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Excellent, the bible for any history of Alexander the Great
on 31 May 2008
Simply the best! A must for every fan, admirer and ... of Alexander the Great.
Accounts from contemporary historians like Callistenes, Onesicritus, Nearchus and Aristobulus did exist but only bits and pieces have come to us. Arrian was lucky enough to have access to the biography of Alexander written by Ptolemy, one of Alexanders' generals and maybe his half-brother, who became pharaoh of Egypt. What we know today has been recorded by a handful ancient writers (Diodorus of Sicily, Curitus Rufus and Plutarch mainly) who still could consult those old records, and Arrian is one of them.
Lucius Flavius Arrianus, better known as Arrian was a Greek historian from the 2nd century AD, who served as a military commander in the Roman Empire. He had widespread interests in philosophy, topographic-ethnography, history, and military matters, which culminated in his books on Alexander. He writes in a matter-of-fact-tone without being dull or dry. Personally I possess the pocket version of The Campaigns of Alexander which I always carry with me when travelling. Arrian knows how to keep his reader's mind alive, which may or may not have been influenced by the translator, Aubrey de Sélincourt. In any case, it turns out to be very pleasant and fascinating reading material.
Over the years since antiquity up till today, whoever wants to write about Alexander the Great will always have refer to Arrian in the first place. All what the history or science fiction authors tell us, is based on Arrian's accounts. He clearly states the dates and the events, describes the battlefields and positions of the armies involved with nearly analytical precision, and he puts the cities and landscapes in true perspective. Whatever information you need, you can always rely on Arrian to find it, without fringes or inessential details.