n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Naphtha and narrative art in Plut. 35

Volume 57, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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Plutarch's 35 consists of a number of sections organised around the discovery of naphtha in Babylonia. Its central episode tells of the near-fatal experiment with a boy whose body caught fire after being smeared with naphtha. This article presents an analysis of the chapter, and in particular of the Stephanus-episode, to show how Plutarch fashions his material to suit his biographical purposes. It is argued that he edits his sources in accordance with how he wishes to portray his protagonist, and deliberately inserts metaphorical allusions into the story to make it serve as a portent of the disastrous interaction between Alexander's character type and the climate of Babylonia. Finally, the story is positioned within the biographical narrative so as to herald the post-acme phase of Alexander's career.

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