Military leadership in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives
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This dissertation is a study of Plutarch’s portrayal of military leadership in his Parallel Lives. I investigate Plutarch’s use of extended military narrative to provide examples of good generalship for his readers, his conception of the importance and dangers of a military education, his attitude toward the moral use of deception in warfare, and the importance of synkrisis to the reader’s final assessment of a general’s military ability. I conclude with a case study of the Pyrrhus-Marius, in which I examine how Plutarch uses military narrative throughout the pair to compare the generalship of the two men. I demonstrate that Plutarch’s conception of generalship in the Parallel Lives is nuanced, consistent, and often significant to the interpretation of a pair. Plutarch constructs his military narratives in such a way as to identify specific acts of generalship through which the military leaders among his readership could evaluate and improve their own generalship. Plutarch’s treatment of the morality of generalship is consistent with his views on education and character; while he accepts the necessity and appreciates the effectiveness of military deception, he also recognizes its limitations and holds up for criticism those generals who do not use it appropriately. I also examine the importance of the formal synkrisis at the end of each pair of Lives to the structural integrity of the Plutarchan book and the evaluation of military leadership in each pair. These concluding synkriseis demonstrate that Plutarch had a consistent set of criteria for evaluating the generalship of his subjects, and encourage the reader to make similar judgments on military ability themselves. This process of evaluation and comparison of military leadership is particularly important to my reading of the Pyrrhus-Marius, as comparing the military careers of its subjects allows for a more complete reading of the pair than is otherwise possible.