Inger Neeltje Irene Kuin
In this paper I propose a new explanation of Plutarch’s view of Sulla’s (lack of) strategy in the sack of Athens. Plutarch describes Sulla’s attack on Athens as “fighting against shadows” (σκιαμαχοῦντα, Sull. 13), but scholars have considered this depiction a grave and surprising error (e.g., Santangelo 2007), given the strategic importance of the city for Sulla. I suggest that Plutarch’s analysis is based on his anachronistic presentation of Athens in the life: the city is depicted as the site of Greek culture and philosophy, rather than a strategic battleground. In other words, Plutarch retroactively attributes a first century CE notion of Athens to its first century BCE conquest. This attribution, however, should not be viewed as a lack of historical awareness on the part of the author. Plutarch’s characterization of Sulla’s attitude to Athens is part of a larger attempt to adapt the past to fit with the present that surrounds him.
Plutarch and Late Republican Rome