Ο σκοπός των Βίων του Πλουτάρχου και οι διάφορες συναφείς θεωρίεςPart of : Αρχαιογνωσία ; Vol.3, No.1-2, 1982, pages 93-114
The purpose of Plutarch's lives and the various theories about it
The present article makes a detailed examination of the purpose of the Lives, as this is attested by Plutarch ’s own statements and some other observations regarding his method of work, and then proceeds to a critical survey of the various views and theories concerning this purpose, in an attempt to show that, on the basis of the existing evidence, the purpose of the Lives cannot be anything else but solely ethical.Apart from Plutarch’s own unequivocable statements on the subject (Proem. Ti m ol., Perici, chs 1-2, Demetr. 1, Alex. I, Nicias l,Cimon 2) and his overwhelming interest in Ethics throughout his writings, his strong moral preoccupations are also evident in the way he approaches, selects and adapts his source-material in the Lives. At times he will supress something that he regards to be incompatible with the moral picture of his hero, while in cases of conflicting evidence his choice is not made with scientific but with moral criteria: he simply selects and propounds the version involving the best moral lesson. The Comp a r i s ο n s also seem to denote that Plutarch made them in order to gain a clearer perception of the individual moral qualities.Yet, many modern scholars have tried to find inner motives and intentions behind the Lives (Trench) and suggested other purposes except, or in addition to the moral one. So we have the partiotic purpose of the Lives and its variations (to defend the Greeks-PERRIN, to impress the Romans-FocKE etc.), the historical-scientific purpose (Barbu), the diplomatic purpose, or the theory of reconciliation (Ziegler, Sandbach and others), the educational purpose (Hadas, Russell) and the political purpose (Renoirte, Wardman). In discussing these views and indicating their weak points we lay particular stress on the fact that, contrary to the moral purpose of the Lives, which is so amply confirmed, none of the other suggested purposes seems to be supported by real evidence.