Plutarch's Greek Lives can be seen as a summing up of the classical Greek age and its great writers.
The nine Lives translated here and arranged in chronological order follow the history of Athens from the legendary times of Theseus, the city's founder, to its defeat at the hands of Lysander, its Spartan conqueror. Included in this selection are the biographies of Themistocles, a brilliant but heavy-handed naval commander, Aristides 'the Just' and Pericles, who was responsible for the buildings on the Acropolis. Plutarch's real interest in these men is not in the greatness of their victories or achievements but in their moral strengths, and for him responsibility for the eventual fall of Athens lay with the weakness and ambition of its great men.
Varying in historical accuracy, these accounts are nevertheless rich in anecdote, and Plutarch's skill as a social historian and his fascination with personal idiosyncracies make them of timeless interest.