Phocion the Good and Philippe Pétain, Marshal of France: Parallel Lives?
Professor Peter Hunt
This lecture imagines how the Greek biographer Plutarch might write a Parallel Lives of an ancient and a modern stateman: Phocion the Good was a fourth-century Athenian statesman, who capped his long career under the democracy with a leading position in an oligarchy imposed by the Macedonians; Philippe Pétain, the hero of Verdun in the first World War, collaborated with the Nazis after the defeat of France in the Second World War. Both Phocion and Pétain ended their political lives on trial and then condemned by their own people. This thought experiment can help us better understand the structure, methods, and ethical goals of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.