Lecture Series - Cicero, Plutarch, Galen: Lives & Afterlives

May 04, 2021


These lectures will now take place on Thursdays 13, 20 & 27 May.  We apologise for any inconvenience. 

If you are unable to attend the live session, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lecture to view in your own time (from around four hours after it takes place).

Charles Freeman’s recent book The Awakening, A History of the Western Mind, AD 500-1700, (published by Head of Zeus) is the latest in a distinguished series in which he explores the traditions which are the bedrock of our shared cultural traditions. A regular tour leader for CICERONI, we are delighted he will present a series of webinar lectures on three influential figures, all brilliant men in the Greco-Roman world and whose influence helped shape the Renaissance. Cicero provided texts for republicanism and the duties of public officials that were wildly popular in republican city states such as Florence. His Latin prose also presented a model for the humanists. Plutarch was author of his lives of prominent Greeks and Romans that Montaigne and Shakespeare quarried for inspiration. Galen was the authority on medical matters, only challenged for the first time in the sixteenth century. These lectures will describe their lives and how they were interpreted in the Renaissance, supported by a series of images drawn from the visual arts across the ages.

Coping with Conscience: Marcus Tullius Cicero - Thursday 13 May 2021 

Cicero (106-43 BC) was a brilliant orator and all-round intellectual whose political life was entangled with the collapse of the republican values that he championed. Charles will explore the highs and lows of his political and legal career, including his famous demolition of the fraudulent governor of Sicily, Verres, and his role in the Cataline conspiracy. As politics become more brutal, he agonizes over his position and retreats to write about Greek philosophy. In 43 he is assassinated. Yet he becomes a hero during the Renaissance as the ideal orator and republican politician in an age when republicanism in in the Italian cities was looking for a champion. His Latin was the model for humanist scholars. When the humanist Petrarch discovered his letters to his friend Atticus, his personality was revealed in all its complexity.

Feeding the Mind: Plutarch - Thursday 20 May 2021

Plutarch (c. 45 – c 120 AD), from a landed family in Cheronaea in central Greece, is one of the most attractive personalities of antiquity. ‘My very own Plutarch, so perfect, so outstanding a judge of human actions and a philosopher who teaches us what purity is’ was the accolade of the essayist Michel de Montaigne. Plutarch was another all-round intellectual, famous for his Lives of prominent Greeks and Romans but also author of many essays on ethical and other topics. His Table Talk recounts the discussions of his learned friends on every kind of issue. He was also a priest at Delphi so we can explore the oracle in his day. Rediscovered in the sixteenth century, it was not only Montaigne who was inspired by him. Shakespeare borrowed the sumptuous barge scene for Anthony and Cleopatra and much of his play Julius Caesar from Plutarch.

Healing the Body: Galen - Thursday 27 May 2021 

Galen (129 - to c.205 AD) was from the city of Pergamum in Asia Minor. Once he had decided to be a doctor he travelled widely in search of learning before returning to Pergamum to patch up wounded gladiators. Arrogant and ambitious, he makes his way to the competitive atmosphere of Rome where through sheer persistence he ends up serving the imperial family. Applying philosophical principles to his practice, he left a vast array of writings. These became authoritative and Galenic medicine was prominent in the Renaissance and even beyond. Yet his authority was gradually eroded by scholars such as Vesalius who spotted the inaccuracies in his dissections. Fierce battles over his authority followed.

Format for Lecture

Charles will give three one-hour illustrated lectures for £27.50.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet.

We hope you enjoy the lectures.


Register for Lectures - 13, 20 & 27 April at 11am


Filed under:

View All
Tours & Study Days