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Arrian of Nicomedia

Background

Arrian of Nicomedia (86-160 CE), also known as Lucius Flavius Arrianus in full Latin was a famous Roman historian who is well known for documenting the life and campaign of Alexander III the Great. He was born in the city of Nicomedia in the Roman province of Bithynia and also wrote many other sources that have been preserved today about history and life in the Roman Empire.

Arrian was known to have served in the Roman army and appointed to rule the province of Cappadocia between 131 CE and 139 CE by royal emperor Hadrian. Upon Hadrian's death in 138 CE he decided to retire to the Greek city of Athens where around 145 CE he was appointed to the office of archon and began working on his literary works.

Anabasis

His work Anabasis regarding Alexander the Great's Campaign is easily the most famous as it is often used to help recreate the original sources from Ptolemy I and Aristobulus that Arrian used to create it. While it offers a brilliant strategic understanding of the military aspect of Alexander's campaign, Arrian fails to acknowledge the philosophical and intellectual motivations and aspects of his conquest.

Through Arrian the Siege of Tyre is well documented as well as the other major battles in the first seven books in the series. The eighth book known as Indica documents the Indian customs and the voyage of Nearchus in the Persian Gulf. In order to create this final book he borrowed from Eratosthenes and Megasthenes.

Other Works

Another significant work by Arrian is the Encheiridion (“Manual”), a manual of the teachings of Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher whose disciple Arrian was. This work was much used in the Middle Ages as a guide to the principles of the monastic life. Arrian also wrote a work on hunting, Cynegeticus (a revision of Xenophon’s monograph on that topic), and various essays: Periplus (about 131; “Circumnavigation”), Tactica (136/137; “On Tactics”), and “The Order of Battle Against the Alans (135), an essay on how he defeated barbarians.

His lost works include Parthica (17 books, of which 10 treated Trajan’s campaigns), Bithyniaca (a history of Bithynia in 8 books), and a work on the aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death, Affairs After Alexander (10 books).

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

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