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Lucius Flavius ​​Arrianus ( ancient Greek Άρριανός Arrianós , German Arrian [from Nicomedia] ; * around 85-90 in Nicomedeia in Bithynia ; † after 145/146) was a Greek-speaking Roman politician and historian . He wrote a historical work on Alexander the Great , a monograph on India and a history of the Diadochi . With regard to the history of events, he is considered to be the most reliable of the Alexander historians , although he is sometimes viewed more critically in recent research. Among other works, including a Parthian history, Arrian was also in two philosophical writings thinking his teacher, the Stoic Epictetus again.

Portrait of a bearded man identified with Arrian


Arrian came from Nicomedeia in the Roman province of Bithynia. He came from a distinguished family that the knighthood had been taken. The gentile name Flavius ​​is derived from the patron to whom the family owed Roman citizenship ; perhaps it was Lucius Flavius, the suffect consul of 33 BC. BC, or first around Emperor Vespasian . Arrian studied in Nicopolis with the famous stoic philosopher Epictetus , whose school was also attended by prominent members of the noble families and with whom he possibly also met the later emperor Hadrian . In his youth, he wrote two books on the philosophy of his teacher.

At the same time Arrian entered the imperial service and served as an officer in the then Celtic province, in Noricum and probably other regions; under Trajan he fought in the Parthian War. Trajan or his successor Hadrian raised him to senatorial rank. As a member of the senatorial class, he worked under his friend Hadrian in the Roman Empire administration and went to the province of Baetica as proconsul . Around 129/130 he became a suffect consul , from 131 to 137 he was governor of the province of Cappadocia and commander of the Roman troops on the border with Armenia; For a senator from the Greek East, such a high rank in the Roman military was an unusual exception. Arrian carried out small campaigns and, based on these experiences, wrote a manual on military strategy . After the death of his patron Hadrian in 138, Arrian moved to Athens and became an Athenian citizen. In 145/146 he held the office of Archon eponymos , which, however, had declined to a purely honorary position without political influence during the imperial era. It was during this phase of life that Arrian began to devote himself to writing history.


Beginning of the Periplus Arrians in the Editio princeps by Johann Froben and Nicolaus Episcopius, Basel 1533

Arrian's literary activity began shortly before Hadrian's death. Following his model Xenophon , he composed works of various, primarily historical, content in a simple Attic style. His work on the Alexanderzug ( Anábasis Alexándrou ), which is the most important source for this period, and a writing about India ( Indicé ) have survived. Arrian also wrote a history of the Diadochi ( Tà metà Aléxandron ) and a Parthian history ( Parthiká ), which have only survived in fragments. In addition, fragments of several smaller writings have been preserved, including a tactical script ( Taktiká ), an order of battle against the Alans ( Éktaxis katà Alánon ), an original eight-book work on Bithynia and an early meteorological work. A tour ( Períplus ) in the area of ​​the Black Sea has also been handed down in full . Arrian also wrote a treatise on the hunt ( Kynegetikós ), with which he linked to a journal of the same name Xenophons. His philosophical work includes the doctrinal conversations ( Diatribaí ) and an excerpt made from them, the so-called handbook ( Encheirídion ).

Stylistically, Arrian stuck to the prevailing view of wanting to imitate the grammar and literary style of the Attic writers of the 5th century as accurately as possible. The Atticism therefore Arrian emulates the language of Thucydides gradually Xenophon. In his philosophical writings, however, Arrian used the colloquial language of his time, the koiné .

History of Alexander and Indike

Since we do not have a contemporary witness of Alexanderzugs more Arrian's Alexander story before Curtius Rufus , Diodorus , Pompey Trogus - handed in an excerpt at Justin - and Plutarch , the most important source for the history of Alexander the Great . In addition, his work is probably the most reliable overall report, although the other Alexander historians also provide valuable information and thus complement Arrian's story.

Arrian's Alexander story is divided into seven books and is written in a very sober and clear style. It was probably created after Arrian's archon, but probably before 165. Arrian Aristobulus of Kassandreia and above all Ptolemy I , who both participated in the Alexanderzug and who each wrote a (now lost) historical work about it, served as the main sources . Arrian himself claims in the Proemium of his work that he only weighs up which version seems more credible to him where his two main sources differ. Ptolemy probably provided the basic report on the history of the event. Ptolemy, who mainly described the military events without embellishments, may have based his presentation on the official court reports ( ephemeris ); but this has also been partly doubted. The portrayal of Aristobulus, on the other hand, who was primarily interested in geographic topics, was intended to enrich Arrian's narrative. Arrian used other sources as a supplement, such as Nearchus in later books, although he does not mention any names.

The Alexander story is problematic in that Arrian hardly questioned the portrayal of Ptolemy and Aristobulus too critically; however, in fact all Alexander stories were tendentious in one direction or the other. Ptolemy and Aristobulus seem to have endeavored to give a relatively sober description. This also explains their use by Arrian, who apparently wanted to offer a representation of Alexander as free of legends as possible, which he largely succeeded in doing. His work thus represents a counterpoint to the so-called Vulgate tradition, in which Alexander's life was partly embellished like a novel and which is based on Kleitarchus . Arrian's work says very little explicitly about Alexander's personality, but Arrian was very dear to him; Arrian also expressed criticism of Alexander, but only cautiously. His extremely positive assessment is expressed, among other things, at the end of the work, where Arrian's praise is similar to hero worship. Arrian apologizes for possible mistakes and compares Alexander with mythical kings; human standards do not do justice to a hero whom a deity must have sent into the world.

Despite his largely uncritical image of Alexander and a sometimes selective description, Arrian is very valuable for the history of the event. For a long time, German-language research in particular relied almost exclusively on Arrian. In modern research, however, the weighting shifts somewhat. So now Diodor, Plutarch, Curtius and other sources are also included more closely in order to get a better overall picture. Nevertheless, Arrian is also regarded as the most credible source in modern research, although AB Bosworth, for example, also sometimes sharply criticized his presentation.

The “Indian Book” ( Indicé or also called Indicá ) is a supplement to the Alexander story . It also offered the opportunity to evaluate the extensive new source material on the “Wonderland” India that was accessible through the Alexanderzug. Arrian relied mainly on the report of Nearchus, Alexander's naval commander. In the first part he also used Megasthenes and Eratosthenes of Cyrene . The script, written in the Ionian dialect , deals with the time from Alexander's train to "India" until the return of the fleet across the Indus to Susa under the command of Nearchus.

Diadoch story

Arrian's “Post-Alexander Events” comprised ten books and ranged from Alexander's death in 323 to 319 BC. BC, so treated a short period of time in great detail. Jerome of Cardia was probably an important source . Only a few fragments have survived from the script; In addition to a summary of the Byzantine patriarch Photios , individual text fragments are also preserved, which come from palimpsest leaves and a papyrus . During the imperial crisis of the 3rd century, the historian Dexippus followed up on the work and presumably wrote it out.

Parthian history

Arrian described in detail the struggles between the Romans and the Parthians in his 17 books of Parthian History ( Parthiká ). Although the focus was on the time of the Emperor Trajan , Arrian also described the prehistory of the Parthian Empire. Due to the fact that Arrian had access to official documents and personal knowledge of the conditions in the East, the loss of the work is regrettable, especially since the sources for the time of Trajan are rather poor. The few fragments still provide important information.

Philosophical writings

The doctrinal conversations are a collection of slide discs that Arrian put together from his notes on Epiktet's lectures. The work was probably published soon after Epictet's death and probably before 138. It is the most important source for the philosophy of the Stoic Epictetus, who wrote no works of his own. The first four books of this script, which was known in antiquity under different names and with a varying number of books, have survived. Arrian did not claim any creative work for the slide collection, but intended, according to his own account, to preserve the memory of his teacher for himself, but not to publish these allegedly verbatim notes. Research assesses Arrian's claim to deliver Epictet's teaching literally very differently; it is sometimes believed to be a literary fiction and that the doctrinal conversations are essentially Arrian's work.

Arrian also made an excerpt from the doctrinal conversations , the so-called handbook . In this extremely popular work, which was received much more than the doctrinal conversations , Arrian repeats some of the ideas of the doctrinal conversations verbatim, while changing other statements.

Editions and translations

Alexandri anabasis , 1575
Philosophical writings
  • Epictetus: Encheiridion (= Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana 1302). Edited by Gerard Boter, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019503-3 .
  • Epictetus: The Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments . Ed. And transl. by William Abbott Oldfather, 2 volumes (with Greek text and English translation)
  • Epictetus: Handbook of Morals and Conversations , ed. Heinrich Schmidt , revision by Karin Metzler, 11th edition, Kröner, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-520-00211-6 .
Historical and other writings
  • Flavius ​​Arrianus: Scripta . Edited by Gerhard Wirth and AG Roos , 2 volumes, unchanged reprint of the 2nd edition from 1967/1968, Saur, Munich 2002 (critical edition)
    • Volume 1: Alexandri Anabasis (= Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana 1239). ISBN 978-3-598-71239-5 .
    • Volume 2: Scripta minora et fragmenta. Adiectae sunt tres tabulae geographicae et fragmentum papyri 1284 Societatis Italianae (= Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana 1242). ISBN 978-3-598-71242-5 .
  • Arrian: The Alexander train. Indian history. Greek and German . Ed. And transl. by Gerhard Wirth and Oskar von Hinüber, Artemis-Verlag, Munich / Zurich 1985, ISBN 3-7608-1649-5 .
  • Arrian: Alexander the Great's triumphal march through Asia . Single and transfer by Wilhelm Capelle , Artemis-Verlag, Zurich 1950 (translation including the indike ).
  • Arrian: History of Alexander and Indica . Ed. And transl. by Peter A. Brunt, 2 volumes, Harvard University Press, London and Cambridge / Massachusetts 1976/1983, ISBN 0-67499-260-1 and ISBN 0-67499-297-0 (original text with English translation and short comment).
  • Anna Simonetti Agostinetti (Ed.): Gli eventi dopo Alessandro . L'Erma di Bretschneider, Rome 1993, ISBN 88-7062-824-8 (Italian translation of the fragments of the history of the Diadochi with commentary).
  • Flavius ​​Arrianus: Téchne taktiká (Tactical Handbook) and Éktaxis katà Alánon (The Expedition Against the Alans) . Translated and edited by James G. DeVoto, Ares Publishers, Chicago 1993, ISBN 0-89005-517-3 (original text with English translation and commentary).
  • James G. DeVoto: Text and Translation of Arrian's Parthika . In: FA Lepper: Trajan's Parthian War , Ares Publishers, Chicago 1993, ISBN 0-89005-530-0 , pp. 225-263 (original text with English translation and commentary).
  • Arrianos / Asklepiodotos : The Art of Tactics . Greek and German by Kai Brodersen , Tusculum Collection , De Gruyter, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-11-056216-3 (original text with German translation and detailed introduction)
  • Xenophon / Arrianos: hunting and hunting dogs . Greek and German by Kai Brodersen , Tusculum Collection , De Gruyter, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-11-059563-5 ( Kynegetikos - original texts with German translation and detailed introduction)


  • Albert Brian Bosworth: A historical commentary on Arrian's History of Alexander . 2 volumes, Oxford University Press and Clarendon Press, Oxford 1980/1995, ISBN 0-19814-828-3 and ISBN 0-19814-829-1 (commentary so far completed up to book 5).


Web links

Wikisource: Άρριανός  - sources and full texts
Commons : Flavius ​​Arrianus  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. CIL 15, 244 , 552  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  2. See also Franz Kiechle: Die Taktik des Flavius ​​Arrianus . In: 45th report of the Roman-Germanic Commission . Berlin 1965, pp. 87–129.
  3. For the dating see Wirth (1964), p. 231ff.
  4. In recent research, however, the existence of the ephemeris themselves is hardly questioned, see Bosworth (1988), p. 157ff. Their exact character, however, is controversial.
  5. ^ So Schwartz (1959), p. 120 (RE article on Aristobulus).
  6. General Schwartz (1959), p. 143ff. See also Bosworth (1988), p. 38ff.
  7. A lack of critical attitude towards the sources criticizes for example Bosworth ( Errors in Arrian . In: The Classical Quarterly . New Series 26 (1976), pp. 138f.), But differently, for example, Gerhard Wirth : Arrianos . In: The Little Pauly . Vol. 1, Col. 605f.
  8. Arrian, Anabasis 7.29-30.
  9. See, for example, Hammond (1993), passim, summarized on p. 204.
  10. This is how Bosworth criticized Arrian's handling of his sources. According to Bosworth, Arrian arranged his work in such a way that above all his point of view becomes clear and Alexander appears as positive as possible. He also made several factual errors, and his handling of the sources (which according to Bosworth himself were not objective) is not always happy. In general, see AB Bosworth: Errors in Arrian . In: The Classical Quarterly . New Series 26 (1976), pp. 117ff. However, Bosworth himself is also one of the harshest modern critics of Alexander.
  11. See also AB Bosworth: The Legacy of Alexander. Politics, Warfare, and Propaganda under the Successors . Oxford 2002, passim, summarized on p. 22.
  12. Dreyer (1999).
  13. Wirth (1964), p. 225.
  14. For the research discussion on whether the so-called works are identical with the writings known today, see Michel Spanneut: Epiktet . In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christianentum , Vol. 5, 1962, Sp. 601–603.
  15. For an overview of the history of research see Jackson Hershbell: The Stoicism of Epictetus . In: Rise and Fall of the Roman World . II 36.3, Berlin / New York 1989, pp. 2152f. with further literature. On the other hand, Oldfather (1989), vol. 1, p. Xiii and Robert F. Dobbin (ed.): Epictetus pleaded for authenticity . Discourses. Book I , Oxford 1998, pp. Xx-xxiii, who considers the doctrinal conversations to be a work by Epictetus himself, the preface of which is only intended to create the impression of lecture notes.
  16. Hershbell (1989), p. 2152 with evidence and further literature.