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Hadrian (76—138 ad) Roman emperor

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Arrian

(c. 86—160 ad)


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c. ad 86–160.

Born in Nicomedia, he held local office and pursued studies with Epictetus, whose lectures he later published. In Greece between 108 and 112 he attracted the friendship of Hadrian, who later adlected him to senatorial rank and after his consulate employed him for six years (131–7) as legate of Cappadocia. Later he retired to Athens, where he held the archonship (145/6).

One of the most distinguished writers of his day, Arrian represented himself as a second Xenophon and adopted a style which fused elements of Xenophon into a composite, artificial (yet outstandingly lucid) diction based on the great masters, Herodotus and Thucydides (2). On Hunting 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: Voyage Round the Black Sea, Essay on Tactics, and, most remarkable, Order of Battle against the Alans, which expounds his tactics to repel the incursion of the Alans (135).

Celebrated as a philosopher in his lifetime, Arrian is today mainly known as a historian. His most famous work deals with the age of Alexander 2 the Great. The period after Alexander's death (323–319 bc) was covered expansively in the ten books of Affairs after Alexander (significant fragments of which survive). The only extant history is the so‐called ‘Anabasis of Alexander’, a history of Alexander in seven books from his accession to his death. A short companion piece, the Indikē, provides a digest of Indian memorabilia, based explicitly upon Megasthenes, Eratosthenes, and Nearchus, and recounts Nearchus' voyage from southern 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, contemporaries and actors in the events and appropriately favourable to Alexander; and the narrative is 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. So his account is rich in detail and eminently readable, but is marred by demonstrable errors and misunderstandings.


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