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The state before the self : grief, virtue, and paideia in Plutarch's Parallel lives Langley, Bronwyn


Using the Parallel Lives of Aemilius Paulus-Timoleon, Pericles-Fabius Maximus, and Phocion-Cato Minor as case studies, this thesis examines Plutarch’s use of grief episodes (Aem. 36.1; Tim. 5.2; Per. 36.4; Fab. 24.4; Cato Min. 11.1-2) to showcase the strength or fragility of a given statesman’s virtue. In looking at Plutarch’s treatment of these grief episodes, it becomes clear that he expects statesmen to display specific virtues, such as selflessness and self-control, to a greater extent than an average citizen. Therefore, statesmen must place the needs of their people over their own, even when grieving the loss of a loved one. Throughout the Parallel Lives, Plutarch emphasizes the need for Greek philosophical education, paideia, in order to strengthen one’s virtue, and, thereby, become a more effective statesman. In professing the significance of virtues such as self-control, Plutarch supports the Platonic ideal of metriopatheia, which calls for the control of one’s emotions. Conversely, he criticizes the Stoic ideal of apatheia, which calls for the absence of emotion, and herein makes a distinction between what kind of Greek paideia is best. Heroes such as Aemilius, Timoleon, Pericles, and Phocion, who have been properly educated, are better able to face adversity and remain consistent in their virtues. On the hand, the virtues of heroes such as Fabius Maximus and Cato Minor are shown to fade over time without the benefit of this education.

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