Our Young Folks' Plutarch is an excellent reference book for anyone studying Greek or Roman History. The author provides shortened, but still thorough biographies of every life that Plutarch wrote--over fifty characters from ancient times in all. Missing of course, is much of Plutarch's original commentary and his comparisons between Greeks and Romans, but that is unavoidable in a significantly abridged work.
Death of Aegeus
The lives which we here present in a condensed, simple form are prepared from those of Plutarch, of whom it will perhaps be interesting to young readers to have a short account. Plutarch was born in Chæronea, a town of Botia, about the middle of the first century. He belonged to a good family, and was brought up with every encouragement to study, literary pursuits, and virtuous actions. When very young he visited Rome, as did all the intelligent Greeks of his day, and it is supposed that while there he gave public lectures in philosophy and eloquence. He was a great admirer of Plato, and, like that philosopher, believed in the immortality of the soul. This doctrine he preached to his hearers, and taught them many valuable truths about justice and morality, of which they had previously been ignorant.
After his return to his native land, Plutarch held several important public offices, and devoted his time to forming plans for the benefit of his countrymen. Living to an advanced age, he wrote many important books; but the one which gave him most celebrity is the "Lives" from which we have derived this work. He consulted all the historians of his day, but did not follow them blindly; for after carefully comparing and weighing their statements, he selected those which seemed most probable. There can be no doubt that he shared the belief of the age in which he lived, for his works give evidence of devotion to the pagan gods. The legends of the Heroic age must not be accepted as historical facts, nor must any importance be attached to the prophecies of priests, omens, oracles, and the divinations of soothsayers, except in so far as they afford a picture of ancient superstitions, and show how even the most powerful minds had their weaknesses. They may be traced to natural causes, and it seems probable that the Roman and Greek armies were victorious or the reverse, because they went into battle impressed by the favorable or unfavorable prophecies, as the case might be, of their soothsayers. Plutarch says, "It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives." This is why anecdotes, short sayings or a word or two of repartee are frequently recorded. For they furnish a better insight into the thoughts and character of a man than his most glorious exploit, famous siege, or blood battle. So it is lives, and not a history, that we offer; this must be borne in mind when some of the most important events the world has ever known receive insufficient mention.