If we explore the literature of Heroism, we shall quickly come to Plutarch, who is its Doctor and historian. ... I must think we are more deeply indebted to him than to all the ancient writers. Each of his "Lives" is a refutation to the despondency and cowardice of our religious and political theori...
The Reformer of Sparta
(reigned 245 - 241 B.C.)
The love of money had virtually destroyed the laws of Lycurgus in Sparta by the time Agis became king. This idealistic young man tried to restore the old way of life that had made Sparta great, but he was defeated by the power of greed...
The Slave of Fear
(died 413 B.C.)
N I K I A S
The turning point of the war with Sparta was the disastrous Sicilian Expedition, eagerly undertaken by the greedy Athenians. Superstitious old Nicias was their reluctant leader in this debacle.
After the death of Pericles, the democracy of At...
(495 - 429 B.C.)
By the power of his eloquence, and the money embezzled from Athens' unwilling allies, Pericles built Athens into a beautiful city and a powerful empire. Athenian imperialism, however, soon led to war with Sparta.
Augustus Caesar observed some fore...
The Lame King of Sparta
(444 - 360 B.C.)
Agesilaus inherited the Spartan throne after Sparta had defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War. At that time, Sparta was the undisputed master of Greece and the Aegean. Because of his stubborn lust for conquest, Agesilaus violated the ...
The Friend of Fortune
(411 - 336 B.C.)
Against heavy odds, but with the help of the gods, Timoleon took up where Dion had left off, and liberated Sicily from barbarians and tyrants. His courage and wisdom established peace and prosperity where before there had been desolation an...
"The Last of the Greeks"
(252 - 182 B.C.)
Philopoemen led the last remnants of resistance to the creeping domination of Rome in Greece. In this austere general, we see an indomitable character, superior to his circumstances.
Cleander was a man of high birth and great power in ...
From Plutarch's Lives, still inspirational after 19 centuries:
15 Ancient Greek Heroes
from Plutarch's Lives
A modern English edition, abridged and annotated by Wilmot H. McCutchen
It's brief, so start here, then read these biographies in chronological order:
The Freedom Fighter
(410 - 364 B.C.)
Pelopidas led the Thebans to recover their liberty, then he led them to victory over the invincible Spartans. From beginning to end, his was the life of a hero.
Pelopidas, the son of Hippoclus, was born into a prominent family of Thebes. He ...