I promised myself I would do a few serious books this year, and have gotten several completed. My definition of serious? Classics, biographies and non fiction. While several fiction reads have been toward that direction, I’m not counting them. The one I just completed was inspired by Girl #2 being home. I admit I had it checked out for six weeks before I finished, but I didn’t start it until the latter part of June, so it was about a month of fairly steady reading.
Plutarch was an ancient writer, and he did the biographies of a variety of Romans. His original works were paired, allowing the reader to compare two lives, one lived well, and the other not so much. In this version, the translater, Pamela Mensch, selected five Caesars, so you are basically reading five biographies by Plutarch, with Ms. Mensch’ annotations. Mary Beard, (very famous and amazing classicist, according to a girl #2, wrote the intro which helps someone like me understand what’s going on!) There are five biographies: Pompey, Cicero, Brutus, Ceasar and Antony.
My conclusions? Most of these guys were more honorable then your average U.S. Senator, regardless of party. I had never heard of Pompey, but he was quite a tactician and pretty humble. I hadn’t realized that Cicero was so high in the political structure (he was consul!); he was a great orator of course, but he could turn the entire country with his words, and loved Liberty above all else. Several times it talked about him ruling Rome without holding office because he was so influential. Brutus wasn’t the bad guy most think he was, Ceasar was understandable, and Antony couldn’t keep his toga on….I found Plutarch surprisingly engaging, even funny. He was pretty relaxed in his narration, and the sections were small, so it was easy to find a stopping place. I found myself wishing for an ancient map to track everyone’s moves, because most of these five intersected with each other throughout their lives.
So, if you want to learn something new this summer, you may want to check this out! I was surprised in a good way, finding this much more interesting and engaging than I had anticipated. And, as with any classic, you learn that man really hasn’t changed that much over the centuries, we can be brilliant and quite stupid, depending on the day!