Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades

Story, Text and Moralism

Simon Verdegem

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At the beginning of the second century AD, Plutarch of Chaeronea wrote a series of pairs of biographies of Greek and Roman statesmen. Their purpose is moral: the reader is invited to reflect on important ethical issues and to use the example of these great men from the past to improve his or her own conduct. This book offers the first full-scale commentary on the Life of Alcibiades. It examines how Plutarch’s biography of one of classical Athens’ most controversial politicians functions within the moral programme of the Parallel Lives. Built upon the narratological distinction between story and text, Verdegem’s analysis, which involves detailed comparisons with other Plutarchan works (esp. the Lives of Nicias and Lysander) and several key texts in the Alcibiades tradition (e.g., Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon), demonstrates how Plutarch carefully constructed his story and used a wide range of narrative techniques to create a complex Life that raises interesting questions about the relation between private morality and the common good.

Preface 11

Abbreviations 13

Introduction 19

1. Moralism 19

2. Story 60

3. Text 79

1. The Proem (Alc. 1) 97

1. An Intriguing Beginning 97

2. Making a Start 100

3. Conclusions 117

2. A Difficult Character (Alc. 2-9) 119

1. On Character Changes and Innate Passions (Alc. 2.1) 119

2. Childhood Stories (Alc. 2.2-3.2) 121

3. How to Distinguish Flatterers from a Friend (Alc. 4-6) 131

4. Sayings and Doings of a Young Adult (Alc. 7-9) 151

5. Conclusions 162

3. The Ascent to Power (Alc. 10-15) 167

1. A Spectacular Entry (Alc. 10.1-2) 167

2. Alcibiades' Rhetoric (Alc. 10.3-4) 169

3. The Olympic Triumph (Alc. 11-12) 171

4. The Struggle for Power in Athens (Alc. 13) 176

5. Breaking the Peace of Nicias (Alc. 14-15) 188

6. Conclusions 208

4. A Thought-Provoking Transition (Alc. 16) 215

1. Dividing Public Opinion 215

2. Combining Source Material 220

5. The Great Reversal (Alc. 17.1-23.3) 225

1. Thinking about the Conquest of Sicily (Alc. 17.1-18.5) 225

2. From Mutilation to Condemnation (Alc. 18.6-22.5) 239

3. Alcibiades' Defection to Sparta (Alc. 23.1-3) 261

4. Conclusions 264

6. The Art of Adaptation (Alc. 23.4-5) 269

1. Alcibiades' Adaptation of his Conduct 269

2. Plutarch's Adaptation of his Material 272

7. From Sparta to Samos (Alc. 23.6-26.9) 279

1. From Sparta to Sardis (Alc. 23.6-25.2) 279

2. From Sardis to Samos (Alc. 25.3-26.9) 291

3. Conclusions 304

8. Fighting His Way Back (Alc. 27-31) 309

1. A Quest for Glory (Alc. 27.1-2) 309

2. The Battle of Abydus (Alc. 27.3-6 [15] ) 310

3. In Prison (Alc. 27.6[16]-28.2[28]) 312

4. The Battle of Cyzicus (Alc. 28.2[28]-10) 314

5. Alcibiades and Thrasyllus (Alc. 29.1-5) 318

6. The Expedition against Chalcedon (Alc. 29.6-30.2) 319

7. The Capture of Selybria (Alc. 30.3-10) 320

8. The Chalcedon-Treaty (Alc. 31.1-2) 322

9. The Capture of Byzantium (Alc. 31.3-8) 323

10. Conclusions 326

9. At the Height of His Glory (Alc. 32-34) 331

1. Alcibiades' Return to Athens (Alc. 32.1-34.2) 331

2. Alcibiades' Restoration of the Procession to

Eleusis (Alc. 34.3-7) 341

3. Conclusions 346

10. A Tragic Downfall (Alc. 35-39) 351

1. In Absentia (Alc. 35.1-36.5) 351

2. A New Blow (Alc. 36.6-37.8) 372

3. The Final Act (Alc. 38-39) 385

4. Conclusions 394

Conclusions 399

1. Story 399

2. Text 410

3. Moralism 417

Bibliography 425

Index of Plutarch Passages 469

Index of Passages in Other Authors 489

Format: Monograph - ebook

499 pages

ISBN: 9789461660091

Publication: January 4, 2010

Series: Plutarchea Hypomnemata 3

Languages: English

Stock item number: 57685

Simon Verdegem is an Associate Staff Member of the Research Unit 'Literary Studies: Text and Interpretation' of KU Leuven in Belgium.


Le commentaire de Verdegem n'est pas seulement un outil de travail précieux mais aussi un ouvrage qui permet de mieux comprendre et apprécier la finesse et la complexité de l'écriture de Plutarque en général.
Maria Vamvouri, Museum Helveticum 70/2


 

There can be no doubt that this work as a whole constitutes a major achievement on Plutarch's Alcibiades, combining a landmarking synthesis of the vast accumulated knowledge on the subject with an intelligent, sensitive feeling for Plutarch's creative art.
Mark DE WILDE, Latomus, Volume 71, 2012


 

Book News - November 2010