Chapter 10 Plutarch’s Avoidance of Philip V

In: Plutarch’s Unexpected Silences
Author: Brad L. Cook

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Abstract

Philip V came to the throne of Macedon when he was eighteen and reigned for over forty years (221–179 BCE). He was incessantly active, marching armies over the whole of the Greek peninsula as well as sailing throughout the Aegean. The highest hopes were had of him, as even Plutarch reports (Aem. 8.4). Why, then, does such a Macedonian monarch, who ruled three times as long as Alexander, who marched cumulatively perhaps as many miles, who interacted with an array of famed Greek and Roman figures over his long career, rarely appear in Plutarch’s immense oeuvre? If, as T.E. Duff notes (1999, 59), Plutarch avoided the likes of Philip V, as well as Philip II, as people not to imitate, why is it that Plutarch uses Philip II quite frequently in a variety of passages and anecdotes, while Philip V is hard to find, grudgingly named in a few passages. This paper identifies how and explains why Plutarch turns his back on Philip V as much as possible in his Lives and excludes him almost completely from the Moralia. In the former Plutarch allows him into the narrative only when his historical involvement cannot be avoided or is remarkably despicable; in the latter, in his few appearances, Plutarch’s disdain for Philip and his turpitudinous character is made clear by the context. Plutarch did not, therefore, wholly exclude Philip V from all his works, but his moral outrage at the behaviour of this notorious autocrat explains the absence of a Life.

Plutarch’s Unexpected Silences

Suppression and Selection in the Lives and Moralia

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