SIGNS AND NARRATIVE DESIGN IN PLUTARCH’S ALEXANDER

P. Bosman

Abstract


Plutarch’s Alexander reflects the tendency among earlier Alexandersources to augment the life of the great Macedonian with asupernatural aspect. Plutarch himself selects from, dismisses andfashions this material in accordance with his own standards forresponsible biography, but also with his narrative purposes. Thispaper explores the relationship between signs from the supernaturalsphere (semeia / theia, including dreams, oracles, omens, portents)and Plutarch’s narrative line. In the initial section of the biography,Plutarch’s deliberate association of his protagonist with divineinvolvement provides sanction for his future success. Afterestablishing his character as ‘spirited’ (thymoeidēs), the signssupport his spirit (thymos) and ambition (philotimia) towardsfulfilling his allotted role. During the latter part of the narrative,portents tend to become ominous, so that Alexander is depicted asdejected (athymos), anxious (tarachōdēs; periphobos), despairing(dysthymos), and superstitious (deisidaimōn). In this way, the signssupport an ascending and descending line in Alexander’s biographyand hint at divine and psychological (in addition to moral) reasonsfor Alexander’s successes and eventual demise.Introduction

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/56-0-6

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