep. 6: Lysander???-395Oct 2021
Ep. 7: Pelopidas???-364Nov 2021
Ep. 8: Agesilaus444-360Dec 2021
Season 4: Macedon and Hellenism
Ep. 1: Dion408-354
Ep. 2: Timoleon411-337
Ep. 3: Alexander356-323
[Demosthenes]
Ep. 4: Eumenes362-316
Ep. 5: Demetrius???-283
Ep. 6: Phocion402-318
Ep. 7: Agis and Cleomenes3rd cent.
Season 5: Roman Vices and Virtues
Ep. 1: Coriolanus
Ep. 2: Camillus
Ep. 3: Fabius Maximus
Ep. 4: Titus Flamininus
Ep. 5: Aemilius Paullus
Ep. 6: Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus
Season 5: Roman Revolutions
Ep. 1: Marius
Ep. 2: Sulla
Ep. 3: Sertorius
Ep. 4: Lucullus
Ep. 5: Pompey
Ep. 6: Julius Caesar
[Cicero]
Ep. 7: Cato the Younger
Ep. 8: Brutus
Ep. 9: Mark Antony

Maps and Timelines for Plutarch’s Context

Speaking of important places, I’ll link helpful maps into the show-notes, but I also have a bigger post helping people find the physical and digital maps that run parallel to Plutarch’s biographies. If you like the timeline, sign up for my email list and you’ll get a printable bookmark form of the timeline putting the chronology for the Greeks and Romans in one place (preferably the book!).

Plutarch in Art

And finally, you may want to get a sense for what these men looked like, or at least enjoy their artistic representations through the years. For that, I highly recommend a resource I did not create, Plutarch’s Lives in Paint, where you can see Plutarch’s influence on more than just literary art through the past two millennia. The timeline also includes some of the most famous artistic depictions of these famous men of Greece and Rome.

Ask Questions: Never Stop Learning

I hope these resources help you start, continue, or finish fruitfully reading Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Plutarch always encouraged us to be students, feeding the fires of our souls with the good, the true, and the beautiful. As always, feel free to use the Contact page to send me any questions you may have about the Ancient World in general, or Plutarch in particular. Plutarch is the real teacher here, and I’m just learning along with you.

A Timeline of Plutarch’s Lives