Second installment of our Biography episodes. This time, we tackle Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus — two names we heard along this podcast, again and again.
This — undoubtedly means, that — as faithful learners of Ancient Rome, we often depend on these two characters, in the same way we depend on what Virgil and Titus Livius wrote, which we’ve seen in our episode 40.
We depend on Plutarch for how he described those early beginnings of Rome. We also depend on him for his masterpiece, called “Parallel Lives” and the way he portrayed Romans and Greeks who lived in his times and the times before him.
We’ll talk about Parallel Lives a lot more, in this episode.
We also depend on Dionysius of Halicarnassus for the way he wrote, and his unique point of view, just to name two of his powers. But — perhaps, his biggest power was his world famous sobriety when writing about Rome. His refreshing view of men and their faults.
Well — that’s also something we’ll see today, further down the line.
But first, I want to list a few of the biggest differences that come to mind, between these two giants and the other two guys we had in Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.
Here we go.
ONE — By reading their works, it is easy to infer that both Livy and Virgil were more — should I say — lost, when it came to writing.
Even though this is my opinion, I believe that Livy and Virgil sailed the oceans of their imaginations, without guidelines on where they would find themselves after dark, almost as if it didn’t really matter if they were even able to drop anchors, at the end of each chapter.
Plutarch and Dionysius — on the other hand, seemed to know the direction of their vessels very well. It almost feels like they knew the winds, the currents, and even the depth of the waters they were sailing through.
At the end of each paragraph, they already knew the next port of call, and they knew the weather patterns that would allow them to get there.
In writer’s terms — to me, Livy and Virgil were much more like “pantsers” — writing by the seat of their pants, while Plutarch and Dionysius were much more like “plotters.”
For those not familiar with these two terms — pantsers versus plotters, here is a side-note.
Pantsers start writing a novel — usually without much of a plan, and let their imaginations fly, and take them were they may take them. They develop story plots on the fly, and add sub-plots to their main story as they go.
Plotters do the opposite. They lay out the plot, the sub-plots, and even the changes that story characters go through, before starting chapter one. After that, they write it all down.
In general, we consider that most writers fall into one of these two categories, but the truth is, that we all have parts of both sides.
And now, without any further ado, here are TEN pairs of Greek and Roman lives, in no particular order.
ONE — Theseus and Romulus — mythical founders of Athens and Rome, respectively.
TWO — Lycurgus and Numa Pompilius
THREE — Themistocles and Camillus. Yep — that Marcus Furius Camillus!
FOUR — Pericles and Fabius Maximus
FIVE — Alcibiades and Gaius Marcius Coriolanus
SIX — Aristides and Cato the Elder
SEVEN — Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius — How fitting is that!
EIGHT — Lysander and Sulla
NINE — Demosthenes and Cicero
And finally — TEN — Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar
My personal opinion? What an honor for Julius Caesar!