Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus
Μέστριος Πλούταρχος

Bust of Plutarch located at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
Born Circa 46 CE
Chaeronea, Boeotia
Died Circa 120 CE (aged 74)
Delphi, Phocis
Occupation Biographer, essayist, priest, ambassador, magistrate
Nationality Roman (Greek ethnicity)
Subjects Biography, various
Literary movement Middle Platonism,
Hellenistic literature

The Moralia (ancient Greek Ἠθικά — loosely translatable as Matters relating to customs and mores) 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 famously the first reference to the problem of the Chicken and the egg.



Moralia asserts a belief in reincarnation:

"The soul, being eternal, after death is like a caged bird that has been released. If it has been a long time in the body, and has become tame by many affairs and long habit, the soul will immediately take another body and once again become involved in the troubles of the world. The worst thing about old age is that the soul's memory of the other world grows dim, while at the same time its attachment to things of this world becomes so strong that the soul tends to retain the form that it had in the body. But that soul which remains only a short time within a body, until liberated by the higher powers, quickly recovers its fire and goes on to higher things." (From The Consolation.)


Mind or Nous (play /ˈns/, Greek: νοῦς) is a philosophical term for intellect. In Moralia, Plutarch agrees with Plato that the soul is more divine than the body while nous is more divine than the soul. The mix of soul and body produces pleasure and pain; the conjunction of mind and soul produces reason which is the cause or the source of virtue and vice. (From: “On the Face in the Moon”) [1]


Since the Stephanus edition of 1572, the Moralia have traditionally been arranged in 14 books, as in the following list which includes the English, the original Greek and the Latin title:

  • I.
    • 1. On the Education of Children (Περὶ παίδων ἀγωγῆς - De liberis educandis)
    • 2. How the Young Man Should Study Poetry (Πῶς δεῖ τὸν νέον ποιημάτων ἀκούειν - Quomodo adolescens poetas audire debeat)
    • 3. On Hearing (Περὶ τοῦ ἀκούειν - De recta ratione audiendi)
    • 4. How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend (Πῶς ἂν τις διακρίνοιε τὸν κόλακα τοῦ φίλου - Quomodo adulator ab amico internoscatur)
    • 5. How a Man May Become Aware of his Progress in Virtue (Πῶς ἂν τις αἴσθοιτο ἑαυτοῦ προκόπτοντος ἐπ᾿ ἀρετῇ - Quomodo quis suos in virtute sentiat profectus)
  • II.
    • 6. How to Profit by One's Enemies (Πῶς ἂν τις ὑπ᾿ ἐχθρῶν ὠφελοῖτο - De capienda ex inimicis utilitate)
    • 7. On Having Many Friends (Περὶ πολυφιλίας - De amicorum multitudine)
    • 8. On Chance (Περὶ τύχης - De fortuna)
    • 9. On Virtue and Vice (Περὶ ἀρετῆς καὶ κακίας - De virtute et vitio)
    • 10. Letter of Condolence to Apollonius (Παραμυθητικὸς πρὸς Ἀπολλώνιον - Consolatio ad Apollonium)
    • 11. Advice about Keeping Well (Ὑγιεινὰ παραγγέλματα - De tuenda sanitate praecepta)
    • 12. Advice to Bride and Groom (Γαμικὰ παραγγέλματα - Coniugalia praecepta)
    • 13. Dinner of the Seven Wise Men (Ἑπτά σοφῶν συμπόσιον - Septem sapientium convivium)
    • 14. On Superstition (Περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας - De superstitione)
  • III.
    • 15. Sayings of Kings and Commanders (Βασιλέων ἀποφθέγματα καὶ στρατηγών - regum et imperatorem apophthegmata)
    • 16. Sayings of the Spartans (Ἀποφθέγματα Λακωνικά - apophthegmata Laconica)
    • 17. Institutions of the Spartans (Τὰ παλαιὰ τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων ἐπιτηδεύματα - instituta Laconica)
    • 18. Sayings of the Spartan Women (Λακαινῶν αποφθέγματα - Lacaenarum apophthegmata)
    • 19. Virtues of Women (Γυναικῶν ἀρεταί - Mulierum virtutes)
  • IV.
    • 20. Roman Questions (Αἴτια Ῥωμαϊκά - Quaestiones Romanae)
    • 21. Greek Questions (Αἴτια Ἑλληνικά - Quaestiones Graecae)
    • 22. Greek and Roman Parallel Stories (Συναγωγὴ ἱστοριῶν παραλλήλων Ἑλληνικῶν καὶ Ρωμαϊκῶν - Parallela minora) (pseudo-Plutarch)
    • 23. On the Fortune of the Romans (Περὶ τῆς Ῥωμαίων τύχης - De fortuna Romanorum)
    • 24. On the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Great (Περὶ τῆς Ἀλεξάνδρου τύχης ἢ ἀρετῆς - De Alexandri magni fortuna aut virtute)
    • 25. On the Glory of the Athenians (Πότερον Ἀθηναῖοι κατὰ πόλεμον ἢ κατὰ σοφίαν ἐνδοξότεροι - De gloria Atheniensium)
  • V.
    • 26. On Isis and Osiris [2] (Περί Ίσιδος και Οσίριδος - De Iside et Osiride)
    • 27. On the EI at Delphi (Περί τού Εί τού έν Δελφοίς - De E apud Delphos)
    • 28. Oracles at Delphi no Longer Given in Verse (Περί του μη χραν έμμετρα νυν την Πυθίαν - De Pythiae oraculis)
    • 29. On the Obsolescence of Oracles (Περί των εκλελοιπότων χρηστηρίων - De defectu oraculorum)
  • VI.
    • 30. Can Virtue be Taught? (Εἰ διδακτὸν ἡ ἀρετή - An virtus doceri possit)
    • 31. On Moral Virtue (Περί ηθικής αρετής - De virtute morali)
    • 32. On the Control of Anger (Περί αοργησίας - De cohibenda ira)
    • 33. On Tranquility of Mind (Περί ευθυμίας - De tranquillitate animi)
    • 34. On Brotherly Love (Περί φιλαδελφίας - De fraterno amore)
    • 35. On Affection for Offspring (Περί της εις τα έγγονα φιλοστοργίας - De amore prolis)
    • 36. Whether Vice is Sufficient to Cause Unhappiness (Ει αυτάρκης η κακία προς κακοδαιμονίαν - An vitiositas ad infelicitatem sufficiat)
    • 37. Whether Affections of the Soul are Worse than Those of the Body (Περί του πότερον τα ψυχής ή τα σώματος πάθη χείρονα - Animine an corporis affectiones sint peiores)
    • 38. On Talkativeness (Περί αδολεσχίας - De garrulitate)
    • 39. On Being a Busybody (Περί πολυπραγμοσύνης - De curiositate)
  • VII.
    • 40. On Love of Wealth (Περί φιλοπλουτίας - De cupiditate divitiarum)
    • 41. On Compliancy (Περί δυσωπίας - De vitioso pudore)
    • 42. On Envy and Hate (Περί φθόνου και μίσους - De invidia et odio)
    • 43. On Praising Oneself Inoffensively (Περί του εαυτόν επαινείν ανεπιφθόνως - De laude ipsius)
    • 44. On the Delays of Divine Vengeance (Περί των υπό του θείου βραδέως τιμωρουμένων - De sera numinis vindicta)
    • 45. On Fate (Περί ειμαρμένης - De fato) (pseudo-Plutarch)
    • 46. On the Sign of Socrates (Περί του Σωκράτους δαιμονίου - De genio Socratis)
    • 47. On Exile (Περὶ φυγῆς - De exilio)
    • 48. Consolation to his Wife (Παραμυθητικός προς την γυναίκα - Consolatio ad uxorem)
  • VIII.
    • 49. Table Talk (Συμποσιακά - Quaestiones convivales)
  • IX.
    • 50. Dialogue on Love (Έρωτικός - Amatorius)
  • X.
    • 51. Love Stories (Ερωτικαί διηγήσεις - Amatoriae narrationes)
    • 52. A Philosopher Ought to Converse Especially with Men in Power (Περί του ότι μάλιστα τοις ηγεμόσιν δει τον φιλόσοφον διαλέγεσθαι - Maxime cum principibus philosopho esse disserendum)
    • 53. To an Uneducated Ruler (Προς ηγεμόνα απαίδευτον - Ad principem ineruditum)
    • 54. Whether an Old Man Should Engage in Public Affairs (Ει πρεσβυτέρω πολιτευτέον - An seni respublica gerenda sit)
    • 55. Precepts of Statecraft (Πολιτικά παραγγέλματα - Praecepta gerendae reipublicae)
    • 56. On Monarchy, Democracy and Oligarchy (Περί μοναρχίας και δημοκρατίας και ολιγαρχίας - De unius in republica dominatione, populari statu, et paucorum imperio)
    • 57. That we Ought Not to Borrow (Περί του μη δειν δανείζεσθαι - De vitando aere alieno)
    • 58. Lives of the Ten Orators (Βίοι των δέκα ρητόρων - Vitae decem oratorum) (pseudo-Plutarch)
    • 59. Comparison between Aristophanes and Menander (Συγκρίσεως Αριστοφάνους και Μενάνδρου επιτομή - Comparationis Aristophanis et Menandri compendium)
  • XI.
    • 60. On the Malice of Herodotus (Περί της Ήροδότου κακοηθείας - De malignitate Herodoti)
    • 61. On the Opinions of the Philosophers (Περί των αρεσκόντων φιλοσόφοις φυσικών δογμάτων - De placitis philosophorum)
    • 62. Causes of Natural Phenomena (Αίτια φυσικά - Quaestiones naturales)
  • XII.
    • 63. On the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon [3] (Περὶ τοῦ ἐμφαινομένου προσώπου τῷ κύκλῳ τῆς σελήνης - De facie in orbe lunae)
    • 64. On the Principle of Cold (Περί του πρώτως ψυχρού - De primo frigido)
    • 65. Whether Fire or Water is More Useful (Πότερον ύδωρ ή πυρ χρησιμότερον - Aquane an ignis sit utilior)
    • 66. Whether Land or Sea Animals are Cleverer (Πότερα των ζώων φρονιμώτερα, τα χερσαία ή τα ένυδρα - De sollertia animalium)
    • 67. Beasts are Rational (Περί του τα άλογα λόγω χρήσθαι - Bruta animalia ratione uti)
    • 68. On the Eating of Flesh (Περί σαρκοφαγίας - De esu carnium)
  • XIII.
    • 69. Platonic Questions (Πλατωνικά ζητήματα - Platonicae quaestiones)
    • 70. On the Birth of the Spirit in Timaeus (Περί της εν Τιμαίω ψυχογονίας - De animae procreatione in Timaeo)
    • 71. Summary of the Birth of the Spirit (Επιτομή του περί της εν τω Τιμαίω ψυχογονίας - Epitome libri de animae procreatione in Timaeo)
    • 72. On Stoic Self-Contradictions (Περί Στωικών εναντιωμάτων - De Stoicorum repugnantiis)
    • 73. The Stoics Speak More Paradoxically than the Poets (Ότι παραδοξότερα οι Στωικοί των ποιητών λέγουσιν - Stoicos absurdiora poetis dicere)
    • 74. On Common Conceptions against the Stoics (Περί των κοινών εννοιών προς τους Στωικούς - De communibus notitiis adversus Stoicos)
  • XIV.
    • 75. It is Impossible to Live Pleasantly in the Manner of Epicurus (Ότι ουδέ ηδέως ζην έστιν κατ’ Επίκουρον - Non posse suaviter vivi secundum Epicurum)
    • 76. Against Colotes (Προς Κωλώτην - Adversus Colotem)
    • 77. Is the Saying "Live in Obscurity" Right? (Ει καλώς είρηται το λάθε βιώσας - An recte dictum sit latenter esse vivendum)
    • 78. On Music (Περί μουσικής - De musica) (pseudo-Plutarch)



  1. ^ Lacus Curtius online text: On the Face in the Moon par. 28
  2. ^ [Lacus Curtius online text Isis and Osiris
  3. ^ Lacus Curtius online text On the Face in the Moon

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