Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 253

Parallel Lives refers to the series of biographies, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, by the writer Plutarch. The series is about different famous men, put side by side, in order to show how they are similar in their strengths and weaknesses. This is a major theme in the series, showing the ethical virtues of people from the past in Greece and those from more recent Roman history and discovering how virtue spans across different circumstances.

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Each story has a comparison between Greeks and Romans at the end of each matched pair. The theme Plutarch pushes the most, perhaps, is that Romans and Greeks should get along and that they aren’t as different as they might think. Plutarch’s aim at writing the sections is almost always ethical in nature.

There is also a heavy focus on how personal attributes connect directly to what happens to characters in their lives. For example, someone who is honest in their personal life might end up doing well in their government politically.

One of the first books in the series is about Romulus, the founder of Rome. His existence is taken as a fact instead of the way it’s looked at today, as a myth. Plutarch related many stories about Romulus, such as one during the war with the Sabines, where it was Romulus’ virtue of fortitude that allowed the Romans to stay together in the battle, since Romulus was able to get up after being hit in the head with a rock.

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