Parallel Lives
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, written in the late 1st century. The surviving Parallel Lives [in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Βίοι Παράλληλοι (Bíoi Parállēloi)], as they are more properly and commonly known, contain twenty-three pairs of biographies, each pair consisting of one Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and one Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, as well as four unpaired, single lives. It is a work of considerable importance, not only as a source of information about the individuals biographized, but also about the times in which they lived.


As he explains in the first paragraph of his Life of Alexander, Plutarch was not concerned with writing histories, as such, but in exploring the influence of character — good or bad — on the lives and destinies of famous men. And he wished to prove that the more remote past of Greece could show its men of action and achievement as well as the nearer, and therefore more impressive, past of Rome. The interest is primarily ethical
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, although the lives have significant historical
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 value as well. The Lives were published by Plutarch late in life after his return to Chaeronea
Chaeronea is a village and a former municipality in Boeotia, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Livadeia, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 2,218...

, and, if one may judge from the long lists of authorities given, must have taken many years in the compilation.


The chief manuscripts of the Lives date from the 10th and 11th centuries; the first edition appeared at Florence in 1517. Jacob Tonson printed several editions of the Lives in English in the late 17th century, beginning with a 5-volume set printed in 1688 and subsequent editions printed in 1693, 1702, 1716, and 1727. The most generally accepted text is that of the minor edition of Carl Sintenis in the Bibliotheca Teubneriana (5 vols., Leipzig 1852-55; reissued without much change in 1873-75). There are annotated editions by I. C. Held, E. H. G. Leopold, Otto Siefert and Friedrich Blass and Carl Sintenis, all in German; and by Holden, in English.

The first pair of lives — the Epaminondas
Epaminondas , or Epameinondas, was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the Ancient Greek city-state of Thebes, leading it out of Spartan subjugation into a preeminent position in Greek politics...

Scipio Africanus
Scipio Africanus
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

 — no longer exists, and many of the remaining lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae
Lacuna (manuscripts)
A lacunaPlural lacunae. From Latin lacūna , diminutive form of lacus . is a gap in a manuscript, inscription, text, painting, or a musical work...

 and/or have been tampered with by later writers.

His Life of Alexander is one of the five surviving secondary
Secondary source
In scholarship, a secondary source is a document or recording that relates or discusses information originally presented elsewhere. A secondary source contrasts with a primary source, which is an original source of the information being discussed; a primary source can be a person with direct...

 or tertiary sources about Alexander the Great and it includes anecdotes and descriptions of incidents that appear in no other source. Likewise, his portrait of Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. What tales are descended to us about him come from Valerius Antias, an author from the early part of the 1st century BC known through limited mentions of later authors , Dionysius of Halicarnassus circa 60BC-...

, an early Roman king, also contains unique information about the early Roman calendar
Roman calendar
The Roman calendar changed its form several times in the time between the founding of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire. This article generally discusses the early Roman or pre-Julian calendars...


Plutarch is criticized for his lack of judicious discrimination in use of authorities and the consequent errors and inaccuracies, but he gives an abundance of citations and incidentally a large number of valuable bits of information which fill up numerous gaps in historical knowledge obtained elsewhere. He is praised for the liveliness and warmth of his portrayals and his moral earnestness and enthusiasm, and the Lives have attracted a large circle of readers throughout the ages.


Plutarch structured his Lives by alternating lives of famous Greeks ("Grecians") with those of famous Romans. After such a set of two (and one set of four) lives he generally writes out a comparison of the preceding biographies.

The table below links to several on-line English translations of Plutarch's Lives; see also "Other links" section below. The LacusCurtius
LacusCurtius is a website specializing in ancient Rome, currently hosted on a server at the University of Chicago. It went online on August 26, 1997; in January 2008 it had "2786 pages, 690 photos, 675 drawings & engravings, 118 plans, 66 maps." The site is the...

 site has the complete set; the others are incomplete to varying extents.
There are also four paperbacks published by Penguin Books
Penguin Books
Penguin Books is a publisher founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane and V.K. Krishna Menon. Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence. Penguin's success demonstrated that large...

, two with Greek lives, two Roman, rearranged in chronological order, and containing a total of 36 of the lives.

Key to abbreviations

D = Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

 is famous for having lent his name as editor-in-chief to the first complete English translation of Plutarch's Lives. This 17th century translation is available at The MIT Internet Classics Archive.

These translations are linked with D in the table below; those marked (D) in parentheses are incomplete in the HTML version.

G = Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

 contains several versions of 19th century translations of these Lives, see: and

The full text version (TXT
TXT or txt may refer to:* SMS language or txt, an Internet slang language commonly used on short message service phones* .txt, a filename extension for text files* Text messaging on a phone using letters and symbols....

) of the English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough
Arthur Hugh Clough
Arthur Hugh Clough was an English poet, an educationalist, and the devoted assistant to ground-breaking nurse Florence Nightingale...

's translation is available (via download) at Gutenberg.

These translations are linked with G in the table below.

L = LacusCurtius
LacusCurtius is a website specializing in ancient Rome, currently hosted on a server at the University of Chicago. It went online on August 26, 1997; in January 2008 it had "2786 pages, 690 photos, 675 drawings & engravings, 118 plans, 66 maps." The site is the...

 has the Loeb
Loeb Classical Library
The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books, today published by Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each...

 translation by Bernadotte Perrin (published 1914‑1926) of part of the Moralia and all the Lives; see

These translations are linked with L in the table below.

P = Perseus Project
The Perseus Project
Perseus Project
The Perseus Project is a digital library project of Tufts University that assembles digital collections of humanities resources. It is hosted by the Department of Classics. It has suffered at times from computer hardware problems, and its resources are occasionally unavailable...

 has several of the Lives, see:

The Lives available on the Perseus website are in Greek and English according to the Loeb
Loeb Classical Library
The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books, today published by Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each...

 edition by Bernadotte Perrin; and/or in English according to an abbreviated version of the Thomas North
Thomas North
Sir Thomas North was an English translator of Plutarch, second son of the 1st Baron North.-Life:He is supposed to have been a student of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1557. In 1574 he accompanied his brother, Lord North, on a visit to the French court. He served as...

 translations. This last edition concentrates on those of the Lives Shakespeare based his plays upon: Thomas North's translation of most of the Lives, based on a French version published in the 16th century, preceded Dryden's translation mentioned above.

These translations are linked with P in the table below.



  1. Theseus
    For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

     D G L P
  2. Lycurgus (D) G L
  3. Solon
    Solon was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in archaic Athens...

     D G L P
  4. Themistocles
    Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

     D G L P
  5. Pericles
    Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

     (D) G L P
  6. Alcibiades
    Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

    (D) G L P
  7. Timoleon
    Timoleon , son of Timodemus, of Corinth was a Greek statesman and general.As the champion of Greece against Carthage he is closely connected with the history of Sicily, especially Syracuse.-Early life:...

     (D) G L
  8. Pelopidas
    Pelopidas was an important Theban statesman and general in Greece.-Athlete and warrior:He was a member of a distinguished family, and possessed great wealth which he expended on his friends, while content to lead the life of an athlete...

     D G L
  9. Aristides
    Aristides , 530 BC – 468 BC was an Athenian statesman, nicknamed "the Just".- Biography :Aristides was the son of Lysimachus, and a member of a family of moderate fortune. Of his early life, it is only told that he became a follower of the statesman Cleisthenes and sided with the aristocratic party...

     D G L P
  10. Philopoemen
    Philopoemen , was a skilled Greek general and statesman, who was Achaean strategos on eight occasions....

     D G L
  11. Pyrrhus
    Pyrrhus of Epirus
    Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house , and later he became king of Epirus and Macedon . He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome...

     (D) G L
  12. Lysander
    Lysander was a Spartan general who commanded the Spartan fleet in the Hellespont which defeated the Athenians at Aegospotami in 405 BC...

     D G L P
  13. Cimon D G L P
  14. Nicias
    Nicias or Nikias was an Athenian politician and general during the period of the Peloponnesian War. Nicias was a member of the Athenian aristocracy because he had inherited a large fortune from his father, which was invested into the silver mines around Attica's Mt. Laurium...

     D G L P
  15. Eumenes
    Eumenes of Cardia was a Thracian general and scholar. He participated in the wars of the Diadochi as a supporter of the Macedonian Argead royal house.-Career:...

     D G L
  16. Agesilaus
    Agesilaus II
    Agesilaus II, or Agesilaos II was a king of Sparta, of the Eurypontid dynasty, ruling from approximately 400 BC to 360 BC, during most of which time he was, in Plutarch's words, "as good as thought commander and king of all Greece," and was for the whole of it greatly identified with his...

     (D) G L
  17. Alexander the Great (D) G L P
  18. Phocion
    Phocion was an Athenian statesman and strategos, and the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives....

     D G L
  19. Agis
    Agis IV
    Agis IV , the elder son of Eudamidas II, was the 24th king of the Eurypontid dynasty of Sparta. Posterity has reckoned him an idealistic but impractical monarch.-Succession:...

     D L and Cleomenes
    Cleomenes III
    Cleomenes III was the King of Sparta from 235-222 BC. He succeeded to the Agiad throne of Sparta after his father, Leonidas II in 235 BC.From 229 BC to 222 BC, Cleomenes waged war against the Achaean League under Aratus of Sicyon. Domestically, he is known for his attempt to reform the Spartan state...

     D L
  20. Demosthenes
    Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

     D L
  21. Demetrius
    Demetrius I of Macedon
    Demetrius I , called Poliorcetes , son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Stratonice, was a king of Macedon...

     (D) L
  22. Dion (D) L
  23. Aratus
    Aratus of Sicyon
    Aratus was a statesman of the ancient Greek city-state of Sicyon and a leader of the Achaean League. He deposed the Sicyonian tyrant Nicocles in 251 BC. Aratus was an advocate of Greek unity and brought Sicyon into the Achaean League, which he led to its maximum extent...

     (D) L and Artaxerxes D L



  • Romulus
    - People:* Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome* Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman Emperor* Valerius Romulus , deified son of the Roman emperor Maxentius* Romulus , son of the Western Roman emperor Anthemius...

     D G L
  • Numa Pompilius
    Numa Pompilius
    Numa Pompilius was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. What tales are descended to us about him come from Valerius Antias, an author from the early part of the 1st century BC known through limited mentions of later authors , Dionysius of Halicarnassus circa 60BC-...

     D G L
  • Poplicola DG L
  • Camillus
    Marcus Furius Camillus
    Marcus Furius Camillus was a Roman soldier and statesman of patrician descent. According to Livy and Plutarch, Camillus triumphed four times, was five times dictator, and was honoured with the title of Second Founder of Rome....

     (D) G L
  • Fabius Maximus
    Fabius Maximus
    Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator was a Roman politician and general, born in Rome around 280 BC and died in Rome in 203 BC. He was Roman Consul five times and was twice Dictator in 221 and again in 217 BC. He reached the office of Roman Censor in 230 BC...

     D G L
  • Coriolanus (D) G L P
  • Aemilius Paulus (D) G L
  • Marcellus
    Marcus Claudius Marcellus
    Marcus Claudius Marcellus , five times elected as consul of the Roman Republic, was an important Roman military leader during the Gallic War of 225 BC and the Second Punic War...

     D G L
  • Cato the Elder
    Cato the Elder
    Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

     D G L
  • Flamininus
    Titus Quinctius Flamininus
    Titus Quinctius Flamininus was a Roman politician and general instrumental in the Roman conquest of Greece.Member of the gens Quinctia, and brother to Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, he served as a military tribune in the Second Punic war and in 205 BC he was appointed propraetor in Tarentum...

     D G L
  • Gaius Marius
    Gaius Marius
    Gaius Marius was a Roman general and statesman. He was elected consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the...

     (D) G L
  • Sulla (D) G L
  • Lucullus
    Lucius Licinius Lucullus , was an optimate politician of the late Roman Republic, closely connected with Sulla Felix...

     (D) G L
  • Crassus
    Marcus Licinius Crassus
    Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who commanded the right wing of Sulla's army at the Battle of the Colline Gate, suppressed the slave revolt led by Spartacus, provided political and financial support to Julius Caesar and entered into the political alliance known as the...

     (D) G L
  • Sertorius D G L
  • Pompey
    Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

     (D) G L
  • Julius Caesar
    Julius Caesar
    Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

     (D) G L P1 P2
  • Cato the Younger
    Cato the Younger
    Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

     (D) G L
  • Tiberius Gracchus
    Tiberius Gracchus
    Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was a Roman Populares politician of the 2nd century BC and brother of Gaius Gracchus. As a plebeian tribune, his reforms of agrarian legislation caused political turmoil in the Republic. These reforms threatened the holdings of rich landowners in Italy...

     D L
    and Gaius Gracchus
    Gaius Gracchus
    Gaius Sempronius Gracchus was a Roman Populari politician in the 2nd century BC and brother of the ill-fated reformer Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus...

     D L
  • Cicero
    Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

     (D) L
  • Mark Antony
    Mark Antony
    Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

     (D) L P
  • Brutus
    Marcus Junius Brutus
    Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

     (D) L P
  • Galba
    Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

     D L and Otho
    Otho , was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the four emperors.- Birth and lineage :...

     D L



  1. The last line of the table contains the four "unpaired" lives, as mentioned above.
  2. The Perseus project also contains a biography of Caesar Augustus appearing in the North translation, but not coming from Plutarch's Parallel Lives: P
  3. Though the majority of the Parallel Lives were written with the Greek hero (or heroes) placed in the first position followed by the Roman hero, there are three sets of Lives where this order is reversed : Aemilius Paulus-Timoleon, Coriolanus-Alcibiades and Sertorius-Eumenes.
  4. At the time of composing this table there appears some confusion in the internal linking of the Perseus project webpages, responsible for this split in two references.

Chronology of the lives

The following chronology of legendary and historical figures whose biographies appear in the Lives is organized by date of death, as birth dates in antiquity are more often uncertain. All dates are BC except Galba and Otho.
  • Theseus 1234–1204 (myth)
  • Romulus 771 – 717 (myth)
  • Numa Pompilius d. 673 (Semi-Legendary)
  • Lycurgus circa 700 – 630 (Semi-Legendary)
  • Solon 638 – 558
  • Poplicola d. 503
  • Coriolanus c. 475
  • Aristides 530 – 468
  • Themistocles 524- 459
  • Cimon 510 – 450
  • Pericles 495 - 429
  • Artaxerxes d. 424
  • Nicias 470 – 413
  • Alcibiades 450 - 404
  • Lysander d. 395
  • Camillus 446 - 365
  • Pelopidas d. 364

  • Agesilaus 444 – 360
  • Dion 408 - 354
  • Timoleon 411 - 337
  • Alexander the Great 356 - 323
  • Demosthenes 384 - 322
  • Phocion 402 – 318
  • Eumenes 362 - 316
  • Demetrius d. 283
  • Pyrrhus 318 - 272
  • Agis c. 245
  • Cleomenes d. 219
  • Aratus 271 – 213
  • Marcellus 268 - 208
  • Fabius Maximus 275 – 203
  • Philopoemen 253 - 183
  • Flamininus 228 - 174
  • Aemilius Paulus 229-160

  • Cato the Elder 234 – 149
  • Tiberius Gracchus 163 - 133
  • Gaius Gracchus 154 - 121
  • Gaius Marius 157 - 86
  • Sulla 138 - 78
  • Sertorius b. c. 123 – d. 72
  • Lucullus 118 - 56
  • Crassus 115 - 53
  • Pompey 106 - 48
  • Cato the Younger 95 – 46
  • Julius Caesar 100 or 102 - 44
  • Cicero 106 – 43
  • Brutus 85 – 42
  • Mark Antony 83 - 30
  • Galba 3 BC – 69 AD
  • Otho 32 AD – 69 AD

External links

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