The Campaigns of Alexander (Classics)





, or Lucius Flavius Arrianus, was a Greek born of well-to-do parents at Nicomedia, the capital of the Roman province of Bithynia, probably a few years before
90. His father had been granted Roman citizenship which enabled Arrian to take up his career in the imperial service. In about
108 he studied philosophy under Epictetus and wrote down his sayings in the
, and a summary of his teachings in a
. His imperial advancement was rapid, and in
129 or 130 he achieved the consulship. But it was his appointment as governor of the border province of Cappadocia a year later which shows how greatly the Emperor Hadrian trusted his undoubted military and administrative abilities. His command included two Roman legions and numerous auxiliary troops, a rare, perhaps unexampled, responsibility for a Greek at that time. In
134 he drove the invading Alans out of Armenia in a campaign he describes in
The Formation Against the Alans
. He also wrote a
Tactical Manual
for cavalry, and the
Circumnavigation of the Black Sea
, an account of the voyage he undertook from Trapezus to Dioscurias in 131–2. He retired or was recalled before the death of Hadrian in 138, and devoted the rest of his life to writing, living at Athens. He became an Athenian citizen and rose to be chief magistrate in 145, which qualified him to become a member of the Areopagus, the chief governing body of Athens. Nothing further is known for certain of his life. The surviving works of Arrian’s Athenian period are a handbook,
On the Chase, The Campaigns of Alexander
in seven books, and the
, an account of the voyage of Alexander’s fleet from India to the Persian Gulf.


, scholar and translator, translated Livy’s
The Early History of Rome
(Books I–V) and
The War with Hannibal
(Books XXI–XXX),
The Histories
of Herodotus and
The Campaigns of Alexander
by Arrian, all for the Penguin Classics. He was born in 1896 and educated at Rugby, and University College, Oxford. A schoolmaster of genius for twenty-six years, he retired in 1947 to the Isle of Wight where he lived until his death in 1962.


J. R. H
, who has revised this edition and added an introduction and notes, was until his retirement in 1987 Associate Professor of clssics and Ancient History at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author oí
Plutarch’s ‘Alexander’: A Commentary
(1969) and
Alexander the Great






Revised, with a new introduction and notes by J. R. Hamilton





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First published as
Arrian: The Life of Alexander the Great
Revised and enlarged edition published 1971


Copyright © Aubrey de Sélincourt, 1958
Introduction and Notes copyright © J. R. Hamilton, 1971
All rights reserved


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From the Translator’s Preface

After the end of the Alexandrian age, from early in the second century before Christ, Greek literature rapidly declined, and during the hundred years – say from 50
. 50 – when Latin literature was at its height, it had almost petered out. It had had a long run, having been one of the glories of the world for not much less than a thousand years. However, it was not yet finished, and the second century of our era had hardly begun when there was a renaissance of the Greek spirit, and Greek began once again to be used as a literary language – it had, of course, never ceased to be spoken over great tracts of the eastern Roman empire, and educated Romans were as familiar with it as educated Englishmen are with French today. The beginning of no literary movement can be precisely fixed in time, and there were eminent Greek writers, of whom Plutarch was one, in the first century of the Christian era; but it is convenient to date the beginning of the Greek renaissance from the accession of Hadrian to the Imperial throne in
. 117. Much of its force and vigour was, indeed, due to this remarkable man, himself something of a poet and steeped in the literature of the ancient world. The patronage he gave to the Greek sophists of the day was responsible for their great and increasing influence, and that influence, in its turn, acted as a spur to the revival of Greek letters. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius, it will be remembered, wrote his famous little book in Greek.


Arrian was very much in the movement, which included such other contemporary writers as Appian, the Greek
historian of Rome; Pausanias, whose
Tour of Greece
is a mine of antiquarian information; Galen the writer on medicine; and – in many ways the most readable of them all – the shallow but brilliantly amusing Lucian.


All these writers were employing an idiom very different from the Greek speech current at the time. They were deliberately
, consciously imitating, or trying to imitate, the literary language and style of three or four hundred years ago. This could not but affect the quality of their work. All art is largely artifice, and there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ style, nevertheless we have come to believe, especially of late, that the best literary style is that which best achieves the effect of naturalness, and employs all the power of artifice to subdue the current spoken idiom to its purpose. The Greek writers of the second century thought otherwise; for them, the best literary style had been fixed by the great writers of the classical age, four or five hundred years before their time, and the only way to achieve distinction was to copy their idiom as closely as they could. The only two books we possess of which the language approaches the
, or contemporary spoken Greek of Syria and Asia Minor, are the New Testament and the records taken by Arrian of the lectures of Epictetus. For centuries scholarship and pedantry, too often the same thing, supposed that the Greek of the New Testament was barbarous and debased – Nietzche’s notorious jibe about God having learnt Greek, and having learnt it so badly, is a case in point. But today most of us are wiser, and the beauty of New Testament Greek and its power of expressing what its users wanted it to express make us wish that the professional literary men, too, of that epoch had taken their language warm from contemporary lips instead of seeking it in the written pages of the past. An instance of the lengths to which this artificiality
could go is provided by Arrian himself. In one of his books – the
, a short piece in which he wrote up Nearchus’ account of his voyage from the Indus to the Persian Gulf – he uses, apparently for a change, or simply to show that he could manage it, the Ionic dialect of Herodotus.


This strange convention imposes an almost intolerable burden upon the writers of the period. Lucian alone of them manages to carry it gracefully; the rest, including Arrian, show inevitable signs of strain, as might a modern Englishman who, admiring the coloured, supple, and racy idiom of Elizabethan prose, elected to write historical portraits in the style of Sir Thomas North.


From the point of view of style, therefore, Arrian is not a writer of the first rank. In some ways this is an advantage to his translator; for a translator of the great Greek classics is perpetually humbled by a sense of inadequacy, while a translator of Arrian is warmed from time to time by a flush of self-satisfaction, almost pardonable, as it is borne in upon him that, instead of flattening and dimming his author by what even Shelley, speaking of his beautiful version of Plato’s
, called ‘the grey veil of his own words’, he may, here and there, even have improved him. However, Arrian is, in the main, clear and easy to understand; and that is a virtue.


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