Between city and empire: Political ambition and political form in Plutarch's “Parallel Lives”
In this dissertation, I use Plutarch's Parallel Lives to examine how the size of political bodies influences the motives of political action. I argue that Plutarch's Lives portray the love of honor (philotimia), rather than self-interest or altruism, as the primary source of political action. When constrained by the proper customs and laws, and directed by the publicity possible within small cities, Plutarch suggests, the love of honor fosters political virtue. Unconstrained, however, the love of honor fuels imperial expansion, destabilizing regimes and severing the ties between honor and virtue. Plutarch's ultimate aim in the Parallel Lives, I conclude, is to promote the healthy expression of the love of honor native to cities, even under the horizon of an empire produced by, and favorable to, unhealthy expressions of the same passion.
0579: Ancient history
0615: Political science