The Search for Virtues

In his life of Mark Antony, Plutarch produced one hilariously elegant sentence. It turned the loverboy's debauches into a kind of civic virtue: "((Antony)) never feared the audit of his copulations, but let nature have her way, and left behind him the foundations of many families."

Plutarch as spin doctor: that was not drunken lust in Antony's eye, but, ahem, dynastic vision.

Sometimes virtues look better in retrospect. Antony died at a moment (30 B.C.) when Romans were already bitterly nostalgic for the austere virtues of the old republic. Antony represented a transition: he could live on bark and roots with...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!