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Historical Reading from Plutarch and Tacitus :

Synopsis

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By J. R. ACKERLEY
' Life of Lycurgus--A description of Spartan
Life ' (Plutarch)
Annals, book 15, Chapters 33-34, ' The Behaviour of Nero and the fire of Rome ' (Tacitus)
PLUTARCH'S forty-six Parallel Lives of the great figures of the ancient classical world are classics in themselves. Plutarch was born in the Greek town of Chaoronea, in 46 A.D., but spent a great part of his life in Rome. Lycurgus, the great Spartan lawgiver, and Numa, the early king of Rome, made the first pair of parallel lives. Lycurgus may be called the founder of the Spartan system which saw its apotheosis in Leonidas at
Thermopylæ : 'the complete subservience of the individual to the state, typified by the rigours of the sternest conceivable military discipline, and the ideal of death in battle for the state as the greatest and most honourable fate possible for every citizen.
Tacitus is, of course, the most vivid historian of Roman history. His admirably individual style more than compensates for his definite prejudices which to some extent detract from his value as an authority on the lives of the earlier Ceesars. The Emperor Nero is probably remembered chiefly for his emerald eyeglass, his buffooneries as amateur poet and charioteer, and his persecution of the early Christians. But it is too often forgotten that in his earlier years he was not only remarkable for his personal beauty and charm, but also displayed quite unusual ability as a ruler under the advice and guidance of Seneca and Burrhas.

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