Historiography of Alexander the Great
There are numerous surviving ancient Greek and Latin sources on Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, as well as some oriental texts. The five main surviving accounts are by Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, Curtius and Justin. In addition to these five main sources, there is the Metz Epitome, an anonymous late Latin work that narrates Alexander's campaigns from Hyrcania to India. Much is also recounted incidentally by other authors, including Strabo, Athenaeus, Polyaenus, Aelian, and others. Strabo, who gives a summary of Callisthenes, is an important source for Alexander's journey to Siwah.
The primary sources written by people who actually knew Alexander or who gathered information from men who served with Alexander, are all lost, apart from a few inscriptions and fragments. Contemporaries who wrote accounts of his life include Alexander's campaign historian Callisthenes; Alexander's generals Ptolemy and Nearchus; Aristobulus, a junior officer on the campaigns; and Onesicritus, Alexander's chief helmsman. Finally, there is the very influential account of Cleitarchus who, while not a direct witness of Alexander's expedition, used sources which had just been published. His work was to be the backbone of that of Timagenes, who heavily influenced many historians whose work still survives. None of his works survived, but we do have later works based on these primary sources.
The five main sources
- Anabasis Alexandri (The Campaigns of Alexander in Greek) by the Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia, writing in the 2nd century AD, and based largely on Ptolemy and, to a lesser extent, Aristobulus and Nearchus. It is generally considered one of the best sources on the campaigns of Alexander as well as one of the founders of a primarily military-based focus on history. Arrian cites his source by name and he often criticizes them. He is not interested in the King's private life, overlooking his errors . That Alexander should have committed errors in conduct from impetuosity or from wrath, and that he should have been induced to comport himself like the Persian monarchs to an immoderate degree, I do not think remarkable if we fairly consider both his youth and his uninterrupted career of good fortune. I do not think that even his tracing his origin to a god was a great error on Alexander's part, if it was not perhaps merely a device to induce his subjects to show him reverence. (Arrian 7b 29)
- Life of Alexander (see Parallel Lives) and two orations On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great (see Moralia), by the Greek historian and biographer Plutarch of Chaeronea in the second century, based largely on Aristobulus and especially Cleitarchus. Plutarch devotes a great deal of space to Alexander's drive and desire, and strives to determine how much of it was presaged in his youth. He also draws extensively on the work of Lysippus, Alexander's favourite sculptor, to provide what is probably the fullest and most accurate description of the conqueror's physical appearance.
- Bibliotheca historica (Library of world history), written in Greek by the Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus, from which Book 17 relates the conquests of Alexander, based almost entirely on Cleitarchus and Hieronymus of Cardia. It is the oldest surviving Greek source (1st century BC). Diodorus regarded Alexander like Caesar as a key historical figure and chronological marker.
- Historiae Alexandri Magni, a biography of Alexander in ten books, of which the last eight survive, by the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, written in the 1st century AD, and based largely on Cleitarchus through the mediation of Timagenes, with some material probably from Ptolemy. His work is fluidly written, but reveals ignorance of geography, chronology and technical military knowledge, focusing instead on character. According to Jona Lendering: ..the real subject was not Alexander, but the tyranny of Tiberius and Caligula. (It can be shown that Curtius Rufus' description of the trial of Philotas is based on an incident during the reign of Tiberius)...Curtius copies Cleitarchus' mistakes, although he is not an uncritical imitator.
- The Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus by Justin, is highly compressed version of an earlier history by Trogus, with the selections governed by Justin's desire to make moralistic points, rather than with an eye for the history itself.
- Life of Alexander by Aesopus
- Works of Anaximenes of Lampsacus
- Works of Aristobulus of Cassandreia
- Geographical work of Androsthenes of Thasos
- Deeds of Alexander by Callisthenes (the official historian)
- Personal Notebooks, or Hypomnemata, by Alexander himself (possibly inauthentic)
- History of Alexander by Cleitarchus
- On the empire of the Macedonians by Criton of Pieria
- Histories (also listed as Macedonica and Hellenica) by Duris of Samos
- Ephemerides (royal journal) of the royal secretary Eumenes (existence or authenticity disputed)
- Work of Ephippus of Olynthus
- Work of Hagnothemis upon which Plutarch rested the belief that Antipater poisoned Alexander.
- Work of Hieronymus of Cardia
- On the education of Alexander and Macedonian history by Marsyas of Pella
- Work of Medius of Larissa
- Work of Nearchus, the primary source of Arrian's Indica
- How Alexander was Educated and geographical works by Onesicritus
- Work of Ptolemy I Soter
- History of Alexander by Timagenes
- Historiae Philippicae by Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus
- Decree of Philippi (ca.335-330 BC) Alexander arbitrates a boundary dispute between local Thracian tribes and the city of Philippi.
- A dedicatory inscription to Apollo was found at Toumbes Kalamotou, Thessaloniki regional unit ; it records a list of priests of Asclepius who had fulfilled their duties from the time when King Alexandros gave Kalindoia and the villages around to Makedones.
- A dedicatory inscription to Olympian Zeus by Philonides of Crete in which he is mentioned as King Alexandros' hemerodromos (cursor) and bematist of Asia.
- Lindos Chronicle. King Alexandros having defeated Darius in battle and become lord kurios of Asia, sacrificed to Athena of Lindos. boukephala (ox-heads) and hopla (armour)
- Antigonus (son of Callas) hetairos from Amphipolis, commemorates his victory in hoplite racing at Heraclean games after the Conquest of Tyrus.
- Alexander Chronicle mentions the battle of Gaugamela and the incident of Bessus, who was pursued by Aliksandar.
- Alexander and Arabia Chronicle refers to events concerning the last years of the King.
|“||They say that, once upon a time, the pious Zartosht made the religion, which he had received, current in the world; and till the completion of 300 years, the religion was in purity, and men were without doubts. But afterward, the accursed evil spirit, the wicked one, in order to make men doubtful of this religion, instigated the accursed Alexander, the Rûman, who was dwelling in Egypt, so that he came to the country of Iran with severe cruelty and war and devastation; he also slew the ruler of Iran,and destroyed the metropolis and empire, and made them desolate.||”|
- Green, 2007, pp xxii–xxviii
- Cartledge, P., Alexander the Great (Vintage Books, 2004), p. 290.
- Curtius - livius.org
- Cartledge 2007, p. 278.
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