Dramatic artist, natural scientist and philosopher, Plutarch is widely regarded as the most significant historian of his era, writing sharp and succinct accounts of the greatest politicians and statesman of the classical period. Taken from the Lives, a series of biographies spanning the Graeco-Roman age, this collection illuminates the twilight of the old Roman Republic from 157-43 bc. Whether describing the would-be dictators Marius and Sulla, the battle between Crassus and Spartacus, the death of political idealist Crato, Julius Caesar's harrowing triumph in Gaul or the eloquent oratory of Cicero, all offer a fascinating insight into an empire wracked by political divisions. Deeply influential on Shakespeare and many other later writers, they continue to fascinate today with their exploration of corruption, decadence and the struggle for ultimate power.
Plutarch (c.50-c.120 AD) was a writer and thinker born into a wealthy, established family of Chaeronea in central Greece. His voluminous surviving writings are broadly divided into the 'moral' works and the Parallel Lives of outstanding Greek and Roman leaders. The former (Moralia) are a mixture of rhetorical and antiquarian pieces, together with technical and moral philosophy (sometimes in dialogue form). The Lives have been influential from the Renaissance onwards. Robin Seager is a Reader in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Liverpool and the author of a biography of Pompey. Rex Warner (translator) translated widely from Latin and Greek including, for Penguin, Xenophon, Thucydides and Plutarch.