Arrian's "Campaigns of Alexander"

Arrian's "Campaigns of Alexander"

Classical History on A Classic Figure

 

     

Arrian or, properly Flavius Arrianus Xenophon, was a Greek who rose rapidly in the Roman Empire in the second century of the current era. He eventually reached the status of consul and embarked on several exploratory campaigns. He marked the beginning of his career with a Manual on Epictetus, the stoic philosopher, and added perhaps one of the most reliable accounts of one of literature and history's most interesting and enigmatic personalities--Alexander of Macedonia.

 

      In The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian achieved a lasting fame that has somewhat slipped over recent years as scholarship and readers are presented with an increasing number of accounts from which to choose. Arrian's presentation of facts and narrative along with his own personal analysis makes this particular book a valuable item saved and transmitted during the Renaissance. As a historian, he is more reliable than most from his time, and as a biographer he traveled and verified as many of his findings as he could while still meeting the demands of public life before his retirement.

 

      Arrian's style is marked with bold use of language that finds its heights in his rendering of the personalities and events around Alexander. The battles, intrigue, love affairs, and far-reaching conquests all find their way into Arrian's account and move quickly thanks to the translation by Aubrey De Sélincourt. Concerning Alexander himself, Arrian presents as objective a view as possible noting his failures, his wishes, his hopes, his dreams, and his triumphs. The literary portrait finds Alexander in a very human light and explains how some of the myths around him were already developing at that time. Arrian provides a startling and clear glimpse of how Greeks themselves were already contemplating and exploiting the legacy of Alexander of Macedonia. I have read this one a couple of times.