Plutarch’s Greco-Roman Imaginary: The Roman and Greek Questions as an Anthropological Macro-Text


  • Maja Sunčič Institutum Studiorum Humanitatis Fakulteta za podiplomski humanistični študij, Ljubljana Breg 12 SI-1000 Ljubljana



anthropology of ancient worlds, Greek questions, Roman questions, aetiology, imaginary


The paper analyses Plutarch’s Roman and Greek Questions in the broader context of the author’s oeuvre , defined as an anthropological macro-text. It raises questions about the author’s imaginary, about the importance of temporal and spatial placement, and about the construction of a Greco-Roman continuity. Plutarch’s generalised approach gives his ethnological research an anthropological dimension: by adopting Romanity, he makes it all but Hellenised, and as such assimilated to the universal, the cosmic. Aetiologies in the form of questions become the mirror of his imaginary. From the anthropological point of view, “ethnocentric deformation” is epistemologically legitimate, since it tends to overcome the particular and move to the universal, which, translated into Plutarch’s terms, means “cosmic”.

Perceived as a form of propaganda, the past often serves Plutarch as a nostalgic ideological construct. As such, nostalgia is not merely a conservative means of escapism but a broader context for a Greece taken over by the Roman Empire . Plutarch’s phantasm of a Greece subjugated, but nevertheless victorious in the time and space of the universal Roman domination, creates a so-called buffer zone, a protection from the unpleasant reality of her actual political status in the Empire. Plutarch sees no need to remember the falls, defeats, conflicts, and differences, which would serve neither the Greeks nor the Romans. Therefore he remembers only those constitutive events from myth and history which fit into his “programme” and mirror the ideal typology.

Plutarch’s idealistic anthropology is characterised by the avoidance of all ambiguities and differences arising between the subjugated Greeks and the Roman invaders. The national identity of both is represented as their common , Greek-dominated cultural heritage . Plutarch’s programme of reality thus encompasses a virtual Greco-Romanity, which fuses the positive characteristics of both peoples and leads to overcoming the differences.


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26. 12. 2006



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