Synposis of Plutarch’s Life

Published 12 Jun 2017

Mestrius Plutarchus, better known as Plutarch, lived his life in a Greek town called Chaeronea. He was a priest at the temple of Apollo at Delphi which was about 20 miles away from his abode. He was popular in the Roman empire because of his writings and lectures. He preferred to participate in the local affairs of his community rather than bask in his glory.

One of his great works is called the Moralia which contain 78 essays and dialogues that are based on concerns he took seriously. His essays and lectures attracted Romans to his ideas because it was a relief from the problems they faced after the tragedies that Nero and Domitian brought about. Plutarch planned to write Parallel Lives, which are essays on the lives of Roman heroes and their counterparts in Greece. However, his most popular work that people appreciated even up to centuries after was Lives, a collection of his essays on Roman heroes and how they lived. It is written in Attic Greek which accounts for its unpopularity right now in our generation.

Demetrius Poliorcetes, considered one of the best engineers of his time, was the son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus, a Didochi of Alexander the Great and also known as founder of the Antigonid dynasty. He sailed to Rhodes, upon his father’s orders, and captured the city in 307 BC using many siege contraptions that he and his men built. Some of the contraptions or “siege engines” he used were the “Elepolis,” a huge tower built by Epimachus of

Athens, catapults that throw 80 kilogram rocks up to 150 meters away, the “Tortoise,” a very tall wooden structure with wheels and a battering ram, and drills that were about 25 meters long that can bore through the enemy’s walls. He also constructed the Stoa of Cleisthenes or Stoa of Demetrius:Sicyon in around 300 BC for his friend, Lamia and a fortified garrison for the Macedonian Guard atop the Hill of Muses in 294 BC.
Paraphrase of at least 15 paragraphs about Demetrius (Source: Lendering)

Antigonus and Demetrius lost in the Battle of Ipsus. Asia, Turkey, Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine divided as spoils of war because of Antigonus’ and Demetrius’ defeat. The three leaders who won felt unsafe because Demetrius was able to escape form Ipsus. He still led a large navy. Because of this, Cassander, Lysimachus and Ptolemy made a treaty by marrying their children. Ptolemy also needed his allies because he was wary of Seleucus, the new king of Asia. Seleucus knew that Ptolemy was preparing for war so he married his daughter to Demetrius. Their tandem was successful to the point that Ptolemy accepted a treaty. The Greeks betrayed their alliance to Demetrius by making a peace treaty with Cassander which gave Demetrius reason to attack them. He seized Athens and denied it its freedom and autonomy. He also retook Peloponnesse in 294. Demetrius wanted Macedonia.

When Cassander died, his two brothers, Antipater and Alexander divided the territory. To secure his property, Alexander got the support of Demetrius and Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus invaded Macedonia for the two brothers and won. When Demetrius entered Macedonia, Alexander tried to kill him but Demetrius turned the tables on him. Demetrius was the new king and Antipater fled to Lysimachus. Demetrius had to give up Asia because of his desire for Greece and his enemies immediately seized the territories. Demetrius was content in conquering Greece except for Sparta and Aetolia. When he tried to invade Aetolia, Pyrrhus sided with the Aetolians and tried to invade Macedonia to no avail. They simply signed a peace treaty after. Demetrius had the smallest kingdom but his army was the largest and strongest. The three other kings attacked against him. The Macedonians also revolted. He installed his son, Antigonus Gonatas, as governor before attacking the east. He hoped to win Turkey and defeat Seleucus to increase his troops. He won against Ptolemy but his soldiers deserted him which forced his surrender. Seleucus captured him and treated him kindly but he decided to drink himself to death.

Three Quotations and Reflections

Plutarch remarked, “Such an unsociable, solitary thing is power, and so much of jealousy and distrust in it.” This has been true in his time just as this truth still has its grip on the present. When one is powerful, one has to choose his friends wisely. One is lucky if he already had his friends beside him before he became powerful. Even then, it is easy to lose these friends once jealousy sets in. For those who gained power before attracting new friends, the questions that would abound will always concern the loyalty and true motives of the “new friends.” Power can set people apart from society and alienate them whether they like it or not.
When Demetrius asked the famous philosopher, Stilpo, if any of his property had been stolen during his siege of Megara. “No,” replied Stilpo, “I have not met with anyone to take away knowledge.” I believe that one of the most valuable thing someone can be given is education. Knowledge can be a very strong foundation for success if it is put into good use. I also believe that a successful man will always meet failure in his lifetime. However, his good use of knowledge can always turn these failures into new successes.

Antigonus advised Demetrius to marry Phila (a much older woman) for her status in society and wealth by saying, “A man must wed where profit will be got.” Horrible as it may seem, this type of decision-making can still happen nowadays. However, I believe that the only reason people should wed is their commitment to love each other eternally. Wealth can easily be managed and collected by two married people, if they make wise decisions and work together well as a team. Making wealth the primary reason for marriage makes it insulting, especially to women like Phila. However, in those days, men were considered far more superior than women. These days, though, women like Phila would have had a better chance to keep their wealth from gold diggers.


  • “Demetrius Poliorcetes.” (2001). Technology Museum of Thessaloniki.
  • Lendering, J. (n.d.). Alexander’s successors: the adventures of Demetrius.
  • “Plutarch-Priest of the Delphic Oracle.” (2000). Wilmot H. McCutchen.
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