The first century AD gave birth to Plutarch of Chaeronea. He was born into the Greco-Roman world during the Pax Romana, a time of peace that which had not been seen in all of the country's history. Plutarch, coming from an upper-class family, was able to get a good education and find a purpose to his life1. Philosophy was his calling and he was brilliant in his work. An aficionado of the works of his forefathers in thought (from Zeno to Plato), Plutarch used their systems to take his knack for observing the behavior of men and formulating the proper way to live. His essays, On Being Aware of Moral Progress, On Listening, and How to Distinguish a Flatterer from a Friend, came at a time when the city-states of Greece were in moral as well as material turmoil, and he was providing the way out. Regardless of the topic, Plutarch's goal in each essay is the same; becoming a virtuous person and living life the right way.
Before the age of Plutarch and prior to the Pax Romana, there was much strife in the land. The Punic Wars, the battles between Rome and Carthage (a Greek city-state), were not very prosperous for Carthage. Hannibal, leader of the armies of Carthage found an ally in Philip V of Macedonia in 215 BC. Because of this, Rome called upon both the Aetolians and Spartans to regain the upper hand. Philip was eventually defeated during the second Macedonian War and his son and heir, Perseus, did the same in the war's third installment. After their defeat, Macedonia and Greece continued to make their anti-Roman views known. In 148 BC, Macedonia was made a province of Rome and Greece, its subordinate2.
From the time of the reign of Augustus (formerly known as Octavian) onward, Greece became more preferential to the Romans. Augustus separated Greece from Macedonia in 44 BC and Greek culture was beginning to have an influence on Roman thinking3. "Romans were complaining that Rome itself was becoming `a Greek city4.'" Greek became an international language; cultured Romans would make a point to learn it and Greek slaves introduced it to Roman families5.
Although it may have been an intellectual inspiration, much of Greece was still barren and the economy was far from perfect. "The country suffered from uniform poverty and the collapse of autonomy6." From the decades of warring came a population on the downfall and a great decline in merit. "Whereas at its summit the Hellenic states could boast handsome temples, theatres, halls, and palaces ... they found their monies being spent in maintaining wars and in offsetting a growing unfavorable balance of trade7." The only cities with anything close to prosperous trade at this time were Corinth and Patras. People were not concerned with anything but survival. Ancient beliefs of morality and plain old goodness were lost. There was a need for someone, anyone, to turn this awful trend around. Enter Plutarch.
The year AD 46 brought the new thinker into the world. Greece...