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Morals (Moralia), Book 2

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By: (c. 46 - c. 120)

The Moralia (loosely translatable as "Matters relating to customs") of the 1st-century Greek scholar Plutarch of Chaeronea is an eclectic collection of 78 essays and transcribed speeches. They give an insight into Roman and Greek life, but often are also fascinating timeless observations in their own right. Many generations of Europeans have read or imitated them, including Montaigne and the Renaissance Humanists and Enlightenment philosophers. The Moralia include "On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great" — an important adjunct to his Life of the great general — "On the Worship of Isis and Osiris" (a crucial source of information on Egyptian religious rites), and "On the Malice of Herodotus" (which may, like the orations on Alexander's accomplishments, have been a rhetorical exercise), in which Plutarch criticizes what he sees as systematic bias in the Father of History's work; along with more philosophical treatises, such as "On the Decline of the Oracles", "On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance", "On Peace of Mind" and lighter fare, such as "Odysseus and Gryllus", a humorous dialog between Homer's Odysseus and one of Circe's enchanted pigs. The Moralia were composed first, while writing the Lives occupied much of the last two decades of Plutarch's own life. Some editions of the Moralia include several works now known to be pseudepigrapha: among these are the "Lives of the Ten Orators" (biographies of the Ten Orators of ancient Athens, based on Caecilius of Calacte), "The Doctrines of the Philosophers", and "On Music". One "pseudo-Plutarch" is held responsible for all of these works, though their authorship is of course unknown. Though the thoughts and opinions recorded are not Plutarch's and come from a slightly later era, they are all classical in origin and have value to the historian. The book is also famously the first reference to the problem of the chicken and the egg.


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