PARADOXICAL PARADIGMS: LYSANDER
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PARADOXICAL PARADIGMS: LYSANDER book
Statues did not tell the whole story. Much harder than recognizing the physical features of the two great men, however, is delineating their character and temperament, the peculiar blend of qualities that determined their behaviour and lay behind all that they achieved for good and ill. Modern writers have found no cogent reason for setting the two lives side by side.2 Plutarch himself found these two men peculiarly anomalous, even paradoxical. For example, on the effect of their attitudes toward money, he writes: ‘Sulla, though unrestrained and extravagant, tried to lead the citizens to moderation, while Lysander filled the city with passions to which he himself was a stranger’ (Sull. 41.8). The contradictions of the two subjects of this pair in fact go beyond their handling of money into every aspect of their characters, and lie at the basis of Plutarch’s dual portrait. Probing into the particular and apparently contradictory manifestations that ambition, philotimia, took in these two men, the biographer discovers similarities in temperament that underlie apparent differences. Setting the two men beside one another, Plutarch allows the life of each to comment on the other, leading us to a richer understanding of the dangers of the struggle for honour,
to individuals and to the state. In this chapter, I will point out some of the common qualities of the two men that permit Plutarch to consider them as similar, and show how he develops a progression between the two Lives, using the character portrait of Lysander as a foundation to build the more complex and frightening image of Sulla. The understanding thus gained will allow the pair to be situated more precisely in the context of the first ten pairs of Parallel Lives.