This study focuses not on individual Lives or pairs of Lives, but on the book as a whole and its articulation across the full corpus. It argues that the Plutarchan book consists of up to four distinct sections: prologue, first Life, second Life, synkrisis. Each of these sections has a fairly consistent internal structure, and each has a distinct set of strategies for opening, for closure, and for managing the transition from one section to the next. Prologues provide an introduction to both Lives, and are clearly delineated from them, even though in our manuscripts they appear as part of the first Life; in fact, there is often a stronger break between prologue and first Life than there is between the two Lives themselves. Prologues usually begin with generalized reflections, to be followed only later by the naming of the subjects and a statement of their similarities. Most Lives begin with a thematically organized section (the ‘proemial opening’), which surveys the subject's life as a whole, not just their youth, and which is marked off with varying degrees of distinctness from the narrative that follows. Crucially, proemial openings do not narrate and the logic of their structure is not chronological. Closure in many Lives is signalled by ‘circularity’ and sometimes by a closural or transitional phrase, though first Lives are different here from second Lives. Synkriseis are structured both by a series of themes on which the two subjects are compared, and by a two-part, agonistic structure in which first one of the subjects is preferred, then the other. Synkriseis may also recall the prologue; both prologue and synkrisis operate at the level of the book, and between them frame and weld together the two Lives.
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