This project studies mass-elite relations in the Greek cities of the Roman empire by examining Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, a second-century AD collection of biographies of Greek and Roman statesmen from classical Athens to Republican Rome. Up till now, historians have explored these biographies as sources on the periods they describe, whereas Plutarch scholars have focused on their function as a programme for moral self-improvement. This project, by contrast, examines the Lives as a source on Greek city politics in Plutarch’s own day by testing the hypothesis that they were, in part, intended to instruct second-century AD politicians on how to secure the support of the people. If this hypothesis proves correct, it follows that the Lives should be re-interpreted as original evidence for the existence -contrary to received scholarly opinion- of a democratic tradition of popular political participation in the imperial Greek city. To this end, the project adopts a uniquely interdisciplinary approach that integrates the inscriptions generated by the political institutions of the imperial Greek cities and Roman-era handbooks on rhetoric and self-fashioning into a close reading of Plutarch’s Lives. The proposed research is likely to provide new insights into local power relations in the Roman empire and to advance our understanding of the ancient city as an inclusive political system, which may stimulate comparative research on popular participation in other premodern urban contexts.