Sage and Emperor

Plutarch, Greek Intellectuals, and Roman Power in the Time of Trajan (98-117 A.D.)

Luc Van der Stockt (Author), Philip A. Stadter (Author),

Series: Symbolae Facultatis Litterarum Lovaniensis - Series A (hardcover) 29

Category: History

Language: English

ISBN: 9789058672391

Publication date: April 14, 2003

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Number of pages: 257

Size: 240 x 160 x mm

Stock item: 46168

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The twenty-year reign of Trajan, A.D. 98-117, inaugurated the longest period of stability and good government the Roman Empire ever saw, and witnessed the production of one of the most influential literary works of antiquity, Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. This collection of essays explores, from several perspectives, Plutarch’s relation to the ideas of government in his day. The focus is on Plutarch, because of the importance of his writings, the number and eminence of his Roman friends and the problematic nature of his relation with Trajan. Plutarch’s position at Delphi made him a spokesman for the cultural memory of Greece. His friends were among the most important in the empire; some were close associates of Trajan. His Lives and political essays form the largest single body of political writing from the early empire.

The nineteen essays in this book, by leading European and American Scholars, address three questions: What was the social and intellectual context in which Plutarch wrote? What did this philosopher-author have to say to contemporary statesmen; whether civic leaders, Roman imperial officials, or the emperor himself? How did his philosophical inquiry address contemporary issues?

The overall objective is to establish the context of Plutarch’s work in the society and the historical circumstances for which it was written; to see Plutarch not writing in a vacuum but for readers whose ambitions, virtues and weaknesses he recognized and whom he wished to help achieve a more philosophically based life.

The first part considers the Greek social and cultural world of Plutarch’s day, examining the role of philosophers and literary figures, the influential cultu of Isis described by Plutarch and the effect of the times on Plutarch’s choice of heroes. Thereafter a segment on Plutarch’s suggestions for the contemporary statesmen is followed by a third on his relation to the emperors. This latter part treats specifically his relation to Trajan and the ways in which his Lives do and do not address the specific issues of Trajan’s reign and imperial ideology. A fourth part considers Trajan’s Policy in Stone: his presentation of himself on the Column of Trajan and his building program outside Rome in Italy and the Provinces. In the final chapter Plutarch’s philosophy is examined in the context of his times, looking at how the philosopher addresses the issues of political exile and the education of the young.

Thanks to the inclusiveness of the issues addressed, and the original and provocative ideas of the contributors, this book should be of interest to all those who wish to understand the Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and the works of other writers of this period in their fulle social and political context.


Setting Plutarch in his Context

1. The Greek Social and Cultural World ca. 100 A.D.

John Dillon,
Th social Role of the Philosopher in Athens in the Second Centurys C.E.: Some Remarks

Ewen Bowie,
Plutarch and literary Activity in Achaea, A.D. 107-117

Thomas S. Schmidt,
Plutarch’s Timeless Barbarians and the Age of Trajan

Frederick Brenk,
Religion under Trajan. Plutarch’s Resurrection of Osiris

Joseph Geiger,
Felicitas Temporum and Plutarch’s Choice of Heroes

2. Plutarch and the Contemporary Statesman

Aurelio Pérez Jimenez,
Exemplum: The paradigmatic Education of the Ruler in the Lives of Plutarch

Luc Van der Stockt,
Karpos ek philias hegemonikes (Mor. 814 C): Plutarch’s Observations on the “Old-Boy Network”

Birgit Van Meirvenne,
Plutarch and the Healing Power of (a Tricky) Parrhesia: Observations in favour of a political reading of De adultore et amico?

3. Plutarch and the Emperor

Mark Beck,
Plutarch to Trajan: the Dedicatory Letter and the Apophthegmata Collection

Geert Roskam,
A Paideia for the Ruler: Plutarch’s Dream of a Collaboration between Philosopher and Ruler

Guiseppe Zecchini,
Plutarch as Political Theorist and Trajan: Some Reflections

Maria Teresa Schettino,
The Rescript of Trajan “De bonis relegatorum” and Plutarch’s Ideal Ruler

Christopher Pelling,
Plutarch’s Caesar: A Caesar for the Caesars?

4. Policy in stone

Gerhard Koeppel,
The column of Trajan: Narrative Technique and the Image of the Emperor

M. T. Boatwright,
Trajan Outside Rome: Construction and Embellishment in Italy and the Provinces

5. Plutarch’s Philosophy in Context

Jan Opsomer,
Is a Planet Happier than a Star? Cosmopolitanism in Plutarch’s On Exile

Alexey Zadorojnyi,
Safe Drugs for the Good Boys: Platonism and Paedagogy in Plutarch’s De audiendis poetis

Paolo Desideri,
Lycurgus: The Spartan Ideal in the Age of Trajan



Luc Van der Stockt

Luc Van der Stockt is Professor of Greek language and literature at the KU Leuven and Honorary President of the International Plutarch Society.

Philip A. Stadter

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