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The Campaigns of Alexander (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 28, 1976

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Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation)

About the Author

Arrian, or Lucius Flavius Arrianus, was a Greek born of well-to-do parents at Nicomedia, the capital of the Roman province of Bithynia, probalbly a few years before A.D. 90. His father had been granted Roman citizenship which enabled Arrian to take up his career in the imperial service. In about A.D. 108 he studied philosophy under Epictetus and wrote down his sayings in the Discourses, and a summary of his teachings in a Manual. His imperial advancement was rapid, and in A.D. 129 or 130 he achieved the consulship. But it was his appointment as governor of the border province of Cappadocia a year later which shows how greatly the Emperor Hadrian trusted his undoubted military and administrative abilities. His command included two Roman legions and numerous auxiliary troops, a rare, perhaps unexampled, responsibility for a Greek at that time. In A.D. 134 he drove the invading Alans out of Armenia in a campaign he describes in The Formation against the Alans. He also wrote a Tactical Manual for cavalry, and the Circumnavigation of the Black Sea, an account of the voyage he undertook from Trapezus to Dioscurias in 131-2. He retired or was recalled before the death of Hadrian in 138, and devoted the rest of his life to writing, living at Athens. He became an Athenian citizen and rose to be chief magistrate in 145, which qualified him to become a member of the Areopagus, the chief governing body of Athens. Nothing further is known for certain of his life. The surviving works of Arrian's Athenian period are a handbook, On the Chase, The Campaigns of Alexander in seven books, and the Indica, an account of the voyage of Alexander's fleet form India to the Perisian Gulf.

Aubrey de Sélincourt, scholar and translator, translated Livy’s The Early History of Rome (Books I—V) and The War with Hannibal (Books XXI—XXX), The Histories of Herodotus and The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, all for the Penguin Classics. He was born in 1896 and educated at Rugby, and University College, Oxford. A schoolmaster of genius for twenty-six years, he retired in 1947 to the Isle of Wight, where he lived until his death in 1962.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics (Book 253)
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (October 28, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442533
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
The most amazing thing that about this book is that Arrian somehow managed to rescue the man from the legend, the god from the myth and the story from the soothsayers. He intended to write a factual history of the great leader but by necessity was forced to rely on word of mouth, old stories, past recollections and hardly any authoritative manuscripts.
Considering what he had to work with, the outcome is simply amazing. Like Thucydides, Herodotus and Livy, his goal was to write a factual work that was to have been definitive...and it was. The campaigns are given much attention as well as the character of Alexander. For a more scholarly and literary work I recommend Robin Lane Fox and his biography of Alexander - just stupendous.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Baldwin on February 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed Arrian's account of Alexander, which I found to be lively and readable in this translation by De Selincourt. I think this book should be read in more courses on "Greek Thought and Literature" and "Western Civ." and the like, both because Arrian shows how the tradition of fine Greek historiography stayed alive well into the second century A.D., and also because his very thorough account proves to be a natural continuation of the stories told by Herodotus and Thucydides. This book completes the historical narrative of the rise of Greek civilization, so that the era of Athenian hegemony can be connected with the beginning of the Hellenistic period in the 4th century B.C. -- the true triumph Greek civilization, in my opinion.
After all, if not for Alexander, would we care nearly so much about the Greeks? Alexander subdued the world from Illycrium to the Indus valley, bringing Greece to the East and the East to the Greeks. Without his conquests, the Greek language and culture would never have become so widespread or influential. He paved the way for the Romans, and ultimately, for the Christians after him. This brilliant General-King was therefore the creator of the history, not only of his own times, but also of the times which followed him.
Towards the beginning of the book, Arrian laments on behalf of Alexander that this greatest conquerer of all time had yet to have his deeds written down in a manner which was suited to his magnificence. Achilles had his Homer, but Alexander's exploits remained unsung. Arrian therefore boldly and boastfully steps forward, confident that his literary talents are a match for his subject. Let the reader judge Arrian's (or De Selincourt's) poetic gifts as he may, but the story itself guarantees its greatness.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is the book from which all modern scholarship derives the life of Alexander the Great. The author wrote that Alexander was without peer over 1,700 years ago, and there is little to question that statement even now. The author was a well-known greek military man in the Roman Empire who wrote several books, few of which survive. The only criticism of Arrian is that he tends to gloss over or omit some of the more unpleasant aspects of Alexanders' career. Arrian used the biographies of Ptolemy (general of Alexander, future Pharoah of Egypt and ancestor of Cleopatra) and Aristobulous (one of the king's engineers), as his main sources. Neither of these biographies has ever been found and are only known from excerpts. You must read this book.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By AntiochAndy on April 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Alexander the Great was already a historical figure and "larger than life" character by the time Arrian wrote his CAMPAIGNS OF ALEXANDER. More than 400 years had passed since Alexander's death and, while there was doubtless plenty of popular lore about him, there also was a considerable mass of written source material in existence. Much of this material came from contemporaries who had campaigned with Alexander, but these accounts apparently often conflicted. Forced to pick and choose from all this information, Arrian appears to have relied largely on Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Ptolemy was experienced in military matters and, as one of Alexander's generals, had participated in many of the operations he described. Arrian brings his own knowledge and experience of military and administrative matters to bear on this information with generally good results. The rap on Arrian is that he displays a sound grasp of Alexander's military exploits and of his character, but is too forgiving when it comes to Alexander's faults and glosses over other issues.

Arrian brought a wealth of experience to his task. His own personal accomplishments were considerable. A Greek by descent, he was born in the city of Nicomedia, capital of the Roman province of Bithynia, sometime prior to A.D. 90. His family was prosperous and had attained Roman citizenship, giving young Arrian the possibility of a career in the imperial service. Before he was done, he attained the Roman consulship and was subsequently entrusted by Emperor Hadrian with the governorship of Cappadocia, a border province on the eastern frontier that entailed the command of two Roman legions plus auxiliary troops.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lance Kirby on April 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Arrian gives us a picture of the "total" Alexander. Though he constantly praises his every virtue he never forgets to detail his faults. Slow going and a bit bewildering at first but moves to a fast paced and exciting end. Highly recommended.
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