The Art of Biography in Antiquity
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The Art of Biography in Antiquity

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Greek and Roman biography embraces much more than Plutarch, Suetonius and their lost Hellenistic antecedents. In this book Professor Hagg explores the whole range and diversity of ancient biography, from its Socratic beginnings to the Christian acquisition of the form in late antiquity. He shows how creative writers developed the lives of popular heroes like Homer, Aesop and Alexander and how the Christian gospels grew from bare sayings to full lives. In imperial Rome biography flourished in the works of Greek writers: Lucian's satire, Philostratus' full sophistic orchestration, Porphyry's intellectual portrait of Plotinus. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not political biography or the lives of poets that provide the main artery of ancient biography, but various kinds of philosophical, spiritual and ethical lives. Applying a consistent biographical reading to a representative set of surviving texts, this book opens up the manifold but often neglected art of biography in classical antiquity.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 514 pages
  • 152 x 231 x 28mm | 930g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 110701669X
  • 9781107016699
  • 1,722,789

Table of contents

1. In the beginning was Xenophon: memoir, encomium, romance; 2. Hellenistic theory and practice: fragments of industry; 3. Popular heroes: the slave, the king, the poet; 4. The Gospels: from sayings to a full life; 5. Political biography at Rome: a new start; 6. Plutarch and his Parallel Lives: ethical biography; 7. Ways of life: philosophers and holy men.
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Review quote

'... one of those rare and magnificent books that manages to combine a significant (perhaps even classic) contribution to scholarship with the modest touch that would befit a learned literary amateur. ... a book written with deep love and learning, warmly familiar with the ancient biographers and using the secondary literature to enrich a reading of their art, without weighing it down with detailed debate or too-lengthy footnotes. ... [it] combines gravitas with sparkle, and geniality with spoudaiotes. It is an unpretentious but thoroughly scholarly work that should interest a wide audience, and become a well-appreciated, standard item of bibliography for those studying biography in any of its forms.' Jane Heath, The Expository Times "... one of those rare and magnificent books that manages to combine a significant (perhaps even classic) contribution to scholarship with the modest touch that would befit a learned literary amateur. ... a book written with deep love and learning, warmly familiar with the ancient biographers and using the secondary literature to enrich a reading of their art, without weighing it down with detailed debate or too-lengthy footnotes. ... [it] combines gravitas with sparkle, and geniality with spoudaiotes. It is an unpretentious but thoroughly scholarly work that should interest a wide audience, and become a well-appreciated, standard item of bibliography for those studying biography in any of its forms."
Jane Heath, The Expository Times
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About Tomas Hagg

Tomas Hagg is Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Bergen. His previous publications include The Novel in Antiquity (1983) and The Virgin and her Lover (2003).
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