Solon of Athens as a Precedent for Plutarch’s Authorial Persona

in Mnemosyne
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Abstract

Solon is the subject of both a Plutarchan biography (Solon) and a philosophical dialogue (Convivium septem sapientium). In this article I argue that Plutarch creates a precedent for his authorial persona of wise but modest adviser of the ruling class under the Roman empire in the figure of the Athenian sage Solon, presumably inspired by the fact that Herodotus used Solon as a text-internal alter ego. To this end I analyze in particular how Plutarch represents Solon’s way of dealing with rulers and tyrants (Pisistratus, Philocyprus, Croesus, Periander). I ask whether in this Solon can be considered successful or not, and why. I submit that Plutarch’s representation of Solon aims to provide authority to some of the remarkable aspects of his authorial persona, in particular its emphatic modesty and pragmatism with regard to absolute rule. Plutarch does this in particular by showing that it was a time-honoured and respectable practice for wise Greeks to act as advisor to rulers, even tyrants.

Mnemosyne

A Journal of Classical Studies

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