24 episodes

Tom Cox from grammaticus.co explores Plutarch’s Parallel Lives to introduce you to antiquity, encourage you in your education, or refresh your perspective on people and politics by stepping outside the news cycle. Biography invigorates the study of history by bringing it to life. Plutarch was the first master of this form, examining in a person the relationship between fortune, virtue, and excellence. Whether you just want to study antiquity from your armchair, sit at the feet of the greatest teachers of the West, or expand your own classical education, Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and the podcast are here to serve. Plutarch wrote almost 50 lives exploring the greatest leaders of the Greek and Roman world before Christ. His lives have been foundational to education for centuries, but they are often wrapped in the obscurity of older translations or bog the reader down with specific political and social terms from Athens or Rome. Let Tom translate the jargon and enliven the journey by outlining and explaining each essay encouraging you to dive in and learn from the teacher himself, or guide your students through his essays. Whether you learn or teach in a classroom or at home, join Plutarch—and Tom—in examining what it means to live well, by considering those who have lived before us.

The Plutarch Podcast Tom Cox - grammaticus

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 59 Ratings

Tom Cox from grammaticus.co explores Plutarch’s Parallel Lives to introduce you to antiquity, encourage you in your education, or refresh your perspective on people and politics by stepping outside the news cycle. Biography invigorates the study of history by bringing it to life. Plutarch was the first master of this form, examining in a person the relationship between fortune, virtue, and excellence. Whether you just want to study antiquity from your armchair, sit at the feet of the greatest teachers of the West, or expand your own classical education, Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and the podcast are here to serve. Plutarch wrote almost 50 lives exploring the greatest leaders of the Greek and Roman world before Christ. His lives have been foundational to education for centuries, but they are often wrapped in the obscurity of older translations or bog the reader down with specific political and social terms from Athens or Rome. Let Tom translate the jargon and enliven the journey by outlining and explaining each essay encouraging you to dive in and learn from the teacher himself, or guide your students through his essays. Whether you learn or teach in a classroom or at home, join Plutarch—and Tom—in examining what it means to live well, by considering those who have lived before us.

    Alexander

    Alexander

    Check out what I'm up to this summer and fall and see if you can learn some Greek and Latin with me.

    Full Show Notes Available at https://plutarch.life/alexander

    Season 4 is brought to you by Hackett Publishing - Use the coupon code PLUTARCH for 20% off and free shipping at hackettpublishing.com

         
    Important People

    -Bucephalus - Yes, a horse is an important character! Fiery, hard-working, and lasting till the edge of Alexander's empire, Bucephalus (ox-head) provides an analogue for us to see a fiery temperament tamed.
    -Philip - Alexander’s ambitious father and the succesful military reformer who almost led an expedition against Persia himself. His untimely assassination makes that task fall to Alexander.
    -Olympias - An ambitious and scheming mother, Olympias always pushes Alexander to do more and work harder. While at home, she frequently conflicts with Antipater, the regent Alexander left in charge of Macedonia in his decade-long absence.
    -Darius III - The last Achaemenid emperor of Persia flees from Alexander twice but, overall, is treated well by his enemy. He didn’t choose his successor, but ultimatley respects the man who sits on the throne of Cyrus after his death.
    -Poros - One of the last king-generals that Alexander defeats before turning around to head back home. Poros lives on the far side of the Indus River and earns Alexander’s respect in a hard-fought battle. Alexander keeps him in his current position and adds lands to his after defeating him.
    -Aristotle - One of the greatest philosophers who ever lived worked as the personal tutor to Alexander the Great for at least two years. The two men continue to correspond later in life but some versions of the story have their relationship cool significantly after Alexander executes his grand-nephew, Callisthenes (cf. sections 53-55)
    -Philotas - A contemporary of Alexander rising in the ranks under his father, Parmenio. Both experienced leaders who served under Philip and Alexander, Philotas’s pride finds him implicated in a conspiracy and Alexander kills him and his father.
    -Clitus (Cleitus) - A member of Alexander’s companion cavalry who saves his life at The Battle of Granicus River. When he later tries to publicly correct Alexander for adopting too many Persian customs, the fight leads to his tragic death, which Alexander struggles to recover from. 
    -Callisthenes - Grand-nephew of Aristotle accompanying Alexander on the Persian Expedition. He acts as a proxy for Alexander's relationship with the ethical and political lessons Alexander had learned from Aristotle. When he dies (some reports say by Alexander's order, others do not), it seems Alexander lost his last link with his childhood education.

    Important Places

    -Thebes - Not just in Plutarch’s backyard, but the city punished for revolting after Philip’s death. It is burned to the ground and 30,000 of its inhabitant are sold into slavery. Plutarch thinks this must anger the god Dionysius, who was born close to Thebes.
    -The Battle of Granicus River
    -Battle of Issus
    -The Siege of Tyre
    -Alexandria
    -The Battle of Gaugamela
    -The Battle of Hydapses


    Key Virtues and Vices

    -Generosity
    -Justice 
    -Friendship   
    -Ambition (φιλοτιμία)


    Support the show

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Timoleon

    Timoleon

    Check out what I'm up to this summer and fall and see if you can learn some Greek and Latin with me.

    Full Show Notes Available at https://plutarch.life/timoleon

    Season 4 is brought to you by Hackett Publishing - Use the coupon code PLUTARCH for 20% off and free shipping at hackettpublishing.com

    Important People
    Timophanes - Timoleon’s brother and the first tyrant we meet in this story. His name, rather fittingly, means "seems honorable."
    Dionysius II - The tyrant whom Dion overthrew, but did not execute. He returns to power after Dion’s death only to be replaced by Hicetas.
    Hicetas - The tyrant who replaces Dionysius II, who had allied with the Carthaginians to gain power. Starting out allied with the Corinthians, he becomes Timoleon’s main enemy in the fight to free Syracuse.
    Mago - Carthaginian general allied with Hicetas and leading a formidable navy. He’s the first Carthaginian general to “capture” Syracuse, though it’s Hicetas who hands the city over. 
    Plato - Though dead by the time Timoleon comes to power, he haunts this dialogue both in its analysis of tyranny and its understanding of justice.
    Key Virtues and Vices
    Justice (δίκη - dikē) - Plutarch argues (30.9) that Justice preserved Timoleon’s good fortune. With this in mind, it’s helpful to remember that Dion didn’t have the same good fortune, though he seems to have deserved it. Perhaps he stepped off the road of Justice and Plutarch allows us to decide where and when. Timoleon also puts justice and honor over convenience (5.1), his brother acts without justice (4.5) when he becomes tyrant, and Timoleon not only acts justly (5.1; 10.7; 29.6), but physically restores the courts of justice (22.3) to the democracy of Syracuse that before had to rely on the whims of the tyrant. 
    Gentleness (πραότης - praotēs) - Though not mentioned often, it's important for us to remember that this is a virtue listed explicitly in Aristotle's Ethics and one that Plutarch takes great interest in for his characters. Timoleon is introduced to us as gentle (3.4), but not with tyrants and base men. We're also told at the end that he dealt gently and justly with friends (37.5), but boldly and powerfully against barbarians (i.e. Carthaginians in this case). See Plutarch's "On the Moderation of Anger" or Aristotle's Ethics Book 4, Ch. 5 (1125b35) for a more thorough discussion of this virtue and its most obvious excess: anger. 
    Wisdom (φρονήσις - phronēsis) - Especially on the heels of Dion’s life, Timoleon just strikes us as lucky. Yet, Plutarch primes us in the preface (0.8) to read with an eye for his wise choices and not to judge every decision by its (usually positive) outcome. Plato's wisdom even helps men like Dionysius (15.4)
    External Links
    Ambleside Online's Study Guide for TimoleonHerman Melville's Poem Timoleon, of which I read the eighth and final stanza in the podcastEnglish Translation of Plutarch's Life of Timoleon Greek and English of Plutarch's Life of Timoleon (Perseus)Art of Manliness Podcast about Plato Trying to Convince Glaucon not to Grow into a Tyrant in the RepublicSupport the show

    • 45 min
    Dion

    Dion

    Check out what I'm up to this summer and fall and see if you can learn some Greek and Latin with me.

    Full show notes available at https://plutarch.life/dion

    Season 4 is brought to you by Hackett Publishing. Use coupon code PLUTARCH for 20% and free shipping in the US and Canada.

    Important People
    Dionysius I (the elder) - Tyrant of Syracuse taking power shortly after the Peloponnesian War and reigning until 367 BC. For some authors, he's the textbook tyrant in the way he held on to power, the fear that prevented him from trusting almost anyone (except his nephew Dion), and his cruelty. Though Plutarch doesn't mention it, this is the tyrant who shows up in stories like Damon and Pythias or The Sword of Damocles. Dionysius is called D-Prime in this podcast so that we don't confused him with his son or nephew. 
    Dionysius II (the younger) - Less accomplished and intelligent than his father, Dionysius does manage to rule Syracuse not once, but twice. We'll see his comeback in Timoleon's story...
    Dion - The main character of our tale and one of Plato's best and brightest students. When he fails to convert either the elder or younger tyrant to philosophy, he finds himself exiled, stripped of most of his wealth, and finally discovers his wife has been ordered by the tyrant to marry another man. This means war and Dion takes it to Syracuse. Can he become the next philosopher-king? Will he instead train up a virtuous democracy to overthrow fifty years of tyranny? Tune in to find out!
    Plato - Yep. Plato was a real person who had a real life outside of his dialogues (in which he never makes himself a character). You'll want to check out Plato's Seventh Letter for another perspective on the events in this Life. If you haven't read this life, though, Plato's Seventh Letter will be a great deal more obscure. 
    Philistus - An accomplished military mind banished by D-Prime but recalled by D-2, Philistus had taken up his pen in exile and written as a historian. As a political enemy and counterweight to Plato's influence on D-2, Plutarch has a lot of reason to hate this man. 
    Heracleides - The perfidious but fun-loving rival as Dion tries to tame the tyrannical democracy. Heracleides would rather feed the beast and the tensions certainly mount as Dion fights not one tyrant, but two. 
    Callippus - This perfidious Athenian doesn't seem important until the end... and then he's fatally important. 
    Important Places
    Corinth - Mother city (metropolis, μητρόπολις) of Syracuse and prosperous city on the Peloponnesus. 
    Syracuse - 5 major neighborhoods
    Ortygia - The original island settled by the Corinthians who founded Syracuse. It still contained Achradina - The heights of the mainland settlement overlooking the ocean and the Neapolis region, famous for the stone quarries in which the Athenians died during the Peloponnesian Wars and after which Dionysius would use for political prisoners. Neapolis - the most recent addition to the city, North and West of Achradina and Ortygia, but enclosed by the fortifications D-Prime builtTyche - district of NeapolisEpipolae - high plateau in the Neapolis, included in the walls D-Prime builtKey Virtues + Vices
    Courage (ἀνδρεία - manliness, courage) - Dionysius I and Plato have a fight about what virtue consists in. Plato concedes that andreia is important but then proves publicly that tyrants are the least manly men. 
    Aloofness - Dion struggles to win friends and influence people. 
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Pelopidas

    Pelopidas

    Human sacrifice, debauched tyrants, and The Sacred Band of Thebes are all woven together in Plutarch's Life of Pelopidas, friend of Epaminondas and great Theban general.

    Full show notes: https://plutarch.life/pelopidas
    Important People
    Epaminondas - Best friend of Pelopidas and philosopher-soldier-statesman of Thebes, Epaminondas is best known for his work on the battlefield in defeating the Spartans not just once, but nearly every time he meets them in pitched battle. 
    Charon - The major leader of the democratic restoration inside of Thebes. His house provides the rendezvous point and he leads one of the two groups that assassinate the four tyrants put in place by Sparta. 
    Philip of Macedon - The future king of Macedon who will solidify the generational instability Macedon has experienced for so long. In this life, he makes a brief appearance as one of thirty hostages who spends time in Thebes with a friend of Epaminondas, Pammenes. Philip brings all his first-hand experience of Theban military success back with him to Macedon. 
    Alexander of Pherae - Tyrant over a polis in Thessaly begins spreading his power and conquering neighboring cities, who call on Thebes for protection against the tyrant. This man famously leaves a tragedy so that his subjects, who have never seen him cry, won't see how moved he is by actors on a stage. 
    Important Places
    Tegyra - 375 BC - Pelopidas's first real defeat of Spartan troops, it is this battle's success that encourages him to make the Sacred Band their own fighting unit, rather then spreading them throughout the phalanx. 
    Leuctra - 371 BC - The first battle that humiliates the Spartans, showing the entire Greek world that Thebes is the dominant power under who two talented generals, Pelopidas and Epaminondas. 
    Mantineia - 362 BC - Another succesful battle which Epaminondas fights without Pelopidas, who had died a couple years earlier. Because Epaminondas dies of wounds from this battle, the Theban hegemony over Greece dies with him and the poleis fight with each other with no clear leader until Macedon marches down from the North (338 BC). 
    Support the show (https://patreon.com/grammaticus)

    • 56 min
    Agesilaus

    Agesilaus

    Full Show Notes: https://plutarch.life/agesilaus

    Important People
    Agis II - The Spartan king and older brother of Agesilaus who led Sparta during most of the latter half of the Peloponnesian War. After his death around 398 BC, the Spartans must decide whether his son, whose father could be Alcibiades, has a legitimate claim to the throne or whether they should grant the kingship to Agesilaus. 
    Lysander - Spartan naval commander who conquered Athens and annexed the old Athenian Empire, enriching his friends along the way. His influence in Sparta is powerful enough to reinterpret an oracle and convince the Spartan people to accept Agesilaus as their king. 
    Xenophon - Personal friend of Agesilaus and Socrates, Xenophon made Agesilaus the protagonist of his Hellenika and then went so far as to write another encomiastic biography of Agesilaus. Plutarch writes this life and the Life of Pelopidas with these works of Xenophon in mind and attempts in part to provide for us a perspective that balances out the pro-Spartan biases of Xenophon with Plutarch's pro-Boeotian leanings. 
    Pharnabazus - Are you a good satrap, or a bad satrap? Pharnabazus is the satrap Agesilaus would love to have as a friend, but will also respect as an enemy; he's a man of his word who honors his commitments and deals fairly with both enemy and friend. 
    Tissaphernes - A perfidious satrap mistrusted by every Greek who interacts with him, particularly Alcibiades. When he meets his end (as detailed in this life), Plutarch can't find a reason to be sad. 
    Antalcidas - The ephor (re-elected many times?) who negotiates in Persia for the King's Peace (387 BC sometimes also called the Peace of Antalcidas)
    Sphodrias - The Spartan opportunist who attempts to take the Athenian port at the Peiraeus by surprise at night. He fails and is recalled to Sparta for trial, in which he is acquitted because of the influence of his friends and Agesilaus's son. 
    Cleonymus - Sphodrias's son 
    Epaminondas - The Theban general who invades Laconia twice, victorious in the battles of Leuctra (371 BC) and Mantineia (362 BC), his wounds at the latter lead to his early death and the unraveling of Theban hegemony in the Peloponnese. 
    Archidamus III - Agesilaus's son
    Chabrias - The Athenian naval mercenary who serves first under Tachys and then under Nectabanis in Egypt. 
    Nectabanis or Nectanebo II - The Egyptian leader who revolts from Tachys and convinces Agesilaus to switch sides and join him. Agesilaus's tactical perspective allows Nectabanis to secure his claim to the throne. Nectabanis sends Agesilaus back to Sparta with 230 silver talents. 
    Agamemnon and Menelaus - The two brothers who led the Bronze Age attack against Troy now immortalized in Homer's Iliad and whose homeward journeys are recounted in Homer's Odyssey. Because Agesilaus begins his reign by attacking Persia, Plutarch draws many comparisons with Agamemnon in this life (5.4; 6.4.; 6.5; 9.4). Since Agesilaus dies near where Menelaus was shipwrecked on his way home (cf. Odyssey Book 4), Agesilaus can be compared with both leaders of this legendary expedition. 

    • 1 hr 3 min
    Lysander

    Lysander

    This wily Spartan commander defeated Athens, and his authority even eclipses that of the Spartan kings. Did Lysander corrupt the Spartans with luxury?

    Important People
    Spartans
    AgesilausCallicratidasGylippusPersians
    CyrusPharnabazusAthenians
    Alcibiades

    • 40 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
59 Ratings

59 Ratings

Atc891 ,

What a find!

This is a great podcast and a fantastic way to dive deeper into Plutarch’s Lives and ancient history. Tom Cox’s delivery is spectacular.

red millenial blue state ,

What a gem!

I am so glad I found this podcast! It’s been so helpful in studying Plutarch with my children for school.

liseygirl ,

So grateful!

Thanks so much for doing this. My student and I are loving listening as we read along!

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