The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Plutarch's de Fortuna Romanorum*

S. C. R. Swaina1

a1 Wolfson College, Oxford

Plutarch's essay de fortuna Romanorum has attracted divergent judgements. Ziegler dismissed it as ‘eine nicht weiter ernst zu nehmende rhetorische Stilübung’. By Flacelière it was hailed as ‘une ébauche de méditation sur le prodigieux destin de Rome’. It is time to consider the work afresh and to discover whether there is common ground between these two views. Rather than offering a general appreciation, my treatment will take the work chapter by chapter, considering points of interest as they arise. This method will enable us to compare what Plutarch says on particular subjects and themes in de fort. Rom. with what he says or does not say about them elsewhere. We shall thus be able to see clearly that for the most part the ideas he presents in the essay correspond with his thoughts about the rôle of fortune expressed in more serious writing, and that, where there is no correspondence, this is attributable to the rhetorical background. I do not intend to address directly the frequently discussed but insoluble question of whether we have in de fort. Rom. only one of two original works, that is whether there was once a de virtute Romanorum which Plutarch composed or answered. De fort. Rom. itself in fact gives almost as much prominence to άρετή as to τúχη, and their competing roles will be carefully evaluated. Nor do I look at the dating of the work (an early date has been suggested on grounds of genre, a later one on grounds of the essay's familiarity with Rome, but there is not enough evidence for a firm conclusion).


* I should like to acknowledge the helpful comments of the Editors and D. A. Russell.