Born at Chaeronea, Boeotia, in Greece, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, Plutarch travelled widely in the Mediterranean world, later residing at Rome for an extended period and making friends with influential persons at Rome, to whom some of his later writings were dedicated. Among these were Soscius Senecio and Fundanus, important members of the Senate whom Plutarch regarded as patrons and friends. Returning to Boeotia, he was initiated into the mysteries of the pagan god Apollo. However his duties as a priest of Apollo apparently occupied little of his time - he led a most active social and civic life in addition to his numerous writings, of which about one half are still extant.
His most important work is Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. The Parallel Lives, as they are also called, contain 23 pairs of biographies, each pair containing one Greek Life and one Roman Life; as well as 4 unpaired single Lives. Although Plutarch has sometimes been disparaged by later historians, he was not concerned with writing history, as such, but in exploring the influence of character - good or bad - on the lives and destinies of famous men.
The remainder of his surviving oeuvre is loosely grouped together under the misleading title of Moralia. It is an eclectic collection of over one hundred essays including On the decline of the Oracles, On God's slowness to punish evil, On peace of mind and Odysseus and Gryllus, a humorous dialog between Homer's Ulysses and one of Circe's enchanted pigs.
His life of Numa Pompilius, an early Roman king, also contains unique information about the early Roman calendar.