The most recommended Plutarch books

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to Plutarch, and here are their favorite Plutarch books.
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Book cover of Hellenistic Philosophy

Gary W. Cross Author Of Exploring the Way of Epictetus: His Destination, Directions, and Strategies

From my list on understanding Stoicism from multiple perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my series on Ways of the World, my aim is to let the founder of each way tell us of their way in their words: the destination that they suggest we all seek; the directions that they offer to help us to reach the destination, and the strategies that they offer to help us to successfully follow their directions. I find it marvelous that we can listen to people, such as Epictetus, who lived thousands of years ago; people whose words can help us to improve our ways. You would be right if you have guessed that the books I recommend are primary sources.

Gary's book list on understanding Stoicism from multiple perspectives

Gary W. Cross Why did Gary love this book?

This book not only provides excellent texts of early Stoicism, but also provides texts of Epicureanism, and Scepticism, the other dominant philosophies at the time, and thus places Stoicism in the context of the time.

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hellenistic Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new edition of Hellenistic Philosophy --including nearly 100 pages of additional materia--offers the first English translation of the account of Stoic ethics by Arius Didymus, substantial new sources on Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Scepticism, expanded representation of Plutarch and Cicero, and a fuller presentation of papyrological evidence. Inwood and Gerson maintain the standard of consistency and accuracy that distinguished their translations in the first edition, while regrouping some material into larger, more thematically connected passages. This edition is further enhanced by a new, more spacious page design.

Book cover of The Roman Army at War 100 BC - AD 200

Lindsay Powell Author Of Augustus at War: The Struggle for the Pax Augusta

From my list on the Roman Army from a military historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been fascinated by the commanders, campaigns, and capabilities of the Roman Army since I studied Latin at school and watched the Hollywood epic Spartacus. At that time, my parents bought me a copy of Peter Connolly’s Roman Army for Christmas, but I discovered where they had hidden it and I secretly read it before Christmas Day. I have retained that passion with a library of books collected over a lifetime to prove it. Now, as a historian and the author of eight books of my own, and as the news editor of Ancient History and Ancient Warfare magazines, I eagerly share the latest discoveries and insights with my readers. 

Lindsay's book list on the Roman Army from a military historian

Lindsay Powell Why did Lindsay love this book?

Adrian Keith Goldsworthy could be said to be the gold standard in histories of the Roman Empire in English. He has written several books about ancient commanders and campaigns. This thought-provoking book about the Roman Army was his PhD thesis at Oxford University. 

As a writer on Roman military matters myself, I have frequently referred to Goldsworthy’s study. Inspired by John Keegan's revisionist landmark book Face of Battle, Goldsworthy draws upon Classical sources covering 300 years—Julius Caesar, Tacitus, Polybius, Plutarch, Flavius Josephusto present his interpretation of how the Roman army actually “waged war”. The extensive footnotes point to other writers and evidence for further personal study.

By Adrian Goldsworthy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Roman Army at War 100 BC - AD 200 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This detailed examination of the way in which the Roman army operated during a war and how it fought a battle breaks away from existing studies, which mostly concentrate on the army in peacetime, and attempts to understand the army as an institution whose ultimate purpose was to wage war. Adrian Goldsworthy explores the influence to the Roman army's organization on its behaviour during a campaign, emphasizing its great flexibility in comparison to most of its
opponents. He considers the factors determining the result of a conflict and proposes, contrary to orthodox opinion, that the Roman army was able to…

Book cover of The Life Of Crassus (Plutarch's Lives)

Andrew Levkoff Author Of The Other Alexander

From my list on the Parthia and the war with Rome in the 1st century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on Long Island, New York, got a BA in English from Stanford, then put that hard-earned degree to dubious use in the family packaging business. After a decade of trying to convince myself to think 'inside the box (lots of them), I fled to Vermont where I attempted to regain my sanity by chopping wood and shoveling snow off my roof for 8 years. (Okay, I came down off the roof every once in a while.) Like a fine cocktail, I was by then thoroughly chilled; what could be better after this than no sunshine for 13 years. That's right - Seattle. Since 2006 I have been taking the cure in Arizona, where my skin has darkened to a rich shade of pallid. Here it was that I finally realized, under the heading of hopefully-better-late-than-never, that I needed to return to my first love - writing. I live in Tempe with my wife, Stephany and our daughter, Allison, crowded into close proximity by hundreds of mineral specimens Steph and I have collected while rockhounding. "They're just a bunch of rocks," says Allison. Ouch.

Andrew's book list on the Parthia and the war with Rome in the 1st century

Andrew Levkoff Why did Andrew love this book?

This is as close to the horse’s mouth as we can get, yet it’s still a hundred years after the events of Republican Rome’s demise. Remember the Viet Nam war? It was one of America’s great foreign policy failures. Rome hated failure like a teenager hates acne. Cover it up, deny it, erase it. That is what Plutarch does in this work. I think it speaks to Crassus' towering achievements that Plutarch has anything nice to say about him at all!

By Plutarch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life Of Crassus (Plutarch's Lives) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Rome's richest man, who died a humiliating desert death in search of military glory

"A perfectly paced biography."-Tom Holland, Times Literary Supplement

Marcus Licinius Crassus (115-53 BCE) was a modern man in an ancient world, a pioneer disrupter of finance and politics, and the richest man of the last years of the Roman republic. Without his catastrophic ambition, this trailblazing tycoon might have quietly entered history as Rome's first modern political financier. Instead, Crassus and his son led an army on an unprovoked campaign against Parthia into what are now the borderlands of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq,…

Book cover of Stoicism

Gregory Lopez Author Of A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control―52 Week-by-Week Lessons

From my list on Stoicism for modern Stoic practitioners.

Why am I passionate about this?

I learned about Stoicism through its connection to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, whose founder, Albert Ellis, was influenced by Stoic philosophy. Since I had an interest in philosophy, I decided to look more into Stoicism, and—to my surprise—I learned that philosophy could be practical (who knew?!), and that others were trying to put Stoicism into practice today! This led me to try to find other Stoics by founding the New York City Stoics in 2013, followed by co-founding a non-profit—The Stoic Fellowship—to help other people do the same in 2016. I’ve now given talks on Stoicism worldwide in addition to co-writing a book on Stoic practice.

Gregory's book list on Stoicism for modern Stoic practitioners

Gregory Lopez Why did Gregory love this book?

I don’t think it’s possible to practice Stoicism well without a solid understanding of what Stoicism is. It’s not a set of life hacks, but a life philosophy. This book provides a rigorous but very readable historical introduction to Stoicism as a coherent art of living by covering the three classical philosophical topics of ancient Stoicism—logic, physics, and ethics. It also provides a great historical overview, suggestions for further reading, and a handy glossary of key Stoic technical terms. If you’re looking for a single book covering the basics of ancient Stoicism, this is a great place to start.

By John Sellars,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stoicism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first introduction to Stoic philosophy for 30 years. Aimed at readers new to Stoicism and to ancient philosophy, it outlines the central philosophical ideas of Stoicism and introduces the reader to the different ancient authors and sources that they will encounter when exploring Stoicism. The range of sources that are drawn upon in the reconstruction of Stoic philosophy can be bewildering for the beginner. Sellars guides the reader through the surviving works of the late Stoic authors, Seneca and Epictetus, and the fragments relating to the early Stoics found in authors such as Plutarch and Stobaeus. The…

Book cover of Menaechmi; Or, The Twin-Brothers

Philip Matyszak Author Of Hercules: The First Superhero

From my list on ancient Rome by ancient Romans.

Why am I passionate about this?

They say true happiness is finding something you love, and getting paid to do it, which makes me one happy bunny. Ancient history has been my passion, my hobby and my job for the past three decades, and I still wake up every morning looking forward to another day of it. Thanks to the internet I can study the classics and still hike in the mountains and kayak the mountain lakes of my corner of British Columbia. It doesn't get better than this.

Philip's book list on ancient Rome by ancient Romans

Philip Matyszak Why did Philip love this book?

Ever wonder where Shakespeare got his ideas from? He plundered the classics, especially Plutarch and Plautus. Plautus can't really complain about that as his plays are mostly re-workings of (now lost) Greek originals. This play is Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, set 1500 years earlier. It's still a good read and should elicit a few giggles. Try Riley's translation on Digireads.

By Plautus, Henry Thomas Riley (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Menaechmi; Or, The Twin-Brothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Considered to be Plautus's greatest play, "Menaechmi; Or, The Twin-Brothers" is the story of two twin brothers, Menaechmus and Sosicles, who are separated at age seven when their father takes Menaechmus on a business trip. This classic play, which provided the inspiration for Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors", draws heavily on the theme of mistaken identity.

Book cover of The Complete Poems of Sappho

Chriselda Barretto Author Of The Creep: A First of Its Kind Narrative Poetry in a Thriller Genre!

From my list on poetry from the world's greatest female poets.

Why am I passionate about this?

Chriselda is a multi-genre, prolific author, and speaker, with a background in Business Administration and Chemistry/Microbiology. She speaks 5 languages & has published over 50 books. Her expansive writing covers poetry, horror, thriller, romance, children’s illustration, educational... but she enjoys telling a story in narrative poetry the most. Currently, she is working on her next dark poetry book Me and Him, where she will invoke one of the greatest poets – EA Poe. In her effort to promote more learning, she is also wrapping up the fourth book in her - Sigils, Symbols and Alchemy Series. Her passion for writing, lifelong learning, creativity, and her curiosity all help spark her innovative mindset.

Chriselda's book list on poetry from the world's greatest female poets

Chriselda Barretto Why did Chriselda love this book?

Sappho was an Archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Best known for her lyric poetry, which was initially written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre. In ancient times, Sappho was widely regarded as one of the greatest poets and referred to as the "Tenth Muse" and "The Poetess". She also was among the canon of Nine Lyric Poets most highly esteemed by scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria.

Though most of her work has been lost, there are still new discoveries being found, giving us an incredible taste of her feelings, tenderness, simplicity, and her interpretation of life as we resonate with it presently, in this day and age. Way ahead of their time, her poems through their versatility give us a sense of her transcendental and emotional views on love in an unassuming yet impactful way. An artist whose themes extend beyond romance and myth, delving into…

By Willis Barnstone (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Poems of Sappho as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A vivid, contemporary translation of the greatest Greek love poet—with a wealth of materials for understanding her work—by a prize-winning poet and translator
Sappho’s thrilling lyric verse has been unremittingly popular for more than 2,600 years—certainly a record for poetry of any kind—and love for her art only increases as time goes on. Though her extant work consists only of a collection of fragments and a handful of complete poems, her mystique endures to be discovered anew by each generation, and to inspire new efforts at bringing the spirit of her Greek words faithfully into English.

In the past, translators…

Book cover of Roman Lives: A Selection of Eight Roman Lives

Jeremiah McCall Author Of Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

From my list on exploring the Roman Republic and its collapse.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and history teacher in Ohio with a passion for studying the endlessly fascinating Roman Republic. It was a time when many believed the gods walked the earth, when legend and reality mixed. The resulting stories lure us with their strangeness while reminding us of our modern world. For me, no topic in the Republic captures this paradox of strangeness and familiarity more than the political systems of the Republic. Our very ideas about representative democracy come from the Romans. But the legacy is deeper. In Roman politicians’ thirst for votes and victory, their bitter rivalries we can, perhaps, see the dangers of excessive political competition today.

Jeremiah's book list on exploring the Roman Republic and its collapse

Jeremiah McCall Why did Jeremiah love this book?

Though Plutarch is not our only source for the political and military anecdotes detailing Roman aristocrats, their achievements, and their foibles, good translations of his biographies provide some of the most accessible and enjoyable reading for those who want to get a little closer to the source material. Waterfield’s translation is contemporary and excellent. The selection of Plutarch’s biographies in this volume span the sweep of the Middle and Late Republic, Cato the elder to Caesar. And he narrates with his usual style including all manner of interesting oddities and side comments about Roman society to spice the details up. An outstanding choice for learning more about the ancient historical record in a very readable set of biographies.

By Plutarch, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roman Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marcus Cato Sulla Aemilius Paullus Pompey The Gracchi Marius Julius Caesar Anthony 'I treat the narrative of the Lives as a kind of mirror...The experience is like nothing so much as spending time in their company and living with them: I receive and welcome each of them in turn as my guest.' In the eight lives of this collection Plutarch introduces the reader to the major figures and periods of classical Rome. He portrays virtues to be emulated and vices to be avoided, but his purpose is also implicitly to educate and warn those in his own day who wielded…

Book cover of Moral Letters to Lucilius

Neel Burton Author Of Stoic Stories: A Heroic Account of Stoicism

From my list on Stoicism from a psychiatrist and philosopher.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a psychiatrist and philosopher who lives and teaches in Oxford, England. I’ve long held that there is much more to mental health than the mere absence of mental disorder. Mental health is not just about surviving, limping from crisis to crisis, but about thriving, about developing and expressing our highest, fullest potential as human beings. The Stoic attitude is a path not just to sanity but to hypersanity, at a time when more than one in five adults are suffering from some form of depression. Unlike many modern interventions, Stoicism is no sticking plaster, but a total and radical reappraisal of our relationship to ourselves and to the world.

Neel's book list on Stoicism from a psychiatrist and philosopher

Neel Burton Why did Neel love this book?

Seneca lived through the reigns of all five Julio-Claudian emperors. His writings represent the most important body of primary material for ancient Stoicism. He wrote the Letters to Lucilius in his final years, intending them as his immortal legacy, prior to committing suicide on the order of Nero. The letters are an excellent entry point to Seneca, Stoicism, and philosophy in general. They collectively amount to a course in moral development and become longer and more technical as Lucilius appears to be making philosophical progress. Michel de Montaigne, the “French Seneca”, modelled his Essays upon the Letters, writing in one of them, “I have not devoted myself to any serious work except perhaps Plutarch and Seneca: but upon them, I draw as do the Danaids...”

By Seneca,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moral Letters to Lucilius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Moral Letters to Lucilius is a collection of 124 letters which were written by Seneca the Younger at the end of his life, during his retirement, and written after he had worked for the Emperor Nero for more than ten years. They are addressed to Lucilius, the then procurator of Sicily, although he is known only through Seneca's writings. Regardless of how Seneca and Lucilius actually corresponded, it is clear that Seneca crafted the letters with a broad readership in mind. The letters often begin with an observation on daily life before proceeding to an issue or principle that…

Book cover of 69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

From my list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD.

Why am I passionate about this?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

Martha Marks Why did Martha love this book?

The Civil War of 69 AD — aka “The Year of Four Emperors” — was a complex, pivotal moment in the history of the Roman Empire. Since it took place at a key moment in my trilogy’s timeline, and since so many of my characters were active participants, I had to understand it. Morgan expertly clarifies an interrelated series of historical threads that I needed to follow to make my three-part fictional story both historically accurate and novelistically intriguing.

By Gwyn Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 69 A.D. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent and frightening periods in all Roman history: a time of assassinations and civil wars, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitious men who seized power only to lose it, one after another.
In 69 AD, Gwyn Morgan offers a fresh look at this period, based on two considerations to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past. First, that we need to unravel rather than cherry-pick between the…