The Anabasis of Alexander

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Campaigns of Alexander (Anabasis Alexandri) (Greek: Ἀλεξάνδρου ἀνάβασις Alexándrou anábasis or Ιστορίαι ảναβάσεως 'Αλεξάνδρον), by Arrian, is the most important source on Alexander the Great. The Greek term anabasis referred to an expedition from a coastline into the interior of a country.[1] So a more literal translation would be The Expedition of Alexander.[2]

This work consists of seven books and is Arrian's most important output.[3] It is one of the few surviving complete accounts of the Macedonian conqueror's expedition. It is primarily a military history and has little to say about Alexander's personal life, his role in Greek politics or the reasons why the campaign against Persia was launched in the first place. Arrian was able to use sources which are now lost, such as the contemporary works by Callisthenes (the nephew of Alexander's tutor Aristotle), Onesicritus, Nearchus, and Aristobulus, and the slightly later work of Cleitarchus. Most important of all, Arrian had the biography of Alexander by Ptolemy, one of Alexander's leading generals and possibly his half-brother.[citation needed]


The work was written in the second century AD (ref.- p.xiii), and pertains to the life of Alexander III (ref. - p.xi),[4] who died in 323 BC (ref. - p.389), [5] of which Arrian's account of the life of him is the best extant, [6] in that it is the most complete and reliable (E. Borza).[7]

Written in the language of Attic, it is addressed to philhellene elite (Carlsen 2014). [8]


A. B. Bosworth [9][10] criticized what he viewed as Arrian's hagiography in Errors in Arrian (1976).[11]

History of transmission & editions[edit]

The earliest extant copy is from 1200 CE (CA Evans 2011). [12]

The editio princeps was by Trincavelli in Venice c.1535. [13]

The History [14] was translated into Italian by Leo of Modena and printed within Venice during 1554. [15][16] Claudius Vitart translated the History into French, printed in Paris, 1581,[15][17] and additionally a version reprinted three times, by Ablancourt. It has four Latin translations, the first by Nicolaus Saguntinus, the second by Petrus Paulus Vergerius, the third by Bartholomæus Facius, the fourth by Bonaventure Vulcanius. The Vulcanius edition was most highly esteemed according to Rooke.[15]

Further editions were made by Henry Stephens, Blancard, and Gronovius.[15]

All 12 books survived apart from a gap in the 12th chapter of the 7th book, a factor which is present in all extant MSS. [2]


Arrian stated Ptolemy son of Lagos (a commander in Alexander's army [18]) and Aristobulus son of Aristobulus (an architect [18]) as the primary sources for information for the contents of the piece (DL Smith 2012), [19] both of these accompanied Alexander on the anabasis. [20]

Callisthenes account of Alexander was held in contempt by Arrian, because he conceived him a 'flatterer' of Alexander. [21]


Was a friend during childhood, and both were educated by Aristotle. [22]

He was amongst the closest accompanying persons to the body of the leader apres l'mort de Hephaistion (ref. - p.161). [23]

He witnessed the defeat of Darius III in 333, and was present at the time of the taking of control of Egypt. [24]

During the actual anabasis he was given command of cavalry to go receive Bessus as a prisoner (ref. - p.58). [25]


He was from Cassandreia. [26]

Additional sources[edit]

Other sources were Diodotus of Erythrae, Eumenes of Cardia (who kept a so called royal diary [27]), Nearchus of Crete, Megasthenes, [2] Eratosthenes, Aristus, and Asclepiades. He also made use of the letter's of Alexander.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anabasis", Oxford Dictionaries - Oxford University Press] and "Anabasis", Merriam-Webster.
  2. ^ a b c William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Volume 3. Taylor and Walton, 1844 - Original used to transfer to google books from Bibliothèque jésuite des Fontaines, digitized 30 Dec 2010. Retrieved 2015-04-03. 
  3. ^ C ANTHON - A Manual of Greek Literature, Harper and Brothers (1853) [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  4. ^ M Hammond - taught at St Paul's School, Harrow School, and Eton College, where he was Head of Classics from 1974 to 1980. Alexander the Great: The Anabasis and the Indica. Oxford University Press, 14 Feb 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-03. 
  5. ^ AB Lloyd (edited by I Shaw - studied Archaeology and Egyptology at Cambridge University, gaining a PhD on the archaeological remains at Tell el-Amarna). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, 31 Aug 2000 ISBN 0191590592. Retrieved 2015-04-05. 
  6. ^ Harvard University Press comment on Anabasis of Alexander, Volume I - Translated by P. A. Brunt [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  7. ^ E. Borza, Introduction to Alexander the Great by Ulrich Wilcken (New York 1967) Southwestern University [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  8. ^ J Carlsen in - Roman rule in Greek and Latin Writing: Double Vision (p.217) BRILL, 4 Jul 2014 (edited by JM Madsen - associate professor in Greek and Roman history, Institute of History and Civilization, University of Southern Denmark, RD Rees) ISBN 9004278281 [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  9. ^ Brian Bosworth is a retired Professor of Classics and Ancient History, at University of Western Australia
  10. ^ Alexander the Great and the mystery of the elephant medallions, pp 74, by Frank Lee Holt, Edition: illustrated, Published by University of California Press, 2003.
  11. ^ Errors in Arrian, Author(s): A. B. Bosworth, Source: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1976), pp. 117-139, Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association, Stable URL:
  12. ^ CA Evans - (Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada) - The World of Jesus and the Early Church: Identity and Interpretation in Early Communities of Faith (p.210) Hendrickson Publishers, 2011 ISBN 1598568256 [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  13. ^ EJ Chinnock - The Anabasis of Alexander 1883 [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  14. ^ A. B. Bosworth - University of Western Australia c.1988. From Arrian to Alexander: Studies in Historical Interpretation (p.13). Oxford University Press, 1988 (reprint) ISBN 0198148631. Retrieved 2015-04-06. (ed. this source used only to verify < History of Alexander > in Rooke is the same book as < Anabasis > elsewhere)
  15. ^ a b c d Le Clerc, Jean, 1657-1736., Rooke, John, fl. 1729. Arrian's History of Alexander's expedition. Translated from the Greek. With notes historical, geographical, and critical. By Mr. Rooke. To which is prefix'd, Mr. Le Clerc's Criticism upon Quintus Curtius. And some remarks upon Mr. Perizonius's vindication of the author. London, Printed for T. Worrall etc., etc. 1729. Retrieved 2015-04-06. 
  16. ^ (edited by Alexander Chalmers) - The General Biographical Dictionary: Containing an Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons in Every Nation: Particulary the British and Irish; from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time, Volume 20 J. Nichols, 1815 [Retrieved 2015-04-06](ed. this source used to identify < Leo of Modena >)
  17. ^ Arrian, John Rooke, Jean Le Clerc - Arrian's History of Alexander's Expedition R. Lea, 1814 [Retrieved 2015-04-06](ed. this source used to clarify < Claudius Vitart tart > in the 1729 editio as being < Claudius Vitart >)
  18. ^ a b S Sorek - research affiliate at the Open University, UK. Ancient Historians: A Student Handbook. A&C Black, 3 May 2012 ISBN 1441179917. Retrieved 2015-04-04. (p.141)
  19. ^ DL Smith (Saint Louis University, St. Louis) - The Rhetoric of Interruption: Speech-Making, Turn-Taking, and Rule-Breaking in Luke-Acts and Ancient Greek Narrative(p.97) Walter de Gruyter, 31 Aug 2012 ISBN 3110296519 [Retrieved 2015-04-03]
  20. ^ LL Grabbe. A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 2: The Coming of the Greeks: The Early Hellenistic Period (335-175 BCE). A&C Black, 25 Sep 2008 ISBN 056738988X. Retrieved 2015-04-05. 
  21. ^ N. G. L. Hammond - for Alexander the Great: An Analysis of Plutarch's 'Life' and Arrian's 'Anabasis Alexandrou' (p.32) Cambridge University Press, 13 Aug 2007 (reprint) ISBN 0521714710 [Retrieved 2015-05-02]
  22. ^ PC Cartledge - 3rd comment section down of - Two Great Historians Talk Alexander the Great Part 3 Forbes (B Upbin) 12/20/2010 [Retrieved 2015-04-08]
  23. ^ M Sartre (Professor of History, University of Tours and the Institut Universitaire de France) - Histoires Grecques: Snapshots from Antiquity Harvard University Press, 1 Jan 2009 ISBN 0674032128[Retrieved 2015-04-05]
  24. ^ J Tyldesley - Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt Profile Books, 26 May 2011 ISBN 1847650449 (483 pages)[Retrieved 2015-04-05]
  25. ^ JD Lyons (associate professor of history and political science at Ashland University) - Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés: Ambiguous Legacies of Leadership Lexington Books, 2015 ISBN 1498505287 [Retrieved 2015-04-05]
  26. ^ U Singh (Professor in the Department of History at the University of Delhi) - A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century(p.275) Pearson Education India, 2008 ISBN 813171120X [Retrieved 2015-04-08]
  27. ^ a b EJ Chinnock (Rector of Dumfries Academy). The Anabasis of Alexander or, The History of the Wars and Conquests of Alexander the Great. Hodder & Stoughton-1884 (Project Gutenberg - September 27, 2014). Retrieved 2015-04-03. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]