Arrian was a Greek historian best known for his accounts of Alexander's exploits. This Arrian research paper topic suggestion will offer a critical analysis of Arrian's work, including an evaluation of his methods in comparison to his contemporaries as well as views of modern writers. This examination will demonstrate the following:
- Arrian's reliance upon previous historians and high regard for royalty makes the credibility of his historical accounts suspect.
- Arrian's accounts of Alexander are valuable in many respects, their veracity remains questionable.
- Arrian's method of using texts from previous writers who served with Alexander has made him one of the leading sources on Alexander.
Arrian as Governor
Arrian, also known as Lucius Flavius Arrianus was born at Nicomedia, Greece about 96 A.D. He was appointed Governor of Cappadocia from 131 to 137, saw some military service. Although Arrian's accounts of Alexander was considered to be the official history of ancient Greeks and the modern view of this era, many modern historians point out that Arrian's accuracy is an "insoluble question". A large part of that question is due to Arrian's reliance upon the writings of previous historians, and the method that he used to resolve these historical disagreements. For example, in the preface of Book I of the Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian began:
Wherever Ptolemy son of Lagus and Aristobulus son of Aristobulus have agreed in their histories of Alexander son of Philip, I record their story as quite accurate; where they disagree I have chosen what I feel to be more likely and also better worth narrating.
Arrian and Alexander
Arrian goes on to note that there have been many accounts of Alexander, and there is "no one over whom historians have been more numerous and less harmonious". However, Arrian is careful to explain that he has followed the narrations of Ptolemy and Aristobulus because the latter took the field with Alexander, and Ptolemy was a king himself, and "falsehood would have been more shameful to him than anyone else," according to Arrian. This remark demonstrates the second problem with Arrian's veracity, which is his devotion to royalty. Nevertheless, Arrian is very aware of his role as historian and the importance of accuracy as he separates the truth from fiction. He also notes in the preface to Book I that because Ptolemy and Aristobulus were dead when they wrote their histories of Alexander, they had nothing to gain from distorting the facts. This evaluation seems naïve, yet Arrian does acknowledge the different historic accounts that existed at this time, and attempted to resolve them with an accurate historic text.