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Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek Μεστρίος Πλούταρχος), usually known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer and essayist, born in Chaironeia, Boeotia in the mid-1st century AD. He is known for his Moralia, a collection of essays on ethical and cultural subjects, and his Parallel Lives, biographies of forty-six prominent Greeks and Romans arranged in pairs, usually followed by a short comparison. The Lives were intended as moral lessons rather than as history,[1] but are nonetheless valuable as historical accounts. Of the Moralia, the 113 Quaestiones Romanae (Roman questions) are particularly valuable as a record of Roman religious practices, marriage and other customs.

Most of what is known of Plutarch comes from his own work. He was a young man in the time of Nero.[2] His father's name is not known, but his grandfather was called Lamprias,[3] and his great grandfather Nicarchus.[4] He spent some time in Italy, including in Rome where he taught philosophy, but did not master Latin until late in life, when he began to study it seriously.[5] He tells us in the Moralia that he was a priest at Delphi, a fact confirmed by an inscription on the base of a statue of Hadrian there. The inscription also provides his Roman nomen, Mestrius, indicating he was a Roman citizen, probably enfranchised by the consul Lucius Mestrius Florus.[6] According to the Suda he was himself raised to the consulship by Trajan (emperor 98-117),[7] and had a son called Lamprias who wrote a catalogue of his works.[8] The date of his death is not known.

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  1. Plutarch, Alexander 1
  2. Plutarch, Antony 87; On the 'E' at Delphi 1
  3. Plutarch, Antony 28
  4. Plutarch, Antony 68.4
  5. Plutarch, Demosthenes 2
  6. Plutarch Inscriptions at Chaironeia: Plutarch's Home on the Web
  7. Suda pi 1793
  8. Suda lambda 96