[p. 320]


Plutarch's essay on the Fortune of the Romans, like the following essays, is very plainly an epideictic oration. Where and when it was delivered, or whether it was ever delivered at all, we have no means of ascertaining. Hartman feels very sure that it was delivered to a Roman audience in the early days of Plutarch's sojourn at Rome, and was intended to commend the speaker to other Romans besides his personal friends there.

The thesis that Fortune was responsible for the great Roman empire would hardly be pleasing to Romans, but Plutarch is careful to point out that the high character of many individual Romans also contributed to the Roman success. In fact the essay might well bear the double title of Fortune or Virtues,1 as does the essay on Alexander. Plutarch was thoroughly familiar with the interpretations of Roman history then fashionable, and in this essay he gives a colourful sketch of as much as will serve his purpose. Much that is here may also be found elsewhere in Plutarch's writings.

The essay comes to a somewhat abrupt conclusion, and many have thought it unfinished ; the same is true of the essays immediately following. One may [p. 321] wonder whether a time limit was set for these orations, as in the courts at Athens where the time allowed was measured by the water-clock or clepsydra. We may note, however, that these orations are of quite unequal length.

The text is fairly good, and the majority of the ms. mistakes have been corrected by the various editors and commentators. The essay is No. 175 in Lamprias's list of Plutarch's works.

1 This name it actually does bear in seven (out of a total of about twenty-six) mss.

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