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The Female Principle in Plutarch's Moralia

Ann Chapman (author)
Publication date:
26th September 2011

Author Biography

Ann Chapman spent her working life in the financial services industry, but had always been drawn to the world of classical studies. Retiring early, she returned to college to pursue her interest, and she completed a Bachelor's Degree in Classics and History in University College Dublin. She went on to do a Master's thesis which focused on the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius, and as an 'ancient feminist' herself she found in Plutarch an ideal subject for a doctorate.


Our knowledge of Cleopatra, the most famous woman in antiquity, comes from Plutarch's description of her. Shakespeare used 'The Life of Antony' for his own version of this famous love story. Plutarch, whose works have remained immensely popular through the years, has shaped our ideas about much of the ancient world. His humane sensibilities, his skill in storytelling and not least his humour have combined to charm readers throughout the centuries, persuading them that he is like them. In the twentieth century he was declared a feminist. This has led to a misreading of his works, and a misunderstanding of the man himself. He was, as one would expect, a man of his times and his views reflect that. His attitude to women appears new, but his words reflect the changing times in which he lived. Plutarch was Greek, but when Greece was part of the Roman Empire. Chapman argues that his attitudes towards women were not advanced, although he had to admit that more than force was needed to control them. This book breaks new ground in scholarly terms, but is also accessible to the general reader who wants to learn more about Plutarch and women in antiquity.