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Alexander the Great was already a historical figure and "larger than life" character by the time Arrian wrote his CAMPAIGNS OF ALEXANDER. More than 400 years had passed since Alexander's death and, while there was doubtless plenty of popular lore about him, there also was a considerable mass of written source material in existence. Much of this material came from contemporaries who had campaigned with Alexander, but these accounts apparently often conflicted. Forced to pick and choose from all this information, Arrian appears to have relied largely on Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Ptolemy was experienced in military matters and, as one of Alexander's generals, had participated in many of the operations he described. Arrian brings his own knowledge and experience of military and administrative matters to bear on this information with generally good results. The rap on Arrian is that he displays a sound grasp of Alexander's military exploits and of his character, but is too forgiving when it comes to Alexander's faults and glosses over other issues.
Arrian brought a wealth of experience to his task. His own personal accomplishments were considerable. A Greek by descent, he was born in the city of Nicomedia, capital of the Roman province of Bithynia, sometime prior to A.D. 90. His family was prosperous and had attained Roman citizenship, giving young Arrian the possibility of a career in the imperial service. Before he was done, he attained the Roman consulship and was subsequently entrusted by Emperor Hadrian with the governorship of Cappadocia, a border province on the eastern frontier that entailed the command of two Roman legions plus auxiliary troops. During this period he led a successful campaign to drive an invading tribe out of Armenia, sailed all the way around the Black Sea, and wrote accounts of these events as well as manuals on military tactics. After Hadrian's death, Arrian retired to Athens, where he rose to become chief magistrate and, later, a Member of the Council of the city. He also continued to write until his death sometime between A.D. 173 and A.D. 180.
Besides THE CAMPAIGNS OF ALEXANDER, Arrian authored many other works. A few survive, but most are now lost, as are the many sources available to Arrian from Ptolemy, Aristobulus, Nearchus and others. All that remains from those who actually knew Alexander is in the form of quotes and citations in the works of later historians like Arrian. It's a sad fact that, while a few histories written by ancient scholars such as Livy, Plutarch, Arrian and others have survived, the great bulk of ancient literature and source material is gone. In an age when scribes had to copy books by hand, there could never be more than a few dozen copies of any book in existence. Under such conditions, it is hard to exaggerate the magnitude of historical disasters ranging from the destruction of the great library at Alexandria to the sack of Constantinople. A survivor like this is a rare opportunity to share the observations of an intelligent and accomplished person from a very different age.
THE CAMPAIGNS OF ALEXANDER is an important piece of the modern world's understanding of Alexander the Great. We're extremely fortunate it has survived. More than that, though, this is a lively and fascinating book that any reader can enjoy. If you have any interest in Alexander, or in ancient history in general, read this book.
Conquer your fears and you will conquer death
Of all the books that I read of Alexander the Great, this book is my favourite in explaining the famous battles.It also explaines how he conquered the tribes from Persia up to Sogdiana.The battles of the Granicus,Issus,Gaugamela,and above all Tyre are incredibly narrated.The names are all there, who did what,and who did not.In the battle of Tyre, how much he had destroyed and how much he had to rebuild,never giving up.It explains all the problems that Alexander encountered with the Tyrians.
The death of Hephastion that made him lose his sanity,make you really feel what friendship meant to him. What this young man accomplished,and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Conquer as long as there were places to conquer.
It also writes about the honest side of Alexander,and those who
were traitors how he treated them.All the spoils of war he gave away,only eternal fame was his.How he created cities,and how he was ahead of his time, in many ways.
Read it is a great book indeed.
The wierdest part of this history was the account in Indika of the island of cavemen that Nearchos ran into, and battled with his fleet...
"There was a lagoon at the mouths of the river, and the depressions near the bank were inhabited by natives in stifling cabins. These seeing the convoy sailing up were astounded, and lining along the shore stood ready to repel any who should attempt a landing. They carried thick spears, about six cubits long; these had no iron tip, but the same result was obtained by hardening the point with fire. They were in number about six hundred. Nearchus observed these evidently standing firm and drawn up in order, and ordered the ships to hold back within range, so that their missiles might reach the shore; for the natives' spears, which looked stalwart, were good for close fighting, but had no terrors against a volley. Then Nearchus took the lightest and lightest-armed troops, such as were also the best swimmers, and bade them swim off as soon as the word was given. Their orders were that, as soon as any swimmer found bottom, he should await his mate, and not attack the natives till they had their formation three deep; but then they were to raise their battle cry and charge at the double. On the word, those detailed for this service dived from the ships into the sea, and swam smartly, and took up their formation in orderly manner, and having made a phalanx, charged, raising, for their part, their battle cry to the God of War, and those on shipboard raised the cry along with them; and arrows and missiles from the engines were hurled against the natives. They, astounded at the flash of the armour, and the swiftness of the charge, and attacked by showers of arrows and missiles, half naked as they were, never stopped to resist but gave way. Some were killed in flight; others were captured; but some escaped into the hills. Those captured were hairy, not only their heads but the rest of their bodies; their nails were rather like beasts' claws; they used their nails (according to report) as if they were iron tools; with these they tore asunder their fishes, and even the less solid kinds of wood; everything else they cleft with sharp stones; for iron they did not possess. For clothing they wore skins of animals, some even the thick skins of the larger fishes."
Cavemen who dont at all use metal, but only stones and fingernails...they wear animal skins...but most importantly, bodies COVERED in hair? What?! I want to go search for this island.
I want to go look for this island, i know how wierd it is, but THIS paragraph caught my eye more than any other in this work.
Arrian's account of Alexander is the best ancient source, though he is a bit of an apologist for the actions of Alexander, so dont believe ALL that Arrian says. The guy though was an actual general, and he had fought and conquered, he was someone who had been through many of the same situations as Alexander as a governor and general, so he DOES know what he is talking about.