Arrian — Ancient Historian

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Arrian (Flavius Arrianus)
C. A.D. 96-180

Arrian was a Greek, born in Nicomedia. Emperor Hadrian appointed him Governor of Cappadocia from A.D 131 to 137, and he saw some military service. Arrian is considered the prime historian of Alexander the Great, but since he was not alive during Alexander’s reign, his history would not be considered a primary source. For source material, Arrian consulted two of Alexander’s generals as main authorities: Ptolemy and Aristobulus. In the Preface to Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian states,

Wherever Ptolemy son of Lagus and Aristobulus son of Aristobulus have agreed in their histories of Alexander son of Philip, I record their story as quite accurate; where they disagree, I have chosen what I feel to be more likely and also better worth the narrating. Others have given various accounts of Alexander, in fact there is no one over whom historians have been more numerous and less harmonious. My own view is that Ptolemy and Aristobulus are more trustworthy narrators, for Aristobulus took the field with King Alexander; Ptolemy not only did the same, but, as he was a king himself, falsehood would have been more shameful to him than to anyone else. Besides, since Alexander was dead when they both wrote their histories, there lay on them neither any constraint nor any hope of gain in writing other than plain fact. . . .

Arrian was a pupil of Epictetus, and is considered an important authority on his teaching.

Extant works of Arrian (books which still exist)

Anabasis of Alexander (7 books) – Describes the campaigns of Alexander the Great.
Indica – An account of the voyage of Alexander’s general Nearchus to India.

Significant excerpts of Arrian’s works (excerpts which are considered interesting or important)

Anabasis of Alexander
1.6 – How Alexander drew up his phalanx (Book 1, Section 6).
1.11-16 – Alexander defeats the Persians in the Battle of Granicus.
2.4 – Alexander falls ill.
2.6-14 – Battle of Issus; Alexander defeats Darius.
3.1 – The founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great.
3.3-4 – Arrian’s account of Alexander’s visit to the Oracle of Zeus-Ammon.
3.7-16 – Battle of Gaugamela; Alexander again defeats Darius in 331
4.8-14 – The death of Cleitus, and what happened to Alexander after it.
4.22-30 – Alexander in India.
5.1-29 – Alexander in India.
5.19 – Alexander’s horse Bucephalas dies.
6.1-28 – Alexander in India.
6.10-14 – Alexander is wounded.
6.24-26 – The march through the desert.
6.29 – The Tomb of Cyrus.
7.1 – Alexander’s aspirations.
7.9 – Alexander’s tribute to the transformation which Philip accomplished in Macedonia.
7.24-30 – Character and death of Alexander.

Taken from Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn


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