Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 05 August 2020

Arrian, c. 86–160 CE

Born in Nicomedia in Bithynia, he held local office and pursued studies with Epictetus, whose lectures he later published (allegedly verbatim) as the Discourses and summarized in the Encheiridion (‘Manual’). In Greece between 108 and 112 he attracted the friendship of Hadrian, who later adlected him to senatorial rank (see adlection) and after his consulate (?129) employed him for six years (131–7) as legate of Cappadocia. Subsequently he retired to Athens, where he held the archonship (145/6), and perhaps survived into the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

One of the most distinguished writers of his day, Arrian represented himself as a second Xenophon (1) and adopted a style which fused elements of Xenophon into a composite, artificial (yet outstandingly lucid) diction based on the great masters, Herodotus (1) and Thucydides (2). The Cynegeticus is an explicit revision of Xenophon's monograph in the light of the revolution in hunting brought by the Celtic greyhound; and Xenophon's influence is demonstrable in the short essays he wrote in Cappadocia: the Periplus (c.131), the Essay on Tactics (136/7), and, most remarkable, the Order of Battle against the Alans, which expounds his tactics to repel the incursion of the Alans (135) in the style of Xenophon's Cyropaedia.

Celebrated as a philosopher in his lifetime, Arrian is today principally known as a historian. Works now lost include the eight-book Bithyniaca, the history of his native province from mythical times to its annexation by Rome, and the seventeen-book Parthica with its detailed narrative of Trajan's campaigns (probably the source for Cassius Dio). His most famous work deals with the age of Alexander (3) the Great. The period after Alexander's death (323–319 bce) was covered expansively in the ten books of Affairs after Alexander (significant fragments of which survive on palimpsest and papyrus). The only extant history is the so-called ‘Anabasis of Alexander’, a history of Alexander the Great in seven books from his accession to his death. A short companion piece, the Indike, provides a digest of Indian memorabilia, based explicitly upon Megasthenes, Eratosthenes, and Nearchus, and recounts Nearchus' voyage from south India to Susa. Arrian's work is conceived as a literary tribute to Alexander's achievements, to do for him what Homer had done for Achilles, and the tone is eulogistic, mitigating standard criticisms and culminating in a panegyric of extraordinary intensity. The sources Arrian selected were Ptolemy (1) I and Aristobulus (1), contemporaries and actors in the events and appropriately favourable to Alexander; and the narrative is in the main worked up from material they provided, supplemented by logoi (‘stories’), mostly from late rhetorical sources and chosen for their colour. Arrian's priority was excellence of style, not factual accuracy. Consequently his account is rich in detail and eminently readable, but is marred by demonstrable errors and misunderstandings.



Arrian. Flavii Arriani quae exstant omnia. Edited by A. G. Roos. Revised by G. Wirth. 2 vols. Leipzig: Teubner, 1967.Find this resource:

    P. A. Brunt, trans. Arrian. Loeb Classical Library 236, 239. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1976–1983: History of Alexander and Indike.Find this resource:

      F. Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (1923– ), 156: Affairs after Alexander and other fragmentary works.Find this resource:

        Studies and commentaries

        P. A. Stadter, Arrian of Nicomedia (1980).Find this resource:

          A. B. Bosworth, A Historical Commentary on Arrian's History of Alexander, 2 vols. so far (1980–1995), books 1–5.Find this resource:

            A. B. Bosworth, From Arrian to Alexander (1988).Find this resource:

              A. B. Bosworth, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2. 34. 1 (1993), 226–275 (on the minor works).Find this resource:

                H. Tonnet, Recherches sur Arrien (1988).Find this resource:

                  A. A. Phillips and M. M. Willcock, On Hunting (1999); with Xenophon (1)'s treatise of the same name.Find this resource:

                    Comms. on Indike

                    N. Biffi, L'Indiké di Arriano (2000).Find this resource:

                      C. Dognini, L'Indiké di Arriano (2000).Find this resource:

                        Do you have feedback?