Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 1

  • by Plutarch, John Dryden (translator)
  • Narrated by Bernard Mayes
  • 42 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This book was the principal source for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. It was also one of two books Mary Shelley chose for the blind hermit to use for Frankenstein’s monster’s education, with the other being the Bible.
Plutarch’s Lives remains one of the world’s most profoundly influential literary works. Written at the beginning of the second century, it forms a brilliant social history of the ancient world. His “parallel lives” were originally presented in a series of books that gave an account of one Greek and one Roman life, followed by a comparison of the two. Included are Romulus and Theseus, Pompey and Agesilaus, Dion and Brutus, Alcibiades and Coriolanus, Demosthenes and Cicero, and Demetrius and Antony.
Plutarch was a moralist of the highest order. “It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing biographies,” he said, “but I find myself proceeding and attaching myself to it for my own; the virtues of these great men serving me as a sort of looking glass, in which I may see how to adjust and adorn my own life.”
The first of the two volumes in this translation by John Dryden presents Theseus and Romulus, Pericles and Fabius, Alcibiades and Coriolanus, Aristides and Marcus Cato, and Lysander and Sylla, among others.


What the Critics Say

“Away with your prismatics. I want a spermatic book.... Plato, Plotinus and Plutarch are such.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“Plutarch is my man.” (Montaigne)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Plutarch -- Still Awesome

This is an old translation that was somewhat modernized. Would have been far better to start fresh with a 21st century translation. At times this translation is stiff and vague. The reader sounds way too elderly in a few places. However, most of the time the reader is fine. Any Plutarch is better than none at all and I give this 4 Stars for my great love of Plutarch (even though he stop moralizing). I'm thankful to have this but would be happier if more modern translation came out with a better reader. Driving 300-500 miles a week for my job, I'll easily listen to this in it's entirety 7 times. This is the only complete Plutarch audio book I know. This is a great supplement to reading Plutarch and allows the listener an opportunity to 'view' this material from a different perspective. There's just so much historical information that listening can really aid in comprehending Plutarch's Lives.
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- Lloyd

beyond this -- nothing but prodigies & fictions...

"...beyond this there is nothing but prodigies and fictions, the only inhabitants are the poets and inventors of fables" Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Vol 1.

Plutarch, one of the great early biographers summarizes the lives of Greek and Roman military and political leaders and compares them to illuminate the virtues and failings of their leadership. Vol 1., includes the following micro-biographies and comparisons:

Theseus v. Romulus
Lycurgus v. Numa Pompilius
Solon v. Poplicola
Themistocles v. Camillus
Pericles v. Fabius Maximus
Alcibiades v. Coriolanus
Timoleon v. Aemilius Paulus
Pelopidas v. Marcellus
Aristides v. Cato the Elder
Philopoemen v. Flamininus
Pyrrhus v. Gaius Marius
Lysander v. Sylla
Cimon v. Lucullus
Nicias v. Crassus


The first two sets are more myth (Theseus v. Romulus) & folklore (Lycurgus v. Numa) and less biography, but it appears Plutarch realized that all history and biography NEEDS a beginning, even a vague and foggy genesis, and felt he would do a better job at it than another writer, thinker, biographer. Plus, he was teaching morals not history.

Most of these characters, leaders, politicians, thinkers in Vol 1 of 'Lives' I've come across in other classical writings, but Plutarch possessed a lot of information that current historians no longer possess, plus his approach is fairly no nonsense and pragmatic. I expect Vol 2 will be even more interesting as it heads into later "Noble" lives that are both more proximate to Plutarch, more well-known, and where more information is available. So far, however, I can see why early readers of the 17th-century translation by Dryden or 16th-century translation by North flocked to Plutarch mainly for his moralizing and less for his biographical skills.

Anyway, a wide reader can also see Plutarch's influence on Montaigne, Shakespeare, Boswell, Bacon, Hamilton, etc. IF he continues at this level or better this is one of those books I'm sure to travel back to both as a resource and a respite.
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- Darwin8u

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-28-2011
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.