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Parallel Lives

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Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. The surviving Parallel Lives, as they are more properly and commonly known — many of his subjects were not "noble" — contain 23 pairs of biographies, each pair containing one Greek Life and one Roman Life; as well as 4 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. Some of the more interesting Lives - for instance, those of Heracles and Philip II of Macedon - no longer exist, and many of the remaining Lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae and/or have been tampered with by later writers.

His Life of Alexander is one of the five surviving secondary 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, an early Roman king, also contains unique information about the early Roman calendar.


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

In the table below, besides links to the wikipedia articles on the historic figures, there are also links to several on-line versions of Plutarch's Lives; see also "Other links" section below.


Dryden 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. In the table below, the external links marked D deep link to the individual biographies (and comparisons) as provided by that website.


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

The full text version (TXT) of such a translation is available at

As far as HTML editions of these translations are available at the Gutenberg website, the external links marked G in the table below deep link to the relevant section of these Gutenberg webpages.


The LacusCurtius website has the Loeb translation (published 1914‑1926) of several works of Plutarch, amongst which the Lives of all Romans (and a few Greeks), see

As far as available these translations are linked with L in the table below.


Also the Perseus Project has several of the Lives, see:

The Lives available on the Perseus website are in Greek and English according to the Bernadotte Perrin edition; and/or in English according to an abbreviated version of the Thomas North translationsD G P

  1. Lycurgus D G
  2. Solon D G P
  3. Themistocles D G P
  4. Pericles D G P
  5. Alcibiades D G P
  6. Timoleon D G
  7. Pelopidas D G
  8. Aristides D G P
  9. Philopoemen D G L
  10. Pyrrhus D G L
  11. Lysander D G P
  12. Cimon D G P
  13. Nicias D G P
  14. Eumenes D G
  15. Agesilaus D G
  16. Alexander the Great D G L P
  17. Phocion D G
  18. Agis D and Cleomenes D
  19. Demosthenes D
  20. Demetrius D
  21. Dion D
  22. Aratus D and Artaxerxes D


Notes [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] At the time of composing this table there appears some confusion in the internal linking of the Perseus webpages, responsible for this split in two references.

Other links

Last updated: 06-01-2005 18:07:48
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13