Arrian

Arrian (Flavius Arrianus), of Nicomedia in Bithynia was an ancient Greek historian and philosopher. He was born about A.D. 96, and lived during the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. In recognition of his abilities, he received the citizenship of both Athens and Rome. He was greatly esteemed by Hadrian, who appointed him governor (legatus) of Cappadocia (131-137), in which capacity he distinguished himself in a campaign against the Alani. This is the only instance before the 3rd century in which a first-rate Roman military command was given to a Greek.

Arrian spent a considerable portion of his time at Athens, where he was archon 147-148. With his retirement or recall from Cappadocia his official career came to an end. In his declining years, he retired to his native place, where he devoted himself to literary work. He died about 180. His biography, by Dio Cassius, is lost.

When young, Arrian was the pupil and friend of Epictetus, who had probably withdrawn to Nicopolis, when Domitian expelled all philosophers from Rome. He took verbatim notes of his teacher's lectures, which he subsequently published under the title of The Dissertations, in eight books, of which the first four are extant and constitute the chief authority for Stoic ethics, and The Encheiridion (i.e. Manual) of Epictetus, a handbook of moral philosophy, for many years a favourite instruction book with both Christians and pagans. It was adapted for Christian use by St Nilus of Constantinople (5th century), and Simplicius (about 550) wrote a commentary on it which we still possess.

The most important of Arrian's original works is his Anabasis of Alexander, in seven books, containing the history of Alexander the Great from his accession to his death. Arrian's chief authorities were, as he tells us, Aristobulus of Cassandreia and Ptolemy, son of Lagus (afterwards king of Egypt), who both accompanied Alexander on his campaigns. In spite of a too indulgent view of his hero's defects, and some over-credulity, Arrian's is the most complete and trustworthy account of Alexander that we possess.

Other extant works of Arrian are: Indica, a description of India in the Ionic dialect, including the voyage of Nearchus, intended as a supplement to the Anabasis; Acies Contra Alanos, a fragment of importance for the knowledge of Roman military affairs; Periplus of the Euxine, an official account written (131) for the emperor Hadrian; Tactica, attributed by some to Aelianus, who wrote in the reign of Trajan; Cynegeticus, a treatise on the chase, supplementing Xenophon's work on the same subject; the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, attributed to him, is by a later compiler.

Amongst his lost works may be mentioned: a history of the period succeeding Alexander, of which an epitome is preserved in Photius; histories of Bithynia, the Alani and the Parthian wars under Trajan; the lives of Timoleon of Syracuse, Dion of Syracuse and a famous brigand named Timoleon. Arrian's style is simple, lucid and manly; but his language, though pure, presents some peculiarities. He was called "Xenophon the younger” from his imitation of that writer, and he even speaks of himself as Xenophon.

Complete works ed. F. Dübner (1846); Anabasis, C. Abicht (1889); with notes, C. W. Krüger (1835), C. Sintenis (1867) C. Abicht (1875); Scripta Minora, R. Hercher and A. Eberhard (1885); A. J. Roos, i., containing the Anabasis (Teubner series, 1907). English translations Anabasis, Rooke (1812); Anabasis and Indica, E. J. Chinnock (1893); Voyage of Nearchus with the spurious Periplus, W. Vincent (1807), J. W. M'Crindle (Calcutta, 1879); Periplus of the Euxine, W. Falconer (1805); Cynegeticus [W. Dansey] (1831). See also E. Bolla, Arriano di Nicomedia (1890); E. Schwartz in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopadie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (1896); H. F. Pelham, "Arrian as Legate of Cappadocia," in English Historical Review, October 1896; article Greece: History, ancient, "Authorities."

References:

1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 2. pgs. 648-649.

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